At least the Chicago Tribune didn’t mention that gynecologist by the same name (see question #5)
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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.
In late November, I had some time to improvise and managed to come up with the raw elements for two different pieces. One of these turned into two voices. The other improvisation was slow and quiet, basically just half notes followed by an eighth note rest. This was restructured into a new piece called for four. There are a maximum of four voices at any given time, so it could be performed by four instruments (eg, two violins and two celli) or for piano. The score includes a piano reduction along with the same notes displayed on four individual staves. It’s ppp throughout, and the tempo can be a low of quarter = 20 to a max of quarter = 40. Thus, depending on the tempo chosen, the piece can take as little as 23 minutes or up to 46 minutes to play.
By coincidence, the composition of the work overlapped with the horrific deaths of children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. I mention this, because it struck me that the slow final section of the piece flutes and trombone was composed around the same time as a similarly terrible gun-related massacre in Aurora, CO.
for four was originally improvised in Palo Alto, CA in late November, 2012 and restructured into a composition in Wyncote, PA and Palo Alto between 12/13 and 12/18/12.
I will release it soon, but last night I finished (I think) a work called two voices, for keyboard or any two instruments. It started as an experiment I was playing with three nights ago, in which one voice plays all the black keys and the other plays all the white keys. There are five black keys and seven white keys, so one has all 12 tones to play with. I wanted to see, just out of curiosity, if I could take some very banal themes and make them at least somewhat interesting. I was also curious how long this nonsense could go on.
I imposed another constraint: each measure had to have each voice play all of its assigned notes. And no chords.
If you haven’t figured out by now, I was really unsure of this approach, since it doesn’t seem entirely conducive to improvisation, which is how I generally compose and thus manage to avoid systems and processes, which are the bane of folks like me who hate academic and mechanical methods to write music. Surprisingly, one can actually manage to improvise within these constraints, and even make what I think is a pretty good piece of music.
To balance all these formal requirements, I wanted to provide a lot of choice for the performer, so that each performance would be unique. There are no dynamics, nor is there any tempo indicated. Each measure gets repeated a minimum of eight times, so that if one really likes a particular measure, knock yourself out and repeat it even more times.
There are a few measures in which both instruments (or hands on the keyboard) are in different tempi, since the upper voice is playing five notes in the same time as the lower voice plays seven. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward.37.612952 -122.383920
I’ve been using my wife’s former iPad (first generation) for many months now, in addition to my iPhone 4S. The iPhone has a retina display and is pretty fast, with an A5 processor, so it is still very useful and I have not jumped on the iPhone 5. Which is good, since I don’t have a lot of disposable income and am not sure I want to get sucked into another two-year contract with AT&T, given its disdain for its customers (eg: charging for using the iPhone as a hotspot).
The original iPad: not very fast and the display is often very pixellated, especially if dealing with iPhone apps that have not been redesigned with the iPad’s display specs in mind. But it’s been usable, even as a laptop replacement for short trips to the EU. Still, watching apps like FaceBook take 30 seconds or more to load, and having each tab in Safari load content when selected due to a lack of RAM, makes it clear that the iPad’s limitations are a daily reality. For reading Kindle books and watching videos, it’s great. For most other things, it is often slow. And forget even thinking of running iOS 6, since it isn’t supported on that iPad.
So I have been very interested in the (then-rumored) iPad Mini for some time, since while smaller, it would run iOS 6, be less expensive than a 9.7″ iPad, be more portable, and would have to be much faster than the original iPad. When it was announced earlier this week, I was very keen on preordering the 32 GB model with cellular coverage (Verizon) tomorrow on the 26th. It’s light, has the same A5 processor as my iPhone 4S, the smaller non-retina display screen would probably be good enough (it has a bit higher pixel density than the same display on the iPad 2), and typing probably would be reasonable, at least with thumbs.
But then I started comparing prices with the iPad 4. Yes, the iPad 4 is more expensive, but there is some overlap with iPad Mini prices. At first, I was pleased to realize I could get a 32 GB Mini with 4G for a bit less than an iPad 4 without 4G ($559 vs $599). While I don’t use my 3G very much on my current iPad, since I’m usually within range of WiFi or else am in Europe where I have a data plan for my iPhone and don’t need a redundant one for my iPad, I could see scenarios where having 4G would be useful, especially if it were a Verizon iPad Mini and I set it up as a hotspot for my MacBook Pro on a train without WiFi.
And then I started realizing that while the iPad Mini isn’t a smaller iPad or a larger iPad Touch, other than the form factor and the addition of 4G, it is basically a larger iPhone 4S, the same iPhone I bought over a year ago. And that’s where it starts to fall down. Yes, the iPad Mini has more robust WiFi (it can connect to a 5 GHz WiFi network whereas my iPhone 4S can’t), but for common use, that is not going to be a deal-breaker. But at $559 for innards that are largely last year’s iPhone, I’d rather spend the extra $170 and get an iPad 4 (32 GB, 4G) with a retina display, a very fast processor (faster than the iPhone 5), and a larger screen that is more usable when I want the iPad to serve as a laptop replacement. And more and more, it will serve as a standalone computer, not just as a content reader.
I know the iPad Mini is more portable and would probably make something like Modern Combat 2′s multiplayer mode usable on a device larger than my iPhone (it is not very usable on the full-sized iPad, at least for my hands). But I was really hoping it would have been priced around $250 to start. This time next year (or earlier), when Apple comes out with an iPad Mini that has a retina display and a faster processor, I’ll be stuck with a $559 device that might not hold its own with more recent apps that require higher CPU capabilities. If a 2-year-old+ iPad is now so obsolete as to not even load the latest version of iOS, what will happen to the iPad Mini when it is one or two years down the line?
