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October 13, 1989 - Image 4

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OPINION

. ...... ..... -

Page 4

Friday, October 13,1989

The Michigan Daily

t ,

Edgedantichigand
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Theoloe:
In the service of the state

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Vol. C, No. 28

jUnsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
Nightmare in the sky

ECONOMISTS ARE slow to abandon
favorite theories, even when the facts
prove them wrong. Like the notion that
a'free market fosters competition and
benefits consumers; in the deregulated
airline industry, now in its eleventh
year, eight companies control 94% of
the market and customer dissatisfaction
ivat an all-time high. What's worse,
deregulation has meant open season on
airline workers: today there are as
many baggage handlers, flight atten-
dants, pilots, and machinists out of
work as there are with jobs. It's time to
scrap the whole plan.
Deregulation was introduced during
the recession of the late 1970s. In an
attempt to put life into a sluggish
industry, the U.S. Government
stopped subsidizing carniers, lifted anti-
trust laws which hampered
acquisitions, and okayed competitive
air-fares. At first their scheme seemed
to have worked. The number of small
shuttle-lines grew-more than 200
companies were born in the first
years-and ticket prices fell.
But so did services. The small com-
panies offered a new product, no-frills
flights, to compete with the giants. The
idea caught on and became the industry
standard, or lack of one. More bags
were lost in the muddle of connecting
flights, and flights were cancelled with
astonishing frequency, based on a
dompany's desire to send capacity
rather than half-full flights to their des-
tination. Consequently, as the major
carriers, capital-rich after years of sub-
sidies and inflated fares, computerized
their booking systems, the new com-
panies began to fold.
Most of them did not have unions
and were able to pay low wages; their
unemployed workers became a pool of
potential scabs for the union busters
who were to come in the next decade.
Reagan was the first of them. He rolled
back safety standards and then, when
professional air-traffic controllers
struck for minimum working condi-
tions - they did not ask for wage
likes - he fired every one of them,
jailing four of their leaders.
While Reagan was setting the tone
for treatment of airline workers, Wall
Street investors started to take advan-

tage of relaxed tax laws to fund corpo-
rate takeovers. Borrowing money at
usurious rates, small fish swallowed
big fish through what are called lever-
aged buy-outs, or LBOs. What was
once quaint Allegheny Air, and is now
USAir, bought Northwest Airlines in
August for $3.65 billion, and has an
agreement to buy UAL, United's
parent company, for $6.75 billion.
Congress encouraged monopolization
by making the interest on LBOs tax-
deductible. Still, the biggest expenses
that airlines face are the interest
payments - not new planes to replace
DC-10s, and certainly not wages.
To sustain such costs, it has taken a
special degree of greed; thus the
corporate raiders who emerged in the
early 1980s: Checchi (USAir), Lorenzo
(Continental and now Eastern), Icahn
(TWA), Crandall (American; Donald
Trump has offered to buy), and Evans
(United). Lorenzo followed Reagan's
initiative by bankrupting Continental in
1983 when its unions struck, and
reorganizing the company around
scabs. Icahn followed suit when he
broke the flight attendants' union a few
years later. Lorenzo is now trying his
trick again at Eastern.
Today, planes crash so frequently
that the reports blur together;
Continental is looking to break its own
record, set last year, for millions of
bags lost; and, according to The Wall
Street Journal, coach fares are up 50%
from January 1988. Meanwhile, seven
of the eight carriers that dominate the
market are enjoying record profits.
Deregulation has been a nightmare
for all but a handful. But today's lack
of competition-for passengers, for
services, or for technology-also pro-
vides a chance for an alternative: na-
tionalize the airline industry, with guar-
antees of union representation. If the
idea sounds foreign, it is: nearly every
other capitalist country boasts a state-
owned airline, and most are thriving.
Think about it the next time you buy
tickets: what good has the free market
done anyone? What might airlines be
like if they were run in the interests of
the people, and not to make interest
payments on LBOs? And don't fly
Continental or Eastern.
N

