Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Grandpa Is Cool

One of the things I noticed about getting older was the fact that people started to treat me a bit more seriously. The one demographic that seemed to treat me more seriously were younger women and as I’ve blogged previously, its fun to have a young chick drop enough hints that you’re interesting until your kid tells you that you’re behaving like a “Disgusting Old Man.”

I’m bringing this up because there’s a new phenomenon in politics – “Cool Old People.” The most prominent instance of the “Cool Old Person,” is in the USA. The election in November will be between Donald Trump who is 74 and his possible opponents, which include Bernie Sanders (age 78), Joe Biden (age 77) and Michael Bloomberg (also age 78). The only exception among the current Democrats is Mr. Buttigieg, who is a sprightly 38-year-old. Interestingly enough, Mr. Sanders, who is the current front runner is most popular among young voters (my younger brother’s friends are all proud Sanders supporters), while the youthful Mayor Pete is more popular with older voters and struggles with the younger crowd.

Here in Singapore, the coolest thing in politics is Dr. Tan Cheng Bok, the Secretary General of the newly formed Progress Singapore Party (PSP), who is a sprightly 79-years old. I’ve mentioned in my previous post “Grandpa’sRevenge,” that the most striking thing about being in a PSP gathering is the fact that nearly one was over 45 but also highly energized. While you would not associate the term “rock star” with a 79-year-old, Dr. Tan was certainly that.

Why is it such that we’re now seeing a group of old people being so cool with the kids? Perhaps it has something to do with old people being able to speak their mind and being able to address the issues that interestingly enough, affect the young. In Singapore, the PSP have very cleverly made the issue of affordably housing one of their teams. In the USA, it’s 78-year-old Bernie who is discussing things like “Medicare for All,” and forgiveness of student debt.

If Bernie Sanders is currently front runner for “most popular granddad,” it’s because he actually is the granddad speaking for the issues that matter to the kids, which somehow the parents don’t want to discuss. Having the prefix “grand” next to your family title gives you certain peculiar privileges with kids. I think of my recent trip to Vietnam where I got to hang out with my grandnephew Krishna who described me as “my best friend.”

The question is simple – how many of us were actually closer to our grandparents than to our parents? I’m sure many would say that they have great memories of their grandparents, the figures who were had been there and did that and could tell you that your parents were fussing over something that didn’t matter all that much and what really mattered was love and concern.
In politics, we’ve talked of “Dad” issues like defense and security and “Mum” issues like education. Well, we have “Grandparent” issues, which are essentially the issues parents think of but they go one step further. Grandpa knows that education is important but he also understands you shouldn’t be crippled by student loans. Grandpa understands that knowing how to fight is important but it’s easier to be friends with people than to bully them.

People facing the “Cool Grandpa’s” should never dismiss them for being old. They should remember grandpas have grand kids who will stick up for their grandparents.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Sad Decline of a Pioneering People

You have to hand it to the Anglo-Saxons, namely the British and later on the Americans, for shaping much of the modern world. While the British were not the first colonizing power, they were perhaps the smartest. While the Spanish looted the places they went to, the British created a system of never-ending trade relationships with their colonies, which produced better returns than the instant looting of the Spanish. To their credit, the British did leave behind a physical and legal infrastructure in the places where they colonized (though let’s be clear, the intent was not to benefit the natives but to ensure the colonies would be properly administered from London).

When the centre of power moved across the Atlantic, the name of the game changed. While the Americans have been involved in countless wars, their dominance of the world has primarily been through their multinational corporations and universities.

In all fairness to the Anglo-American geo-politics, we live in “rules-based” system built by Britain and America. Even as China and India become the world’s largest economies, they’re doing so in a “rules-based” order built by first the British and then the Americans.

One of the reasons that the world gives Britain and America a certain amount of reverence was because these were the nations that pioneered things like individual liberty, freedom of speech and expression and the ability of an individual to prosper regardless of his or her social status. The US Constitution, which is the world’s oldest, is considered a “masterpiece” in political science. While the American founding fathers were by no means saints (some owned slaves and women were noticeably absent in their calculations), they set about creating a nation that broke with the ancient ways of thinking and made the right of an individual to pursue happiness.