If I’m going to spend over $500 for a tablet, I’d rather it not have a CPU that is the same as the phone I bought a year ago and a worse display to boot. As an investment that I’d want to use for 2-3 years, I’m not seeing the iPad Mini as a smart purchase, at least for my needs. For an entry level device, it is a beautiful thing from what I’ve seen on the Web, and wil serve a lot of people very well as an e-book reader and as a way to watch videos. But for gradually serving as a device that is easier to write with on a regular basis, this is not that device. Had it been either less expensive or had a more compelling processor (such as an A6) and a better display, that would be a very different value equation. But consider the iPhone: while it is very usable and preferable to maintain an iPhone for two years, we’re also talking about a device that is also generally under $300 for most folks (even under $200). For nearly double that cost, I’d want something that I know will not feel very underpowered in a year. And the iPad Mini is somewhat underpowered for 2012. When an iPod Touch has a retina display but Apple’s new small tablet computer doesn’t, that just seems odd.
So in the end, I’m likely going to grab the iPad 4 tomorrow as a preorder. If someone thinks I’m misjudging the iPad Mini, please let me know in the comments. I’m not saying the iPad Mini is a bad thing; it’s not. If it were, this would not be a tough decision. But for my needs, I’m not sure at that price point it makes much sense to not spend a bit more on a comparable iPad with better overall specs.
I had an idea for writing a work for two flutes and a bass trombone. By splitting the notes between the two flautists, I could write continuous lines without requiring circular breathing and also write chordal music that would not be possible for one flute and a brass instrument, in the absence of multiphonics. And let’s face it, multiphonics are pretty harsh in terms of their sound quality.
This work could also be done by two identical treble instruments and a bass instrument. It is important that the two higher-pitched instruments be identical, but there is no reason this could not be accomplished by two violins or two oboes and a tuba, for example.
The last several minutes are very quiet, and largely consist of chords followed by silence, not too unlike the earlier work hevron-deir yassin.
The score is here.
Audio file (mp3) is here.
I’ve been living in the Cheltenham area for several years now, and my family has used Abington Memorial Hospital’s services as needed. I’ve known the ob/gyn chair, Dr. Joel Polin, for many years professionally, and also know that he is as supportive of abortion access as I am. Not many abortions take place annually at Abington; somewhere between 50-100/year overall. But if many are like the procedures I once performed at an inner-city hospital in Philadelphia, these are not cases that could be done at a freestanding clinic such as Planned Parenthood or Philadelphia Women’s Center. Access to abortion within teaching hospitals is important, both for the patients and for the next generation of abortion providers (ie, the residents). Hospitals are much less of a target for anti-choice protesters, and it is also easier to manage the occasional complication (abortion is a very safe procedure, but complications minor and major can happen). A few years ago, I counter-protested against some anti-choice folks at Abington, and I know that the hospital had stood up for reproductive rights and maintained their abortion services in the face of some opposition.
That may change. In a very surprising move, the Board of Directors of Abington Memorial Hospital has moved forward with a Letter of Intent to merge with the local Holy Redeemer Hospital, a Catholic hospital located not far away in the Meadowbrook section. As a result, even though Abington is the stronger party financially, abortions, selective reductions and physician-assisted suicide cannot be performed at Abington under the merger.
Now, physician-assisted suicide is not permitted in the Commonwealth of PA, so that is a nonissue. But abortion and selective reduction will be forbidden at Abington, as they would be at any Catholic sectarian entity. Under agreement, contraceptive and sterilization access will be maintained at Abington.
Some might say that this is really not too bad. Unlike what happens at Catholic institutions, women will still be able to get their contraceptives, and men and women can also undergo sterilization. There will still be IVF services and other assisted reproduction at Abington (just as Holy Redeemer has reproductive endocrinology services that involve assisted reproduction). Not many women locally undergo abortion, selective reduction is probably very uncommon even with all the IVF and ovulation induction going on, and this isn’t Mississippi. There are abortion providers in the Philadelphia area, including a hospital-based service at nearby Albert Einstein Medical Center (disclaimer: I have an adjunct faculty appointment at Einstein, but have no financial or other interest in that institution).
But this is not a minor issue; this is a problem of nuclear proportions. And it’s not just about abortion, but affects women who have very desired pregnancies. Here are some questions and issues that help demonstrate why this is a big deal:
• Selective reduction (which is not always thought of in the same context as abortion, as the intent is to sacrifice one or more multiple fetuses to save the remaining); for those women with triplets, quadruplets and higher-order multiple pregnancies, they will either have to undergo reduction in Philadelphia or else take their chances with the outcome
• Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM); will Abington physicians be permitted to induce labor in that situation or would they have to wait for intrauterine infection to evolve into sepsis? This is not a theoretical situation; this exact scenario played out with our former Senator’s wife (Karen Santorum). In that case, she made her own personal choice to delay labor induction. While it is not what I would recommend, I respect her choice as a patient. But that was her own choice, not one imposed upon her by a Catholic hospital.
• If there is nonreassuring fetal monitoring at < 26 weeks’ gestation, will women be given a choice of labor induction vs. stat classical Cesarean section (mandating future C/S)?
• Management of second-trimester inevitable miscarriage (eg, 18-22 weeks); will physicians be required to take unusual and medically futile measures?
