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1 researchok  Dec 5, 2011 1:57:20pm
Freedom of religion is also not a threat to democracy. In no way are ALL buses run with gender segregation. There is an accommodation that takes place, but it is not forced. There is no morality police saying that ALL men and women must act that way. It is an accommodation for a few, nothing more.

Crap.

Women have been assaulted and beaten for not moving to the rear of the bus. There are plenty of examples of that and examples of women who have been run off (or worse) for not adhering to certain dress codes.

The gall of the ultra orthodox trying to impose their will on others is stunning. Their mothers never had to move to the back of the bus, their mothers were never beaten up for not conforming and their mothers never taught their kids to spit on non Jewish clergy. They want to assert dominance over marriages and conversions done by other religious clergy in Israel and America who do not share their POV and expect the state to give them that authority. And I’m referring to Orthodox clergy.

I am an unabashed supporter of Israel. That said, the ultra orthodox have become usurpers of the very state they are only too happy to exploit at every opportunity.

They cannot be bothered to display even a phony modicum of gratitude to the state that supports them.

Do not misconstrue this as a condemnation of observant Jews.There are plenty who who serve in the Israeli armed forces and contribute to the state. There are plenty of religious clergy who do not exploit their positions and there are plenty of religious Jews who find the current state of affairs repulsive.

Your characterization is simplistic and misleading.

2 Buck  Dec 5, 2011 8:08:17pm
Women have been assaulted and beaten for not moving to the rear of the bus. There are plenty of examples of that and examples of women who have been run off (or worse) for not adhering to certain dress codes.

That would be a crime in Israel, and is handled as a crime by the authorities as a crime.
It is not a crime in Iran or Saudi Arabia. It is the authorities doing the beating.. if you can’t see the difference then you are not trying very hard.

I was not saying that there is no violence, or criminal acts in Israel. But that this accommodation can be done in a legal, and non-violent way that does not bring democracy down.

3 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 4:22:35am

Three points:

1. Yes, any kind of violence is against the law and now buses have police on them to stop this kind of behavior.

2. This is what I term ‘orthodox assimilation’, where the means of conflict resolution, dialogue or lack of it, and common sense are no different than the parts of society they try to keep at bay. The difference between this behavior and a Jew in a mixed marriage is that in the marriage the Jew knows that accommodations have been made with the overall culture. The orthodox are completely unaware that they are anything like what they fight against. This of course results in the committing of the gravest sin, a chilul Hashem.

3. This is part of the State Department Dance. Watch for this pattern. The US President makes a statement of resounding support for Israel to some US Jewish group. It makes headlines, and is promptly followed by other US officials making statements condemning some aspect of Israel, so much so that many decide that the US is no longer an ally. There are op-ed pieces like this in the Israeli papers—and the writers should just go back into their files, take out the last proclamation that the US is not an ally, and go get some sun instead of writing a brand new piece.

4 researchok  Dec 6, 2011 5:14:11am

re: #2 Buck

That would be a crime in Israel, and is handled as a crime by the authorities as a crime.
It is not a crime in Iran or Saudi Arabia. It is the authorities doing the beating.. if you can’t see the difference then you are not trying very hard.

I was not saying that there is no violence, or criminal acts in Israel. But that this accommodation can be done in a legal, and non-violent way that does not bring democracy down.

True- up to a point.

Abuse may be a crime but it is tolerated and even encouraged in some of these religious communities. Police and other first responders often find themselves under attack or are seriously impeded in the discharge of their duties.

Further, the ultra orthodox seem to be moving far to the right for political rather than religious reasons. What was once permitted is now suddenly taboo. Legions of faithful now believe their loyalty is to their leaders only. They are taught the state is evil and must be renounced.

Again, this is not a critiique of Orthodoxy. That said, when a religious leader is seen in Tehran in the presence of a virulent anti semite and Holocaust deniers and others including David Duke and Robert Faurisson and the ultra orthodox community is silent for the most part, there is a problem.

No, this is’t about his right to free speech- he is certainly entitled to express his opinion. It is about a community whose silence implies a tacit approval- or worse- ‘We’ll side with anyone who says anything, as long as it is anti Israel’.

5 researchok  Dec 6, 2011 5:15:21am

re: #3 Bob Levin

Three points:

1. Yes, any kind of violence is against the law and now buses have police on them to stop this kind of behavior.

2. This is what I term ‘orthodox assimilation’, where the means of conflict resolution, dialogue or lack of it, and common sense are no different than the parts of society they try to keep at bay. The difference between this behavior and a Jew in a mixed marriage is that in the marriage the Jew knows that accommodations have been made with the overall culture. The orthodox are completely unaware that they are anything like what they fight against. This of course results in the committing of the gravest sin, a chilul Hashem.

