The Consequences for America of Resolution 2334
I have to finish this series on UNSC Resolution 2334. But I am torn. I want to write about so many other things – The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s 2016 take on Nat Turner and the rebellion he started in the slave south of the U.S. and why the movie in the end failed to connect but was a valiant effort; La La Land, another 2016 movie, but this time a romantic musical comedy by Damien Chazelle that connected brilliantly and had the feel of an extraordinary jazz concert like the one we saw before Christmas; a third 2016 movie, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea in which Casey Affleck offers one of the finest performances in film in this dark side of repetition and imitation; Jacob Bernstein’s 2015 HBO biopic of his mother, Nora Ephron, titled Everything Is Copy that explains the underpinnings of La La Land; Allan Zweig’s 2013 documentary, When Jews Were Funny that offered a very different and ironic take on reality, on comedy as the jazz art form of American and Canadian Jews, and, in terms of the arts, most of all, about the show currently on at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Mystical Landscapes.
The new year is overflowing with tasks. And there is so much more. Politics never leaves me alone. My life is haunted. In my daily existence, I cannot seem to escape its ever presence. I so want to write on one of the finest political speeches I have ever read, let alone heard, that of Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation on 10 January. And I want to throw a damper upon its sparkles and starlight, its analytic and epic skills, by really going into the life of Atticus Lee from To Kill a Mockingbird, and what it really means to empathetically re-enact the thoughts and feelings, the ideas and beliefs behind the actions of an Other. What does it mean when a guideline for art, a guideline for historiography, is used as a reference point for action in real life? What does it mean when we cross art and life?
It is not just about politics on a global scale. But about a noon hour talk on post-secondary education in Ontario that I heard last week and my own analysis of the terrible dilemmas we face in higher education. And I want to write about that crisis against the background of the brilliant French economist, Thomas Piketty, and his blog that he sent out on 9 January called, “On Productivity in France and Germany.” For the blog was about so much more – about, for example, the importance of equity and the critical role higher education plays in ensuring both equity and productivity. And all of this when I can no longer watch news.
Yesterday, I blew it. I broke my one New Year resolution to stop watching news. CNN had another lying, misleading Trump shill on. After all, CNN believes it must offer balance as the Trump mouthpiece rudely and continually interrupted his opponent without being stopped by the moderator, and we had yet another example of lying balancing an effort at truth, insult offsetting courtesy, and absolutely no regard for the Other or the truth. Where is חֶ֣סֶד וֶֽאֱמֶ֔ת: (chesed v’emet), usually translated as “loving kindness and truth,” (Genesis 49:29) where consideration for the Other is the precondition for expressing the truth?
I blew it. I had a hissy fit. I swore and my hands were so shaky I could not type when I retreated to my computer. And I felt so embarrassed, even though the broader public never witnessed my shame and humiliation that I felt when I finally allowed the very thin-skinned Donald Trump to get under my skin. Perhaps I should take my eldest daughter’s advice and only watch news through the eyes of Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin. What happened to my objectivity? What happened to my detachment so crucial to how I think and write? How will I survive the next four years? How will I survive a Trump presidency? Are the ruminations that he may be impeached in his first year just more delusion and false hope? Should I escape into practicalities – redoing my files at year end, clearing up my email lists, figuring out why my blog periodically gets blocked, arranging air travel for the family of my son and my granddaughter.
Maybe I will retreat into just keeping sane and even a bit healthy. After all, my dentist convinced me last week to swear off drinking Coke, especially Diet Coke which evidently is even worse than regular Coke in its acidic strength. She put it forth as the possible explanation, not simply for the staining of my teeth, but for the acid eating into the enamel and, even more, into the bone in my jaws that last year led to cavities under my crown and so many implants falling out. I had hit a tipping point and had to take radical action to reverse the processes, I was told. So I am left with a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, that is if I ever slip and drink one, I have to sip through a straw.
Is this a metaphor for politics at large? Am I addicted to Trump? Is he my Coca-Cola? Is he the final critical dose of acid that may rot the teeth of America? So much overstretch of an image! I have to return to facts and analysis or I will really go off the edge.
Recall the problems of Resolution 2344, a resolution ostensibly passed to maintain and even advance the two-State solution to the Jewish Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, I have argued, seems really intended to dynamite that prospect as it leaves entirely vague what it means by the many options of a two-State solution, as it allows the armistice of 1949 to provide the reference lines for a solution, as it designates the land on the other side of those armistice lines as Palestinian, pre-empting negotiations, as it opens the doors to international legal pressures and economic boycotts against Israeli institutions, individuals, products and services.
Jews are a stubborn people. Opposing the settlements in Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, the blatant unfairness with respect to other occupied territories, the chasm between supposedly ideal intentions and reality on the ground, the deliberate and very selective use of key diplomatic words, all of these will unite many, if not most Jews, in opposition to any negotiations never mind agreement. And there is so much left out. But I do not want to repeat what I wrote earlier. I want to focus on the dreadful impending consequences, first in America.