• Provision of emergency contraception (EC); regardless of what the current plan and/or potential contract agreement is between the two hospitals, EC is (wrongly) considered to be an abortifacient by the Church and proscribed as much as surgical or medical abortion. So, if a victim of a sexual assault presents at Abington’s Emergency Ward (EW), will she be offered EC? At a significant number of sectarian and nonsectarian hospitals throughout Pennsylvania, EC is not offered to victims of sexual assault, so this is not a theoretical construct.
• Management of anencephalic and other lethal malformations detected with sonography or with other prenatal testing prior to, or past, the 24-week viability standard; based on Catholic teachings, abortion would not be available even in the presence of lethal anomalies
• Perinatal testing for pregnancies that are likely nonviable or severely compromised, with the potential for futile C/S if nonreassuring testing results from these actions
• Management of pregnant women with treatable cancers that are generally managed with pregnancy termination followed by definitive treatment of the malignancy (eg, stage IB cervical carcinoma diagnosed at 14 weeks’ gestation; one potential management option would be radiotherapy or D&E to terminate the pregnancy followed by gravid radical hysterectomy)
• What about the CREOG/RRC requirements to maintain AMH ‘s residency accreditation in light of the lack of training in abortion technique and aftercare?
• How will women who need postabortion care (for abortions done elsewhere) be managed?
• Will the merger affect standard management of ectopic pregnancies? I suspect not, but while treating a patient with a tubal pregnancy via laparoscopy at Graduate Hospital in the 90′s, a scrub nurse told me that if it were her, she would wait for her tube to rupture before taking action, since I was essentially terminating a life. This was a very good scrub nurse, and she knew very well the implications of untreated ectopic pregnancy, such as hemorrhage and death.
• How iron-clad is the commitment/agreement to continue to provide standard contraception and sterilization services?
• How will they weigh the life of a mother vs her unborn baby in circumstances where they may only save one life and the mother is not capable of expressing her desire? And would that differ from cases where the mother can express her desire?
• Management of severe non-immune hydrops fetalis during labor and deliver (ie, given the lethal nature of the condition for the fetus, will drainage of excess fetal fluid from various cavities be considered to effect vaginal delivery, or would that be proscribed as being similar to intact D&E?)
These are just some of the things I came up with off the top of my head in a few minutes the other week. I’m sure there are others I did not think of.
Abington Memorial is one of the largest hospitals in the county. While it is not a major academic medical center like Mass General or the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, it is a very large hospital that does more deliveries per year than many hospitals in the area. Over the past several years, we have lost many obstetrical services in the Philadelphia area; the hospital where my daughter was born is now a hospice or some other outpatient facility (ironically, owned by Abington Health). Two local hospitals within a short distance of Abington Memorial, Jeanes and Elkins Park Hospitals, no longer have OB care. It is not feasible for most women in the Abington/Jenkintown/Cheltenham area where I live to travel into Philly for their OB care and delivery, nor will most people choose to go to Einstein; it’s a good hospital, but it’s in an underserved area and most folks in my area just don’t go there. Einstein is building a new facility in the Blue Bell area, but unless you’re really determined to avoid Abington at all cost, it’s quite a hike from this area. So for all practical purposes, most women do not have other good options for their OB and other care.
I have nothing against Holy Redeemer Hospital per sé. It is a good hospital. My children see pediatricians in their medical office building. I have to remind myself that it is a Catholic institution; unlike places like Mercy-Suburban and other hospitals that are affiliated with the Sisters of Mercy, Holy Redeemer doesn’t wear its Catholicism on its sleeve. I’ve yet to see a cross there, not that there is anything wrong with it (the Pieta of Michelangelo is one of my favorite sculptures, ever). But my point is that it has a pretty low-key approach to being a Catholic hospital, to its credit. But at the same time, it remains a Catholic hospital. And while the folks who run it might be willing to look the other way when Abington, under the merger, provides sterilization and contraceptive care, they clearly will not, and cannot, support any affiliated entity having anything to do with abortion. Low-key, yes, but there are limits.
So that’s the quandary. In order to have this merger go through (and the business rationale for the merger, other than the value of the land Holy Redeemer sits on for additional office and OR space, escapes me), Abington will have to adhere to the directives of the Catholic Church as regards abortion and selective reduction. I respect all religions, regardless of my own atheism, and while I might not agree with Holy Redeemer banning abortion within its own hospital grounds, it is well within its right to do so. The problem is when sectarian hospitals merge with nonsectarian ones and impose their own sectarian beliefs on medical care delivered at the formerly nonsectarian institution.
We live in a diverse country, which is a good thing. And the Cheltenham/Abington/Jenkintown PA area is known for its diversity and generally progressive population of all religions, ethnicities and backgrounds. So the idea that a proposed takeover of a Catholic hospital would lead to the loss of abortion services at our most prominent local hospital, the one that is the stronger institution at this time, is mind-boggling and offensive to many in this area. As a result, more and more people are taking a stand against the merger, and that’s a good thing.
I’ve sent e-mails and received canned responses, so I imagine most people who write will receive similar responses from the Abington management. But the more people write, the more the board and other management at the health system know there is solid opposition to this.
We also need more physicians on staff at Abington to speak up and, if it comes to it, even resign their positions. When I was an attending physician at one Philadelphia hospital, I ended up leaving to go to Pennsylvania Hospital in large part because my former dept. chair was anti-choice and decided to go over my head and cancel one of two second-trimester abortions I had scheduled in the OR there (he couldn’t cancel the second patient, much as he wanted to, as I had already placed laminaria into the cervix to prepare it). At some point, we physicians need to uphold our own principles and ethical standards. If we cannot make a decision based on medical evidence but have to comply with religious dogma in certain situations, all of us have a choice to make in terms of whether or not that is acceptable based on our interest in providing the best medical care for our patients.