America has been lucky. A fresh stream of immigrants has always given its culture a certain sense of dynamism and as Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister once alluded to, America has had the luxury of using the brains from the rest of the world. The Old Rogue used to make the point that Silicon Valley would not exist without Taiwanese and Indian migrants. Openness was also good for Britain. When the African states decided to “Africanize” their economies, in the 1970s and kicked out the Indians (Specifically the Guajarati’s), Britain welcomed them and in return they gave British economy a jolt of energy.

The openness of the Anglo-American world made them great and this was underpinned by news people who were allowed to take on the establishment. Yes, there are “sleazy” hacks working for sleazy publications aimed at the lowest common denominator (think News of the World, the Sun, the National Enquirer) but at the same time, there are also serious journalist working for serious publications (think Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Guardian and Telegraph). Leaders from the West were kept in check by a press willing to take them to task.

Unfortunately, the nations that pioneered things like individual liberty and rewarding people for excellence have decided to pioneer the reverse. The nations that lead the world in opening up trade and innovation are now pioneering the opposite. We only think of “Make America Great Again,” and “Brexit.” Part of this pioneering effort backwards has been to wage a war against people who might be a little critical.

Let’s just remember that the term “Fake News” only appeared in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Previously there was news and there was libel, which was used to protect people from being slandered by the press. Suddenly, when the Donald, who is famous for his rather lose relationship with facts, was being challenged by the media on his outlandish claims, we suddenly heard the terms “Fake News,” and “Alternative Facts,” being used.

The Tough Guy (only Americans thought so) who could insult others but couldn’t take a hit (who else will do something and warn the other side not to retaliate) started to do things like “dis-invite” members of the press into the White House Briefing (only friendly media and in fairness, Fox News called him out on this) and he actually entertained ways in which he could legally try to investigate media as the report below shows:

Things are not better across the Atlantic. While Mr. Boris Johnson cultivates an image of being a “loveable buffoon” as opposed to Mr. Trump’s, “Everyday Sleaze,” Mr. Johnson has shown himself to be no less willing to take on the institutions that have protected the very things that have made Britain a decent enough society. Just as the Trump wanted to ban unfriendly reporters from the White House, Mr. Johnson decided to do something similar in the Downing Street briefings:

Seriously, the UK is supposed to be a bastion of freedom of the press. If Reporters Without Borders reported on a place like Russia or China or dare, I say Singapore, I could expect it – but the UK, really?

I don’t know why Americans, especially under Trump get so worked up about China becoming the world’s biggest economy. China has more people and logic has it that as China prospers, her GDP figures will increase. The average American and European will still have a better lifestyle than the average Chinese and Indian regardless of GDP.

So, the question is why is America, under Trump, with Britain following suite, trying its best to make itself more like China. China sends students to America to learn from America. These students are part of a demographic that will help China become more like America and while things may be messy, will eventually propel China into greatness. So, what is America under Trump and Britain under Johnson so afraid off? Why is America trying to be the worst of China? The nations that gave us FDR and Churchill have now given us Trump and Johnson, who are leading once great nations into a proverbial cesspit.  

Friday, February 14, 2020

In Praise of a Jewish Elf

The Democratic Party is currently trying to choose the candidate that they hope will be able to remove the Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this November. While Bernie Sanders, America’s favourite “socialist” has had a narrow victory in the New Hampshire primaries, the field looks pretty confused and inconclusive. While Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren may be popular on college campuses, its easy for the Republicans to portray them as “crazy socialist” (socialist being a dirty word in American politics). The former Vice-President Joe Bidden is an uninspiring candidate and a cloud of suspicion on his basic integrity lingers from the Occupant’s impeachment hearing (there are enough Trump supporters who argue that their hero was victimized because he was trying to dig up dirt on Joe Bidden). While Pete Buttigieg may have many of the “right credentials,” (religious combat veteran) and comes across well on TV, he’s had problems attracting people of colour and the question remains – is America, the land that has yet to elect a woman, ready for a homosexual?

There is, however, one candidate that may have a chance of upsetting the Occupant. That candidate is Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York and founder of the Wire Service that bares his name (in the interest of disclosure, I’ve been fairly successful at getting people interviewed by Bloomberg when my main source of income was PR work).

