Thursday, November 15, 2012

WWPD reads the news (on her phone, while half-asleep on NJ Transit)

Just because it's not on WWPD doesn't mean I'm not following it. I too am watching the Middle East fall apart, and am not sure whether the Zionist stance - my Zionist stance - is to support Israel in defending itself or to wonder, big-picture, whether the current situation helps or hurts the goal of a two-state plan. Knowledgable people I respect are saying very different things on this. (Ideological diversity, a change from the recent days of "X and two more friends 'like' Mitt Romney.") I have no answers, and have come to the conclusion that this tragic mess isn't going to be solved on this blog, or likely any.

And yes, of course, the Real Housewives of Tampa. Here I'll weigh in from two angles, one silly and one serious.

The silly:

-Following L'Affaire Petraeus from the perspective of a grad student: I especially like the Daily Mail approach - that Broadwell's real sin was being a crummy grad student, and having not (yet?) finished her PhD. This might be reassuring to those of us who run a 30 minute mile, never served in the military, have not raised two kids while a student, but who, at least, are kind of OK at grad school.

-That's the thing with 19th century dissertation topics, right? On the one hand, I'll never be on the "Daily Show" talking about my research. On the other, it is physically impossible for me to have an affair with any of my subjects.

The serious:

-The Dan Savage argument, which as far as I know he has yet to make, but others are making it, but anyway, is as follows: 37, 38 years of marriage and one indiscretion, big deal. That's a monogamous marriage succeeding. Monogamish, meanwhile, assumes one of two scenarios: a young, hot couple both of whom have seemingly infinite romantic possibilities, or an older straight couple where it can be safely assumed the woman is no longer interested in sex. But then there's "furious would be an understatement," whose crime, as far as we know, was being 59 years old and not taking reality-TV-star pains to hide it. Regardless of what was going on inside their marriage, it seems obvious, viscerally, that she's been wronged. This is also, I suppose, what I find off-putting about the periodically-floated marriage-as-renewable-contract idea. Isn't part of the appeal of the institution that one can feel relatively confident that one has tenure, as it were, in one's relationship? Not that it's 100% guaranteed to last, vows kept, but that there would have to be an awfully good reason for that not to happen?


Petey said...

"I too am watching the Middle East fall apart, and am not sure whether the Zionist stance - my Zionist stance - is to support Israel in defending itself or to wonder, big-picture, whether the current situation helps or hurts the goal of a two-state plan."

Well, since we can all have our own Zionist stance these days, apparently, as an American Jew quite supportive of Israel's existence, I've got little sympathy for an Israel that won't let the occupied folks have either the vote or liberty.

It's been 45 years now, y'know. Folks deserve the vote or liberty after 45 years. I'd be firing rockets too if I were born on the other side.

I'm still a proud Francophile Zionist, but, as always, my Zionist stance means me taking some admittedly far-away moral responsibility for the Zionist enterprise, which ends up different than 'my country right or wrong'.

I knew several Serbo-Americans who defended or were assiduously silent about Milosevic's regime in the '90's, with the common line to say that it was complicated, and they always creeped the hell out of me. And while the rightist regimes of Israel of the past decade+ are not quite up to Milosevic's level of evil, I find it difficult to be silent on this puppy.

"...and have come to the conclusion that this tragic mess isn't going to be solved on this blog"

Quite true. But there's still something right about American Jewish Zionists making their voices heard. The modern non-fundamentalist Jewish tradition really involves some universalist moral components to it that have it always made it immensely attractive to me. And they require speaking up regarding the occupation.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I take it you missed the part where I said this conflict won't be solved on WWPD. Oh, you acknowledged it, only to explain, with 100% conviction, that you have it figured out. Well, so do the folks on the other various sides of this.

Look, I'm obviously not of the Israel-is-always-right bent (or you wouldn't bother commenting on this), but I also think being a Zionist means at least considering, in a given situation, that if Israel is attacked, it might want to do something about it... even if the big-picture answer is that this isn't a wise idea.

I also, simultaneously, consider a different big picture, namely that much - most? - of the criticism-of-Israel in the West is coming not from well-meaning Zionist liberals such as yourself, but people who were basically looking for a reason to hate Jews after WWII made this socially unacceptable, who have thus picked this of all possible causes because, well, Jews. People who don't give a damn if the outcome is the preservation of a Jewish state (with new borders), and who'd frankly prefer it if none existed, because, like, it's massively unfair to have a Jewish state. Whereas Christian states that call themselves secular are civilization. The Israeli government/settlers' crap behavior is not the only danger here, even if it can seem that way from within the Jewish community.

