Friday, March 28, 2008

The Grim State of Israel

Has the Israeli-Palestinian peace process received new wind in its sails at the Annapolis Conference in November? How much success can we expect from the recent visit of Vice President Dick Cheney to Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas?

There exists a grim view, not only regarding the establishment of peace and harmony in the Middle East, but also in regard of the longevity of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland. There is little secret why the Bush Administration has waited seven years before making its first attempt to act as peacemaker: The futility of any such attempt was obvious as all previous efforts have ended in failure and there were and still are no new strategies known to heal that conflict.

During the past six decades – the lifetime of Israel – we have witnessed seven wars, beginning with the Palestine War of 1948/9 and ending in the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. In addition, there was a continuous chain of armed exchanges, filling in the interwar periods and often running one on top of the other. We know them all, the cross-border gunfights, raids, suicide bombings, retaliatory missile attacks, drawn-out intifadas and so much more. The bitter belligerence spread across their borders, if you remember the OPEC oil embargo, hijackings, the Lebanese Civil War of 1975/6, or the Hezbollah bombings of American, French, and Italian troops in Beirut in 1983. To the extent that my survey was accurate, only a single year, 1961, was free of any armed exchange and was truly peaceful. That would be one year out of sixty.

During the same six decades, there have occurred over fifty international attempts of peacemaking such as United Nations Security resolutions, armistices, peace treaties and blue-helmeted UN soldiers occupying buffer zones. In spite of this plethora of such goodwill interventions by the major powers and other countries, the appalling level of mutual rancor has not diminished one iota. There is no conflict in the world that has received as much international attention as this one – over fifty in sixty years – nor has any country been subjected to uninterrupted hostility for such a time period.

It sounds cynical to say this but it is merely a logical conclusion: The way things stand and with the methods used so far, the conflict will neither be resolved in another twenty years, nor in fifty.

In addition, we are confronted with the all-too obvious demographic problem. The higher birthrate of the Israeli Arabs over that of the Jewish Israelis, even if we disregard the Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza, forecasts a time in the not too distant future when the Jews will be a minority in their own country. Expressed politely, that ominous evolution puts the permanence of the Jewish homeland in the land of Zion in undeniable doubt.

You may wonder why, despite our loyalty to the Israelis, I paint the devil on the wall in such a seemingly cynical manner. One reason is that it never pays off to fool oneself. Ignoring the facts will never eliminate the problem. But I have a much more important reason. I have come upon a possible solution, one – if good fortune stands by our side – which would resuscitate our failing endeavors with unimaginable vigor. It is an intervention that is most extraordinary and that to a degree where many people would look at it as totally unrealistic, yet instead it does becomes very realistic, once we have accepted the grim view of Israel’s future as described above. In effect, it says that the only way to cure the State of Israel’s maladies and to save it for a permanent and happy future, after all previous treatments have failed, is for it to undergo a surgical operation. The name of that operation is the transplantation of the State of Israel to the shores of the Baltic Sea.

Yes, I did say it is extraordinary. It is unheard of. It almost sounds politically incorrect. Many will call it preposterous and absurd. But it is thinking outside the box and that’s what we do when confronting an unacceptable alternative. I have described it, and the reasoning behind it, in a short book entitled Quo Vadis, Israel? It is best to read it adopting the attitude of a patient who is informed by his physician that his disease is incurable and that in the end it will be fatal. Once faced by such a prognosis, it is common for us to eagerly consider even radical cures. The way it looks at present, such a major undertaking would be highly successful with few risks and offering the promise of a permanent cure. Its execution could be launched without delay if it weren’t its extraordinariness. As described in the book, nothing can commence until the incredulity of the Israelis and the Russians has been overcome and the concept has undergone thorough discussion.

I won’t give the secret away, for you would not enjoy the book unless you are truly concerned about Israel’s future and have been searching for a possible solution yourself. But if you actually were to read it and do so with earnest interest, you might recognize a promising light at the end of a frightening tunnel.

