Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

November 16, 2021

The Secret Taiwan-Texas Deal


By David K. Shipler 

                Thanks to Russian hackers, we have a transcript of a startling portion of President Joe Biden’s video conversation last night with Chinese President Xi Jinping:

                Xi: Joe, as you know, I was honored recently to be elevated in history to the esteemed stature of our Communist Party’s two great leaders, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. This act signifies one of our most envied powers: to rewrite history. Leaders all over the world wish they could do it.

                Biden: Yes, I noticed, but we Americans don’t envy that at all. We like our history plain and truthful.

                Xi: Oh, do you? I have been admiring the skill of your Republicans in rewriting your history of racial oppression to indoctrinate children in the phony purity of your past. And this, just at the time when you accuse us of oppressing some of our people! That’s called hypocrisy, Joe.

                Biden: Look, man, that’s a long discussion that has nothing to do with our agenda. Let’s get down to the issues. Taiwan is next on the list.

                Xi: Exactly. Taiwan is my subject here. I have a bold idea, which I hope you’ll accept. Taiwan is a thorn in my side—not really part of my empire, not really independent, constantly making breakaway noises, and full of so-called democrats who love chaotic debate and discord. And who, by the way, will never rewrite history properly.

                Biden: So why don’t you just let Taiwan be Taiwan?

                Xi: Even better, let me give Taiwan to you.

                Biden: Huh?

                Xi: Give it away. Then I won’t have to worry over it all the time. It’s really a pain. But I want something in exchange.

                Biden: This is ridiculous.

Xi: You won’t think it’s ridiculous when you hear my proposal. You give me Texas.

Biden: [A funny noise that sounds like a snort, then a burble, then a chortle.] Wow, man, what an idea! We get Taiwan’s economy and great restaurants, and you get—hey, Texas is a bit recalcitrant. You sure you want it?

Xi: We have been studying Texas. The governor there claims to love individual liberty, but our autocracy experts can sniff out wannabe authoritarians. Greg Abbot would be our collaborator as much as Carrie Lam. And the rest of the Republicans, who still love incipient dictators like Trump, who just need to be flattered to become our lapdogs. And who don’t like free elections. And who don’t like public health—think Wuhan, Joe. They’ll fit right in.

Biden: Well, I don’t know about that. They’re pretty difficult people.

Xi: We have ways of taking care of difficult people.

Biden: But they have lots of guns.

Xi: Guns we can turn to our own use. All those swaggering cowboys looking for enemies, perfect matches with our Guoanbu agents. They’ll love each other. Brotherly love, Joe, a real peacemaking mission.

Biden: Hmmm. You know about our independent judiciary, right? Not exactly your style.

Xi: [Huge guffaw.] Independent? Come on, Joe, you don’t have to do propaganda with me. When was the last time you saw a Republican judge rule for the little guy? No, no danger there. I like their impulse to defer to the established authority. And we will be the established authority!

Biden: What about the judges who go against you?

Xi: Ask me that in a few months, and I’ll ask you back: What judges? Where are they?

Biden: I’ll admit, it’s an appealing idea. No more Greg Abbot, no more Ted Cruz, thirty-eight fewer electoral votes. And we get some great Chinese restaurants. But you get all that oil. What do we do for oil?

Xi: Switch to solar and wind, Joe! It’s what you’ve been campaigning for. We’ll just force you to make it happen!

Biden: Yeah, sounds good. But what about the border between Texas and the US? And how do I sell this to the American people?

Xi: Easy, Joe. You tell them you’ll build a wall around Texas, and that China will pay for it. 

 This is satire. It’s all made up, a disclosure made necessary by the absurdity of current reality, which prevents lots of people from telling the difference between truth and fiction.

October 19, 2021

Biden’s Housing Plan as a Key to Children’s Futures


By David K. Shipler 

                Let’s assume that Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are decent people, not callous to children in poverty. That would mean that they’re merely clueless. They are not connecting the dots. As they insist on slashing President Biden’s proposed $322 billion in housing subsidies, they cannot possibly understand how much lifelong damage that will do to kids.

