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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin Congratulates US President Donald Trump

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

President Reuven Rivlin after the conclusion of the Sabbath in Israel sent a letter of congratulations to 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

In the letter, President Rivlin wrote:

“On behalf of the people and State of Israel, I am honored to extend to you congratulations on your inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America. Mr. President, as a longstanding friend of the State of Israel, you now stand as leader of the free world, and of Israel’s most important and closest ally. The alliance between our states and our nations is not solely based on friendship. It is rooted in our shared values and longstanding commitment to freedom, liberty, and democracy – the foundation stones of our societies.

As you take this esteemed office, I wish to express my gratitude for the support and friendship of the American people, along with my hope that our special relationship and cooperation will continue to flourish and grow stronger.

On behalf of our people, I wish you and your administration much success, and take this opportunity to extend to you an invitation to visit the State of Israel and be our guest in Jerusalem.”

Hana Levi Julian

How Trump’s Win Threatens Democracy

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

With Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory on December 19, the last hurdle to his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States has been cleared. After protests and riots and chants of “He’s not my president,” things should start to settle down–well, maybe.

The Electoral College vote came despite demonstrations appealing to the electors to “vote their conscience” and refuse to cast their ballots for Trump.

They even ignored a video made by very famous folk like Martin Sheen, Debra Messing, and other Hollywood sages. These celebrity multi-millionaires pleaded passionately with the Electoral College to reject another celebrity multi-millionaire in favor of their preferred celebrity multi-millionaire.

It seems, at least to me, that those alarmed and depressed intellectuals, Nobel laureates, and doctors of economics – like Lady Gaga, for example – were all very sincere.

Yet they kept repeating that they were not asking the electors to vote for Hillary Clinton (their preferred celeb multi-millionaire, by the way, in case – as their video suggested – your IQ has slipped to numbers below that of an amoeba).

But that is, of course, precisely what many of them were doing.

In my previous column I predicted that the losers would turn their anger loose on social media, which allows voters to bypass the mainstream media and share stories directly with one other.

“Fake news” has become the day’s buzz phrase and a campaign was launched to chastise and chasten Facebook, Twitter, at al.

ABC News, the Associated Press, and others have apparently agreed to help make good on promises Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made about fighting fake news. Facebook, it seems, will see to it that fake news posts are less visible, will append warnings from fact checkers to fake news, will make reporting hoaxes easier, and will disrupt the financial incentives of fake news spammers.

Now that certainly sounds like a good idea; after all, false new is a bad thing, right? Right! Until you consider the track record of some of those intent on “helping” Facebook.

Do you recall someone called Sam Bacile? It rhymes with “imbecile.” He produced a film in California titled “The Innocence of Muslims.” It called Islam a “cancer” and made offensive statements about the religion’s founder, inflaming Muslims all over the world and sparking demonstrations and riots. It was claimed the film led to the killing in 2012 of four Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador there.

Who was Sam Bacile? The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets reported that Bacile was an Israeli-American and that the incendiary film had been financed with money culled from “about 100 Jewish donors.”

Aha! The Jews again! I guess you knew it was them all along.

The outlets that reported or blithely repeated the story soon had to issue retractions when it turned out to be a total fabrication.

The producer was in fact an Egyptian Coptic Christian, with a significant criminal record. Remember Journalism 101? Check your facts before you print a story, not afterward.

Or how about the terrible rape of a woman in a University of Virginia frat house, as reported in Rolling Stone? The story caused an eruption of outrage across liberal media outlets, which parroted the details without doing any investigative reporting of their own. Threats were directed against fraternities across the country. But that story too was a lie.

If only the aforementioned were rare exceptions to the rule. But it’s becoming harder and harder to trust the media, and that distrust is helping to fuel anger and fear throughout the country.

A (true) story that appeared recently on the BBC website began with the headline “Why US liberals are now buying guns too.”

Some relevant snippets from the article:

The election of Donald Trump has prompted some left-wingers to join gun clubs – and even start preparing for the collapse of society.

…. Clara, a 28-year-old nursing student, grew up in the Midwest…. Since the election of Donald Trump in November she has started going to a gun range for the first time and is shopping around for a semi-automatic pistol…. She foresees a wide-ranging struggle between the Trump administration and the left over issues such as immigration and racial politics.

But won’t buying a gun just increase tensions?

