web analytics
September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

A Jewish State Can Be Democratic and Moral

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Joseph Levine is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he has published an essay in (where else?) the New York Times, in which he argues that the proposition ‘Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state’ is false.

There are many things in the article to complain about, but I am going to content myself with pointing out the single massive howler by which his argument collapses.

He makes the distinction between “a people in the ethnic sense” and in the “civic sense,” which means either residents of a geographical area or citizens of a state. He generously grants that there is a Jewish people in the ethnic sense who live in Israel, but only an ‘Israeli people,’ which includes Arabs, in the civic sense. Then he tells us,

…insofar as the principle that all peoples have the right to self-determination entails the right to a state of their own, it can apply to peoples only in the civic sense…

But if the people who “own” the state in question are an ethnic sub-group of the citizenry, even if the vast majority, it constitutes a serious problem indeed, and this is precisely the situation of Israel as the Jewish state. Far from being a natural expression of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, it is in fact a violation of the right to self-determination of its non-Jewish (mainly Palestinian) citizens. It is a violation of a people’s right to self-determination to exclude them — whether by virtue of their ethnic membership, or for any other reason — from full political participation in the state under whose sovereignty they fall…

“Any state that ‘belongs’ to one ethnic group within it violates the core democratic principle of equality, and the self-determination rights of the non-members of that group” [my emphasis].

His exposition is much more lengthy and you should read it. But I think I have extracted the gist of it.

Interestingly, while he explains what he means by ‘a people’ and draws a distinction between two senses of the expression, he does not even hint about his understanding of the concept of ‘democracy’ and especially “the core democratic principle of equality,” the violation of which he believes disqualifies Israel from continued existence as a Jewish state.

Levine explains how Israel violates these principles:

The distinctive position of [a favored ethnic people] would be manifested in a number of ways, from the largely symbolic to the more substantive: for example, it would be reflected in the name of the state, the nature of its flag and other symbols, its national holidays, its education system, its immigration rules, the extent to which membership in the people in question is a factor in official planning, how resources are distributed, etc.

Actually, concerning the “more substantive” things, Arab citizens of Israel are doing quite well: they have the right to vote, to hold political office, and a large degree of control of their educational system; there are rules against discrimination in housing and employment (with exceptions related to national security), etc. In other words, they have full civil rights.

Naturally there are differences in the treatment of Jews and Arabs. Some are due to cultural differences — Arab towns are governed by Arabs and distribute resources differently — some are related to security, and some to anti-Arab prejudice. But the degree of prejudice in Israeli society is not particularly great compared to other advanced nations like the U.S., and nobody is suggesting that the U.S. does not have a “right to exist” unless all discrimination can be eliminated.

In any event, discrimination in what he calls “substantive” ways are not essential to the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, and there is a general consensus that such discrimination is wrong and should be eliminated.

Israel’s immigration rules are certainly unequal. But immigration rules by definition do not apply to citizens; and few — if any — of the world’s nations permit free immigration.

Levine also does not consider security issues at all. If Israel ignored them it would cease to exist without philosophical arguments. This would be bad both for the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel (just ask any of them if they would prefer to be citizens of Israel or the Palestinian Authority).

The Dreaded Drone

Monday, March 11th, 2013

At the end of last week we were consumed by the question of whether the President of the United States can order a drone strike on an American in the United States.

But why ask that question only about a drone?

Suppose that Obama decides that he wants Rush Limbaugh gone once and for all. He gives the order and B-52s from the 11th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are dispatched to put an end to the talk show host once and for all.

The B-52s arrive over Rush Limbaugh’s Palm Beach compound in under two hours and begin to pound away at his 2 acre estate dropping 2,000 pound bombs until absolutely nothing is left standing. Every building has been destroyed, the staff is dead, the golf courses are wrecked and there is no sign of life.

The 11th returns to base and receives a congratulatory call from Obama on a job well done.

Why can’t this happen?