                 Biden and the Democratic leaders are trying to break a key link in the chain reaction of poverty. Housing is that link. Without government aid, high rents leave less money for food, leading to malnutrition, parental stress, and disrupted living, all of which can impair brain development in young children. The scientific and social research has been clear on this for decades. Yet the connections are rarely recognized by legislators and officials—and journalists as well—who persistently treat each problem and government program as separate and distinct, with little regard for the web of interactions among the hardships that struggling families face.

                In many parts of the country, the private housing market is brutal for low-wage workers. Nationwide, households in the bottom 20 percent spend a median 56 percent of their income on rent.  The rest of their monthly funds are committed to paying for electricity, water, phone, heat, car loans, and the like. What they can shrink is the part of their budget for food. And without proper nutrition during critical periods of early life, children suffer cognitive impairment that is not undone even if food security is later restored. [See A Hungry Child’s First Thousand Days in Washington Monthly.]

                Stress is also a factor in brain development, researchers have found. Even if a family doesn’t become homeless but lives with constant tension over paying the rent and other bills, the anxiety can be absorbed by children, both in utero and after birth. Imagine—if you can—the anxiety of parents who have too little food for their children, for feeding offspring is a most elemental instinct and duty.

Furthermore, children’s biological and mental health is damaged when families have to move repeatedly or reside in poor housing with lead in the water from old pipes, roaches and mold that trigger asthma attacks, and overcrowding that causes household friction.

                The study of stress has been a significant addition to the understanding of the environmental impacts on the brain, to the point where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) devotes an entire website to updating research on risks and prevention. In its list of what scientists in a seminal study call Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the CDC includes housing issues along with more obvious traumas such as suffering neglect and witnessing violence or suicide.

September 25, 2021

America's Callous Border


By David K. Shipler 

                Several years ago, a gray-haired passport control official at Heathrow Airport in London, noting “writer” under “occupation” on my landing card, asked me what I wrote. I was finishing a book on civil liberties, I told him, with a chapter on immigration. That caught his interest. He leaned forward, glanced around, lowered his voice and said, “I loathe borders.”

    Funny line of work you’re in, I said. We shared a chuckle, he stamped my passport, and I crossed the border that he loathed.

                We have nation states, and so we have borders. Dictatorships need them to keep people in, lest their countries be drained of the talented and the aspiring. Democracies need them to keep people out—often those with talent and aspiration who are fleeing to safety and opportunity. So far, the United States is lucky enough to be the latter. So far.

                When desperate fathers and mothers are drawn with admiring naïveté to the beacon of America, when they carry their children through months of torment by mountain jungles and predatory gangs, when their courage and towering fortitude set them apart from the masses, shouldn’t they be embraced when they reach the final border of a nation of fellow immigrants that touts its compassion and humanity?

                Cut through the crazy tangle of immigration laws, regulations, and inconsistent enforcement to the essential ethic, and the answer is an obvious yes. But the obvious is not obvious in the White House or in the Department of Homeland Security or in the ranks of the beleaguered Border Patrol, whose horsemen scramble, as if herding cattle, to intercept frantic Haitians wading from the Rio Grande onto the banks of freedom and promise.

September 15, 2021

California's Next Step (I'm Kidding)


By David K. Shipler 

                Now that Californians have crushed Republicans’ effort to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom (with 63.9 percent of the votes at last count), maybe the left ought to try what the right has done in Texas: Let anyone sue anyone who helps anyone do something you don’t like. In the case of Texas, it’s getting an abortion.

Imagine if liberal California—or New York, or the District of Columbia, for example—did the same on issues dear to the hearts of “progressives.” The Texas law recently enacted by radical Republicans allows anyone in the entire country to bring a civil suit against anyone in the state who helps a woman exercise her constitutional right to abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Any bounty hunter who wins in court gets $10,000 plus legal fees from the suit’s target, whether doctor, nurse, receptionist, or possibly the Uber driver who takes the woman to the clinic.

The tactic is designed to remove the state as the enforcer and thereby befuddle the courts, which otherwise might enjoin government from putting the law into effect. That gave five anti-abortion Supreme Court justices just enough leeway to refuse to block the Texas law, even temporarily. So, let’s consider what the left might do in return.

First, California could pass a law allowing anyone who refused to be vaccinated against Covid to be sued by anyone anywhere in the country. Going unvaccinated is an obvious public health threat, and while legitimate medical and perhaps religious exceptions could be made, those refusing the shots incubate evolving variants and endanger children and the immunocompromised. Therefore, under the Texas formula, everyone has what judges call “standing” to sue.

