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A Stupid Analogy

Why Park51 and East J’lem are unrelated

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The planned future site of Park51.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

In the course of an hysterical attack on President Obama’s “bigoted” Park51 stance (yes, the president’s careful, nuanced back-tracking clearly gave him much-needed political cover with the right), Caroline B. Glick compares his “warm endorsement of the plan to build a mosque by the ruins of the World Trade Center” to his opposition to allowing Israeli Jews to build in East Jerusalem. To wit: “In the case of the Ground Zero mosque he prefers the rights of Muslims over the values of the overwhelming majority of Americans. In the case of the Palestinians, he prefers their anti-Semitic nationalism over the civil rights of Jews.”

Leaving aside the grotesque distortions (characterizing Palestinian nationalism as inherently anti-Semitic, declaring that Park51 offends American “values” based on polls), her provocation remains: Why are American Muslims’ property rights a priority for Obama, but not those of Jewish Israelis? I guess I have some explaining to do.

This analogy is facile because, unless you are a total extremist, you believe that all rights have limits. For example, the United States protects freedom of speech, but does not protect the right to incite a mob to immediate unlawful activity or to shout fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire. The reason we occasionally agree to suspend the rights of minorities or individuals is not because, on a given issue, the majority thinks we should (as the majority does in the case of Park51)—in fact, we pre-commit to a series of rights precisely to avoid the whims of temporary majorities!

Rather, the reason we sometimes agree to limit certain rights is when there is an overriding policy goal so compelling that it trumps this notion of rights. So, for example, it is a compelling policy goal of government to prevent people from trampling other people to death in the rush to evacuate a theater: Hence the ban on shouting fire where there is no fire. (Actually, come to think of it, hence also the Constitution’s limit on property rights: The power of the government to exercise eminent domain and take property from private citizens when it has a compelling interest in doing so.)

And, hence, the suspension of Jewish Israelis’ property rights when it comes to East Jerusalem, a territory that, while on the other side of the Green Line, is administered by Israel and which the international community recognizes as such. The Obama administration’s overriding policy goal is the creation of a Palestinian state, and it has determined that one way to expedite such a thing is to freeze all building in East Jerusalem so as to maintain the status quo until a final resolution is reached. You can disagree with the wisdom of an East Jerusalem freeze (many two-staters do); you can even disagree with the wisdom of a separate Palestinian state (Glick clearly does, and plenty of people on the left whom she loathes do, too). But that is the administration’s argument, and they make it in good faith.

By contrast, even if you are one of those Americans who is against building Park51 a few blocks from Ground Zero (and, no doubt about it, that puts you in the solid majority), you cannot rationally conjure some sort of hypothetical wherein some substantive, compelling, overriding policy goal is at stake. You can hate it, as many Jews (and many Americans) hated it when neo-Nazis marched in a neighborhood full of Holocaust survivors outside Chicago. But you can’t argue that it is hindering some major, hugely consequential aim of the federal, state, or local governments.

But Glick already knows that her analogy is spurious, as she is guilty of the exact same “inconsistency” as Obama: Obama supports the property rights of American Muslims but not Israeli Jews, and Glick supports the property rights of Israeli Jews but not of American Muslims. No?

Our World: Standing on a Landmine [JPost]

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That’s basically fair, though you might have mentioned why it was that Glick refers to Palestinian nationalism as anti-Semitic. Here is what, according to Glick’s piece, Mahmoud Abbas–him, not someone from Hamas!–said pretty recently:

“In a briefing with the Egyptian media last week Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told reporters that no Jews will be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state. He also said that while he would agree to allow NATO forces to deploy in the future Palestinian state, he would not permit any Jewish soldiers to serve in the NATO units stationed on the territory of such a state. As he put it, ‘I will not agree that there will be Jews among NATO forces and I will not allow even one Israeli to live amongst us on the Palestinian soil.’”

