Sunday, February 27, 2011


First Tunisia. Then Egypt. Then Yemen. Then Libya. Then … well, then America. I’m thinking of the protests that have been going on in Madison, Boise, Indianapolis, Lansing, and Columbus. Tomorrow, from what my wife tells me, Maryland’s teachers will be taking to the streets in Annapolis. If only they can get the Naval officers from the academy to join them, who knows what they can accomplish? From reading about the events in Cairo, I remember how important it is to have the armed forces with you when you’re staging a protest.

Truth be told, the protests here in the good ol’ US of A cannot legitimately be compared to the revolutions in the Arab world. The latter involve an interest on the part of the masses to live in a democracy and enjoy the basic freedoms associated with that form of government. By contrast, here in America, nobody is threatening to take away our right to vote in a free election, or such fundamental liberties as the freedom of speech or of religion. Comparatively speaking, the firefighters of Wisconsin or the schoolteachers of Maryland have very little to complain about.

So they should just take their medicine and thank the Lord they have a job, right? That’s certainly the Fox News party line, and it is echoed by all the big-time talk radio DJs. Frankly, the attitude was propagated in part by our President, the so-called “socialist,” who proactively froze the pay of the federal civil servants (but not the military), arguing that in tough times, they too should bear their fair share of sacrifices. But in a number of our state houses, legislators have picked up where Obama left off; they have proposed not only to dock public workers’ pay but also to strip them of the right to bargain collectively. It’s a bold move, considering that the five states that currently deprive public school teachers of such rights rank 34th, 38th, 45th, 48th and 49th, respectively, in student SAT scores. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, paying teachers a decent wage is a good idea?

Anyway, I’m convinced that what is going on here is about much more than the need to make tough choices during hard economic times. Clearly, the really tough choices aren’t being made. We’ve just been through two years of bailouts – first the executives on Wall Street, then the car manufacturers – and tax cuts for the rich. Now, despite all the talk of fiscal conservatism, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives continues to support subsidies to highly profitable industries, and nobody is even making a stink about that on the Democratic side. I, for one, haven’t seen a shred of sacrifice from the “haves” of the private sector, let alone the heirs whose only accomplishment in life is to be born the son or daughter of a multi-millionaire. Without such sacrifice, why is it exactly that the public employees should take it on the chin?

It has become a cliché that America has voted in the mid-term election, and the politicians are listening. Supposedly, what they are hearing is the sound of angry citizens, but it is worth pausing to reflect on the nature of that anger. Supposedly, the citizens are angry about our unbalanced budget; apparently, though, they are not angry enough to demand that the government raise the revenues needed to match its expenses. That’s why our Democratic President could cut the taxes on the rich and brag about it. Supposedly, the citizens are angry in particular about wasteful spending; apparently, though, they are not angry enough to demand the government to stop subsidizing highly profitable industries or fighting unwinnable wars. That’s why when it comes to private sector or military spending, you won’t hear many complaints from the Tea Party.

Now, as for the true object of the citizens’ anger, what the politicians are hearing is quite simple: that they should stop all the God-forsaken handouts to undeserving individuals. That means to stop funding welfare queens. But it also means to stop paying big salaries to the so-called “unaccountable, lazy civil servants.”

The message that I pick up from Fox News and talk radio is a clarion call. We should indeed pay the men and women of the armed forces, and pay them well. After all, they are doing God’s work – a job we all need done well. But civil servants? That’s a horse of a different color. Even if they were given important work, which supposedly most are not, the best we are told to expect from their performance is a mediocre one.

On the surface, then, the striking workers are protesting about money issues – salaries and pensions, to be specific. But deep down, they’re protesting about respect and dignity. Somehow, the critical mass of this society has decided to group them in the same category as every other dead beat who is “sucking on the public tit.” And whether you are a firefighter, a cop, a teacher, or a DMV clerk, you don’t appreciate being treated as someone who doesn’t earn his or her keep.

