Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Palestinian Refugees

City Journal's Sol Stern has written a marvelous piece on the genesis of the Palestinian refugee problem. The history he recounts has been obscured and forgotten in the current debates over who bears what responsibility to whom in the Middle East, but it's crucially important that we understand how the Palestinian refugees came to be, and why the camps still exist 62 years after the refugees' grandparents fled Israel.

These paragraphs are just two of the many which help us to understand what happened in those turbulent days following WWII:
During the 1948 war and for many years afterward, the Western world—including the international Left—expressed hardly any moral outrage about the Palestinian refugees. This had nothing to do with Western racism or colonialism and much to do with recent history. The fighting in Palestine had broken out only two years after the end of the costliest military conflict ever, in which the victors exacted a terrible price on the losers. By that, I don’t mean the Nazi officials and their “willing executioners,” who received less punishment than they deserved, but the 11 million ethnic Germans living in Central and Eastern Europe—civilians all—who were expelled from their homes and force-marched to Germany by the Red Army, with help from the Czech and Polish governments and with the approval of Roosevelt and Churchill.

Historians estimate that 2 million died on the way. Around the same time, the Indian subcontinent was divided into two new countries, India and Pakistan; millions of Hindus and Muslims moved from one to the other, and hundreds of thousands died in related violence. Against this background, the West was not likely to be troubled by the exodus of a little more than half a million Palestinians after a war launched by their own leaders.
For anyone who cares about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict this article is a "must" read.

A New Twist on Birthright Citizenship

One element of the illegal immigration debate that raises hackles is birthright citizenship, i.e. the idea that the 14th amendment to the constitution declares that children born on U.S. soil to parents of illegal aliens are ipso facto United States citizens.

Some legal experts, however, are claiming that the assumption that such children have what is called "birthright citizenship" is actually based on an erroneous reading of the 14th amendment.

Section 1 of that amendment states that:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
To the layman the intent of this passage certainly seems to be pretty straightforwardly declaring any children born on our soil to be citizens, but Law School Dr. John C. Eastman, Donald P. Kennedy Chair in Law and former Dean at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California thinks not.

Eastman makes the case that the words "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" actually deny birthright citizenship, not just to children of illegals, but also to anyone in the country legally but temporarily:
That text has two requirements: 1) Birth on U.S. soil; and 2) Being subject to the jurisdiction of the United States when born. In recent decades, the opinion has taken root, quite erroneously, that anyone born in the United States (except the children of ambassadors) is necessarily subject to its jurisdiction because everyone has to comply with our laws while physically present within our borders. Those who drafted and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment had a different understanding of jurisdiction.

For them, a person could be subject to the jurisdiction of a sovereign nation in two very different ways: the one, partial and territorial; the other full and complete. Think of it this way. When a tourist from Great Britain visits the United States, he subjects himself to our “territorial jurisdiction.” He has to follow our laws while he is here, including our traffic laws that require him to drive on the right rather than the wrong (I mean left!) side of the road.

He is no longer subject to those laws when he returns home, of course, and he was never subject to the broader jurisdiction that requires from him allegiance to the United States. He can’t be drafted into our army, for example, or prosecuted for treason for taking up arms against us.
In the balance of his essay Eastman looks at the jurisprudential history of the relevant phrase and concludes that granting citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are themselves not citizens is not warranted by that history.

It's an interesting, and surprising, development in the controversy over illegal immigration.

Atheism's Good News

Media talkers at MSNBC and elsewhere are incredulous that so many people (24%, apparently) persist in believing that President Obama is a Muslim. How can these rubes be so benighted, the media mavens ask each other.

Something similar is happening in terms of the number of people who refuse to accept the Darwinian version of evolution. Despite all the efforts of Darwinians in the academy and the media to inculcate Darwinian materialism in the last three generations of students the American people stubbornly refuse to believe it. Marvin Olasky comments on this in a brief essay at Patheos.

Olasky writes:
The results of Gallup polls over the past three decades are consistently extraordinary. Picture a Gallup pollster reading this statement: "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." Would you think that year after year since 1982 some 44-47 percent of Americans have agreed? If you remove the number of years, which some "old earth" Christians do, the number of anti-evolutionists jumps to 53 percent.

And that's not all. Another 35-38 percent of Americans say that "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process." Only 9-14 percent support Darwinist materialism: "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in the process." All the atheist best sellers of recent years -- Sam Harris's The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, and Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great -- have not greatly enlarged the beachhead.

It's ironic that soon after Alister McGrath wrote a fine history, The Twilight of Atheism, the "new atheists" came out in force. But don't be fooled. They bring not a new dawn but a night of the living dead. Their honest advocates are biologists like Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, who announced, "We have come to realize humans are more like worms than we ever imagined." If that's an insufficiently winning statement for you, hear Charles Zuker, biology professor at the University of California at San Diego: "In essence, we are nothing but a big fly."
If this is the Darwinians' notion of glad tidings, is it surprising that Darwinism and the materialist worldview which it presupposes haven't gained more traction among the American people? Any view of life which entails that we are deluded if we think that there's anything special, meaningful, or significant about being human better have overwhelming evidence in its favor.

It's hard to get excited about a view of life that offers no hope, no meaning, no basis for distinguishing between right and wrong, and no reason to think that there's anything unique about human beings. Most ordinary people, when offered such an unappetizing dish, are just going to say "no thanks."

But, the New Atheists insist, Darwinian materialism is true and we should accept it not for its consequences but for its truth. Well, we might agree with that were it clear that materialism is true, or if there were any compelling evidence that it's true, but as Olasky notes, that's far from being the case. The materialist is in the awkward position of trying to persuade us to accept on faith the idea that we're just worms. That's a pretty hard sell.