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A Tale of Two Demonstrations

The “Street People” in the US and Israel aren’t getting their way

 At my Shabbos table this week, a guest and I got sidetracked to current events and began debating which riots were more disruptive: the 1960s race riots or the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots.

It doesn’t sound like Shabbos talk, but this was the week where we read the Torah portion about going to war with your enemy, and that’s what makes politics go around these days.

My opinion was this year’s riots are worse because they’re totally out of control. Big city mayors are looking the other way while police mainly stand by.

My guest contended the 1960s riots were worse because they embroiled more cities and lasted for years.

There’s no answer to this question right now. We don’t know how long the 2020 riots will last and what the ultimate price tag will be.

But we do know how damaging the 1960s riots were in the long-term.

I came across some numbers from the National Bureau of Economic Research. By 1980, ten years after the riots ended, unemployment in the big cities torn apart by the riots was still 7 percent higher than the pre-riot peak. Men under 30 were out of work in greater  percentages. Residential property values fell as much as 10 percent in city centers and as much as 20-percent for properties owned by African Americans.

Crunch the numbers and you see who lost big. The demonstrators themselves, who destroyed their own livelihoods and home values.

Let’s fast forward to 2030. What will Seattle and Portland look like in 10 years? More than 130 businesses in downtown Seattle have folded. The City Council just voted for a record hike in the business payroll tax to raise money to repair riot damage and as a result, some 800 additional businesses are looking to relocate.

Oregon may be lumber country, but downtown Portland is plywood city, with shops boarded up and marred by graffiti for blocks on end. You don’t have to be a prophet to see who will be hurt the most by all this.

President Trump knows this, instinctively. He made a powerful plea to minority voters on the opening night of the Republican National Convention.

What do you have to lose, the president asked? Why keep voting for Democrats who have failed you and failed the inner cities?

As with many of the president’s claims, not all of them stand up to fact-checking. Most empirical research shows blacks and Hispanics do fare better financially under Democratic administrations, but I would argue that historical models have little bearing on the future right now, especially with a pandemic raging that requires big new government spending programs. Donald Trump never fit the image of a fiscally-conservative Republican anyway and right now, the Republican party is Donald Trump. Joe Biden, in his youth, was every bit as scrappy as Trump, and much nicer about it too; but at 77, he is a shadow of his former self. The Democrats think all this pent-up rage in the streets will translate into votes for them in November.

I’m not sure. One of the more perceptive remarks I heard at the Democratic Convention was a CNN commentator who admitted the anti-Trump vote is not big enough to unseat Trump in November. Democrats need a positive message and a dynamic candidate. Two months before election day, they have neither. And they’re up against an incumbent who has killer instinct and will pounce on any weakness he sees in his opponent.

Across the pond, Israel is experiencing its own share of turmoil in the streets. The situation here is calmer because, for a change, we’re not in the middle of an election campaign, although we could be by the end of December. For now, the street demonstrations are also run by mainly leftist rabble rousers who are too few and far between to defeat Binyamin Netanyahu at the ballot box. So they resort to making life miserable by blocking streets and making noise. Every Motzaei Shabbos, crowds cram into a tiny square down the block from the prime minister’s residence and spill over into the adjacent streets in the upscale Rehavia neighborhood.

Some signs read: DEMOCRACY NOW. That always makes me chuckle.

Hey, folks, we had three elections in one year! That’s enough democracy for me. What’s really irking the demonstrators is not that we don’t have democracy. They just don’t like the results. Three elections in one year and the man they love to hate – Bibi – is still in power. He’s even making peace with the Arabs which is what the leftists always pine for, and even that doesn’t quiet them down!

What’s really a riot, if you pardon my use of the term, is these same demonstrators are always praising the Supreme Court for upholding what they call 'the rule of law.'

The rule of law is great as long as the court issues rulings they like, such as uprooting Jewish settlements in Judea. But when the law comes down on them, well, they feel free to ignore it.

As I noted before, these demonstrations take place in the heart of Rehavia. They’ve been going on for months. The neighbors are sore, so they asked the Supreme Court for an injunction. The court ruled that by 9:30 pm., demonstrators must stop extraneous noise such as horn honking and beating drums and by 11 pm, they have to shut off all the loudspeakers.

So what happened last night? Demonstrators ignored the Supreme Court, despite police warnings that they were going to enforce the court order. Many demonstrators were arrested.

And the morning after? Some newspapers are still running headlines how protestors fear an escalation of police violence.

You know what? If you’re afraid of the police, and you honor the courts, follow their instructions.

If not, I have a better idea. Change the wording on your signs from 'Democracy Now' to 'Hypocrisy Now.'

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