Mr. Bloomberg is in many ways not the ideal candidate. After three years of a “billionaire” in the White House, having another billionaire as president may seems like a recipe for disaster. Mr. Bloomberg has vowed to fund his campaign out of his pocket and this has made him vulnerable to attacks. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have pointed out that Mr. Bloomberg’s vast fortune in politics is precisely the problem of politics being dominated by “Big Donors.” Mr. Sander’s attack on Mr. Bloomberg’s wealth can be seen at:

Mr. Bloomberg has not been flawless in his campaign and has made mistakes. His “stop, question and frisk policies,” while Mayor of New York, which happened to target brown and black men have come to haunt him. Mr. Bloomberg’s flaws as a campaigner can be found at:

Having said all of that, there are reasons to pay attention to a Bloomberg candidacy and to even want that candidacy to succeed. In many ways, Mr. Bloomberg is the “real” version of why people voted for the Occupant.

One of the reasons why people voted for Trump in 2016 was his often-publicized wealth. Not only did people site his wealth as plus, they also said that as a successful businessman who would run the country like his successful businesses.

I’ve heard someone argue that Donald Trump’s wealth made it impossible for him to be bought and he was not beholden to big monied interest. The voting public have also argued that if they went with Trump his experience in getting rich would help them get rich too. Think of it, Donald Trump started a show called the “Apprentice” which was all about people killing themselves for the opportunity to work for Donald Trump and find a path to riches.

If you can apply that argument to voting for Donald Trump, you have to apply that very same argument to Michael Bloomberg, whose wealth is many times what Donald Trumps’ is (Forbes estimates Donald Trump’s net worth at around three to four billion. By contrast, Mr. Bloomberg’s wealth is estimated as 40 to sixty billion).

Using the wealth factor to compare the two men is important in as much as Mr. Trump makes it central to who he is (we are talking about someone who sued Forbes for underestimating his wealth). What’s particularly important here is not so much the net worth but how they made their money.

Let’s start with Mr. Trump, since he talks the most about his billions. Mr. Trump made it in real estate, an old-fashioned industry. Mr. Trump consistently brags about how he has the best buildings in the best city in the world, which is an indication of his superior intelligence and by extension his right to run the country.

However, there are several problems here. Firstly, a good portion of his wealth is inherited. In fairness, he’s built on what he’s inherited. However, his skill was not business management or creating something new. In his journey to more wealth, Mr. Trump needed to be bailed out from bankruptcy by his father on more than one occasion. As he’s argued that John McCain shouldn’t be a war hero because he was captured by the enemy, we should ask if he’s really a businessman as he’s needed to be bailed out on several occasions. Let’s not forget that Mr. Trump is associated with business that are considered easy to make money in, namely real estate (buy land, they’re not making more of it) and casinos (the house always wins). Mr. Trump’s genius is not management but producing hype. His real asset is his brand, where people pay to put the Trump name on their buildings. While a good brand is an asset (I’m part of the brand building business), there’s a problem in that brands can be damaged easily – think of Trump University.

Mr. Bloomberg has built a different type of business and while he was not born into poverty, Mr. Bloomberg did not inherit the wealth that Mr. Trump did. The original capital came from his stint at Salomon Brothers (It takes skills to build capital over a period of years in the investment business) and the genesis of what we call Bloomberg LP came from his insight that large finance houses would pay for top quality information delivered as quickly as possible. Mr. Bloomberg understood that this could be done through the development of the right technology. What we call Bloomberg LP a precursor to today’s tech unicorns. The testament to Mr. Bloomberg’s competence as manager and business builder can be seen from the growth of Bloomberg LP from nothing much to a multibillion company employing 20,000 plus people in 167 countries.

The left wing has mistakenly used Mr. Trump’s famous managerial incompetence to discredit the notion that CEO’s can become successful Presidents. In Mr. Trump, America did not get a businessman or managerial genius – they got a bullshit artist who got promoted beyond his level of competence. By contrast, Mr. Bloomberg is a real businessman who has built something. Mr. Bloomberg had an idea and executed it. A person who can come up with fresh ideas and execute them is the very type of person the world needs at its helm.

That’s not all that favours Mr. Bloomberg. He was a competent Mayor of New York, which is a complex global city. While Mr. Bloomberg is by no means a saint (there are reports that Bloomberg was a bit of a fraternity and there have been law suites leveled at Bloomberg LP for sexual harassment), Mr. Bloomberg has kept his private life just that – private.

Mr. Bloomberg has at the very least pretended to respect the rules, something which Mr. Trump seems to ignore. Mr. Bloomberg left the company he founded to become Mayor of New York and there is no indication that there was any peep of Bloomberg LP benefiting from Mr. Bloomberg’s position as Mayor.

