Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why Israel Needs A Constitution

Steven V. Mazie has an op-ed in today's Times which lays out three key elements of any future Israeli constitution. DovBear, who in an uncharacteristically sensible post (which he decided to remove), explains why some of the proposals should not be adopted. Forming a Constitution in Israel will be very difficult.

A Constitution will, almost by definition, limit and constrain governmental powers, and politicians are unlikely to voluntarily cede power. The US Constitution was the result of the parties recognizing that only a strong central government would ensure the existence of the union. Israel's biggest threat, or so it seems, is external and no Constitution will solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Nevertheless a Constitution is required for the efficient function of government. Many proponents of a Constitution support its creation because it'll protect civil rights. But in Israel that's mostly unnecessary because the Supreme Court is notoriously activist when dealing with civil and human rights issues in Israel proper (it functions differently in the territories).

A Constitution is needed to create a separation of powers. Israel's Supreme Court considers itself the protector of democracy and functions as a super-lesiglature. The legislature cannot check the Court. But the Court cannot check the legislature or executive branch either. The Court will often hand down a ruling, but no one will enforce it. The Kaadan case is an example where the Court decided that that Jewish-only communities were illegal, but five years later Kaadan still hadn't been able to move in.

Hamilton once said that the courts are the least dangerous branch because it wields neither the power of the purse or arms, and must therefore be convincing. Israel's Supreme Court decides whatever it wants whenever it wants. But even when its decisions are convincing the government feels no pressure to implement them.

A Constitution is no guarantee that governmental powers will be constrained (just look at Congress and the Court in the US). But it is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Aparthied Spokesman At Yale

I don't know if you heard but last year Yale University admitted a spokesman for the former apartheid regime of South Africa on special student status. One of the reasons he was admitted was so he "could educate us about the world." Despite making public racist statements and being a member of one of the most racist regimes of the last century, his coming to Yale elicited little protest.

Don't believe it? Well, you shouldn't because it isn't true. But replace "apartheid" with "Taliban" and "racist" with "misogynistic" and it is. Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, one of the Taliban's spokesmen in the US, is currently attending Yale. Amazingly, the students have barely raised a peep.

Maybe it's because they are busy protesting Kiwi Camara, who as a 17 year old first year law student used the word "nig" in his notes about racial covenants. In response, when people found out that he was speaking at a symposium after having his article published in the Yale Law Review, a third of the room staged a walkout.

Now I'm not defending the using the word 'nig,' even in private. But to get all uppity upset about a 17 year old using one discriminatory term in his private notes, while completely ignoring a 24 year old who went on tour defending a regime who used to topple walls onto gay men and pull out the fingernails of women who used nail polish seems a tad off.

Maybe because I'm not a member of an elite university I can't understand the mindset. If that's true, I hope I never become one.

Update: Although a little over the top in rhetoric, this article sums up my feelings perfectly.

Not Again

According to the most recent count, Kadima received 28 seats, followed by Labor's 20, Shas' 13, Yisrael Beitenu's 12 and Likud's 11. Kadima's victory was more pyrrhic than anything else because recent polls had them closer to 35. Now, with only 28, they'll need to make serious concessions to minority parties in order to form a semi-stable coalition. Does anyone doubt that this government will fall, just like every other government in Israel's history (save Begin's first)?

Olmert wants final borders by 2010. Will his government be around by then? Will his party be around then?

I'm looking forward to new elections next year, as always.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Facebook? Huh?

Ok, thanks to Miriam, I'm on this new innovation called Facebook (wait, it's not new?). What I'm trying to figure out is what the point of Facebook is. I mean, besides for looking at the girls (which of course I don't do), why would anyone get on Facebook? Any ideas?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Anti-Israel Propaganda

I wanted to post about this report days ago but I’ve been very busy. That’s even more true now, and if I had the time or the interest, I’d send more effort criticizing this report. However, since I have neither, I’ll only make a few basic points.

The basic thrust of the report is that our alliance with Israel is solely (or mostly) the result of pressure from the Israeli lobby. The report recognizes two arguments for the alliance, a strategic and moral argument, and then claims that neither is persuasive. Therefore the strong alliance only exists because politicians are under pressure to tow the line forced upon them by the lobby.

