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March 19, 2014 6:33 am

Extremism is Madness – On the Left and the Right

avatar by George Jochnowitz

President Obama signs his health care act into law. Photo: White House.

For many Rightists in the United States, Obamacare takes precedence over every other question. For many Leftists, Israel is the issue that supersedes all others. In both cases, this makes no sense.

Obamacare is a wishy-washy step in the direction of extending Medicare to people below the age of 65. Medicare is hardly a controversial issue nowadays, and even when it was brand new, it was not especially opposed by conservatives. Senior citizens are typically grateful to have Medicare. So are their younger relatives.

Medicare is a form of socialized medicine. It is not the only one. If there is an accident, or if someone on the street suffers a heart attack or a stroke, an ambulance will take the patient to the hospital, where they will be treated even if there is no time to locate their identification. When they get better, they can pay their bills or call their insurance companies. If they have no money and no insurance, they have simply received free medical care (though they will still have bills to pay when they are able to).

Saving lives is moral. Helping sick people get better is moral. The argument against using government money to cure illness makes sense only if one is a libertarian. The libertarian position, if taken to its logical conclusion, would do away with police and fire departments, since individuals could sign up with private police or fire fighters who could protect those who were their customers.

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Although I don’t agree with that position, I recognize its internal consistency and its relationship to opposition to any kind of government medical care. Very few Republicans oppose government funding of police and fire departments. Nevertheless, they embrace the libertarian position of not allowing the government to help sick people with tax money – money they believe was stolen by the government from unwilling citizens. Whenever some aspect of Obamacare doesn’t work, Republicans cheer. Opposing Obamacare is the number-one Republican issue. Conservatives have joined ultra-Rightists on this question.

Israel is a small country that should not logically be the center of the world’s attention. It is true that Arab women are less likely than Jewish women in Israel to become doctors. On the other hand, Arab women in the Middle East are more likely to become doctors in Israel than those who live in any other country – by far. It is true that Palestinians do not have a state of their own. The Arab world rejected such a state when the UN voted to partition Palestine. And Arafat rejected an independent state at Taba in 2001 after President Clinton had negotiated an agreement with Israel. Gaza rejected the idea of an independent Palestine after Israel withdrew unilaterally in 2005, giving them a de facto state. Hamas is rejecting the idea of joining with an independent West Bank every time it sends rockets aimed at civilians into Israel – rockets that in effect bear the message: If the West Bank becomes independent, there will be a new barrage of rockets aimed at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which will be much more effective than those sent from Gaza.

For leftists, Israel is the world’s number-one villain. The BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) Movement began in 2005, when Israel announced it would withdraw from Gaza. Syrians are being killed by the thousands in the civil war that is taking place there. The Left has little to say. Iraqis blow up other Iraqis of different denominations frequently in marketplaces and mosques across the country. The Left has nothing to say. Homosexuals are hanged in Iran. The Left has nothing to say. The Saudi religious police prevented firemen from rescuing students at a girls’ school. The Left had nothing to say.

How can the Left talk about murders, executions, gay rights, and women’s rights at a time when there is no independent Palestine? After all, discussing these questions might make Israel look much better by comparison.

Obamacare, as I said above, is a wishy-washy plan. Israel, on the other hand, is a country with a population of human beings. Israel’s existence is a much more important question than Obamacare. But the extremism of the Left and the Right on these issues is equal. Extremism is madness.

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