Jim Crow was complicated, too

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One of the cliches/jokes of anyone who looks into the Israel/Palestine conflict is: “It’s complicated.” Friends of mine say this ironically all the time. That’s because Israelis and their supporters regularly say that the Israel/Palestine conflict is complicated and therefore lacks a simple solution. And as someone who tries to have empathy for all sides, I agree: two sides are arguing over the same land, and many Jews moved to Israel, and before that, Palestine, out of idealistic or desperate motives. But that doesn’t mean that equality under the law (the principle I think we should strive for) is a bad thing.

As it turns out, Jim Crow–which the U.S. delegitimized and dismantled in the 50s-70s– was also complicated. Here’s the Times obituary for Eugene Patterson, 89, former editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution during the civil rights era, when blacks were second-class citizens in the segregated south. Obit headline characterizes Patterson, who was white, as a “crusader”– but it wasn’t that simple.

There were no simple solutions to the racial problems, and he offered none. Instead, he drew poignant scenes of suffering and loss to condemn violence and miscarriages of justice. And he explored themes of courage and questions of responsibility that went beyond mindless acts of racism to challenge a people with traditions of decency.

Speaking of Georgia during segregation, here is an email from a political friend, analyzing the rightwing trend in Israeli politics and analogizing Naftali Bennett’s list to that pillar of racism, former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox:

Israeli democracy is akin to democracy in the Confederacy, ie elections and a robust press. Naftali Bennett represents a fusion of Start up Nation, militant nationalism, Jacksonian resentment and the patina of Judaism. It is a winning combination and it has captured the imagination and the likely votes of younger Israelis.

But keep an eye on how well his party does. Within the top 12 seats on his party’s list, slots are allocated 2 to 1 – religious Zionists (think Lester Maddox with a grad degree and a kippa and an Uzi) to mega right religious nationalists (think Lester Maddox with a beard, and an Uzi and no B.A.).

By contrast, Likud Beiteinu is merely an amalgam of corrupt hacks, bloated ethnics and would be Jacobins. Lieberman, the slate’s guy in the #2 slot is under indictment for corruption. Feiglin wants democracy to bow before the Lord – which is a fairly standard refrain among religions. And Bibi, as Gideon Rachman put it, is a brillian tactician and a horrible strategist.

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