Ron Paul is right a lot Tuesday, Apr 13 2010 

Some readers might not believe it, but there was a period of time when I considered myself a “Ron Paul libertarian.” Paul is who inspired me to explore libertarianism and, indeed, politics in general. His run for presidency last election got me to not only explore political concepts differently but to also be actively engaged in the issues of the day, so he has always been an influential person in my political understandings. However, not long ago, I became disillusioned with Paul and suffice it to say I disagree with Paul on several key issues. There’s no need to go into the details of that transformation, but I should point out that I still agree with Paul on many things.

One thing that I particularly like about Paul is that he’s quick to criticize both of the political parties in the United States (even when he belongs to one of them). I don’t usually like to get involved in party politics, as they are usually inane, but I think Paul raises some great points that are hard to ignore. One salient point that he highlighted at last week’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference, much to the chagrin of many of the conservative Republicans in attendance, was the hypocrisy of mainstream Republicanism. He blasted them for their neoconservative tendencies. In his speech that drew both applause and ire, Paul pointed out, “The conservatives and the liberals, they both like to spend.” He condemned how “Conservatives spend money on different things.” To wit, “They like embassies, and they like occupation. They like the empire. They like to be in 135 countries and 700 bases.”

Certainly the right-wing loves to pay lip service to fiscal conservatism, balancing budgets, and keeping spending to a minimum. In practice, however, they act just the opposite, as the record clearly demonstrates. Paul, despite being a member of the Republican party, has no qualms mentioning this. Paul is right in lambasting them for their costly endeavors, which include the expansionist foreign policy, two wars in the Middle East, Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts without spending cuts, and radical spending on military. This is all okay by Republican standards, and they see no inconsistency in their rhetoric for small government and limited spending.

Republicans actually tend to outspend their Democrat counterparts. It was, after all, Bill Clinton who created a budget surplus and George W. Bush who accumulated more national debt than every other president combined (to use the words of Stephen Frank of the political science department and supported by King Banaian of the economics department). While Democrats do spend, they typically “spend money on different things,” like social programs, science, aide, education, and infrastructure. They also don’t tend go on and on about deficits, limiting spending, and so on.

The pattern is familiar. Ronald Reagan, for example, championed free markets, but very rarely ever adhered to the doctrine. Noam Chomsky refers to this as the “really existing free market doctrine,” namely because it rarely is ever consistent with “the official doctrine that is taught to and by the educated classes, and imposed on the defenceless.” George H. W. Bush railed against taxes—before he raised them. George W. Bush touted “no nation building,” before he began his senseless adventurism in the Middle East. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything else from politicians.

Indeed, to bring it to the present, Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, claimed yesterday, “we’ve gone from the United States having 100% of the private economy private, to today the federal government effectively owns or controls 51% of the private economy” over the past 15 months of President Obama’s presidency (this is why she believes Obama is “anti-American” and “the most radical president” in U.S. history). Of course, it’s not very difficult to see how patently absurd her claims are. One of her examples is the bank bailouts. However, as FOX News’ Chris Wallace was quick to point out, it was President Bush who started those bailouts, which Bachmann responded was “unfortunate.” Certainly unfortunate for her argument. Even more unfortunate is that Obama’s actions don’t actually constitute “nationalization.”

As Ben Chabot of the Yale economics department keenly pointed out to NPR in 2008, “it’s not nationalization because they didn’t buy common stock with voting rights, so they don’t have a seat at the table.” The business press is in accord, and believe “the Obama plan is working.” But even if it was nationalization, there’s nothing “anti-American” about nationalization, as Harvard’s Richard Parker is quick to point out. He mentions our long history of government intervention and nationalization, beginning with “the Northwest Ordinance of 1789, and then the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.” He continues with mentioning the vast amount of land, airspace, roads, and valuable infrastructure that the U.S. government owns. During the two world wars, the U.S. government took over sizable portions of the economy—one reason for the U.S.’s recuperation from the Great Depression. After 9/11, Bush “effectively nationalized the private-security firms at airports, and replaced them with the federal TSA.” Needless to say, no one moaned about “anti-Americanism.” As I have always liked to mention, the United States has always been heavily involved in markets (having a Republican president or Congress makes no difference); fantasies about the “American free market system” are just that.

In my opinion, all this says something about the intellectual and moral culture of today’s Republicanism and our society in general. The underpinning assumption on which all this works is that what’s wrong for you is right for me. It’s a poor reflection that we cannot rise to even a minimal moral standard.