For one thing it doesn’t make much sense. If Obama ever gets that determined to take down Rush, Team O will put together some ex-Feds turned private investigators to plant evidence of a Federal offense and then bring in the FBI. It’s a lot cheaper and less likely to make even Obama’s most loyal lapdogs balk at wrecking Palm Beach.

Federal prosecutors have nearly as good a track record at getting their man, innocent or guilty, as drones do. And they raise a lot fewer questions. Even mad dictators in totalitarian states aren’t known for sending air strikes to take out individual critics. Not unless they have no control over the territory that they are in.

So why not send in the B-52s to get rid of Rush Limbaugh? Because despite last week’s filibuster, military operations in the United States are far more restricted than law enforcement operations. The odds of a member of the United States Air Force killing you outside of a bar fight is very slim, but the odds of a member of a local or state police force killing you are far higher.

When it comes to the Federal government killing Americans, the civilian law enforcement side is far more likely to kill you than a USAF Staff Sergeant taking out Taliban across the border in Pakistan.

Every Federal agency has its own SWAT Team which is why every Federal agency is also buying up huge amounts of ammunition.

That means that you are far more likely to be shot by a SWAT team from the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General than by a drone operator from the 3d Special Operations Squadron in New Mexico (Motto: Pro Patria, Pro Liberis – For Country, for Freedom.)

The DOE’s private police force has the authority to use lethal force, conduct undercover operations, including electronic surveillance, and may not have drones, but does have 12 gauge shotguns and far more authority to use them on you than the Staff Sergeant in New Mexico does.

The Department of Energy has two SWAT Teams. The National Parks Service has four. And if any of them do shoot you, it will not result in congressional hearings or collateral damage. Law enforcement officers kill hundreds of Americans every year. One more won’t be a big deal. And the militarization of the police and the proliferation of Special Response Units in the Federal government are a far more serious concern than being taken out by a drone while sitting in a Starbucks.

Military operations in the United States are fairly tightly constrained and while that line has blurred at times, it’s still a much more difficult and controversial process. Today’s military is far less likely to be deployed against civilians than in 1932 when General Douglas MacArthur and Major George Patton led a fixed bayonet charge across Pennsylvania Avenue to dislodge unemployed protesters to protect President Hoover. And that is because Federal law enforcement has been militarized to such a degree that it can cope with just about anything short of a full-fledged civil war. And whatever it doesn’t have now, it will soon enough.

But let’s get back to the B-52s bombing Rush Limbaugh’s mansion. We all know that’s not likely to happen. But the idea of flesh and blood pilots climbing into planes and dropping bombs across Palm Beach has too much reality to it. The power of the drone is that it appears to be inhuman. It’s a new technology and it can do anything.

Are Drone Strikes Analogous to the Civil War?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Pundits have for weeks been erroneously comparing the issue of “killing Americans” with drone strikes abroad to the brother-against-brother character of the U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865.  It’s time to point out that the Civil War is a false analogy to the drone-execution issue.  This false analogy muddies the waters, and the public debate over executive privilege and the people’s rights needs to proceed without it.

There are two basic aspects of the Civil War that make it different from the War on Terror, in the ways that matter to the drone issue.  One is an obvious feature of the Civil War:  the South formally seceded from the Union and called itself a separate nation, the Confederate States of America.  The Confederacy thus severed its citizens’ compact with the U.S. Constitution.  Plotting acts of terrorism doesn’t sever a U.S. citizen’s constitutional rights; it makes him prosecutable under U.S. law, in accordance with the protections afforded him by the Constitution.

An American citizen’s constitutional rights do not, in my view, apply to foreigners who plot or commit terrorist acts against America.  My point is not that all terrorists “deserve” constitutional protection in our justice system, if American citizens do.  But in terms of where executive privilege stops, in the matter of executing terrorists or in other ways denying them due process under the U.S. justice system, the bright line is American citizenship.  Even if the citizen is Anwar al-Awlaki.