Personally, I keep finding myself going back to the decision of President Obama to begin the so-called “lame duck” period by effectively docking the pay of the non-military federal workforce. If he had previously been willing to fight to increase the taxes of the ultra-rich, or had then been willing to freeze the pay of soldiers together with that of the civil servants, maybe the protests in our state capitals wouldn’t be nearly as passionate. But he didn’t. And now we have a nation of civil servants who have correctly surmised that if they want their rights, they better damned well fight for them. Trusting a politician these days is crazier than trusting a used car dealer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I customarily disagree with the American-Israel Political Action Committee’s (AIPAC’s) policy stances on how Israel should be interacting with its Palestinian cousins. But even we critics have to respect AIPAC’s political clout. That power was on display once again yesterday at the United Nations. The U.N. Security Council was voting on a resolution that would have condemned Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank as illegal. More than one hundred U.N. members had co-sponsored the measure, and 14 of the 15 nations in the Security Council were prepared to support it. But wouldn’t you know it, the 15th is the United States, and it had the right to exercise a veto. So the resolution failed.

According to the Netanyahu party line, which AIPAC obviously supports, Israel remains willing to negotiate a peace agreement; it is the Palestinians who are creating peace impediments by demanding first that Israel freeze its settlement construction. The Obama Administration does not buy into that perspective. In fact, stopping the settlements was once the cornerstone of the President’s peace plan. So why couldn’t we support yesterday’s U.N. resolution? Why was it the wrong time to send a message that the more settlements Israel builds, the harder it will be to make peace? Isn’t that proposition obvious to all but the most partisan observers?

Perhaps. Yet traditionally, when it comes to American policy towards Israel, the AIPAC position will carry the day. When combined with the conservative gentiles who dominate the GOP, AIPAC’s power among Jews of both political parties has proven impossible to defeat over the long haul. Occasionally, an American President will send a strong message against an Israeli policy, but after every such blip (such as Obama’s Cairo speech), there is a sharp reaction from the Israel-right-or-wrong lobby, and the United States soon finds itself back in its customary role of Israel’s lone, prominent defender.

Whatever else can be said about AIPAC, the fact is that it is congenitally incapable of criticizing Israel for moving too far to the right. Consequently, when it comes to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians today, AIPAC would prefer instead simply to change the subject. The mantra goes something like this: “We’re ready to make peace when the Palestinians can speak in one, moderate voice and comport themselves accordingly. In the meantime, we’re concentrating solely on a more pressing issue: the threat of Iran’s nukes.”

Frankly, if that attitude were replicated throughout Israel, we’d NEVER make peace with the Palestinians. Peace will come only when each side goes out of its way to make concessions, rather than playing the game of “I won’t reach out my hand until he reaches out his hand first.” This is elementary stuff. AIPAC knows it and so does Netanyahu, but they just don’t care. They probably figure that the status quo could be a whole lot worse for Israel, and if it’s unbearable for the Palestinians, that’s “their problem, not ours.” Somehow, that doesn’t exactly sound like an attitude consistent with Prophetic Judaism.

What’s particularly disturbing about AIPAC is how even liberal politicians are willing to espouse the right-wing party line when they speak to an AIPAC audience. What does that say about the rank-and-file of AIPAC members? Are they really so out-of-touch with the Middle East peace equation? It was at such a conference in 2008 when then-candidate Obama uttered his now famous (or infamous) declaration, “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.” Truly, the idea of an undivided Jerusalem is not a part of any credible peace plan, yet for some reason, a politician as sophisticated as Obama felt the need to advocate that one-sided solution. It’s a sad commentary on his willingness to pander, and a sadder still commentary on AIPAC’s unwillingness to advocate what is necessary to make peace.

Clearly, we Jewish peaceniks have for years needed an alternative to AIPAC. Now, finally, such an organization is beginning to attain prominence. One week from today, J Street will be starting its annual conference in my home town of Washington, D.C., and most of my buddies in the peace movement here are all abuzz. They look at J Street as the focal point of our hope for a more enlightened U.S. policy toward the Holy Land. Finally, the Jewish community has created a lobby in Washington on Israel-Palestine issues that does not come across as an “Amen chorus” for the Israeli Government.

J Street is a voice that must be reckoned with on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. It is extremely well funded, with backers that include billionaire George Soros. Needless to say, people who have big money don’t spend it on advocacy organizations that come across as “fringe.” As a result, J Street works hard to situate itself in the mainstream. It takes every opportunity to style itself as pro Israel, pro peace, and pro two-state solution. Its leadership even calls itself “Zionist.” On the surface, then, this is an organization that sounds a whole lot like AIPAC … except that it is willing to criticize Israel when necessary to accomplish the same ultimate goal that most members of AIPAC would embrace: a peaceful, prosperous Israel.

