The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The myth of "the Palestinian people"

Once more, Arabs are killing Israelis in the Middle East. And some of those Arabs are actually getting support from the outside world under the pretense of the need for the "Palestinians" for their own homeland! History tells us that there is no such thing as a "Palestinian," so who are these "Palestinians" who claim the right to a homeland?

First of all, let it be made clear that until 1948 nobody anywhere claimed to be a "Palestinian." If you had asked the ancestors of today's murderous Arab terrorists their nationality in those early days, they might have said "Arab," or perhaps "Syrian," or going back earlier, "citizen of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire," but nobody in those days ever called himself a "Palestinian." The only people who even used the word "Palestine" to describe the territory were the British and — oddly — the Jews! (The name "Israel" had not yet been chosen, and the Jews were trying to decide on a name for it!)

There has never been an indigenous people in the area who called this territory "Palestine." The earliest people we know of in the region were the Canaanites, who lived there before Moses led the Jewish people out from Egypt. When the Jews settled there, it became "Judea." The name "Palestine" ("Palaestina" in Latin) was given to this territory by the Romans, when they defeated the Jews in battle and took over the land. (They gave the territory this name so they could claim it was not the Jews' land; the name came from the name of the Philistines, a people whose land was nearby. From the Wikipedia description of their territory, it would appear that a small portion of present-day Israel was inhabited by the Philistines; most of their territory was in today's Gaza Strip.) And from then until 1948, the territory was somebody's colony; the last two countries to control the territory before 1948 were the Turks and the British.

In 1918, the British took this territory away from the Turks, and first established a territory known as Palestine, which they governed under a mandate from the League of Nations. In August 1922, the Palestine mandate was split into two; one part was called "Transjordan," and is today the Kingdom of Jordan. So when someone speaks of "Palestine," it is not really clear whether they mean 1918-22 Palestine (which includes Jordan) or 1922-1948 Palestine (which does not).

In any case, "Palestine" in the 20th century simply was a term for the British mandated territory. Some Arabs in the area wanted it all incorporated in one pan-Arab state that included such current nations as Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Others wanted smaller nations; most considered that this territory would belong to a greater Syria that would include today's Lebanon and Iraq. But nobody considered Palestine (in either the 1918-1922 version or the 1922-1948 version) a nation in its own right.

In 1947, the United Nation passed a resolution dividing this 1922-1948 version of Palestine (which was only a third of the 1918-1922 version!) into two parts, which it might be noted were simply referred to as a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state." Nobody envisioned, even then, the Arab state as being called "Palestine" — that was still just a name for the British colony!

But in any case, the Arabs were not satisfied with just a piece of the Palestine mandate; they wanted it all. So they started a war with the Jews, and by the time the fighting ceased, the Jews ended up with slightly more territory than the UN had awarded them in 1947. This became the State of Israel.

For a number of years, the Arabs kept picking wars with Israel; the Jews kept winning those wars. And ultimately, the Arabs invented a new myth: the myth of a "Palestinian people" evicted from their land by the Israelis. There never was such a thing; there were Arabs, no different in any way from their neighbors in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, who thought of themselves as one group, and since the boundaries between these nations had been created by the British and French after World War I, the national identities of these people were not very strong. But by inventing this "Palestinian" nationality, they came up with a group that needed its own homeland, or so they proclaimed.

But who are these "Palestinians"? The people of a national group have something in common. The French speak French, and differ from the French-speaking Swiss and Belgians by having had allegiance to a government that has existed for centuries. The Swiss speak four different languages, but these people signed a constitutional document that bound them together in 1848, and so they have built themselves a nation (In fact, of course, groups of what now are Swiss had bound themselves into a nation in the 13th century, so they can be considered to have been building this nation for that long!) I challenge anyone to define a "Palestinian" for me -- neither language, nor religion, nor anything else defines a "Palestinian," except that it is an Arab who happened to have been governed by the British mandatory authority between 1922 and 1948 or a descendant of such a person. This hardly defines a nationality!

The Jews are united by religion. The Canadians are united by history; they have built a nation since 1867. But in no sense can the "Palestinians" be united as a people. Let us just avoid this word "Palestinian" — it is totally meaningless!

Monday, December 22, 2008

That time of year -- I hate it!

Right now we are in the time of year that I hate the most. I wish I could go into hibernation from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve. Why do we have to endure it?

First of all, as I've said, I'm Jewish, so Christmas is not my holiday. But I don't begrudge Christians' celebration of the birth of the founder of their faith (though, historically, it seems a matter of record that he wasn't really born in late December; the Romans simply co-opted a day that was already a holiday and renamed it). The problem is when they try to involve me in their celebration. Please leave me alone!

It seems as if at this time of year we are bombarded by three kinds of music, and I'll list them in increasing order of their unpleasantness:
  1. General winter stuff, like "Winter Wonderland," "Jingle Bells," and Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." This isn't really Christmas music, so it doesn't bother me as much as the other two; I just wonder why anyone would want to be reminded that it's the winter season, with its cold, wind, and even snow!

  2. Then there is the "secular Christmas" music -- things like "Silver Bells," which don't mention Jesus but keep the Christmas theme. I suppose this is the Christians' way of trying to make us feel more at home (and one can even argue that Irving Berlin, who wrote "White Christmas," was Jewish!) But my response to those people is simply this: "When you get rid of the first six letters of the name of that holiday, call me. Until then, keep away from me!"

  3. And finally, the religious carols, from "Silent Night" to "Adeste Fideles," and on down the whole list. Sing them in your church, in your home, or at private gatherings. I no more want to hear them than I want to be proselytized by your clergy.

So, repeating again, Please leave me alone!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Judge Currie is right on target

U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie has ruled that the State of South Carolina must hold off its plans to issue special license plates with the words "I Believe" and a cross. Judge Currie is right on target.

When such symbols and words appear on a State-issued license plate, they constitute an establishment of Christianity by the State of South Carolina. If a driver wants to advertise his Christianity, let him buy a bumper sticker and stick it on his car. But the State has no business issuing such plates.

What part of "no establishment of religion" do the South Carolina legislators that approved such a plate not understand?

Monday, December 01, 2008

He's actually doing some things right!

Anyone reading this blog must be aware that my thoughts on Barack Obama prior to this election were extremely negative. So I have to admit that I'm surprising myself with this post, under the title "He's actually doing some things right!" Yes, President-elect Obama is actually doing some things right: I'm talking about his appointments to date.

He's made a number of appointments lately, and some of them (like Pres. Bush's Defense Secretary to continue in office) are positively mind-boggling, given Obama's remarks about Bush's war policies! But one thing they all have in common: Whether I've heard of the person or not, every one is competent for the position which he was picked for. This is quite a contrast with the last two Democratic presidents. Carter picked — to head the anti-drug program — a doctor who was reprimanded by his medical association for improperly prescribing drugs! And in general, Carter tended to appoint people he knew from Georgia, regardless of competence; of course, Carter liked to micro-manage everything, so one might say it didn't matter much who he appointed, because he'd call the shots anyway himself! Clinton was so obsessed with naming a female attorney generalregardless of qualifications — that it took him three tries, and the one who made it, Janet Reno, made a botch of the Eli├ín Gonzalez case. Some of Obama's appointments may be questionable for some reasons, but competency isn't the reason for my doubts on any of them.