The other relevant aspect of the Civil War is less discussed, however.  That aspect is its military character.  The Civil War was, for the South, about holding territory by force of arms, and administering it as a separate nation.  For the North, it was about retaking territory by force of arms.  The mode of the conflict was therefore the form in which pitched battle was met in the mid-19th century.  The Civil War was about moving armies over territory and fighting for ground.

It was thus inherently about orchestrated opportunities for killing soldiers in pitched-battle combat.  Given the objectives on each side, it could not have been about anything else.  Lincoln had no intention of merely bottling up the South, absorbing long-term costs – political and military – and letting time be his main ally.  The South had no intention of merely accepting “occupation” and fighting a debilitating guerrilla campaign over decades to wear the Union down.  Both sides sought to establish sovereignty over the Southern states’ territory as soon as possible, envisioning a future of pacification and peace, according to their separate political concepts.

Given these factors, the necessity for killing Confederate soldiers had asignificance to the objective that it does not have in the War on Terror.  The only way to win pitched battles on land is to kill the enemy soldiers.  That makes them eventually stop fighting, in a given battle.  Over time, it reduces their ranks and their scope of action, until their leaders either accept defeat or set themselves up for annihilation.  The end-state of this process is the winning side controlling the territory in question and dictating terms to the survivors.

The War on Terror does not have this character.  Although it is, ultimately, about whose view of political morality will prevail on territory, the mode of the conflict is not pitched land battle.  Therefore, the mere killing of enemy combatants is not inherently significant to America’s objective.  It is important to have that clear.  We are not advancing our own security, merely by killing terrorists.  Read that again, please, and understand it.  In the Civil War, it was inherently significant to the military and political objectives to kill combatants.  In the War on Terror, it is not.

In Afghanistan, where the American objective has been to put territory under the control of a friendly, moderate local government, it is significant to the objective to kill the terrorists who attack friendly troops and civilians.  Those terrorists are acting as guerrillas, seeking to deny us the territory that will fulfill our objective.  Their relation to our objective in space and time is what makes it essential to kill them.

But that’s not what Anwar al-Awlaki – a U.S. citizen – was doing when he was executed by a drone strike in Yemen.  He wasn’t involved in a tactical campaign to deny us territory (as the Taliban are, for example).  He wasn’t facing American troops, armed and recalcitrant and posing an immediate threat to their lives.  At the time of his execution, there was no tactical, operational, or strategic necessity to kill him to advance the U.S. objective in the War on Terror.

Remember King For Fighting Hate Against All

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

For those of us who closely follow the progress in America in the battles against racism and anti-Semitism, the observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year has particular relevance.

First, the King holiday, which this year is observed on Jan. 21, reminds us of two significant anniversaries surrounding the civil rights leader. It is the 50th anniversary of his historic “I Have A Dream” speech at the Mall on Washington and the 20th anniversary of all 50 states in the union observing the holiday.

Second, while leading the monumental struggle for civil rights in this country, King never equivocated in denouncing anti-Semitism.

“The segregationist and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jews,” he stated bluntly.

And in a letter to Jewish leaders just months before his 1968 assassination, King said, “I will continue to oppose it [anti-Semitism] because it is immoral and self-destructive.”

The message – that it is never enough for Jews and Jewish organizations to condemn anti-Semitism – remains terribly important for the country. Important leaders from all communities must follow King’s lead.

More specifically, King’s condemnation of anti-Semitism was and is important for his own African-American community. For too long, levels of anti-Semitic attitudes have been too high. And some African-American cultural figures utter sentiments about Jews and Jewish power that remain very troubling.

Not only did King react against blatant anti-Semitism, early on he anticipated the more sophisticated versions. In an appearance at Harvard, as reported by the scholar Seymour Martin Lipset in his book The Socialism of Fools, King responded to a hostile question about Zionism, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism.”

Third, King understood the importance of standing up for other minorities both as a value and to strengthen support for his work on behalf of African Americans. Perhaps King’s greatest legacy was his conviction that justice for black people could not be achieved in a vacuum, that all Americans must live free from oppression in order to guarantee freedom.