Apathy kills Wednesday, Mar 31 2010 

WikiLeaks has just released a rather disturbing document. The leaked document comes from the CIA, and it details how the manipulation of public opinion should be used to bolster support for our war in Afghanistan. The CIA is apparently concerned with the possibility of a “Dutch-style debate” in other NATO countries, “notably France and Germany.” The Dutch, of course, made news last month after their government collapsed amid debates as to whether the country should keep its troops in Afghanistan or not. The Dutch will pull their troops out by August.

Naturally, the U.S. government is very concerned about this. If a “Dutch-style debate” spreads to other countries, the mission in Afghanistan could be jeopardized. They know this because they know their war in Afghanistan is overwhelmingly opposed by the public. (You can read my post on why I think the Afghanistan War is fundamentally wrong here.) The CIA acknowledges, “Berlin and Paris currently maintain the third and fourth highest ISAF troop levels, despite the opposition of 80 percent of German and French respondents to increased ISAF deployments, according to INR polling in fall 2009.”

I believe this has something to do with one of the conclusions I came to in a post about the way democracy in the United States functions: the public is supposed to be marginalized and its opinion ignored. I don’t pretend this is limited to the United States. The CIA readily admits “French and German leaders” have been able to “disregard popular opposition and steadily increase their troop contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).” The CIA notes that Germany and France “have counted on public apathy about Afghanistan to increase their contributions to the mission.” But if a “Dutch-style debate” spreads to these countries, they may not be able to rely on apathy any longer to continue their involvement in Afghanistan. Apathy could quickly “turn into active and politically potent hostility,” and worsening conditions “could become a tipping point in converting passive opposition into active calls for immediate withdrawal.” This is bad news because the CIA fears “politicians elsewhere might cite a precedent for ‘listening to the voters.'” We can’t have politicians listening to voters…

Thus, the report recommends the United States government be involved in a campaign to alter the public’s opinion, or what has been referred to as “the manufacture of consent.” In normal parlance we might refer to this as propaganda. The report mentions, “Western European publics might be better prepared to tolerate a spring and summer of greater military and civilian casualties if they perceive clear connections between outcomes in Afghanistan and their own priorities.” Therefore, there is a need for “A consistent and iterative strategic communication program” that would give “tailored messages” to the public, in order to get them “to support a good and necessary cause despite casualties.” The report suggests the U.S. government “could leverage French (and other European) guilt.” If we monger fear, particularly about “the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress” and “a refugee crisis,” we could “provoke French indignation.”

One of the key resources we have in doing this is President Obama. It’s fairly hard for anyone to ignore how muted the subject of war has become, particularly in left and Democratic circles, after the election of President Obama. Him being a Democrat has helped the hawks in calming the anti-war movement, which has a strong core of Democrats and leftists (though there are also many right-libertarians as well). The CIA recognizes this fact. The CIA is quick to boast about the “confidence of the French and German publics in President Obama’s ability to handle foreign affairs in general and Afghanistan in particular.” They suggest there is a “significant sensitivity to disappointing a president seen as broadly in sync with European concerns.” Therefore, President Obama is a wonderful asset for the U.S. government to sell the war.

If our government being involved in the manipulation of opinion in other countries doesn’t unsettle you in the slightest, perhaps it would be even harder to not be disturbed by how it is actively going after Web sites like WikiLeaks that expose secrets of corrupt governments and corporations. has been described as a “controversial but essential example of what the web does best,” that “takes power away from the powerful and hands it to citizens.” This is precisely what has the U.S. government concerned. Writes The New York Times, “To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret.” This is following WikiLeak’s release of a document prepared by the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center that discusses how it sees WikiLeaks as being a threat to the national government.

I think little else need be said.

Where I stand Tuesday, Feb 9 2010 

I often get asked about what I actually advocate. People elsewhere say I criticize a lot of things but do not offer any suggestions or alternatives. I admit this is true enough. So, for those interested, here’s a little bit of my personal philosophy, along with links to posts I have written in the past to get a more in-depth understanding.

First of all, let me say I consider myself a libertarian. Particularly, I would say I am strong civil libertarian; I believe firmly in civil liberties and negative rights. For example, I believe it is the right of women to get abortions, that people should be allowed to sell and purchase organs for medical purposes, that the state does not have the right to murder its citizens (e.g. in capital punishment), that people have the right to speak their mind, that pornography should be legal for adults, that the War on Drugs is misguided, that gay rights should be observed, that torture is never right, that social rights are among the most important of our rights, and so on. I believe there are strong deontological justification for these beliefs, though I recognize utilitarians might say the same about their own moral theory (I consider myself a deontologist).

