A right-wing Web site has posted a list with personal details of organizers of the left-wing protests in Sheikh Jarrah.Unless there was proof, it would be irresponsible to blame this on the increasingly right-leaning theocratic government of Israel. However, I believe that the atmosphere the Shas party and people like Avigdor Lieberman are creating helps to incite, and to provide justification for, this kind of teeth-baring internal battles; this hunting for heresies. This is a silly example, but I think a telling one: the other day, as the girl was getting ready for work, she had on the local news, and they blurbed an interview with one of the Dixie Chicks (who is apparently touring with the Eagles. That is a show which: I will not be at). Now, I don't care about the Dixie Chicks, and never have. But it is amazing to think of the anger they provoked by saying they were embarrassed to be from the same state as George Bush. Do you remember the ferocity those words were met with?
The details, which have been up for a week, include head shots of the activists, their phone numbers, e-mails, full addresses and pictures of their homes.
I think that is what is happening in Israel right now. The far-right (the creator of the website boasts he was a close associate of Meir Kahane, something most people don't brag about) is emboldened. Their simmering anger is allowed to come to the surface. If you aren't for expansion, you aren't a true Israeli. They have the wild-eyed and violently beatific glow of the righteous. I would like to think, though, that incidents like this can backfire, and that a society as decent as Israel's will quickly realize the beast in their midst.
Over here, our beast is still going strong. The Times has a great article about Alan Simpson, Republican from Wyoming, joining a "bipartisan commission for reducing the national debt." Simpson is being pilloried from the right because he thinks that maybe raising taxes a little might be needed to fix the deficit (along with spending cuts). I don't find this to be a remotely controversial idea, but it is anathema to the modern right wing (who I will not call conservative- this is radicalism). The piece is full of great quotes, and Simpson comes across as a grown up, far more than Rush or Grover Norquist, who called him "old and grumpy". Grover Norquist calling someone grumpy is like me calling someone drunk- a little hypocritical. Here are some quotes, which were backed up by other grown-ups likes Howard Baker and Pete Domenici.
He trailed off, and then recalled the Reagan years, when the initial deep tax cuts were followed by years of tax increases to reduce deficits smaller than the current ones.
“Reagan didn’t put anything off the table, if he felt it was for the good of the American people to tweak the tax system,” he said.
As for the present, “I don’t believe we ever had a war where we didn’t have a tax to finance the war,” Mr. Simpson added.
That is the thing- Reagan did raise taxes, and he did negotiate with the Soviets, and he wanted arms control. But today's movement, whose every member claims to idolize Reagan, would find all of this impossible and wrong. Like in Israel, they are more concerned with punishing heretics and breaking the opposition then in actually getting anything done in the real world. Conservatism to me is fundamentally an embrace of doubt. Sadly, the far right here and abroad are blessed with the miracle of certainty.