Ah, but an organization is more than just a mission statement, isn’t it? And when you take a closer look at J Street, what you’ll see remains a lot more muddled than what is advertised. Prior to the formation of J Street, there was a vacuum on the political left when it came to U.S.--Israeli relations. In filling that vacuum, J Street has brought into the tent a wide cast of characters. I’m going to avoid the temptation to call out names. But suffice it to say that J Street’s more prominent supporters include certain figures who might call themselves “pro-Israel” (a meaningless statement if ever there were one), but who reserve 90% of their barbs for Israel’s conduct, preferring to give the Palestinians a free ride unless and until Israel lives up to the standards set forth by the Biblical Prophets. How’s that for balance? Palestinians are treated with kid gloves when they depict Israel like dirt in their textbooks, deny the Jews a right to their own state in the Middle East, and refer to the Jews’ return to Zion as the “catastrophe;” by contrast, Jews are expected to behave like Amos, Micah, and Isaiah? If that attitude is “pro-Israel,” I’d hate to hear what “anti-Israel” sounds like.

As for the word “Zionist,” I rarely if ever hear it uttered by those of my friends who are in J Street. My guess is that they’re sick of what it represents – the advocacy of a state in which Jews are granted special privileges, even if those privileges are confined to immigration policies. They prefer instead to think of Israel as a Jewish “homeland” or “haven” in which Jews may ultimately find themselves in the minority, but that’s OK, as long as they are treated with equal rights. To be sure, there are undoubtedly honest-to-God Zionists in J Street. But to call the organization as a whole “Zionist” strikes me as quite a stretch.

For these reasons, I won’t be joining my friends at the J Street conference. When I work in the peace movement, I prefer to situate myself on the outside of that organization so that I can criticize it with the same frequency that it criticizes Israel. If it can remain “pro-Israel” even though it does little else but complain about Israel, I can certainly remain “pro J Street” even though I am frequently complaining about its unwillingness to take on the Arabs with half of the vehemence that it reserves for Israel.

How’s that for a backhanded compliment? Honestly, though, I can call myself “pro J Street” in one important respect. If forced to choose between J Street and its sheepishness toward the Palestinians on the one hand, and AIPAC and its incessant Israel defending on the other, I’ll take J Street any time. And I say that as a staunch Zionist and lover of Israel. The fact is that sometimes our friends and family need tough love. (That’s precisely why we should criticize the Palestinians more – they are truly our cousins, and we should expect a lot more from them.) And as crazy as the Netanyahu Government is behaving in cow-towing to the Israeli settlers, that Government needs a whole lot of tough love these days.

Personally, I am thrilled that the United States remains a friend of Israel. May it always be so. In fact, it is my hope that Israel is treated by my own Government not merely as one ally among many, but as the closest of friends. The only question for me is what kind of friend Israel needs the most -- one that, in essence, lets it drive drunk (the AIPAC position), or one that holds it to a higher standard than it holds everyone else (the J Street position)? Isn’t there a third alternative?

Maybe, but that third alternative doesn’t yet have well-funded institutional support. And not coincidentally, after decades of battling, Israel still doesn’t yet have peace with its neighbors. Such a pity. But then again, what is a Jew but a person who both laments and hopes at all times.

As we Jews have been saying for centuries, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011


“And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’” Mark 6:4

Spinoza expired in his tiny apartment in the Hague on February 21, 1677. He died a widely reviled man in both the Christian and Jewish communities of his day, associated with the refusal to accept the existence of a supernatural God, free will, human immortality, and many other concepts that remain hallowed by the peoples of Abraham. Surely, more Dutchmen of his day associated him with the Devil than with God, despite all of Spinoza’s efforts to proclaim his love for the divine.

While he walked the earth, then, Spinoza was indeed “without honor,” and not merely in his own community. But does that make Spinoza anything less than a prophet? Not to me. The afore-mentioned verse from the Book of Mark has its greatest resonance when it is construed to refer to a prophet’s reception over time. Forward thinkers may indeed be ignored, even derided, by the “luminaries” of their era. In some instances, it takes years before their brilliance is widely appreciated, and in the case of Spinoza, it took roughly a century. Thanks to Goethe, Lessing, Mendelssohn, Schiller, Shelling and others, Spinozism became all the rage among much of the intelligentsia in late 18th century Germany. Across the pond, in the fledgling republic known as the United States of America, Spinoza’s fans included a man named Thomas Jefferson.