If you look at a political compass such as the one above, I would say I’m close to the bottom on it. As such, I consider myself a libertarian, actually fairly close to anarchist. I find it highly questionable that states contain legitimacy and that “social contract theory” may very well be a bad theory. I believe all authority should be presumed illegitimate and that it is up to those who wield the authority to prove that it is legitimate (including even non-statist authority). So I find states to be illegitimate by assumption, as they are the very essence of an authoritarian institution. Too borrow the words of Marvin Harris, “In many ways, the rise of the state was the descent of the world from freedom to slavery.” In this way I am suspicious of states and their exercise of power.

So how do I reconcile these beliefs with my economic beliefs? First, where do I stand on economic issues? I think it’s hard to say, but I think I might consider myself a centrist. I recognize the limitations that completely free capitalistic markets have (so I’m not far-right), but I am also somewhat suspicious of leftist economic theories (e.g. that workers should own the means of production), particularly for a lack of empirical support (so I’m not far-left). (By “left,” I mean the traditional understanding of leftism, not how “leftism” is defined in American politics, e.g. the Democratic Party. Here I mean the left that opposes both government and completely unregulated and private corporations running the economy.) When it comes to economics, I prefer to observe the way it’s practiced and comment on that. For example, I observe that all modern and highly developed economies (i.e. the West) have achieved this through radical violation of free market principles. I observe that America has never been “free market,” despite claims by some on the right, and that it is actually a strongly state capitalist society that is defined by a sort-of “lemon socialism” and is involved in the market quite heavily. I also believe that decisions guided solely on profit-maximization (i.e. the profit motive) and self-interest (or egoism) are not in the best interest of society and lack moral justification, just as classical economists like Adam Smith and others keenly pointed out in their time. So if free and unregulated markets do not always lead to efficient or desirable outcomes and if the theories of the libertarian left are questionable, what alternative can we turn to? I don’t pretend to know the answer to this. If I were that smart, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog. I recognize that state capitalist systems have become abundantly wealthy, but also that there exist profound inequalities and sharp disparities within these systems, which breed conflict and economic inefficiency. Often, state power is wielded to the benefit of large corporations and the business class; I believe that if state power is to be used, it should be used to correct for obvious market failures (e.g. in climate change) and ensuring the most disadvantaged within society are afforded some protection.

Finally, I strongly support the anti-war movement and believe we ought to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy. I believe the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War were not only mistakes but also fundamentally wrong. I believe that jingoism is dangerous and that we should apply to ourselves the standards we apply to others. As far as Middle Eastern politics are concerned, I believe that we ought not to be so confrontational with Iran and that we should stop supporting Israeli war crimes (and I applaud the efforts of SCSU student Amber Michel and SCSU professor Fouzi Slisli to raise awareness for this issue).

The death of a hero Wednesday, Feb 3 2010 

On January 27, Howard Zinn died of a heart attack at the age of 87. Howard Zinn was a historian and a professor of political science at Boston University and a great inspiration to the anti-war movement. Writing for the New York Times, Bob Herbet writes that Zinn “was an unbelievably decent man who felt obliged to challenge injustice and unfairness wherever he found it.” Zinn was an outspoken intellectual who championed liberty and the author of what I consider his magnum opus, A People’s History of the United States.

A People’s History is a revisionist examination of American history, from the perspective of working people, of war resisters, of suffragists, of the black minority, of the indigenous populations—in other words, the people who have shaped America, the people whose voices are often overlooked in history. The painting of America as “exceptional” is replaced by the sober reality of the America’s massacres, invasions, secret bombings, assignations, coups, and brutal domestic repression. It becomes evident that what we call “civilized society” today is a product of popular struggles, won by the efforts of ordinary people. These are “the people who have given this country whatever liberty and democracy we have.”

That’s the central message you can find in Zinn’s The People Speak, which was shown on History and which I had wrote about in December when it aired. The People Speak tells the story of America through the history of dissent and resistance and activism. It examines the role of ordinary people who rose up in opposition to state violence and oppression. It evinces the point that democracy comes from the bottom, not from above. If there’s a message it gives, I think it is that what lies ahead is largely up to us.

In a recent interview with Big Think, Zinn stated that he wants to be remembered “for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality … I want to be remembered as somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power they didn’t have before.” That’s certainly how I’ll remember him.

Avatar Wednesday, Dec 23 2009 

I just saw Avatar—in 3D. This is a pretty awesome movie. The movie itself was great, but the wonderful visual effects put the movie over the top. It was the icing on the cake, so to speak. It was beautiful, indeed; but don’t let this distract you from the story! Without wanting to spoil much for any of you who have yet to see the film (I suggest you do), I’m making this post because the movie deals with many of the themes that I also discuss on this blog. It explores war, environmental destruction, individualism and collectivism, the egoistic pursuit of profit maximization, and human rights—and does so brilliantly, I might add. Perhaps I’ll discuss the film’s use of these themes in the future. For now, suffice it to say this is a wonderful movie. Go see it.

The people speak Sunday, Dec 13 2009 

Sorry for the relative inactivity as of late. I’ve been busy with finals, and still am, so this will be a short post. I just got finished watching The People Speak shown on the History channel. If you have a chance to watch it, I suggest you do. It was a very moving show of what real and ordinary people have said throughout American history. It wasn’t about what politicians, the elites, or the business class have thought. It was what people who were being affected by the nation’s policies spoke about. And I think it shows just how much Americans have been anti-war, for participatory democracy, social change, equality, and solidarity. It has always been this way and it runs deep in American life, outside of the perverse culture of Washington and Wall Street.

It shows how much American history has been built on the backs of ordinary people who strove for nothing more than a better life. It shows that opposition to state violence and oppression has a long and strong history, and the struggles of people like Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Eugene Debs, Martin Luther King Jr., J. W. Loguen, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Emma Goldman, and others to fight against it. American history is a history of dissent and resistance and activism. Society has become more civilized due to their contributions. What liberty we have is because of these people who rose up. That is to say, democracy and liberty comes from the bottom up, from the people. When you look at the activist history of the sixties, the seventies, and the eighties, you see that it has a civilizing effect on society. And it continues straight through today, and we see it in the opposition to our fundamentally wrong wars, in the fight to give rights to gays, in the advancement of environmental protection, in the anti-sweatshop movements, and the solidarity with the suppressed in Palestine. That is the source of social progress. That is message I think Howard Zinn is trying to put out in The People Speak (and his A People’s History of the United States). So when we talk about what lies ahead, well, it’s largely up to us.

How long? Tuesday, Oct 13 2009 

How long must we, American taxpayers, continue to support Israeli war crimes? Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid (ignoring, at the moment, Iraq and our war there). We support Israeli publicly, materially, diplomatically, and monetarily. What we do directly contributes to Israeli war crimes. And there is no longer any doubt about it: Israel is an occupying force in Palestine. That makes just about everything we and Israel do there war crimes. There is no international support to speak of in discussing U.S.-Israeli crimes in Palestine.

A recent and glaringly blatant example was Israel’s offensive against Gaza almost a year ago. The U.S.-Israeli attack (“U.S.-Israeli” because nothing Israel does is possible without the U.S.’s support) was recognized as contrary to international law and the actions committed by Israeli forces as constituting egregious war crimes. Just recently, a four-judge commission led by the distinguished Richard Goldstone (a Jew and supporter of Israel) released a report for the UN Human Rights Council condemning both Israel and Hamas for their war crimes, noting that Israel was responsible for an overwhelming majority of them, “indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict.”

What was Israel’s response? Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would never allow its leaders or its soldiers to be tried for their crimes (following in the footsteps of the U.S.). Netanyahu defended this assertion by stating Israel has the right to defend itself. While Prime Minister Netanyahu is correct, it’s not true that Israel has the right to defend itself with force. It had no right to attack and invade Gaza. Israel is recognized as an occupier, and occupiers have no rights; but they do have obligations. So if Israel wanted to defend itself from rocket attacks, it had the obligation to withdraw from Palestine.

But what Israel (and the U.S.) is doing when it declares that it won’t prosecute war crimes is that it is declaring the Nuremberg trials a farce. U.S. Justice Robert Jackson made a point of this at the Nuremberg trials, at which he was the chief of counsel for the prosecution. He stated: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.” The U.S. and Israel have sipped from the “poisoned chalice” but have refused to allow their crimes to be prosecuted. So we’re saying the work of Justice Jackson and the Nuremberg trials were mere legal farce. If you don’t think the proceedings were just a farce and merely for show, then you must advocate for prosecuting those who have sipped from the “poisoned chalice.”

Finally, notes Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Whitson, “The Obama administration cannot demand accountability for serious violations in places like Sudan and Congo but let allies like Israel go free.”

Obama evinces the truth: the crisis of democracy Tuesday, Oct 6 2009 

Today, President Obama announced that what I and others have been saying about democracy is true. Namely, it doesn’t function in the United States. As I point out in my post about democracy in the United States, it functions just as Dana Perino explains it: You get your say every four years, and you’re supposed to shutup in between those years. That is, you’re supposed to be relegated to be spectators in this “democracy,” not participants.

So when Obama declares he won’t listen to the public or Congress in how to handle the Afghanistan War, a war that is fundamentally wrong, he is implicitly agreeing with Perino and others who argue that the public should have no input on how the country is run.

These ideas are not new by any means either. This is essentially how it was designed by the Framers. This is what Madison meant when he said government’s role was “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” The public was not to interfere with what he called the “Wealth of the nation.” Therefore, government is to be comprised of the “more capable set of men,” which “ought to come from, & represent, the Wealth of the nation.” That’s Obama’s role. Obama (and Congress) is there to represent elite opinion and interests (against the interests of the majority, i.e. the public). That’s how it was designed by the Framers.

One of the biggest supporters of this idea has been Walter Lippmann, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was renowned by the progressives of his era. The public, what he called the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” should occasionally “lend their weight” to a small choice of the “responsible men” (what we call elections), but should, for the most part, be spectators rather than active participants in democracy. That’s because he considered public involvement in governing a “false ideal.” This idea was supported quite widely, even among the liberals. Take Harold Lasswell, for example — “a leading American political scientist and communications theorist.” He argued that we should ignore “democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interests” because “men are often poor judges of their own interests” and because the “masses are still captive to ignorance and superstition.” These views are consistent with Lippmann’s, who argued for an elite class of men to rule (a vanguard of sorts) because, as Lasswell points out, men are not good judges of their own interests but “we are” (the “we” being elitists). So “we” have to stave off “the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd” (that is, the public).

So, yes, Obama takes the elitist view when he declares that the public does not know what’s best for them. That’s what the “more capable set of men” are there to do. (And it should be no surprise that these “responsible men” “represent the Wealth of the nation” and not the public.) The public has no illusions either. They know it. Some 80% of Americans recognize that government is “run by a few big interests looking out for themselves,” and not “for the benefit of all the people.” That’s why 94% say government should “pay attention to the views of the people” more than every four years. But that’s now how the system is set up. Obama knows this.

But I think it also highlights another important subject, which is taxes. Michael Moore brings up a good point about them in a question and answer at a university regarding his new film on capitalism. People in America are upset about taxes. We’ve all seen the protests as of late. But if we look at places like France, which is no stranger to protests, we don’t see the public enraged over taxes, which are substantially higher there than here. Why the difference? Perhaps it’s because the lack of involvement by the public in deciding how their taxes are used here in America. Half of every tax dollar collected goes to the military, when a large majority of the population supports decreasing the radical spending on the military, for example. Our tax dollars aren’t really going where we want them to go (e.g. a majority of people support a public health care option). It’s not happening. There is (and has been) a huge gap between public opinion and elite opinion. Public opinion is ignored, as Obama proves to us. So I’m not surprised at all that tax day is so dreaded in America. In a functioning democracy, everybody would say “great, today is the day I get to contribute to the common decision that I was able to participate in.” It just doesn’t happen.

The dangers of jingoism Sunday, Oct 4 2009 

There is, by now, an all too familiar refrain that goes something like, “Our military is under-appreciated” or “they don’t get the respect they deserve.” Janet, at the SCSU Scholars blog, argues that we take for granted the work the military does, that rights and freedoms are earned by military fighting, and that criticizing their actions “will lead to losses very few of us can imagine.” In an earlier post, she claims “we take our 100% voluntary military for granted,” calling it “the most humane military that has ever existed.”

(In all transparency, I took similar positions during my first year at SCSU. You can read a letter I wrote to the school newspaper in response to Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war speech on campus. “That’s just typical American rhetoric from those who take their freedom and liberty for granted,” I wrote. Needless to say, I no longer hold these views.)

Of course, such sentiments are supported by calls for us to “Support our troops,” a completely vacuous slogan. It’s an empty and meaningless piece of propaganda, but that’s for good reason. It’s a phrase jingoists can rally around, that no sensible American could possibly be against (because it lacks meaning). If you dissent, you’re un-American, immoral filth, and so on. You feel guilty. You know — Americanism and nationalism. You can’t be against that, right? So that’s the first goal. But even more importantly, it diverts our attention away from asking important questions. Questions like, “Should we support this foreign policy?” “Is this war in Afghanistan right?” “Is what we’re doing moral?” You’re not supposed to ask those questions. You’re supposed to ask, “Do you support our troops?” That’s what propaganda is there for. As Noam Chomsky explains, “propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” It’s there to control public thought. So, of course, you “support our troops” and display yellow ribbons; you’re patriotic.

The military is to be left unquestioned, lest we face “unimaginable losses.” We’re supposed to forget (or not be told about) the terrible atrocities committed by our military in the name of righteousness, liberty, fairness, democracy, or all the other similar platitudes. We’re not supposed to mention the wars of conquests and terror carried out by this utterly humane military might. Anything we do overseas is right by definition because we’re doing it. We are, after all, exceptional.

That’s extreme jingoism. And it’s dangerous.

Eyewitness reports from Palestine Thursday, Oct 1 2009 

Notice and update: this is a longer version of a letter I wrote to the University Chronicle. You can read the shorter letter that was published in the University Chronicle here. Also see an update I’ve posted below.

Last night, I had the great pleasure of hearing the personal testimonies of SCSU student Amber Michel, SCSU professor Fouzi Slisli, and St. Catherine University professor Nasrin Jewell regarding their trip to Palestine this summer. SCSU professor Tamrat Tademe was also there to introduce the speakers and to give responses to some questions posed.

You’ll remember that it was these two professors, Drs. Tademe and Slisli, who were rudely interrupted last year by professor Joseph Edelheit during their panel discussion on the Gaza offensive. Dr. Edelheit, a professor of philosophy and the director of Religious and Jewish Studies at SCSU, was criticized by myself and other students in the University Chronicle’s opinion page, though some people did also defend him. I also wrote on this blog regarding the blatant bias the University Chronicle displayed in covering these incidents.

Thankfully, last night’s presentation went without incident. The speakers spoke eloquently of the plight of Palestinians and the audience had very engaging and intelligent questions to ask, allowing for a very informative discussion of the Israel-Palestine issue.

I’m very grateful for their very eye-opening reports regarding the massive oppression going on in Palestine. I praise their courage for telling the stories of Palestinians and their plight, for standing up against the predominating view in American society that supports Israeli aggression, and for explaining the perspective that is too often ignored and little understood.

However, I must respectfully disagree with two arguments they made in their presentation. The first is their advocacy for a one-state solution as opposed to the two-state solution. The second is their support for “boycott, divestment, and sanction” against Israel.

I strongly feel the two-state solution is the only way forward on this issue. I can concede that perhaps, in some philosophical utopia, the one-state solution might be a desirable outcome; but it’s completely unrealistic. So I do not pretend that the two-state solution is ideal, but it is realistic and it will improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis quite drastically.

I am not alone in this because this is the international consensus. It is favored by the Arab nations, the Palestinians, the Israeli people, the EU, and so on. The only rejectionists have been the U.S. and Israeli governments. The closet Israel and Palestine have come to a settlement was at the Taba Summit (before Israel pulled out), which led to the Geneva Accord that provides for solutions that, though not ideal, both sides can agree on. Again, that’s the longstanding international consensus.

Second, I disagree with their calls for divestment. We should support an end to arm sales to Israel, but we should not support divestment. One, it’s ineffective; two, it’s the wrong way to think about it; and three, it hurts our cause for promoting peace in the region. Namely, it distracts from the important issues of occupation, war crimes, and continued oppression. Supporters of Israeli expansion know this, and they use divestments to distract us from the primary issues at stake to focus instead on other irrelevancies.

There is no longer any doubt that Israel continues to commit flagrant war crimes, ignore international law, and terrorize the Palestinian population. We must continue to focus and speak out on these issues, stop the boycotts against Israel, and support the international consensus for a two-state solution.

Update: Just so it’s absolutely clear: despite my disagreement over these issues, I am very appreciative of the work these people have done and continue to do to support Palestine and ending oppression. The work they do is important and noble; they do a great service to the SCSU community and help the cause of solidarity with those who suffer injustice. As Amber points out to me, even those who support the freedom of Palestine have differing opinions on how best to accomplish it. I continue to stand by these professors and students who seek to raise awareness on this important issue.

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