Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Comparing Dynasties: India and Pakistan

It was said in defense of the existence of the Nehru-Gandhi ruling dynasty of the Congress Party in India that political dynasties were common throughout South Asia. This is certainly true in India where politics in the Indian states are usually a family affair with the party founder usually passing on control either to a son or daughter or, if a suitable heir is not available in his immediate family, to a nephew or niece. 

While there are many political dynasties in America with most states possessing at least one, the most successful at the national level has been the Bush family of Connecticut, which has had three generations of politicians in Washington at the senior level starting with Senator Prescott Bush and ending with President George W. Bush, whose younger brother Jeb was also governor of Florida. The Kennedys of Boston, Massachusetts have had three generations but there was a major upgrade from the first to second generation and then a major downgrade to the third generation. Joseph Kennedy was ambassador to London in the late 1930s but ended his political career early when he fell afoul of President Roosevelt and was judged to be a Nazi sympathizer. But three of Joe's sons did quite well: John F. was president from 1961 to 1963, when he was assassinated in Dallas; Robert F. was attorney general under his brother, senator from New York and then the leading contender for the Democratic nomination before he was in turn murdered in June 1968; and Edward M. was one of the longest serving senators in the Senate from 1962 until his death. But the next generation has produced a representative, Patrick, and nothing higher. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

A New Wave of Right-Wing Legislation in Israel?

The 972 website carried this story about a new Knesset bill that has made it through the first step to becoming law by winning a majority vote in the respective committee. The bill would require a supermajority of 80 MKs in favor to give up any part of Jerusalem. Some opponents of the bill have pointed out two absurdities of this in legal terms. First, it negates the Government Basic Law, which with other basic laws passed by the Knesset forms a rudimentary constitution for Israel, which assigns to the government all power over foreign policy. Second, it allows a simple majority to require a supermajority to undo it. For this reason it is doubtful that the bill will pass constitutional muster when it comes before the Israeli Supreme Court (Bagetz) as it undoubtedly will if passed.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Is Gerry Adams in Trouble?

For those few of us foreigners outside of the British Isles and the American Northeast who pay attention to Northern Ireland, this has been an interesting two weeks. The president of Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the IRA, Gerry Adam's, brother was recently convicted of rape of his daughter when she was a small child. Gerry Adams is being faulted by the media not for being the brother of a convicted child molester but for failing to report his brother Liam to the police or at least keep him away from working with young children and for then lying about this to the public, the media, and the authorities.

When Liam Adam's faults first became public knowledge back in 2009 when his daughter Aisne lodged a complaint with the Police Service of Northern Ireland against him, Sunday Tribune Ireland editor Suzanne Breen exposed Gerry Adam's version of events as a pack of lies. She found photos of the two brothers together at public events after Gerry claimed that he had shunned his brother. At Liam Adam's first trial Gerry testified and he was not called to testify again at the second trial because his testimony was considered to be so unreliable.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Indian Democracy: A Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Back in the 1980s I did not believe that India was a real democracy. I remember explaining to a family friend who is Indian that no country that has been ruled by a single family for 90 percent of the time since independence can be democratic. It was really an elected monarchy. She mentioned the Kennedy family (and later she could have mentioned the Bushes as well). I simply pointed out that the Kennedys had held the presidency for a total of less than three years. When one adds the widespread corruption in Indian politics and the widespread sectarian pogroms that broke out in 1947, in 1984, and in 2002 one can make a very good case that India is not really a democracy by Western standards. But is this fair to India? After all, India is not located either culturally or geographically in the West but in South Asia. So let's examine what the standards for governance are in the region.