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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Supremacy is not tyranny - it's in the Constitution

Arizona's SB 1070 and why the feds are suing to stop it

"S.B. 1070 is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and must be struck down." (from the US Department of Justice complaint, United States v. State of Arizona (et al), dated: July 6, 2010)

Like a hole in an Arizona border fence, the lack of comprehensive, US immigration reform has left what Latino advocates call a "void," into which Arizona has inserted SB 1070. "Immigration policy and enforcement falls squarely upon the federal government, and the lawsuit will ensure to reassert federal authority," Jerry Gonzalez, of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said in a statement issued after the DOJ announced the suit.

Any reform, Constitutionally, must come from the federal government, and not just in a way that pleases industry and appeases xenophobes. Indeed, watering down the law to cater to those groups is an abandonment of the charitable principles that, so proudly, we hail ourselves for every time we give our stuff to the Salvation Army and see a picture of the Statue of Liberty.

A government that is committed to the interests of its people operates dysfunctionally if it ignores the interests of the global community of which it is a member. Allowing states to make their own law irrespective of existing federal statute not only potentially disrupts the integrity of US international relations, it violates the Constitution.

The Supremacy Clause of Article VI in the United States Constitution says the "Constitution, and the Laws of the United States... shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and ... every State shall be bound thereby."

In the view of the Department of Justice, The Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State, Arizona's controversial new immigration law violates this clause because - among other things - it "interferes with the numerous interests the federal government must balance when enforcing and administering the immigration laws and disrupts the balance actually established by the federal government."

The agencies involved feel that any step Arizona - or any state - takes to amend or rewrite federal immigration law, may jeopardize treaties and other federal laws with regard to the safety and security of the entire country. Specifically, the brief says, "Arizona’s immigration policy exceeds a state’s role with respect to aliens (Homeland Security), interferes with the federal government’s balanced administration of the immigration laws (Justice), and critically undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives (State)."

This follows what the Supreme Court decided in 1941, Hines [Secretary of Labor and Industry for Pennsylvania] v. Davidowitz, et al. "Our primary function," the court said, "is to determine whether... [state] law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. And in that determination, it is of importance that this legislation is in a field which affects international relations, the one aspect of our government that from the first has been most generally conceded imperatively to demand broad national authority."

Even though "the status quo perpetuates a broken immigration system," as GALEO's Gonzalez said, there is still federal immigration law already in place. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano insisted that DHS will "continue to enforce the laws on the books."

Arizona's law, therefor, is an example of a state acting on its own to change a law which every other state must follow. "Seeking to address the issue through a patchwork of state laws," Attorney General, Eric Holder, said in the DOJ press release, "will only create more problems than it solves.”

Gonzalez agreed, saying that in the case of the state his organization represents, the Justice Department action "should give pause to the Gubernatorial candidates talking about enacting or pushing for such a law in Georgia."

Napolitano also said that, as Governor of Arizona she "
vetoed several similar pieces of legislation" because, she believed they "undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve.”

The lawsuit is important because it says that in our democratic society, though we speak with different voices, and often a disquiet consensus, we still believe in the supremacy of the rule of law - one nation. E pluribus unum.

-PBG

Monday, July 05, 2010

For Jews, BDS is BS

How the Jewish-American far left is wrong, and so is Alan Dershowitz

It must be nice to be part of a people that take so many things as gospel. As Jews, we are taught to question everything - even established rabbinical law - until we understand why things are a certain way, why specific customs and behaviors are necessary. Because, for us - regardless of whether or not we find the relevance - we are expected to perform the customs that have been part of our heritage for thousands of years. Our faith is a constant paradox of, "Okay, following that commandment is supposed to be relevant, and I'm supposed to accept that - but why is it relevant?"

Such is the challenge for the liberal American Jew as regards supporting Israel and her government. It creates yet another struggle for an angst ridden and purposeful people, for whom tikkun olam, repairing the world, is an utmost priority. But so is the survival of the Jewish people.

The answer to what we, as Jews in the Diaspora, can do to change the often disconcerting words and actions with which the Israeli government responds to its historical regional adversity is, therefor, not an easy one, especially for an American liberal raised in a very, VERY pro-Israel home.


There is a movement in the liberal wing of the American Jewish community known as BDS, for boycott, divest and sanction, meaning, use those tools to let Israel know we do not approve of some of her government's attitudes and actions in the region. I'm not a fan of this tack. More on that later.

First, let me say, I am not one of those who would call other
members of the tribe by epithets that challenge the veracity of their faith or their identification as Jews, just because they want to challenge the authority of Israel's government. Leave that to people like the famous attorney Alan Dershowitz. Dersh, as he is called, recently referred to a group rabbis who sent a letter of support to Judge Richard Goldstone (the Jewish jurist - and strong supporter of Israel - who issued a UN commission report last September critical of Israel's actions during the 2008/2009 Gaza incursion) as "bigoted...rabbis for Hamas," and accused them of "blood libel" for saying in the letter that they believe that Israel has been in engaging in "a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel's claim of security."

Too much righteous indignation on all sides there. In my opinion, the rabbis letter goes a little too far in taking a rhetorical stand on the report, which they say "affirms" accusations that the Israel Defense Forces engaged in "the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian centers."

The folks who advocate BDS are extremely well meaning. Their intentions, I believe, are to show - as dramatically as possible - that Jews who live in the Diaspora will not hesitate to let Israel know that we do not hold a blind allegiance to Israeli government policy. The thought is that a "bad" action by Israel reflects badly on all the world's Jews. That is a good argument.

To me, though, BDS is a BS approach for Jews, liberal or otherwise, to take regarding Israel. I'll admit, on its face, it seems pretty cut-and-dried. When there is a government - anywhere on the planet - whose policies we find uncivil, or even dangerous, BDS is the kind of global response that brings changes. Sometimes, as with the Apartheid regime in twentieth century South Africa, it can bring down an entire regime. It is because of precisely that, though, I do not support the BDS approach when it comes to changing the situation in Israel.

Bringing down the Israeli government would be as bad for Jews as bringing down Lhasa was for Tibetan Buddhists. Those who do not have our best interests in mind would run the country, and, like the Dalai Lama, we would once again be a people in exile.

BDS punishes all the world's Jews - not just Israel. On the other hand, we cannot let only Israelis decide the fate of Israel, something in which all the world's Jews have a stake.

My belief is an old one, from sixties activism - if you want to make a difference change the organization from the inside. Find the smaller political parties in Israel that take a "broader" view of the security situation, and do what you can to support them. Send your local Consul General an email with your plain, civilly expressed opinions.

If you want your opinions to matter to Israel, make your opinions matter in Israel. Instead of BDS it should be BTC - be the change you want Israel to be. If you can't do it from here, you can always move there.

In a way, it's a shame we can't vote in Israeli elections the same way exiled Iraqis got to vote in theirs, but then again, we are exiles by choice.

-PBG