Friday, December 19, 2014

THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AND BDS AGAINST MEXICO--UNTHINKABLE



The world has been shocked by the discovery of the dead bodies of about 50 Mexican university students.  The students were killed because they were protesting some government policies.  A mayor and his wife, as well as numerous police officials, have been implicated in the slaughter.  Alleged initial government inaction in response to the murders has prompted outrage and protest throughout Mexico.

In solidarity with the Mexican protests, and in outrage over the government’s inadequate response, the United Auto Workers Local 2865, the union representing the University of California’s graduate student instructors (or, as they were called in prior times, teaching assistants or TA’s) voted in favor of participating in a Boycott, Discrimination, and Sanctions (BDS)  campaign against Mexico. 

With 2,168 union members voting, 1,411 of them, or 65%, voted in favor of the resolution.  (The local has a total membership of about 12,000.)  In addition to the vote, 1,136 of the graduate student instructors pledged to personally adhere to a discriminatory boycott of Mexican universities and scholars. 

Regardless of the revulsion one feels for the Mexican government’s apparent complicity in the alleged actions, the vote raises serious questions regarding the fitness for their positions and their ability to fulfill the requirements of the job of those who voted in favor of the resolution, particularly of those who signed a personal pledge to boycott Mexican universities and scholars. 

For example, one assumes that pledging to boycott Mexican universities means that if a supervising faculty member directs a student instructor to work with a colleague from a Mexican university on a research question, the student instructor will refuse.  One also assumes that if a Mexican student is in the classroom listening to the student instructor’s explanation of a subject of the class, the student instructor will either stop lecturing or will direct the Mexican student to leave the classroom. 

One would further assume from the vote and particularly from those who took the personal pledge that they will not grade papers of students who are Mexican nationals, and will not meet with them to discuss subjects under study.  One also assumes that they will not consult with Mexican scholars or reference academic papers produced by any Mexican university or scholar, thus potentially omitting important information in their own work. 

One assumes that conduct such as that described above, directed at students holding Mexican citizenship, will contribute to the creation of a hostile academic environment for students holding Mexican citizenship, and arguably will do the same for American students of Mexican descent.  Similarly, such conduct will contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment for fellow employees holding Mexican citizen, and arguably will do the same for American workers of Mexican descent. 
  

Monday, December 15, 2014

TRAVELOGUE


My wife and I returned about a week ago from a terrific month-long trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  I was very proud of myself for planning the entire trip.  We were on our own, hooking up with a couple of mini-cruises on the Mekong River and personal guides along the way.

My nominations for the three greatest inventions of our times:  1) Penicillin. 2)  Airplane mileage.  3) Trip Advisor.  Penicillin is an easy one, of course.  We all--that is we all that were born in the 1950's--learned that it saved millions of lives a year.

The other two because it is just hard to imagine planning and executing a great trip on a reasonable budget without those two items.  OK, so I had to knock the atom out of the top three in order to fit airline mileage on the list.  I will admit it's close.

Overall impressions and reactions from the trip:  Beautiful part of the world.  Wonderful, welcoming people.  Grand, tragic histories.  Particularly tragic for Cambodia.  Unfortunately corrupt governments.

After 30 days in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, and the Mekong Delta, in Phnom Phen and Ankgor Wat, in Pakse and the Four Thousand Islands, in remote villages of the Laotian north, and in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang, the question that kept going through my head:  why exactly did we Americans see these people as a tremendous threat and feel the need to bomb the living daylights out of them?

They, particularly the Vietnamese, seem to be the most industrious, capitalistic people one can imagine. They appear to have the same deal with their government as the Chinese have:  We'll let you one-party Communists have the power and generally run things, and you'll leave us alone and let us make money and try to improve our lives.

They certainly did not seem intent on knocking dominoes down and spreading Communism throughout the world.  Which does make you wonder:  how do you know when the threat is real enough and requires standing up to it?  We thought the dominoes would fall.  The Red Scare or Red Menace was real.  The Communists wanted to take over the world.  Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Khrushchev, Ho Chi Minh.  They were the bad guys.  We had to stand up to them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LATEST NEWS: ISRAELIS READY TO ABANDON PEACE WORK




From the President of the United States, speaking to the UN on the eve of Rosh Hashanah:

“The violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace," Obama said. Then, departing from printed remarks made available to reporters beforehand, he added: "And that’s something worthy of reflection within Israel."

Israelis need the President of the United States to tell them what to reflect on during our holy days?

Too many Israelis are ready to abandon the hard work of peace? What planet is the President inhabiting? This is unbelievably offensive and factually wrong. Has he ever seen the graves of the thousands of young people on Mt. Herzl?  The memorials to terrorist victims?  Has he heard the prayers for peace?