Abortion is not a happy procedure, unlike much of obstetrics (although OB is often anything but happy, but that’s another discussion). I’ve never had a patient who took it particularly lightly, or who loved undergoing the procedure. But it is often a necessary procedure, both medically and from a public health standpoint. Some of my colleagues have died for providing this legal procedure. LeRoy Carhart, whom I’ve spoken with and admire greatly, has had his life disrupted and threatened on multiple occasions for his dedication to providing this service to his patients. Warren Hearn, whom I also think very highly of as a physician, is often under armed guard due to threats against his life. Those of us who have provided abortion services do not have an easy time of it. Besides the protestors and the inappropriate social stigma, many of our own colleagues (even in ob/gyn) disrespect us and treat us like undesirables. So when I hear of yet another hospital that will no longer provide abortion services, it touches a raw nerve. Many people have worked for years to do whatever they could to make sure that women at least have some places where they can exercise control over their own reproductive destinies. That’s because a lot of us feel that women who cannot control their reproduction are not truly free. So this is important to those of us in women’s healthcare, and from the responses to the Abington Board’s decision, I’m glad that this is very important to a lot of people in the local area as well.
Feel free to e-mail the management of Abington Memorial Hospital. Just to make it easier, here are their e-mail addresses (keep it civil and polite, however. This isn’t personal):
Mr. Laurence M. Merlis (Chief Executive Officer and President): Lmerlis@amh.org
Meg McGoldrick (COO): Mmcgoldrick@amh.org
Ivy Silver (Chair, Foundation Board of Trustees): Isilver@amh.org
Robert Infarinato (Chairman of the Hospital Foundation, Chairman of the Board of Trustees): RInfarinato@amh.org
Lucie Cutterson, Catholic Healthcare Comes To My Hospital: a “win-win-win-win” for Holy Redeemer Health System « Alaina Mabaso's Blog, dtoub, and 2 others are discussing. Toggle Comments
When I was 17, I composed what I felt was the first piece that was truly mine. No one really had much of any input into it, and while it is very different from music I’ve written since, I still have a soft spot for this piece. I was very much enthralled with the fiction of James Joyce at that time, although I didn’t much care for his poetry, so I thought the poems were fair game to use in a song cycle. The second of the seven songs was the first piece of twelve-tone music I’d written, interestingly. The seven songs after poetry of james joyce was played once in 1979, and the tape of that performance is on my music page.
It has been bugging me for some time that I only have one copy of the handwritten score left, other than the original transparencies and manuscript (in pencil). And I know that there are errors in the score that needed to be fixed. So I’ve been inputting the score into Finale 2012, and have just started the fifth song, so I hope to have it done in the coming weeks. Other than fixing some tempi and tweaking the notation a little bit, it is the same score, but this one won’t fade.
I’ve been familiar with Peter Beinart’s writings since he wrote a very important piece in the New York Review of Books a few years ago that noted that younger Jews were becoming less and less concerned about Israel, He argued that this was in large part because Israel was no longer seen as an endangered nobel country, but rather as one that was an occupier that has amassed a very powerful military force insulating the country from any neighboring threats. Beinart also had once supported the Iraq war, but subsequently recanted. Of course, given that he is a well-educated journalist who is also an academic, it seemed curious to me that many of us who are not erudite journalists had no problem figuring out in the run up to the war that this was a really dumb and dangerous thing for the Bush administration to do. But Beinart did seem to hit the nail on the head regarding Israel and its powerful, blind supporters in the US, and if nothing else, he hit a serious nerve in the organized Jewish community.
I was so taken by what Beinart had written in the New York Review of Books that I went ahead and worked to bring him to my local reconstructionist synagogue, and he will be speaking there later this month. So when I learned that he was publishing a book on “The Crisis of Zionism,” I preordered it on Amazon and happily downloaded it to my iPhone’s Kindle reader within hours of it coming out last week.
Interestingly, from the stuff one can see on the Web, on TV and in other media, Beinart is largely being demonized as a “traitor” to the Jewish people, a “self-hating Jew” and probably worse epithets by now. Contrast that with the reaction to Gershon Gorenberg’s recent book that raises alarms about the ongoing settlement enterprise by the Israeli government; nary a bad word or remark, almost as if few even paid attention to Gorenberg’s book. Most likely, as a friend pointed out to me, this is because Gorenberg criticizes Israeli governmental policies. Beinart is taking on the US Jewish establishment, and that apparently hits a raw nerve.
Given all this, is Beinart’s book really a bomb thrown at the organized Jewish community, and is he Noam Chomsky-redux? I’ll cut to the chase: yes and no.
Let’s start with the good. The Crisis of ZIonism is well-written, and contains a lot of material that does question the standard narrative on Israel and criticizes, often vehemently, the large organizations that have come to speak for the US Jewish community, even when many of us within that community is in total conflict with the opinions proffered by those groups that claim to represent us. These include organizations such as AIPAC, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and so on. Beinart recounts, in painful detail, how many within those groups actively worked to derail the Middle East peace process, and even work against our current president when he suggested policies contrary to those of the Netanyahu administration in Israel. Beinart also points out the hypocrisy in criticizing President Obama (to whom Beinart refers as “The First Jewish President”) for verbally opposing settlement activities when previous Republican administrations actually went beyond verbal disagreements and withheld money and arms to Israel when they disagreed with Israeli policy and actions. So yes, Beinart does criticize, and appropriately so, the organized Jewish community.