In the aftermath of the passage of the Resolution, the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, Tom Cotton, the thirty-seven-year old senator from Arkansas, declared that Israel building settlements in the West Bank was absolutely no problem. This is the same Tom Cotton who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jews and the Jewish community, presumably in return or in acknowledgement of his strong and unwavering support for Israel. With friends like Cotton, Israel does not need enemies, as the cliché goes.
Cotton organized the letter on behalf of 47 of his fellow members of Senate that he sent to Iran, a country he considers to be equivalent to Nazi Germany. The missive was possibly in contravention of the Logan Act that forbids anyone but the President negotiating with other countries. The letter informed the government of Iran that the nuclear deal would be reversed as soon as Obama left office. Cotton is a hawk among hawks, wanting to expand rather than close Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). He has advocated clamping down on Mexican immigrants (who were, incidentally, according to Cotton, backed by Hezbollah) almost as loudly as Donald Trump, supports building a wall along the Mexican border, and believes in harassing and belittling journalists when they contravene what he espouses. He not only is one of Trump’s most stalwart supporters in the Senate, but sometimes out-trumps The Donald. Though that is hard. Some Trump tweets: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S.” and “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”
Cotton backed Kansas Senator Jerry Moran’s efforts to lead the charge in having the Senate denounce the Resolution, backs Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is seeking to defund the UN because of the Resolution. At the same time as Resolution 2334 unites the Republicans in opposition, it is dividing the Democratic Party in its support for Israel. New York Senator Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer, a leading Democrat and incoming Senate minority leader, condemned Obama’s abstention and failure to veto the Resolution. He co-sponsored the Senate resolution condemning Res. 2334. As he argued, “While Secretary Kerry mentioned Gaza in his speech, he seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets into Israel. This is something that people of all political stripes in Israel vividly remember.” In another tweet, “The UN has long shown its anti-Israel bias & the US govt has admirably kept the UN out in negotiations. That tradition should continue.”
His effort was backed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). As was expected, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) both opposed the Senate resolution. The U.S. Senate Resolution, among other things, while it still voices support for a two-state solution, not only objects to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016), but also:
• Calls for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that it is no longer one-sided and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties;
• Rejects efforts by outside bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, to impose solutions from the outside that set back the cause of peace;
• Demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017, that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties;
• Notes that granting membership and statehood standing to the Palestinians at the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other international institutions outside of the context of a bilateral peace agreement with Israel would cause severe harm to the peace process, and would likely trigger the implementation of penalties under sections 7036 and 7041(j) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (division K of Public Law 114–113);
• Rejects any efforts by the United Nations, United Nations agencies, United Nations member states, and other international organizations to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel through economic or other boycotts or any other measures, and urges the United States Government to take action where needed to counter any attempts to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel;
• Urges the current presidential administration and all future presidential administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Though Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim and Black-American who is a leading light to become the Democratic National Committee Chair in the House, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), all opposed the resolution condemning the UN action, the House of Representatives voted 342-80 denouncing Resolution 2334. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the speaker of the House, criticized Kerry’s speech and tweeted: “After allowing this anti-Israel resolution to pass the UN, Secretary Kerry has no credibility to speak on Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
The combination of Israeli expansion of home demolitions, expropriation of Palestinian privately-owned land, denial of construction permits to Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem that helped provoke the Obama abstention and Kerry’s speech are all now reinforced by a phalanx of right-wing Republicans determined to use the Resolution as a pivot against the UN and to advance the extreme Right agenda in Israel that opposes the coming-into-being of a Palestinian state altogether. Most supporters of Resolution 2334 admit that it will have no real effect on the ground or on Israeli policies. I disagree. It will accelerate those policies and sow more distrust between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. Resolution 2334 empowers and strengthens the resolve and gives direction to the right in America that now holds power. The Obama and Kerry decision to abstain on Resolution 2334 was at best quixotic and at worse a source of long-term division within the Democratic Party.
My own prediction is that Israel is now on the road to renouncing the two-State solution in practice and will do so with U.S. backing. Resolution 2334, thus, divides the West just when it most needs to be united against the opponents to democracy, creates a chasm between the UN and the U.S., divides the Democrats and unites Republican who now control the White House as well as both houses of Congress, boxes the left in Israel in a corner for they oppose both Resolution 2334 and the efforts of the Netanyahu government to undermine the possibility of a two-State solution. Quite aside from its contradictions, Resolution 2334 has been defended as a victory for the two-State solution, but it is nothing of the sort. It is a Pyrrhic victory reifying the impotence of the UN and the irrelevance of Europe while allowing the rejectionist right to gain a stronger and more focused rationale to expand what they were already doing. Facts on the ground defeat abstract moral sounding off every time.