Thursday, October 29, 2015

San Francisco Ballot Measures, November 3, 2015

San Francisco/McManus Lab photo
It's election time in San Francisco.  This time we only have to sort through 11 Local Ballot Measures with 200 pages of explanation and arguments. 

The theme is housing.

San Francisco is booming. Hi-Tech companies are setting up shop in the city.  There is lots of construction in Mid-Town and South of Mission. Tech companies are running cushy bus services to Silcon Valley from San Francisco. It causes jealousies and puts pressure on San Francisco's limited housing stock. 

Check out this cool graphic of the growth of tech companies worth more than 1 billion over the last 20 years at the Economist. The Economist is breathless: 
SAN Francisco, Silicon Valley and the strip of land that runs along the shore of the Bay between them have had a tremendous decade as the hub of the global technology industry. The area’s biggest companies have soared to heights once unimaginable, coming to represent all that the world finds most exciting about American capitalism. The Valley has revolutionised nearly every aspect of the global economy, transforming how firms make decisions, people make friends and protesters make a fuss.
Today, San Francisco and the The Valley are intimately linked. Young techies want to live in vibrant San Francisco, and companies are accommodating them by building in the city and by running plush, Wi-Fi enabled bus services that pick up 14,000 workers (2012) early in the city and drop them off late. It causes social friction.  

We live in the upper two stories of a two unit house in Cole Valley. A new family just moved in downstairs. They arrived from Paris. He works at Genentech, she works at Stanford, and their daughter goes to the French school nearby. They paid $1.6 million for a two bedroom apartment (1,200 sq. ft). We understand Genentech helped out with this purchase in some manner. It makes it hard for school teachers to compete.

Hi Tech bus routes; line thickness reflects volume
The ballot measures next week reflect some of the pressures and fears caused by all this growth and change.  Five of the eleven measures address the need for affordable housing, preserving housing stock, and preserving "legacy businesses." [See Prop A, F, I, J, and K, below] 

Proposition D, relates to approving height variances for a major new project (Mission Rock) across from the Giants ballpark. It's a good project and should be approved. 

There are two measures relating to renewable energy. [Props G & H] 

The remaining three measures deal with parental leave for city employees (Prop B), disclosure requirements for lobbying activity (Prop C), and making public meetings open to participation through the internet (Prop E). 

It's great to live in San Francisco, but it's work at election time!

Here is a closer look at the issues that San Franciscans will be voting for, and a brief explanation for how I will be voting.  

Prop A.  Affordable Housing BondYes.  

What it does:  it authorizes the city to issue $310 million in general obligation bonds (paid from property tax revenue) in order to fund construction, improvement, acquisition, rehabilitation, preservation, and repair of affordable housing.  

Rationale: San Francisco lacks affordable housing stock for low and middle income earners. The program invests in construction and acquisitions to increase this housing stock. It provides work for the building trades and increases affordable housing.  It was approved 9-0 by the Board of Supervisors.  I’m voting “Yes.” 

Prop B.  City Charter Amendment to Permit Two City Employees (new parents) parental leave for 12 weeks each for the birth, adoption, or foster parenting of the same child.  No.

What it does: the city charter currently provides City employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave to care for a child after becoming a new parent.  A City employee may receive an additional four weeks of paid leave if they are temporarily disabled by pregnancy.  If both parents are city employees, they both may take leave, but the total benefits can’t exceed the benefits available for one. The expanded program for paid leave would cost the city $570,000 to $1.1 million as estimated by Controller. 

Rationale:  Most private employers don’t provide 3-4 months of paid leave for a new baby. 3-4 months of available paid parental leave for one parent adequately protects the family unit, is generous, and exceeds what the private market-place offers. If two City employees want to both stay at home with a new baby, that is a nice thing to do. I don’t think I want to pay for it with my tax dollars. The second employee is free to take unpaid family leave to do it. The family unit works pretty well with the traditional model of one person staying home with the baby and the other working. I’m voting “No.” 
..
Prop C. Requirement for expenditure lobbyists to register with Ethics Commission, pay $500 fee, and report on lobbying activity monthly.  Yes. 

What it does: Any person or business who pays more than $2,500 in a calendar month to solicit, request, or urge others to directly lobby City officers must register with Ethics Commission, pay the fee, and submit reports.  

Rationale: $2,500/month is a significant threshold that will exempt normal citizen lobbying activity.  It will apply to businesses lobbying for a particular issue and making a push, or non-profits who pool money from members.  All the ramifications and burdens this will create are not transparently obvious. However, it will enhance transparency in who is lobbying the City. It is consistent with similar provisions in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and the state legislature. The only opposition is from Terence Franklin, who makes a disingenuous diversionary argument (vote against it because it exempts employees of non-profits). If he thinks this law is a waste of time, granting an exemption for non-profits should not bother him.  The SF Human Services Network is concerned that they will have to register as lobbyists, placing in jeopardy their federal non-profit status.  Without more, that does not sound plausible. I’m voting “Yes.” 

Prop D. Approve height limits on 10/28 acres, up to 240 feet in some places, to allow the Mission Rock Project (across from Giant’s ballpark) to proceed as planned.  Yes.

Rationale: The Mission Rock projet provides for 8 acres of park, and 40% affordable housing. It is supported by Mayor Lee, former Mayor Art Agnos, Nancy Pelosi, the SF Parks Alliance, and the Chamber of Commerce. Sierra Club is opposed, saying it will approve 11 high-rise towers.  But this seems like a well-vetted sound development that will provide many benefits to the City, including new affordable housing.  I’m voting “Yes.” 

Prop E. Broadcast all City Meetings on the Internet and accommodate remote questions and comments over the internet.   No. 

What it does: It requires transmission of all city hearings over the internet and to make provision to accept remote questions, and playing of pre-recorded statements. Would allow organization 50+ to request that particular issue be heard in specific time slot. Cost would be $750,000 plus, annually. 

Rationale: This is a signature drive proposition. It is supported by an SF State political science instructor. It is an expensive change, and a big step. The City, I assume is free to make progress to improve public access to witness hearings even without this measure. Mandating the technology, and mandating to make remote access available, without any assurance this will be possible to operate smoothly is not a good idea in my mind.  I’m voting “No.” 

Prop F. Limiting short term rental of housing units to 75 Days/Year. No

The Way it is now:  In order to prevent conversion of housing stock to tourist use, SF currently regulates short term rentals of residential housing (“short term rental” is defined as less than 30 days). These regulations were recently enacted and amended just this year.  Only permanent residents may offer short term rental (“permanent” meaning you’ve lived there for at least 60 consecutive days). Before offering a unit, permanent residents must register with the city’s short term-rental agency. Units may not be rented more than 90 days/year if resident does not live there (“unhosted rentals”). [There is no limit on hosted rentals, e.g. renting a back bedroom in your house] Hosting platforms (like Airbnb) must notify users of the rules. Short-term rentals are subject to the City’s 14% hotel tax. It is misdemeanor to unlawfully rent short term rentals. Other residents of building may sue to enjoin violations. 

