Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Cause for Optimism?

I think the best news vis-a-vis Israel (and the world) is the walkout and boycott of the UN's repugnant anti-racism charade. It has always been my contention that in the end the excesses of Israel's enemies would be their undoing...and so it is coming to pass. It is another reason why Israel must base her own political behaviour on what might be called tough-minded moral realism. If only for pragmatic reasons, Israel simply cannot afford to imitate the racist intolerance and extremism of her totalitarian enemies, just as it cannot affort the moralistic posturing of her left-wing critics.

And, more subtly, the Obama presidency is potentially GOOD NEWS for Israel, despite the dire predictions of some. It takes the wind out of the sails of the chronic Israel-bashers when an icon of the liberal left shows some realism and common sense - not to mention common decency. He deserves our cautious respect and support for his efforts to breakthrough the wall of ideological extremism and irresponsibility emanating from certain Arab-Muslim quarters. Whether it will gain any purchase remains to be seen, but I suspect he may be tougher than some imagine.

On a different tack, I enclose a quote picked up from Daily Alert

"Robert D. Kaplan: The new Israeli government faithfully represents the Israeli electorate, which is in utter despair over the impossibility of finding credible partners on the Palestinian side with which to negotiate. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Abbas' Fatah movement may be willing to live in peace with Israel, but it has insufficient political legitimacy among Palestinians to negotiate such a deal. With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table.
But there is a deeper structural and philosophical reason why the Palestinians remain stateless, as best explained by associate Johns Hopkins professor Jakub Grygiel in "The Power of Statelessness." Statehood is no longer a goal, he writes. Many stateless groups "do not aspire to have a state," for they are more capable of achieving their objectives without one. Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power.
A state entails responsibilities that limit a people's freedom of action. A group like Hizbullah in Lebanon could probably take over the Lebanese state today, but why would it want to? Statelessness offers a level of "impunity" from retaliation. The most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space. (Atlantic Monthly)"

So there is a way to go as yet, but we should be permitted a modicum of optimism.

Finally, I attach a letter to the Cape Times which has nothing whatsoever to do with israel...for a change. Hope you like it.
It is one of the many truisms surrounding South Africa that it is so unpredictable and paradoxical a country that almost anything one says will turn out to be wise or foolish with about equal probability. Optimists and pessimists alike can find plenty of evidence to support their views and, of course, South Africans can swing from one extreme to the other depending on the performance of their favourite sports team.

Our politics has been almost uniformly bad whether one considers the white or black sections of our population. Taken for granted are the iniquities of European colonialism and apartheid, but Bantu internecine warfare and displacement of the indigenous San peoples of South Africa were hardly examples of enlightened political behaviour. Furthermore, the past decade of black government has fallen far short of what our liberal and socially progressive constitution portended and the prospect of a Zuma Presidency seems to fulfil dire predictions of yet another failed African state, long on rhetoric and spin but very short on performance and integrity.

Yet we are still here and the centre has not fallen apart, even though worrying cracks are apparent. The DA, which still remains the single most principled and rational of our political parties, has gained significantly under the leadership of a singularly determined and able Zille. Parts of the economy are flourishing and, despite the abuse of affirmative action, a more self-assured and educated black middle class has emerged to counter the primitive populism of the Malema cult with its appeal to impoverished and disempowered young blacks excluded from the post-liberation gravy train.

We still have our wonderful topography and climate, our intoxicating diversity of people, cultures and physical environment. We have our natural resources and a core of resourcefulness, common sense and hardiness which has seen us through many potentially catastrophic crises.

But why do we still need to stray so close to the edge of the abyss? Surely it is about time we aimed for something higher. Forget about the Scandinavian or European models. They are beyond our abilities and are in any case not suitable for a still raw, energetic and heterogeneous country. And certainly the East (Far or Near) is totally alien to the South African temperament.

But why not a United States of South Africa? - untidy and of sometimes questionable morals, but energetic, ambitious, diverse and pulsating with a raw commitment to democracy, opportunity and freedom.

We have what it takes if only we have the imagination and will. But we must first get rid of our residual dependency yearnings for a “strong leader” who will provide for us and through whom we can feel empowered. Such leaders will provide only for themselves and their cronies and will strip us of our self-respect and, ultimately, of our economic prospects and independence. We must also free ourselves of a self-indulgent cynicism and apathy. Our future is in our hands.

The beginnings have been accomplished through the strength of the DA and the emergence of COPE. But besides these vital political developments we must have a strong civil society and insist on delivery whether in fighting crime, providing for the health of our population, stimulating small business and entrepreneurship, protecting our common environment and enhancing our physical and electronic infrastructure.

Once again we are provided with the challenge and opportunity. Let’s start.

Mike Berger

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