Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Be assertive, liberals

This is an open letter to President Barack Obama, to liberals in general and to University of Massachusetts student activists. I’m writing this because you all have a lot to learn about compromise.

I’ll start with the incidents that showed me just how much you have to learn: health care and Ramat Shlomo. In the case of health care, you wanted to pass comprehensive health care reform that would create a public option, and in the case of Ramat Shlomo, you told the Israeli government that building a new Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem was prejudicing peace negotiations and encroaching on land the Palestinians wanted. Student activists, you did something very similar regarding the UMass Textbook Annex: You started out promoting a student-run textbook store to replace the annex, and ended up just settling with notifications of what textbooks we need to buy before the semester begins. My opinions on these issues are far too obvious to print, but what they reveal about you and your mentality interests me.

You honestly seem to think that you are engaged in negotiations with parties who will reciprocate your attempts to build a mutually-agreeable consensus. You therefore appear to actually think that your side making unilateral concessions will, even must, work toward your goals. It’s amazing in its idealism, astounding in its naiveté and incredible in its self-harm.

Obama administration and congressional Democrats, how could you seriously think that conceding the public option would lead to victory? How could you seriously act as though Republicans were going to work with you rather than against you while, from the start, their news station spread rumors that President Obama is a “secret Muslim,” and one of their former House majority leaders called him a “Marxist leftist” and recently held up signs demanding the right to “Kill the [Health Care Reform] Bill?” This is not politics but lunacy, and conceding to these nuts didn’t work toward meaningful, bipartisan reform – it just resulted in you conceding on one of your core positions, your own values, for nearly no gain at all.

Likewise, how did you think that starting a spat with Israel over the building of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem would help move peace negotiations forward? The so-called Arab anger about this new neighborhood is just an excuse to demand more of what Arabs think they deserve. This was proven when they rioted in a “day of rage” over the Israeli renovation and the re-dedication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of east Jerusalem, because they sincerely believed that it was the first step toward demolishing the al-Aqsa Mosque and building the Third Holy Temple (for your information, hell no, it’s not). You can’t ask for unilateral concessions to people whose entire historiography and narrative of self demands that, in the name of all that is good and right in the world, they win rather than compromise. You need to demand reciprocity and good-faith measures from both sides at the same time. If you don’t, you’re not helping anyone at all and you’ve failed to stand for the principles, values and ideals for which you stood in the first place.

After the political jihad against health care reform, why do we make it a mere matter of newspaper opinion columnists that our elected representatives have been attacked and threatened? As these attacks and threats have taken on racist and anti-Semitic tones, why have we not called out the attackers? It may seem trite to paraphrase Jon Stewart as a source for one’s political beliefs, but I think we need to remind ourselves that however much these people, these inciting protesters and wannabe terrorists, claim to be and to represent the “real America,” they aren’t and they don’t. We are just as much a part of America, real America, as they, including those of us who are New York Jews, Massachusetts liberals, godless socialists, Mexicans and Arabs.

For God’s sake, people, I spent an entire column bemoaning the fact that the only thing capable of waking Americans from our political apathy is violence, but apparently not even that works.

By the way, someone still owes me an explanation of why we don’t have a student-run textbook store. That’s what I signed the petition for, that’s definitely what I signed up on a Facebook group for and that’s why I voted for Brandon Tower in the Student Government Association elections. We won that, didn’t we? Did that even get included in the public higher-education protests last month? I know I received a message saying that he “won,” and I know the guy I voted for became SGA president, but apparently all we got was a rental program, ahead-of-time notice about textbooks and some cost-saving measures. That won’t help when I have to buy a WebAssign packet from the annex next semester to take linear algebra, since those packets are only sold at the annex. According to Tower in a message interchange I had with him, we’re “making headway.” Great.

To be quite frank, I think the time has come to discard the outdated idea that you can have bipartisanship from only one side while it remains bipartisanship. In that spirit, I wish to give a short seminar on how to negotiate. First, never demand what you really want up front. Demand something more. Second, never simply concede to anything. Demand and obtain reciprocity (of every incident I mentioned, the textbook campaign came closest to this). Finally, if the other side doesn’t want to negotiate, use whatever power you have to do what you know is right. Leaving people uninsured, paying too much for textbooks, suffering violent attacks for their political views or suffering violent attacks for existing is absolutely shameful when we have the power to end these things.