What F would do: This proposition further reduces short term rentals to 75 days/year regardless if it’s hosted or unhosted. There would be no more unlimited rentals of back bedrooms in your house. It imposes tougher restrictions on hosting platforms. Hosting platform must stop listing a unit after the 75 day limit is reached. The measure makes it a misdemeanor for a hosting platform (e.g. Airbnb) to unlawfully list a unit. The City would have to notify neighbors and post a notice on the unit, and it would mandate owners to file quarterly reports from. It would also empower interested parties to sue. Finally, the regulations could only be changed with another ballot measure. 

There are 10,000 units listed on various hosting sites (like Airbnb), per Tom Ammiano. But as of July 2015, fewer than 600 units were legally registered, he says. There were 16.9 million visitors to San Francisco in 2013, including hotel guests, those staying with friends and relatives, those staying in accommodations outside the city but whose primary destination was San Francisco, and regional visitors driving in for the day. The city has  34,000 hotel rooms (2012) in 215 hotels. Most of these hotel rooms (20,000) are downtown.   Short term rentals remove 2,000 housing units of housing stock per the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, and the Castro area is particularly affected, they say.  

San Francisco needs lots of new housing. Mayor Lee pledges 30,000 new units by 2020.  Tying up 2,000 units in the short term rental programs, therefore, is not the end of the world.  The San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association (SPUR) recommends a “No.”  I think we should wait to see how the recently enacted regulations work out, and lobby the Bd. of Supervisors to amend them some more if necessary.  I don’t see a compelling need for piling on with additional regulations and restrictions, especially in a way that will make it hard to make changes. I’m voting “No.” 

Prop G. Definition of “Clean Power”—Withdrawn  No.

Prop H. Alternate Definition of Clean Power—Moot.  No.

This was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors as a poison pill for proposition G, which has been withdrawn.  This is no longer necessary.  I’m voting “No.” 

Prop I. Housing moratorium in the Mission. No.

Proposal: This would direct the City to suspend issuing building permits for market rate housing and commercial building in the Mission for at least 18 months. Calls for Mission Neighborhood Stabilization Plan to be developed by January 1, 2017, with a goal of requiring at least 50% of all new housing to be “affordable.”  

The comptroller estimates there are ~24 projects (1,200 units) at various stages of development that might be affected by the ban. Building fewer places to live will not help with a shortage of affordable housing.  I’m voting “No.” 

Proposition J. No.

Proposal: San Francisco is in the process of creating a registry of “legacy businesses”—businesses with 30 years of operation in city and founded in City, or headquartered in city now, that have contributed to a neighborhood’s history or identity, and are committed to maintaining the physical features or traditions that define the business or nonprofit. A Legacy Business must be nominated by member of Bd of Supervisors, or mayor.  

Proposal:  This would provide grants to Legacy Businesses of $500/employee, and grants of  $4.50/square foot to landlords who rent to Legacy Businesses.  The Comptroller estimates this program would cost up to $94 million annually.  This sounds like a program rife for political corruption.  I’m voting “No.” 

Proposition K. Expansion of “affordable housing” definition from less than 60% of median income up to 120% of median income for disposition of surplus housing.  Yes. 

Proposal:  This allows the city to use surplus property to build a mix of low income housing designed for very low income people, up to 120% of median income.  Currently the surplus housing disposition program permits construction of affordable housing defined as 60% of median income.   Additionally, for larger projects (greater than 200 units) this measure would allow a mix of housing, including market rate housing. This also expands the process for identifying surplus housing. It prohibits the city from selling surplus property without having the Bd of Supervisors consider first whether it should be developed for low income housing. 


Prop K locks in a priority for using surplus housing for affordable housing.  It makes the program more flexible and workable by allowing for a greater mix and some flexibility, especially in larger projects. SPUR judges that “this measure … is appropriate for what is one of the long-standing and highest priorities for the city.” I’m voting “yes.”  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Dystopians" and the Great Irish Famine

John Holbo at Crooked Timber tells us that it was John Stuart Mill who coined the term ‘dystopia.’ It was in a speech to the British Parliament in March, 1868. Mill was discussing the British policies towards Ireland, which he considered to be "too bad to be practical;" so bad in fact that he felt compelled to coin the new term. 
Mill was thinking of the Whig policies and their ideology that made The Great Potato famine of 1846-1852 ever so much worse than necessary.  It's a terrible stain for a progressive party that gave rise to the Liberal Party.  Here's a description of The Great Famine from the BBC:  
The Great Famine ... began as a natural catastrophe ... but its effects were severely worsened by the actions and inactions of the Whig government, headed by Lord John Russell in the crucial years from 1846 to 1852. ...[A]bout a million people in Ireland ... died of starvation and epidemic disease between 1846 and 1851, and some two million emigrated in a period of a little more than a decade (1845-55). ... [It] killed nearly one-eighth of the entire population, [and] was proportionally much more destructive of human life than the vast majority of famines in modern times....
There existed - after 1847, at least - an absolute sufficiency of food that could have prevented mass starvation, if it had been properly distributed so as to reach the smallholders and labourers of the west and the south of Ireland.... Though it had a rich history of agrarian violence, the country was at peace. In addition, its system of communications (roads and canals) had vastly improved in the previous half-century... and Ireland lay at the doorstep of what was then the world's wealthiest nation. Why, then, was it not better able to deal with the problems caused by the failure of its potato crop?...
It was the ideology...
[In] Britain in the late 1840s, prevailing ideologies among the political √©lite and the middle classes strongly militated against heavy and sustained relief.... 
What might have been done to avert catastrophy in Ireland?
First, the government might have prohibited the export of grain ... when there was little food in the country and before large supplies of foreign grain began to arrive. Once there was sufficient food in the country (imported Indian corn or maize), from perhaps the beginning of 1848, the government could have taken steps to ensure that this imported food was distributed to those in greatest need. 
Second, the government could have continued its so-called soup-kitchen scheme for a much longer time. It was in effect for only about six months, from March to September 1847. As many as three million people were fed daily at the peak of this scheme in July 1847. The scheme was remarkably inexpensive and effective. ...
Third, the wages that the government paid on its vast but short-lived public works in the winter of 1846-47 needed to be much higher if those toiling on the public works were going to be able to afford the greatly inflated price of food. 
Fourth, the poor-law system of providing relief, either within workhouses or outside them, a system that served as virtually the only form of public assistance from the autumn of 1847 onwards, needed to be much less restrictive. All sorts of obstacles were placed in the way, or allowed to stand in the way, of generous relief to those in need of food. This was done in a horribly misguided effort to keep expenses down and to promote greater self-reliance and self-exertion among the Irish poor.  
Fifth, the government might have done something to restrain the ruthless mass eviction of families from their homes, as landlords sought to rid their estates of pauperized farmers and labourers. Altogether, perhaps as many as 500,000 people were evicted in the years from 1846 to 1854. The government might also have provided free passages and other assistance in support of emigration to North America - for those whose personal means made this kind of escape impossible. 
Last, and above all, the British government should have been willing to treat the famine crisis in Ireland as an imperial responsibility and to bear the costs of relief after the summer of 1847. Instead, in an atmosphere of rising 'famine fatigue' in Britain, Ireland at that point and for the remainder of the famine was thrown back essentially on its own woefully inadequate resources....
Bad policies were driven by ideological doctrines of inaction:
There were three [doctrines] in particular-the economic doctrines of laissez-faire, the Protestant evangelical belief in divine Providence, and the deep-dyed ethnic prejudice against the Catholic Irish to which historians have recently given the name of 'moralism'.
Laissez-faire, the reigning economic orthodoxy of the day, held that there should be as little government interference with the economy as possible. Under this doctrine, stopping the export of Irish grain was an unacceptable policy alternative, and it was therefore firmly rejected in London, though there were some British relief officials in Ireland who gave contrary advice. ...
...and bad religion:
... There was a very widespread belief among members of the British upper and middle classes that the famine was a divine judgment-an act of Providence-against the kind of Irish agrarian regime that was believed to have given rise to the famine. The Irish system of agriculture was perceived in Britain to be riddled with inefficiency and abuse. According to British policy-makers at the time, the workings of divine Providence were disclosed in the unfettered operations of the market economy, and therefore it was positively evil to interfere with its proper functioning...
In his book The Irish Crisis, published in 1848, [sir Charles] Trevelyan described the famine as 'a direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence', one which laid bare 'the deep and inveterate root of social evil'. The famine, he declared, was 'the sharp but effectual remedy by which the cure is likely to be effected... God grant that the generation to which this great opportunity has been offered may rightly perform its part...'  
... and callous moralism:
Finally, we come to 'moralism'-the notion that the fundamental defects from which the Irish suffered were moral rather than financial. Educated Britons of this era saw serious defects in the Irish 'national character'-disorder or violence, filth, laziness, and worst of all, a lack of self-reliance. This amounted to a kind of racial or cultural stereotyping. The Irish had to be taught to stand on their own feet and to unlearn their dependence on government. 
'Moralism' was strikingly evident in the various tests of destitution that were associated with the administration of the poor law. ....
...and racist prejudice:
[E]thnic prejudices... had the general effect of prompting British ministers, civil servants, and politicians to view and to treat the Catholic Irish as something less than fully human. Such prejudices encouraged the spread of 'famine fatigue' in Britain at an early stage, and they dulled or even extinguished the active sympathies that might have sustained political will ... to alleviate the immense suffering ... [and] mass death in the midst of an absolute sufficiency of food.
John Stuart Mill looked at this and found language wanting, so he coined a new term: 
I may be permitted, as one who, in common with many of my betters, have been subjected to the charge of being Utopian, to congratulate the Government on having joined that goodly company. It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or cacotopians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable.
John Holbo observes that whereas conservatives often criticize liberal, socialist, and general welfare policies as (unrealistically) utopian, Mill was onto something when he observed that policies successfully implemented by conservatives can be dystopian--policies too bad to be practicable:
Interesting that Mill coined the term, although I think it may have died and then been rediscovered independently later. Conservatives, of course, think ‘dystopia’ is a possibility that doesn’t cross progressive minds; but of course, for every dreamer who does not consider how her ideal blue-print might have unintended consequences, there is a conservative who doesn’t like to think actual, long-standing policies have unintended consequences. Going wrong isn’t just for plans. It’s for things.
Read more HERE.