3. This is part of the State Department Dance. Watch for this pattern. The US President makes a statement of resounding support for Israel to some US Jewish group. It makes headlines, and is promptly followed by other US officials making statements condemning some aspect of Israel, so much so that many decide that the US is no longer an ally. There are op-ed pieces like this in the Israeli papers—and the writers should just go back into their files, take out the last proclamation that the US is not an ally, and go get some sun instead of writing a brand new piece.

There is much truth here.

That said, some things cannot be swept under the rug.

That’s all I’m saying.

6 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 6:41:46am

re: #5 researchok

Absolutely. It can’t be swept under a rug.

So, we’re back to culture and consciousness yet again, at the most basic level. You can’t define assimilation unless you can define culture period. And then a definition of consciousness is needed—in order to understand how we interact with culture, how this interaction defines who we are, which in turn defines how we behave.

I call these questions page 1 of Talmud. You know that each Tractate begins on page 2. The first page is page 2. The reason given is no one should be able to say they have completely mastered a Tractate. I’ve heard this explanation in every class I’ve taken.

I prefer the explanation that there are basic questions, basic techniques of inquiry, points of observation (in the Relativistic sense), needed before you can open the book. I’ve never heard this explanation. And we keep stumbling as we continually step into the empty space of page one.

7 Ding-an-sich Wannabe  Dec 6, 2011 6:45:20am
The idea that governments hostile to Russia should be free to finance supposed (Russian in name only) human rights organizations that are in fact only using Russians to hide the true agenda is not democracy. Democracy is about the people of the country having the power, not foreign nations pouring unlimited funds to put forward their agenda on another independent nation.

— Vladimir Putin.

8 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 7:51:42am

re: #7 Sergey Romanov

I’m just curious, why do you keep using Russia as an analogy—and then go on to use the analogy as a Prima facie argument for whatever point you want to make?

9 Ding-an-sich Wannabe  Dec 6, 2011 8:18:52am

re: #8 Bob Levin

I’m just curious, why do you keep using Russia as an analogy—and then go on to use the analogy as a Prima facie argument for whatever point you want to make?

Because when your thinking on democracy mirrors that of an authoritarian Russian leader known for anti-democratic measures, you better stop and analyze your thinking.

10 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 8:53:57am

re: #9 Sergey Romanov

Because when your thinking on democracy mirrors that of an authoritarian Russian leader known for anti-democratic measures…

I think the operative word there is ‘Russian’. There isn’t a country in the world that is analogous to Russia. Large population, impenetrable geography, impenetrable climate, massive military, vast natural resources, and a long history of brutal regimes at its head. All of this matters. That Putin might have learned to speak the language of democracy doesn’t mean anything more than the wolf has learned to speak sheep. I don’t think Putin qualifies as an accurate mirror.

11 Ding-an-sich Wannabe  Dec 6, 2011 9:02:09am

re: #10 Bob Levin

I don’t think Putin qualifies as an accurate mirror.

That’s only because you don’t like what you see in this mirror in this instance.

“Russia is different” is really a deflection. Of course it’s different. So what? Does that mean that when Putin severely limits financing of human rights NGOs he is being an enemy of democracy, freedom and civil society, but when Netanyahu (who is certainly no Putin, but that’s beside the point) does the same, this must be defended at any cost as not being anti-democratic? Why?

No, you must point out how the very same actions are suddenly “good” when done in Israel but “bad” when done in Russia. “They’re different” doesn’t cut it.

12 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 9:30:39am

re: #11 Sergey Romanov

That’s only because you don’t like what you see in this mirror in this instance.

No, I’m saying he’s not a mirror. He’s not a mirror because he doesn’t tell the truth. If I quote Goebbel’s regarding the Jews, it’s because Goebbels is being honest (and evil) when talking about how he feels about Jews, and what he’s going to do. When I want quotes about democracy, Thomas Jefferson is good.

Nations try to protect themselves. Some nations have enemies, and some have deadly enemies. That’s why even the US has laws regarding treason and sedition. Democracy is easy when a nation is not being attacked. However, the issues become foggier when a nation is being attacked. Israel is being attacked every which way it can be attacked. And it’s a very vulnerable country. There is no possibility that Israel could do what the Russians did at Stalingrad.

No, you must point out how the very same actions are suddenly “good” when done in Israel but “bad” when done in Russia.

I would say that some decisions are difficult when made by a small, vulnerable nation, and the same decisions might be bad when done by a large, prosperous nation that is under no threat at all—and sees nothing wrong with tyranny. If Russia’s internal opposition only had to worry about financing, that’s nothing compared to the truth, that they really have to worry about their lives. No matter how Russia says it, the government has always felt free to end the lives of its citizens.

