Monday, May 31, 2010

Consequences of Irreconcilability

There is something depressing about the appearance of Peter Beinart's New York Review article, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment." appearing so soon before the current incident involving the Israeli effort to prevent a flotilla of humanitarian aid from delivering their cargo to Gaza. I am sure it will be a while before are the different versions of this story get sorted out; but that sorting process will have to account for Al Jazeera English having a reporter on board one of the vessels, the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, who was filing dispatches until communications were cut. About all we know at the present in that there was gunfire and that up to nineteen people on board this particular ship were killed. Israel claims its commandos were attacked before they boarded the ship, while those on board, including Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal, claim that the vessel was flying a flag of truce before any shots were fired by the commandos. For now we can only conclude that this is a tragic example of what happens when the intransigence of faith-based actions collide, thus rendering any governmental authority, whether of a sovereign state or of a global institution such as the United Nations, virtually meaningless (as Max Weber put it). Like it or not, we are facing the opposition of Orthodox Jewish convictions in Israel (and among American Orthodox Jews who share those convictions) and the Islamic fundamentalism of political parties such as Hamas. Both of these are basically authoritarian convictions that have no room for the principles of democracy that our own government supposedly espouses. Whether or not the United States can resolve this matter may have much to do with the strength of its own convictions and whether or not either side of the opposition cares about its ability to serve as an honest broker. This is a bleak prospect on a day when we are supposed to be remembering those who died in battle.

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