Beyond the Cusp

February 24, 2014

Ukraine Gets New Face Overnight

Yesterday the world awoke to find a new parliament and new Parliament Speaker attempting to straighten out the tangled disarray resulting from months of violence between government forces and demonstrators. Oleksander Tuchynov is the new Ukrainian Parliament Speaker and will hold the position until elections which are scheduled for May 25. The parliament will not have an easy task especially in the first initial weeks as they try and put the Ukraine back on a normal footing and return the society to a normal routine which has been impossible during the months of demonstrations. This will be even more difficult as the demonstrations melded together some disparate groups which each have their own agendas with some of them being so opposite as to be impossible to satisfy simultaneously. Some of the initial changes were the foreign minister Leonid Kozhara and the education minister Dykmitro Tabachnyk have been relieved of their posts, sixty-four protestors have been released from jail, and the president’s estate at Mezhyhirya has been nationalized. They have also declared that Ukrainian will be the sole official language of the Ukraine thus removing recognition of Russian usage in official circles. It will remain to be seen if there will be any place for the Russian language going forward though such is highly doubtful.

 

While it will very probably be many weeks before normalcy will have returned to Kiev, the rest of the Ukraine should have somewhat easier task of returning to normal as outside of the capital the demonstrations were less disruptive for much of the period only gaining power in the final weeks. The real question will be over the eastern and southern provinces where the population includes many Russians. There is a chance that these provinces may decide to split from the Ukraine and might even petition to become a part of Putin’s Russia or an autonomous state aligned more closely to Russia than to the Ukraine. It has been reported that there were some in these areas who had requested Russian protection should the protests break out in their regions. The reactions from the eastern and southern regions will require delicacy; something that could easily turn ugly if not handled deftly and with some degree of understanding. Making such tasks even more difficult will be the fact that the demonstrators do not come from one viewpoint and some of the groups who had banded together consisted of far right nationalists with a separate vision than many of the other parties and groups. The three main political parties, UDAR, Fatherland and Svoboda, which had claimed to have been working jointly during the demonstrations to oust President Yanukovych, will now be in direct competition in order to field and win the most seats they can in the upcoming elections.

 

The initial problem of removing the thuggish and dictatorial Presidency of Yanukovych and his cronies has now been realized may eventually prove to be of great benefit for the future of the Ukraine but right now it simply leaves a plethora of unanswered questions and a tangled web of new problems. Those tasked with putting the Ukraine in general and Kiev particularly back together and operating for the mutual benefit of all the people will be an uphill slog challenging those who are assuming power. The election in May is a mere quarter of a year, three months, into the future but the people will be expecting progress from their newly emplaced leaders before then and they will not be given much of a grace period. The real peril right now is the potential for a strong populist leader offering to solve all the problems if the people will simply trust them and give them the tools with the power to wield them effectively taking the elections and becoming an even worse problem than they just removed. This will become even more pressing of a possibility should the new government elected in May result in an ineffectual problematic governance that is basically a failure both economically and in keeping order. Should inflation become an even larger problem and start to run rampant, then there will be the situation which is susceptible to favor such a solution being adopted. It was just such a scenario with rampant hyperinflation and ineffectual governance of the German Weimar Republic after World War I that led to the rise of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. The Ukraine currently has an enormous debt and a very weak economy that has suffered greatly from the disorder of the months of demonstrations. Their situation was partially due to the economic downturn which struck much of the world just over five years ago and the Ukraine still has not fully recovered. The economic recovery should be the first order of business once a newly elected government is in place. The only advice that they should receive is that government is more likely to be the problem than it is to be the solution. The best track for the government to take would be to make themselves as unobtrusive as possible, reduce regulations to a bare minimum, lower taxes on both the people and businesses and rely on free trade and unburdened free enterprise to lift the entire nation and people providing the best opportunity for a healthy economy. They should try to take a path which allows them to maximize their abilities to trade with the entire world and take steps to increase foreign trade relations as much as possible. This will require tactful handling of Ukrainian relations with Russia but they need to tell Putin that the Ukraine expects to continue to do business with Russia but also expects to be free to trade with the rest of the world as well. Europe also may need to step up and take steps to assure that the Ukraine will be accepted and thus allow them an alternative to survive any pressures from Putin and Russia. The one thing I am sure of is I am glad I will not be elected to any position in the next Ukrainian government and I wish those who are the best of luck.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

Update: The Russian government, which means Vladimir Putin, has recalled their Ambassador to the Ukraine to Moscow for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kiev. In the United States National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, issued a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin against attacking Ukraine in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where she was quoted stating, “the United States is on the side of the Ukrainian people” having democratic elections with “the opportunity for the people of Ukraine to come together in a coalition unity government” representing them honestly after former President Yanukovych was removed ending his questionable Administration.

