Friday, March 29, 2002

There has been a lively debate at Shouting 'cross the Potomac about gay marriage. I have to post my own feelings on the subject.

Most of the people who are opposed to marriage for gays are basing their opposition on religious grounds. This falls into a "if you don't like it, don't do it" area; imposing one's moral beliefs on others is bad enough, but using the government to further a religious agenda is beyond the pale. The government needs to dump the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), which is one of the more hysterically anti-gay pieces of legislation to come down the pike in the past 10 years or so.

There are those out there who say that marriage is a sacred vow between a man and a woman, and that forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages is wrong. I agree entirely. What I propose is a radical redefinition of marriage--only marriages performed by a religious leader shall be defined as a marriage. Any other type of joining, including heterosexual unions performed by a justice of the peace, shall be considered a civil union, with the same legal privileges. This should satisfy everyone--gays can enjoy the rights and responsibilities afforded by the current marriage laws, and religious objectors keep the sanctity of marriage intact. The 14th amendment is no longer abused, and the church may see a small uptick in the number of people who decide to get hitched in a church to say they are "traditionally" married.

The more outspoken anti-gay types will scream that gays are trying to push their agenda on them. That is only because the law, as it stands, suits heterosexuals just fine, while denying equal protection to about 10% (give/take) of the population. As for the concept of "defining deviancy downward" (Moynihan's phrase has been moved far afield of its original intent), it is God's place to judge souls, not mankind's. Allow gay men and women to live their lives, and let God decide who receives their eternal reward, and who doesn't.

After my first post, I began thinking (a bad habit of mine) about the partisan divide between supporters of Israel and supporters of the Palestinians here in the US. I am certainly not the only one to notice that the most ardent supporters of the Palestinians are (generally) those left-of-center. I wonder if they have considered the ramifications of Palestinian hegemony.

If the Israeli army were to suddenly disappear from the face of the earth and the Palestinians were to install a government, what would it look like? Would Hebrew be taught in the schools, as Arabic is now? Would the assembly have elected Jewish representatives, as the Arabs have now? Would Jewish (and Christian) religious practices continue, or would they be curtailed? Would women enjoy the freedoms they enjoy now? Would the rights of gays be observed? Would the press enjoy the same degree of latitude the Israeli government provides?

These are all valid questions, and for the most part, the answers would probably be negative. Israel's Arabic neighbors are not known for their free and open societies; none of the Arabic nations is particularly free. According to Freedom House, the most free of the Arabic nations is Jordan, which is rated "partially free". (Jordan's scores for political rights and civil liberties are 4 and 4: lower scores are better). Countries such as Saudi Arabia (7/7), Syria (7/7), and Lebanon (6/5) are lionized in the press, while Israel (1/3) is pilloried for having the temerity to defend its citizens.

The left seems to have a disconnect when it comes to Israel, the only country in the middle east which has any sort of meaningful civil rights protections. This is the one that they choose to attack most vociferously. At the same time that they support the Palestinians and their likely tyranny, they attack conservatives here in the US for allegedly attempting to roll back the civil rights of our citizens. Where is the consistency?

This is an article from Serge Schmemman of The New York Times about the situation in Afghanistan. I had a lot to say about this, so I've italicized the original post, and added my comments as necessary.

JERUSALEM, March 27 Few doubted, after a Hamas suicide bomber transformed a solemn Seder into a horrible blood bath in Netanya, that Israel would seek to avenge so many victims on so sacred a night.
The cease-fire sought over the past two weeks by Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, the American mediator, seemed more remote than ever, and further waves of violence almost inevitable.
But there were also those who thought the bombing might just provide the vicious jolt needed finally to call a halt to the bloodshed.

I don't think so. Until the Palestinians accept that Israel is not going to allow themselves to be pushed into the Mediterranean Sea, there will be bloodshed.

In the immediate aftermath, angry Israelis declared that the American envoy's mission had become hopeless. But the Palestinian Authority hastily condemned the attack, for which the militant Islamic movement Hamas claimed responsibility, and vowed to crack down. And a spokesman for the American Embassy said, simply, "General Zinni's mission continues."

The time has come for the Palestinian Authority to stop making placating noises, and actually do something about the terrorists operating from their territory. Arresting people and setting them free a few days later
(which has been the modus operandi of the PA recently) does nothing to stop the violence.

The suicide bombing added another chaotic element to an already confused state of affairs, even by Middle Eastern standards. Only a day earlier, Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, had effectively precluded Yasir Arafat from attending an Arab summit meeting in Beirut, and the Palestinian leader had responded with a furious refusal to go.
Then the summit meeting, at which Saudi Arabia was to open a much-heralded peace initiative promising Israel full normalization of relations in exchange for a full withdrawal from occupied territory, fell into disarray. Two central actors, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan, failed to appear, and Syria blocked a televised speech by Mr. Arafat, prompting a Palestinian walk-out.

Arafat is no longer relevant; the fact that his longtime benefactor, Syria, have turned their back on him should drive that point home. Since Egypt and Jordan (the countries that have made peace with Israel) failed to attend, it should have been a fait accompli for the leader of the Palestinians to make yet another propaganda plea.