You can follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"We will live forever by the sword," says Netanyahu: It's the Occupation!

 Israeli soldiers arrest two Palestinians and an international volunteer as
Israeli settlers look on (October 22, 2012).(photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
In Israel/Palestine they have been caught between killing and crying, says Natasha Roth; in a 100 year conflict between justice and justice, as Amos Oz used to say. Oz was referring to competing claims to the land. He still says it, even if he is more muted now.  
Netanyahu looks at the "knife intifada" and promises more of the same: "I am asked if we will live forever by the sword--yes," he said on Monday. Israel will control all of the occupied territory for the foreseeable future, he told members of the Knesset. And, of course, settlement will continue
Last night at a lecture at Berkeley Hillel, Ari Shavit said the problem is the occupation (here he is arguing against the Iran deal on Charlie Rose). 
Everyone recognizes the occupation is the problem, but the occupation must go on. The reason the occupation must go on is that Israel has populated the West Bank with settlements. These settlements in the West Bank need protection. Unless the settlements are abandoned, the occupation cannot end.
From Jewish Virt.
Library/10/27/15

If Israel wants to divide the land, the IDF could very well patrol the separation wall from inside Israel--as they do with Gaza. Retreating to the separation wall would leave an Israel 9% larger than the Israel of the pre-1967 lines.
There will not be peace in Israel/Palestine until the Jewish population, and its government abandons the atavistic idea of complete Jewish supremacy from the river to the sea, says Haggai Matar at +972 Magazine. It's a vision thing. 
Matar's vision is fully committing to democracy, equality, and freedom for all who live in Israel/Palestine. "No Netanyahu, we refuse to keep living by the sword," he says:
[W]e need to be clear on how to do it: it is possible to let go of the fixation that leads us time and time again to an escalation of violence. It is possible to eschew complete Jewish supremacy from the river to the sea. It is possible to fully commit to democracy, equality, and freedom for all who live here. It is possible to build a just and equal society without a military regime in the West Bank, without a siege on Gaza, without discrimination and dispossession of Palestinian citizens or those in East Jerusalem. These are the most egregious forms of violence taking place in this land, and they are the ones that lead to all the other forms of political violence. It is possible to have two states, a confederation, or one state — but giving up on Jewish supremacy and the willingness to share the land equally is a basic principle.
Israel must divide the land and must end the occupation without tying it to a final peace deal, said Shavit at Hillel. But Israel won't be able to end the occupation until it accepts that settlements must be removed first and finds the political will to do it.

Without the political will to extract its settlers from the West Bank, Israel won't be able to end the occupation, and as long as the occupation lasts in all of its oppressive arbitrariness, settlement will continue. And in that reality, Netanyahu's analysis is correct: Israel will continue to live by the sword. Israelis will continue to die, and a disproportionately larger number of Palestinians will continue to die.

If Israel has abandoned the justice of dividing the land, the only justice left is the justice of granting citizenship to all and working towards some type of unified civil society.  Some kind of binational state that Netanyahu says he is not interested in. There is no constituency for this among Jews in Israel. Is there among the Palestinians?

You can follow me on Twitter @Roland Nikles.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Great Delusions of Yair Lapid.




When national leaders delude themselves about issues of the day things often turn out badly. If we look back at the carnage of the 20th century, and its Great Illusions, false assumptions and delusions played no small part.

Here's what Netanyahu said to the World Zionist Congress in Tel Aviv on October 20, 2015:
"[A]ttacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.' 'So what should I do with them?' he asked. He said, 'Burn them.'"
The intended implication of this morbid and entirely fabricated fantasy, observes Noam Sheizaf, is that Palestinians can not be negotiated with or talked with reasonably today. The only solution this delusion leaves is permanent enmity, bloodshed, and tears.

The delusion is widespread. The pernicious libel spreads by osmosis. It is shared by much of the American Jewish community. The other day I received a message from a Jewish American friend,  the nicest young man you'll ever meet:
"It is a ridiculous notion that if Palestinians were not caged like animals, restricted from traveling in Israel, that there would be peace. All you have to do is examine history.  Israel was attacked the day it became a country. The problem is simply that it exists.  If Palestinians could kill more Israelis, they would, regardless of the occupation status. I don't see how that can be a contested point."
It's the great delusion that blocks any peaceful way forward.

