Paralyzing Paradigms

Some things seem to be done only because they have always been done, notwithstanding that they are wrong, harmful, embarrassing, senseless, immoral or obsolete. Patterns become established, paradigms become fixed and real thinking – or re-thinking – ceases. There are few more inane defenses of a particular action than to assert “this has been our longstanding policy,” and yet, in many circles, on a variety of issues, that passes for a reasonable explanation and an end to a discussion of the matter. A few examples will suffice.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the decade-old Congressional law mandating that American citizens born in Jerusalem can be recorded as having been born in Israel. As predicted here six months ago, the three Jewish justices (and two others) upheld the traditional US policy of not “prejudging” the outcome of negotiations by officially recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Obviously, as noted, it didn’t have to be. Recording country of birth in a passport does not articulate diplomatic policy as much as it states a geographical reality. The Court could have easily concluded that this notation is procedural, not substantive, and reflects a reality that is acknowledged across the world in other disputed territories (see the dissent of the estimable Justice Antonin Scalia). But if the feckless Jews on the Court do not wish to recognize the historical and geographical reality of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, why should the six Catholics?

The broader point is the soundness of the “policy.” As mentioned in the Court’s opinion and by Obama administration spokesmen, the longstanding “policy” of the American government has been not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but to leave the matter of its status to the negotiations between the parties. This policy has existed since Israel’s founding, and has been embraced by Presidents friendly to Israel and unfriendly to Israel. But does this “policy” make any sense? Of course not.

It strikes me that the policy has its strongest advocates in the pro-Arab, striped pants contingent at the State Department, and even friendly presidents saw no reason to change the policy and risk antagonizing the bureaucrats at State, especially since successive Israeli governments, to their discredit, have never pushed for its modification. It behooves Americans – and especially American Jews – to recognize that the denial of recognition applies to all of Jerusalem, from 1948 on, and has nothing to do with the Six Day War and the Old City. But Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and it is obviously in Israel, a verity denied acknowledgment for my little grandson who, as far as the United States is concerned, was born in a city without a country.

Forget, for a moment, reality (as politicians often do), and examine the “policy” on its face. Jerusalem is not recognized as capital of Israel because, officially, “it is a matter subject to negotiations between the parties and the US does not wish to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations” (for almost 70 years). But didn’t Obama call for a two-state “solution”? Hasn’t Obama insisted on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders? Didn’t Obama demand that part of Jerusalem be made the capital of the “Palestinian” state? Aren’t those all matters “subject to negotiations between the parties” for which the US also should not wish to prejudge the outcome? Why is the matter of Jerusalem singled out for special diplomatic treatment? Clearly, consistency is not a requisite of American foreign policy.

And shouldn’t we expect more from President Obama? After all, Obama unctuously – and bizarrely –asserted recently that he is “the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat” in the White House. Shouldn’t this almost-Jew recognize the intrinsic connection between his own Jewish people and the City of Jerusalem? Or is this another example of Yiddishe Mazal: who would have thought that the “first Jewish president” – as per New York Magazine – would turn out to be a self-hating Jew?

The “policy” makes no sense, and maintaining the “policy” makes even less sense. The stated fear – prompting turmoil and unrest in the Arab world – is risible, especially given that the Arab world only knows turmoil and unrest. If Israel does not begin a campaign – no quid pro quo, just elementary integrity – to have the US recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, then shame on Israel. And Obama can do it with one stroke of his fabled pen. Perhaps that will boost his popularity among American Jews above the 41% level to which it has fallen.

Take another failed paradigm. The other day I was listening to a former Palestinian Arab activist, turned pro-Israel, who stated that peace is impossible now given the culture of violence in the Arab world. One non-Orthodox rabbi asked: “for those of us who still believe in the two-state solution, to whom should we talk?” The answer was: no one. There is no one to talk to. Her disappointment was palpable. A generation of Jews – maybe two – has invested so much into encouraging or cajoling a surrender of Judea and Samaria and the creation of another Palestinian state that those advocates are simply lost and bereft without that vision, lacking any means of moving forward. They are trapped in the old reality, paralyzed into thinking that the world that is long gone is still there or will soon return. The wise person sees the nolad – what is foreseeable, what trends are probable – and adjusts accordingly.

