As an Israeli who lives in New York, I know that I can sometimes be unfair. On the one hand, I often get defensive when people criticize Israel. On the other, I can also get upset when people seem to blindly support Israel. Criticizing Israel is allowed, and even important for Israel’s wellbeing, but there are productive and unproductive ways to do it. In that spirit, here are eight ground rules that I believe can help improve the Israel debate.
Many conversations about Israel deteriorate into fights over whether or not the country even has the right to exist. This is not a productive question. Everyone has the right to exist all over the world, and that should never be doubted. The real question is whether Israel has the right to continue pursuing some of its policies.
The Israeli government is a coalition that is expected in some way to represent at least a majority of Israelis. That does not mean that all Israelis agree with the actions of Israel’s government. And just as there is a diversity of opinions in Israel, we should also expect and accept that Jews in the Diaspora will have a diversity of opinions.
Conversations about Israel tend to drag out when you’re simultaneously trying to prove your loyalty to, and criticize, Israel. Save yourself the trouble. Supporting Israel’s government is not the only way to show you’re a good Jew or patriotic Israeli. Criticizing can also be a form of caring.
Newly minted New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner dodged a question at a mayoral debate last night on the controversial Jewish circumcision practice known as metzitzah b’peh.
The practice, which entails direct oral suction on an infant’s circumcised penis, has been blamed in a handful of cases of herpes. The city’s health department, under the urging of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has instituted a regulation requiring parents to sign a consent form indicating that they are aware of the risk of herpes transmission before the practice can take place.
The Democratic mayoral candidates have previously mostly said that they support the regulation.
Weiner, when asked about his position on the consent forms at a forum in Manhattan Beach, didn’t address the question directly.
“For me, it comes down to my values as someone who believes in the ethos of New York, and part of that ethos of New York is we all come from different places, we bring different cultures, we bring different ideas,” Weiner said.
In his response, Weiner also cited a 2005 Forward report from his previous run for mayor in which he said that he opposed city regulation of the practice.
“It is not the place of the department of health to be deciding on a religious practice,” he told the Forward at the time.
As the election enters its final stretch, the Forward is making some final projections for our congressional scorecard based on the latest polling results.
We now predict at least 31 Jews — 10 in the Senate and 21 in the House of Representatives — will serve in the next Congress, a slight rise from the initial projection of 30.
But the biggest shift doesn’t change the numbers either way. We are now projecting that Rep. Brad Sherman will likely win his intramural fight with fellow Los Angeles Jewish Democratic Rep. Howard Berman.
The race, which ranked as one of the nastiest in the nation, has been seen as close from the beginning when they were thrown together to fight for one seat due to redistricting in the suburban San Fernando Valley. The two even nearly got into a physical altercation during debate. Berman had the backing of Democratic heavyweights, while Sherman held on to a strong ground operation.
A startling video posted online Thursday night shows California Rep. Brad Sherman violently grabbing his bitter rival Rep. Howard Berman during a debate.
The confrontation between the two Jewish Democrats fighting for their political lives was shot at a Thursday night debate at Pierce College, according to a report in the Los Angeles Daily News.
Sherman put his right arm around Berman and shook him slightly as the two argued over a federal immigration bill, the paper wrote. Berman looked to the audience, shocked. Sherman let go, then stuck his face in Berman’s as a sheriff’s deputy approached.
“You want to get in my face?” Sherman shouted.
Despite the widespread system failures that deprived thousands of viewers live streaming footage of the Bill O’Reilly vs Jon Stewart smackdown your Forward live blogger was here glued to a computer that was working and plugged in and was live blogging it.
7:45 Tension is mounting as the first entertaining debate of the presidential election beckons. Tall Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly, against small Comedy Central funny man, Jon Stewart. Stewart has promised to have O’Reilly saying Stewart’s “Haftarah” by the end of the event, O’Reilly thinks he’ll be fine without Stewart’s 18 writers helping him out in the background.
7:50 Not to spoil you with too regular updates but, assuming that the internet holds up its end of the bargain, the tedium, mendacity, obfuscation and poor moderation of Wednesday’s debate can be left behind. No altitude sickness, no Big Bird and no votes at stake.
7:55 The debaters are in the auditorium. Repeat, people who care passionately about their positions, who have significant followings and who can speak articulately and entertainingly about the issues that matter in Election 2012 are about to engage in infotainment. They are currently quipping about air conditioning.
The first presidential debate just ended and I’ve pressed the mute button on the remote control. Without listening to the yammering of the pundits, here are some of my immediate impressions.
1) Serious Energy Deficit: I’m not talking about economics here. I mean the basic level of emotion and personality and spunk expressed between the two contenders. Mitt Romney had it and the president simply didn’t. It was like someone had replaced Obama’s coffee with decaf. If the biggest impact of these debates is the basic, visceral impression they offer of the candidates and less the words coming out of their mouths, Romney just looked more jazzed. And that counts for a lot.
2) Talking In Two Different Languages: If you were listening to what they were saying there was a repeated refrain coming from the president. He kept asking for details. Romney kept avoiding offering them, speaking instead at a higher rhetorical level. Obama would ask again, trying to punch holes by asking for more information about how exactly Romney was going to achieve these lofty objectives (like how he was going to pay for anything without raising any revenue). Depending on your perspective, you found the rhetoric uplifting or the reality checks refreshing. I have a feeling I know what might have appealed to the undecideds.
3) No Social Issues: The debate was very wonky and really dealt mostly with economic issues like taxes and the deficit. There was no talk of immigration or gun control or gay marriage, for example. If this was the only domestic-themed debate, that’s really too bad. A lot of distinction between these two could be drawn on these issues, and for those supporting the president it might have helped stop Romney from reclaiming the mantle of the center (clearly an objective of the governor’s tonight).
4) Does any of it matter?: Frank Rich had an interesting tweet at one point late in the evening. “What are going to be the replayed sound bites tomorrow? If none, it’s a non-event except for the junkies & partisans,” he wrote. Is he right? I don’t know. Maybe if I turn on the volume again I’ll have a better idea about whether or not this debate will have traction. But the level of impact of past debates did tend to hinge on whether they produced a moment, and I’m not sure that in all that wonkishness there was some crystallizing difference that was established between the two men (besides that one of them needs more sleep). Then again, there was that reference by Romney to offing Big Bird. That should at least keep the Twitterverse busy for days.
What did you think of the debate? Tell us in the comments.