I have taken us back a bit down memory lane because I believe we are witnessing yet another renaissance in the relevance and appreciation for Baruch Spinoza. Increasingly, people are beginning to realize that he was ahead not only of his time but of ours. This is why Spinoza has been adopted by so many academics, in field after field. When attempting to bridge the gaps in conventional modern thinking, it often becomes clear that Spinoza was mining this same avant-garde ore centuries in the past.

To me, that makes Spinoza the kind of prophet who we in the 21st century can honor as such. By “prophet,” I do not mean a recipient of supernatural messages from an omnibenevolent, yet inscrutable Cosmic Will. Spinoza, for one, has debunked the belief in such prophesy, and for that matter, anything else that could be called “supernatural.” Rather, I am referring to a genius whose ability to see ahead of his time in critical respects can enlighten the paths of those of us who are mired in darkness. Speaking as such a traveler, I am fortunate to be able to lean on Spinoza when it comes to metaphysics, theology, ethics, psychology and politics. But what amazes me even more than how useful I personally find his writings is to witness his reception among those who are truly expert in their fields. More than three centuries after his death, Spinoza is seen not only as having anticipated modern trends, but in some cases as holding the keys that can unlock the doors of our present ignorance. I have witnessed such testimonials every time I’ve attended an academic conference on Spinoza, and I’ve attended these conferences on multiple occasions and concerning a wide range of topics. The latest was at the Madeline Renee Turkeltaub Memorial Symposium on Ethics held at the American University on February 7, 2011. It was entitled “Spinoza: Feminist Perspectives/Aspects of Embodiment.”

As someone who is sick and tired of seeing “prophets” treated like superhuman objects of perfection, I appreciated the way the Symposium began. The first speaker, McGill University professor Hasana Sharp, addressed the so-called “Black Page” of Spinoza, which also happened to be the final thing the man wrote in his final (albeit unfinished) book, the Political Treatise. The Black Page is a term used by feminist thinkers to refer to Spinoza’s argument that women should not be able to serve in Government with men. For all of us who love Spinoza, it remains a rare blot on his legacy. But I have learned to appreciate it in spite of its falsity, for it reminds those of us who would tend to lionize the man excessively that he is indeed no “prophet” in the conventional sense of the word, but rather a flesh-and-blood mortal who, failing supernatural assistance, was the product of his own limited mind and experiences. Arguably, Spinoza’s upbringing in an Orthodox Jewish community, combined with the sexual repression he likely experienced as an adult, convinced him that if men were forced to serve with women in Government, they would likely find themselves more and more frustrated sexually, and less and less efficient administratively. At least that’s my speculation.

After confronting the Black Page, the Symposium was off to the races with one tribute after another to Spinoza’s seminal ideas. He was presented first by Professor Sharp as an early feminist – notwithstanding that one page. Then my friend Paola Grassi, an Italian philosopher, explained how Spinoza has inspired some of the greatest literature our species has known, in the form of the works of the Great Goethe. Goethe, Paola said, essentially turned Spinozism into a private religion – one that celebrates nature over the imaginary “supernatural” realm, recognizes the transformative value of self-awareness, and appreciates that such self-awareness requires grappling with both one’s intellect and one’s emotional faculties. Indeed, as I learned later in the Symposium from James Blair of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Heidi Raaven, a renowned Spinoza scholar from Hamilton College, emotions are truly at the heart of any efforts to think rationally. The next time someone tells you that Spinoza was a stoic, just shake your head. No less than his disciple Goethe, and no less than the rabbis who taught him, Spinoza knew that to be human is to be the product of one’s emotions, and he developed neurobiological theories that have stood the test of time. As any Spinozist could tell you, contentment consists of understanding our own unique emotions and ensuring that the ones that dominate us are as wholesome as possible. When we attempt to will our emotions away -- when we repress them -- we end up espousing stupid stuff. For example, we say things like women have no business serving with men in Government … or in combat … or as rabbis … or … well, you get the idea.