Yair Lapid helps spread the delusion. He is leader of Israel's Yesh Atid party (11/120 MK's) and wants to be prime minister.  For now, he considers himself a "shadow foreign minister." So he is making appearances in the West; his great delusions in plain view. 

In June Lapid  told Jeffrey Goldbeg of the Atlantic that "we need to separate from the Palestinians... we don’t want what [former Israeli President] Shimon Peres used to call the ‘new Middle East.’” Lapid means he does not want a Middle East at peace, with regional economic cooperation expanding, and democracy taking hold. "There is a reason I'm not using the word 'peace,'" he told Goldberg. He means peace is not possible with the Mufti of Jerusalem. Never mind that the Mufti has been dead 40 years and, as Daniel Seidemann says: "I know many of his family, and they are as wonderful as he was despicable."

Lapid's vision, like that of my young correspondent, is higher walls and more separation, not peace.

From the Goldberg interview:
"I’m advocating ... a regional summit.... We have to do something, because time is not on our side. We can’t absorb 3.5 million Palestinians. If we won’t do anything in the next two years or three years, they will come to us and say, “OK, we realize there’s not going to be a Palestinian state. Let’s vote!” If we say no, we’re not a democracy. If we say yes, we’re not a Jewish state. I want to live in a Jewish state."
I'm not sure about that 3.5 million number.  Total Palestinian population between the Jordan river and the sea is 6.2 million: 1,719,000 citizens of Israel, 2,754,000 in the West Bank, and  1,730,000 in Gaza. According to Bloomberg, today there are nearly 600,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. These are spread across "123 government-approved settlements and 100 unofficial ones." Approximately 200,000 Israelis live in 12 neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians hope to make their future capital, and an additional 380,000 settlers live in the rest of the West Bank.

Nobody is going anywhere, says Noam Sheizaf, "so the fundamental political question is how can we live together. [But] Netanyahu rejects the premise of that question. He talks of total war. Of Nazis." The great delusion means shirking the challenge to find a way for Jews and Palestinians to live together. We must abandon the delusion.

Lapid is not willing to take risks for peace, to let go of the great delusion. "I want my country to have a policy, and it should be proactive," Lapid told Goldberg. "I want it to be Zionist, I want it to be security-oriented.... We understand the two-state solution is the only solution," he said, "and we will be for it if push comes to shove. After all the necessary warnings such as, 'We want security arrangements to be as tough as possible.'”

In the meantime, settlement activity continues apace (see, e.g. here, here, and here), Israel has no declared borders, and Netanyahu has vowed never to leave the Jordan Valley.

Evacuating 750 Jewish settlers from Hebron would be "Horrible. Horrible. It's biblical" says Lapid to Stephen Sackur in the video, above. He claims to recognize that some settlements will have to be evacuated. He mentions Itamar, a far flung settlement of 1,200 near Nablus. But he doesn't say he would evacuate Hebron. What he says to Sackur in the video above is "we're going to keep all of Jerusalem," because it belongs to the Jews like London belongs to the English [video above at 16:10].

Sackur asked Lapid whether he accepts that in order to make the two state solution work, hundreds of thousands of settlers will have to leave their homes and withdraw. "Well, hundreds of thousands is way exaggerated," said Lapid. "And yes, we're going to keep the blocs." 

No, this man is not serious about two states.

"I've been saying it's not in the best interest of Israel," said Lapid, to try to absorb 3.5 million Palestinians," repeating the number he told Goldberg. Lapid is implying that when a deal is made (after how many more settlers?) most of the settlers will remain just where they are and higher walls will be built around the Palestinians. That's his "two state solution." It's a delusion.

"Separation from the Palestinians is necessary for us, as Jews, for maintaining the Jewish character of Israel, for keeping us as a Jewish state," says Lapid [at ~20:00]   "We should push for a regional agreement that will eventually allow us to build a higher wall between us and the Palestinians, to have a two state solution," he says [at 22:40]. 

In the meantime, it is evident Lapid lacks any introspection or insight into the "knife intifada." 

"These are Islamic assassins who want to kill Jews because they are Jews," says Lapid. Like the Mufti of Jerusalem. Sackur was incredulous: "Are you suggesting the stabbings coming from the Palestinian side.... has nothing to do with the realities that Palestinians have to live with?" Correct, says Lapid.  "I'm telling you, these people are Islamic fanatics who are going there to kill Jews because they are Jews." It has nothing to do with a national struggle, he says. He doubles down on the Mufti of Israel as the originator of irrational hatred of Jews, suggesting today's Palestinians are the same. [At 11:40] "Let us remember," says Lapid, "that the founding father of the Palestinian movement went to visit Hitler, to talk to him, about what are the best ways to kill Jews, long, long, before the settlements, the occupation, the '67 war, and all those things people are now saying 'this is the reason the Palestinians are behaving the way they are.' The reason the Palestinians are behaving the way they are is because they want the Jews to be out of Palestine, ... or better off, die." 

As a consequence, says Lapid, it's OK for police, the military, and vigilantes to shoot to kill anyone who pulls out a screwdriver, or a knife as part of Israeli deterrence. [at 5:12] In practice this is extended more and more to rock-throwers.

These are remarkable statements. Lapid's lack of insight or introspection borders on the delusional. Israel is losing the world over the occupation and it's shoot-to-kill-as-deterrence policy, and Lapid's delusions are not helping. 

Here is Bernard Avishai in the New Yorker (10/23/15), articulating some of the reasons behind this "knife intifada" that should be painfully obvious to Lapid and Netanyahu... but sadly are not: 
Today’s attacks may appear “random” and “unpredictable,” but an increase in their incidence and intensity is entirely predictable. In 2012, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel found that eighty-four per cent of Arab children in East Jerusalem fell below the poverty line. The unemployment rate among Arabs in the city was about forty per cent among men and eighty-five per cent among women, Haaretz reported in 2012. 
Three hundred and twenty thousand Arabs live in East Jerusalem... and constitute about thirty-eight per cent of the total population. Arab residents of East Jerusalem have no Israeli citizenship, only permanent-residency cards, which means that they are eligible for medical insurance and also have to pay Israeli taxes. They do not vote in national elections, though Israeli governments have claimed the united city as the country’s capital. Then there are the open provocations: not only the public agitation by government ministers for equal Jewish access to the Haram al-Sharif but also the encroachment by rightist archeological organizations on the neighborhood of Silwan, and the marches by tens of thousands of radical nationalist yeshiva students through Nablus Gate on Jerusalem Day. 
But the statistics and political encroachments, however dramatic, do not fully capture the ambient pressure on Arab families—the humiliating limitations that steer most Jerusalem Arabs, no matter their intelligence or ambition, to the counters of delis and the steering wheels of delivery trucks. A number of highly educated Arabs find medical positions in Jerusalem’s hospitals or management positions in its hotels. They testify to the possibility of coexistence. They are also anomalous. A 2013 United Nations report found that more than half of employed Arabs work in “services, commerce, hotels, and restaurants,” and another quarter in construction and agriculture. 
In 2008, I told the story of Abed, who stayed in Jerusalem to marry, and hoped to start a business during the heady days of the Oslo peace process. He ended up running the meat department of our local supermarket and, after twenty years, had saved enough to build a stately home in a northern suburb. But then the separation wall, begun in 2002, put his new house beyond his reach, in so-called Palestinian territory. If Abed occupied it, he would lose his Jerusalem residency and health insurance; he had less than a week to move his family of five into a two-room apartment. (“It is a home for the birds now,” he told me, adding, “Bless God,” his eyes welling with tears.) Abed’s brother then tried to expand his home in the mixed neighborhood of Abu Tor, but was denied a permit, again and again. He put on an addition anyway, as Jews often do, and Jerusalem authorities demolished the entire house. More recently, Abed considered opening a fish store on the commercial street where he has worked for a generation. (I helped him with the business plan.) But he soon determined that an Arab could not hope to get kosher certification or a loan from Israeli banks—and no Arab banks are permitted to operate in the city. I have not seen Abed’s son, who is now a teen-ager, since he was a toddler. But I can only imagine the sting he has felt watching his father go off to work each day. Multiply such a sting by many thousands.
Right-wing violence in the West Bank, Big Surprise! also is one of the causes of Palestinian terror, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told a court on Thursday. Haaretz.  