The area in which Mr. Bloomberg should be applauded for is keeping his family out of his business and his political offices. Mr. Bloomberg’s second daughter, Georgina, who is an established equestrian in her own right (she overcame a spinal disorder) and is reported to have said that “Having the last name Bloomberg sucks.”) Mr. Bloomberg’s kids have not used their name as an asset to be milked for its worth.

Perhaps the best thing about Mr. Bloomberg is that he knows how to hurt Mr. Trump’s ego. When Mr. Trump tried to mock him for his short stature, Mr. Bloomberg hit back, talking about the Occupant’s fake tan and fake hair – the message could not be clearer – Mr. Bloomberg may be a short man but his achievements are gigantic – Mr. Trump by contrast is a weak and insecure man using political office to hide his obvious flaws.

America, which became the world’s greatest power in history on the premise that an individual could succeed on his or her own talents regardless of birth, stature or religion, should be lead by a man who built great things through his talent rather than continue to stick with a man so weak that he can’t take on anyone stronger than a 16-year-old with Asperger. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

It's a Rather Good Virus

I’m currently living in a region under siege. Ever since the 2019 Coronavirus, which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, broke onto the world stage, nations around the world have been gearing up for a global pandemic. When I landed in Hanoi on the 23rd of January 2020, the Vietnamese (who have a history of hosting large numbers of Chinese travelers) had already placed thermo-cameras and ordered all immigration officers were ordered to order mask. By the time I returned to Singapore a week later, Singapore had also put up cameras.

Right thinking people are scared of this virus. Unlike HIV, which has clear forms of transmissions, all of which require intimate contact (sex, intravenous drug use and mother to child transfusion) nobody is quite sure how this virus is spread. It seems to be airborne, and so mask is one possible safeguard. However, nobody is really sure.  At the time of writing, the office buildings around my office are all conducting screenings at the point of entry and in some offices, there are additional screenings and declarations.

While this virus is “scary” from a healthcare point of view, it’s been something of gift to certain authoritarian leaders. While the administration of Xi Jinping has been criticized for not releasing information earlier and attempting to cover up and fudge statistics on the virus, the virus has helped keep the Hong Kong protestors at home, thus reducing a tough foreign policy-public relations problem.

Mr. Xi has also had the chance to brandish how quickly China gets things done – he’s managed to lock down a city of 11 million and a hospital to contain patients of the virus was built in a matter of days (the comparison with India becomes more glaring. As many Indian pundits would point out – China can do these things because its not a democracy – the Indians however, do retort that a good portion of their population are vegetarian – so despite India’s inferior infrastructure, India has yet to export a pandemic). President Xi has also brandished his “nationalist” credentials by lashing out at countries that have barred Chinese visitors.

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has also managed to enjoy the virus. Despite some criticism from the online media over the issuance of mask, the government has not wasted no opportunity in using the crisis to call for unity of the population and when there was a bout of panic buying of essential goods like the toilet paper, the government wasted no time in coming out to sound like the voice of reason.

More importantly the government has won praise on the global stage for its handling of the crisis. Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has declared that Singapore is doing the right things – taking the necessary precautions without overdoing it. Professor Heymann’s comments can be found at:

This is music to the Singapore government’s ears. What more could it want to show the population that the “international” community recognizes its competence.

The virus is scary. Every day, the ruthless half is reminding me to look after myself. Precautions should be taken. Nobody knows when the crisis will die down. However, one thing can be certain – the government will milk the crisis for what it’s worth.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Keep Church and State Separate But Keep the Church in the Statesman.

I’ve usually taken the position that Church and State shouldbe kept separate. In an age where societies are becoming more multicultural and more multiethnic, church and state should be kept separate. When you mix religion and politics, the combination is usually pretty ungodly. I look back to the constant arguments on the repeal of 377A (the act which prohibits “unnatural” sex between two men) in Singapore and the repeated position of rational people, which is – there is a difference between what we do not approve off and what should be criminal.

However, I believe that Church and State should be kept separate, I wonder if there is a case for “church being inside statesmen?” I remember His Holiness the Dalai Lama telling ap politician that it was more important for a politician to have morality than a monk. His argument was simple – a monk’s decisions affected only himself, whereas the politician’s affected many people.

