Time for my weekly Current Events Write-Up, in which I post links to news and opinion pieces that caught my attention this week. I just want to make clear: I include different perspectives, so no author whom I include would necessarily agree with, or even like, another author whom I include.
Israel has been in the news this past week, on account of the UN
Security Council’s resolution condemning Jewish settlements in disputed
territory and John Kerry’s subsequent speech.
Eric Chabot reviews The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land
(IVP Academic, 2016), which is edited by Gerald McDermott. Chabot
quotes this statement by McDermott, which appears on pages 295-296:
“When has the United Nations blamed the Grand Mufti or other Islamic
leaders for their hateful speeches that have led to thousands of Israeli
casualties? Why does the United Nations not protect persecuted
minorities like Christians and Yazidis from terrorism in the Middle East
conducted by Muslim powers (like ISIS) or states (Syria)? Israel is
routinely charged with violation of international law for its supposed
occupation of the West Bank. When was the last time the United Nations
condemned Turkey for its illegal occupation of one-third of Cyprus for
forty-one years and its deployment of forty thousand Turkish troops
there? Or China’s brutal occupation of Tibet? Where are the United
Nations resolutions condemning present and past genocides by Muslims
against Jews and Christians in the Middle East? A Palestinian journalist
exclaims, ‘It is a scandal of global proportions that the UN in general
and UNRWA in particular—as well as the EU—ignore the hundreds of
thousands of killed and maimed and the millions of refugees desperately
in need of aid in the neighboring Arab countries.'”
My friend Rachel Roberts offers a different perspective. She tries to get Jews to empathize with the plight of Palestinians by employing a “Candyland” analogy:
“There is a lot of discussion in my Jewish community about how the
world ‘singles out Israel’ so I’d like to do a little experiment. Say
any other country, any other democracy, were to do what Israel is doing.
Let’s call that country Candyland. Say that Candyland had forced out
750,000 Jews during a war for its independence and kept them out. Say
the new government only offers automatic repatriation to ethnic
Candylanders. Say that Candyland had taken over neighboring territory in
war where a majority Jewish population were living, subjected the
residents of that territory to military occupation for 50 years, sent
children as young as twelve to prison for months without access to a
lawyer and without formal charges, started building communities for the
benefit of ethnic Candylanders and at the expense of the local Jewish
population, and say they justified it on account of the persecution the
Candylanders faced under communism. You know what you’d stand for,
right? Even though Candyland has beautiful beaches and has produced
important technology, right? If Palestinians were Jews, you would sit
exactly where I sit.”
There has been criticism of President Obama on account of the U.S. sitting out on the UN resolution. David Sieradski had the following response to such criticism, as he looked at George W. Bush’s record on the issue:
“George W. Bush let five UNSC resolutions pass against Israel, called
on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land, called for a
contiguous Palestinian state unfettered by Israeli settlements,
condemned the settlement enterprise repeatedly, withheld U.S. loan
guarantees to Israel, implemented strict restrictions on Israeli travel
to the U.S., condemned the building of Israel’s security wall, condemned
Israel’s attacks on Gaza, pushed Israel into the Annapolis conference
and the Road Map, sold weapons to Arab states in violation of an
agreement with Israel, pressured Israel to allow Hamas to run in the
Palestinian elections, prosecuted AIPAC staffers for espionage, and
refused to support an Israeli bombing run on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Nonetheless, his last year in office, with the financial support of
Sheldon Adelson no less, he was honored at the first Israeli President’s
Conference (which I attended) as Israel’s protector and the best friend
Israel has ever had in the White House. If you think Barack Obama is an
antisemite and anti-Israel, it’s not because his Israel policies are
worse for Israel than Bush’s — in fact they’re far better. It’s because
he’s black and you are, in fact, a racist.”
Pat Buchanan had a column this past Tuesday, entitled “Barack Backhands Bibi.”
This column is interesting because it observes that even allies of
Israel voted for the resolution, discusses Netanyahu’s policies against
the backdrop of current Israeli politics, and talks about the possible
impact of President Obama’s decision on American politics.
Buchanan had a column later that week, “Israel First or America First,”
in which Buchanan warned that Trump’s stance on Israel could alienate
the Arab world. Linda Muller, who sends out Pat’s column to subscribers
(for free), and whom I remember because I subscribed to Pat’s updates
during his 1996 run for President, introduced Pat’s column with some
comments and links:
“Brigade, See below another powerful column from PJB. Please forward
this one to all. Hopefully a copy will find [its] way to President-elect
Trump. For the Cause – Linda[.]
“PS — For more on this topic here’s an interesting article covering
the history between Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu — and potential
problems for the Trump administration:
Netanyahu vs. the Generals Also see this from Haaretz: The UN Settlements Vote: Netanyahu Is Dragging Israel Into the Abyss[.]”
Buchanan, of course, supported Trump in the 2016 election, but,
unlike Trump, Buchanan is critical of right-wing Israeli policies and
supports the Iran nuclear agreement.
Whereas Pat Buchanan is concerned that Trump acceding to
neo-conservatives or Israeli right-wingers could alienate other
countries, Reuters had an article saying that “Britain, Edging Towards Trump, Scolds Kerry Over Israel.” Could there be a May-Trump alliance, similar to the Thatcher-Reagan alliance in the 1980’s?
Thom Belote, a UU pastor with whom I attended Harvard Divinity School, discusses travails that he had as he tried to get health insurance.
Like Thom, I received health insurance at schools that I attended. I
don’t even recall having to pay anything for it! Then I went to a
smaller school and had to pay high premiums. I looked for inexpensive
health insurance and found health insurance where I only had to pay $90 a
month, yet it had high copays and a high deductible. That experience
opened my eyes to the problems with the American health care system.
And, yes, I know there are many people in America who have it worse.
Thom linked to a disheartening Vox article: “Why Obamacare Enrollees Voted for Trump.” The
people interviewed do not want to lose their Obamacare benefits, yet
they voted for Trump. They give their reasons. To her credit, the
author of the article does not look down on them. The article
acknowledges the weaknesses of Obamacare, yet it also argues that
Trump’s proposal could make matters worse.
The Trump Transition and the Trump Cabinet
I liked this Politico article about Trump’s outreach to Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Julia Hahn at Breitbart had a lengthy article defending
Trump’s controversial choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. I
read some parts of it and skimmed other parts, and I cannot vouch for
what it says about certain personalities. Still, it is an article to
read if you want another perspective on Sessions.
I found the wikipedia article on Sessions to be balanced, and it linked to a Washington Post article
that presented Sessions’ controversial voter-fraud case as having
merit, while still mentioning the argument that Sessions did not
significantly challenge white voter-fraud.
The Death of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
Like many, I was saddened by the death of Carrie Fisher and her
mother, Debbie Reynolds. I learned that the two were close to each
other and even lived next to each other, and I appreciated that more
after reading about their time of estrangement. I love stories about estranged people becoming reconciled. And I was interested to learn that there was a 1990 movie, Postcards from the Edge, which was based on their relationship.
I was angered by all of the politically-correct outrage and bullying in response to Steve Martin’s innocent tweet.
Steve Hays of Triablogue, had thoughts on why,
in this day and age, we care so much about the death of celebrities.
For Steve, it relates to the decline of family, community, and a common
Book Plunge: Science and Religion
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