Haneen Zoabi’s black and white argument

Haneen Zoabi, the Israeli Arab MK, writes a vitriolic piece for Comment is Free on the deportation of banned Israeli Raed Salah. I won’t go into the details – you can peruse the contents as you wish – but there was one point that particularly jarred.

She says: “There is no other meaning to a “Jewish state” except the recognition of the legitimacy of granting privileges to Jews in Israel at the expense of Palestinian citizens, annulling the legitimacy of our struggle for real democracy.”

So, question from the class. If there is “no other meaning” to a Jewish state than the denial of privileges to its non-Jewish citizens, what exactly would a Palestinian state amount to?

Presumably, by Zoabi’s logic, one which would inevitably entail “granting privileges” to Palestinians at the expense of those who are not Palestinian.

Which may well be what she wants, but it makes a mockery of her dream to see “democracy in our own land”.

If she truly believes that, when states are defined by one singular characteristic, they cannot still tolerate the characteristics of others within them, does she then also imagine that a Palestinian state would be the exception?

Or does she fall into that well-trodden trap of believing what is not OK when done by the Israelis is perfectly OK when done by anyone else.

If states can be viewed only in Zoabi’s starkly black and white terms – a prism of “all for one and none for the other” – what hope is there for peace and a two state solution at all?


Did the student protesters vote last May?

Been having a discussion on Twitter about the student demonstration in London today (hash tag #demo2010). Having watched footage of the students smash up Millbank buildings, graffiti f*** on the walls and other acts of friendly vandalism, I can understand why public opinion wouldn’t be with students.

I’m fully in support of them – I think the proposals to raise fees by such a degree without a proportional improvement in tuition time and teaching standards are a recipe for disaster, and risk doing serious long-term damage to education in Britain.

 But I also think students like to jump on a bandwagon.

I tweeted: “I wonder if all the students out there for #demo2010 bothered to vote in 2010. With the youth vote as low as it is, bet they didn’t”.

 The numbers don’t lie – the British electoral turnout is poor anyway but voting is lowest among the 18 to 25 demographic. Yes, May 6 was exam season, yes, students are busy, yes, they probably didn’t get round to organising a postal vote, but the fact is, decisions are made by those who show up.

 As Alex Richman pointed, if they had voted, they might still be in the same boat. He tweeted back: “People who voted for the party opposing higher fees got them into power. and then saw them agree to raise fees.”

 Dina Rickman added: “Do you think voting would have helped? Tuition fees would still have gone up.”

 On this particular issue, perhaps not. If the Conservatives had got an outright majority, fees would almost certainly have risen, while if Labour had won, despite their current indignation, who knows what would have happened. But in any protest – the Iraq war comes to mind – I’d hazard that not everyone involved bothered to shuffle down to the ballot box.

 But that’s not the point. Political engagement shouldn’t be limited to Election Day, but it shouldn’t be limited to a Wednesday afternoon riot either.

 Democracy is, philosophically speaking, a contract between representative and represented. If you don’t make the effort to choose who represents you – and I’m sure some of those protesting did – you don’t then have the right to complain when you object to what is done.

Doubly damned if you didn’t but now you did

Damned if you, damned if you don’t and doubly damned if you didn’t but now you did.

 No, not a new tongue twister. 

Just my response to the inevitable media sniggering that has accompanied the news that, owing to extreme public outrage, Brown et al probably won’t be scrapping childcare vouchers any more.  U-Turn, the Sunday Times cried at me across the breakfast table.   Others sneered about a government ‘climb down’

But what exactly is so wrong with the government changing their mind after 81,000 people signed their names to a petition on the subject? 

Surely that is what democracy is all about – leaders listening to our opinions and reacting to them? 

Why else would you set up a petition, except to encourage change.  No one lobbies politicians just to make a point; you place pressure in order to get a result. 

Ideally they might get it right first time, but i’d still rather a government who were responsive to popular sentiment.  Of course they are doing it because they have calculated the ‘mum and dad vote’ is rather crucial to prevent a Conservative landslide come May, but so what!

Isn’t it better for them to ‘climb down’ on an issue they have apparently got it wrong with, than remain stubborn and defiant just to prevent accusations of flip-flopping. 

Just imagine how different world history could have been, if only leaders were a little more willing to contradict themselves. 

What price, democracy?

Here’s a question. If you have to spend upwards of $100 million of your personal finances in order to win an election, does that make you a good candidate? New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, evidently thinks so. As The Sunday Times reported:

[He] emerged yesterday as the biggest personal spender in the history of US election campaigns.

The media billionaire has so far spent $85m (£52m) of his own money on his bid for re-election on November 3 and is expected to burn through at least another $30m.

His opponent, William Thompson, has deemed this ‘obscene’. Political posturing on the part of the Democrat of course, but he has only spent $6 million. Stingy b*******.

Really though, spending any amount of million seems a bit obscene, especially during an economic crisis. It may sound preachy and sanctimonious to make the point ‘think what you could do for society with all that money’, but it is kinda true.

America has always been a global leader in extravagant campaign spending, even despite reforms in 2002. Despite his involvement in these reforms, in August 2008 alone the McCain campaign spent $41 million, $23 million on advertising. That is a mindboggling figure, made all the worse for the fact that he didn’t even win.

Obama, hailed as the internet campaigner and revolutionary grass-roots candidate, spent $53 million that month, with $32 million on advertising. Grass-roots indeed.

Realistically, running for an election costs money – even on the most micro level of student politics, for example, you’re going to have photocopying expenses. But in the internet age, with Twitter, blogging, Facebook and so on, it has never been easier to get the message across to people. So it is ludicrous that Bloomberg (and he’s not alone, just the worst offender) is spending more than ever.

In Britain we’ve been up in arms over MP’s expenses for the better part of a year now. With an election forthcoming, isn’t it time we start a discussion on this?

Because it seems to me that the price of democracy has been set a little too high.