Archive | July, 2014

Chaos in the Middle East

31 Jul

There is a lot going on in the world, most of which is occurring in and around the Middle East.  A plane was shot down in Ukraine and tensions have once again flared up in Israel and in Gaza.  This post will be about what is currently taking place in the Gaza strip and Israel.  I’m not going to give a detailed history on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because then this would be a never ending blog post.  I expect that this issue will bring out a lot of debate, and I have been disappointed with the content of the debate that I have seen online.  For me, this issue is a complicated one especially for me.  It should be treated as a complicated issue, but like many things it isn’t treated as such.

I have mixed feelings on this conflict.  I often find myself in the middle of this debate since I have friends on both sides of the issues.  Partly because I was raised Jewish, I strongly support Israel’s right to exist.  That doesn’t mean I support everything that Israel has done or will do.  Israel has to recognize that they have killed civilians in this conflict, whether it is unintentional or not.  Hamas can and should be blamed for some of the civilian’s deaths, but certainly not all of them.

It is important to recognize how this recent conflict began.  Three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered.  A Palestinian teen was killed in retaliation for the kidnappings.  A column in USA today points out the reactions to both of the horrendous crimes – “Reaction to teen murders matters too.”  Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnapping and killings of the Israeli teens, despite the objections from some Palestinians.  On their facebook page, the Palestinian authority portrayed the Israeli teens as rats.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the killings on both sides.

After the kidnappings, violence erupted on both sides.  Rockets have been firing on Israel on a daily basis and Israel has countered with airstrikes and an invasion of Gaza.  Hamas is the main agitator in this conflict but that doesn’t mean Israel has been spotless on how they have handled the conflict.  If Hamas didn’t exist, there would be peace.  They don’t care if civilians are killed on either side.  (i.e. using people as human shields)

To people who strongly support Israel, the Palestinians are not your enemies, Hamas are.  To people who support the Palestinians, be mad at Israeli government officials who haven’t been careful enough avoiding civilian casualties; be mad at Hamas for making civilians a target, but don’t be mad at the people of Israel.  People on both sides must realize this is a complicated conflict and it should be analyzed as such.  Of everyone I know on both sides, no one has been praising civilian loss on either side, but we should acknowledge that this is a war where civilians are caught in the middle of a conflict.

Most of the Israelis and most of the Palestinians want peace.  This notion has often been shouted down during the current debate.  I am tired of seeing stupid and hateful posts online from extremists.  On one side I saw someone blame all Palestinians for the actions of a few.  On the other side I saw someone comment, “Hitler didn’t go far enough.”  Such hatred is destructive and counterproductive to what everyone should hope to achieve, peace in the Middle East.  Most people will support one side over the other, but we should strive for peace above either side.

 

 

 

“Reaction to teen murders matters too…”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/07/09/israel-palestine-murders-reaction-column/12363495/

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Primary Challenges

2 Jul

Primary Challenges

In the last several months we have seen upsets and changes. Up until recently the trend among the Republican primaries was establishment candidates defeating Tea Party opponents. This was the opposite of the last two election cycles. In previous years we saw controversial candidates winning around the country. The Tea Party seemed to be losing steam until earlier this month when they claimed their first victim of the election cycle, Eric Cantor.

While I agree that his loss was a huge upset and sent shockwaves throughout the country, I disagree as to the reason he lost. Conventional Wisdom blamed Eric Cantor’s support for immigration reform, but I believe that oversimplifies why he lost (btw immigration reform had little chance of passing before his defeat). One of the things many people overlooked is that he was not focusing on his home district enough. It’s no secret that he was trying to gather support to become speaker if Boehner were to leave his post next year. If you look at recent primary trends, I think it is more likely that Cantor lost his seat because he was focusing on gathering support for speaker. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil was known for his saying, “All politics is local.” I don’t think that saying is always true, but I think it applies in Eric Cantor’s defeat.

The other surprise in the last year was the primary race between Mississippi Senator Thad Chochran and his challenger Chris McDaniel. Senator Cochran was seen as particularly vulnerable because he lives in one of the most conservative states in the U.S. While he has been reliably conservative throughout his Senate Career, his vote to end the shutdown last year caused him to have to face a primary challenger. Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party in Mississippi and is a Tea Party favorite. Senator Cochran looked vulnerable in the months leading up to the primary.

Unlike Republican senate primaries in previous years, the Tea Party candidate’s controversial comments hurt the candidate before the general election. Of all of the Republican Senators that faced a Tea Party challenger, I thought that Senator Cochran was most likely to lose to his challenger. Senator Cochran’s opponent had the upper-hand before he made a series of missteps that hurt him. Chris McDaniel spoke at an event and received money from Neo-Confederate groups (he later said he returned money from them). He also said that he would refuse to pay his taxes if any of the money went to reparations.

In addition to McDaniel making controversial decisions, the Tea Party and members of McDaniels’ campaign made one bad mistake. Supporters of McDaniel took pictures of Senator Cochran’s wife in a nursing home. Whatever they were trying to do backfired, and may have resulted in Senator Cochran forcing a runoff. In the runoff Senator Cochran won by appealing to African-Americans and Democrats to win. He focused on Chris McDaniel’s controversial comments and neo-confederate support. Senator Cochran is now a lock for another term.

We have had two different surprising primaries in the last month. One saw Eric Cantor become the first house majority leader to ever lose a primary. The other race saw a long-serving incumbent Senator from Mississippi narrowly win his primary. We shouldn’t assume that these results were only because of one factor, which people often do after elections. The Tea Party is not dead but it has been wounded around the country. We will still see some Tea Party candidates win, but not like we did the last two election cycles. Things will get interesting in the next several months as we get closer to the general election. Stay tuned.