Generally speaking, the concept of being a “good man” in politics tends to be a fluid. However, good people can and so exist in what is essentially a dirty and ugly game. How does one define good? I suppose it’s what my mother would call “having the heart in the right place.” We’re talking about politicians who somehow do things that they believe to be right rather than what benefits them.

The examples of this, funnily enough, come from the USA. The late Senator John McCain, for example, showed himself to be a decent man, even when it wasn’t beneficial for him. One of the most prominent examples was in 2008 when he defended his opponent as “A decent man, who I happen to disagree with.” A clip of that video can be seen at:

You could argue that John McCain wasn’t playing to win and should have mobilized millions of voters based on a “conspiracy” theory that his opponent was a closet Muslim terrorist. However, while his act of decency may have prevented him from winning (there is also no proof that he would have won had he played the “crazies”), it ensured that the system didn’t get infected by doubts and it enabled to the country to be somewhat united with the result.

McCain was also most famous for thumbs down in the Trump Administration’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, or “Obamacare.” The act put him in the crosshairs of the Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but it also showed him that he was an independent mind who put what he believed was in the interest of his country over the interest of his party and president.
The more John McCain annoyed the President, the more it became clear to normal people (and I use this word sparingly when it comes to Americans of the White Variety), that the Arizona Senator was everything that the Occupant was not – namely courageous and principled.

With the demise of the late Senator McCain, the Republican Party has been saved by another Senator. The Senator in question is Mitt Romeny, the Senator from the State of Utah, who was also the losing Presidential Candidate in 2012. Mr. Romney made history when he became the first senator from any party to break party lines and vote against a president from his own party in an impeachment trial (of which this was only the third one ever). Mr. Romney is by no means the picture perfect “Never Trumper.” His voting record in the Senate would suggests that he does agree with Donald Trump on the majority of issues.

However, in the case of the Impeachment Trial, Mr. Romeny made the point that he felt that the evidence against the Occupant was so overwhelming that he could not in good conscience or be true to himself and his God to vote for anything other than a conviction.

As predicted, the Occupant and its supporters were having none of it and have started painting Mr. Romney as an “agent of the far left,” and a “sore loser” who was jealous of the Occupant for having gotten the job that he had failed to get. The descriptions on the predictable attacks can be found at:

The attacks against Mr. Romney are to be expected. In his speech outlining the reasons for his vote, Mr. Romney states that he was expecting the reprisals. Yet, despite this, he still felt that it was “wrong” to vote for anything other than a conviction because it would be against his conscience.
While the verdict of the Occupant’s impeachment trial was never in doubt, Mr. Romney may have succeeded in doing something very important -reminding people that higher ideals exists. The impeachment trial made no pretense of being a trial with the Republican majority refusing to call witnesses, particularly when there was a credible witness. As Mr. Romney argued the evidence against the Occupant was there and yet, it was ignored. A transcript of Mr. Romeny’s speech can be found at:

Mr. Romney declared himself to be a religious man who owed an allegiance to the Almighty. Thankfully Mr. Romney showed what it meant to believe in God and voted according to his conscience rather than for his convenience.  

When you look at Mr. Romeny’s actions, it becomes clear that while Church and State should be separate as institutions, its OK when men who are guided by the principles of the Church serve the State.  

Thursday, February 06, 2020

I’m Sorry but You’re the Wrong Colour (Unless You Give Us A lot of Money)

One of my latest culinary discoveries is a small stall in Maxwell Food Centre, that sells Shwarma’s or Middle Eastern sandwiches. The man who runs this stall is an Iraqi who has settled here and started a family with a Singaporean

Our friendship recently added a “social media” element, when we linked on Facebook through a mutual friend. One day, I noticed that he posted something that was despondent. His post read as follows:

“Do not leave your country even your country is shit, do not leave it for any reason !!no body going to respect you when you leave your country

The source of his unhappiness was his treatment by the authorities when he tried to renew his residency permit. Apparently, they had grilled him on his opinions on the 2003 American Invasion of Iraq. Somehow, in between having the audacity to set up a small business and helping Singapore’s food distribution industry, the powers that be felt that this man was a terrorist threat to Singapore because he wasn’t grateful that his country was invaded by a foreign power. I spoke to my friend about this and he kept saying, “I can see the hatred in their eyes. “

I bring this story because there seems to be a trend of going backwards in the so called “Civilized World.” Countries that talked about “diversity,” and “inclusiveness” or “regardless of race, language or religion,” have now started to make “discriminating” part of official policy. The most famous example if the Occupant of 1600 Avenue’s famous “Muslim Ban,” which conveniently left out the countries that actually produced people who attached the USA (September 11 2001) but had Muslims with lots of money to spend on overpriced real estate. The Donald is, unfortunately the most vocal of a group of world leaders with a talent for bringing out the worst in people.