 

January 13, 2014

Synagogue Desecration Draws Little Outrage

Adjacent synagogues in Ezer, a town located between Ashdod and Ashkelon, were broken into and vandalized. The damages included ripping the doors off of the ark which held the Torah Scrolls, tearing of Torah Scrolls, leaving uncovered Torah Scrolls on the floor, damaging other holy books tossing them strewn about on the floor and treating other holy objects in a destructive manner. This desecration comes only a week after a similar desecration of a synagogue in Tel Aviv where Nazi graffiti had been painted on the walls and floors along with “Death” spray painted on the front wall of the building, and a crude drawing of a devil painted on the floor. Other such crimes have occurred within the last year including the desecration of King David’s Tomb during the recent massive snowstorm. Newly donated religious holy books were stamped with the fictitious name “Academy – King David.” In all of these instances the response, if there was even a response, was muted and no official denunciation by high government or religious figures was released to the public or the press.

 

This is exactly the opposite as the reaction to a recent desecration of a Mosque in Israel coming from Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as the both Chief Rabbis all of whom echoed the original charge that the unholy act was perpetrated by Jews as a means to victimize the Muslims residing in the town. The subsequent intensive police investigation into the Mosque desecration revealed that the vandalism was most likely carried out by the Muslim Arabs residing in the same town as the Mosque in order to cast blame on Jews and rouse additional hatred towards the Jewish residents in the neighboring areas. The investigation into the Mosque incident was a full-force effort with nothing spared under the supervision of highly placed officials while the synagogue vandalisms are often not given similar efforts nor do they involve as wide an interest by politicians and high officials. Is this really the image the Israeli authorities wish to convey that Jewish holy sites and items are not as protected or whose desecration is of less importance than are Mosques, Churches and other religious holy sites. One would hope that any such desecration would garner equal importance and investigation and if any should raise more alarm, it should be Jewish holy sites, which is not to claim that Jewish sites are more holy, just that presumably as Israel is the home of the Jews, it would only stand to reason.

 

The problem that is exhibited by not rising to the same level of pique and concern over the desecration against synagogues as officials demonstrate for those other than Jewish holy sites is that Jewish holy sites are less holy and of less value than those of other religions. It reflects that the Jewish leadership of the Jewish State of Israel care more for other religions than they care to give to their own. This has been further reflected in many recent comments from some of the Jewish leadership from within the government including the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Knesset. Recently Finance Minister Yair Lapid came out on Facebook calling for the Chief Rabbis to be dismissed from their jobs. His postings included, “It is insolent and a national scandal, and we will act to have them dismissed, both in the Knesset and in the government and even in the legal sphere if need be.” Further he wrote, “These civil servants who are employed by the State of Israel and receive a very lovely salary are sitting in their comfortable offices with their state-provided vehicles and announce that they do not agree that women should serve in the mud and cold as fighters, in aviation courses, in the Border Police.” Yair Lapid continued, “Does this mean that the female commander of the Eitam combat battalion should resign? And what about Orna Barbivai (the head of the IDF’s Manpower Division)? Or all the female teacher soldiers? And what about the female intelligence soldiers I met two weeks ago in the Northern Command, who prevent the infiltration of terrorists through the fence? Should they also not serve?” He summed his tirade stating, “David Lau and Yitzchak Yosef no longer deserve to serve as Chief Rabbis in Israel.” Like many secular Jews, Minister Lapid honestly believes that Rabbis are supposed to obey the decisions made by the political leadership above and over the teachings and commandments of Torah and related holy works. As a secular Jew, Lapid considers the machinations of men in pursuit of making the secular governmental laws of the land to be superior to Torah and traditions and that in any case of a conflict between the secular and the religious that the Rabbis must bend and satisfy the secular leadership over G0d and Torah and interpreting the commandments as written. He is like so many who hold that science and the presumed maturing of humankind has rendered Torah obsolete. Such a view is also indicative of those who have not studied Torah and the Jewish faith deeply and are unable to possess an appreciation for Torah and its wisdom. As such one would hope that as a secular Jew he would refrain from the pretense of judging the Halachic decisions using secular eyes.

 

Then there are comments made by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who was quoted claiming, “I want to take another approach, an approach that opens Israel to the rest of the world, cracking the glass ceiling and bringing more opportunities, and economic, scientific, and academic cooperation. I want to see a liberal, Zionist Israel, not a conservative, nationalistic one.” Where her comment did not specifically call for a secularly based Israel over a religiously based Israel, one can easily see in her words and from previous statements and actions that Minister Livni desires that Israel embrace secular pluralism over following Torah and Jewish traditions. Minister Livni has also revealed her disdain for traditionalists and the religious Zionists in Israel through what has been learned through leaks and other news which paint a picture of Livni’s willingness to sacrifice Jerusalem, the Old City, Temple Mount, and Mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives Cemetery along with all of Judea and Samaria and other disregards for the positions of the religious Zionists. Tzipi sees Israel as a “modern” secular pluralistic nation which is based upon scientific facts and those proven truths which are the basics of a secular humanist socialist philosophy that idolized the teachings of Darwin, Freud, and the progressive leaders of the Twentieth Century over the Torah, Talmud and three thousand years of Jewish teachings and history.