A few things struck me as I first read it:

1) The report ignores arguments that go against its thesis. For example, it argues that our relationship with Israel is not in our strategic benefit. While that argument is partly true, the report only mentions the factors that show the relationship is adverse to our interests. It correctly notes, for example, that our close relationship with Israel is used as a recruiting tool for terrorists. But it ignores the strategic benefits of the alliance (intelligence, training, improvements in military technology, etc.). While one could argue that these benefits do not outweigh the costs, a fair analysis would balance the two, rather than glossing over or ignoring the benefits.

2) The authors accept pretty much every pro-Palestinian argument without hesitation. For example, a cursory look at the footnotes on the moral argument, shows a list of pro-Palestinian authors. Footnote 32 contains cites from Simcha Flapan, Avi Shaim, Nur Masalah, and Benny Morris. Other footnotes include Tanya Reinhardt, Ian Lustick, Erskine Childers, and Rahid Khalidi. Every one of these authors, with the exception of Morris (whose positions are unclear), could be fairly classified as pro-Palestinian. And while it is not inherently unfair to quote pro-Palestinian authors, a report about Israel should at least cite some pro-Israel authors.

The best parts of the report are its analysis of the strategic benefits and the part that deals with the power of the lobby. The worst parts are its rejection of the moral argument (because it assumes all the Palestinian arguments) and its argument that the Iraq war was supported by some in the administration because of Israel. The argument basically boils down to that some neo-conservatives are pro-Israel and the Iraq war benefited Israel.

The first footnote gets the report of to an inauspicious start. It argues “the mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need a special interest group to bring it about.” Clearly this argument is absurd. The same argument could, of course, be made for every position that is pushed by interest groups. Every single group has an interest group pushing its positions. Politicians are self-interested and need to be motivated to back a position. Nothing is self-evident in politics and a strong interest group is needed to motivate politicians to support what is in the best interests of the US.

I don’t really have the time to pick the report apart, but you can look at CAMERA’s rebuttal.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Megillah Meme

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to wish me a mazel tov. I appreciate it.

Now on to the meme, courtesy of Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulke:

What I thought about during Megillah reading:

1) What happens if I fall asleep? Oh, wait, I remember, I learned that in Shana Aleph! (if I wasn't using dialup I'd link to the daf)
2) Why don't these kids ever stop walking around? This shul is so crowded as it is. STOP WALKING AROUND!!!!
3) I love hearing leining in a Yeshiva, where they don't bang during Haman.
4) How much of this is left?
5) Wow, this isn't as bad as I thought it would be.
6) This story is actually kind of interesting.
7) I wonder if the women actually have any room.
8) Man, I can't wait to eat.
9) I can't wait to see Gitty. Or Shifra. (Note: Gitty is a baby)
10) We're going to have a whole lot of food later.

I'm tagging David and Josh.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Yes, It's True, I'm Engaged.

Well, it happened. I'm engaged to the wonderful Shifra Bronstein. Thanks to Ezzie and Romach for pointing it out. And extra thanks to Romach and Miriam for all their help. I couldn't have done it without them.

The first two days of engaged life are not that different. The wedding preperations haven't started in earnest yet, so the hard work has yet to begin. I figured since I've been talking about dating a lot recently, I'd use this time to talk a little about engagements.

I've never been more nervous about anything in my life. I rarely get nervous and the most nervous I've been before was prior to taking the LSATs. But this wasn't even close.

The reason I was so nervous was not because I was scared she'd say no. I knew she'd say yes. I also wasn't worried about taking a big step in my life. I was most nervous about not doing the engagement right or, as one of my friends put it, getting a C in the engagement.

G-d willing we should all get engaged only once. You only get one shot. The moment is something that both parties will remember for the rest of their lives. I didn't want to mess it up for her.

Last week I mentioned to a few friends that I'm getting engaged. Some asked me if I have any doubts. I told them that I did. How well did I know Shifra before we got engaged? There will always be doubts, although I can honestly say that after Sunday I have far less of them (not that I had a lot to begin with).

Was it time to get engaged? I thought so. I believe it's important to date for a reasonable period of time so the parties can see each other in different situations. But at some point it makes no sense to keep dating. I believe we reached that point. And since Shifra said yes, I think she believes that too.

Lastly, 4jkb4ia, I noticed your mazel tov. Thanks.

More on this in later posts.