I know of no Israeli who is "ready to abandon the hard work of peace" or who doesn't pray or hope for peace daily. To make such a statement at any time is offensive and insulting. To do so on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when every Jew prays for a peaceful year, reflects on the past year, and tries to rededicate himself to a worthy life, is just unbelievably insensitive.

Despite all of my criticisms of President Obama's foreign policy, and my many concerns about his policies that have hurt Israel and the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, I have always tried to regard him with the respect a President deserves. However, this is simply outrageous and I have no respect left for this president.

Over and over again, Israelis have taken great steps for peace, only to be faced with terrorism, missiles, and hate. Israelis continue to reach out to their Palestinian neighbors and to be willing to make great sacrifices for a real peace.  And, after having done so, when we must then defend ourselves from a less than optimum position, the world condemns us, with the U.S. Secretary of State publicly and sarcastically mocking our efforts at precision.

Monday, August 18, 2014

TICK, TICK, TICK. . . .THE ENDLESS TISHA B'AV


Tick. Tick. Tick.  It’s starting to feel a bit routine.  If it’s Monday, it must be time for the ceasefire--to be extended?  To be extended after some missiles are fired into Israel?  Not to be extended?  Not to be extended, with missiles fired, Israel responding, then reinstated?  To be unilaterally extended?  Unilaterally breached? 

Who knows.  And who knows which variation will come with tonight’s midnight deadline.  Or maybe it will be a whole new scenario that no one has yet thought of.

It’s a hell of a way to live, particularly for those in the South or those from the South that would like to return home.  Basically a terrorist organization gets to decide whether we have war or peace.  If it is war, they get to decide how intense it is.  We are not supposed to defeat them if they just shoot a few missiles at our civilians. 

In the name of “proportionality,” we are supposed to just respond in kind.  Because we have invested in protecting our civilians, we are judged to be poor sports or, worse, war criminals, if many more of them die because their leaders invested in missiles and  tunnels aimed at us rather than in building a society. 

This despite the fact that in the laws of international war, proportionality has nothing to do with comparative firepower or comparative death tolls.  The doctrine of proportionality has to do with using only that force necessary to achieve a legitimate war objective. 

Destroying missile-launching sites and tunnels designed to kill and maim civilians is a legitimate war objective.  Whether or not Israel’s use of force was proportionate to accomplishing that objective is a matter of legitimate inquiry.  Discussion of comparative firepower and comparative deaths is simply digression at best, undermining of Israel’s ability to defend itself at worst. 

Israelis are all for Gazans having a thriving society.  Build airports, seaports, resorts, industry.  It would only be good for them and for us.  But they cannot have open borders and free ports and airports as long as Hamas or others would use such assets to rebuild tunnels and replenish missile supplies.  Estimates are that 40% of Gaza’s budget, primarily aid from the world, went toward infrastructure for war against innocent Israelis rather than for building Gaza as supposedly intended by the donors. 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

JOHN KERRY--A PRIZE FROM ALFRED--BUT WHICH ONE?

I've been thinking of nominating Secretary of State John Kerry for a Nobel Peace Prize.  I would include President Obama except he already got one for . . . . .






Why do I think the Secretary of State might be deserving of the Prize?  Well, when was the last time we've seen Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President al-Sissi, Jordan's King Hussein, the Saudi's, and the United Arab Emirates all united and in agreement? No, I can't remember that time either. 






But, Kerry has done it.  How?  By pulling one of the stupidest stunts in the history of American foreign policy. All those parties, allies of the U.S., feel betrayed by the U.S. and are incredibly angry at what they see as an American lifeline being tossed to a terrorist organization whose ideology and actions represent a serious threat to the region.






Hamas was on the ropes.  Gazans had had it with them for dragging them into this war.  The Egyptians, who rightly see Hamas as a terrorist extension of the Muslim Brotherhood and who have put a tighter blockade on them than Israel, had proposed a ceasefire deal that Israel had embraced and that would have ensured an end to the rocket fire and the tunnels. Abbas, who the Obama Administration purportedly wants to promote as the leader of the recently reunited Palestinian Authority, had embraced the proposal.






Hamas rejected the proposal because it would have made them look like losers and would have crippled their ability to terrorize Israel. One would think that the U.S., having designated Hamas a terrorist organization like al-Queda and other evil organizations, would have liked the notion of Hamas appearing to be losers and, in fact, being seriously set back in their objectives.






So, what does the Secretary of State do?  Well, first, his undersecretary, in a soon amended tweet, puts out a message that ends with "#United with Gaza."  How did that happen?  No one seems to know.






