James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Posts Tagged ‘james

שבת שלום

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שבת שלום! My apologies for not posting more this week. It has been a busy one and I have earned my Shabbat rest. I will, however, have a new post on Sunday.


Written by JamesEJ

Friday, August 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Posted in judaism

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From Iowa City to New York City.

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My blogging format for the coming seven days will shift.  I’ll be in New York City on Thursday and will probably write quick highlights as I see or do things that are interesting … stay tuned …

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm

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An Arab Muslim who is sensitive to the Jewish people.

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Shams Ghoneim is a good person. She is sensitive to Jewish concerns in ways that many are not.

During debate on the Johnson County Democratic Platform last weekend, one plank echoed the charge that Jews are not loyal Americans. The plank was shrouded in coded language, likely to mislead innocent observers. However, it was the same kind of Jew-baiting coded language that Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh and America First used to stir anti-Jewish incitement in the US leading up to WWII. While most who ultimately supported the plank undoubtedly did so innocently, they also did so with a lack of sensitivity towards Jews and the history of anti-Semitism.

Shams, despite obvious peer pressure to the contrary, did a simple thing that demonstrated deep compassion and understanding towards the Jewish people. She refused to support that coded language. She is willing to display, publicly, that she is unwilling to help those who are insensitive to our concerns, even when they are superficially “on her side.”

Shams and I have serious disagreements. But, she can set aside those disagreements and make difficult choices when necessary. She is an asset to the Iowa City community, the Muslim community, and the Arab community. She may not be a member of the Jewish community, but because of her courage, she is an asset to our community as well.

Postscript: The foregoing is a letter I wrote that was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen today. My initial submission did not explain the details of last weekend’s Johnson County Democratic Convention and much of the second paragraph was omitted. It is not my desire to unfairly criticize the Johnson County Democratic Party. I am already exchanging e-mails with those who I feel were most responsible for this troubling language, and I hope we can reconcile our differences. I also want to note that there were a couple people who spoke for “our side” on this issue Saturday. They were not Jewish and, prior to Saturday, were not known to “our side.” They were moved by our concerns to speak in our favor. They represent what I think of when I think of Democrats generally. I was worried that I might have written something very different coming out of the platform debate. People like Shams, and these other gentiles who care about our sensitivities, preserved the integrity of the local Democratic Party and acted in a manner consistent with historic Democratic interests in diversity and sensitivity towards minority populations.

Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, March 22, 2008 at 9:23 am

How would you handle a terrorist?

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What is the ethical way to treat a terrorist, and when innocents are killed in stopping terrorists, who is responsible? I have a set of hypotheticals that I use to address the question.

The basic situation is this: A man is shooting into a crowd. He is using another person as a shield. You have a gun. What do you do? Assume you cannot kill the terrorist with certainty AND avoid killing the human shield with certainty.

Minor modifications to the question make it suited to any real world situation. Does it matter if the human shield is there willingly? What if the shield is a child of the shooter? An accomplice of the shooter? An innocent bystander?

What if the shooter has bad aim – most of his shots hit no one and most of the hits only cause casualties but not deaths? What if you expect that waiting will increase your chances of a “clean” kill where the human shield escapes unharmed? How long would you wait? How many people would you let get maimed or killed before shooting the shooter (and putting his human shield at risk)?

So imagine you shoot, kill the shooter, and maim or kill his human shield? Who is morally responsible for that person’s death? Does it matter if the human shield was a willing accomplice?

Personally, I would not hesitate to shoot. I would disable the murderer before he had an opportunity to kill again. If he was obviously a very bad shot, and there was little risk to his targets, I might pause for a better shot that would be less likely to harm the human shield. But such pause would have to come with a significant expectation that it would save lives on net. If the human shield were a willing accomplice I would not hesitate. In any event, any harm to the human shield would be a moral burden to the one using him or her as such. I would have sorrow if I killed either the shooter or the human shield, but the moral guilt would not be mine.

In the Israeli-Arab conflict – particularly in Gaza – this is the moral dilemma. The shooters are Palestinian Arab terrorists and their sponsoring organizations. The human shields are Palestinian Arab civilians, many of whom are, sadly, willing accomplices. The crowd is the Jewish people – the vast majority of them are innocent Jews. When I look at Palestinian Arab terrorists and the frequent hesitation of the Israeli government, I can easily put Israel in the moral right. I would rarely hesitate half as long.

Some will say that my hypothetical does not consider the oppression Palestinian Arabs suffer. Palestinian Arabs indeed suffer under Israeli security measures. But, think back to the hypothetical. Do you really care about the grievances of the shooter? He is shooting into a crowd of innocents. A motive may explain how a heinous act happened, but it cannot excuse it.

Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Posted in israel

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