I'm not seeing anything more specific from you than End the Bad Bits and Israel lives on. I mean, sure? If you want to link to a plan for solving the crisis, to exactly where all borders should fall, and how this might pragmatically occur, by all means. I'm not opposed to WWPD being the solution to all this, but I'm not even a tiny bit optimistic.

PG said...

Whereas Christian states that call themselves secular are civilization.

Are there Christian states nowadays in something like the sense that Israel is a Jewish state? I ask only because my go-to comparison when people get whiny about having a Jewish state exist is Pakistan: also founded in 1948, literally named "Land of the Pure" in Urdu/ Persian, exists solely to be a Muslim homeland. Anyone who is cool with having bloodily partitioned India to create a Muslim homeland, yet isn't OK with Israel, I presume to be anti-Jewish until they convince me otherwise.

But I was not aware of Christian comparison points and would be interested to know what they are, since noting a Muslim analogy to Israel perhaps puts people's backs up more than is always intended.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Good point re: Pakistan. I don't know enough about it to weigh in on this analogy, but I'm not not convinced.

What I'm referring to are the many Western European countries where Christianity remains the default, where those with ethnicities other than that of whichever locale, esp. of religious cultural backgrounds other than Christian (practice is almost beside the point) are forever treated as foreigners. Sunday and Christian holidays are observed, churches dominate each town, the very definition of "religion" comes from Christianity, etc. But because these states view themselves as secular, those from them are able to act as though a state that's Jewish by culture/religion is inherently racist in a way that their states are not. (This, alas, is the insufficiently-caffeinated version of something I know I've explained better in the past.)

i said...

Phoebe, do you by any chance have something in mind like a non-Christian woman whose life is in danger due to the miscarriage she is undergoing, who asks for an abortion, is denied it because "this is a Catholic country," and subsequently dies? Something like that perhaps?

PG said...

Hmm. I don't know of a Western European country that's like Israel with regard to something like marriage law. (There are plenty of other countries that are similar or even less liberal.) I'm basing this on old stuff I've read about the lack of civil marriage in Israel, though, so please inform if I'm wrong.


So far as I know, it's actually one of the big differences between e.g. U.S. law and Indian law whether different rules apply based on your religion. India still has family law based on religion, whereas in the U.S., the law is the same for everyone regardless of their religion. Ireland is in a sense actually following the standard Western model here, albeit with a throwback-to-the-'60s abortion law. In contrast, when I was in Morocco we could go to a supermarket that sold liquor, but technically only non-Muslims were supposed to be able to buy it. The law depended on your religion. I understand why countries with histories of significant religious conflict in actual practices (not just largely theological ones as seems to be true within Christianity) instituted these laws that depend on your religion, but I don't like them and I'm glad it's not the model for most of the West.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


That case was really something, but I'm not sure it's entirely analogous, in part for the reasons PG says.


"I don't know of a Western European country that's like Israel with regard to something like marriage law."

Did I say there was? Israel's notoriously a mess in this regard. I'm referring to the fact that much like "Jewish," "Catholic" or "French Catholic" (say) is a culture as well as a religion, without a hard-and-fast line dividing which is which. That Israel is dealing with vast problems regarding pro-theocratic sorts having too much secular power these days doesn't change the underlying idea of Israel as a Jewish-by-culture-and-however-much-religion-you-care-for state. And that's what anti-Zionist criticism is about, that Israel is a Jewish state. Not that it's a Jewish state where religious Jews dictate too much of the domestic policy, thereby irritating primarily more secular Jews.

i said...

PG and Phoebe,

Sorry, I wasn't necessarily intending to imply a straight analogy. It's just that Phoebe's comment about the dominant Christianity in nominally secular countries pressed on a sore spot. I've lived in the US for almost a decade and I cannot get used to the level of religiosity in public discourse, nor to the increasing amount of power certain forms of Christianity have over my body. I was agreeing with Phoebe, but to a greater extent. It's not just about Sunday shopping or political parties with the word "Christian" in the name or church taxes. It's about life and death decisions determined by the religious views that hold sway in your country.

On a side note, a American Jewish friend once told me about his adventures getting married in Israel, oh, more than thirty years ago. Finding the Orthodox rabbi, answering questions on the faith, the whole shebang. His is the only story that beats what I know about getting married to a German in Germany if you are not yourself German. (I.e., I have personal experience with it, and have collected a few stories from friends.) My favourite part was being asked to provide an original birth certificate that was no more than six months old. But having the entire process stopped because the German bureaucrats needed to know what citizenships my parents had was also fun.