 

It is looking at the world through secular filters which disregard faith and in place relies upon scientific postulates and proven theories and the sciences of biology, physics, chemistry, sociology, and psychology and dismissing virtually anything predating the eighteenth century as irrelevant and simply erroneous as it does not pass the visions defined by the secular progressives of the past two millennia that leads to the total reliance on science and basically ignoring the depth of wisdom from the beginnings of recorded human history and their expressions at the wonderment of the human soul and the awe of the world and the mysteries hidden from mere human understandings and the commandments rising from sources beyond scientific definitions. That is not to advise that one ignore the entirety of scientific discovery but a call to supplement the science with a reverence that includes the teachings of Torah and related studies. Wisdom comes from more than the test-tube, calculator, protractor, compass and the provable. Much of what is most precious to a full understanding of the self almost demands that one include the understandings of human nature which, in opposition to modernist views, has not changed very much over the millennia since the beginning of recorded human history. There has even been a relatively new trend within the scientific circles which has found renewed importance and appreciation for faith, wisdom and the beliefs from the Bible and Torah. Perhaps it is through the tempering of both approaches which serves mankind best.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 7, 2013

Eulogy for Nelson Mandela

Eulogies can be purely complimentary telling only the great and commendable acts, leaning towards humorous where some of the more quaint and amusing events are recounted usually only with those closest friends or it can be honest praising the praiseworthy while also noting those items less desirable from the person’s life, this will be an honest Eulogy for Nelson Mandela. Nobody can take away from the fact that Nelson Mandela was the right man in the right place at the right time speaking the right words for equal rights and an end to the persecution and dehumanizing effects of Apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was not the only leader or even the preeminent leader of the cause but will always remain the most noteworthy and inspirational speakers and the man credited for leading the fight against injustice. Nelson Mandela will also be remembered for his continuing to speak out against those places, people and governments from which he perceived injustice and persecution. Likely one of the singular stands that will reflect most honorable was his choice to call for calm, eschewing violence and vengeance, and taking an angry people in a constructive direction using the energies to establish constructive ends rather than destructive ends. Whether Nelson Mandela’s actions as President of South Africa and the path he placed South Africa upon after Apartheid will be measured by historians further in the future when an objective and honest assessment is possible as such a perspective would be difficult to record as an official history now so close after his passing.

 

There was another side of Nelson Mandela, the politician, who saw Communism as the only true answer to uneven wealth distribution and the system which gave the poor and formerly oppressed any chance at equality within society. It was this view which led Nelson Mandela to see Apartheid wherever he witnessed poverty, especially if the poverty was mostly found in an oppressed peoples within the society. This view led Nelson Mandela to praise Fidel Castro and declare that Communist Cuba had achieved the “systematic eradication of racism”. He also laid a wreath on the grave of Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Iranian revolution, and to warmly greeting his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stating, “We are indebted to the Islamic Revolution”. Nelson Mandela praised Yasser Arafat upon his passing claiming that Arafat was an “outstanding freedom fighter”. Nelson Mandela was a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause which lead to his referring to Israel as an Apartheid state where racism is practiced and the Palestinians in the occupied lands were oppressed and persecuted. Seated next to Yasser Arafat in Gaza in 1999 Nelson Mandela proclaimed, “All men and women with vision choose peace rather than confrontation, except in cases where we cannot proceed, where we cannot move forward. Then if the only alternative is violence, we will use violence”.

 

The greatest detractor to claiming Nelson Mandela worthy of universal acclaim as being nearly a saint on Earth was his blind distrust of Capitalism which he viewed as another form of Apartheid. It was through this lens that he referred to the United States as a flawed nation and to declare that Israel was an Apartheid state every bit as bad and oppressive as was South Africa. This denouncing of Israel was probably the single strongest witness giving support and affirmation to the campaign against Israel and the often repeated denunciation of Israel as practicing Apartheid. It was this view of an Apartheid Israel that allowed for Nelson Mandela to condone and support Palestinian terror attacks claiming that this was their sole recourse to right the wrongs perpetrated against them. Nelson Mandela never saw, or refused to take accounting of the fact that Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Druze and every race of peoples living in Israel have equal rights and that there are Arab Muslims serving in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and serving as judges in courts which stand to adjudicate every Israel citizen equally, and there are Muslims and every other faith and peoples working as doctors, lawyers, and every professions side by side with the Jews of Israel with total equality. All religions are permitted to be practices in Israel and every religion is free to build a place to practice their religion be it a Synagogue, Church, Mosque, Temple or other structure. But when you view the world seeking out inequality and are firm in your belief that the main cause of any inequality is because of Apartheid, then you see and bear witness to Apartheid almost everywhere you look. It is unlikely that any streets, bridges, buildings, schools, parks or other honorable titled objects will ever be dedicated to Nelson Mandela in Israel, at least not any time soon. All in all, Nelson Mandela will remain the man who liberated South Africa from Apartheid and for that reason alone the man who was Nelson Mandela will be remembered favorably and receive the honors of which he is due. No person is perfect but some rise above their detractions to greatness in their remembrance and Nelson Mandela was most certainly such a man.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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