Monthly Archives: September 2003

More on Israel

Those who have read my blog for long have probably realized that Andy M’s primary purpose here is to antagonize me. Oh well, we all need our critics. In any case, I once again will take the bait and respond to his comment.

Let me begin by saying that I am far from an expert on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I’m just a schmo who reads the newspaper and tries to think critically about what’s going on in the world. I’ve never followed the situation in Israel very closely, though I have been increasingly concerned about it in recent years. I’m also not a Jew (or a Muslim, for that matter).

As I see it, the US has two roles in the Israel/Palestine conflict. First, the US is an ally of Israel. We supply them with “loan guarantees, military support, and ‘behind-the-scenes’ political support.” Second, though, the US, as the world’s sole superpower, is a broker of peace in the Middle East. Now, these two roles are obviously in tension. When we sit down at the negotiating table, though, we have an obligation to do so in good faith; that is, we have an obligation to be “evenhanded.” To do otherwise invalidates our role as a broker and makes peace completely unachievable.

I believe that the word “evenhanded,” by its very definition, implies that one is talking about the second role, rather than the first. I do not believe that our role as an ally of Israel will change if Howard Dean is elected president.

I won’t go into detail on the issue of Israeli settlements, but I believe that it is widely held that in any peace, some Israeli settlements must go. I don’t have any idea what the numbers are, so perhaps Dean was wrong when he said that “enormous numbers” must go.

Nevertheless, I think that taking Dean’s “evenhanded” comment to mean that we will abandon Israel as a trusted ally is foolish. As the article on Salon pointed out, Dean’s campaign is being co-chaired by Steven Grossman, former president of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: America’s Pro-Israel Lobby. With Grossman as co-chair of his campaign can anyone honestly say that they think that Dean will abandon Isreal?

All that having been said, I do hope that Dean will clarify his position on Israel, but I’m not sure that it would be politically expedient to do so immediately.

Howard Dean on Israel

Andy’s comment on my last post set in motion a bit of hand wringing, concern, and then research on my part. What has Howard Dean said about Isreal that has caused such consternation? Should I reevaluate my support of him?

I found was that, once again, the spin machine is raging out of control, and the first casualty has been the truth. What Howard Dean said, in an extemporaneous remark on Israel, was that the US must be “evenhanded” in the Middle Eastern conflict. Hmmm… That doesn’t seem too controversial. I’d like to think that our government would be “evenhanded” in everything that it does. Some pundits then took this statement, combined it with the false meme that says that Dean is a raging liberal, and reached the conclusion that Dean was abandoning the United States’ special relationship with Israel, a conclusion which is simply false. In fact, while Dean has (rightfully, IMHO) attacked Bush on a number of other issues, Bush and Dean have almost identical views on Israel (see the pullquote below).

I wish I had time to write more on this issue, but I don’t. Fortunately, Michelle Goldberg at Salon has already written an excellent article on this topic which was published yesterday. Here’s the link. (Unfortunately, you have to either be a Salon subscriber or sit through an ad to see the whole article.) Here’s a Dean pullquote, from a speech in Iowa:

The administration’s guiding principles in the Middle East are the right ones. Terrorism against Israel must end. A two-state solution is the only path to eventual peace, but Palestinian territory cannot have the capability of being used as a platform for attacking Israel.

From the article, I also learned that Dean’s wife and children are Jewish. Cool.

Back in Action

A friend and regular blog-reader called yesterday to chide me over the lack of postings since we moved. He said that I left everyone hanging with my postings about the movers and all of the house nonsense. He also noted that one of the hazards of having a blog is that you develop a regular readership (all three of you) and then those readers expect regular postings. So, I’m back, though it may be a while before I resume my prior posting frequency.

The move and the house closing went extremely smoothly, but it is taking us much longer than I expected to get our boxes unpacked and get settled in to the new house. Having a house has been really great, though. At some point, you get tired of living in an apartment, and Becky and I hit that point about 2 years ago. As you may recall, though, it’s an older house, and I suspect that there will always be things that need to be done. We’ve got a couple more minor projects to complete, and then we are going to finish the laundry room, which is currently unfinished. It shouldn’t be too hard to add drywall and put down a floor of some kind, and it will make it much easier to keep clean — an important consideration with my allergies.

I am also loving my job. I’m staying extremely busy, but I’m enjoying every moment of it. The students in the class I’m teaching are outstanding, on average. In fact, I dare say that they are better students than those I taught at Vanderbilt (as an undergraduate TA) and Cornell (as a TA and as an instructor). That’s not to say that they are more intelligent, but they definitely work harder, and that makes them more enjoyable to teach. (Note: If you are in my class, you have googled my name, and found my personal website, then I don’t want you to get the big head. I’m talking about averages here, not about individuals!)

The research freedom is also a breath of fresh air. My advisor was extremely tolerant and let me work on whatever my heart desired. Nevertheless, I wanted to finish my degree in a short time, so I worked single-mindedly on a single project until I finished my Ph.D. Hence, there wasn’t a lot of time to try out different research topics or follow whatever caught my fancy. Now, I have the freedom to broaden my horizons and seek out new and interesting research topics.

To summarize, I wasn’t sucked into a wormhole between Ithaca and Blacksburg. I’ve been really busy and haven’t had much time to write, but I’m loving it here…