Yesterday, an Israeli man indiscriminately killed four people at a local bank before shooting himself, shocking a nation not used to such lone gunman incidents.
One day later, government officials responded by enacting tighter gun control measures:
One day after a Be’er Sheva man shot dead four people in a local bank before turning his gun on himself, the Public Security Ministry on Sunday announced new rules to limit the number of guns in circulation. School security guards will have to turn in their weapons, which guarding firms will reissue at the start of the new school year. Licensed gun owners will have to store their weapon in a safe at home. Security companies must obtain special exemptions from being required to store a weapon when its bearer is off duty, only one gun license will be issued to any single individual and anyone applying to renew a gun license must show why they need a weapon.
In addition, a panel will be appointed to consider administering mental and physical examinations to license applicants.
One of our most powerful, affective emotions is our ability to feel or relate to the condition of another. While emotions such as grief and guilt often lead to paralysis, empathy leads us to action. We witness the suffering of someone in our community, read an emotive Facebook post of a friend in need of help, or hear the pained cries of our child and are moved to act. (We donate money to a personal cancer fund, offer advice, and comfort our child.) Why? Because we, in part, are able to personally feel the experience of that person standing outside ourselves. We are hit by an emotional wave that is personal, and that wave pushes us forward.
And this is a beautiful human characteristic – a trait that evolution has bestowed upon us, this instinctive, emotional pull to help others by feeling their pain and suffering. It’s an emotion cognitive neuroscientists are currently researching, trying to understand how it works. For if we learn how empathy truly functions, perhaps we can evoke with greater regularity this beautiful, moral emotion.
However, this beautiful human characteristic – beneficial when the world is small, say a family or a village – has become a liability and, in some cases, a destructive force in our world.
In some ways, empathy is killing us.
Over 10,000 Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv this evening to protest new austerity measures in the country’s budget, echoing (and perhaps renewing) Israel’s historic social justice protests from two years ago.
Over 10,000 Israelis took to the streets on Saturday, May 11 to protest austerity measures. Photo by Haggai Matar.
Many activists who played a central role in those protests were involved in this evening’s renewed call for Israelis to march in the streets against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and their budget, which proposes cuts in social welfare programs and raised taxes on lower- and middle-income workers.
Jason Collins today became the first active NBA player to reveal his gay identity in the league’s history. And he did so on the pages of Sports Illustrated with the grace and stoicism befitting an accidental activist, which indeed is what Collins has become: a brave activist determined to combat the homophobia and hatred rife in American sports.
Not because he set out for this to be his mission. But because nobody else has done so.
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
In a new arms deal reached on Monday, the United States has agreed to sell Israel mid-air refueling tankers. The sale of such tankers, which will make it possible for Israeli planes to reach Iran, was refused by the Bush administration.
The arms deal, which also included specialized missiles for demolishing air defense systems, was praised in public by Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Moshe Yaalon – both of whom mentioned the importance of curtailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
The Obama administration, however, refused to sell Israel bunker-busting bombs that could penetrate some of Iran’s deeply-embedded nuclear sites.
Per The New York Times:
The new weapons sale package includes aircraft for midair refueling and missiles that can cripple an adversary’s air defense system. Both would be critical for Israel if it were to decide on a unilateral attack on Iran.
But what the Israelis wanted most was a weapons system that is missing from the package: a giant bunker-busting bomb designed to penetrate earth and reinforced concrete to destroy deeply buried sites. According to both American and Israeli analysts, it is the only weapon that would have a chance of destroying the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment center at Fordow, which is buried more than 200 feet under a mountain outside the holy city of Qum.
In the wake of a tragedy, we are often compelled to do the only thing we can to regain control in the wake of all the chaos: name and classify the trauma. We feel a need to rationally understand what is, in truth, beyond comprehension.