In the meantime, Lapid and Netanyahu, and many, many others on both sides are inciting racism, hatred, and vigilante justice. The American Jewish community is under the spell of the great delusion. All they can see is more of the same: more settlement, more separation, higher walls, an undivided Jerusalem forever, and, perhaps, if pushed, abandonment of Itamar. But don't hold your breath.

The only thing this great delusion promises is a future of blood, sweat and tears, and very little hope, says Chemi Shalev.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Caveat Spectator"

Lance Armstrong winning US Pro Championship 1993/PCT photo

In Philadelphia, on June 6, 1993, a young Lance Armstrong won the CoreStates USPRO road racing bicycle race, completing a triple crown of races that summer--good for a $1 million dollar bonus to Lance and his Motorola squad.

Here is the write up by Barry Boyce on the pro-cycling historical site, CyclingRevealed:
The pressure began to mount on Armstrong and his Motorola team as 125 riders came to the start line to dethrone the Texan. Motorola’s director Jim Ochowicz brought a strong contingent to support Armstrong. A key member of the team, British powerhouse Sean Yates, flew in from Europe for the race.

An early breakaway was chased and brought back by Motorola, when Roberto Gaggioli attacked on the eighth climb of the Manayunk Wall and generated a seven rider breakaway. Armstrong was the first to join the Gaggioli inspired break and powered the group to a 2’30” lead.
When the breakaway hit the Wall for the final time Armstrong exploded from the group. To the roar of the huge crowd lining the Wall Lance went over the top of the climb with a 26 second gap. ... As he rounded the traffic circle at Logan Square Armstrong heard the roar of the 100,000+ ecstatic fans along Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Pumping his arms in the air as he crossed the finish line Lance Armstrong beat all the odds and won the ONE MILLION DOLLAR Prize in grand style. 
Well, it's pro sports.... so there's always more than meets the eye.

In 2006 Stephen Swart, a rider on the competing Coors Light Team, testified that Armstrong paid $50,000 to be distributed to Coors riders after the 2nd leg of this triple-crown, presumably to reward cooperation in letting Armstrong win. Another Coors rider, Italian Roberto Gaggioli, testified that after the final race (above) Armstrong hand-delivered $100,000 to him in a cake box in Italy, part of a deal that Gaggioli would not attempt to chase down Armstrong on that final break.

Today, Velo News reports that in a deposition in whistleblower litigation with Floyd Landis and the U.S. government, Armstrong "has not only admitted that his Triple Crown win in 1993 and resulting $1 million bonus came about after the rival Coors Light team was paid to let him win, but that longtime U.S. cycling insider and current BMC Racing Team manager Jim Ochowicz orchestrated it."

Which raises a question. Who is harmed here?

The main party harmed, I suppose, would be the race sponsors. But are they harmed?  The public likes nothing like a winner.  "The crowd roared," says Boyce above. See the Tiger Woods mania before the fall; see the Armstrong mania about his seven Tour de France wins before the fall.

Presumably the sponsors put up the money for winning this Triple Crown because the race and the sponsors get a lot more exposure if there is a triple crown winner. Think about the excitement generated at the thought of a triple crown winner in horse racing every year. Doesn't look like the race sponsors are harmed.

The money gets spread around to some of the other riders, so they like it. And they're all consenting adults.

Now that it’s blown into a scandal, the media like it. And we love to read salacious stories about it. The public liked it when Armstrong was superman, and they like it now that he's a villain and a goat.

Looks like a win-win-win to me.

Are there laws against this? I’d rather regulate the black box of Big Data myself.

When it comes to pro-sports: it's caveat emptor, or should we say caveat spectator.

The payoff/PCT photo

UPDATE: I received an email from Sandy Zirulnik, who sent me the Velo News article to begin with. He says: "I think there was a reasonable argument involving “the level playing field” since everyone was doing PEDs. It was not cheating, just a fact of life. However, cake boxes with $100,000 cash have no interpretation other than 'we are cheating to win the race.' Donors and recipients and funders of the illegal payoffs are cheating. They are committing harm by fixing a sporting event that is supposed to be an honest competition."

Our riding partner, Victor Rauch, also thinks "the damaged parties are the sponsors/owners of the teams that did not race to win and did not get the chance for the bargained and paid for publicity."

Yet there is something in bike racing culture, entirely honorable, that lends itself to what happened in these races in 1993. If we look at the grand tours, the Vuelta is often won by a Spaniard, the Tour de Swiss is often won by a Swiss, at the Giro we find Italiens at the top, and at the Tour de France a Frenchman often wins on Bastille Day.

These outcomes are not exactly fixed. There is real racing going on. But there is an allocation among the teams of who targets particular races, and who will make the big effort on a given day--or tour. These things are understood in the peloton.

Domestiques ride to support leaders. Indeed, says Wiki, the first riders known to have been employed to help a leader were Jean Dargassies and Henri Gauban in the 1907 Tour de France, and they did it for money. Pepin promised them the equivalent of first prize if they would pace him from restaurant to restaurant. Today, domestiques are well paid professionals, paid to ride in support of different riders; paid not to win.

At given times, race leaders will hold back to allow a hard working domestique to garner some glory. 

Competitors will suddenly sit up after a hard race and cross the finish line holding hands.

It's not shocking, therefore, that if you throw a $1 million prize in the mix, teams and riders will make accommodations to help the odds of this money "not going to waste." I'm not condoning it; but it doesn't greatly offend me. I think it comes from the tradition.

And Motorola in fact was the strongest team, and Lance was the strongest rider that year. The reason other teams agreed to play along and hold back is that no one else had a shot at the million dollar prize. So riders joined together to support the race leader to 'not spoil it,' and get some of the loot--just like Jean Dergassies and Henri Gauban.


