Counterpoint: Rising above 'left' and 'right'

It is unnatural, if not irresponsible, not to continually rethink one's political opinions

david forman 88 (photo credit:)
david forman 88
(photo credit: )
Is it possible to be politically conservative and socially liberal at the same time? It should be. There is no rule that says political and social views must be consistent with one another. Indeed, Ralph Waldo Emerson's statement that "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" is an apt description for those who are persistently one-dimensional in their thinking. The late Knesset member Yuri Shtern (Israel Beiteinu) was a political rightist, and yet he was a true social democrat whose concern for human rights issues, both in Israel and in the territories, made him the deeply moral human being he was. And then there are Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak, the successive heads of a supposedly politically leftist party, who have propped up the reactionary social and economic policies of their conservative coalition partners, making them the deeply disingenuous human beings they are. In an ever-changing world, while one can and should sustain his or her core values, it is virtually impossible to maintain a consistent ideological worldview. In our tiny region of the globe, events change at such a fast pace that it would be unnatural, if not irresponsible, not to continually rethink one's political opinions. The passage of time can help one put the course of recent history into perspective. A series of events or a particular experience may recast one's long-held notions on matters of immediate and future importance. One might define this process as learning from one's mistakes. Or there may just be a genuine intellectual maturation that takes place based on new realities, or realities that were always present, but were blurred by the foolish idea that consistency should be considered a cherished principle. One of the harsh realities that the Left here refuses to face is that peace with the Palestinians may be forever elusive. One of the harsh realities that the Right refuses to face is that human rights must never become elusive: Consequently, political and social alliances must be realigned. OVER THE years, my political philosophy vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has evolved. I have little confidence that the Palestinians, certainly under the present leadership, are either willing to or capable of reaching a peace accord based on a two-state solution. It is becoming abundantly clear that the Palestinians may never accept an equal division of this land. Peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt notwithstanding, the majority of Arab nations will not tolerate a Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world. Perhaps the writing has always been on the wall but we failed to internalize it, as Arab countries rejected the 1947 UN partition plan and, upon the departure of the British, attacked Israel with the goal of driving the Jews into the sea. Yasser Arafat may have been to blame for the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations, but his reasons for walking away from a historic agreement were foolishly consistent, as reiterated last week by Khaled Mashaal at the National Palestinian Conference in Damascus: "armed struggle until Jerusalem is liberated and all refugees are returned to the provisional borders of 1948." While one can recount missteps Israel has made since its creation - including the settlement enterprise - the basic fact remains: The Arab world refers to Israel Independence Day as Nakba Day - the day of the great catastrophe. Hizbullah, Hamas, Iran and even the "moderate" Fatah are ultimately all dedicated to Israel's destruction, as was Arafat. So let's face it, the sad reality, for now anyway, is that peace with the Palestinians is not in the cards. Further, unless Islam undergoes a theological, cultural or social reformation, not only Israel but the entire free world will be threatened by Islamic fundamentalism. Therefore, Israel must defend itself, which means retaliatory raids, targeted assassinations, preemptive strikes and building temporary walls. With all the complexities of occupying another people, which necessarily compromises our Jewish moral value system, if we hope to stop rockets from falling on Sderot and prevent them from raining down on other parts of the country, we may have to intermittently lay siege to Gaza and remain in the West Bank. YET EVEN as I may espouse the political philosophy above, it would be mistaken to brand me as an intransigent right-winger; just as it would be incorrect to judge me as an unrepentant left-winger because I also happen to believe that our continued occupation must not lessen our concern for Palestinian human rights. Any security measures we institute in defense of our country will injuriously impact the civil liberties as well as the humanitarian fabric of Palestinian daily life, but Right and Left must accept the thesis that we must do our best to limit the negative impact. This means that food, medical supplies and generators for hospitals must be provided to Gaza. Internal road blocks in the West Bank that are simply punitive, not essential to prevent drive-by shootings or thwart suicide bombings, must be removed. Tax moneys collected on behalf of Palestinians must be released. Administrative detention, land expropriations, school closings, home demolitions, protracted curfews, excessive incarcerations must cease. In short, the elemental human rights of Palestinians must be safeguarded. LIFE IS replete with inconsistencies, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, for us Jews, it would be wrong not to be consistent in one critical area that rises above political and social labels: being socially accountable for the well-being of another people - the Palestinians - and being politically responsible for the security of our own people.