Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Dear Airbnb

Airbnb announced that it will no longer provide its services to Jewish homeowners in the West Bank. Although this decision will probably impact no more than 200 people and will have no effect at all on the Israeli economy, it is nonetheless a highly offensive decision and morally very questionable.  I wrote a letter to the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky:

Dear Mr. Chesky:

I am writing to register my strong objection to Airbnb’s decision to stop providing its services to those Jews who live in Jewish communities in the area commonly referred to as the West Bank.  My family and I will not be using Airbnb’s services unless this decision is reversed.  I would like to explain why.

At best, your decision reflects a lack of knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and is ill-considered.  At worst, it is a manifestation of Jew-hatred, aka anti-Semitism.

The Balfour Declaration stated that the British government looked favorably on the development of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  Originally Palestine included the territory that is now Israel, the disputed West Bank, and Jordan.  When England was given a mandate over Palestine by the League of Nations it was with the full knowledge that England had issued the Balfour Declaration.

Subsequently the British created Jordan, arbitrarily tearing it off from what was Palestine and giving it to a dictator imported from elsewhere in the Arab world.  That dictator’s descendants still control Jordan even though about 70 percent of the population of Jordan is Palestinian.

In 1947, in a painful compromise, those Jews working to create the Jewish state in that area that was left agreed to a compromise:  the Jewish state would be a very narrow strip along the Mediterranean Sea, along with the Negev Desert and a part of the Galilee, and another Arab state would be created in what is now the West Bank.  (In those days, Jews and Arabs were both called Palestinians, although most in the Arab world considered the West Bank not a Palestinian state but part of southern Syria.)

The Arab world rejected this compromise.  In the 1948 war that resulted, Jordan took control of the West Bank.  Only Iraq, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom recognized Jordan’s sovereignty over the area.  The Arab world did not.  Jordan did not allow creation of a Palestinian state.  Very few people advocated for it.

In 1967, Israel fought a defensive war against Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and other Arab nations.  As a result of that war Israel took control of the West Bank.  Given the history as outlined above, as well as the war, it was entirely reasonable for Israelis to claim control of the area and to develop communities there.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

All the news that. . . .

fits CNN International’s bias and pre-determined narrative.  CNN International, and much of the rest of the media, is as reliable as the sun rising in the west and setting in the east. 

For the last seven months or so, Israelis living along the border with Gaza have been subjected to daily torture:  putrid air and unhealthy pollution from burning tires; thousands of dunams of crops set ablze by flaming kites; incendiary devices thrown or flown on balloons and kites, their exclusive targets being innocent civilians. 

Explosives have landed in school yards, public areas, and a variety of buildings.  A combination of sheer luck and effective defenses has prevented many deaths.  Still, injuries, trauma, and forever-scarred children are prevalent.  This is no way to live. 

CNN International and the rest of the media have had little to nothing to report on any of this.  Moreover, the silence has been deafening from human rights groups, environmental groups, animal rights groups, and the multitudes that are quick to point out Israel’s shortcomings.  The righteous have been quiet. 

But, alas, the news blackout appears to be over.  Today CNN International ran a story by Senior International Correspondent Arwa Damon.  I caught it twice, and it probably ran a few more times.  Ms. Damon’s usual assignment seems to be reporting under the worst circumstances, amidst the ruins of war, featuring suffering, helpless, very sympathetic victims.  Ms. Damon seems to love these assignments, and she is very good at them.

So, reliably and predictably, there was Ms. Damon reporting in some battle-scarred, falling-down building in Gaza, with the requisite traumatized, dirty, and sympathetic Gazan child.  Of course, anyone with a heart felt awful for this boy’s terrible circumstances.  There was even a shot of some baby bottles that just happened to be intact and in sight. 

One would think that Ms. Damon and her producers would be cautious about the bottles. In the past it has turned out that dolls and other evocative items that pulled at the heart were well-placed props.  Indeed, back in April, Palestinian AuthorityTV used a photo of the dead at the Nordhausen concentration camp to illustrateIsraeli brutality.  One assumes it was just convenient. 

What brought this on after months of silence?  What brought Ms. Damon from her usual place in the ruins of Syria, or on a leaky boat teeming with refugees, or among the terrible ruins and starving people of Yemen?  Well, the best guess is that she and CNN expected war and lots of shots of destruction and of Palestinian victims. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sound the Alarm

To anyone who reads history and cares about a free society, today should be a particularly haunting day. A respected member of the press denied credentials because he asks tough questions of the President of the United States. And the President continues to call the media “the enemy of the people.”

The President ridding the Department of Justice of those conducting an investigation of wrongdoing in his Administration. The President, with support of the Senate Leader, threatening retaliation if the independent and equal legislative branch does its job of oversight and investigation.

Military troops called to the border to “defend” against a non-existent “invasion,” although now that the mid-term election is over, we may see the “invasion” miraculously disappear and the troops called back to the barracks.

This is a playbook like those followed in Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, North Korea and other oppressive regimes, not democracies. History teaches that those who are silent in the face of this onslaught on democracy are complicit in it.

When I write or say comments like this, many people call me an alarmist. I plead guilty. I am an alarmist.

The thing about being an alarmist is that it is a thankless characteristic. If the development you express alarm about comes true, it is a terrible situation. An alarmist who sounded the alarm for the right reasons takes no pleasure in that. On the other hand, if the subject of your alarm does not come true, people say “See, there was nothing to worry about. You’re an alarmist.” But how do we know if, but for alarmists sounding the alarm, the catastrophe would have happened?

We know that the alarms sounded in Europe in the early 1930’s were largely discounted. The late California senator Alan Cranston, then a journalist, tried to sound alarms. So did William Dodd, the historian who became the first U.S. ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s reign and whose family is the subject of Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.” Many called them alarmists.