Orbiting Dicta

Monthly Archives: February 2009

Israel’s Troubling Slide to the Right

Today Israeli citizens – Jewish, Arab, and Christian – go to the polls, although large numbers of Palestinian Israelis are expected to boycott the process out of frustration, despair, and resentment at continuing Israeli oppression. Ironically, millions of Iranians are also celebrating the Anniversary of the Revolution that ended two thousand years of monarchy and brought “the” Ayatollah to power.


In the wake of the more-or-less successful elections in Iraq last week, there is something ominous about the decided slide to the right in Israel, which may partially reflect the climate of opinion during and following the assault on Gaza.  The emergence of Avigdor Lieberman as a power broker is particularly troubling in the face of his inflammatory policy toward non-Jewish Israeli citizens, which is to say stripping them of their citizenship and what few rights they can acclaim to have if not to exercise.  Small wonder the Arab population is hanging back from the polls and the small Christian minority watches and waits nervously.  Lieberman is widely expected to become a cabinet member in either Netanyahu’s or Livni’s cabinet.  In either case he will be a power broker to reckon with.  An émigré from the old Soviet Union, Lieberman has been marked as a fascist by the Left.  To tell the truth, he sounds quite a lot like Mussolini.


It is probably unfair to call Lieberman an out-and-out racist, however.  He also loathes anti-Zionist Jewish Israelis who seek accord with the Palestinians.  He would strip them of their citizenship also.  In 2006, on a visit to the United States, he declared that Arab-Israeli legislators who attempted to negotiate with Hamas “should be shot.”  He meant it.


Compared to Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu seems almost moderate.  He merely wants to escalate the violence against Gaza and increase the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank.  All this under cover of the protective wing of the United States, of course — and billions of dollars of aid and war materiel.  Small wonder the Arab world views the U.S. with a mixture of suspicion and resentment.


This election may test the mettle of the Obama administration in some very unwelcome ways, not least in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.

A January to Remember

A month that came in with a crash and a bang, at least for the residents of Gaza, reached a giddy peak mid-month with the inauguration of Barack Obama, has now gone out with a kind of whisper, if not exactly a whimper.  Rockets are still falling sporadically on vacant lots and uninhabited areas of southern Israel as Hamas continues its annoying and unwisely provocative campaign of what Ehud Omert and Tzipi Livni exaggerate as “terrorism.”  The civilian population of Gaza is struggling to recover from the truly terrifying and merciless military campaign that destroyed much of their territory, some of the most densely populated land in the world.  George Mitchell has landed and hopes are slowly rising like the shoots of the brave daffodils in the garden against the deepening chill of winter.


Although the nasty financial shocks of January have abated, global economies continue to teeter and tumble as recession spreads from country to country like the ‘flu.  But there’s a glimmer of light somewhere even in the dark tunnel called Zimbabwe, which may abandon its own hyper-inflated currency entirely in favor of foreign money.  Morgan Tsvangirai has once more agreed to work toward a coalition government with the seriously deranged Robert Mugabe.  The Tamil Tigers also seem to be on their last legs, if Basque terrorists are still causing problems in Spain.  But the elections in Iraq came off peacefully, a miracle in itself.


As if annoyed by the lull in the international frenzy of the last month, North Korea seems intent on stirring up trouble with its prosperous neighbor to the south, but its bellicose posturing may be only a desperate effort to attract the attention of the new American administration.  And more economic assistance, lest its huge armed forces begin to feel the pinch of the poverty that inexorably racks the civilian population.  Even when chained, the dogs of war need to be fed.


Call it the calm before the storm, if you like.  But according to the ancient Chinese calendar, the Year of the Ox has begun.  Being a yin year (odd-numbered) it is an auspicious one, especially for Barack Obama, who was also born in a Year of the Ox (1961).  The Ox is reputedly calm and patient, methodical, hardworking, dependable, pragmatic and ambitious.  One web source predicts that babies born in the Year of Ox can be expected to be dependable, exercise leadership qualities, be patient, strong and responsible, and be great in organizing.  They are also honest, reliable and logical, that is why people go to them for advice. [Lest you think I am making this up, check for yourself: http://pinoybusiness.org/2008/11/04/year-of-the-ox-2009-predictions-and-forecast/]


So far, so good. Ox-like characteristics may be just what the new president needs to move his ambitious agenda forward, not least of all freeing the American economy from the mire created by the previous eight administrations.  At the same time, he has to cope with the desperate state of the global environment.  Several leading earth scientists have claimed that the world has a four-year window in which to reverse ecological deterioration before the collapse becomes irreversible in many areas.


Regarding oxen, the First Epistle to Timothy approvingly cites the Book of Deuteronomy: “for scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain'” [Deut 25:4]. Good advice.  The rest of the verse is also pertinent, given the economic disparity that currently rewards bankers with huge bonuses and saddles the middle class with increasing cutbacks, job losses, and taxation to compensate for fiscal mismanagement at the top level: “The laborer deserves his wages.” 


Thus endeth today’s reading….