On another topic but still with another paralyzing paradigm, America’s culture wars heated up with the curious case of Rachel Dolezal, deposed president of the Spokane NAACP, who was exposed this week as a racial fraud – a white girl who claimed to be black and identified as black, to the chagrin of her parents. Granted, we have to allow for some mental illness and moderate our tone, but she did assert the victimhood of a black identity and was rewarded with some of the spoils generally assigned in the American political system to blacks with grievances.

That is troubling, because those spoils are designated for real blacks and not wannabes. But can a person claim a new racial identity? Can a white claim to be a black or vice versa? Indeed , if a man can claim that he is really a woman trapped in a man’s body, why can’t a white person claim that he is a black trapped in a white body? And in both cases, utilize the basic medical procedures to coordinate the exterior with the interior? Shouldn’t a world that celebrates gender fluidity also celebrate racial fluidity? Why can’t a Scandinavian claim that he feels very, very Chinese?

The great Shelby Steele (in his new book, “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country”) insightfully refers to these excursions as “poetic truth,” which ignores or even rejects actual truth in order to assert “a larger essential truth that supports one’s ideological position.” One of the afflictions of American society is the license taken by anyone to create “poetic truths” that are thrust upon others and enforced through the moral intimidation known as political correctness.

The original sin – the paradigm that paralyzes progress and precludes rational discussion – is the segregation of American society today into disparate groups. “Identity politics” has little room or interest in an individual, and one’s worth and standing are only determined by identification with a particular group. Of course, there are favored and disfavored groups, but where the group is the ticket to rights and privileges, the individual becomes devalued. It partly explains the Dolezal phenomenon, but also why Americans have become so polarized and acrimonious. You are your group, and all others will relate to you as they would relate to your group. That degradation of the individual can only be reversed when “identity politics” is ended, and that will not be in this election cycle, if ever.

Finally, the rampant promiscuity on college campuses has created expectations of amorous activity in both men and women that has necessitated the creation of speech and conduct codes, with rigid rules that purport to define acceptance or rejection of one’s lustful advances. To be sure, feminism – among its other grand achievements – has succeeded in making some women as lecherous as many men. A new “yes means yes” campaign has begun, which undercuts the traditional role of seduction, not to mention marriage.

But the problem is not excessive concupiscence among young people. That has existed since Adam and Eve. The problem is the expectations of promiscuity, the casualness of coupling, the nonchalance of the hookup culture that is bound to leave some party, subsequently scorned the day after, irritated and despondent even when yes meant yes, and certainly when intentions are left ambiguous.

How about changing the expectations? Hey, here’s a crazy idea: how about saving sexual activity for marriage? Really, has anyone ever thought of that?? That way there will be no need for oral agreements, written contracts, or legal stipulations in the presence of two witnesses. There will be no misunderstandings or lawsuits. It will also help young people learn a little about self-control, also a good virtue to cultivate in life.

It will happen eventually – some time before Rachel Dolezal decides she is Asian but after Jerusalem is recognized by the United States as the capital of Israel.

11 responses to “Paralyzing Paradigms

  1. “Hasn’t Obama insisted on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders?” No, he has not.

    “Didn’t Obama demand that part of Jerusalem be made the capital of the “Palestinian” state?” No, he has not.

    Good to see you’re finally using this blog to ask questions that will help you become more knowledgable about the issues.

    • You are shockingly wrong in each statement. They are what provoked PM Netanyahu’s famous Oval Office smackdown of Obama a few years ago. Obama just added ” with minor border adjustments.”
      Stop drinking the Kool Aid, and maybe read Michael Oren’s new book.
      – RSP

      • This isn’t a matter of opinion; you’re just wrong and the quote you put into your response is something you made up. Obama actually said the 67 border should be the starting point for negotiations with mutually agreed upon swaps, which by definition means he wasn’t demanding a retreat to 67 borders.