Other speakers at the Symposium included Sarah Donovan of Wagner College and Karen Houle of the University of Guelph. They reminded me that Spinoza can be invaluable in addressing the most contemporary of public policy debates – such as how our culture should deal with post-partum depression or what kind of moral standing should be extended to non-human entities (i.e., animals, plants, ecosystems). These two academics would surely laugh if someone referred to philosophy as mental masturbation or as some sort of “impractical” discipline. In fact, I’ve long known that philosophy could and should be the most practical discipline in any university. Classically, it was the discipline that asked us how we can live the good life. In other words, philosophy didn’t merely explore morality (which asks the meaning of what we “ought” to do) but also ethics (which asks the meaning of what we, who wish to lead the good life, “might” freely choose to do if given all the possibilities available to us). It’s no coincidence that Spinoza, who in the 17th century was viewed as an enemy of freedom, has come to be understood as a thinker whose moral and political philosophy is primarily devoted to the pursuit of liberty. And what did he call his masterpiece? What else but “The Ethics.”

I have described the Symposium in such detail to give you an idea of the extent to which this man has the power to inspire and to educate. But Spinoza is not alone. Surely, similar symposia could be, and have been, devoted to other “prophets,” people like Darwin, Shakespeare, Muhammad, Aristotle … the list goes on. Not very far, but it does go on. We can all take pride in such individuals, and particularly in the knowledge that as great as they were, they remain mere examples of our own tragically flawed and yet incredibly advanced species. We have such potential, both as individuals and collectively. Now, with the help of Spinoza, let’s just remind ourselves of our obligations to use that potential primarily as nurturers, and not exploiters, of our precious common resources.

Before signing off, I wish to leave you with an example of a Spinoza-inspired verse, which was prominently featured in the Symposium. It is the verse by which Goethe concluded his Faust. On the surface, its subject relates to the topic of the Symposium, that of feminism. But don’t fool yourself. Like everything Spinoza inspired, and like every thing Goethe learned from his mentor, the true subject of this verse is the Subject of Subjects, the Name of Names. Or as it is said in the Qur’an, “the Eternal, Absolute, who begetteth not, nor is he begotten, and there is none like unto Him.”

So here you have the ending of Goethe’s Faust.

“Everything that can be perceived is only a symbol;
the imperfect, which cannot be realized,
here makes itself reality;
that which cannot be described,
here finally completes itself.
It is the eternal feminine,
always attracting us to the higher.”

Saturday, February 05, 2011


"It is vital to preserve the stability of the Egyptian regime at all costs; the public criticism of President Mubarak must be toned down." Israel Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman

We interrupt this story about Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, I mean Aaron Rodgers at the Super Bowl, I mean Steven Tyler on the set of American Idol … to bring you back to the Middle East, where a wee uprising has been taking place on the streets of Cairo. Thankfully, truth be told, the American media has actually been covering this story. Egypt isn’t Tunisia. Or Sudan. It is a country that actually registers in the American consciousness. It’s the sight of one of our most evil symbols, that of the Pharaoh, a symbol of cold-hearted tyranny. And sure enough, that symbolism is being played out, night after night, on American television, in the form of a dictator of three decades who strangled his people’s prosperity and liberty until finally, miraculously, they rose up against him, calling out for human rights, democracy, and universal dignity … and all the world cheered.

Except for the people of Israel.

How’s that for irony.

As a participant in the peace movement, there are times when I feel out of place, a lone Zionist (not a blame-Israel-first Zionist, but a real Zionist) amidst a plethora of universalists who could care less if in 200 years, there is not a single majority-Jewish state in the world. Today, though, I am not feeling at all out of place in the peace movement. It’s when I reflect on the state of the Zionist movement that I feel a little queasy.

For those who care about Israel’s highest values, this should be a Shabbat of rejoicing. A Shabbat to reflect on how the people of Tunisia, Egypt and other nations throughout the Arab world are finally standing up to injustice and oppression. We’ve seen similar populist uprisings before, in places like Iran and China, but this time there are no armies getting in the way. This time, the people have the upper hand, and the dictators are figuring out that their days in power are numbered.

