5/24/11

Liberals Love of Palestine Baffling

The Hamas flag. Is this a banner you want flying at the U.N.?

Yesterday President Barack Obama visited Ireland and assured the citizens of √Čire that the “United States stands with Ireland.” That’s in marked contrast to last week, when he told Israel that it needed to retreat to its 1967 borders as a precondition for peace talks with Palestine.

What is it about liberals and Palestine anyhow? At the University of Massachusetts you could set a truckload of babies and kittens afire and students would duck into the Student Union, grab a cup of coffee, and exit the back door. But mention Palestine and they weep, don red and white shumrags, and begin shouting anti-Israel slogans. That’s an awful lot of anguish for a group of people who danced in the street when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. How about this is a precondition for peace talks—peace? How about saying there is no discussion until Hamas stops lobbing missiles into Israel and sending bomb-wired adolescents onto Israeli busses? Better yet, how about saying that there are no talks until Hamas is disbanded?

Shall we begin to enumerate the ways in which current thinking on Palestine is wrong? Let’s do that! First of all, the parties involved need to broker a deal, not the United States. Imagine the outrage here if an Israeli politician said, in advance of a summit between the U.S. and Mexico, that the United States needs to retreat to pre-1846 borders with Mexico and abandon “settlements” in California, Texas, and the Southwest. Or what if the Balkan states were told they needed to respect pre-World War I borders, hence the Austro-Hungarian Empire was being revived? A fact of history is that lands change hands. Is that moral? Usually not; wars seldom are. At some point, though, a settlement must be made and everyone must move on. Borders can be arbitrated, but only when the principals involved request it; other than in the case of conquest, outsiders do not get to make the decision about how disputes are resolved.

Second, do we really want to support a United Nations resolution to create a new state that sanctions terrorism? Please spare me the crap about Hamas being the democratically elected representative of the Palestinian people. Americans wave the words “democracy” and “elections” as if they are cantrips that remove all curses and cure all ills. Write a constitution, hold an election, and democracy shall bloom like thousand flowers. We believe this, I suppose, because it worked so well in South Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, where elections put the kibosh to the Vietcong, Al Jihad, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Oh, wait….

Hamas exists for a single reason: the destruction of Israel. Okay; I’ll back off and be more charitable—it has yet to unveil its plan for state building or demonstrate a capacity for improving the lot of average Palestinians. More to the point, it has yet to practice civility, a factor that ought to be more of a precondition for statehood than constitutions and elections. For all of the handwringing about the aggressive actions of Israel, can anyone come up with an example of an Israeli troop incursion that was not preceded by direct attacks on Israel? (And that includes its ill-fated 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which came after relentless shelling from Hezbollah.) To return to the Mexico analogy, if Mexicans sent missiles and suicide bombers into the U.S. on a weekly basis, how much time would pass before we scrambled the jets, sent in the Marines, and declared Mexico null and void?

Third, why the rush to create a non-viable state? Palestine lacks water, arable land, mineral resources, and infrastructure. Create it tomorrow and what do you have? Bangladesh in the desert. For all of the hatred of Israel, the salient economic reality of Palestine is that it has been a welfare client of Israel for decades. That’s why 1.5 million Palestinians live in Israel, not the West Bank, and why tens of thousands commute to Israel for work—when the borders aren’t closed due to terrorism. Want to create a Palestinian state that works? There already is one: Jordan! Half of its population is Palestinian. The most logical solution is to append the West Bank to Jordan, whose Hashemite dynasty gained power in 1946, the same year Palestine rejected statehood, by the way. Jordan has one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East, but I guess liberals can’t support this plan because it’s a monarchy. If only they’d hold an election…. (Sigh!)