In other words, let’s get out there and change the world already.

Eli Gottlieb is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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  • O

    Ollie MorquechoNov 21, 2012 at 6:39 am

    American Health Journal is seeking for content partnerships with site owners in the health care field. AHJ is a medical web site which owns a significant library of high quality health videos. We are in need of bloggers to submit content to our site. Come message us at our contact page on our website.

  • A

    Ahmed El-ShafeiApr 6, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Dear Sir,
    With regards to the editorial titled “Be Assertive, Liberals”, by Elli Gottlieb, I am compelled to respond to clarify a number of things.

    Your professional integrity is at a minimum. This is not merely a blog for you to ramble non-sense. Facts must back up your arguments. If you are to address our president, our fellow students, and Americans in general, a certain level of integrity and respect is required for that podium.
    You sir, claim that the health care bill represents a failure on our administration’s part to reform an ailing part of our social security network. According to you, this is due to president Obama’s “naiveté” in the art of negotiation.
    Firstly, I would like to take this chance to congratulate the American people on the passage of the health care bill. Especially for us students, this bill provides a safety net for us and generations to come, both in health care and in higher education. Secondly, I would like to applaud president Obama for this achievement and I extend my thanks and gratitude.
    I would like to remind my friend Elli that in our system of checks and balances, most of the time, the majority cannot pass a law without bipartisan support. This means democracy is merely a compromise between two negotiating parties, in our case republicans and democrats.

    When Medicare passed in the 1960’s, how many republican votes were for it? The answer is 20.

    With regards to the spat with Israel, one can see that anger has obstructed your judgment. To correct you, I would like to direct your attention to UN resolution 242. East Jerusalem has always been an internationally recognized Palestinian territory. The fact that they don’t control it at the moment is due to the forced seizure or annexing of that land; by force.

    To think that this is anything Palestinians don’t deserve, start with the entire Palestinian and Arab Homeland that has been rapped because of British self interest. And by the way Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians are all different people. You my friend are anti-Semitic.

    This change of heart with regards to the American-Israelis relationship is nothing but a crude awakening of the American system. Israel is an apartheid, a Zionist apartheid state, those are not my words but of Nelson Mandela. An expert on Apartheid by the way.

    The Palestinian-Israelis conflict is contingent on the process of the peace negotiations. Makes sense, both peoples want to put an end to the conflict. Right? Wrong.

    Israel is the country that does not want peace. And in fact the American relationship with Israel is hurting America. At the end of the day, no matter how much money AIPAC pours into congress, American interests precede the interests of even our most ‘vital’ ally in the region; especially when they are in continuous violation of International laws.

    So when it comes to the art of negotiation, which I understand you’re an expert on, a sign of good-will goes a long way. I cannot recall a sign of goodwill that Israel has done in my life-time.
    Israel, my friend Elli, is a country that has consistently defied the logic of negotiation. Perhaps it is due to the nature of the hardship of the struggle in WWII, and the sociological effects of war, that many right wing extremists continue to curtail the progress of peace from within Israel. I recommend everyone to watch the movie Defiance.

    They did in fact reach an agreement, the Oslo accord. Then right wing Israelis extremists assassinated President Rabin.
    The Arabs did in fact provide a sign of goodwill, Egypt and Jordan are close friends of Israel. Something that is against popular appeasement. In 2002, Saudi-Arabia launched an Arab Peace initiative that was sure to end the conflict. It failed due to Israelis aggravations. Egypt hosts numerous Peace-Conferences in Sharm El-Sheikh with the intent of only to initiate dialogue. Israel always plays dirty ball though.

    The reason for this sudden escalation with Israel; is the manner by which the announcement of the settlement building was made. It was a surprise announcement whilst the American vice-president was in Israel. As if to say that Israel is above America.
    You sir demand reciprocity from a foe in negotiations, whatever happened to reciprocity amongst allies.

    A recent article in Foreign Affairs, titled “Armistice Now” by Ehud Yaari explains it all. Yaari, a prominent Israelis figure, explains that the bullish stances taken by the Israelis government are hurting everyone. The Americans, Palestinians, Israelis, and Arabs need to begin to agree on something and then move forward from there. To establish a relationship of trust, rather than suspicion would surely hasten the process of negotiation I presume.
    I end my response by asking, why a two-state solution of division and animosity? When you could live freely amongst each other, answer that and you’ve solved half the world’s problems.