“Things are already escalating and they will continue to do so and me not engaging or being prepared to defend my friends by force… isn’t going to stop people from being attacked or harassed,” Clara says.

 

Whoa! Assuming Clara and her friends aren’t simple nut-jobs, it looks like liberals aren’t really ready to settle down just yet.

Some on the Left say they fear Trump’s victory threatens democracy. I believe it too – but to be specific, I believe Trump’s win threatens the template of “democracy” long promoted in mainstream media by exposing the abysmal failure of American journalism, specifically its inability or unwillingness to report objectively.

The press has to perform the essential role of exposing wrongdoing. And it has to be credible when it does so. The Washington Post and, to a lesser extent, The New York Times did exactly that with Watergate. Now, sadly, any headline they publish looks more like propaganda than the result of the kind of dogged reporting that made Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein so admired.

In our highly polarized times, no one listens to or hears what those on the other side are saying. Those on the Right don’t believe what news channels of the Left are reporting. Those on the Left don’t believe what news channels of the Right are reporting. And those in the middle believe neither the Left nor the Right.

There is a solution. Having broadcast for the BBC for some twenty years, I can attest that no BBC news producer would dream of airing only one side of any argument while denying the other side a voice. But in the U.S., particularly on television, that is the norm.

There was a time, not too long ago, when broadcast impartiality in this country was protected by law.

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy introduced in 1949 by the Federal Communications Commission. It required the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the commission’s view, honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

Moves to reintroduce versions of it have been attempted since then, only to be attacked as partisan attempts to silence the other party’s broadcast allies, usually Democrats trying to silence conservative talk radio.

I think it is time to examine this once again. The idea will only be taken up by the bravest of both sides who are wise enough to look beyond party loyalties and see a country more divided and fractured than ever before.

It will require people who have lived in the media bubble, sometimes all their lives, to step outside and realize that a country that no can longer rely on or trust its news media is a country in real danger.

When people no longer hear or listen to those on the other side of America’s great political divide, and instead go shopping for guns, it’s clear that something in America is broken – and that what’s broken is the nation’s media.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

Shaked: Court’s Intervention in Knesset, Government Work Distorts Democracy

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) on Thursday told a conference headed by former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch that “there are some who want to cause the public to believe that any regime model that does not align itself completely with the leftist parties’ agenda does not satisfy the basic demands of the democratic system. But it isn’t so.”

The conference, titled “Democracy in Israel: Directions and Trends,” took place in Zichron Yaakov, a town that only a week ago endured the largest of the wave of fires that plagued Israel. Shaked “informed” those who have been regularly eulogizing Israel’s democracy, that Israel’s democracy is stronger than all of them.

According to Shaked, the attempt to divide the political left and right in Israel, and the will to determine that one side seeks to promote Israel as a Rabbinical Jewish state, or as a nationalistic mutation, while the other side is seeking to promote true democracy will not succeed. Neither will the attempt to define as “destroyers of democracy” those who consider separation of the three branches of government to be the foundation of a well-functioning democracy.

“I am saying here in the clearest way possible – a judicial branch that intervenes in the legally created product of the legislative or executive branches is not adhering to the democratic model and it is our duty to bring it back on track.”

Shaked also stressed that Israel’s democracy is “part of a larger fabric of a Jewish and Zionist State.” Conceding that this means there are complexities in the Israeli system of government, she urged her audience to “talk about them, rather than attempt to turn this complex term the political legacy of one camp or another.”

“It’s too important an issue to be turned into a partisan battering ram,” Shaked said.

JNi.Media

Turkey Warns Citizens Against Travel to United States Due to Violent Protests

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Turkey has warned its citizens against traveling to the United States in an advisory on the website of its Foreign Ministry posted Saturday.

The warning comes in the wake of the coast-to-coast protests by supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton that have taken place in some two dozen major American cities following Tuesday’s election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States.

The ministry said in its warning, “It has been understood from protesters’ social media accounts that the protests will continue for a while.”

The ministry also advised Turkish citizens to be “calm” about possible “xenophobia and racist abuse” and to “contact local security forces in the event of such incidents.”

Turkish media has been closely watching events in the United States.

“In Indianapolis, some protesters began chanting threats including “Kill the Police,” and officers moved in to arrest seven demonstrators. Police briefly fired pepper balls into the crowd during the confrontation,” reported the Hurriyet Daily News.