    “The relentless focus solely on Israel that ignores the world’s real human rights violators tells us that this [BDS] is an anti-Semitic movement, and if you’re are part of it, then you’re are part of that too.

    If Israel was a Christian or a Buddhist country, there would not be any BDS campaign, and everyone knows it, just as there isn’t any BDS for Tibet, a country invaded and culturally-raped by the Chinese, but then, the Chinese aren’t Jews.

    No BDS for the Saudi Arabia for treating women like livestock, because the Saudis aren’t Jews, which is lucky for them, because if they were, they would have to ban themselves from entering their own country. How inconvenient!”

    Why I support Israel by Pat Condell

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.

  3. **************************************************
    Hypocrisy of the Anti-Israel BDS Movement
    by Mr. Cohen, 2015 June 7, updated 2015 June 8

    In year 2012 CE, the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report revealed 17 countries that still practice or tolerate slavery: Algeria, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Kuwait, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, Yemen, Madagascar, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Cuba.

    Notice that NONE of these 17 countries is suffers the wrath of the BDS movement, no matter how guilty they are of practicing slavery.

    Also notice that most of these countries are MUSLIM, which means that the Far-Left-dominated news media will NEVER give them the criticism they deserve, because the Far-Leftists are the loyal allies of the Muslims.

    Last but not least, the Far-Left-dominated BDS movement will NEVER target these counties with boycotts, because the Far-Leftists are the loyal allies of the Muslims.

    According to the year 2014 CE Freedom in the World Report, the ten most oppressive countries in the world are: Central African Republic, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan.

    Notice that NONE of these ten countries is suffers the wrath of the BDS movement, no matter how much they oppress their own citizens.

    Since year 1950 CE, China has occupied the land of Tibet and murdered around one million Tibetans. Does China suffer the wrath of the BDS movement? NO! And it never will.

    Russia invaded Georgia in year 2008 CE.
    Russia invaded Ukraine in year 2014 CE.
    Is Russian boycotted by the BDS movement?
    NO! And it never will be.

  4. Andrew Klavan vs. Anti-Israel BDS (part 1 of 2):

    “Of course, the BDS movement does not really want to kill all the Jews; they just want boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel, until the nation is so weak, it can be overrun by its enemies, so THEY can kill all the Jews!

    So it is not like BDS-ers are Nazis or anything; they are more like the Nazi’s cute little sidekicks; like Hitler and the Seven Dwarves.”

    SOURCE: Who Put the BS in BDS? 2014 July 2

  5. Andrew Klavan vs. Anti-Israel BDS (part 2 of 2):

    “The key point is just because BDS-ers are trying to destroy the Jewish state alone out of all the nations; just because they are holding Israel to a higher standard than other countries in the region; just because they are targeting the ONE land in the Middle East land where people are free and differences are tolerated; that does not mean they are anti-Semitic; they are probably great people, who just hate Jews.”

    SOURCE: Who Put the BS in BDS? 2014 July 2

  6. I’m sorry to sound like a sycophant, but the paragraph about the Jewish Obama was both brilliant and hilarious.

    Us labor lawyers now have a new conundrum to wrestle with. What happens if someone wants to use a handicapped parking space because he “identifies” with the disabled? If a man can identify as a woman, and a white can identify as a black, surely an able bodied person can identify with someone disabled.

    If we wanted to demonstrate the sheer lunacy of Title VII, we could go on for weeks. Few people realize how that law – and the way it displaced actual MERIT as the means of promotion and advancement in every area of life – has slowly destroyed the American free market and economy. Not even the most conservative of politicians has the guts to call for its repeal.

  7. How has title VII slowly destroyed the American free market and economy?

  8. Phillip Slepian

    @Fromage – The Rabbi is correct. This is from Oren’s new book –

    On the eve of a critical vote at the United Nations on a Palestinian-backed resolution to condemn Israeli settlements, Obama held a 50-minute phone call with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority .

    Obama, during that call, promised to “renew America’s demand for a total freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” He also promised to lend his support “for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines,” an unprecedented call from a U.S. president, Oren writes.