Why was obtaining civil rights for African Americans so important to the American Jewish community? Because it was the right thing to do, and because it was good for all and built coalitions in fighting all forms of prejudice.

Fourth, King knew that power politics were important to bring change. Speeches, marches, demonstrations and sit-ins were all about power politics. But he profoundly understood that ultimately, appealing to the moral values, the goodness and long-term interests of those who needed to change – the white majority – was the key to changing society.

In the long run, changing hearts and minds through education and appealing to the best instincts of America is the real solution.

Fifth, the civil rights revolution led by King also further opened up America for Jews and is one of the key elements as to why today American Jews are the freest community in the 2,000-year history of the Diaspora and why things are so much better for Jews today than they were 60 or 70 years ago. Civil rights legislation allowed Jews to challenge their exclusion. Even more, the revolution changed society in a way that being different and expressing one’s differences was no longer a liability.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work in seeking equality for all was consistent with the values expressed by Hillel two millennia ago:

“If I am not for me, who will be?” One must have pride and stand up for one’s own.

“If I am only for myself, what am I?” To be fully human, one must go beyond one’s own problems and stand up for others.

“If not now, when?” Justice delayed is justice denied.

These values were King’s values. Too often in society today we stray from them. This 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech is a good time to recommit to those things that brought us all together. JTA

Guard our Freedom: Beware the Biometric Law

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Editor’s note:  The first phase of Israel’s “biometric” law, which would ultimately require citizens to register the fingerprints and a blood sample with the state, will begin today, January 1st, with a pilot project offering citizens to voluntarily register. This article, by Likud Knesset candidate Moshe Feiglin appeared earlier last year, but we thought it was especially relevant now.

Cutting edge technology is a double-edged sword. Under the mantle of progress, and with increasing ease, we are losing greater and greater slices of our freedom. Opponents of the proposed Biometric Law say they worry about how secure a database housing the biometric information of all of Israel’s citizens will be. That fear was recently confirmed when a Saudi Arabian hacker succeeded in breaking into supposedly secure Israeli websites. If the Foreign Ministry’s database was broken into, if the Israeli credit card base was broken into, it is safe to assume that the biometric database will also be compromised. 

The possibility of breaking into the database is simply too strong of a temptation for powerful interest groups and tycoons, who are sure to find a way to get to this data. The same is true for the crazy idea to computerize the elections. If there is a stage in the vote counting process during which a candidate or his representative cannot physically check the voter slip—it is exactly at that stage that the election will be compromised. There is no way around the fact that when election results are transferred in electronic files, election fraud becomes a simple task. In America, the idea of digital voting has become so controversial that it is no longer a political debate, but a legal issue.

But my opposition to the Biometric Law is a lot deeper than that.

Many years before the invention of computers and the unraveling of the genetic code, an argument developed in the United States around the question of identity cards. America’s founding fathers did all they could do ensure that the American Constitution would protect individual liberties at any price.

For the American founding fathers, liberty superseded all other values. They engraved it on their flag and fought for it. It is liberty that gave them the most important thing of all: a goal and sense of national purpose that fueled the creation of the American nation. The founding fathers understood how easy it is to slide down a slippery slope in which liberty slips away step by step, without anyone noticing.

Distrust of governmental authority is a value that the founding fathers engraved through every line of the constitution and American culture. It is for this reason that the simple question of requiring citizens to carry identity cards became a judicial matter in the United States. Americans said, “No way am I going to let the state treat me as a number on its list, and require me to identify according to this number. My identity is exactly that—my identity, and it does not belong to anyone else.” For the Israeli citizen, this sounds absurd, for we grew up in a culture far removed this type of liberty consciousness.

Does all of this seem irrelevant? Let us do a little test, so that you can see how easy it is to lose your liberty:

If Biometric Law proponent Kadimah MK Meir Sheetrit pushed through a law requiring every one of you to go to a certified tattoo center, and ink in a number on your shoulder—would you agree to that? Of course not. Even thinking about this brings up horrifying memories.

But what if the tattoo centers used invisible ink—would you agree then? In that case, I think many people would agree. The law is the law, right?

