Posts tagged Hamas

Column on Israel and Obama: What’s Up with That?

Israel & Obama: What’s Up With That?

Tibor R. Machan

Once again I hasten to point out that this isn’t something I know very much about, especially if to understand it one has to be informed about the entire history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Still, as my mother used to say in the last years of her life, it is difficult to fathom why Israel is being picked on so much? Is it religion? Is it its closeness to the United States of America?

Some will say Israel is an artificial entity but that cannot be it–nearly every country is an artificial entity. All borders are made up. The only difference is how recently! And, as the work of Professor Barry Smith of SUNY Buffalo has shown, some of them are more sensible, as when they follow some coast line or river, than others, when they attempt to carve out some kind of geometrical area for themselves.

But here the issue of borders is moot. Let’s just realize that when a country has deadly enemies around it, the size of the area which separates it from those enemies makes a lot of difference. President Obama has proposed that Israel go back to the pre-1967 borders where it would be surrounded by such groups as Hamas and separated from them by only six miles. A great many influential people living in these regions are on record wanting Israel to disappear, to be abolished as a country.

Even if one has little sympathy for Israel’s official viewpoint, no one in his right mind can expect the leaders of that country to comply with President Obama’s suggestion. It is a recommendation for suicide.

But why? Mr. Obama himself appears to be committing something near political suicide since a great many Americans of a wide variety of persuasions about Israel would not favor his recommendation. Responses to his proposal confirm this. It just makes no sense given how the main purpose of government is to protect the citizens’ rights and for the Israeli government this must mean keeping the likes of Hamas at a distance that is safe. And no one can argue that by going back to the 1967 borders this task can be achieved, not especially with the great technical advances in the range of offensive weapons since 1967!

So I just do not get it. What is Mr. Obama after? Does he want to endear himself to all those countries that are anti-Israeli? Is he trying to befriend anti-Semites around the world? It isn’t even fathomable that he has thought this through carefully, at least not with the information available to those who have been following his public utterances about the matter. Does he perhaps simply want to foster a total stalemate, given how it makes no sense to think that Israel will follow this suggestion or even that Mr. Obama could believe that Israel would do so.

Whatever one’s view is of Israel it cannot be sensible to demand that the country voluntarily abolish itself. So then what is this all about? Is it just some kind of geopolitical gambit to the effect that Israel can be given up, even after decades of “investment” in the country made at the expense of the American taxpayer? (Not that this could be justified morally but perhaps given the statist nature of most diplomacy it could make some sense.)

Or is it really simply plain, unabashed anti-Semitism? I was once witness to this, when I lived briefly with my father in Munich and in America where he never let up on his virulent hatred of Jews. I remember that it was completely irrational–for instance, at one time he concocted the notion that Jews in Hollywood conspired to cast actors who “looked Jewish” into heroic movie roles so as to gain the Jews favor with the movie going public. His example if I recall right was when MacDonald Carey, who was supposedly Jewish looking by my father’s warped assessment, starred as a hero, opposite Rhonda Fleming, in the movie Odongo (the plot of which I have completely forgotten).

Now I recount this only because it illustrates for me, at least, to what lengths anti-Semites will go to promote their bizarre conspiracy theories about Jews. And my father held a responsible job at Radio Free Europe back then, although he wasn’t very public about his anti-Semitic views by the mid-50s, unlike he was back in the 40s when Hungary was filled with rabid anti-Semites–I believe they were of the Iron Cross persuasion.

So it is not at all unpalatable to me to consider that some highly placed American politicians could well harbor blatant anti-Semitic sentiments. Mind you, none of this comes from any inside information about Mr. Obama and his administration. What it comes from is my desperate effort to make sense of something so senseless as Mr. Obama’s recommendation to Israel that the country commit suicide by going back to the 1967 borders which would certainly leave them utterly vulnerable to destruction by its avowed nearby enemies! Some people do feel about Jews and about Israel in ways that could conceivably lead them to make such proposals.

Column on Democracy Wont Help Egypt

Democracy Wont Help Egypt

Tibor R. Machan

Even without being a Egyptologist I can say with reasonable certainty that it will not help to solve Egypt’s problems to make it into an unlimited democracy. What we are likely to get is Lebanon with the heavy hand of Hamas in charge there. In Egypt it looks like the Brotherhood is ready to jump into the position Hamas occupies in Lebanon.

In any case, in none of the discussions about what lies ahead for Egypt is there ever any mention of ushering in a limited–or bona fide liberal–democracy, with a constitution that would restrain all sides and leave the citizenry in peace to attend to its own affairs. Such pluralism isn’t very likely to take center stage in that country.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak became a virtual dictator after the assassination of the previous president Anwar Sadat, with hardly any credible and sensible resistance from the population and it’s only now, that a bunch of young people appear to be upset enough with the culture he has been heading up, that his his rule is seriously questioned. Nothing much that’s rational is evident in the current developments apart from the simple insistence on the part of a great many Egyptians that they’ve had it up to here with being ruled by Mubarek team.

Now this is not so surprising when one realizes that none of the leaders around the globe, including American presidents, nor indeed many intellectuals in Egypt itself, have made a serious pitch for Egypt adopting constitutional reforms that respect individual rights. That’s not the same thing as promoting the vague idea of democracy, which as history shows, has not managed to be a bulwark against tyranny, not in Western or Eastern Europe, not in Latin America, not even in the United States of America where nearly all the good ideas failed to get democratic support or bad ones got swept aside democratically. The American civil war was no triumph of democracy, nor the New Deal, nor again all the oppressive federal measures that are burdening the country, keeping its economy hostage to populist and egalitarian notions.

Very probably the reason the U.S.A. hasn’t gone under yet is that some of its better features gained solid momentum and despite the absence of sustained political and judicial support for them these are continuing to be fairly dominant–relatively free and competitive markets, civil liberties, private property rights, freedom of religion and speech, due process, etc. But they are all gradually being replaced with the widely championed ideology of activist citizens in higher education and media, people working in the most prestigious and invincible institutions in society, who not very surprisingly want to regiment us all into compliance with a vision of full equality. (The cautionary tale about this was written by George Orwell, in his brilliant fable, Animal Farm, who was anything but a Tea Party type but, rather, a rare sensible Leftist!)

When the mobs in Egypt, who have been treated as a bunch of unruly children by Mubarek’s regime, finally couldn’t take it any more and stood up to the dictator, there is little reason to think they would become a civilized citizenry that renounces the temptation to rule others once they gain power. Their call for democracy appears to have little to do with the kind of constitutional system that America’s founders favored. Even their call for freedom seems mostly to be about being free to rule instead of being ruled.

At the personal level my fear is that those expatriates from Egypt who in the last few years decided to return in the hopes that their country would move closer to a liberal democratic model are now packing their bags again, headed back to some more stable region of the globe so as to save their necks from chaos. I know a few such people and can only empathize with their disappointment.

True self-government isn’t the sort of democracy we have seen in the Weimar Republic, in Lebanon, in Venezuela, and being widely demanded now in Egypt. It is, instead, a polity that upholds the rights of individuals not simply to take part in the vote but to live as they choose in peace with their fellows.