Fourth, and the cincher in my view, Barack Obama’s hard line on Israel works against everything the United States says it wants. Democracy? There is a single democratic state in the entire region: Israel. Security? There is one power that consistently fights terrorism: Israel. Improved standards of living? The region’s highest standard of living is found in Israel. Elections? That would be Israel. Human rights? There’s room for improvement everywhere, but the region’s best record is in Israel. Stability? Israel by a landslide. Reliability as a U.S. ally? Well it sure as hell isn’t Palestine! Or Syria. Or Iraq. Or Lebanon. Or anyone else not named Israel.

Liberals need to wise up on the Middle East. They’re like children trying to wish their fantasies into reality. We’re already seeing the democracy fantasy unravel. Anyone want to place bets on how long it is before the Muslim Brotherhood forces its way into Egyptian politics, or Al Qaeda takes over Yemen? There is, at present, a single road to peace and stability in the Middle East. It runs through Israel. The hard line Barack Obama should be taking it is this: the preconditions for U.S. aid, arbitration of disputes, and diplomatic relations is repudiation of violence and acceptance of Israel’s right to exist.

5/23/11

Video Review: Workers Win in Made in Dagenham


MADE IN DAGENHAM (2010)

Directed by Nigel Cole

113 mins.

* * *

Depressed by what happened in Wisconsin? Feeling sick by the nationwide union-bashing steamroller effect that’s flattening working people? Think there’s no hope? Maybe you could use a reminder that sometimes the bastards go too far and that common people do, on occasion, stand up for themselves. Let us recommend a modest British movie, Made in Dagenham. It’s now on DVD, about the only way to see it as it sped out of U.S. theaters faster than a Ford goes down the assembly line. Like a lot of “small” films, this one’s meager budget isn’t hard to spot, but watch it one for inspiration, not path-breaking filmmaking.

Made in Dagenham is the British Norma Rae. Dagenham is a section of East London that was, until 2005, the site of a massive Ford assembly plant. In 1968, it was the site of an impromptu strike by 187 women sewing machine operators who were responsible for all of the upholstery that went inside Fords. That 187 women walked out in defiance of Ford U.K, the American parent firm, and their own union was remarkable enough. That they won was little short of miraculous, and a signal event in helping a working-class version of feminism take hold in England. Rita O’Grady, a married woman who simply got fed up with being ignored, spearheaded the strike. The women of Dagenham were abused by management, made the butt of sexist jokes by the thousands of male autoworkers, and were taken for granted by a union that insisted that men’s issues were more important. This film shows how the women of Dagenham turned everyone’s assumptions upside down.

O’Grady is played by Sally Hawkins with a deft and steely resolve. This comes as a surprise, because we last saw her in Happy-Go-Lucky playing a motor-mouthed ditz who flitted across the screen like a Republican fleeing a tax collector. We walked out of that film, as we found Hawkins’s performance so over-the-top and annoying that she could have been Jim Carrey in drag. Not in this film! Hawkins is a spark plug analogous to Sally Field in Norma Rae, and she is superb at walking the line between past and present. Her performance allows us to see the ways in which the 1960s belatedly but inexorably transformed working-class life. Bob Hoskins turns in a very credible performance as the one union official who believes that women need to be seen as comrades, not cupcakes. Another intriguing performance is that of Jaime Winstone (daughter of veteran actor Ray Winstone) as Sandra, a young woman torn between using her slutty sexuality to get ahead, or to decry her exploitation and castigate the sexist pigs that objectify her. Miranda Richardson gets to kick chauvinist keister as the first woman to hold the office of British Secretary of State.

This is an inspiring film, even if it is often heavy handed and predictable. The story is, essentially, David-versus-Goliath with David sporting a Ronettes’ hairstyle and wearing a gathered skirt. In like fashion, some of the characters are cartoon cutouts rather than recognizable people. For all of that, the film nicely captures the sense of a culture in transition. We also see that which so many men tried hard not to see. There could be no turning back; the page hadn’t turned, it had been ripped from its binder and burned.

So watch this film and remind yourself that some times the good gals win.

Postscript: The Dagenham Ford plant closed on 2005, not because of union problems, but because the sixty-year-old plant was no longer economically viable. Wind turbines are now made in Dagenham.