If they were to tattoo you with invisible ink and offer you some perks in return—cutting lines, property tax breaks, and more—would you agree? In my opinion, more than 50 percent would agree to that, and maybe even more.

Now for the final question. If instead of ink they use a biometric technique which marks you without touching you, and on top of that, they will give you the perks previously mentioned—are you willing? The overwhelming majority of people would agree to that.

Now look at how, with amazing ease, they have shut off all of our warning lights and closed our eyes. The master of the house has chiseled our ear into the doorpost like a Biblical slave…and, just like that, we’ve made a soft landing into a life of servitude.

People can lose their liberty without feeling a thing. So guard it with the greatest vigilance and do not give anyone your biometric information.

Everything’s Coming Up Jihad

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

June has been a banner month for Muslim lawsuits against the NYPD. First “Muslim Advocates” filed a lawsuit against the NYPD on behalf of some New Jersey Muslims attending mosques that the NYPD had assessed as a potential terrorism risk. The Muslim Advocates, like every other Muslim “civil rights” group, has a history of covering up and defending terrorism.

The media is full of sympathetic interviews with Muslims, who are baffled as to why the NYPD might be surveiling mosques and Imams. Farhoud Khera, the head of Muslim Advocates, complains, “There was explicit reference to the fact that they weren’t targeting Syrian Jews or Iranian Jews or Egyptian Christians, but really, the focus was on Muslims.”

The extensive Coptic Christian and Persian Jewish terrorism sprees aside, the goal here is to get the NYPD to play the same “Three Blind Monkeys” game that Federal law enforcement has taken up. And the only answer is the TSAization of the NYPD, as the last remaining counterterrorism force will prove that it isn’t singling out Muslims, by surveiling Methodist churches and Chassidic synagogues for signs of terrorist sympathies.

Less notable, but in some ways more significant, Farhan Doe, a Muslim rejected by the NYPD because he said gays should be imprisoned, has sued the police for rejecting him because of his views. Farhan Doe isn’t alone in believing that, but unlike non-Muslim applicants, he comes out of a cultural and religious background in which imprisoning people because they offend your morals is the duty of law enforcement.

Farhan’s (predictably, Jewish) lawyer says that his client has the right to believe whatever he pleases, and he has a point. But the question is with enough Farhans in the political, judicial and enforcement arms, how long will the rest of us have that right?

Tolerating people who will not tolerate you is fine, so long as they draw the line between ideas and action. The NYPD isn’t surveilling New Jersey mosques because there are some bigots in blue who dislike immigrants, as the Associated Press, the American Civil Liberties Union and the whole lawyer-media complex would like you to believe. It’s doing it because New York City’s biggest serial killers and aspiring serial killers are Muslims who kill in the name of their ideas.

Their biggest idea is that Allah had sent Mohammed to make Islam “victorious over all religions, even though the infidels may resist” (Koran 61:9). And when the infidels resist, that’s when you kill their soldiers, sue their police officers, and blow up a few buildings. Then you complain to the media that the infidels are persecuting you by spying on the mosques where the “Big Idea” is declaimed to the faithful and refusing to allow you to join the police force just because you think that Islamic law supersedes American law.

The Clash of Civilizations is all-encompassing. It doesn’t just cover the big thing, like ramming planes into skyscrapers, but also the little things. Police forces don’t enforce law, as much as social harmony. The Nineties were a grand experiment in changing troubled neighborhoods by improving their quality through selective enforcement on quality of life offenses. The NYPD’s successes were credited to that experiment. But who decides what social harmony and the social good are?

For Mayor Bloomberg, it’s banning large sodas. For Farhan Doe, it’s banning homosexuals. When there is no limit to government infringement on rights, then the law is a collection of bugbears and control mechanisms. Islamic law on covering up women got its start when one of Mohammed’s companions spotted one of Mo’s wives at night and was able to tell her apart due to her height. This somehow made for a convincing case for compelling every woman to be covered up head to toe.