In an ideal world, we should have a situation where borders don’t matter and we should have a situation where people choose the countries, they want to be part of. However, I’m also old enough to realise that this isn’t an easy process and there are times where higher ideals need to be set aside. There may, unfortunately be a case for excluding people from certain parts of the world based on national security issues. However, if that really was the case, one would have to communicate it with the population at large in a clear and somewhat honest way.

I take the example of restricting Singapore’s Malay population from the upper echelons of the armed forces as well as from certain parts of the armed forces. While I don’t agree with this policy (come on, you don’t let Malays into an artillery unit but you’d let some Pom in?), the rationale was communicated fairly clearly. Lee Kuan Yew states in his book that our most likely opponents in an armed conflict would have been Malay majority nations and it would not be fair to put our Malay population into having a case of “Dual Loyalties.” The Malay population has accepted this to a certain degree.

What I do not agree with are policies designed to stir up people’s prejudices for the sake of it. Trump’s infamous Muslim ban comes to mind. As stated, if this was really about National Security, it would have been focused on the nations that had a proven record of sending people with a stated desire to do damage to America.

As vile as Trump is, I do give him credit for being openly vile. What I take issues with in Singapore is the fact that we sell ourselves as being “Regardless of race, language or religion,” but incidents like what happened to my friend take place and people shrug and think it’s perfectly acceptable.

I’ve mentioned this to government officials, where I’ve noticed that the places where people from the proverbial “shithole” countries are in shitty parts of town and in shitty facilities. By comparison, the places where people from nice countries are likely to be are inevitably well spruced up.

Human history has shown that places benefit when there’s a development of human capital. The usual success of a nation depends on its ability to make its citizens productive. Singapore, for example takes great pride in the amount of money we invest in our education to make our people productive.

Then there’s the other side of the coin – if you don’t have the brains, get the brains and energy from elsewhere. America is a great example of that. America excels in so many fields because it allows the brains from elsewhere to function to their full potential. I won’t stop repeating it but the parts of America that produce the things the world can’t get enough of (namely the East and West Coast) are the parts that are open to other people’s brains. China is actually similar. The parts of “future” superpower are inevitably on the Eastern Seaboard and the parts open to the world.

While America and China may have “insular” parts that don’t produce much, Singapore cannot afford insularity. Being a spec on the global scale means we need to be open. If we don’t have the drive and the brains, we should get it from elsewhere.

My friend is the prime example of what we need. He has qualifications in Bagdad but he’s willing to come to Singapore to create something for himself and his family. He’s not “taken” jobs from anyone. His small business buys from suppliers (local businesses) and rent (local institutions) and if luck, it may grow and employ, dare I say, Singaporeans.

Yet, the authorities that he has dealt with, think that its better to question him for not being a key supporter of a policy that ruined his original life. Why is that so? How does making life miserable for a productive member of society benefit Singapore? I’d love to know that answer.

Monday, February 03, 2020

God’s Will When God Leaves the Real Estate Business

Back in 2006 I wrote an article for Arab News entitled “Criticism of Israeli Foreign Policy does not equate to Anti-Semitism.” I had taken issue with the fact that the Kadima Government in Israel had decided that it was appropriate to, in the words of the former Chief of Staff of the IDF to “Bomb Lebanon back to the Stone Age.” My TV screen was filled with images of daily artillery and aerial bombardment of Southern Lebanon and the Israelis and the USA were hailing this as “birth pangs of a New Middle East.” The Israeli justification for this slaughter was simple – Hezbollah, the Shiite Militia that dominates much Lebanese politics, had the audacity to dig into Israel and kidnap three members of the IDF. While nobody was justifying Hezbollah’s actions, no right-thinking person thought that Israel’s response was proportional to what they had lost. The sane part of the world argued that the only winners of that conflict were – Hezbollah.

My issue in this article was not so much with the Israeli’s but with the Americans who had chosen to applaud Israel for its clearly disproportionate response. I remember writing that “The nation that saved us from the Master Race has allowed God’s Chosen to commit an atrocity.” My reward for this line was to receive a deluge of emails – some calling me an “anti-Semite” spreading lies about the Israeli state to those encouraging me to carry on. The most interesting responses were from the USA. There were those who sent me literature on prophecies relating to the land and there were those who spoke in fear of a “domineering cabal.”

