The “Ordinary People Who Are Struggling Within Gaza” Are Not Innocent

President Obama continued a pattern of declaring deceitful formal support of Israel while throwing coded support for Palestinians to the Democratic base, which is, disgracefully, largely siding with the anti-Israel forces in Europe. His reluctance to commit the moral weight of his office against the conduct of Hamas and behind Israel was embarrassingly clear when he said, “I also think it is important to remember that Hamas acts extraordinarily irresponsibly when it is deliberately siting rocket launchers in population centers, putting populations at risk because of that particular military strategy.” Intentionally placing its own citizens, including children, in harm’s way to maximize photo-ready casualties that can turn world opinion against Israel is not “irresponsible.” The President trying to play both ends against the middle in the Gaza crisis is irresponsible. Using Gazans as human shields when Hamas forces Israel to respond militarily to missiles and tunnels is indistinguishable from evil, and the President, were he responsible, would say so unequivocally. Instead, he resorts to weasel words, equivocations. Surely, this President extolled for his eloquence knows the meaning of the words he uses.

Then, this week, Obama gave us this:

“I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.”

Godwin’s Law be damned: a Nazi Germany analogy is instructive here. Continue reading

Hall v. Florida: The Supreme Court Opts For Ethics Over Law

On a purely ethical basis, it is difficult to argue with the majority opinion in Hall v. Florida, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing a convicted killer whose IQ had been determined to be 71 was still cruel and unusual, and thus a violation of the 8th Amendment, despite Florida law’s cut-off for mental retardation being a score of 70. On the basis of law, however, the SCOTUS decision is hard to defend. Funny, I thought the job of the Supreme Court was to interpret laws.

“Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number…,” wrote Justice Kennedy for the 5-4 majority, in which he joined the so-called “liberal wing.”  “This is not to say that an IQ test score is unhelpful. It is of considerable significance, as the medical community recognizes. But in using these scores to assess a defendant’s eligibility for the death penalty, a State must afford these test scores the same studied skepticism that those who design and use the tests do, and understand that an IQ test score represents a range rather than a fixed number.”

The problem is that the whole concept of a “condition” like intellectual disability is a subjective one. The theater company for which I serve as artistic director is presenting the Abby Mann historical drama “Judgment at Nuremberg,” and one of the most troubling scenes involves a man, the son of a Communist, sterilized by the Nazis because he was “mentally defective,”  or perhaps because of his family’s political views. The Nazi test: make a sentence out of the words hare, hunter, and field. A witness for the prosecution, the man who was sterilized fails to answer the test on the stand, just as he failed when quizzed by the Nazis. Continue reading