The Electric Kool-Aid Loyalty Test

Posted: March 21, 2009 by Shawn in Uncategorized
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Oh, hello, I didn’t see you there. Welcome back. I hope you had—or are having—an enjoyable spring break and had a happy St. Patrick’s Day (or ‘Talk Like Shane McGowan Day’ as I celebrate it).

Gene Fowler once said that “writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Computers have made this already difficult process harder. Do we honestly believe that Conrad or Dickens would have turned out better bodies of work if their pens and paper were replaced by a source of free and unlimited pornography and college basketball updates? Honestly it’s a miracle most of us make it out the door in the morning.

Why do I bring this up? Well, being as I’m on a Watchmen kick (slightly disappointed with the movie, but not as much as V for Vendetta or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen since you asked), the first chapter of Hollis Mason’s Under the Hood recommends that an author should “start off with the saddest thing you can think of and get the audience’s sympathies on your side. After that, believe me, it’s a walk.”

The reason I started with trying to garner your sympathy is that I will be delving into the Israel/Palestine issue. Obviously people infinitely smarter have dedicated much more thought to the issue than I probably have in my entire life. I.F. Stone once said “if God, as some now say, is dead, He no doubt died of trying to find an equitable solution to the Arab-Jewish problem.” Instead I only hope to provide some semi-original thoughts on the current situation.

At the time this is being written there is still not a new Israeli government, but it seems increasingly likely that the Benjamin Netanyahu-led government with Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister will be a narrow, right-wing government with both Kadima and Labor as opposition parties.

This is concerning for obvious reasons. Lieberman, the candidate of Yisrael Beteinu, campaigned on the slogan: no loyalty, no citizenship. Yep, that’s right, “He would insist that every Israeli swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state: anyone who refuses will lose his citizenship.” Also, Bibi Netanyahu has already declared that he “will not keep Olmert’s commitments to withdraw [from the West Bank] and I won’t evacuate settlements. Those understandings are invalid and unimportant.”

This is problematic for two reasons. First,  as Jonathan Schwatz over at Tiny Revolution (which you should probably be reading) has pointed out, Barack Obama has laid out ‘abiding by past agreements’ as a condition for Hamas being a partner for peace. That kind of cognitive dissonance would be tough for even the New York Times or Washington Post to swallow. But apart from general hypocrisy, the “no division of Jerusalem, no return to 1967 borders” position of Netanyahu stands in opposition to the almost universally accepted (including Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah) plan for two-state settlement along the 1967 boarders with mutual and minor adjustments. Not that Tzipi Livini or Ehud Barak would be clamoring to stop the occupation, but it can’t be good that the incoming Israeli Prime Minister sits in diametric opposition to only practical plan for a lasting peace in the region.

Bibi and Barack discussing their NCAA brackets. Probably.

So, is there any cause for optimism? Things don’t seem particularly hope-and-change-y with an increasingly revanchist regime coming to power off the heals of the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. As Mao said, “It’s always darkest before it becomes totally black,” but there may be some sunshine around the corner. It took the rigidly apartheidist regime of PW Botha to lead to the de Klerk presidency which finally ushered in the reforms which dismantled apartheid. Perhaps it will take a hardline Netanyahu-Lieberman government to midwife a new political era for the region.

Likely? Probably not, but neither was six overtimes against Connecticut.

~ Shawn O’Donoghue

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