Which is one reason why we have collectively rushed to categorize the tragedy that occurred at the Boston Marathon as “terrorism.” Our elected leaders (from President Obama to city councils) have done so, our media elite have done so, and most Americans have done so.
However, without knowing a motive – and we don’t yet know what the motive was – can we truly classify the horrors that happened in Boston as terrorism? My answer is an unequivocal no.
And a look at U.S. code and varying U.S. classifications reveals that our government indeed requires a known motivation in order to classify a violent act as terrorism.
Image care of Ma'an News Agency
Binyamin Netanyahu garnered much attention during the height of the Arab Spring for calling Israel “the only real democracy in the Middle East.”
On Tuesday, as Israelis celebrated the country’s 65th birthday, Jerusalem police demonstrated just how measured one should be when applying the word democracy to Israel.
According to Ma’an News Agency:
Israel on Tuesday detained and interrogated five Palestinians for raising Palestinian flags on their cars in Jerusalem.
Two of those detained were released on bail of 5,000 shekels ($1,378) and on condition that they do not raise Palestinian flags as Israel celebrates Independence Day.
Eight others were pulled over by traffic police and fined 250 shekels for having Palestinian flags on their cars.
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) have introduced a bipartisan bill that seeks to codify – in unprecedented fashion – another country’s ability to discriminate against American citizens of Arab and Muslim descent.
The bill, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013, contains a provision that would allow Israel to enter America’s “visa waiver” program. This is a program whereby citizens of another country are allowed to enter the United States without a visa, making it easier for them to visit America.
The U.S. currently has this agreement with 37 other countries, and as Glenn Greenwald reports, all of these countries fully reciprocate, making it easier for American citizens to similarly visit without a visa.
However, the current bill would, for the first time ever, allow another country (Israel) to enter the “visa waiver” program without having to fully reciprocate. See, Israel regularly refuses entry to Arab- and Muslim-Americans, as well as those who are publicly critical of Israel’s geo-political policies. Since this is not something Israel is willing to relinquish – modulating entry of American citizens based upon their ethnicity or religious affiliation for perceived security reasons – something had to be done.
And so, for the first time, the U.S. is poised to allow Israel entry into the “visa waiver” program while still allowing it to discriminate against American citizens. Meaning: no full reciprocity. Meaning: the codification of discrimination against Arab- and Muslim-Americans by an ally nation.
Israel’s Transportation Ministry is under fire for creating what appear to be racially segregated bus lines in the West Bank. According to the ministry, these newly-created lines will transport Palestinian workers to central Israel and are intended to mitigate passenger traffic for Jews on the existing lines. The Palestinian-only routes will officially be considered “general bus lines,” and the ministry contends that Palestinians will still be legally allowed to ride the regular lines on which Jews travel.
However, several bus drivers told Israel’s Ynet that Palestinians who choose to ride on the normative, “mixed” lines would now be asked to leave them and opt for the Palestinian-only lines, which have only been advertised in Palestinian villages via signs in Arabic.
While the Transportation Ministry is claiming that the new bus lines have been created merely to relieve congestion and provide Palestinians with more affordable commuting options, the move is clearly an attempt to further segregate Jews and Arabs in the West Bank, with a ministry source admitting that the move came in part due to complaints from Jewish passengers about Palestinians posing security risks.
Last night, Brooklyn College hosted a forum on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – a non-violent initiative targeting Israel’s suppression of basic political rights for Palestinians, particularly those occupied in the West Bank.
In the weeks preceding the forum, Brooklyn College was under intense pressure to cancel the event, pressure spearheaded by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who curiously chose to argue against the concept of academic freedom by claiming the forum would be a “propaganda hate orgy” and should not be allowed.
New York City Council members soon followed, threatening to cut off funding to the college if the event proceeded, with Assemblyman Alan Maisel stating, “We’re talking about the potential for a Second Holocaust here.”
Thankfully, champions of academic freedom stepped in to push back against such bombastic claims, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who bluntly told the City Council:
“If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”