A comment on Israel

Posted without a link to the original post (about standing up for Israel), since I don't have permission to link to it.

Nearly all of my exposure to Jewdom has come at Williams. I had a single Jewish friend growing up, but he went to a different high school and I never really talked to him about faith.

So in the Williams world of political apathy and happy dinners at the JRC where I get tastes of Jewish culture, I'm always a little surprised when someone steps out of the apoltical box and defends Israel, or when I learn that Jewishness is a prerequisite for any sort of romantic relationship. The friction comes, I think, because I thought of Jews as a religious group akin to my Baptists, but I think posts like this reflect a deeper Jewishness that I certainly don't understand. I still remember when someone was surprised I didn't automatically know who was Jewish on College Council; there's a common knowledge or culture that I certainly never tapped into growing up. It feels like Jews are acting like a race, weirdly enough, and that doesn't compute for me.

So that means that I'm surprised by these seemingly hidden bonds of Jewdom, and I can feel an internal reaction of bias against you since a line that I grew up thinking to be fairly weak has suddenly risen strongly between us. There's suddenly a club I can't join, and my ego doesn't like it.

Hopefully, that bias is nullified by the fact that it is recognized, but I think it's a factor in what you observed - people don't like the idea of what can sometimes appear to be a global network of people with more than friendly loyalty to a country not their own. It might also reak a little of the Jewish banker stereotype, but I'm not talking about power, but rather allegiance.

Now to your piece. I'm going to post reactions as I read through.

The surprise you expressed at seeing the flyer seemed a little surprising to me. Your wording suggests that you think the flotilla tragedy was the cause of this meeting; I would strongly suggest otherwise. The issues that I have with Israel aren't part of the raid; while I think the loss of life was sad, it was a confusing situation and stuff happens. I find it interesting that Israel got so much flack when the US has killed many more civilians with bombs in Afghanistan.

My issues with Israel, off the top of my head so that I show a gut reaction, are essentially these:

There seems to be an element within Israel that believes the country should be expanded to include the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip. This group violates international agreements by constructing "settlements" that are actually fortified outposts, and takes homes away from Palestinians who have lived in them for generations. There is no justification for ignoring these treaties, since the reciprocal would be someone taking over Jewish land.

What's interesting about this is that the anti-settlement faction within Israel is just about invisible to me, and because of this, I perceive the country as expantionist: going beyond the borders that it agreed to by treaty.

Israel continues to receive a large amount of American aid that I have never seen reason for. That doesn't mean such a reason doesn't exist, but instead that all I hear about is X billions going over to Israel while people I know here are not going to get unemployment because the Senate scuttled it for fiscal reasons. That's another strike.

Lastly, there's a strong feeling that AIPAC is supoer-powerful and controlling; that to speak against is Israel in any way, shape, or form is to commit a sacrilege. If I was interning on the Hill, I would be sufficient scared about AIPAC not to post this for fear of what it might do to my boss. In my mind, AIPAC = Rush Limbaugh; you can't go against it/him without paying a heavy price.

So the three things above combine for me to think that Israel is a state expanding with American dollars that I can't speak against because of it's domestic power. That's a pretty awful perception, and all of the good I know Israel does from visiting its embassy, reading Alan Dershowitz, and reading the news doesn't change the fact that Israel feels like an unjust state.

I'm an advocate for soft power; I think Bush hurts our horribly with his actions regarding rendition and torture, and I think our security was damaged by those perceptions, which I would seek to reverse. The problem for Israel is that for most of its neighbors, those perceptions will never be reversed; without agreement on the right to exist (which I would say is real), so Israel focuses more on hard power than soft power. After all, the perceptions of the people where you are are ultimately much less important than stopping another suicide bomber.

There's a bias in the world to sympathize with the person/group who lacks hard power, and so you end up more vilified than the idiot (I use the term in the classical sense) bombers who imagine their actions to be doing good. That's sad, but Israel seems to have chosen safety at home while neglecting, to some extent, soft power abroad.

So that's how you end up standing in front of a hostile crowd, and I'm sorry that the situation was so uncomfortable. You seem to have conducted yourself quite well, and I commend you for sticking around to talk, and to build bridges of trust over this polarized chasm.

I would also say that generic anti-Jewish bias still exists, and that sucks a huge deal. Holocaust denial amazes me.

But the more you do to argue your point politely and rationally, the more people will see you as the face of Israel, as opposed to the racist Jews who end up on youtube or blogs for spitting on, beating up, and being cruel to Palestinians.