  • R

    RApr 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Here you go again twisting two unrelated issues together just so you can whine about how unfair it is to be a Zionist. An “excuse to demand more of what Arabs think they deserve”? Forgive me for beating a dead horse but I’m pretty sure the UN agrees that Jerusalem is Arab so I’ll just go ahead and again reference UN Resolution 242. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine that began even prior to 1948 through the work of Zionist terrorists continues today throughout Jerusalem with the illegal seizure of PALESTINIAN homes. Israel is incapable of following through on any peace agreement without the international community exerting pressure. The Palestinian Authority has bowed to every whim that Israel has bestowed on it’s 1993 creation and what do Palestinians get? More illegal Israeli outposts, continued apartheid, and more crackdown on legitimate, non-violent international protests. Recent attacks from Gaza targeted well-armed Israeli patrols that were entering Palestinian territory. The two casualties were not civilians and neither is Corporal Gilad Shalit who is a legitimate prisoner of war who was captured as an on-duty solider. Any engagement with the Israeli “Defense” Forces by Palestinian freedom fighters should, if anything, be viewed as courageous (as well as slightly ludicrous) as Palestinians are outnumbered, out armed, and are facing what could possibly be labeled as the best trained Army in the world. Israel cannot hide behind claims that they have no partner in peace; it is Netanyahu’s right-wing government that has refused peace and prefers apartheid and “winning” as you put it.

    Now, in relation to the campus textbook issue, I suggest you sit down with Brandon Tower and interview him before running off and writing an article claiming you know so much about an issue that you clearly have no insight to. Again and again you pass judgments on issues without fully understanding them, like you did when you wrote about the issue with bags in Berkshire. From what I hear you had to sit down with the manager and apologize for writing something that you didn’t fully comprehend. An interview would have been much more appropriate than this disorganized attempt to attack and discredit both Brandon and the Palestinian people. Better luck next time.

  • J

    JoeApr 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Mr. Gottlieb,

    It’s not “trite to paraphrase Jon Stewart as a source for one’s political beliefs.” It’s childish.

    You might want to tone down your anti-Arab racist tone in future columns. It makes your vague reference to anti-semitism seem hypocritical.

    “You can’t ask for unilateral concessions to people whose entire historiography and narrative of self demands that, in the name of all that is good and right in the world, they win rather than compromise.”

    Really?… Do you feel confident making that generalization about ALL Palestinian people, because it’s not exactly the pinnacle of open-mindedness?

    Also, learn the difference between “Arab” and “Palestinian.” You know, there is such a thing as an Arab Jew, and they may take exception to being lumped in with the disenfranchised Palestinians of East Jerusalem.

  • B

    Brandon TowerApr 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Hey everyone,

    I just wanted to respond to a view things noted in this piece, but first, I want to say it’s great that someone cares enough to hold SGA elected officials accountable. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see this in the paper, being called out by name. We need more of it in stuent government.

    I will admit that in many ways, our fight for textbook reform is similar to the healthcare battle, and compromise is inherent in the process. However, we haven’t negotiated away anything yet, and yes, we are working towards some type of student run, student exchange. That’s not out of the picture. There are a number of other issues that I won’t address directly here, but just know I take office officially on April 7th, and as soon as the cabinet is confirmed the next week the first thing we’ll be working on is that exchange.

    Anyone who has any other questions,comments or concerns should stop by the SGA office (Student Union Room 420) and talk with me. I’m more than happy to speak directly with anyone. We have free snacks too if that’s an incentive.

  • M

    Michael Foley-RöhmApr 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Yeah, as a Republican, you can’t even waste Party money on strippers without SOMEONE getting on your case. It’s rough, man.

  • T

    The AdvocateApr 5, 2010 at 1:36 am

    As a business student I have to laugh at the demand for why a student run textbook service isn’t active yet, it takes alot longer then typing up an “editorial” which can be done while browsing Facebook. You also fail to think about the legal arguments Follet’s going to have regarding it’s position to be the sole textbook provider.

    Also, what does the incompetent SGA have to do with liberals on campus crying? Seriously, try being Republican and see how much harder it is.