Certain groups in Israel just have to figure out financing—just like everyone else in the world.

13 Ding-an-sich Wannabe  Dec 6, 2011 9:44:51am

re: #12 Bob Levin

The question is whether or not they’re undemocratic, and you can’t get around the equivalency here. One might defend them as undemocratic-but-justified in this specific situation. I would absolutely disagree, but I would at least understand this position. The point is, one would still acknowledge them as bad measures - maybe allegedly “necessary”, but bad and temporary, and undemocratic. What is being done here by Buck though is the defense of the very principle of limiting outside financing of NGOs as not anti-democratic. Thus the comparison to Putin is very apt, AFAIC.

PS: “Critics risk much more than financing” is hardly an argument relevant to this specific topic. That something worse could happen to critics is neither here, nor there. We’re discussing a particular issue. Financing of NGOs is one of the biggest hurdles in Russia, much bigger than “losing lives”, unless we’re talking about very specific topics like Chechnya, where one indeed risks much.

14 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 10:15:38am

re: #13 Sergey Romanov

The question is whether or not they’re undemocratic, and you can’t get around the equivalency here. One might defend them as undemocratic-but-justified in this specific situation. I would absolutely disagree, but I would at least understand this position. The point is, one would still acknowledge them as bad measures - maybe allegedly “necessary”, but bad and temporary, and undemocratic

It’s foggy. I would agree with that. It’s difficult to balance democracy and national defense in time of war. I don’t have answers to this quandary. Putin has no interest in democracy, it’s not a value for him.

PS: “Critics risk much more than financing” is hardly an argument relevant to this specific topic. That something worse could happen to critics is neither here, nor there. We’re discussing a particular issue. Financing of NGOs is one of the biggest hurdles in Russia, much bigger than “losing lives”, unless we’re talking about very specific topics like Chechnya, where one indeed risks much.

I have to run right after this.

So, what is Russia now? My sense is that it’s not a democracy and is not trying to be one. Do you feel that it’s struggling to become democratic? Is it dangerous to be part of the opposition in Russia?

Russia isn’t coming from a democratic mindset, quite the opposite. Israel has always had a democratic mindset, it’s had quite an idealist mindset. The recent protests have shown this—Israel quickly set up a communication network with the protesters. No one in Israel was blaming the protests on outside agitators. It was seen as vital feedback.

15 Ding-an-sich Wannabe  Dec 6, 2011 10:43:08am

re: #14 Bob Levin

I look at the bigger picture here. We both know that Israel is a liberal democracy and Russia is neither. That’s not quite the issue here. Why?

First of all, democracies need human rights oversight too. Because human rights can be abused in democracies too. Especially in conflict zones. Contra Buck, human rights NGOs - including those with outside financing are a vital part of democracy, of international system of checks and balances. Democracy doesn’t boil down to something vague like “people of the country having power”. Human rights/rights of minorities are the necessary part of modern democracies. Otherwise they’re ochlocracies. Which is why I look at such moves as undemocratic.

Can such NGOs be misused? Absolutely. Just like freedom of speech can be misused. Just like privacy can be misused. Just like democratic process itself can be misused. Are there other ways to fight such abuse? I think there are. E.g., require each such NGOs to always, in every publication, print the full sources of funding. Let the public decide whether an NGO funded by Saudi Arabia or Syria can be trusted.

Second, there really are no “formal” international ways to distinguish between real democracies like Israel and fake democracies like Russia. I mean, we both know the situation. Everybody knows the situation. But it’s not formalized in some sort of an international law.

When Putin comes back in 2012, will the US sever relations with Russia? No, of course not. They will grumble and mumble, but they will still deal with Putin as a legitimate leader, as if he were really democratically elected. They won’t say face to face to him - you’re an authoritarian punk. So will most other democratic states.

So while there is a facade of elections, there’s really not much one can do but sponsor NGOs that will monitor elections, human rights abuses etc. And if Israel (or other dem. country) limits its NGOs, that makes it that much easier for Putin to squeeze NGOs in Russia. “Because Russia is a democracy, Israel is a democracy, so if Israel does this, so can we”. And unless the other countries are willing to say officially: “you’re not a real democracy, so don’t make this comparison”, there’s really nothing to counter this argument. It follows, then, that there should be a level field in regard to human rights NGOs in order for the system to function.

So these are my two issues: I think it’s necessary for Israel itself, and I think it’s necessary to uphold human rights in other states. We may disagree on that, of course, but I will still maintain that the measure is undemocratic.