Discrimination against guys / children

Long story short: British Airways apparently has a policy that adult males sitting alone cannot be next to a solo child traveler. Guy who switched seats with his wife was forced to move, successfully sued.

Blatantly discriminatory.

One of the things I've known about myself for a long time is that I love kids. Even when I was enormously more shy and awkward, all traces of embarrassment disappeared around youngsters: I would wag my tongue, make faces, and do just about anything to get a smile. Every 6 months, when seeing my young cousins, I delighted in gaining their trust and tossing them up, down, and around, solely to give them joy. I'm sure it has a lot to do with all of the moves my dad used to use with me; he would lift my stomach up with his feet and I would be "flying." One of my proudest accomplishments is the invention of a throwing move for ages 3-6 that is completely fast & safe, without the potential to cause dizziness.

This is why I am so easily distracted by kids at Williams - I miss them. Anyhow, the idea that my love of laughter and providing joy might be seen as something else is frankly frightening. I've never been stereotyped like the man from the article, but I now worry about it. I suppose it might be a little like DWB, or getting unwanted catcalls on the street; the fear makes me feel my maleness as a burden.

But wait, my wonderful friends might cry, women have it so much worse! Biologically, I have to agree - guys don't have to be pregnant, we can stand up in the bathroom, and we don't have a "time of the month." Sociologically, I'm as sure: women are getting butt in the college admissions game, which would suggest that there are lots of under-performing guys out there in my generation.

But let's not discount the awful choices in picking outfits that my friend CF told me about - for each body part uncovered, something else must be put on. Or what about walking the line between prudedom and promiscuity? I was amazed to find out how much of an issue catcalls still are these days, and flat opinions that sexism still undercuts women who lead seemingly "progressive" institutions. Then again, I also didn't expect to know of a real-life racist in my community.

The most frustrating part of all this is the polarity between "men have it worse" and "women have it worse." The bottom line is that there are issues facing people of every gender and sex. Furthermore, the specific problems and solutions will vary according to cultural contexts that vary between states, blocks, and even between members of the same household. No doubt that the power structure of history favored males, and that that structure remains today, but I'd predict that 20 years from now, the US will look very different as a result of effects on the generations not yet in charge. But the ultimate balance between men and women on who is the biggest victim misses the entire point; instead of trying to get a bigger slice of the sexism card pie, we should really focus on making sexism of all sorts socially unacceptable.

And while I'm issuing platitudes: men and women are qualitatively different. We don't understand all of those differences, but the Surpreme Court's statement on the loss of women in a jury still rings true.


I don't understand Glee.

The plotlines are forced and strange. The characters go from evil to sweet to stupid in a heartbeat. The male lead can't really sing, and definitely can't dance. The writing is generally cringe-worthy, with a few exceptional lines here and there. The vocalists need constant auto-tune.

And yet Glee is widely successful. FWIW, I think there are two components to it. First, taking people from Broadway musicals and putting them on TV is a smart move that should have been done long ago. Glee is carried by Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison, even though the latter should never try to rap again. Second, they put a lot of work in. In this year alone (which, in two parts, was only the size of one season), the show covered about 128 songs, releasing full versions of the majority of those as singles. That is a LOT of music, and while I can't stand many of the covers, there are enough gems to keep me watching.

Also, has anyone else noticed that the cast is super-diverse/token-filled? There's the disabled kid, the gay kid, the "christian" kid, the nice jock, the mean jock, the overweight kid, the goth kid, the drama queen, the stupid one....

and yet people watch the show. I don't if that's something to celebrate or cry about. Hopefully, the worse parts will stay and they'll fix some stuff for next season.

The pace of technolgoical change

Operating System - Mac OS 9.0.4
Processor - 500 MHz PowerPC G3 CPU, 128MB Memory
Graphics - ATI Rage 128 Pro, 8MB of memory (8 million triangles)
Screen - 786K pixels
Data Transfer Speeds - 1.3-12.5 MB/s (DVD-ROM-1/100 Ethernet)
Storage - 30GB Hard Drive
Dimensions - 15.0 x 15.0 x 17.1 inches
Weight - 34.7 pounds

iPhone 4
Operating System - iOS 4.0
Processor - 1 Ghz ARM A4 CPU, 512MB Memory
Graphics - PowerVR SGX 535, uses system memory (28 million triangles)
Screen - 614K pixels
Data Transfer Speeds - .04-20MB/s (3G-WiFi)
Storage - 32GB Flash Drive
Dimensions - 4.5 x 2.31 x .31 inches
Weight - 4.8 ounces

What will the device be like in 2020? 
I was born before the (popular) internet.