Now for the bad; he’s no Noam Chomsky. Not even close. I’m not sure why he’s being referred to as an “ultraliberal;” if that’s the case, then many of us must be the second coming of Che Guevara. Beinart came across to me as wanting things both ways; he wants to criticize Israel for its interminable occupation of Palestinians, but also wants to support Israel so that his kinder, gentler pre-Netanyahu Israel can break through. The problem is that that kinder, gentler Zionism never existed. What Peter doesn’t call much attention to is the fact that the occupation started, continued and flourished under secular Labor governments that predated the current religious Zionism endemic within the settler movement. Ben Gurion, Dayan, Meir, Rabin, Peres, all of them secular and none of them did much to end the occupation. If anything, they all promoted it, including Rabin (to be fair, Rabin did eventually provide some reforms that helped Israelis of Palestinian descent, but a Lincoln he wasn’t). Beinart relates how Herzl and other early Zionists wanted to have Israel represent something akin to Vienna rather than the intolerant cruelty it currently represents. What Beinart omits is that in the early Zionist vision, the Arabs would live in peace under a Jewish government, albeit with equal rights but no land of their own. It is also quite true that when Israel was conceived, Jews were being slaughtered in many countries and no one really did give a damn. But it was also true that the early Zionists wanted a Jewish refuge, not necessarily a country where Jews ruled exclusively, and certainly not one in which Jewish law held sway. And for hundreds of years, many rabbis didn’t have any interest in settling in Israel nor did the average religious Jew; Israel was only to come into being through the return of the messiah. The real impetus for a Jewish refuge came out of the real persecution endemic in much of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Beinart correctly points out that the occupation is destroying Israel, and understands that it must end. So he wants to mobilize progressive Jews (or more precisely, “liberal Zionists,” as he terms them) to take action and reclaim his imaginary and elusive “feel-good, tolerant Zionism” to save Israel. But as he pointed out in his accurate New York Review of Books article, many young Jews in the US just don’t find Israel relevant to their daily lives. So Beinart really wants Jews to start caring about Israel and somehow convince Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land and devise a two-state solution. And to get these young progressive Americans to care about Israel, he feels the answer is to push for increasing enrollment in Jewish day schools (right after he points out that Jewish day schools are costly and tend to have fewer resources than secular schools). And then, to convince Israel to end its occupation, there should be a targeted boycott of goods from the West Bank (or “Zionist BDS, as he calls it, referring to the boycott/divest/sanction movement that targets Israel as a whole), but not of “democratic Israel,” as he terms the area within the Green Line that defines the 1948-1967 borders of Israel. And an element of his Zionist BDS is to instead invest in “democratic Israel,” which he defines as all territory not officially Occupied by Israel.
That’s his solution: daily Jewish education and a selective boycott of the “undemocratic” part of Israel.
That was the most disappointing aspect of this book for me; he can go just far enough to criticize the organized Jewish community in the US and the Netanyahu government, but can’t accept a boycott movement against Israel as a whole, nor does he seem to accept that since many of the really vehement settlers are orthodox Jews, perhaps Jewish education isn’t a definite recipe for more tolerance of Israel’s Palestinian citizens and (occupied) neighbors. Granted, Beinart does point out many aspects of Jewish teaching that should provoke revulsion at the current occupation. But clearly those important Jewish values are not guaranteed to cause religious Israelis to pull out of the West Bank and stop their control of Gazan life. Beinart very pointedly is against the BDS movement because in his view, it delegitimizes Israel. That seemed strange to me, when he had earlier correctly indicated that the sound-bite that criticizing Israeli policy is “delegitimization” amounts to a canard designed to delegitimize the complaint itself. Most people in the BDS movement are not antisemitic nor do they want to see Israel vanish. Just the opposite; many are Jews like me, who want Israel to be better. Clearly, Beinart wants that very much as well. But he has a fairly simplistic vision: all was good before the occupation and before right-wing governments came into power in Israel, so if a progressive government would just come into power in Israel, that country could go back to being a moral beacon, etc. But Israel has had liberal governments from day one, and under those governments chose to provide orthodox Jewish control over civil affairs such as marriage, and chose to continue and expand its control over Palestinians and their land. Beinart is operating under a very clean duality: liberal Zionism and President Obama = good, right-wing religious Zionism and Netanyahu = bad. But I’m still not clear what liberal Zionism is, exactly, and while I agree with every negative thing Beinart writes on Netanyahu and other right-wingers in Israeli politics, there is no evidence that a subsequent liberal/Labor government in Israel would do much of anything to reverse the occupation. If only it were that easy.