“Protesters rallied at New York’s Union Square before taking their cause up Fifth Avenue toward Trump Tower, where they were held back by police barricades. The Republican president-elect was holed up inside his tower apartment, working with aides on the transition to the White House.

“Among those railing against him was filmmaker Michael Moore, who tweeted a demand that Trump ‘step aside.'”

The new president-elect was reported to be “making some headway in forming a new administration.”

Hana Levi Julian

Israel is the Sane, Stable Democracy

Friday, November 11th, 2016

{Posted to the author’s eponymous website}

What can one say about the ghastly US presidential election campaign that is (thankfully!) coming to an end next week? That we cry for America, the greatest nation on the face of this earth, which is self-immolating; sunk by candidates who are insincere, uncouth, and unprincipled.

The crude campaigns of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton leave the US badly divided along the lines of race, economic status, and political ideology; with dark forces of intolerance dominating every talk show and rally. Alas, there is almost no discussion of important policy issues in a world where US leadership acutely is being challenged.

What can we say? Say this: In comparative perspective, Israel seems like the sane, stable democracy these days!

Consider the situation in America to the situation in Israel on almost any foreign or domestic issue, and you’re forced to admit that, heck, Israel is in a better place.

To begin with, perhaps Israel’s system of government – long maligned – is more satisfying and representative. Voters here in Israel have more than two binary choices for leader of the country. Don’t tens of millions of Americans wish that they had a serious third party candidate to vote for this year?

And for all the rough and tumble nature of Israeli party politics, hasn’t the cutthroat, populist primary system in America disappointed Republicans and Democrats alike?

By the way, Israel had a female leader (Golda Meir) more than forty years ago, while in America they’re still arguing about the glass ceiling and wondering whether a woman can be trusted with the highest office in the land.

It’s true that Israel hasn’t had a black, or a Sephardic, prime minister, while America has elected an African-American as president twice. But given the ongoing and escalating race riots in US inner cities, I’m not sure that America has too much to brag about in this field. In any case, Jews from Arab lands have served as Israel’s military chief-of-staff, defense minister, and president, as well as Supreme Court justices.

As for the quality of candidates for national leader: I bet you Americans would bus themselves in droves to the polling stations in order to vote for Benjamin Netanyahu if he was running as a third candidate in this US election!

Now consider the language used in campaigns. Here, Israeli politicians regularly accuse each other of fascism and corruption, which is bad enough. But no-one mixes female hygiene, the size of male organs, and other deplorables into political discourse.

Nobody in Israel has questioned the integrity of our electoral system either, even when the result was decided by a hairbreadth; for example, when Binyamin Netanyahu edged Shimon Peres out of office in 1996 by less than one percent of the vote. Nobody claimed that this was “rigged,” and nobody threatened to reject the result of the vote.

Israel’s prosecutors have actually put corrupt politicians behind bars, including a president, prime minister, finance and interior minister, and more. They didn’t cover-up and close the books on crimes akin to “extreme carelessness” in handling “very sensitive, highly classified information that possibly was accessed by hostile actors” – which is what the FBI did this year.

MORE IMPORTANT than the above is the fact that Israel has charted for itself intelligent courses in foreign and domestic policy; which is far more than can be said of the US in the Barack Obama era and likely beyond. Furthermore, such issues are actually debated intensely in Israeli elections campaigns, whereas the 2016 US presidential campaign has been dominated by personal insults and peccadilloes, not policy.

Israel has a working national health system that, for all its problems, is the envy of most countries in the world. Everybody benefits from quite comprehensive mandatory coverage. Obama’s health reforms have been a disaster, yet neither presidential candidate has bothered to present a realistic plan to fix things.

Israel built a fence to keep millions of illegal immigrants from Africa from flooding into the country through Sinai, and passed several iterations of tough yet humanitarian immigration/deportation law that have been debated at length in parliament and the highest court. It’s a controversial policy area that has been met head-on by intelligent debate and determined government action.

And in the US? Beyond Trump lazy, hazy and haphazard Mexican wall idea, neither he nor his opponent have offered any realistic approaches to dealing with immigration issues.

There is a serious and worthy debate underway in Israel about the direction, composition, and scope of powers of the Supreme Court. The justice minister is also seeking to reform the selection process for justices, in an above-board and open process that will involve give-and-take between conservatives and liberals.

