Monday, March 9, 2020

Panic, Economic Suicide, and the Virus

Today Israel announced that it is imposing a 14-day self-quarantine requirement on everyone coming from anywhere.  Except for citizens returning home and possibly non-citizens coming for exceptionally long visits, this requirement basically means Israel is physically cutting itself off from the world.

In a way, an irrational response to the coronavirus has accomplished what BDS has failed to do:  isolate Israel. 

Today I received an e-mail from one of the non-profits that works with the international press to try to ensure that Israel gets a fair shake in the news.  The organization reported that it had held a press conference to “make sure the international media accurately report Israel’s highly responsible approach.”

Except it is not.  It is a panicked, over-the-top response that is needlessly causing inconvenience, chaos, and panic for millions of people and is going to severely damage if not destroy Israel’s economy.

For most of the population, the coronavirus is less harmful than the flu. It almost exclusively seriously impacts the elderly and those with already compromised immune systems. Very few young people have had a serious case.

The statistics simply do not support the fear that has taken over Israel and much of the world:  https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/03/who-is-getting-sick-and-how-sick-a-breakdown-of-coronavirus-risk-by-demographic-factors/

Responsible doctors and other experts are advising the elderly and those with compromised immune systems to avoid crowds and to not fly or take cruises.  They are advising others to take reasonable hygienic measures such as wiping down surfaces and thoroughly washing hands.

The initial high death toll, the stuff of screaming headlines, was mainly due to ignorance as to what was happening and how to deal with it, and to vulnerable populations clustering in venues that amounted to petri dishes, i.e. cruise ships and senior housing facilities.  China, where the disease was first detected, is already seeing rates of infection and death decline (assuming its reports are reliable).

Dr. Jeremy Faust, who teaches at Harvard Medical School and writes for Slate, believes that the mortality rate will be lower than people think and that people are unnecessarily panicking.  https://slate.com/technology/2020/03/coronavirus-mortality-rate-lower-than-we-think.html

Dr. Steve Polansky of Sacramento, California sees one silver lining in what otherwise is a sea of irrationality:

“The one benefit to all this irrationality is that people are taking precautions with hand washing. So what will happen - the incidence of deaths from INFLUENZA will be markedly reduced which will be great. Other than that, I blame this massive hysteria on the media. Practice appropriate hand hygiene and if you have a cold, stay home. If you are running a fever and a cough, call your MD for instructions. Otherwise live your life.”

Israel is killing its economy and possibly fraying its relationships with other countries for no reason.  Rather than trying to cut itself off from the world and contributing to fear, confusion, and severe damage to the economy, it should be taking reasonable, methodical steps to protect the public’s health. 

 (Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Sanders, Trump, Biden: The U.S., Israel, and the Jews


I cast my ballot in the California primary.  I voted for Joe Biden.  It wasn't the happiest or most enthusiastic vote I ever cast.  But it could be one of the most important.

Biden is a bit past his prime.  I don't agree with him on every issue.  But he is a competent, decent man who will govern from the center/left and will act responsibly, and who will surround himself with competent, reasonable people.

In contrast, the other two candidates with a realistic chance of taking the oath on January 20th are adverse to the interests of the United States, of American Jews, and of Israel.

As Yossi Klein Halevi has written, a race between Sanders and Trump would be a nightmare for American Jews.    Both men are radical, polarizing figures.  History shows that Jews don't do well in radical, polarized societies.

Wittingly or unwittingly,  Trump and Sanders are working in tandem to make Israel into a polarizing, partisan issue.  Both are trying to turn the Democratic Party against Israel.

Sanders has surrounded himself with and empowered people who trade in anti-Semitic tropes and who would deny the Jewish people our right to self-determination in the land in which we are an indigenous people. Hate and bigotry is equally despicable, and should be opposed, whether it comes from the right or the left.

Sanders lied about and smeared AIPAC, which has as members and which hosts speakers from across the political spectrum. He showed that he is a hypocrite, having spoken at conferences that feature Jew haters and people who would deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination.

And in 2015 he spoke at Liberty University, the university founded by Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell and now led by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr.  It is a bastion of opposition to gay rights, reproductive rights, and other rights and beliefs the left holds sacrosanct. Apparently just to show what a proud Jew he is and how much he respects Jews and Judaism, he spoke there on Rosh Hoshanah.