Israelis who advocate for a more equal society and better relations between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens often point to Israel’s health system as a model of how things should work.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
It is now far beyond policy disagreements. It is beyond rudeness, crudeness, anti-democratic behavior, even racism. It is even beyond reckless pronouncements that lead to the death and illness of thousands of people.
Large, crowded gatherings on the White House lawn without masks. Indoor receptions without masks and social distancing. Attending a debate and having your entire party refuse to wear masks. Attending a fundraiser knowing that you have been exposed and could very well have the virus.
This is unconscionable, irresponsible behavior that predictably led the President and many others in the White House and in key positions, including vital military positions, to become infected with Covid-19.
But it goes beyond that. Once infected, the President knowingly and intentionally endangered Secret Service personnel by taking a totally unnecessary joyride while a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, all for the purpose of being photographed waving at some fans from an airtight vehicle.
Then he left the hospital, when still obviously seriously ill, and returned to the White House, again needlessly endangering staff. In a display that would have made Pinochet or Mussolini salivate, his breathing lumbered, he gave his followers exactly the wrong message: Do not be afraid of covid, do not take it seriously, a mask is not essential. He dramatically ripped off his mask, and walked inside.
Still contagious, he has returned to “work” in the Oval Office, endangering whatever staff not already ill. He said he intended to attend the next debate, and now says that he will only participate if it is in person. We do not know for certain whether the President is contagious because he will not disclose when he last tested negative for the disease.
Combining my law degree with 20 years of faithful viewing of Law and Order, I conclude that it is quite possible that a case could be made, either civilly or criminally, that this kind of behavior amounts to reckless or negligent infliction of harm or endangerment or reckless or negligent homicide. Possibly both civil and criminal actions. (continue at www.edelsteinrandomthoughts.com)
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Sunday, July 19, 2020
Yes, I am an alarmist. However, we will never know how many bad things have been thwarted by sounding the alarm and taking action. Alarmists always look like, well, alarmists, if they are effective.
Many democracies do not become stunted or destroyed by revolutions, violent or peaceful. Many destroyed democracies are the result of incremental steps, the drip. . .drip. . .drip. . .and then knee-deep water.
Many dictatorships or near-dictatorships or quasi-democracies maintain the trappings and look of a democracy—legislatures, distinguished-looking, robe-wearing judges, a “free” but cowered or kowtowing press, etc. etc.
The U.S. has been experiencing the dripping destruction of major democratic norms for several years now.
The hallmarks have occurred largely in public view. The targeting of minorities and immigrants. The personal demonization of opponents. The firing of independent inspectors charged with exposing unethical and illegal conduct.
The dismissal and perp walk of loyal citizens who have provided testimony under oath, and the punishment of a family member (in this case, coincidentally but poignantly, two immigrants and two Jews among the targets). Commuting prison sentences for those who protect you by withholding testimony or by lying.
Members of Congress ceding traditional powers of inquiry and authority that prior generations of legislators would have guarded and utilized with enthusiasm. Congressional members and other leaders, educated and seemingly thoughtful people, rationalizing, denying, diverting.
Anne Applebaum, has spent most of her career exploring why most people go along with left-wing dictators (her book Iron Curtain, The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56, is a masterpiece). She recently wrote an insightful and haunting essay in The Atlantic about why Republican leaders have abandoned their principles.
Others have recently written about the demise or death of democracies. The tell-tale signs are vividly on the American landscape today. There is no camouflage.
But just this last week the dripping changed. Democracy, if not drowning, is choking and grasping for air. What is it that set off the alarms for this alarmist?
Portland, Oregon. Unidentified, camouflaged, fully-armed, battle-ready federal officers, there against the wishes of local officials and the Governor, pulling people off the streets and throwing them into unidentified vehicles, ostensibly “for questioning.”
It is irrelevant whether or not the “interviewees” were guilty of an offense or not. It is even irrelevant whether they were violent or not. It is irrelevant whether these people hold the most obnoxious, even dangerous, political views, or that I likely would not like these protestors or their politics or tactics.