In the US however, the Supreme Court has become an ultimate political football, with presidents unabashedly yanking it left and right, and the fiercely partisan Congress flat-out blocking presidential appointments just because.

Who has handled relations with Russia better in recent years, Netanyahu or Obama? The Israeli prime minister has managed a difficult situation with Russian fighters flying on our northern border, backing our enemies – without incident; while the American president has completely botched his ballyhooed “reset” with Moscow, and let Putin muscle into Eastern Europe and the Mideast.

Who has done a better job of setting down red lines regarding the conflict in Syria? With determination, Netanyahu has telegraphed the limits of what Israel can tolerate north of its borders, keeping Hizballah and Iran at bay for now. He quietly and smartly has used humanitarian diplomacy with rebel groups to safeguard the border too. Obama on the other hand, wimply whimpered down from the red lines he himself loudly had set regarding chemical weapons and other war crimes in Syria, leaving America with little credibility or clout.

Who has more allies now in the Arab world, Israel or the US? The Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis and other Gulfies today tacitly rely on Netanyahu’s acumen and security assistance more than they count on Obama’s. Only the mullahs in Iran have a better relationship with the White House than they do with the Israeli prime minister’s office; and the Obama-Rouhani nuclear accord ain’t a great feather in America’s cap.

This listing of America’s woes and foibles, and the comparison to Israel’s relative resiliencies, is not meant to gloat. It is with sorrow that I chronicle the yanking of America off its solid policy moorings by an outlier president, and its sullying by a loutish election campaign.

I weep for America and wish it a refuah shleima; a speedy and full recovery. The world needs America to bounce back, and I am praying that it will.

But the contrast detailed here should instill some modesty in American politicians and pundits (and Jewish community leaders) who are quick to lecture Israel about what it must do on a range of external and internal matters. Hey, American friends, get your act together before hectoring Israel.

Also published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom

Weinberg David

Iranian President Mocks US Elections, Favors Own Brand of Democracy

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Sunday mocked both major party presidential candidates in the US elections, criticizing their behavior during their recent debates. “Did you see the debate and the way of their speaking, accusing and mocking each other?” Rouhani asked an audience in the city of Arak, in a speech that was broadcast on national TV. He added contemptuously, “Do we want such a democracy in our country? Do we want such elections in our country?”

Iran’s own presidential election will take place in May 2017, and Rouhani is likely to run for a second term. Any Iranian citizen born in Iran, who believes in God and Islam, who has always been loyal to the Constitution and is above 21 years of age may register as a presidential candidate. The Election Monitoring Agency (EMA), which is managed by the Guardian Council vets registered candidates and decides who may run (36,000 candidates signed up to run in 2009). No women have ever been approved by the EMA. It is doubtful either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would have been approved, even if they had agreed to embrace Islam…

The minimum voting age in Iran is 15.

“You see the United States that claims it has had democracy for more than 200 years,” Rouhani said, encouraging his audience to “look at the country, what the situation is where morality has no place.”

Rouhani said that last September, when he attended the UN General Assembly in New York, he was asked which of the candidates he preferred, and answered, “Should I prefer bad to worse or worse to bad?”

Iranian state TV broadcast two complete debates between Trump and Clinton and has been closely following the campaign, using the candidates’ statements as fodder for anti-US observations. They were particularly unhappy with candidate Trump’s declaration in September, after Iranian naval vessels repeatedly shifted close to American warships in a harassing and unsafe manner, that when “they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people, that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”

JNi.Media

Justice Minister Shaked Issues Manifesto on Jewish Democracy, Based on the Teachings of Chief Justice Barak

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

“The Knesset is attempting to legislate away our lives and the High Court is invading territory to which it is not entitled,” declares Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), in a lengthy but exciting essay in the inaugural issue of Hashiloach, an Israeli Journal on thought and policy. The essay, titled “Tracks toward Governing” (the Hebrew title is a play on words between Mesilot-tracks and Meshilut-governance), suggests that the behavior of some of Israel’s branches of government is threatening individual freedoms as well as the ability of elected officials to govern. Shaked is urging a return, as soon as possible, to the proper governing on the proper tracks, from within Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state.