I know I’m changing the subject from Park51 (basically because I agree with you that Glick’s comparison is wrong), but I didn’t follow Abbas’s briefing w/the Egyptian media closely, and if Glick’s characterization of what Abbas said is correct, it’s pretty astonishing stuff. He’s supposed to be a _moderate?_

..Scroll down to the part that’s in bold at the bottom of this piece: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3929819,00.html

The only reason to disallow Jews from building in East Jerusalem is to buy into the idea that no Jews would be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state. Why people think it’s okay for a future Palastinian state to kick out all the Jews but it would not be okay for Israel to kick out all the non-Jews is beyond me. Why can’t freedom of religion be allowed in both?

norm t says:

It would be better if our Nobel Peace Prize winning President
would keep out of local building department business whether it
be in Jerusalem or New York.

He should give some attention to the U.S. economy. That’s what
we hired him to do.

Raeefa says:

OK, I’m in agreement with you about the stupid analogy. Agree or disagree with Obama’s position on the mosque and E. Jerusalem construction, those are two completely different situations.

However, it is most definitely NOT a grotesque distortion to say that Palestinian nationalism is inherently anti-Semitic. Yes, a situation may perhaps arise in the future where there is a movement for a Palestinian state that does not falsify Jewish history and negate our connection to the land, but until then, it is an anti-Semitic movement.

The president of the Palestinian authority holds a PhD. His thesis topic was proving that the holocaust did not occur. I would classify that as anti-semitic.

Benjamin Entine says:

I would suggest that what Obama says and does is continuously dictated by considerations that are neither consistent nor moral in their origins, but rather political (like most politicians–at least those who succeed). Ergo his enormously successful, essentially stealth campaign for the Presidency, positioning him as all things,to all people. His term has been a series of advances and retreats, which could be categorized as reflecting true sentiments checked by political realities. Thus C.G.’s search for consistency is futile. If you like what you see and want the unfettered B.H.O., vote him a second term.

James Price says:

With moderate programming on the moderate Palestinian Authority’s moderate radio and television broadcasts featuring at times Islamic clerics advising Muslims worldwide to kill Jews everywhere they find them, one would be off the mark to regard the nationalist movement as anti-Semitic. Similarly, with Hanan-Ashrawi-approved text books for school-aged Arab children referring to Jews as insects, apes, and monkeys. In fact, Palestinian nationalist aspirations of any description are difficult to find. The nation the U. N. handed to them in 1947 was outright rejected with a war. The war was followed by 19 years of passivity to Egyptian and Jordanian occupation of that nation-to-be with Jordan formally occupying the West Bank. And again at Camp David, the nation handed to them conditional only on an end to their killing was rejected. In the face of persistent outpouring of Jew hatred prolific in the Arabic-language mass media, the Progressive mind sees nothing objectionable. Viva Progress !!!

James Price says:

correction: make that “Jordan formally annexing the West Bank”

steve says:

“Leaving aside the grotesque distortions (characterizing Palestinian nationalism as inherently anti-Semitic,”

In one simple phrase Marc Tracy reveals once again his prejudice. I don’t need to repeat the PA’s general anisemitic foundations, as James Price aptly reviewed part of it a few notes above and be sure to read the ynet piece for which Gur above provides a link. It takes Mr. Tracy’s position apart. To be fair, I want to challenge MArc Tracy to write a new piece for Tablet: “What Marc Tracy Considers To Be Inherent Anti-Semitism” and print it with the ynet article. I am very curious about this one.

That said, I want to mention that I used to read and enjoy every Tablet issue. However, with poorly prepared propaganda pieces like this one, I find I am reading it much less frequently. Thi is just a knee jerk reaction about an East Jerusalem freeze that overlooks the ethnic cleansing of Jews by the Jordanians after 1948 as well as regard for the rights of Jewish landowners in East Jerusalem that go back decades. Glick’s point was that Tracy’s “International Community” wants to address Palestinian right of return and property rights,but nothing for Jewish property rights that actually existed for many decades. It’s very unfortunate.

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A Stupid Analogy

Why Park51 and East J’lem are unrelated

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