Midge Decter Fought Hard for Cultural Sanity, Sound Politics, and Freedom

“America today,” writes George Weigel, “badly needs the wisdom and example of a Midge Decter,” referring to the legendary writer and editor who died last May. He reflects on her rare combination of virtues:

And while Midge was a happy Jewish warrior for cultural sanity, sound politics, and a society that lived freedom in solidarity, she was also clear-eyed and unsentimental about the enduring effects in public life of what her Christian friends—and there were many of them—called “original sin.” I once complained to Midge about some political perfidy or other, some betrayal of principle or trust, and she replied, with a kind of grim smile, “Think low, George. You’ll rarely be disappointed.”

As a matter of prudential judgment, she was right: the human capacity to muck things up is virtually limitless. But while hard experience and the cardinal virtue of prudence might dictate “thinking low” and not expecting too much in the political arena, Midge also challenged us to aim high: to live and organize and argue for the good things, the permanent things, the noble things. Thinking low didn’t mean aiming low. And while Midge fought hard, she also fought clean, with a joie de combat and brio that kept those of us fortunate to be in her orbit energized.

A true daughter of Israel who loved her Christian friends and helped them make better Christian arguments in the public square, she now rests in the bosom of Abraham. As Elisha asked of Elijah, may we be blessed with a portion of her spirit.

Read more at First Things

More about: Jewish conservatism, Midge Decter, Neoconservatism


Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood