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Criticizing Israel Gets Backlash

Socially Urban Criticizing Israel Gets Backlash

Calling this comment I recieved from a concerned reader a “backlash” is a little hyperbolic so I’ll admit that right upfront. Before I get to the comment in question I’d like to explain the circumstances that lead to the comment. Last week I posted a link on my blog to an article written by journalist Ben Cohen (editor for The Daily Banter) titled “Can We Stop Pretending Israel is Being Attacked“. In his article he talks about the polarization between supporters of Israel who refuse to see the Palestinian point of view and believes Israel can do no wrong, against everyone else who admits to the ambiguity of the Israeli Palestine relationship. Those who fall into that 2nd group gets lumped together with those who are 100% pro Hamas and anti-Israel. I thought his article was on point and I wanted those who read my blog Socially Urban to read his article, so I posted a link to it and also tweeted the link on my personal twitter account. A few days after I posted the link I received a private message about my decision to post that link, and here it is:

I’ve read your posts and your blogs, and your bio. If I could ask a favor and have you watch a YouTube video and then get back to me. I am disappointed in your Israel thoughts, and offer the following… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qeHvd8Tdmo

Here’s the video he wanted me to watch:

Here’s my reply to his message:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the video link. I’m a huge fan of Bill Maher and catch his show every week, so I have already seen that particular episode which aired over the weekend. On my blog I have never written anything about the Israeli Palestinian conflict so I’m not sure how you or anyone else can fully understand what my opinion is on that subject. I have posted one link on my blog’s homepage recently that was not written by me, but I did believe the article made some good points. I have no allusions about Hamas and their violent aggression against Israel. What they are doing is wrong and there’s nothing that can justify it. I also understand that this is the government that a majority of the Palestinians voted for. I believe there were legitimate reasons for some of Israel’s attacks in the past when they were provoked or for self defense. The current restart of the conflict is what I have problems with. I do not believe their recent attacks are justified. The men who killed those three Israeli youth should be found and punished for their horrific crimes, but launching missiles that are killing thousands of Palestinians is not a proper response in my eyes… nor is it going to deter future attacks. The Palestinian youth who sees their family killed, their homes destroyed, their movement and travel restricted are going to grow up hating Israel and it makes them a lot more open to the propaganda Hamas and other terrorist groups are pushing on them. I believe that applies to America’s drone program as well.

I was very disappointed with some of the panel comments about Palestinians even though I agreed with some of what Bill said. But I do think the Nobel Prize comment was very offensive. If winning a Nobel Prize was a measure of the intelligence of an entire race of people, then he could make that same argument about African Americans because a lot more whites have won Nobel Prizes than African Americans. That’s like saying slave owners shouldn’t apologize for winning because the slaves weren’t smart enough to overtake their masters. I know that’s probably not what Bill thinks (I hope), but that’s the way that comment came off to me.

I really do appreciate you taking the time to write to me and share your thoughts about my blog. Now I see how some could misinterpret why I posted that link. I do not want anyone thinking I’m anti-Israel or pro Hamas so I will remove the link and replace it with my thoughts I have just shared with you. I’m by no means an expert on Israel and the history they share with Muslims in that region. So if you think I have misrepresented or misunderstood anything I’ve written I’d welcome your input and post any links you think would give my blog readers a better understanding on this subject.

———– END OF MESSAGE ———–

After I sent the reply I reread Ben Cohen’s article and thought to myself why am I removing the link? Then I remembered why I wanted my blog readers to read his article. I posted it because I share the very same opinion Mr Cohen expressed in that article. So instead of getting rid of it I decided to keep it but add my thoughts and reasons for posting it just in case someone else questions my decision. Fact is, the Palestinians have endured a brutal assault and lost many many lives. It’s not all the fault of Israel, but no one has clean hands in this situation. Acknowledging that doesn’t make you anti-Israel or pro-Hamas, it just makes you honest.

I hope he’s ok with me posting his private message to me. I’m not revealing his name so I don’t think permission is necessary. I hope he continues to visit Socially Urban because I love readers who are engaged and vocal about their opinions. Especially when those opinions challenge my own.


Neo-Con Hubris About Iraq

My response to an op-ed in The Washington Post about Iraq.

This op-ed demonstrates the hubris in neo-con thinking. The first mistake was Bush invading Iraq. There’s a very apparent pattern we’ve repeated over and over again in that country. We helped Saddam gain power because the president that preceded him was a bit too friendly with Russia. We gave Saddam weapons to get rid of the Russians and ignored the brutality in his regime when he used the very same weapons to kill thousands of Kurds. Decades later Bush #2 decided that Saddam had to go, and we picked a new leader to rule. Maliki. Now that Iraq is falling apart again via the hands of the person we picked to rule, we are once again looking for a new replacement for him. We’ve played this game time and time again and every time it does not work, but for some reason the neo-cons think all they have to do is find a new ruler and put him in power, while crossing their fingers hoping it will work this time. And on top of that they think permanent US military occupation will make everything better. That’s not a solution and It’s time we break that cycle and let the Iraqi people decide who’s going to be president. They are the only ones who can end the sectarian war. When it’s all said and done Iraq will probably dissolve into 2 or 3 separate countries. Our meddling will continue to make things worse if we listen to the neo-cons. If Iraq can’t exist as a country without armed US troops keeping it together at gun point, then Iraq should dissolve. President Obama did the right thing by ending the war and bringing our troops home. I just hope he does not fall victim to mission creep and gradually restart the war. I’m pretty secure in my belief that he will not do that. When he sent advisers to Libya a lot people (including myself) were skeptical about his intentions to just advise and not send more than what was needed. He kept that promise, so I’m trusting him to do the same this time with Iraq.

*this was written on July 4, 2014. I had to change the “post on” date for cosmetic reasons.*

Obama vs Putin


Russian President Vladimir Putin presented his case for caution in Syria directly to the American people. Putin wrote an op-ed for Thursday’s New York Times that went live online Wednesday night. In the article he titled “A Plea for Caution From Russia” Putin warned that a potential strike by the United States in Syria could unleash a new wave of terrorism, increase violence and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. He goes on to list a number of other possible negative outcomes resulting from a US missile attack, but everything he wrote in this piece has already been said. There was absolutely no new information in this article at all. After I finished reading his list of helpful warnings, to me the whole thing made him look like a slick opportunist trying to snub the president while taking advantage of America’s current foreign relations dilemma knowing that our president is in a tough situation domestically. Although Putin makes a few good points in his op-ed and on the surface he may seem sincerely concerned, we still must remember who this man is, and what he is capable of. Putin is a former KGB thug who behaves more like a dictator than an elected president. He talks about respecting international law and norms but rarely does this himself.

Remember the name Paul Klebnikov? He was an American journalist writing for Forbes Magazine. Because of his knowledge about Paul Klebnikov Russian business Forbes reassigned him to Moscow to head a Russian version of Forbes. While he held that position he published a number of scathing articles about Putin and other Russian billionaires and soon after started to receive death threats. After a year in his new position he was found murdered and authorities said it looked like a professional hit. President Bush appealed directly to Vladimir Putin for help in finding those responsible and Putin refused. That murder was never solved and after that there were no more scathing articles written in Russia about Putin. So even if President Obama wanted to write a response op-ed to be published in Russia, he would have a very hard time finding a publication to publish it. Things like this occur in Russia every day but Putin sits on his high horse to lecture us Americans about what’s right and just.

Putin’s op-ed also makes a case for nonintervention when it comes to foreign governments. This is almost laughable Edward Snowdencoming from him because he refused to extradite NSA hacker Edward Snowden (who stole US government secrets) so he could face trial by the American Justice System. This does not sound like a man who wants to help Americans out of the kindness of his heart. I’m not even going to get into the atrocities Putin has bestowed upon his neighboring country of Chechnya and their ongoing contentious sometimes violent relationships with Latvia, Lithuania. And I don’t remember Mr. Putin and his government calling on the UN security council in 2008, when they decided to intervene in Georgia. The intentions and motivations of this stubby 3ft little man is to embarrass our president and make us look like war hungry aggressors. You don’t write a piece like this if diplomacy is what you’re seeking. Granted President Obama’s perceived indecisiveness opened the door rather wide for foreign critique but when it comes from someone like Putin the hypocrisy is inescapable.

There was one point in Putin’s op-ed that I did agree with, it was the part about “American Exceptionalism”. Every time former President Bush would bring this up in a speech or press conference I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. When President Obama said it in his address to the nation last night it made me cringe. Coming from an African American president who’s witnessed the dangers of elevating one race over another to justify inequality, he should know better. No matter who you are or where you were born, we were all created equal in the eyes of God.

My position on Syria has not changed or wavered one bit. I think it’s a mistake for us to bomb them for using chemical weapons. Diplomacy diplomacy diplomacy, we have to give it a chance. Launching missiles to bomb a country who does not pose an immediate threat to our country is absolutely positively the wrong thing to do. I can sympathize with the president’s position and I understand why he feels so strongly about punishing Syria for gassing all of those children and innocent bystanders.  I’ve seen the video footage and I agree that no human should be able to do that without consequences, but we must exhaust every possible avenue before we try to solve it with our military. I want to see the senator Barack Obama from ten years ago when he was anti-war and voting no on the war in Iraq. Where did that guy go?  When you or I watch the news and see horrible things going on around the world there’s not much we as average citizens can do about it.  But when you’re the president of the most powerful nation on earth and you see senseless suffering, I’m sure that need to do something is even stronger because you have the power to do something.  That moral obligation weighs heavy on every US president.  But there are limits to American power.  The rest of the world understands this… we as proud American citizens are slowly realizing this as well. Number of refugees fleeing Syria

When Is War The Right Thing To Do

When is war the right thing?I think the western world has a skewed outlook when it comes to war and protecting our people and way of life. I’m aware that war is sometimes necessary and even sometimes unavoidable (ie WW2 & Nazi Germany), but we have to start being honest when it comes to voicing our intent and reasoning. Those that support sending more troops to Afghanistan  are arguing that it’s “the right thing to do”, or saying that we’re going over there to make our country safer and to help the Afghan people. Now, I don’t like resorting to name calling, but anyone that actually believes either of those statements to be true are just outright naive. First of all, the Taliban has been weakened so much that they aren’t that big of a threat to us anymore (compared to other more dangerous countries that pose an imminent threat). And most of the Taliban aren’t even in Afghanistan anymore. They are scattered in low numbers throughout the Middle East. And that’s an absolute fact that even General Petraeus admitted. So in my mind, that kills the whole “keeping America safe” argument. So who are we really fighting over there? We’ve bombed these people so much that there’s really not much left to bomb. How many times can you blow up the same building? All the legitimate targets are now rubble. I don’t see the point of spending our tax dollars on expensive missiles that are targeted to hit rubble and ruins. How does that make our country safer? How does that “help” the Afghanis? We need to understand that the old ways of war don’t apply anymore. We can’t effectively fight terrorism by going after one or two specific countries. Terrorist aren’t all huddled up together in one place. They are smart enough to know that they can not win that way. But I guess our government hasn’t figured that out yet. It’s like we’re trying to put a cassette tape in a cd player, and then wondering why it isn’t playing. But instead of learning a new way, we keep doing the same thing, hoping for a different result. What kind of sense does that make? If we don’t soon adapt, and start being smarter, then I fear 9 11 will happen all over again. And that’s something none of us want.
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