H. Peter Nennhaus, a retired surgeon and Illinois resident, was raised in Berlin and became a U.S. citizen in 1961. He is the author of Boyhood, the 1930s and World War II, Memories, Comments and Views from the Other Side. Among his various interests, the study of the history of the 20th century, the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism has been a persistent focus. You can visit him on the web at

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Feminine Majority - Gender, Values, and the Democrats

As the only group targeted by a political party using a value-based strategy, evangelicals are seen as the only people who match their actions and politics to their values. Values, however, are a universal human phenomenon. In their simplest form, values are socially constructed views about how the world should be. In 1651, Thomas Hobbes wrote about the subjectivity of values and how we shape our values to fit our ideas of what makes a perfect society. But whatsoever is the object of any man’s appetite or desire, that it is which he for his part calleth “good”; and the object of his contempt “vile” and “inconsiderable.” For these words of good, evil, and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them. There being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of Good or Evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves.

Looking past Hobbes’s notorious pessimism about the human condition, this idea highlights that everyone acts on values and that values are socially constructed. Therefore, values vary from person to person, and a person has the ability to change his or her values. Although Hobbes refers to an individual’s values, his message translates to larger community values. Americans, for example, hold American values. Every political candidate, on the right or the left, knows that most Americans respond favorably to the idea that a person should be rewarded for hard work. This is a capitalist, American value. Members of other societies might feel that a person should be rewarded for his or her skin color or family bloodline. Every person is socialized into the values of his or her community or nation, and these values then intersect with other values the person has, such as those based his or her religion, race, and socioeconomic class. Perhaps the most important set of socialized values, however, is based on a person’s gender. We term these values feminized values and masculinized values. In this book, we will outline how men’s and women’s different value systems create divergent views about what America should be.

We argue that Americans carry gendered attitudes into the voting booth and, like the evangelicals, vote based on how these values translate to specific political issues. Just as some groups’ values fall to the more conservative end of the political spectrum, other groups’ values fall to the left. Evangelicals usually support right-wing candidates, because their moral values are highly conservative. We will introduce a group of voters whose values reflect progressive ideals: feminized values voters. If evangelicals represent the key to Republican electoral victory, then feminized values voters represent the chance for Democrats to usher in a new progressive era. Feminized values are the values into which women are socialized; a majority of women hold these values, as do a smaller percentage of men, for reasons we will describe shortly.

The potential for a more progressive era arises because the women and men who hold feminized values make up today a majority of the country and of voters. We term feminized values voters the feminized majority. These women and men will not only change election outcomes, but also will transform American values and the American Dream. The feminized majority supports a strong welfare state, views social issues through a lens of egalitarianism, and feels that government should do more in general to help its most vulnerable citizens. Feminized majority voters support stem cell research, comprehensive sex education, and environmental protection. They reject violent imperialism. They worry about their long-term economic security and fear that neither party will provide them with adequate health care. In a much deeper and richer way than American masculinized voters, the feminized majority yearns for a progressive, populist America. We call these voters the feminized majority because the values they carry truly are becoming majoritarian. We will describe the political and economic changes that have led to this point. It is important to remember that President Bush changed the 2004 election by mobilizing evangelicals, who represent only 23 percent of voters. Now, Democrats have the opportunity to change America in dramatic ways with the support of a much larger part of the electorate. While the general perception is that the United States is a conservative country, we shall show that feminized values are held by an increasingly robust majority of voters in the country who are prepared to support a progressive politics of social justice.

The Democrats can lead the feminized majority if they are willing to abandon their triangulation strategy and create a values-based platform. This approach seems unorthodox, because we usually conflate values and morals with religion and conservatism. However, values are nothing more than socially constructed ideals that provide a moral compass for each person, regardless of where he or she falls on the political spectrum. Once Democrats recognize the power of values in elections, they can begin appealing to values voters. A noted social critic, Charles Derber is a Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Katherine Adam is the Outreach Director for the Philadelphia GROW Project of the Drexel University School of Public Health. She has been active in Democratic Party politics at the federal, state, and local levels, including interning for Senator John Kerry. Derber and Adam collaborated on the newly released nonfiction title, “The New Feminized Majority: How Democrats Can Change America with Women’s Values” which can be purchased at, Barnes and, and from the publisher’s website.

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