Walk on the Wild Side

Those inclined to think that Israel is singled out for the nuttiness of criticisms directed against it might consider the presidential election campaign underway in the United States, as well as the bending and twisting by Europeans in the face of Muslim hoards on the way from the east and south.

Wildness is part of politics.

Israel may have more than it’s share, perhaps associated with expectations about God’s Holy Land and Chosen People.

Those expectations are our fault, given our authorship of Holy Writ.

On the side of leftist wildness, or anti-Israel diatribes, are countless resolutions by the United Nations that condemn actions that aren’t a shadow of what other countries do without comment, and now the campaign called BDS that begins with Palestinians and has attracted numerous Jews and others.BIN-OpEd-Experts-300x250(1)

Right wing nuttiness about Israel is also in ample supply. Some of it folds back to justify condemnations from the left.

Among the rightists we find Israelis, overseas Jews, and others who see all of the Promised Land is our’s. The slogan is most operative among religious settlers, with overseas Jews and some Christians cheering them on and sending money to buy land and build. By no means are all, or even most religious settlers nutty. However, some of them involved in land purchases have gone over the edge. Of 15 land deals examined by the police, 14 of them involved forged signatures of Arabs said to have been owners. Some of the operatives may have learned how American political machines “vote the cemeteries,” using the identities of deceased voters to stuff the ballot boxes. Several of the Palestinian owners said to have signed documents transferring land had died several years before affixing their signatures to documents.

Each can decide if those forgeries are among the vilest of acts, or about what others have done in dealing with land. Less vile, perhaps, than Palestinian violence, or how Americans got their land from those called natives.

A close cousin of nuttiness about the Promised Land is seeing the use of the word “Palestine” as the first step on a slippery slope to national catastrophe. Those who are feverish about the word say that it was invented only in recent decades by a conglomeration of people from various places who wanted justification as a nation. Not for these right wing critics is any recognition of the word’s heritage from the Roman Empire or the British Empire, nor recognition that every people is an invention. Jews may have gotten to it earlier than others, but we are all amalgams. And we’re all still at the process of ethnic mixing, helped along by globalization and migrations.

What to do with several million people who call themselves Palestinians is a query that leaves rightists without a useful answer. Too much violence would excite too many of the billion Muslims against Israel’s six million Jews.

Another side of the religious right appears in vitriolic notes claiming that most of what Israel does is traif (non-kosher). By this view, The Hebrew Bible provides the only relevant law, and Israel should know better than to accept homosexuality, abortion, non-Orthodox Judaisms, intermarriage, or any sharing of the Promised Land.

Does Israel suffer from the attention?

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It is possible to array data indicating that this is among the most, if not the most successful of the hundred or so countries born after World War II, in terms of its democracy and standard of living. It’s also the historical height of Jewish independence and capacity for self-defense. Officials worry about numerous dangers, or slippery slopes, and take reasonable steps to avoid disaster.

It’s not in the fuzzy science of politics to examine each decision of a government, against the infinite range of explanations or alternatives. There is much to criticize everywhere, without slipping over the slope to nuttiness.

I’ve lost my license as an expert on American politics, but from the bits I know, I’m inclined to worry about Sanders, Trump, and Cruz. Some accuse Hillary of everything from insidious management of secret documents as Secretary of State to complicity in murder during her Arkansas period.

If elected, however, she would stand as the president with the most experience in international affairs since Bush Sr.

I doubt that any of the leading candidates would be worse for the world than the most recent two (Bush Jr and Obama). Both are leaving the Middle East a lot worse than when they began. I’ll cheer Obamacare as a decent effort to bring the US up to international standards, but lots of Americans disagree.

The US remains the most problematic of western democracies according to its social indicators, but fixing them may be beyond the capacity of any president.

One can sympathize with the problems of European leaders. It can’t be pleasant pondering millions of Muslims on the way or projected, with recent incidents of violence from established communities as well as newcomers. Politicians in power hear the shrillness and note the increased support given to anti-foreign populists. Incumbents are seeking ways to hold on by coping with established commitments about open borders, the humane treatment of refugees, as well as each country’s need for workers. No surprise that the rhetoric changes from time to time, and that it’s difficult to know what’s gonna happen.

Democracy everywhere is messy. Those who express dismay might look again at what the founders of the US wrote 225 years ago.

“The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity . . . The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished . . . .

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” (Federalist #10, James Madison)

Since then, the democratic genie has come out of the bottle. Yet the complexities of government, which differ in detail from one country to another, remain the best way of dealing with it.

It isn’t easy anywhere to formulate policy. And it is no more easy to actually implement what has been decided.

Many cooks may not make the best soup, but they are the way to keep government from doing crazy things.

None of which eliminates the crazies from politics. Hearing or reading nuttiness is a cost of getting along.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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