It’s senseless, but so is fighting obesity by banning people from buying large sodas. When the obsession of a few men is turned into law, then the result is equally contemptuous of the individual as a rotting sack of vile habits which he has to be forced to abandon by the majority of the law. Once you abandon the rights of the individual to the fiat of activists, judges and politicians– then laws can be made by anyone who wants them badly enough. The same process of judicial activism, hysteria, violent attacks, and pressure groups that created gay marriage can one day lock up the happy couples. It’s only a matter of who is making the laws.

Why Do Some Jewish Groups Have A Problem With Legal Protection For Jewish Students?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Imagine if the NAACP had responded with skepticism to the passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and urged African Americans to exercise their civil rights cautiously under this law. Title VI was landmark legislation when it was passed in 1964 to remedy racial and ethnic discrimination in programs receiving federal funding.

In fact, the NAACP fought for Title VI’s passage and has vigorously sought to enforce it to uphold the right of African Americans to be free from discrimination.

Jewish students are facing their own serious problems of harassment and discrimination at schools receiving federal funding. After a six-year campaign by the Zionist Organization of America, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, finally clarified in October 2010 that Jewish students finally would be afforded the same protection from harassment and discrimination under Title VI that other minorities have enjoyed for close to 50 years.

Yet instead of embracing the new legal protection, some in the Jewish community have been strangely critical of it.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs describes itself as “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community” in the Jewish community relations field. Its national member agencies include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and more than 100 Jewish community relations councils throughout the country. A year after the policy clarification from the Office for Civil Rights, the JCPA proposed a resolution regarding Title VI. Instead of praising the new policy and committing to a nationwide campaign to educate Jewish students and university officials about students’ right to be protected from anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination under Title VI, the JCPA resolution tried to impose unreasonably harsh standards on when Jewish students should use the law to rectify a hostile anti-Semitic school environment – stricter even than the standards that the Office for Civil Rights applies.

Critics of the new Title VI policy have paid little attention to the fact that the policy has already shown its value.

University of California President Mark Yudof recently issued a public statement in which he condemned anti-Semitic harassment on the UC campuses.

Last month, Rutgers University President Richard McCormick issued a statement publicly condemning a student paper, The Medium, for falsely claiming that an article mocking the Holocaust had been written by a vocal Jewish, pro-Israel student.

McCormick said that “no individual student should be subject to such a vicious, provocative, and hurtful piece, regardless of whether First Amendment protections apply to such expression.”

Significantly, McCormick had failed to condemn previous anti-Semitic incidents on campus. It is likely that OCR’s Title VI policy, which recommends that university leaders label certain incidents as anti-Semitic, played a role in the decisions of both McCormick and Yudof to speak out. Surely also at play was the fact that there are Title VI investigations pending against their schools.

The David Project recently issued a report about rethinking Israel advocacy on campus. Curiously, the report cautions that “legitimate efforts to combat campus anti-Semitism could be complicated by overly aggressive complaints” under Title VI. But what are “legitimate efforts”? And what does the David Project mean by “overly aggressive”? Only weeks after the Office for Civil Rights issued its new Title VI policy, the ZOA was able to use it effectively without even filing a complaint with the OCR. We contacted officials at a Maine high school where there was longstanding anti-Semitic harassment and informed them of their Title VI obligations. The school acted on nearly all our recommendations and rectified the situation.

Would the David Project consider our actions legitimate or overly aggressive? What if school officials had refused to fix the problems? Would a Title VI complaint then have been legitimate?

It is difficult to understand why members of the Jewish community are skeptical of a critical new legal tool under Title VI or why they are sending a cautious message about using it.

We should be fully supportive of Jewish students and holding schools accountable when they don’t respond to campus anti-Semitism.

It’s time for us to stop being “shah-still” frightened Jews of the previous generation and start strongly speaking out on behalf of our Jewish brethren when necessary.

Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Susan B. Tuchman is the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-do-some-jewish-groups-have-a-problem-with-legal-protection-for-jewish-students/2012/05/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: