27 January 2003

Free Speech in Israel

Today is election day in Israel. No, it is not a farce like the Iraqi elections with 100% of the population voting for Saddam Hussein. We were all on the edge of our seats wondering who was going to win that election.

Israel has a parliamentary system of government. The governing body is called the Knesset in which 120 members conduct business. There are 28 parties that fight each other every election for these seats. These include Liberals, Conservatives, Arabs, Greens, Marxists and Communists. There's even a party devoted to the legalization of marijana.

It needs to be remembered that while Israel is a democracy, it was created with a Jewish character as well. Paragraph 7a of the Basic Law in Israel gives a framework for the establishment of political parties. "The Knesset expressly disqualifies the candidacies of parties and individuals who negate Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; engage in racist incitement; or support an enemy state or terror organization's armed struggle against the state."

In America we can understand this concept by looking at the oath of office for Congressional Representatives and Senators. "I, (fill in the name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same..." It is clear that in both countries only loyal citizens are wanted in government.

Last month there was some controversy when two Arab ministers were banned temporarily from running for Knesset office. These two Arab ministers, Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara were disqualified from running for office based on Paragraph 7a stated above.

In one case, we find Minister Ahmed Tibi to be an advisor to Yasser Arafat, whose terrorist connections have been well documented. In addition to being an advisor he has been vocal in his praise of the violence against Jewish Israelis.

Minister Azmi Bishara seems to be even busier than Ahmed Tibi. He traveled to Syria, a well known terrorist nation committed to the destruction of Israel. On television, standing next to the President of Syria, Bashar Assad and the head of Hizbullah (a terrorist organization) praised Hizbullah and called on the Palestinian Arabs of Israel to continue to fight Israel and kill Jews. In June 2000, when Israel withdrew from Lebanon Bishara went to a celebration in northern Israel and told the cheering Israeli-Arab crowd: "Hizbullah has won...Hizbullah has every right to be proud of its achievement and to humiliate Israel."

The Central Election Committee, made up of representatives of the other Knesset parties decided to ban Tibi and Bishara from running in todays election based on Paragraph 7a. However, their decision was overturned when Israel's Supreme Court took on the case. Tibi and Bishara are free to run.

In the 1980s, there was a Jewish party that was banned from running. The party name was Kach, and the party leader was Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane's party was also banned based on Paragraph 7a that he spread "racist incitement". In actuality, his platform was one of a Jewish democracy and the policy of population exchange. The idea was since Israel had taken in the Jewish refugees that had been thrown out of the Arab countries in the 1940s and 1950s, it was time to return to the Arab countries the Arabs that lived in Israel. He did not promote violence against Arabs and even predicted the violence we are witness to today. The Israeli Supreme Court never overturned this decision.

The Jerusalem Post, a centrist Israeli newspaper, made an interesting observation based on these cases. "Unlike a growing number of Arab legislators, the Jewish far-right's aim is anything but the Jewish state's demise...A democracy is not supposed to be a suicide pact." What can be seen here is that those who are committed to the destruction of the state are allowed to run, while the other who believes in a democratic state is not. What can be seen is that the far-left is allowed free speech, and the far-right is not.

Having a difference of opinion and calling for the destruction of the state that you are meant to uphold as a legislator are very different things. Will the loyal citizens of Israel please stand up?

To learn more about Israeli elections and to vote in a mock election, check out the website: www.israelvotes2003.com

20 January 2003

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jews

Yesterday we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Wayne State gave us the day off, but did anybody think about his message? Every group uses his message to support the causes that fit their agenda. Arab groups use him too to argue against the existence of the Jewish State of Israel. However the opposite is true.

Most people would be surprised to know that Dr. Martin Luther King was a great supporter of the State of Israel. Dr. King was alive at the time the Jewish State was created in 1948, and around to see the amazing Six Day victory of Israel in 1967. His words stand on their own, and need no explanation. He stated what he believed in.

In 1967, Dr. King wrote to Adolph Held, the president of the Jewish Labor Committee after a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that, “I would have made it crystal clear that I could not have supported any resolution ... calling for a condemnation of Israel and an unqualified endorsement of the policy of the Arab powers.”

In the same letter Dr. King stated, “Israel’s right to exist as a state is incontestable.” Instead of imagining what Dr. King believed about the State of Israel, it is very clear to anyone interested in finding out to read the words that he himself wrote.