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Daniel Seidemann (lawyer in Jerusalem) on the Uprising


This morning Alan Elsner, vice-president of communications at J-Street, interviewed Daniel Seidemann. If you're interested in understanding what's going on in Israel, watch it! [The sound is garbled at the start of Seidemann's comments, but it improves right away and is acceptable. The substance of what he has to say is excellent]

From Elsner's introduction: 
Daniel [Seidemann] has been a practicing attorney in Jerusalem and a partner in a firm specializing in commercial law since 1987. Since 1991, he has also specialized in legal and public issues in East Jerusalem. In particular, he has worked on issues and cases related to government and municipal policies and practices, representing Israeli and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem before the statutory Planning Boards regarding development issues. ... He has argued more than 20 Jerusalem-related cases before the Israeli Supreme Court. 
Since 1994, Mr. Seidemann has participated in numerous Track II talks on Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians. In 2000-2001, he served in an informal advisory capacity to ... as a member of a committee of experts commissioned by Prime Minister Barak's office to generate sustainable arrangements geared to implement the emerging political understandings with the Palestinians.

About the Conflict 

There is a feeling of unease and danger that envelopes both sides, says Seidemann:
"This is new.. I was able as an Israeli Jew to visit all of East Jerusalem during the Second Intifada [2000-2005]. ...I would be in the Shuafat refugee camp twice, three times a week. ... Today... 90% of East Jerusalem is off limits to me because going there unaccompanied by a Palestinian colleague or a diplomatic vehicle would entail risks I am unwilling to accept...."  
 "Many of the Palestinian men in Jerusalem, some 35,000, work in Israel, primarily in West Jerusalem, and the restaurant workers whom I know will not go to throw out the trash alone. They will go in twos and threes because there are vigilantes out in the streets of Jerusalem who harm unarmed Palestinians for fun, and much of this is not being reported." 

A Divided City

"Jerusalem has always been a divided city; it was never divided like this.... In Jerusalem, the border (of a two-state-solution) exists, and it goes exactly where the politicians would be placing it. And it's a border of fear and a border of hatred...."  
"Hatred is endemic. Popularized. It is not acceptable in respectable company in either the Israeli side, or the Palestinian side, to say anything positive or respectful about the other side. That's new..."  
"Between 2001 and 2008, there were 270 Palestinians arrested in security related offenses. We have arrested many more since Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 13). That means more people have been arrested in the last seven weeks than in the entire second intifada. This a popular uprising the likes of which we have never witnessed before. And that's new. And it's not going away....."

...It Started Last July

"Initially, when this uprising broke out a year ago... it was contained to the Palestinian neighborhoods. Increasingly, that violence has spilled into Israeli Jerusalem and into West Jerusalem. So it's a different kind of fear. It's less focused; it's more widespread. There is a mutual distrust and anxiety which I did not even witness during the second intifada...." 

With Respect to the Temple Mount

 "What we are seeing is a change in the ecosystem; a very significant one. ...When Netanyahu says he is maintaining the status quo he is correct, but it is a highly inadequate answer. The fears of the Palestinians and Muslims are not paranoia; and they need to be addressed; and they need to be calmed. There is so little faith between the parties that this does not appear to be happening..." 

The Ascendancy of Absolutist Faith Communities

"We in Jerusalem are witnessing the ascendancy of absolutist faith communities. The traditional communities are being marginalized, they are being silenced into retreat. We are witnessing the empowerment of those who weaponize faith.....Even if we see this round die down and ... steadier hands take over policy, the overall trend of radicalization will remain in place. This will remain with us for some time to come."  

Netanyahu, the Mufti, and the Holocaust...

"Rhetoric is dangerous in Jerusalem. It's a dangerous substance. The ...mufti of Jerusalem was an anti-Semite, was a thug, and he was a Nazi collaborator. By the way, I know many of his family, and they are as wonderful as he was despicable. But at this point in time, to abuse those historical facts and then distort historical facts in order to smear the Palestinians and its current leadership is intellectually dishonest, it's irresponsibility of the highest order and it is the last thing we need...  
"And it is deeply disturbing that a very intelligent prime minister of Israel, with a great familiarity of Jewish history and European history, would use such false and distorted facts for cheap, short-term political gain. I am deeply disturbed by it ... and I'm questioning whether we're not witnessing Netanyahu 2.0, which is basically in-your-face to all the rest of the world with the exception of certain wings of the Republicans party and branches of the dispensational evangelical movements. Deeply disturbing...." 

The Evolution of Hatred

"The evolution of hatred on both sides of the divide, the personalization of this conflict, is something that has been going on for a long time. The first intifada discredited the credibility of Greater Israel. The second intifada, which came after Camp David, did much to discredit the possibility of a political process. People no longer believe in the ability of a political process to be able to deliver anything.  
"On (the Israeli side) this breaks down to a state of deep denial where we're sipping cappuccino sitting on the edge of a volcano, with a metastasizing occupation, and deep despair on the Palestinian side. We have a generation of youngsters, decent kids, who've never met Palestinians. And we have Palestinian kids who have been growing up--I know these kids--good kids, who hate me because all they know of their experience is that I'm their occupier and they have absolutely no way out of this. 
"One of the things we've reaped for the lack of credible political process in recent years, is a deep mutual dehumanization that's taken place." 

The Occupation: Poisoning the Soul of the Israeli People

"Israel began its occupation by exporting some of its democratic and humanistic values to the West Bank. That has changed. There were protracted periods in which occupation was a disease in remission. ... Today it is not a disease in remission. It is poisoning the soul of the Israeli people and racism is becoming rampant. Being a victim in Palestine (sic) does not enable their souls either, racism and hatred is as rampant on the other side as it is here...."  
"We are seeing the dividends of years of Israeli governments not moving towards a two-state solution, but in fact building the one-state reality. Go out on the streets of Jerusalem, take a hard look at the interactions: you're looking at the future if the two-state solution is lost." 

The Absence of Politics of East Jerusalem 

"If we wanted to reach out to the Palestinian political leadership in East Jerusalem, there is nobody to reach out to because we have crushed every political expression more radical than a Scout meeting, and sometimes we've crushed Scout meetings." 
Seidemann commented on the fact that only 12 percent of the Jerusalem budget is spent in East Jerusalem, which contains 35 percent of the people.  Between 1967 and today, the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem has increased more than four-fold: from 69,000 to 310,000. In 1967 the population lived in 12,600 homes, yet while there was a four-fold increase in population, only 4,500 building permits have been issued by the Jerusalem municipality. As a result, most housing is being built without permit (the current population of 310,000 is living in 50,000 homes). In other words in excess of 37,000 homes have been built without permit. "That's not an accident," says Seidemann.
"Where is that derived from? We have a curious theory: that theory is, if we do not allow the Palestinians to build legally, they will lose interest in sex and child rearing and take up chess. There is no empirical evidence to the effect that this is working. The goal is to maintain the demographic balance of the city. In Jerusalem, the birth of an Israeli child is a simcha (gladness/joy) and the birth of a Palestinian child is a demographic problem. That is reflected in the planning regime."  
In the past 14 years more than 800 structures have been demolished or partially demolished in East Jerusalem because they were constructed without a valid permit.
"There is a law of political physics. Politicians will never allocate time, energy, money, or resources to people who can't or won't vote. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are permanently disenfranchised. That is the core of occupation. They are disempowered. As a result of that, this (the disproportionately small percentage of the budget spent in East Jerusalem) can't be reformed. It can't be improved. It's not about getting mayor Barkat to behave better. If I were the mayor of Jerusalem, I would not be doing much better than mayor Barkat because the system is inherently dysfunctional. Israel cannot rule wisely or fairly over a national collective that's disempowered. And that's why this ends in a border, and that's reflected both in the allocation of budgets and in the planning regime." 