That left the Saudi initiative looking awfully weak. It also left Mr. Arafat feeling abandoned, the Arabs divided, and the Americans who had pressed the Arabs for a successful meeting and the Israelis for Mr. Arafat's attendance rebuffed by everyone.

The Saudi initiative was DOA. The demands that it made upon Israel were unreasonable for what was offered to them in return. It was simply another attempt by the Arab League to show how "reasonable" they were, and that the Israelis were the problem by refusing to agree. It would be as if the British were expected to cede Northern Ireland to the IRA, and toss in the Isle of Man as well, as a "show of good faith."

The Zinni effort is a fool's mission; for the US, the best possible course of action is to pull him back, warn all American citizens to stay away from the region (include Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan) and let the Israelis and the Palestinians sort it out.

Then, just as President Bush was trying to put the best face on matters by declaring that the real focus of the administration was on General Zinni, who was making "very good progress," the bomb went off in Netanya.
The Passover holiday precluded the full torrent of fiery threats and curses that usually follow an outrage of this scale. But Israelis who did speak left no doubt that the suicide bombing, following almost daily attacks or foiled attacks since General Zinni began his mission two weeks ago, had crossed the line beyond which Israel could not hold back.
"The idea was obviously to hit during the Passover Seder, one of the most important moments in Jewish life," said Emmanuel Nahshon, the deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman. "And it was meant to take place during the Beirut meeting. So it was a double message, to Israel and the Jews of hate, and to the Arabs a message of extremism."

Remember that we were considered to be arrogant and insensitive to continue our bombing campaign in Afghanistan during Ramadan, yet apparently attacking Israel during Passover is okay; attacking during Yom Kippur (as happened in 1973) is even better.

Mr. Sharon was reported to be consulting by telephone with senior aides, and was expected to call a meeting with his security cabinet either in the night or on Thursday.
Israeli military action could follow. But the history of the Middle East conflict also shows that the most brutal moments sometimes become turning points, and there were signs that this might be one.

Nope, this was the final straw. Israel appears to be making a full-court press to capture Arafat. Capturing him rather than killing him is preferred, because if he rots in a jail, he will not become yet another martyr to the "cause".

For one thing, the Palestinians issued an unusually prompt and stern statement about the attack, warning that the Palestinian leadership "will not be lenient towards the parties that claimed responsibility for it, and will take all strictly legal measures to bring the perpetrators to justice."

That suggested that Mr. Arafat might be prepared to take on Hamas, whose military wing claimed responsibility for the attack. But previous promises from the Palestinian leader to curb Hamas have proved short-lived.
Even if he does act, Mr. Arafat appeared unlikely to be able to deter an Israeli retaliation. Most attacks in recent weeks have been carried out not by Hamas, but by the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Mr. Arafat's own Fatah movement. Mr. Sharon has blamed all terror attacks, no matter who carries them out, on Mr. Arafat.

But at least Mr. Arafat now had a pretext to start cracking down on terrorism without appearing to bow to Israeli or American demands. He could argue that Hamas, and other terror groups, were acting also against Arab interests.

Arafat has not shown any effectiveness on keeping the terrorists under control. He either does not wish to, or he is unable to. If he does not wish to keep control, he is the enemy of Israel. If he is unable to, then he is not a leader, and dealing with him would be a waste of time and resources.

The Palestinians were also likely to put up less resistance to General Zinni's proposals. The Palestinians have resisted his plans because they focus on security and not on political talks. But in their statement after the Netanya attack, the Palestinian Authority affirmed its commitment to General Zinni's efforts, noting that he had achieved "tangible progress."
There was also the possibility that General Zinni would be given greater clout by Washington. After the mess in Beirut, President Bush declared that General Zinni, at least, was making "good progress," and "that is where the focus of this administration is."
That was before the blast in Netanya. Now Mr. Bush had an even greater need to ensure that General Zinni succeed. That, experts agreed, required a far higher level of involvement by the president himself, and a far clearer sense of what the administration wanted to achieve.

What are the areas in which progress has been made? Short of the world having 20 fewer Jews, and one less Palestinian, we've not seen anything actually happen.

"In the past, an absence of strategy was sustainable," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. "Now the situation is too inflammatory to be sustained."

The source of the inflammtion is the Palestinians themselves, and their sycophantic Arabic supporters who defame Jews in their effort to keep the masses outraged against nonexistent Jewish atrocities.

The wild card now appears to be Israel and its response to the attack. In any circumstances, Mr. Arafat would not agree to any cease-fire while he was under fire, or if there was any suggestion that he was bowing to pressure.
But Mr. Sharon has made clear he is not in a mood to hold off. The prime minister openly crossed the Americans when he declared he was not prepared to allow Mr. Arafat to travel, and his government has let it be known that it is ready to resume major military operations in Palestinian territories should the cease-fire effort fail.

Well, the Israelis have finally acted; only time will tell if this is yet another pointless war, or if an enduring peace can be forged from all of the carnage.

Welcome to Regurga-blog.

As my tagline implies, there is no original thought here. However, I *do* reserve the right to read and process information, and the way I recombine all those little pieces of data is mine. Sometimes, what comes out may resemble original thinking, but it's entirely coincidental.