The oft-quoted Martin Niemoller put it eloquently: “First they came for the. . . .And by that time no one was left to speak for me.”
It turns out that the unidentified, fully-armed, camouflaged federal officers are employees of the Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security, leading Applebaum to question on Twitter what they were doing there.
Plain and simple, this is not, or was not, how “policing” is done in America. In fact, this is not policing. It is the tool of intimidation and suppression and repression of dictatorships, of fascists and would-be fascists.
I generally reject comparisons to the Holocaust, which was unique in its horror and its targeting of one people for complete annihilation. But, sadly and frighteningly, unidentified state actors acting like hoods as they throw people into unmarked vehicles should strike a chord with anyone familiar with the behavior of Nazis in the 1930’s and ‘40’s.
For Jews, this shouldn’t be a drip. It should be a flood. For conservatives, the sight of the federal government, over local objections, extending its long and unidentified hands, should be repugnant.
But “Trump is the best president for Israel we’ve ever had,” say about 20 or 25% of American Jews. I have long said that we should acknowledge and express appreciation when President Trump does something we like, such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. However, one can argue the real-life benefits for the average Israeli of such actions against the real-life costs of America’s withdrawal from the world, of an inconsistent and sometimes incoherent foreign policy, and of greenlighting of further Russian involvement in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.
What Israel needs more than any particular American position is an America that is strong, respected, healthy, united, unabashedly supportive of democracies, and persuasive to other countries. Sadly, that clearly is not the United States of America under President Trump.
In short, Americans, alarmist or not, should be very, very alarmed. Jews who know their history should be at the forefront of the alarmists. The drip. . .drip. . .drip of a democracy under jeopardy has become a torrent.
It is ironic that this latest assault on America’s democratic norms should come at the same time as Congressman John Lewis’ death. Lewis was one of the great champions of human rights and civil rights, as well as a great believer in friendship and connection between Jews and African-Americans. When asked why he refused to participate in Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March in 1995, he reportedly said that Farrakhan’s statements were “divisive and bigoted” and that he, Lewis, “followed his conscience, not his complexion.”
It is unfortunately telling that the Trump Administration’s use of the tactics of dictatorial regimes should come at the same time that Secretary of State Pompeo asserts that the United States should limit the human rights it advocates for on the international stage.
(Originally published in the Times of Israel)
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
In modern times our rights to a state were recognized by both powers that controlled the region and relevant international bodies. A decent argument can even be made that Jews have the right to have had included in the state of Israel land east of the Jordan River that a younger Winston Churchill and his colonial colleagues lopped off from what was then called Southern Syria or Palestine and handed to the current King Abdullah's great-grandfather, Abdullah I.
Abdullah's family, the Hashemites, ruled Mecca for 700 years and, as the Saudis were taking over Mecca, the Brits apparently thought, "hey, why not," the Hashemites can have part of Palestine or, as it was re-named, trans-Jordan. King Abdullah and the Hashemites have about as much right being there as I have performing neurosurgery.
There is also no doubt that of all the peoples in the world aspiring to nationhood, the Palestinian people, under some of the most inept, corrupt leadership imaginable, have not earned their way to the top of the list. Given opportunity after opportunity, with unprecedented financial and political support, they have opted not to develop the institutions and norms for success as a modern nation.
Among other things, they have not developed in an independent judiciary. Their press is far from free. Journalists are attacked and jailed for not towing the party line.
They have not established a free and fair electoral system. The most blatant illustration of that is 85-year-old President Abbas, who was elected to his four-year term 15 years ago. Virtually no one expects a peaceful transfer of power when he dies.
The competing Palestinian governing entities, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, have not resolved the national divisions between their two major ideological camps, and they do not seem able to do so peacefully. In a bloody coup in 2007, Hamas took over Gaza. It controls it today, and it priorities terrorizing Israel and maintaining power over improving the lives of the inhabitants. Every attempt at peacefully reconciling and uniting Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has gone nowhere.
(continue at www.edelsteinrandomthoughts.com)