In addition to his positive outlook toward Israel, he expressed his opinion about the Arab countries. “At the same time, the great powers have the obligation to recognize that the Arab world is in a state of imposed poverty and backwardness that must threaten peace and harmony.” He puts the blame for this poverty and backwardness on the people who created it. “...some Arab feudal rulers are no less concerned for oil wealth and neglect the plight of their own people.”

On March 25, 1968, two weeks before Dr. King was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee, he was at a Rabbinical Assembly and spoke clearly, “peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”

Dr. King was even more clear in his “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend,” (Saturday Review Aug. 1967) “...You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely ‘anti-Zionist.’... When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews--this is God’s own truth....

“Why is this? You know that Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land....

“The antisemite rejoices at any opportunity to vent his malice. The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the antisemite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. How must he revel in the new masquerade! He does not hate the Jews, he is just ‘anti-Zionist!....”

Dr. King was aware of the situation of the world in which he lived. He watched the creation of the State of Israel. He watched the Jews win back and reunify Jerusalem. He watched the Palestinian Liberation Organization as it was founded in 1964, before there were any “occupied territories”. And after all this, he still claimed the territorial integrity of the Jewish State with no exception. The world would be a better place if we would listen to his message.

12 January 2003

Santa, the Simpsons and the Second Amendment

Tim Allen’s movie The Santa Clause 2 is the best political statement I’ve seen in a long time. Of course I don’t know if they meant to defend the Second Amendment but it is very well done.

For those who have not been to a Political Science class recently, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution gives individuals the right to own guns in order to protect themselves and their families against a bad government and from intruders.

Santa Clause 2 demonstrates clearly why it is important that individuals need to have weapons to protect themselves against a bad government. Examine the movie carefully. There’s Santa Clause himself, the benevolent dictator. Since he is such a good natured fellow, the elves, the population, have no need to be armed.

As in any story, there arises a crisis. The wonderful, good natured, jolly Santa Clause is replaced by a mean, obnoxious Santa Clause who was terrible to the cute elves. This rude dictator empowers himself by having armed guards making sure the elves don’t mount a revolution. Since the population is unarmed, they are unable to do anything about the situation. This highlights the problem of the unarmed population against a bad government.

In addition to Santa, the Simpsons do a fine job in dealing with the second part of the Second Amendment, the right to protect ourselves from each other. You and I might be good people, but what about the zombies coming back from the grave? Do we trust them?

Lisa Simpson visits a graveyard and comes across a headstone that reads “I dream of a world without guns”, not realizing that this is the grave of Billy the Kid. Lisa begins a campaign against guns and is successful. Since this is a Halloween episode, Billy the Kid comes back from the grave to terrorize the town of Springfield. How is he able to do this? There is no deterrent when the citizens are unarmed. All criminals “dream of a world without guns”. When people are armed it makes criminals think twice before entering a home.

Since these are just movies and television shows, let’s check back with reality. We need to look at why the Second Amendment was put into place. The first reason was for the people to protect themselves against a bad government. Genocides have happened in country after country throughout the century. One of the first things the government does is to disarm the population so they cannot revolt successfully. Take a look back in history: Armenia, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda are just a few examples.

The second reason for the Amendment is to protect ourselves against people who want to hurt us. Even if all gun owners hand in their guns to the government, do we honestly believe that the criminals will hand their guns in too? As things stand now, criminals don’t register their guns with the police, or get fingerprinted as part of the process of carrying a gun legally. What makes anyone think that even though criminals have not followed the rules until now, they will suddenly begin to do so?

The faulty logic begins with the false premise that less guns will lead to less crime. It may be a nice thought, but totally unsubstantiated in reality. Looking across the pond at the UK, we see that in 1997, England effectively banned all citizens from owning firearms. The result is that the balance of power has shifted to the criminals. England has already passed the United States in rates of robberies and burglaries even though the United States has five times as many people as the United Kingdom, never mind the fact that more people in the United States are owning and carrying guns. (Nat’l Center for Policy Analysis www.ncpa.org/iss/cri/2002/pd120202c.html). In addition, murder rates have hit an all time high in England since records began to be kept 100 years ago. (www.crpa.org/pressrls101502.html)

According to the Associated Press, Dave Rodgers, vice chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation in England said that the ban makes little difference to the number of guns in the hands of criminals. “The underground supply of guns does not seem to have dried up at all.” (www.crpa.org/pressrls101502.html) This should not surprise us.

The authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were well aware of the reasoning behind the Second Amendment. These were not words written for the sake of taking up space on paper. We also have to be aware of these reasons and not be caught up in anti-gun sentiments, not based in reality, such as Lisa Simpson who brought the downfall of Springfield with her idealized “world without guns.”