What we are witnessing is nothing less than human evolution -- the inevitable replacement of monarchal societies by democratic ones. What is not to celebrate? To be sure, the results of any given democratic election could foreseeably give rise to a regime that is worse than that of a so-called “benevolent dictator.” But in the long run, is there any doubt that the fruits of a democracy will improve upon that of a monarchy? Spinoza may have been a tad optimistic when he wrote that “it is almost impossible that the majority of the people, especially if it be a large one, should agree in an irrational design.” But given the choice between following the will of 83 million Egyptians and one power-drunk dictator, I’ll gladly take the former. And so will virtually every other individual I know who is involved in the peace movement.

The same, unfortunately, could not be said for all of the leaders of Israel, or many of her friends here in the US. Minister Lieberman’s above-quoted comments about the importance of preserving Mubarak’s power clearly resonates throughout the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or, for that matter, Borough Park, Brooklyn. It’s not difficult to understand why – the hatred of Israel in much of the Arab street has been palpable, and Mubarak has been one of Israel’s only true Arab friends. If you ask the question, “Is he good for the Jews?” one can understand that the answer given would be an unqualified “yes.”

Yet that is but short-term reasoning. In the long-run, any Arab despot who has kept his people poor and ignorant is part of the problem, not the solution. In the long run, what is good for the Jews is an Arab street that is educated, prosperous, and filled more with hope than hatred, or pride more than victimization. That is the only way that Israel will ever see a “warm” peace, and not the cold peace that it has enjoyed with Egypt under Mubarak – a peace in which school children have been taught to dislike Zionism, even as they are prevented from taking up arms with the Zionist state. Israel can afford to have a cold peace with Egypt since a desert effectively separates the two countries. But any true peace with the Palestinians must necessarily be a warm one – like the peace between Belgium and the Netherlands. Without an educated, prosperous, and autonomous Palestine, such a peace will forever remain a pipe dream.

So, from the standpoint of Israel’s long-term peace and security, the events on the streets of Cairo have been wonderful indeed. Sadly, though, Netanyahu’s Israel, like all misguided regimes, is mired in short-term thinking. You might even call it paranoid thinking. Consider the following words of Netanyahu himself:

"We are in a situation of instability. In this situation we have to look around us with open and realistic eyes. We remember what it was like here before there was peace. How we fought at the [Suez] Canal, on the banks of the canal. On the Jordan. We fought. All of us. Since peace broke out, we have benefited from not needing to defend those borders, with all that this implies. Peace changed our strategic situation and the whole world. Now we must understand that the basis for every future settlement is the fortification of Israel's might. Security arrangements on the ground, in the event that agreements are violated or there is governmental change on the other side. Every peace settlement that will be achieved must be durable in the face of the upheavals that characterize this region."

Rather than seeing what is happening in Cairo as an opportunity for progress, he sees it as something to be feared. You can just tell that his minions are getting ready to circle the wagons, to prepare themselves for yet another of Israel’s Hobbesian “us against the world” episodes, like the ones in ’67 and ’73. Having failed at giving peace a chance, Netanyahu is readying himself for the possibility of entertaining yet another war. War comes easily for Israel’s right wing. It requires no efforts to trust “the other.” No efforts to concede anything to its “enemies.” And given that Israel has the superior firepower, what’s not to like when the time comes to take up arms?

The problem, of course, is that Israel is supposed to be a JEWISH state. And “Jewish” means more than just culturally or ethnically Hebrew – it also refers to a religion. Religiously, living in a state of perpetual war and hatred of one’s neighbors isn’t exactly the ideal. In fact, it’s absolutely unacceptable. Now that the Palestinian Authority is controlled by a leader who is actually prepared to make profound concessions to Israel in order to arrive at a just and secure peace, Netanyahu’s intransigence on issues like the West Bank settlements seems … well, it seems almost reminiscent of the Pharaoh.

So here we have a new dichotomy. Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, and the Egyptian masses on one side of the line … and Netanyahu, Lieberman and their friend Mubarak on the other. I cannot tell you how much I hate that formulation. No less than Netanyahu and Lieberman, I too want a strong, secure and permanent Jewish State. What I don’t understand is why that State must disregard the basic human rights and freedoms of the Palestinians who live within its ambit. Mubarak similarly disregarded the rights and freedoms of his charges, and look where that got him.

Why oh why must history keep repeating itself? That is what I don’t get.