Thursday, February 27, 2014

Addressing Both Sides of the Israeli - Palestinian Issue

Today's NY Times (Feb 27) includes a story describing the rescinding of an invitation to Professor Rashid Khalidi to address the student Ramaz Political Society, a group of Ramaz high school students.  The head of the Jewish modern orthodox school, Paul Shaviv, felt that "any dialogue between the professor and students would be imbalanced."  "'It would be a bit like inviting the head of our high school tennis team to play an exhibition match with Andre Agassi.'"  He apparently considered Ramaz high school students not astute enough to enter into dialogue with this renowned and respected pro-Palestinian speaker.

This follows efforts of other Jewish organizations dedicated to Zionism to inhibit or interfere with local chapters of such groups engaging speakers that propose a different view of the Middle East problem, especially speakers, most often Jewish, who support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction).  Such actions are and will continue to be counter-productive.

Attempts to suppress the views of opposing factions in a debate can only reflect poorly on those involved in the censorship.  In fact, pro-Israel organizations should encourage invitations to dissenters to address them.  There should be no fear of hearing the words and opinions of those on the other side - they should be welcomed and openly debated.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Logic About Abortion - Whether Pro-Choice or Pro-Life

Wendy Davis,  "liberal" candidate for governor of Texas, who gained fame as a state legislator for her filibuster of state abortion restrictions, has modified her stand, saying she is opposed to late term (after 20 weeks) abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is at risk.   Apparently, according to Ms. Davis, there is a point where a fetus has a "right to life."

Let's take a look at this issue once again.

A fetus (here defined as any product of conception) either has "a right to life" or it does not.

If it does not have a "right to life,"  abortion may be performed at any point prior to birth.

If a fetus has a "right to life," then this right either begins at conception or some time thereafter.

If it begins at conception - end of discussion.  Abortion for the sake of abortion would be immoral - rape, incest, or other crimes can have no bearing on this decision.  Once a fetus has attained "the right to life," the subsequent denial of that right cannot be modified because of the means of fetal generation.

If a "right to life" begins at some point after conception, then abortion for the sake of abortion is immoral at that time and thereafter - rape, incest or other crimes can have no moral effect on this decision.  Once a fetus has attained the "right to life," the subsequent denial of that right cannot be modified because of the means of fetal generation.

When the right to life is said to occur at some point after fertilization, that point needs to be defined.  It is generally considered to be the age of "viability"-  the age at which the fetus is considered able to sustain life ex-utero (outside the uterus.)  However, not all fetuses may attain viability at the same in-utero age.  Just as ex-utero "normal" infants don't all mature at the same rate - so it would be for in-utero fetuses.

Viability ex-utero is not defined by the ability of a "born" infant to survive without the assistance of technology.  The need for technological assistance to sustain life is, in fact, the rule rather than the exception in children born prematurely.  It must be acknowledged that the fetal age of ex-utero viability may decrease with advancement in this technology.  With time, future technology may progress to the point where ex-utero viability may extend very close to, or actually to, the onset of fertilization!

Some interesting further considerations:

If you believe that rape or incest justify abortion, consider the rare cases of "superfecundation."  Superfecundation is the fertilization of two or more ova from the same cycle by sperm from separate acts of sexual intercourse.  If one ovum was fertilized because of rape or incest, and the other through "mutual non-incestuous consent," which fetus should be aborted - one, both?  Should there be DNA testing to make that determination?

Is a fetus truly a "part of the mother's body" to which she has full control?  A fetus is genetically distinct from its mother and from its father.  If a mother is to have full control of her body, including control over a genetically distinct entity within, then she could logically abort a fetus at any age.  There could be no moral distinction between abortion at 6 weeks and abortion at 34 weeks.  One cannot lose this "right to my body" as that part of the "body" develops over time.

If a woman accepts the implant of a fetus from another couple which, therefore, is not genetically related to her at all, does this fetus become part of her body as well?  Does she have the moral right to make decisions regarding this fetus who entered her body from without rather than from within?  Or does the "right to my body" not apply in such cases.

If the life of a mother is potentially compromised by an ongoing pregnancy and one must make the "Solomonic" choice as to which of the two shall survive - this decision should be in the hands of the concerned individuals who are legally and ethically involved.  Decisions may be based on moral and/or religious beliefs or tenets.  Such judgments are always extraordinarily difficult - and non-involved parties should not have the right to impose them on the concerned parties.


If you are "pro-choice" you must be pro-choice in all situations.  It does not follow that exceptions apply except where the Solomonic decision is required.

If you are "pro-life" you must be pro-life in all situations.  It does not follow that exceptions apply except where the Solomonic decision is required.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The False Constancy of Inherited Guilt - Israel, Germany and Victimhood

“Silence in the face of false propaganda legitimizes actions against Israelis. I will not accept false moralizing against the people of Israel, in Israel’s Knesset. Certainly not in German.”

“His support for Palestinians who incite for the destruction of Israel, from the Knesset podium, 70 years after the Holocaust, is a chutzpah without parallel.” 

The Times of Israel (a web-based English-language Israeli newspaper) included these quotes in its article describing the reaction of right wing members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) and their subsequent walking out on the President of the European Union, Martin Shulz, during his  address to the Knesset (apparently in his native German).

These words are far more than mere criticism of Mr. Schulz's remarks.  They continue the process of using Jewish victimhood during the Third Reich as a modifier, if not justifier, of Israel's existence today.  This is not right.  Recently many speeches have been made and books written, including Yascha Mounk's current thoughtful and disturbing "Stranger in My Own Country," discussing the German-Jewish issues that continue to besiege this unique relationship - the never-ending accusations of evident "inherited guilt" now beginning to beleaguer a fourth generation of the Germans born after World War II.

Constant accusations of guilt towards grandchildren and great-grandchildren of perpetrators is having more negative than positive effect - as would be expected.  The time of repeated reference to Holocaust and victimhood during political debates should be over.  Right wing (or any other) parties wishing to inveigh against a European or German point of view towards Israel should do so without such allusion.