September 9, 2021

The Scars of 9/11


By David K. Shipler 

                About a dozen years after September 11, 2001, I asked a class of college undergraduates what they remembered about the attacks. They had been kids, and those who answered remembered most vividly their parents’ reactions, not their own. It was a fascinating illustration of one dynamic of trauma: the response of those around you figures into how you carry the injury forward. So it has been with the country’s behavior in the last twenty years.

                Chaya Roth, a Holocaust survivor whose mother and sister were repeatedly sheltered and saved by non-Jews as they fled across Europe, eventually recognized the healing effect of the courageous generosity—a post-traumatic syndrome of another kind. “That is why I never lost faith or hope in people,” she told me. “If one goes through difficult times, but comes out of these alive, it is because in the last analysis there was someone who provided help.”

                What has happened among Americans? Yes, at first we rallied in an uplifting sense of kinship. Three days after 9/11, as I drove to Kent State in Ohio for a colloquium on race, every American flag hanging from an overpass brought a rush of mournful pride, almost tears. At the university, during a small reception, a professor who was surely a star in her church choir suddenly began singing “America the Beautiful.” Some wept openly, others wept within, both in sorrow and in celebration of the bonds of harmony.

 And then? The administration of President George W. Bush, combined with local police departments across the country, proceeded to inflict damage on civil liberties that no subsequent president or Congress has been brave enough to repair. The FBI was instructed to investigate every citizen’s tip, no matter how ludicrous or obviously based on personal vendetta. One FBI agent told me that some of his colleagues shared his distaste for the strategy, worrying that innocents would be targeted.

As indeed they were. Muslims were surveilled, hounded, and jailed on the slimmest of pretexts, and held for months during slow-paced background checks that uncovered no terrorists but might naturally have sown the seeds of antipathy toward the United States. The consequences for those illegally in the country were so severe that abused wives feared calling the police, and some undocumented Pakistani residents fled from the US to Canada seeking asylum. When Canadian authorities couldn’t process them fast enough, they crammed into churches and homes in northern Vermont or took refuge in their own vehicles in the deep of winter.

July 26, 2021

The American Dream of Absolutism


By David K. Shipler 

                A crucial feature of the Soviet Union’s dictatorship was its enforcement by peers. Your co-workers, your schoolmates, the fellow members of your local Communist Party committee or Komsomol (Communist youth organization) were primed to call you to account if you deviated from the norm. If you went to church regularly, your Komsomol committee might hold a meeting to denounce you. If you went farther and made “anti-Soviet” statements—criticizing government policy or advocating democratic reforms—your peers in Komsomol might be assembled for a vote to expel you, which would handicap your future job prospects. In the post-Stalin era, imprisonment was usually reserved for the most stubbornly outspoken; less dramatic disobedience could be curtailed by lesser means.

 It was not an airtight system. It aspired to totalitarianism but fell short. It contained eddies of quiet noncompliance, which allowed small pools of independent thinking. But orthodoxy had power, wielded both vertically from the top down, and also horizontally in a milieu of conformity. As a result, most Soviet citizens acquiesced politically and never bumped up against the hard limits of dissent. Newspaper editors, for example, rarely had to be confronted by the censors; writers and their bosses internalized the restrictions, even endorsed them, and so knew the comfortable scope of the permissible.

                That is approximately what the Republican Party appears to strive for in 2021, not only in the party organization itself but in the broader society. It is a new American Dream, aspiring to a comprehensive, unitary way of thinking about history, culture, law, politics, science, religion, and race. The odd thing is that it is pursued in the guise of individualism, touting the preeminence of personal free choice, while in fact it is driven by just the opposite—the thrust of group-think.

                This horizontal enforcement is a hallmark of the emerging Republican strategy. A catechism of professed beliefs is monitored for irreverence, and the punishment is akin to excommunication. Absolutism is required: adore Donald Trump, reject the 2020 election as stolen, dismiss the January 6 insurrection as insignificant, refuse to investigate it.

