Monday, July 30, 2012

Calamity Mitt


There’s an exegesis that major calamities suffered by the Jewish people occurred through the ages on the ninth day of the month of Av, known in Hebrew as Tisha B’Av. Calamities such as the destructions of both temples in Jerusalem 656 years apart, first by the Babylonians and then by the Romans. 

Tisha B’Av was commemorated over this past weekend, coinciding with Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel and Jerusalem. Need I say more? No, but I will.

Despite what Sheldon Adelson and other near-sighted people, including some of my friends, think, the worst development for Israel would be Romney’s election. As he so mis-ably demonstrated yet again on his “world tour” of England, Israel and Poland, Romney has no idea how to speak diplomatically. After publicly insulting the British, he publicly insulted the Palestinians. No amount of backtracking can remove his lack of diplomacy. Perception is reality in the eyes of the Palestinians. He has given them no reason to believe he would be an honest broker of a fair and equitable peace (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/us/politics/romney-angers-palestinians-with-comments-in-israel.html?_r=1).


Palestinians are industrious. Educated. They have been productive citizens and residents wherever they have been given an opportunity. The tragedy of the Mideast is that too many Arab countries used them as pawns, consigning them to live in squalor instead of absorbing them into society, as Israel did with Jewish refugees who had to flee repression in Arab countries. Romney naively attributed the economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians to “culture.” That’s but one of the reasons.  I don’t have the time or inclination to expound on the full set of reasons. Perhaps, given all his money, Romney can hire experts who could educate him on the differences between the two peoples.

As could be expected, Romney was well received by Israeli hawks for his no-questions-would-be-asked-nor-criticism-leveled should Israel decide to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Just as candidate Barack Obama in 2008 expressed sympathy for those living near the Gaza Strip under constant danger from missile attacks and condoned retaliation, Romney scored points when he said, “We respect the right of a country to defend itself.” Romney also fawned on the Israelis, and further angered the Palestinians, by saying Jerusalem was Israel’s capital. 

Interestingly, Romney, and for that matter, most other politicians, have chosen to stay silent on a more imminent threat to Israel and other Western countries, namely, the huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction in Syria that could fall into the hands of terrorists or unstable factions should the government of President Bashar al-Assad tumble. Would Israel and the United States risk a foray into Syria to secure these stockpiles? Israel is already distributing gas masks in its northern regions, but the threat would be far wider to the Jewish state, indeed, to the world at large if groups like al-Qaeda or Hezbollah had access to these WMDs. 

Romney always seems to be trying to say what he thinks his audience wants to hear. Back in Great Britain he opined he would restore the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. Sounds great to an Anglophile. Churchill was the symbol of British grit in World War II, the staunch anti-Communist thereafter, originator of the term “the Iron Curtain.” But what do India and other non-Caucasian members of the United Kingdom think of Churchill? Reading about the fall of the British empire, Gilda has related to me stories of how racist Churchill was, how he felt Indians were inferior people, and thus could be sacrificed (read that, starved) so Anglo-Saxons would have enough food during WWII. Millions in India died after their foodstuffs were shipped to the British Isles. 

Perhaps Romney wasn’t aware of this “small” fact. I, for one, wasn’t aware of it until recently. But I’m not running for president. My comments won’t anger a nation. 

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