I’m brining up this topic again because the Donald and Bibi, also known as the President being Impeached and the Prime Minister being indicted in a corruption trial, managed to pull off the “Deal of the Century” between themselves to declare the Israeli settlements in the West Bank to the magically legal (which not even the Israeli Supreme Court accepts). As expected, the Palestinians rejected the deal as did the 22-members of the Arab League. Peace will definitely not be achieved and if anything, the “Deal of the Century” will only intensify the conflict. So, what do we need to do?

I’m old enough to remember a time when there were politicians who were willing to state the obvious – both sides need to be led through their anxieties. In the 2001 in the Sharm El Sheikh Fact Finding Committee chaired by Senator George Mitchel (the man who brought the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland together), it was found that there was a direct correlation between “terrorist activity” and settlement building. There was an obvious vicious cycle. The more the Israelis built settlements in the occupied West Bank, the more the Palestinians resorted to “terrorist tactics,” to try to claim back their land, which in turn lead the Israeli military to crack down harder. It was clear to anyone who had more than a brain cell that the problem was obvious. The settlements had to be removed, which in turn would reduce the desire of the Palestinians to hit back, which would in turn negate the need for Israeli crackdown.  

The most interesting part to this whole situation was the fact that the Israelis and Palestinians were trying this out. In 1994, the Israeli Prime Minister of the day, Yitzhak Rabin took the bold step of swopping land in return for peace. Rabin, a general who had dedicated his life fighting for the State of Israel, understood that there would only be real peace if land was swopped or as the Old Rogue used to say – returned. The move was something that everybody could agree with.

Unfortunately, Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish Settler and he was succeeded by a populist called Bibi Nethanyahu, who made very clear that he was against everything Rabin wanted. His view of things was simple – land for peace was OK as long as the Palestinians understood they were supposed to sit in the shit.

How did so much great hope die with one man? The answer is very simple – there is an idea floating around that says “God” (Yahweh to the Jews and Allah to the Muslims) is a real estate broker who has given that slice of the desert to one group of people. While this might sound simplistic in the modern age, it has been proven to be an idea that is as powerful as is toxic. This idea has enabled extremist to flourish and international laws be damned.

I think of the time Ariel Sharon fell into a coma. In his vegetative state, the man who made his name butchering Arabs (read brown people), was condemned not for his butchery but for his one vaguely decent act, which was to get the IDF to remove settlements from Gaza (needless to say, he still ensured the IDF controlled all the vital areas for survival (airspace etc). He was condemned for …. wait for it…. giving away God’s land by Pat Robertson, a televangelist who also doubles up as a media mogul.

The solution is simple. God needs to announce that he is handing over real estate brokerage in the desert to humanity so that humanity can do something Godly for a change. Christ was very clear that he did not approve of starving anyone nor was he a proponent of “apartheid.”
I’m not saying that the Palestinians have been saintly but they are clearly the weaker party and they have been on the wrong end of a very powerful military force that’s backed up by the world’s most powerful military force. Every time the more powerful party does something to them, the world falls into the trap of the likes of Mr. Robertson, and everyone scolds the Palestinians for not accepting their fate – they are scolded for having the audacity to fight back. It’s a case of the world tells them to stop using the gun and negotiate with the tongue, while the other side continues to build settlements on Palestinian land.

Once God informs the world that he is not interested in being a real estate broker, it then becomes easier for people to do the Gods work by living in peace. With God in the business, you’ll have people of European decent claiming that it’s a violation of God’s will if any of that land is given to people of Semitic decent and doing everything in their power to help other people of European decent to keep the land away from people of Semitic decent.
Once we allow God to exit the real estate business, we can encourage cooler heads on both sides to come to the negotiating table. You had people like the late Saudi King Abdullah, who was willing to push the Arab league into recognizing Israel in return for withdrawal to its 1967 borders. You had people like Yitzak Rabin, who could shake hands with old enemies like Yasser Arafat and the late King Hussein of Jordan.   

We’ve had great men like these who were willing to do God’s work by going against what they were conditioned to believe. Once God explains that he, unlike the Trump is not in the real estate business, will we then achieve a Godly peace.