Then, the Secretary of State himself is heard saying into a microphone that was supposed to be off (whoops, how does that always happen?) ridiculing the notion that Israel is trying to do "pinpoint strikes," apparently astonished that wars initiated by Hamas from within heavily populated areas might lead to the death and injury of Gazans when Israelis defend themselves.






Then, the Secretary jets off reportedly uninvited to mediate a ceasefire.  He stops in Egypt where the Egyptians, apparently peeved at him for past slights, find a clerk that purportedly does not know who he is and, therefore, puts him through a security clearance. He pops in on Israel where he meets a "no" to one of his ceasefire proposals.




Monday, July 21, 2014

HELP! I NEED SOMEONE


A good number of friends and acquaintances have commented on how brave we are.  We are not.  We are just living life.  We are at a bit of a loss, feeling helpless, hopeless, and somewhat depressed. We are terribly worried about the kids of our friends who have been called up, and about all of the young people who are fighting this war. We wish we could do more to help.

We wish there were no war.  We wish our neighbors would have built a state and would want to live in peace with us.  We do not want to destroy them.  We wish they, or their leaders, did not want to destroy us. 

If I were to recommend one piece on the feeling in Israel today, it would be this one by David Horovitz, the editor of The Times of Israel.  http://www.timesofisrael.com/hushed-determined-israel-in-a-war-for-our-home/   Horovitz is a centrist.  He supports a two-state solution but worries, as most of us do, about our security if we were to give up land.  That worry has taken on new meaning in the last few weeks. 

We think we heard a couple of Tzeva Adoms (Red Alerts) here in Jerusalem today, but we weren’t even sure.  Because we are on the route to two busy hospitals, and because our apartment is between the Prime Minister and the President’s houses, we hear a lot of sirens.  Plus, I’ve discovered that the start of an electric saw, which we hear a lot of because of remodeling and building in the area, sounds amazingly similar to a Tzeva Adom. 

So, when the Tzeva Adom/siren/electric saw went off earlier today, it was a very ambiguous state of concern/unpanic we went through.  It does help that Israel’s ambulances and other emergency vehicles recently switched from the American-style siren to the European siren so as to reduce confusion. Unfortunately for me, being that I’m a bit of a WWII history aficionado, every time I now hear an ambulance, I’m thinking London blitz. 

When we reached the tentative conclusion that it was a Tzeva Adom, we didn’t do much in any event.  Firstly, we have great confidence in the Iron Dome.  Secondly, there is not a whole lot we can do.

We live in an old building.  No safe room.  No shelter.  My wife Dana reminds me that in such cases, the authorities advise taking shelter in the stairwell because it is the least exposed part of the building.  I have pointed out to her on numerous occasions that our stairwell was built in the 1950’s and appears to be held together by glue. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

IT'S NOW A GROUND WAR







Israel commenced a ground operation about 90 minutes ago.  Our acceptance of several ceasefires was not reciprocated. Missiles continue to target our civilian population, particularly in the South. As a result, a ground operation designed to dismantle the infrastructure for firing missiles and for otherwise terrorizing Israel has begun. 

This is going to be a terrible battle because Hamas deliberately operates out of civilian areas, e.g. homes, mosques, hospitals, schools, and because they encourage/intimidate their people to stay put rather than to get out of harm's way. All Israelis regret the unnecessary death and destruction, but we have a right to live in peace.


A bitter irony of this is the fact that Hamas initiated and is engaging in this war for reasons that have little to do with Israel.  The reasons are: 

1.  The organization's general decline in standing in the Arab world and with its people.  This is a hail Mary to try to recapture lost stature and to rally their own people and the Arab world. 

2.  The demand that Egypt open up the Rafah crossing into Gaza.  By closing the crossing and destroying the thousands of tunnels used to smuggle in goods Egypt has caused great hardship and, most importantly to Hamas, has cut off a large part of the supply of missiles and other weapons. 

(Except for relatively brief temporary closures, Israel's crossing has never completely closed. Humanitarian goods have continued to cross, even during the worst fighting.  Gazan residents, including children in need of heart surgery, continue to cross into Israel for treatment. 

Moreover, Israel continues to supply water and electricity to Gaza.  The electricity supply has been decreased in recent days.  The reason:  Hamas missiles hit electrical lines.  Yes, Hamas attacks the electrical supply of its own people.  And, as crazy as Israel is in terms of continuing to supply Gaza and to care for Gazans in our health facilities despite its attacks, we are not sending our repairmen into harm's way to get the electricity back up.  At least, I pray we are not doing so.)