And Beinart’s solution also requires a two-state solution. That would have made sense in the 90′s when the Oslo Accords seemed to move things in that direction. But this is 2012, and without an Israeli retreat from settlements such as Ariel and several other large towns that Israel is loathe to ever give up, it’s unclear how any Palestinian state could comprise anything more than a series of Bantustans on non-adjacent land areas. Ariel, for example, would cut a Palestinian state in two. The entire “can’t we just rewind things back a decade or two” argument within The Crisis of Zionism just seems to be so much fanciful thinking to my mind, even constituting magical thinking. So what about a one-state solution then? Beinart condemns it (as does much of the Jewish establishment he rightfully criticizes), since he views it as the end of a Jewish state, and unworkable (he offers up the images of Belgium and Lebanon as examples of why a one-state solution likely is impossible to work in Israel). Yes, a one-state solution is not a slam-dunk, and is probably impractical. But a two-state solution is dead at this point. It hasn’t been a reality since 1967 nor was it a reality when the UN partitioned Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab sections with an internationalized Jerusalem. And let’s say a two-state solution happened tomorrow; would Israelis accept even a demilitarized Palestinian state on two sides containing at least a few radicals who want Palestine to comprise everything within the Green Line? And for that matter, would those religious Zionists accept giving up claims to Judea and Samaria, land that they believe is theirs? Some of these folks still believe Jordan should be part of Israel, based on some phrases from the Old Testament. And what of the settlements? And what of Israelis of Palestinian descent? And what happens to the Palestinian right of return? So yes, a one-state solution may be pie in the sky. But no less so than a two-state solution, and in some ways (S. Africa being a good example, although not a perfect analogy), perhaps a one-state solution would be more appropriate. It would allow everyone living there, Jew, Muslim and Christian, access to their holy sites regardless of whether they sit in what would have been Israel or Palestine. There would be one military, regardless of one’s religion. But what about a Jewish state? Depends what is meant by that. If it means a Jewish homeland, one which is free of persecution, then does it matter who is running the country? A Jewish state doesn’t have to mean having only Jews in primary positions of power. It can mean, however, a democracy where everyone is equal, but allows Jews to live in peace. There is just no more reason for Jews to be the exclusive power holders in a “Jewish state” than there was reason for white Afrikaners to be the exclusive power in a democratic S. Africa. Yes, I may be dreaming given the unlikely probability that a single democratic state would ever arise between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. But just because something might not happen doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t.
So ultimately, for all of Beinart’s valid criticisms of an organized Jewish community in the US that is woefully out of touch with its more progressive constituents, as well as his revulsion at the occupation and the Netanyahu government in Israel, his solutions fall flat and his vision is ultimately surprisingly and disappointingly naive. He ignores the discrimination inherent in even the early conceptions of ZIonism that involved a return to Israel (and that assumed an acquiescence on the part of the Palestinian population indigenous to that area). He pushes for a selective “Zionist BDS” that only targets the West Bank, which is neither practical nor useful, while condemning a wider and potentially more powerful BDS movement against Israel as a whole (consistent with this, Beinart recently praised the failure of a NYC food coop to put forward a boycott of Israeli goods). The truth is that the occupied territories and Israel are intimately linked.
Beinart wants to hold on to a two-state solution and condemns a one-state vision, while hoping to enlist young progressive Jews in the effort towards propping up Israel and undoing the settlement enterprise. Beinart opines that those young Jews would be more committed to activism on behalf of a two-state solution were they going to Jewish day schools every day (disclaimer: my wife and I sent both of our children to Quaker schools for part of their education, and they currently attend secular public schools, as did both of us when we were that age). None of this makes a whole lot of sense to me, much as I understand where he is coming from. There is little or no mention of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace that are currently working to end the occupation but that also support BDS efforts. There isn’t even a whole lot of mention of Palestinians, period, except for a few prominent names like Saeb Erekat and Yasir Arafat.
I have no question that Beinart sympathizes with the Palestinians. But he feels very strongly (not surprising given his modern Orthodox adherence) that there is a religious, biblical and historical right for Jews to inhabit and run Israel, and that would be destroyed by any Palestinian right of return and/or a one-state solution. While Israel exists and is not going away, the religious dogma or historical justifications for Jewish control of Israel are thin. Why wouldn’t the Ba’hai or other religious minorities that are persecuted not then also deserve their own states, for example?
It is also very understandable that Beinart cannot support the current Netanyahu government. But while Netanyahu and his administration are certainly suboptimal, it’s not like a Peres government or a Barak government led to an end to the occupation and equal rights for Israelis of Palestinian descent. Beinart feels there is a democratic Israel within the Green Line and an undemocratic one in the occupied territories. Truth is, while Israel is ostensibly a democracy, it has been drifting away from democracy for some time, even before the current Netanyahu government. There is gross discrimination against Israelis of Palestinian ancestry; Beinart makes that very clear in is book. Yet he seems to feel that bad as that is, at least that group has citizenship; Palestinian within the territories lack citizenship and are governed by military rule while settlers are governed by Israeli rule. But consider that Black Americans had citizenship in the US for years but were horribly persecuted and discriminated against for much of the 20th century. We were a democracy then, too. There is no place for the systematic discrimination against non-Jewish Israelis who also identify with Palestinian Arabs. There is thus something wrong when it’s fair to boycott “undemocratic Israel” (ie, the Occupied Territories) yet unfair to boycott a “democratic Israel” that is becoming less democratic, discriminates against 20% of its population and gives material, legal and financial support to the occupation enterprise. It’s not like everything within the Green Line is good and the occupation beyond it is bad; both are intimately linked, and the occupation could not exist were it not for everyone and everything within the Green Line. Beinart also feels that East Jerusalem is less discriminatory than the occupied territories, as Palestinians are eligible to apply for citizenship within East Jerusalem. But that really doesn’t make Israel particularly democratic in practice, nor does it mean that Israel proper deserves support while boycotting settlement goods.
On a more mundane note, this is also a short book. I was surprised to have finished it with my Kindle Reader indicating that I was around 47% through the book, meaning that over 50% of the book consists of endnotes, references and acknowledgements. I literally finished the book in three days.
