Oznia, a blog of Israel things

~US Intervention in the Middle Eastern Governments by elan
June 22, 2009, 5:24 pm
Filed under: politics | Tags: , , , , ,

This is going to be short and sweet, since I’m dealing with finals right now. Almost done though!

President Obama made a short statement today about the controversial Iranian presidential election. Obama was careful to say that US will not consider, and thinks it innappropriate, to intervene in or even weigh in on, the disputed results. As the Volokh Conspiracy points out this policy stands in direct opposition to Obama’s blatant attempts to change Israeli policy regarding West Bank settlements. Some even accuse Obama of trying to topple the Netanyahu government.

What do you think? Is US putting too much pressure on Israel? (Oznia writer Ron Shapiro thinks so.) What should Obama do and say about the Iranian election incident? Is it right for Obama to apply different methods and philosophies to his diplomatic interactions with Israel and Iran?


~Pope Benedict XVI: Not a Nazi, Never a Nazi by elan

Pope Benedict XVI, the current leader of the Catholic Church, is currently making a high-visibility pilgrimage to the Middle East. He first met with Jordanian monarch King Abdullah II and offered mass to Catholics in Amman. The Pope then traveled to Israel, touring holy sites, engaging in inter-religious dialog and meeting President Shimon Peres. (Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in Egypt for a conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.) Benedict vists Israel Pres. Peres

After briefly surveying the international media, it seems that the most contentious part of the Pope’s trip has been his visit to Yad Va’Shem, Israel’s national holocaust museum. Though not a religious or historic site, the Israeli government generally insists that all visiting foreign heads of state visit the solemn commemoration in order to appreciate and understand the necessity of a Jewish state and refuge. The Pope has been criticized for avoiding certain elements of the museum, including an exhibit that highlights the silence of the Vatican and Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust. In addition, Benedict has taken fire for his broad, general remarks at the museum and a general lack of acknowledgment and reference to the horrors of the calamity.

Whether the Pope was specific enough is a difficult call to make. Some go so far as to claim that the Pope spoke in generalities to mask his own involvement in the conflict. Benedict, then known as Joseph Ratzinger, was a member of the Hitler Youth and later, the German Army. However, it is clear that the Pope was never a Nazi. He was conscripted into the Hitler Youth like every other German teenager. As the German war effort collapsed, he was drafted into an anti-aircraft artillery group. One could hardly claim that a minor, forced against his will to fight, embraced the Nazi philosophy. Furthermore, it is dishonest to label the entire Wermacht as Nazi foot-soldiers. While the relationship between Catholics and Jews may not be particularly warm, it is disingenuous to lambast the Catholic leader.

~Land of Liberty by elan
April 23, 2009, 11:20 am
Filed under: opinion, politics | Tags: , , , , ,

The international media continues to accuse Israel of committing gross violations of the Geneva Conventions and trespassing on human rights during the recent war with Hamas, the terror organization currently in control of the Gaza strip. Whether, and to what extent, the Israel Defense Forces actually broke international law deliberately or accidentally, remains to be seen. However, it is extraordinarily clear that Hamas consistently attacks Israeli population centers and uses schools, hospitals and residential structures as shields against Israeli troops and air strikes.

The Reason Foundation, in its magazine, explains the key difference between Israel and Hamas. While the terror organization strangles the civil liberties of Gazans and is willing to sacrifice them to hurt Israel’s self image, the middle east’s only democracy is engaged in a healthy debate over its tactical procedures. Dany Zamir, a former officer in the IDF, is openly criticizes the government and the military, without fear of reprisal. War is always ugly and bloody. The international community should cut Israel some slack for allowing dissent towards its policies and striving to avoid collateral damage.

~Hyper-proportional government by elan
February 24, 2009, 3:20 am
Filed under: opinion, politics | Tags: , , , , , ,

One of the strengths of the Israeli political system is its high degree of proportionality–the makeup of the knesset very closely resembles the relative success of the parties in the election. In the past 15 years, the Knesset has seen a massive shift in composition, marked by the weakening of the ‘big tent’ parties and emergence of single-issue campaigns that can muster enough votes to capture a few seats. In general, this has allowed the small parties hold coalitions hostage to their demands and topple the government. In fact, the average lifespan of a government has decreased markedly since the establishment of the State.

I would like to introduce for public debate and criticism a system I call ‘hyper-proportional government’. Each voter would be allowed to split his or her vote into a number of discrete parts, and cast fractional votes for different parties. These micro-votes would be tabulated as usual and the Knesset seats would be allocated in accordance with the results. Voters who currently cast their ballots for a one-issue party because of strong convictions or desires would have the opportunity to support all of their favorite positions instead of just one, and even support a major party.  Voters who currently choose large parties will have the chance to distribute some of their vote to smaller causes. I am not sure whether this would help concentrate power in the larger parties or not. Either way, it should help develop stronger coalitions. The new Knesset and coalition would be extremely representative of voter mandate, and thus ride the political winds more adeptly.

Please comment on this idea! Hopefully, I’ll be able to incorporate your suggestions and expand this idea further. I hope to address some of the technical considerations in a later article.

~Lack of segregation prompts stoning by elan
February 19, 2009, 12:56 am
Filed under: opinion | Tags: , , , , , ,

The iconic image of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrates the Jewish interest in civil rights and our people’s role in the fight against discrimination in America. Dr. King and his contemporaries advocated nonviolent protests  and boycotts. Perhaps most ingrained in the American memory are Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott.  I am shocked and dismayed that Haredi Jews, living in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, stoned an Egged bus because the company refused to segregate one of the routes passing through the neighborhood. According to Haaretz, Egged, which is government-subsidized and operates a regulated monopoly over much of the bus industry, already runs 6 gender-segregated routes in Jerusalem. The High Court has not ruled on the legality of these arrangements.

Violence in the name of religion is counter-productive and shameful. De facto, the buses on the route in question are already segregated, since the majority of the patrons are Haredi and choose their seats accordingly. The issue of contention is simply which entrance the women must use, since the bus company does not provide payment machines at the rear entrances of non-segregated buses. The entire incident leaves me with a vile taste in my mouth.

Personally, I see nothing inherently illegal with discrimination by individuals or private companies. Sure, it is morally abhorent and extremely backwards, but I think the only imperative is for the government to remain neutral in the manner in which it treats citizens. In a highly competitive market, if one company does something displeasing in the eyes of the consumer, they can simply switch companies. Therefore, I would suggest that legally-sanctioned Egged monopoly be broken, that the public funding for the company terminated, and that Egged be allowed to carry out business as it wishes. Needless to say, the perpetrators of today’s attack should be aprehended and punished. Other bus companies, which may be more willing to operate strictly segregated routes, will move into the area. Haredi costumers will fight with their shekels, not stones, to establish the ethical framework they think is right.