The Legal Status of East Jerusalem Palestinians 

"When Israel annexed the 70 square kilometers that we did of East Jerusalem (in 1967) we annexed the land; we did not annex the population. In 1948 and 1949 when Israel found itself with several hundred thousand Palestinians who remained within Israel's borers--we did not ask them--we made them citizens. Israel granted (in 1967) the status of permanent resident, not the status of citizen. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem do not have the right to vote in national elections. They do not have Israeli passports. They do have the right to vote in municipal elections, but they elect not to because for them that would be declaring we are Israeli. Palestinians of East Jerusalem, formally but also substantively, have never been viewed as Israeli by Israel, nor have they viewed themselves as such.   
"In the 2013 elections, there were more than 157,000 Palestinians who could vote for mayor (not in the national election). Of them, 1,101 participated and that is 0.7 percent voter turnout....that cuts to the core of the inherent dysfunctionality of East Jerusalem. We don't want to give them rights, to empower them, make them part of our community. We never offered them citizenship; they never wanted citizenship;  they have the right to ask for citizenship; we have the right to say "no." (It's) inherently dysfunctional. 

The Core of the Conflict: a Lack of Rights 

"Do the Palestinians of East Jerusalem have rights? Indeed they do. They have the right of freedom of movement. They can work in Israel. They have social welfare benefits. They have property rights. But these rights always hang by a thread. The status of permanent residents basically says to them: you guys have rights and we're going to be nice to you if you behave, and if you tow the mark, but if you act... what  we consider to be poorly, or if we really want to abrogate or annul your rights, we can take them away; and your property rights, and your residency rights, and your social welfare benefits hang by a thread. They are a barely tolerated minority, and that is the core of this conflict."
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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Upheaval in Israel: "What can I Do for Israel Right Now?"

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Today (Wednesday 10/21/15), automobile attacks continued in the West Bank. Six IDF soldiers were wounded.  At least one rocket was launched from Gaza. What can I do for Israel right now, asks a Chabad video in my Facebook feed? [See video here: What Can We Do for Israel Right Now?] "Our physical security is tied to our spiritual security," said Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. I think that's right. Chabad is correct that we should get our moral house in order, but they are drawing the wrong conclusions as to what that requires.

The United States has been trying to implement a two state solution in Israel/Palestine for 30 years without success. The parameters of what this looks like were negotiated in the Oslo peace process and they have been clear since before 2000: See this discussion by Ron Pundak and Afif Safieh discussing the history of Oslo in 2010.  There has been insufficient leadership on the Palestinian side, but Israel has been the main reason successive U.S. administrations (Clinton, Bush, Obama) have failed to implement the Oslo parameters. If it is to be done, the U.S. and the world must lean a lot harder on Israel to get them to give up the idea of settlement and dominion over all the land. The challenge is a lot harder today than it was in 2000. Rabin's assassination in 1995 did not help.

Rather than tightening the occupation, Israel needs to work hard to end the occupation; rather than extending settlements, Israel needs to move to turn settlements over to the Palestinians; rather than doubling down on security and military rule over 4.5 million people, Israel must work to find a way to extend civil rule, justice, and economic opportunity to Palestinians.

What can we do to help Israel do the right thing? What can we do beyond being pious and have God protect Israel through our righteousness, as Chabad suggests?

A starting point is to realize that Chabad is not framing the issue correctly: it's not 6 million Jews in Israel that need protection. It is 12 million people in Israel/Palestine that need security, peace, justice, and equal opportunities.

"We" as the U.S. can work with the international community to lean on both sides--and provide assistance. We as the American Jewish community, can enable our government to do what needs to be done.  The American Jewish community is broad: as defined by the Israeli Law of Return it includes not only those born of a Jewish mother and converts to Judaism, but also the "child and grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew." This broader Jewish community, by virtue of its unfettered right to immigrate to Israel, bears some responsibility for what Israel is and does in its name.

If we want our government (the U.S.) to lean on Israel to make concessions--to end the occupation and abandon its dominion over all of the land--we must radically alter the character of AIPAC as it is constituted today. We (the expansive Jewish community as recognized by the Israeli Law of Return) must jettison Adelson, Saiban, the birthright program, and our "feelings that we have an ownership stake in Israel."

We (the expansive Jewish community as recognized by the Israeli Law of Return) have to get clear about the kind of Israel we want to exist: not an ethnocracy that will occupy and deny civil rights, and equal protection of the laws to 50% of the people...but a democracy with equal rights, dignity, and opportunity for all. [Note: I don't think this necessarily means a one state solution; but it does mean prioritizing a commitment to equal rights and promoting opportunity for all. I have no preconceptions about what specific political arrangements are necessary to accommodate the value of fair treatment and equal opportunity, but any political arrangement must be measured in light of the values of providing fair treatment and equal opportunity to all] We want a shining light unto the nations, not another Syria.

We (the expansive Jewish community as recognized by the Israeli Law of Return) have to make up our  individual minds that discriminating against Palestinians, segregating them, subjecting them to military rule, denying them justice and equal opportunity, subjecting them to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, appropriating their water, shooting them as a crowd control measure ("treating Palestinians like shit" for short) is not what we want Israel to do in our name. I don't think a majority of the American Jewish community has done this soul-searching; I think too many of us are comfortable with the idea of having Israel continue to treat Palestinians like shit forever.

And if we (the expansive Jewish community as recognized by the Israeli Law of Return) can come around to a consensus that we don't want Israelis "treating Palestinians like shit," then we have to think about the implications. We have to ask ourselves, what needs to happen to create a state where Israel doesn't treat Palestinians as second class citizens; what needs to happen for Israel to work towards providing equal rights for all; what needs to happen for Israel not to treat 50% of the population like shit?

I think one of the implications is that the Israeli Law of Return must be modified.  A law that gives an absolute right of citizenship to me, the spouse of a Jew born and raised in the United States, and denies it to the West Bank spouse of a Palestinian citizen of Israel living in Jerusalem is not consistent with the principle of fair and equal treatment of all citizens of Israel. I think an implication is that the right of Jews in the diaspora to immigrate to Israel must be limited to refugees (as in a need to get away from serious persecution).  Fair and equal treatment can not coexist with a discriminatory Law of Return for any Jew living in the U.S. and Western Europe at this point in time. Equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot be squared with approximately 8 million Jews in the U.S. (expansive definition commensurate with Law of Return) claiming an "ownership stake" in Israel, while such an "ownership stake" is being denied to the Palestinian diaspora--and to the West Bank spouse of an Israeli citizen.

I think one of the implications of "not treating Palestinians like shit" is the occupation has to end. It can end by giving everyone the vote and equal protection under the law; or it can end by pulling out of the West Bank and working on some kind of workable confederation within the small place that is Israel/Palestine; or bringing about a workable two state solution. We don't know what that path looks like, but we do know what treating Palestinians fairly looks like, what providing equal protection under the law, and providing due process to everyone looks like. It's something we can contemplate every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

We can get clarity in our own minds that we are committed to equal and fair treatment of Palestinians. If we can get clear on that, little things will fall into place. What are little things? Little things like picking up garbage in East Jerusalem on the same schedule as West Jerusalem. Little things like maintaining the Muslim cemetery across from the Ritz Carleton in Jerusalem. Little things like not preventing Palestinian citizens from purchasing property in Jewish towns. Little things like investing in the education of Palestinian citizens at the same rate as Jewish citizens. Little things, like finding ways to integrate the populations rather than to segregate the populations.