“Good governance is not a blind force, certainly not a strong but silent engine,” writes Shaked, stressing that “the ability to carry out goals in the way they have been defined is a prerequisite condition for good governance, but is far from being sufficient in itself: good governance is measured above anything else by the ability of government ministers to establish their own goals.”

“A politician who knows how to bring the train to its destination, but is unable to set the destination, as senior as he may be — is not governing but merely subcontracting; he may have been appointed Minister, and he may get to cut ribbons in the end, but he is nothing more than a contractor,” Shaked argues. “To move down a track laid down by others does not require leaders; any driver could do it just fine. The essence of governance is always setting down directions and posting goals. This requires of elected officials to lay down new tracks only after they had decided for themselves where they would like to take the train.”

Shaked asserts that every time the Knesset votes in favor of any given law, it is also voting against the freedom of individuals to take care of their issues on their own. She calls it a vote of no confidence in the autonomy of communities and individuals. Indeed, as Chair of the Ministerial Legislative Committee, Shaked laments that she has processed more than 1,500 legislative proposals, from amendments to existing laws to fully realized, new bills. Suggesting the Knesset is by far the most prolific parliament in the entire Western world, Shaked describes this abundance of new laws as a hospital that’s being built underneath a broken bridge to care for the people who fall off.

Referring to economist Milton Friedman’s impressions following his visit to Israel in the 1960s, when he predicted that the historic spirit of Jewish freedom would eventually overcome the newly bred spirit of Socialist bureaucracy in Israel, Shaked admits she’s not so sure Friedman was right. “Without our firm push on the brake pedal of this locomotive, week in and week out, those legislative proposals would have created for us an alternative reality, in which government controls the citizens through the regulation of more and more economic sectors, with the individual being left with precious little freedom to manage his own affairs.”

Shaked provides several examples whereby proposed legislation would have, for instance, created a world in which a landlord would be forbidden to raise the rent for several years. Of course, rents would soar on the eve of this new law going into effect, followed by a loss of interest on the part of investors in creating new rental stock, leading to a drop in available apartments and, of course, another rise in rents. It would also be a world in which employers must comply with pensions set by the legislator, until, of course, they go bankrupt. And a world in which police would be bound by a two-strike law that compels them to arrest any individual against whom someone has filed two complaints. Running down some of these “bizarre” proposals, as she calls them, Shaked eventually describes a proposal to compel the state to solve terrorism by distributing bulletproof vests to every citizen against knife attacks, as well as a proposal to eliminate the reference in the law to “Beit Av,” which is the Biblical term for Household, because it has a reference to a father rather than to a mother.

Shaked reports that she requested, for the 2017-18 budget, that the ministerial committee would no longer consider bills that add new criminal offenses to the law books, without a thorough investigation of similar legislation in other countries, of the ramifications of the new criminal law on the books in Israel’s society, and, most important — of existing, non-criminal alternatives.

Alongside the need to restrain the legislator, Shaked sees a dire need to restrain Israel’s expansionist Judiciary. She notes an ongoing war between the Supreme Court and the executive branch, which necessitates the passing of a new constitutional-level legislation (Foundation Laws in Israel’s system) to regulate once and for all this combative relationship. She cites several cases in which government was blocked by the high court in areas that are clearly the executive’s domain, such as the law regulating the treatment of illegal infiltrators from Africa, and the government contract with natural gas companies to exploit Israel’s rich deposits.

Shaked laments the fact that the Supreme Court so often usurps the right to kill an entire legislation, as if it had appointed itself the 121st Knesset Member (or more than that, since it so frequently joins with the opposition parties to defeat a majority coalition). She has no problem with individuals seeking remedy in the lower courts to damages they claim to have suffered from, say, the new gas contract. That’s a legitimate use of the court system. But how can the unelected high court delete an entire legislation passed by elected officials? Who, after all is said and done, is the sovereign, the people or their appointed judges?

As a result, the art of politics in Israel is practiced as follows, according to Shaked: first the different parties vie for the voter’s trust; then, in the Knesset, the coalition negotiates with and fights against the opposition over a proposed bill; finally, after the bill was passed, the opposition parties appeal it before the Supreme Court, which reverses it. That, in a nutshell, was the story of the natural gas bill earlier this year.

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/justice-minister-shaked-issues-manifesto-on-jewish-democracy-based-on-the-teachings-of-chief-justice-barak/2016/10/05/

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