June 30, 2021

The Republicans' Pro-Poverty Program

                                                             By David K. Shipler

                An irony of Donald Trump’s appeal to struggling, working-class Americans is his party’s complete indifference to their financial hardships. Wherever government can rescue people with direct cash assistance, Republicans are opposed. Wherever government can expand proven programs of aid—in health care, housing, food, day care--Republicans are opposed. See now how some Republicans are coming around to a thinly bipartisan infrastructure bill aimed at only things—bridges, highways, and the like—but are apoplectic over President Biden’s bill to help people. Things vs. people: no contest among the people’s representatives in the Republican Party.

                That coldness is compounded by uninformed moral judgments against those near the bottom. They have long been smeared by conservative Republicans as lazy, undeserving, and unlikely to strive upward without negative incentives—in other words, a whip at their backs.

Punitive provisions are almost invariably woven into Republican-sponsored policy. Assume that they don’t want to work, so cut off their $300-a-week cushion in unemployment benefits. Blame them for not taking low-wage jobs that can’t support their families, yet adamantly oppose raising the federal minimum wage to make those jobs worth having. Condition certain benefits on proof that they seek work or job training, pass drug tests, and avoid arrest—stipulations not made when the affluent get government subsidies and tax breaks such as the home mortgage interest deduction.

                Americans generally, even those technically below the official poverty line, don’t want to think of themselves as “poor,” since the society inflicts shame on the deprived. And those just above poverty, including many of Trump’s white supporters who are highly vulnerable to financial disruption, don’t display much empathy for those a notch or two beneath them. But they should, as many fell into disastrous misfortune during the pandemic and might well press the Republicans they elect to give them something back in return for their votes. 

June 15, 2021

Biden and Putin at a Crossroads


By David K. Shipler 

                If President Biden were to act on all the competing (and unsolicited) advice that he’s getting about how to handle Vladimir Putin when they meet tomorrow in Geneva, here’s how it would go: Threaten to harden sanctions, promise to relax them. Threaten to invite Ukraine into NATO, promise not to. Brandish cyber weaponry against Russian infrastructure, propose a cyber treaty against hacking and ransomware. Trumpet outrage over Russia’s rights abuses, make the points quietly and create a working group of mid-level officials for private discussions. Rattle the nuclear saber, seek new arms control. Compete in the Arctic, cooperate in the Arctic. And so on.

It is crucial to get this right, not only to reduce the risk of nuclear miscalculation but also to forestall a dangerous new alignment between Russia and China. A Russian-Chinese rapprochement has been discussed for more than two decades. “If the West Continues the Expansion, Moscow Will Drive East,” was the headline of a 1997 piece by Alexei Arbatov, head of the International Security Center at Russia’s Institute of World Economy and International Relations. It’s not a prospect that has delighted Arbatov. “We currently have wonderful relations,” he said a year ago, “but Russia needs to keep its distance. We cannot go back and forth between extremes, from China being the world's greatest threat to it being our strategic ally or partner.”

A couple of old jokes from Soviet days underscore the issue. One quotes a headline from fifty years in the future: “All Quiet on the Finnish-Chinese border.”

Another is one that Biden could update at his summit.

Putin: Joe, I had a dream last night that Washington was all in red. The White House was red, the Capitol was red, there were red banners everywhere.

Biden: What a coincidence, Vladimir! I had a dream last night that Moscow was all in red. The Kremlin walls were red, there were red stars on the towers, there were red banners across the streets.

Putin: What’s so strange about that? What did the banners say?

Biden: I don’t know. I can’t read Chinese.

Putin has surely heard this joke, so if he has even a shred of self-deprecating humor, he’d probably steal the punch line before Biden could get it out.

May 28, 2021

A Hungry Child's First Thousand Days


By David K. Shipler 

                Dr. Megan Sandel, a pediatrician, experiences a troubling revelation whenever she sees a patient in the Boston Medical Center’s Grow Clinic. The clinic seems like a normal health-care facility in an advanced country, she notes: a waiting room, a medical assistant taking a child to be weighed and measured and then into an examining room.

“But that’s where, in some ways, the picture changes,” said Dr. Sandel, the clinic’s co-director, “because when you walk into the room you see this really cute, what you think is a twelve-month old, but it turns out it’s a two-year old. It’s a two-year old who hasn’t outgrown their twelve-month-old clothes yet.” [Listen to Sandel here.]

