Wisdom and justice are elusive topics, with numerous issues on their borders.
Israel presents the topics of settlements, Jonathan Pollard, as well as the Temple Mount, dealt with in an earlier note ("Here and there," July 30)
Settlement is either the curse of post-1967 Israel, the fulfillment of God's promise, an appropriate response to Arab rejections, and/or a way to get more of contested real estate.
Americans have their own problems on the borders of wisdom and justice. Excessive police force in the land of the free is a prominent example.
Illegal immigration troubles those in many places who worry about what is just and/or wise.
Should Israelis stop building in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem or established settlements in the West Bank until Palestinians agree to negotiate from where we are, rather than where things stood in 1967 or 1947? Or maybe send in the IDF to expel Jews from their homes, and hope that all will be well--among Jews, with Palestinians, as well as with international public opinion?
By no means should we stop arguing the justice or wisdom in what was done years ago or this morning. Then we'll no longer be Jews.
Currently we've been riled by the fate of two buildings in a settlement with the provocative name of Beit El. Palestinians claim they were built on land they owned, but such claims are always in the air and often clouded by other Palestinians who sold the land to Jews. In this case the structures were built without the proper approvals, a court order demanding their destruction, and lots of intense protesters, endorsed by some ranking politicians, claiming Jews should never expel Jews from anywhere in the Promised Land. The destruction of illegal structures in Beit El can be seen as the government's balance for doing the same to illegal Palestinian buildings in areas controlled by Israel.
When a final court order produced the destruction of two structures, a Knesset Member of Jewish Home said that the government should send the bulldozers against the Supreme Court building. The Prime Minister criticized that member of his coalition, and nodded toward his settler constituency by approving the construction of 300 units elsewhere in Beit El, and more in East Jerusalem.
We're also a decade from the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza, which has brought forth a stream of protests about what some call Israel's worst action. Others think it was Ariel Sharon at his best.
There have also been West Bank activists reoccupying a settlement area that was cleared years ago, with the police having to clear them again.
Judge if you wish. There's plenty to find in the media of recent days.
Now that Jonathan Pollard has been given a date for his release, his case is back in the media.
His story presents several troublesome issues, both with respect to US and Israeli treatments of those who have broken important rules.
He represents stiff punishment for helping an ally that routinely promised a sharing of intelligence. He also stands with the Rosenbergs--especially Ethel--sentenced to death by a Jewish judge. The record indicates that Ethel was much less the criminal than her husband, and may have been sentenced to die in order to pressure Julius to speak more about his activities. Yet her sentence was not commuted.
The Rosenbergs and Pollard suggest that Jews must be more careful than others about dual loyalties.
On the other hand, Pollard not only betrayed his country, but did so from a sensitive position in security services. Beyond being a Jew, he was an American who went bad. He also violated an agreement with prosecutors involving lesser jail time when he gave an interview to a journalist.
Pollard will not be allowed to leave the US for a period of five years after his release.
For some Israelis, that is reason for continued clamor. For others, it is a postponement of a patriotic circus sure to be excessive.
Israelis who squawk about the US treatment of Pollard should look at Mordecai Vanunu. He spent 18 years in prison for telling the world what many already knew, and has since been denied the opportunity to leave the country or to speak with foreigners.
Americans who grew up with images of police states elsewhere--most prominently Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union--face embarrassment due to frequent indications of local cops who show neither wisdom nor justice.
A Cincinnati official was woefully out of touch when he responded to the killing of a motorist pulled over for a missing license plate, with the statement, “This doesn’t happen in the United States",
Recent examples include a shoplifter who ended up dead, and a woman pulled over for failing to signal a lane change and then is said to have killed herself while in custody. That all those deaths happen to Blacks not only produced significant unrest, but raise questions about the failure of a society that prides itself on individual freedom and civil rights.
Americans, Israelis, and just about everyone else in the First World ponder the issue of illegal immigration.
No doubt it represents a violation of law, but it also raises questions of humanity and economics. Who among us wants to live in a poor area of Africa or Central America, or close to the bloodshed in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, or wherever else the migrants begin their journeys? And who else will clean the dishes in the restaurants we enjoy, wash our cars, cut our grass, drive our taxis, or take care of our babies or grandparents? Americans have the special problem of a Constitution that grants citizenship to anyone born in the country. That ups the emotional ante whenever it seems appropriate to expel the parents or children who are citizens, especially if the parents have been law abiding except for their illegal entry.
Where citizenship is not somewhere in the file, countries only have to ponder requests for asylum, often caught between domestic activists claiming that all deserve refuge, and the problems of justifying claims of being in danger if sent home.
Israel has the additional problem of some illegals coming from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Authorities can't send illegals back to Sudan. Israel has paid other African countries to accept some of its Sudanese, who have agreed to go with a plane ticket along with a financial grant, but opponents to the practice are sure that those sent will face an inhuman future.
Recognizing the fuzziness of both wisdom and justice has an intellectual advantage. It can be a step toward lessening one's obsession with justifications.
We've known at least since Job that bad things happen to good people. The modern equivalent is "shit happens." Best to admit it and go on.