The Crisis of Zionism was a worthwhile book to have read. It provides a good deal of interesting detail about selected US Jewish organizations, the hidden dealings between US administrations and Israel over the years, and takes Israel and the US Jewish establishment to task for supporting the occupation and undermining more liberal American presidents. But I was ultimately very disappointed by the “solutions” presented by Beinart, his holding to the idea that there is a better, kinder Israel just waiting to be freed by the efforts of young progressive Jews if they only attended heder every day, and his condemnation of BDS and a one-state solution as inimical to a Jewish state and even (in the case of BDS), fundamentally antisemitic.
While I haven’t been blogging very much for awhile (Facebook and Twitter have gotten the brunt of my thoughts, and I’ve been very busy with work travel, family, etc.), there has been a lot of back and forth in my own life lately about Israel. Most recently, Peter Beinart has been stirring things up with his comments about the Occupation and Zionism, in anticipation of his forthcoming book. I got to know Peter about two years ago through a really nice essay he wrote on the fact that younger US Jews are losing any connection to, and interest in, Israel. It really shook up the organized Jewish community here in the states, and I was glad to see that. So I reached out to Peter and he will be giving a set of lectures at my reconstructionist synagogue in PA.
But in reality, Peter Beinart and I are not entirely aligned on Israel. For all the talk out there of how he is a “traitor” to the Jewish people, a “self-hating Jew,” etc., the reality is that he is pretty moderate. He is an Orthodox Jew. He supports a two-state solution. He supports Israel, just not the settlements. He feels that any right of return for the Palestinians would be suicidal for Israel. And he is very much against the BDS movement (boycott, divest, sanction) aimed at Israel.
In contrast, I am secular and atheist, support a one-state solution in principle, have no great interest in supporting Israel any more than any other well-off country (I feel much better when my family supports Sudan or other underprivileged nations), support the right of return for Palestinians to their homes in what is now Israel, and do support BDS. Since this stuff keeps coming up, and I’ve probably lost a few friends as a result of not keeping my views to myself (although I know I’ve gained far more friends as a result), here is a quick synopsis of my views on Israel, so as to avoid any confusion.
- I believe that in the context of the times, when Jews were indeed being slaughtered throughout Europe and Russia, it was understandable for Jews to have wanted a place where they could be safe. The early Zionists were secular, and were not initially focused on Israel. Basically, any place where they could settle and be safe, including Madagascar and Uganda, was perfectly fine with them. Besides, for hundreds of years, most Jews declined to settle in Palestine, since it was not a religious compulsion (just the opposite; most rabbis felt that Israel could only be resettled upon the return of the messiah).
- I reject any biblical justification for Jewish settlement in Israel. There is little or no historical evidence that most of the Bible ever happened, and it’s even been argued by folks like Shlomo Sand that there was never a true exile of the Jews from Israel at the hands of the Romans.
- Israel is a fact on the ground. It was established by the UN, and isn’t going anywhere. So criticisms, and boycotts, of Israel can no more “delegitimize” Israel than a breath can collapse an 8,000-meter mountain. Only Israel can hurt itself. And boy, does it.
- Israel is a beautiful country. I’ve been there. But it is also a very conflicted country, and one that does not provide equal freedoms or support to Israelis of Arab origin, women, Mizrahi Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, immigrants from Asia and sub-Saharan africa, Ethiopian Jews and Bedouin. It is not apartheid in the fullest sense of the word, but it comes pretty damned close to being that way.
- Israel has also become more fascist in its approaches to its Arab population and anyone who isn’t among the majority Jewish population. Avigdor Lieberman is a fascist (there, I’ve said it). It’s no surprise that the current Israeli government is viewed favorably by racists and anti-Muslim gentiles like Geert Wilders and Marine La Pen. Then again, the Etzel (Stern Gang) were also fascists and looked to Nazi Germany for support (these extremist Jews were ignored, incidentally).
- A two-state solution sounds great. But it has never ever worked for Israel or for Palestine. And it’s hard to see how current plans would permit a true Palestinian state to exist, given that it would be split into many parts by territory claimed by Israel. A one-state solution has its issues as well, but if both sides were willing to trust and respect the other, and offer equal rights, then it would be possible. Gandhi never wanted to partition India. It was partitioned, and millions died in the process, there have been several wars between India and Pakistan, and Bangladesh was not exactly an easy ride, either. In the end, Jews and Palestinians are interconnected in ways that are not really severable. The borders need to reflect that; Palestinian Jews , Muslims and Christians coexisted relatively (though not 100%) well for centuries. The fundamental conflict is not about religious differences, but about land.
- I don’t care if Israel is a “Jewish state” if that means that it is a near-theocracy, a state dominated by one religion in which religious laws are invoked in many civil matters (such as marriage). To me, a Jewish state is a Jewish homeland, a place where Jews can live without internal persecution. That does not require a Jewish majority, nor Jewish control. But it does require democracy and equal rights. Jews can live however they want to individually live under a Jewish, or Muslim, or Christian leadership. I’ve yet to see anything but a Christian leadership in the US, and Jews and Muslims have done well (although there remains a lot of persecution of Muslims in the US, and there once was a lot of antisemitism).