Without change that gradually leads to more integration, better infrastructure for Palestinians, better education, better access to employment, a fair sharing of water resources, there will be a perpetual low grade civil war, with a chance for genocide--probably of the Palestinians. It is incumbent on each one of us (the expanded Jewish community as defined by the Israeli Law of Return) to act in such a way that, if Israel continues to slide to the right and towards civil war, our fingerprints aren't on it when it happens.

Chabad's solution is for us (the Jewish community narrowly defined) to rigorously embrace Jewish practice, to say the Shema every morning and night, keep kosher, properly affix a mezuzah, wear tefillin, be pious. The video is full of imagery depicting Jews as traditional victims of a pogrom--with the strong and proud and beleaguered soldiers of the IDF doing what they can, and everyone else doing their pious righteous part. That way... God will protect us 'til the Meshiach comes. It's a nationalist religious vision.  It does not encompass the Palestinians.

I could not disagree more with this messanic vision fused with victimology and jingoistic militarism... yet, by focusing on individual practice and piety, I think Chabad is on the right track. It's not so different from what I am suggesting: do your moral accounting and act accordingly. We just have a very different vision, Chabad and I. Chabad's vision is based on God and end times and is Jew centric; my vision is based on the Enlightenment and justice for all. Fundamentally, we agree on the question "What can I do for Israel right now?" It's get our moral house in order.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Does Israel Have a Policy of Murder as Deterrence?

For the past month, young Palestinians (citizens of Isreal, permit residents of East Jerusalem, and subjects of the occupation living in the West Bank) have spontaneously taken up kitchen knives and launched suicide attacks on innocent civilians and heavily armed soldiers alike.  Mohammad Alhammami tries to get his head around it in an article at Mondoweiss.

Jerusalem is on lock-down. As Dahlia Scheindlin reports, Israelis are staying away and debate how to solve the problems there while ignoring the West Bank and Gaza.  "It can't be done," she says.

The Israeli government has doubled down on security measures, including an unwritten policy of murder as deterrence. This follows on the heels of Netanyahu loosening the rules of engagement to authorize the use of live fire against rock-throwing teen-agers.

Steven Klein reports in Haaretz (10/20/15):
Until last year, security services somehow knew how to apprehend stabbers without killing them. In the last two decades knifings in public places were rare, so there were few occasions in which the security forces acted. But, in all seven documented cases between November 1993 and November 2014, the terrorist was apprehended ​rather than killed, according to one comprehensive survey. 
That trend continued in early 2015, when one knife-wielding terrorist was shot in the leg and apprehended, another was tackled by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and a third was wrestled to the ground by the soldier he had attacked. 
Since September, however, death has been the fate of most knife-wielding Palestinians. Our leaders have, in part, set the stage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his “zero tolerance for terror” last month. Interior Minister Gilad Erdan declared that “every terrorist should know that he will not survive the attack he is about to commit.” Jerusalem police chief Moshe Edri said, “Anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocent people is due to be killed.” Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid said, “You have to shoot to kill anyone who pulls out a knife or screwdriver.” And Nir Barkat called on Israeli civilians to carry their guns. 
No one at the top echelons is questioning this unwritten shoot to kill policy or the dangers of vigilantism.
Meanwhile unrest continues.

This morning, an Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in Hebron. The assailant was shot and killed.  Haaretz reports some of the latest incidents:

  • Sunday evening, at the central bus station in Be'er Sheva a harmless Eritrean national was shot and killed, said to be mistaken as an accomplice.
  • Last Friday afternoon (10/16/15), "an Israeli soldier was stabbed and moderately wounded during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians near Hebron. The terrorist was shot and killed."
  • Saturday, an Israeli pedestrian shot and killed a Palestinian who tried to stab him.
  • Saturday, a Palestinian woman stabbed a female officer at a Border Police base in Hebron and lightly injured her; the officer shot her dead.
  • Saturday "a 20-year-old soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack near the Tomb of the Patriachs in Hebron. The assailant was shot and seriously wounded.
  • Also on Saturday, "a Palestinian attempted to stab a Border Police officer at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, near Ramallah. The assailant was shot and seriously wounded. According to Jerusalem Police, the assailant jabbed at the officer with a knife but failed to pierce through his protective vest. Officers fired at the assailant’s lower body, and he fell down. When a sapper examined the assailant for explosives, he pulled another knife and tried to stab the officer. A Border Police officer then fired at the assailant, killing him."

In all, since the beginning of October 2015, 50 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and civilians, while nine Israeli's have been killed in attacks by Palestinians. Israelis injured total 83; Palestinians injured total in excess of 2,000. Al Jazeera. Gazan's have protested and they have not been spared from the carnage.

Here is what the worst of this looks like from a CCTV camera recording on October 13, 2015:


The assailant drives into innocent bystanders at a bus-stop, gets out and starts to hack at bystanders with a knife. The assailant, in turn, is shot and killed at the end of this sequence.

On October 12, 2015, there was an attack near the Lion's Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Post):
According to police, at approximately 9 a.m., (an) unidentified assailant, whom police deemed suspicious, was asked to stop for inspection. The suspect then withdrew a knife from his pocket and charged one of the officers, stabbing him in his metal breastplate. 
Police immediately opened fire, killing the man.
Later that day, Yair Lapid held a rally at the location. "A terrorist came and tried to stab the security forces and was shot and killed and that is the way it should be,"  he said.

In a separate article in Haaretz, Carolina Landsmann quotes Lapid as follows: “Don’t hesitate. Even at the start of an attack, shooting to kill is correct. If someone is brandishing a knife, shoot him. It’s part of Israel’s deterrence.”

Murder as deterrence. As Landsmann says, is a sorry ethics code.

The bus stop terror attack in the CCTV video above is awful. It points out how tricky these self-defense situations can be. We are focused on the civilian with a gun. He first comes into view while the terrorist is hacking at an old man; at that point the civilian would have been clearly justified in shooting to kill. It’s not clear if he shoots. The terrorist appears to be hit and falls down. The civilian clears the knife. The damage has been done.....  Yet the assailant does not stay still. He lunges, he gets back up—and the civilian holds his fire. Other bystanders approach and kick the assailant. Less afraid now. Stumbling, evidently having been wounded, the assailant retreats past his wrecked car. It looks like the imminent threat of harm has passed. But that’s when he’s killed. [You can’t actually see him getting killed, but news accounts confirm he was]

This video suggests it would have been justified to shoot to kill early. If that's what Lapid was referring to when he said "Don't hesitate," it's understandable. But the lamppost was in the way. Later, at the end of this video, when the assailant is killed, it no longer looks like self-defense. It looks like murder.

This bus stop incident is not the case to get up in arms about from an “abuse of self-defense” perspective, because it does look like the terrorist was hell bent to keep going until he was killed. But Lapid's policy of murder as deterrence is dubious. It's a death penalty without due process of law.

It leads to THIS.  And THIS. And THIS.