Political parties, armies, and nations change

Segregationist Southern Democrats had a grip on the party—and in some cases the country—for years. Lyndon Johnson’s embrace of Civil Rights legislation alienated Southern Democrats, and chased them into the Republican Party—which had been the party of Lincoln and abolition!

Germany’s radical Nazi government gained power in fewer than twenty years, was defeated, and went from genocidal rampage to conversion to Western democracy in a few years; Japan’s Imperial aggression transformed itself into a Western leaning and anti-militaristic state.

In Iraq, our country pursued a different policy, not allowing bureaucrats and officers to serve in a post-Saddam Hussein government. The lack of basic governing skills led to chaos, rampant corruption, and the deaths of many Iraqis and Americans.

It’s taken time, but decades and centuries of declaring American Indians inferior, of demonizing their cultures, religions, and resource practices, the American Public and most of the general population is tripping over ourselves to acknowledge our errors, honor cultures, and emulate natural resource practices of indigenous Americans. In California, where genocide was practiced and Indian tribes demolished by the Spanish, the priests, and the Americans who paid bounties for Indian body parts, the state works with the Yuroks and other tribes to restore ecosystems.

Most conversions happen over time—although usually not the amount of time it has taken for the government and wider society here to embrace Native Americans—and one could argue that they are rarely complete. There are neo-Nazis and right-wing parties in Europe, and white supremacists and even paramilitary and anti-government groups in our own country. Maintaining balances between freedom and stability, free expression and incendiary speech, ethnic pride and pluralism is always difficult. But crucial to maintaining moral and social order.

Netanyahu claims that Hamas must be utterly destroyed, and that members of Hamas have no future in governance of Gaza. In fact, at this point he rejects the idea of a self-governing Palestinian state. But thinking that one group, one ideology, can be completely destroyed seems a dangerous illusion. And positing a Palestinian state that would not be self-governing, or would not be able to use people from Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, who have at least some experience in governance, is wrongheaded and flies in the face of a transition from terrorist organization to civilian government that occurred in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own country at its founding, in 1948.

Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish right-wing underground movement in Palestine, was founded in 1931, and operated until independence in 1948. The organization committed acts of terrorism against the British—most famously in the bombing of the King David Hotel—whom it regarded as illegal occupiers, and against Arabs. The Irgun was described as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the British, and United States governments.

Menachem Begin was Irgun commander from 1943-48, when it transformed itself into the Herut (freedom) party in the new nation. Begin then served in the Knesset, eventually became Prime Minister, and in 1978, as a result of peacemaking efforts, he and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

Is there a Menachem Begin in Hamas? Or will the ghost of Begin hover over Netanyahu and show him the way to peace?

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