- While there have been Jewish populations in other countries that understandably sought, and required, refuge in Israel, I also feel it is a shame that so many Arab or Muslim countries where there once were Jews are now largely or entirely devoid of them. Again, some of this certainly was due to antisemitism, as in Iraq and Egypt. But in other cases, such as Morocco (generally lacking in antisemitism), it was in part due to Israeli actions, and sometimes (as has been claimed for Iraq), even due to incitement by Israel. When Israel was a much more secular, even socialist, country, the ideal was for Jews to speak the same language, with the same accent/pronunciation, and for Jews to all make aliyah to “eretz yisroel.” Problem was, Jews lived (and still do, fortunately) all over, had different skin tones, different accents, languages, cultures, etc. So while Ben Gurion wanted Jews to emigrate to Israel, it wasn’t easy if you were a Jew from the Maghreb, the Kurdish areas, etc. You were a second-class citizen at best, and were made to feel unwelcome. The power was concentrated in the Ashkenazim. And if you think about it, having all the Jews migrate to Israel, so that they’re all in one place, makes it much easier for another Hitler to wipe them out, no? I think of that every time some Israeli leader exhorts French Jews or US Jews to make aliyah.
- Iran is a huge violator of human rights, and a lousy theocratic government that oppresses homosexuals, Ba’hai, and many other groups. But it is not an antisemitic country (there are 25,000 Jews who, while they live somewhat separate lives from their Shia neighbors, are respected as members of another Abrahamic religion). Iran, despite its leader’s rhetoric, has not placed its Jews in concentration camps. So while I’m not going to defend a regime of which I’ve always been critical, let’s not beat the drums for another unnecessary war, either.
- Which brings me to the lobby. No, Jews do not control the media, world financial markets or the press. We’re really not that powerful, and the notion of a “Jewish lobby” is at its core, antisemitic. But I think anyone who feels the Israeli lobby does not have a major influence on Congress and Mideast policy is deluded.
- Let me also be clear that any comparisons between Israel and Nazis are wrong, stupid and even antisemitic. Israel, for all its faults, is not committing a holocaust against the Palestinians, nor is it anything close to a Nazi party. I do think one could make a good case, however, that the Israeli government has adopted some policies that many of us do feel are very close to fascist, if not fascist indeed. But fascist policies alone do not Nazis make.
- The Holocaust pervades Israeli society. The significance of the Holocaust in terms of Israeli mindset and behavior cannot be overemphasized. But at the same time, the Naqba also needs to be acknowledged by the Israeli government, and Israel needs to come to grips with the fact that 1/5 of its population generally believes that Israeli Independence Day is a day of mourning, no less than some American Indians hate Columbus Day and perhaps even resent July 4th. And understandably so. At the same time, more Palestinians need to acknowledge, not deny, the Holocaust (and indeed, many of them have made major efforts in this regard).
- Palestinians deserve their right of return. This won’t destroy Israel, but strengthen it. It makes no sense, nor is it compassionate, that I could decide tomorrow to emigrate to Israel and I would have citizenship rights on the spot, yet a Palestinian whose family left Haifa in 1948 could not do that, or even travel via Ben Gurion Airport (as a friend’s Palestinian husband, a distinguished economist, can’t do, for example).
- Palestine is not a dirty word. Nor are Palestinians an “invented people.”
- Birthright Israel and other “rah rah Israel” efforts to indoctrinate US Jewish youth, are misguided, one-sided and propaganda. I will never support stuff like that.
- I support BDS for the same reason that I supported the boycott of apartheid S. Africa. This doesn’t mean that all Israelis are of one mind; many are against the Occupation just as there were S. Africans who were against apartheid and worked with the ANC and other groups against it. But boycotting is a nonviolent way to foment social change. It is not “delegitimizing” to support BDS. Israel’s own actions do itself an injustice far more than any boycott could. That said, I don’t support boycotts that involve academia or the arts; I like to think that the arts and academics are beyond politics. Indeed, both foster understandings of “the other,” so I just can’t support those boycotts. But outside of that, I’m fine with BDS.
- I also do not support the Jewish National Fund (it expelled Palestinians and that was its raison d’etre), Hillel, the ADL (I used to, but it is now a right-wing and diseased organization), or AIPAC, and have my misgivings about J Street (they’re too wishy-washy and bought into the right-wing canards about BDS).
- I wish Obama had threatened to defund Israel over the continued support and expansion of the settlements
- All Palestinians are not terrorists. All Israelis are not oppressors.
- Politicians in the US cannot criticize Israel and survive politically. Israeli politicians, however, can criticize Israel with impunity. Why can’t politicians in any country criticize Israel and have their opinion respected? Israel is more progressive than much of the Western world, in this regard.
- Yes, Israel is not Syria. It does not torture and murder thousands of its citizens. But I’d like to think Israel lives up to a higher standard than “it’s not Syria.”
- I’m not a self-hating Jew. No one, except for some people with major depression, hate themselves in the true sense of the term. Labelling people as Nazis, traitors and self-hating Jews merely shows that the organized US Jewish community is threatened by those who speak out against bad Israeli policies.
- There is nothing of which I am aware in Jewish law that says one has to support Israel. Last time I checked, I was a US citizen. I don’t vote in any Israeli elections. I don’t receive support from Israel, nor do I pay taxes to Jerusalem. So I have nothing to do with Israeli policy, and resent the idea that if someone is Jewish, ergo they must support Israel. In the proudest Jewish tradition, many of us feel perfectly free to criticize what we don’t like about Israeli actions/policies. Unfortunately, many organized Jewish institutions do not understand Jewish tradition.
- Is there a double standard regarding Israel? Yes, there is. But the fact that human rights abuses by Turkey, Iran, China and many other countries don’t command as much attention as the Israeli occupation still doesn’t make the occupation right. The argument that “well, they do it too” really is a weak one; we don’t accept it from children, right?
I could go on, but at least this is a start. I was trying to be as honest as possible and not leave any major issues off the table.
Please feel free to comment. And be forthright; I can take the criticism. But please, don’t start with the “self-hating Jew” remarks. It’s getting old.