Even more serious than what you see is what you do not see: the brain of the child during a critical window of cognitive development. And in that largely invisible universe of neurons and synapses, of myelin sheaths and the neurological connections that are supposed to be generating the abundant future of every small person, lifelong damage is being done. The medical diagnoses are “stunting” and “failure to thrive.”

 That is malnutrition in America, which is chronic among the poor and has soared during the pandemic. Its long-term harm will be one of the most severe legacies of Covid-19.

 The usual incidence of what the government calls “food insecurity” ranges from 13 to 21 percent of American households with children, varying with the state of the economy. Most of them are white, although Black and Hispanic families suffer at higher rates. As school meals ended and vulnerable parents lost jobs during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Grow Clinic’s caseload jumped 40 percent. Nationwide, the rate of food insecurity in families with children rose to 29.3 percent last spring and summer from 13.6 percent in 2019, before the pandemic. With the return of some jobs and bursts of government assistance, the level has gradually declined to 17.8 percent, according to a large sample of adults with children in their households, surveyed by the Census Bureau in April. Seven out of ten who reported that they “sometimes” or “often” did not have enough to eat said they simply couldn’t afford to buy more food.

The recent $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan will help, but not sufficiently or indefinitely. It raises grants by what used to be called food stamps--the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—by up to $100 a month per family. More significantly, the plan’s $3000 to $3600-per-child stipend for one year would re-conceptualize governmental aid if made permanent, evading bureaucratic red tape by providing direct cash payments. Medical professionals say that getting money into parents’ pockets is the best way to treat children’s malnutrition.

Without broader policy overhauls, though, food insecurity seems likely to remain both a result and a cause of hardship, a key link in the middle of a complex chain reaction. For poor families without government housing subsidies, for example, rent on the private market can soak up 40 to 60 percent of income. Paying rent is not optional. The bills for electricity, water, heat, phone, and car loans cannot be ignored. The part of the budget that can be squeezed is the part for food. And that’s what happens.

May 19, 2021

Israel's Failed Strategies

 To watch the PBS documentary, Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, click here: https://vimeo.com/550030784 Free of charge.

By David K. Shipler 

                For many decades, Israel has calculated that neighboring Arab counties would think twice before attacking, knowing that a punishing Israeli military reaction would follow. The practice has sometimes worked against nation states. But it has rarely been effective against the non-state actors arising as significant players in the Middle East—among them, as is now obvious, Hamas in Gaza.

                Israel persists nonetheless. “You can either conquer them,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told foreign ambassadors Wednesday, “and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them. We are engaged right now in forceful deterrence.”

An early demonstration of the strategy came in 1953 after a band of Arab terrorists stole into Israel from Jordan to attack Israelis. The retribution was conducted by a young Israeli colonel, Ariel Sharon, whose Unit 101, known for ruthlessness, crossed into Jordan and ravaged the border town of Qibya, blowing up 45 houses and killing 69 Arab villagers.

Later, during the War of Attrition in 1969, Israel responded massively to repeated Egyptian attacks on Israeli positions in Sinai by bombarding Egyptian villages along the Suez Canal. Some 55,000 homes were destroyed, 750,000 civilians were forced to flee, and numerous Egyptians were killed and wounded.

 Along certain frontiers, Israel’s strategy of defense by retaliation—even against civilians—brought peace without peace treaties. Decades before its 1994 treaty with Israel, Jordan worked hard to deny Palestinian terrorists the use of its territory. Jordanian troops patrolled their side of the border as assiduously as Israeli monitored its own.

Syria, despite its refusal to make a formal peace, has kept its border with Israel on the Golan Heights mostly quiet and has been slapped hard for infractions. Egypt’s frontier with the occupying Israeli military in Sinai calmed down in the years between the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the two countries’ historic peace treaty in 1979.    

But failed states can’t be leveraged into compliance. Lebanon’s long civil war weakened the reach of the central government, opening a vacuum in its southern territory that was later filled by the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO, within artillery range of Israel, had no stake in Lebanon’s stability or security, so no threat of retaliation deterred occasional shelling and terrorist attacks on Israel’s north. The solution—the temporary solution—was an Israeli invasion in 1982, which expelled the PLO, only to see an equally hostile replacement eventually take its place: Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which recently fired several rockets into northern Israel. Israel responded with shelling.