16 Buck  Dec 6, 2011 11:27:59am

re: #3 Bob Levin

1. Yes, any kind of violence is against the law and now buses have police on them to stop this kind of behavior.

Was that true with Rosa Parks? Who’s side did the police take back then? Rosa Parks?

Is that true in Iran or Saudi Arabia? Which behaviour does the Iranian police try and stop? Do they stop the attacks against women?

Can you see the difference? If you can, please let Clinton know.

3. This is part of the State Department Dance.

Well, I for one am sick and tired of watching the President and his Administration dancing between Israel and the people who want to kill us.

17 Buck  Dec 6, 2011 11:43:17am

re: #15 Sergey Romanov

Because human rights can be abused in democracies too. Especially in conflict zones. Contra Buck, human rights NGOs - including those with outside financing are a vital part of democracy, of international system of checks and balances.

The NGOs and supposed human rights groups in question are putting themselves forward as ISRAELI groups, and not as INTERNATIONAL or FOREIGN groups. They are hiding the real source of the funding, and are in fact ATTACKING the democracy.

If you read the story linked, you would have known that:

It proposes a tax of 45 per cent should be levied on foreign contributions received by Israeli NGOs. A second part of the bill seeks to limit all foreign donations to Israeli organisations to just under £3,500.

Israeli NGO’s and Israeli organisations.

If you want to set up the “American nudniks for Peace” and you don’t try and represent yourself as an Israeli organisation, you can fund yourself to your hearts content.

18 Buck  Dec 6, 2011 11:54:57am

re: #15 Sergey Romanov

We both know that Israel is a liberal democracy and Russia is neither. That’s not quite the issue here.

OF COURSE THAT IS THE ISSUE!!!!

Clinton was talking about the state of democracy in Israel. That is what people are angry about. Israel is a liberal democracy. To infer otherwise is an attack on that democracy.

Elected Ministers will create laws, and vote on them. If they cross a line, there is an independent court to judge those laws.

To tell Israel that despite the completely proper democratic checks and balances they have in place, they should not make laws they need to protect the people of Israel because it will be harder to criticize Russia (or anyone else) is AN ATTACK on the ISRAELI democracy pure and simple.

19 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 2:51:35pm

re: #15 Sergey Romanov

Oh, I see. We’re both a couple of idealists, but we’re both very cynical regarding the places each other puts faith. You’re very cynical regarding religion (and there’s good reason to be cynical), and I’m cynical when it comes to NGO’s and other such organizations (and there’s good reason for cynicism here, too).

You hit all of the right notes for the discussion—the definition of democracy, the effectiveness of law, the possibility of corruption, and the development of conventional institutions to a point where they no longer provide the feedback (checks and balances) for the whole of society.

So…bottom line—

So these are my two issues: I think it’s necessary for Israel itself, and I think it’s necessary to uphold human rights in other states. We may disagree on that, of course, but I will still maintain that the measure is undemocratic.

I think that if a nation or a people hold democracy in high enough esteem (as opposed to Russia holding it in very low esteem), then you will have a Black Swan effect that will maintain it.

I think the Soviet Union fell apart due to a Black Swan effect—and the Arab Spring most certainly was an example of this. We haven’t seen real democracy emerge (it did in certain former Soviet satellites), but I believe the core of the effect was to get rid of the prevailing power.

The protests in Israel were also an example of this. From this point we argue whether the swan is halfway tall or halfway short.

20 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 3:39:13pm

re: #15 Sergey Romanov

Hey, check out the big board. Did I call it or did I call it?

21 Bob Levin  Dec 6, 2011 3:39:46pm

re: #16 Buck

Hey, we agree on the State Department.

22 Buck  Dec 7, 2011 4:20:03pm

re: #21 Bob Levin

Hey, we agree on the State Department.

I don’t believe Hillary Clinton says stuff like this without knowing how Obama feels about it.

23 Bob Levin  Dec 7, 2011 6:26:10pm

re: #22 Buck

The State Department essentially runs the President. The reason is that no one at State is elected, they are going to be at their jobs longer than any President. If they don’t like what a President is doing, they’ll follow orders very slowly. Or, as in the last administration, they essentially hung the President out to dry—a la Richard Armitage.

I think State was elated at the election of President Obama, and to a large extent the President followed their advise and expertise—with the expected results. We can have a long discussion as to why professional diplomats are so wrong so frequently. But they are.

President Obama certainly knew about it, since that how it’s orchestrated. The President made a widely covered speech about the tightness of the alliance between Israel and the US, immediately followed by other US officials being very critical of Israel. This kid Gutman took one for the team while speaking in Europe.

It has nothing to do with how President Obama feels about it. It’s play 32 dash left on 3. I think all diplomacy takes place on the other side of the looking glass.


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