Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hanson on Gaza

I am uneasy about the Gaza pullout; unsure it will work and unsure that it is right. But I hopeful too, that it might work out for the best. Victor David Hanson pens an essay that captures that hopefullness and explains just how the Gaza pullout just might be the best strategy in the long term.

Monday, August 15, 2005

On the history of Israel

The following is a response to a post at the Rand-Discussion group at Yahoo Groups. The quotations are from the poster. I do not beleive them to be taken out of context.


Not sure what this post is doing on an Ayn Rand list, but I noticed several gross historical errors in this post. I hestiate to respond because I do not wish to engage in a debate on these issues (because they typically degenerate into something not worthy of discussion). Nonetheless, the errors were egregious enough that some statement needed to be made.

"So with America and its many powerful Jewish citizens behind it, a plan was created to hand over control of Palestinian land to Jews."

First, the Americans had very little involvment in the UN commission that recommended the partition. (The commission was constituted by: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia) The US did work to create support for the partition in the general assembly vote, but it was hardly America's plan. Second, there was, no doubt, tremendous and vocal support from the American Jewish community for a Jewish state, but the Truman administration was more likely responding to general American support rather than some silly notion of powerful Jewish citizens behind the adminstration (according to some public opinions at the time 65% of American support the establishing of a Jewish state).

Most importantly, there was no plan "to hand over control of Palestinian land to Jews". Prior to Partition, Jews settled on land that was purchased or abandoned. The UN Partition planned called for a division of Palestine into two areas: Jewish and Arab. The partition was based on population. The areas that Jews got were the areas that Jews had a majority or ones that were largely unpopulated/unowned (60% of the Jewish Partition was the Negev desert). And the areas the Arabs were allocated were where Arabs had a majority. Most of the land that was turned over to the nascent Jewish state was land controled by the British Mandatory government and not owned by Arabs.

Hardly a plan to take land away from rightful owners.

"Not one in ten thousand today can tell you what the Palestines were given in return, myself included."

The UN Partition called for a partition into a Jewish and an Arab state. The Jews declared statehood when the Brits left and the partition begin. The Arabs declared war and invaded. So, what the Palestinians were given was the opportunity for an independent state of their own. The leaders of the Arab world chose instead to invade the Israeli state. I don't think any historical scholar believes that had the armies of Syria, Jordan and Egypt pushed the Jews out, that they would have set up an independent state for the Palestinian Arabs. It is more likely they would have divided up the area between the three of them. Evidence for this is the period between 1948 and 1967 when Jordan and Egypt controlled, respectively, the West Bank and Gaza (areas mostly alotted to Palestinian Arabs under the Partition) and did nothing to set up a Palestinian state, deal with refrugees, or establish Palestinian self-rule. (It is also telling that Palestinians didn't begin to call for their own state until after 1967 and these areas were controlled by Israel)

" Israel's troubles are thus partly due to the fact that they as a
nation originated as a UN resolution, and did not grow organically
through a political process that included the voice of indiginous

The state of Israel _did_ grow organically from the early 1900s until 1948. The institutions and organizations that become the State of Israel did not spring into existence on May 15, 1948, but had been developing and growing for decades. Moreover, the Arabs probably had more of a voice than Jews in the process through the other Arab countries in the UN general assembly.

"The US, particularly during the critical
Kissinger years, simply looked aside and gave Israel free reign,
peferring to stall any final settlement talks, allowing Israel more
time to crush insurgents. "

Anyone well versed in the history of US-Israel relations knows how untrue this statement is. The US has always used its close relationship with Israel to hold Israel back. The US was pivotal in getting Israel to give back the Sinai after the Suez War and the 6 Day War (in the US brokered peace treaty with Egypt in 1978). By analogy, giving the Sinai back to Egypt would have been like the US being forced to give Alaska back to the Russians during the height of the Cold War. (There is also a questionable insinuation here that Kissinger -- who's Jewish--played a role in letting Israel have "free reign")

"did it take 911 to make the United
States realize it must force Israel to relinquish its hold on the
occupied territories?"

This is not a historical inaccuracy per se, however, it is based on an incorrect assumption. The US is not forcing Israel out of Gaza. While the adminstration is vocally supporting the plan, it is my understanding that there are many in the adminstration and congress that are against the pullout. Morever, it is also my understanding that this has been an idea floating around Israeli policy circles for years and is largely a homegrown idea.

Also, wouldn't it make more sense, after 9/11, for the US to pressure Israel to stay in Gaza and the other disputed terrorities for the same reasons we are in Iraq: to destroy the centers of terrorist activities?

"[The Israel-Palestinian conflict] has directly lead to the present state of terrorist warfare."

The idea that somehow if Israel didn't exist, that the US wouldn't be under attack from Islamic terrorism is absurd. The Islamists do not hate and attack America(and the West) because of Israel. They hate Israel because it is part of the West. Al Qaeda rhetoric doesn't mention or where it does gives small mention to Israel before and after 9/11. Though sometimes Israel gets prominent place in rhetoric, the thrust of anti-American(Western) hostilities is because we are a symbol of individualism, secularism, and freedom. I suggest the following:

Personally, I have my doubts about the disengagement plan. I fear that the Palestinian Arabs will take this as a sign of weakness on the part of Israel and continue terrorism with renewed fervor.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Taking Harry Higher

My undergraduate alma mater, Tufts University, recently did a web page cover story on yours truly. You can read the profile here. The web cover page has since changed, but you can see what it looked like here.

For the cover photo, Tufts sent a professional photographer to snap some shots of me. It lasted an hour and half and required a few wardrobe changes. I felt like a real celebrity, it was very odd. But alas, no groupies.

Academia and Rand

An interesting extracurricular discussion at the graduate seminar was to what extent one should be open about his interest in Rand. While I recognize that there are those in academia that are hostile to Rand and her ideas, I personally have never encountered such hostility. Nor have I ever felt that my interest in Rand was held against me in any way.

My experience has always been that what counted was how well I did my work--not what particular beliefs I hold. This is how it should be. I am sure there are those that fall short of upholding this ideal, but that has never given me enough reason to go 'in the closet' about my interest in Rand. I've always been pretty straightforward about what positions I hold, and I don't know how not to be.

There is outright bias against a thinker--which is inappropriate and irrational. This certainly exists in some quarters against Rand. I am less concerned about this. I'd rather not be in a department with faculty who would hold my particular interests and positions against my like that.

But there are legitimate concerns here about someone with a deep and committed interest in a particular thinker. (1) a concern that the individual will have tunnel vision and thereby not have the proper perspective on the whole field of philosophy. (2) a concern that an individual will treat the classroom as a source of philosophical 'converts'. (3) a concern that an individual will be biased in the teaching (and grading) of philosophy.

Such concerns arise regardless of the thinker, but I believe are heightened with a thinker like Rand who is outside of the mainstream of academic philosophy.

I don't think I fall prey to those three concerns. My goal as a teacher has never been to make more Objectivists. Such a goal is completely out of wack in education. My goal is to teach my students how to think, to open their minds to the world of ideas and reason. With this as my goal, those three concerns are not even issues for me. I hope that any potential employers will look at my record and see that as well.

TOC Graduate Seminar

I spent last week in DC at TOC's Graduate Seminar. It was a very productive and engaging week. We went through the corpus of Rand's ethical and politcal thought, as well as some recent criticisms of her thought. We also compared her approach to the approaches of other philosophers who were looking to establish somewhat similar conclusions.

One of the most fruitful parts of the seminar is the papers all the participants have to write. Limited to a very small 5 pages, each student is severely and thoroughly critique in style, technique, and substance. It is a humbling but worthwhile experience.