If it seems that the kaleidoscope is just being given another shake, and then another, that’s a fair analysis. Take Gaza, that strip of arid land teeming with impoverished Palestinians. In 2005, after thirty-eight years of military occupation that began with Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, it was Sharon, ironically, who as prime minister decided to withdraw unilaterally with no formal agreement or international guarantees. Because Sharon thought like a soldier, not an ideologue, he assessed the Gaza occupation, in conventional military terms, as more of a burden than an asset. Furthermore, an associate of his once told me that Sharon had begun considering that his historic legacy should include some gesture of peace. History has not been kind to him, however, as it rarely is to anyone in that part of the world.

Under Sharon as Defense Minister, Israel itself contributed to the rise of Hamas. As I recalled in a recent letter to the editor of The New York Times, Israel’s military governor of Gaza, Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, told me in 1981 that he had been given a budget to help fund the Muslim Brotherhood, a precursor of Hamas, as a counterweight to Communist and Palestinian nationalist movements. Odds are that Hamas would have evolved without Israel’s financial contributions. But the funding was consistent with Israel’s strategic blunders in trying to manipulate internal Arab politics in Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank.

The list of self-inflicted wounds by both Israeli and Palestinian leaders runs too long for less than a book-length piece of writing. To summarize: Each side has radicalized the other. Each side has a marksman’s eye for striking the other’s nerves of fear and indignation. Each side has eroded its own middle ground of reasoned compromise. Each side has empowered the most extreme, violent elements of the other.

Palestinians, deprived of ethical, visionary leadership, have missed opportunities for peacemaking with Israel. They have protested with uprisings and terrorism rather than non-violent passive resistance, by which they probably could have impeded Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank in the 1970s and 80s, when Israel still nurtured moral objections to the occupation. They launch rockets from Gaza indiscriminately to feed the political fortunes of Hamas rulers. And Netanyahu replies with an onslaught to cling to his prime ministerial sanctuary as he is put on trial for corruption. A word more deadly than “cynical” is needed.

Aside from “forceful deterrence,” Israel’s other strategy has focused on converting areas from Arab to Jewish by settling Jews in place of Palestinians. It is happening in East Jerusalem, whose Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was the point of friction that lit the latest conflagration. There, near the supposed tomb of Simon the Just, a Jewish priest in the Second Temple, right-wing Jews have for years been hectoring Palestinians to move out, sometimes combining intimidation with lucrative offers to buy their property. Israel’s Supreme Court is due to rule on a set of evictions based on a claim that Jews actually purchased the land in the nineteenth century.

But the symbolism is as potent as the law, and more compelling than actual census data. The Arab population of the Jerusalem District continues to rise--from 277,000 in 2008 to nearly 372,000 in 2019. Yet for Palestinians, the evictions resonate with the longstanding injuries of displacement—during Israel’s 1948 war of independence, during the 1967 war when Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from the attacking Jordanian army, and since then as Jewish communities have mushroomed among the Arab villages of the West Bank.

Sharon used to call those settlements “facts on the ground.” Much of that ground was seized without due process as Israel exploited the absence or vagueness of land titles from Ottoman times. Still, the modern use by Palestinians was clear enough: vineyards, olive groves, and villages’ common pastureland.

What Israel chooses not to notice is this: Every bulldozed grape vine and olive tree is added to the arsenal of memory. Every vigilante act by Jewish settlers against Palestinians is written on a kind of  cultural balance sheet for the sake of future retribution. That is Israel’s second strategic failure.

The third is based on the assumption over decades that Israel proper can be walled off from the surrounding indignities experienced by Arabs in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Yet while many Arab citizens of Israel—now 20 percent of the total population—yearn for belonging and participation in Israeli society, they are not fully embraced and are not insulated from grievance.

Israeli governments—especially Netanyahu’s—have increased aid to Arab villages. Economic conditions have improved, along with more access to higher education. Before the recent outbreak of warfare, an Arab party was poised to enter a coalition government for the first time. Yet also for the first time since the 1948 war, the country has been rocked by communal violence between Arabs and Jews, often thugs who project their violence onto a big screen of religious and historic righteousness.

The intoxication with righteousness drives the strategies, which continue to fail, again and again and again.

Also published by The Washington Monthly.