Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday season and Election season

It's my favorite day of the week, shabbat shalom! Also equally exciting, we're back on track for holiday season in Israel, Hannukkah begins on Saturday night.

It's been a weird couple of weeks. I've been busy, but not in the same sense that I was before or during the war week in November. The election season in Israel has started and my favorite story is the birth of "The Tzipi Livni party." Tzipi Livni is an interesting politician to me. She is a woman who I find has a strong presence. She is most recently known for being the former head of the Labor party and won the majority vote in the last elections. Livni would have been the Prime Minister but in a story reminiscent of the US elections of 2004, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyhu was able to form a majority coalition within the government and he became Prime Minister, creating a "center-right" government.

When I was first starting to read Israeli news I would see Livni's picture and read her soundbites interjected on popular issues within Israeli news reports. I wasn't sure who she was or what she stood for but she always managed to stand out. In the beginning of 2012 she announced she was resigning from politics. I remember reading the story and thinking it was a shame, there shouldn't be even one less woman in anything, especially politics. Within the last couple weeks she had been teaming up with former prime minister Ehud Olmert and the rumor mill was running on over time if the two would form a party and run in the next elections.

I was in the breaking news room when Livni held her press conference to announce that she would indeed be returning to politics and with a new party of her own. She introduced her party as "The Movement," or "Hatanua" in hebrew. We immediately started making jokes in the newsroom. "If you can't join 'em, make your own party!" "The party is 'the movement,' I think it's more forward than the 'forward' party."

But what jokes we did make didn't stoop to bodily functions. This was unfortunate because apparently "the movement," for most Hebrew speakers, conjures up ideas of evacuated bowels. This apparently came to light to Livni and her staff because very shortly, maybe even 10-20 minutes after announcing, in a press conference, the name of "The Movement" party, it was then changed to "The Tzipi Livni party."

If ever there is a politician (and a woman) I admire, it's Tzipi Livni. I think she has balls. To have the audacity to come back into politics, make your own party and then name that party after yourself, that takes chutzpa.

I can't decide if Israelis view politics and politicians as much as a popularity contest as American's tend too. I believe Livni aims to be "center-left" in her politics, balanced but liberal. But I could be way off base and just put under a spell of a woman putting forth a strong presence and speaking out.

"Sorry, I'll pass"

That was the response I received from the op-ed editor of the New York Post. I had wrote a piece criticizing Fordham University President Father McShane for bullying the group College Republicans and leaving Fordham to look like idiots on Bill O'Reilly.

When I wrote the article, I was fired up over how stupid Fordham looked on TV. Its very easy, when you read and edit opinion pieces all day (as I do for the Jerusalem Post) that you believe you can really put forward a strong voice too.

After I wrote it, I didn't think it was too relevant for most news outlets, but I thought it could be used as a space filler somewhere, so I sent it to a couple places. I thought the response from the New York Post was the best (well the only one I received) because it so clearly cut to my soul. "Sorry, I'll pass." Might as well say, "Apologies Ms. Kelly, but you just wasted about 4 minutes and 32 seconds of my life that I will never get back, I don't seek to do that to anyone else. "

As if I had a roster of editors waiting on baited breath for my next ground breaking opinion piece. Nope, just wanted to throw my piece into the world and see if it landed anywhere.

So I will publish it here, and let all, maybe the 2 or 3 people who see this blog, see what can take up a full day of my life.

For Shame Father McShane


Fordham University’s President has given the school its most recent notoriety for all the wrong reasons.

I am proud to say I graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx, NY. But recently Fordham has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons and giving a poor example of its ideals and the quality of its students.

On Monday’s “O’Reilly factor,” on Fox News, my alma mater was the subject of the segment “Watters world,” by Jesse Watters. The controversy that was the topic of the report began in the start of November. The campus group College Republicans invited controversial conservative pundit Ann Coulter as a guest speaker. The invitation caused such an outrage among the student body and faculty that the College Republicans very quickly rescinded their invitation. But what made this more than just an issue of cowardice was that the opposition included the influence of the President of Fordham University, Father Joseph M. McShane. In a personal statement to the whole student body on November 9th, the president wrote, “To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement.”

With those words, the President acknowledged his influence and value placed on his opinion. In an email sent to the whole student body, generally uninformed students suddenly had fodder for an opinion, but little information to back it up.

The “Watters world” video package showed an embarrassing picture of young students’ naiveté and ignorance on campus. Interspersed with “Honeymooners” spoofs and cricket noises when students couldn’t answer questions, the video package was a farce. “I read something on her opinions after 9/11 and I didn’t like them,” said one bubbly, blonde, tanned female student. Watters asked what Coulter had said after 9/11. “I don’t specifically remember,” the young girl replied. Watters then spoke to one student who was able to offer informed insight on his reasons for being against the Ann Coulter appearance. “I would not have wanted her to be prevented,” the student said. “I would rather her allowed, and myself allowed to protest the event.” Watters raised the issue of the University’s decision to invite Peter Singer, “a man with extreme views who agrees with infanticide and bestiality.” Watters asked if the young student went to protest Singer’s appearance. “No I didn’t,” he said. “I had class at that time.”

But the absurdness of the video speaks to the absurdness of the situation. The College Republicans were bullied into rescinding their invitation. The statement by Father McShane was meant to make a call to arms. “The College Republicans have unwittingly provided Fordham with a test of its character,” he wrote. “The old saw goes that the answer to bad speech is more speech. This is especially true at a university, and I fully expect our students, faculty, alumni, parents, and staff to voice their opposition, civilly and respectfully, and forcefully.”

Most students do realize that when they agree to attend a private Catholic University constitutional rights such as freedom of speech aren’t absolute. Instead of addressing the issue that Fordham actually does have a say in opinions which they offer a platform too, Father McShane abused his power and influence under the guise of free speech. He invoked the Catholic traditions of good vs. evil and gave uninformed students the ammo to take a stand on issues they know nothing about. “Half the people don’t even know why they don’t like Ann Coulture,” Watters said.

Watters said the University wouldn’t give him anyone to speak to and had to flag down an “innocent assistant dean” that wasn’t involved in the decision making process of inviting speakers to the University. The bottom line, as said by O’Reilly, is that this is embarrassing for a respectable school.

It is embarrassing. Father McShane abused his popularity to attack a decision made by a bunch of kids who appeared to be as uniformed as to the reasons they invited Coulter as the ones who opposed her. In a statement explaining why the College Republicans rescinded Coulter’s invitation they wrote, “We regret that we failed to thoroughly research her…that is our error and we do not excuse ourselves for it.”

The “Watters world” segment was a ridiculously produced news segment as was the issue it was sent to cover. However, it is Fordham’s shame too that it brought itself low enough to be made fun of in this way.