By Marc H. Ellis
Editor's note: The following essay has
been reprinted from Christianity and Cri-
sis, October 9, 1989 with the author's
permission.
The August Abduction of Shiekh Abdul
Karim Obeid by Israeli forces reasserted Is-
rael"s antiterrorist credentials, and Jewish
groups took out full paged ads in the New
York Times raising the banner of Israel as
bulwark against the terrorism that threat-
ens the "civilized" world. The abduction
served a purpose little noted by Jewish
commentators and the international media.
It diverted attention from the ongoing
Palestinian struggle and the brutal meth-
ods employed by Israel to repress the
uprising.
All states seek to divert attention from
the fundamental problems confronting
them. Since Israel is a state, neither lies
nor diversions should surprise us; nor
should we wonder that Israel, like any
other state, uses power to accomplish its
goals. The policies and action endemic to
the Israeli occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza simply replicate those of occupa-
tions by other states.
In 1939 Walter Benjamin, a German
Jew experiencing the power of the state,
wrote "whoever has emerged victorious
participates to this day in the 'triumphal
procession in which the present rulers step
over those who are lying prostrate." Sadly,
a half-century later Israel is no exception
to this analysis.
Yet Jewish theologians continue as if
Jews are innocent, as if the state of Israel
is the portent of redemption rather than a
state among states. The present behavior-
of Israel as a state has had little impact on
Jewish theology; its conduct has either
been ignored or, if considered at all, seen
as aberrational and correctable. Thus even
Jewish dissent is within a framework that
the state of Israel can handle, correctional
rather than foundational.
Of course, like any theology which le-
gitimates a state, Jewish theology is called
upon to justify the exercise of power over
which it has no control. As some outside
the Jewish community have thought for a
long time, it is paradoxical that Jews are
expected to justify policies in Israel that
they would not justify anywhere else in
the world. If there are those who continue
to see Israel as redemptive, it is also clear
that Israel has introduced a schizophrenia
in Jewish thought and activity which is
evident in the emotional turmoil and lack

of intellectual clarity on the most pressing
issues which confront the Jewish people.
Hence the delays, the diversions, the de-
ceptions of the state of Israel. Jewish the-
ologians, who have functioned brilliantly
as critical thinkers when confronting the-
ologies which oppressed Jews in Christian
Europe, are now quiescent in the service of
Jewish state power. Though the occupa-
tior. and its policies are in their third
decade and the Palestinian uprising almost
two years old, not one major Jewish the-
ologian has said what is obvious to many
Jews and non-Jews alike:
- What Jews have done to the Pales-
tinians since the establishment of Israel in
1948 is wrong.
- In the process of conquering and dis-
placing the Palestinian people, Jews have
done what has been done to them over two
millennia.
- In this process Jews have become
everything they loathed about their op-
pressors.
- It is only in the confrontation with
state power in Israel that Jews can move
beyond being victim or oppressor.
- The movement beyond victimization
and oppression can only come through a
solidarity with those whom Jews have
displaced - the Palestinian people.
In short, Jewish theologians have, for
reasons of state, been silent on the gravest
crisis which has faced the Jewish people
since the destruction of European Jewry
during World War II. Benjamin's comment
about the truimphal processions of the
victorious is thus joined by his further
comment: "In every era the attempt must
be made anew to wrest tradition away from
a conformism that is about to overpower
it." The task of Jewish theology begins
to come into focus: to lay the groundwork
for a solidarity with the victims of Jewish
power, the Palestinian people, which ne-
cessitates a confrontation with the founda-
tions and policies of the state of Israel.
The function of Jewish theology is to

in this light. Communal structures, then,
rather than being delegitimized, are rela-
tivized and demystified. At the same time,
structures which serve the people in one
era may hinder the people in another era.
That which drew the energies for building
new structures at one point in history
may, at another point, need to garner the
sarr energies to transform those struc-
tures into something else. Jewish theol-
ogy, then, needs to be wary of absolutiz-
ing any structure through uncritical sup-
port or silence.
Ultimately, a vocational question is be-
ing posed i re. What is the essential voca-
tion of the Jewish people? To build the Is- *
raeli state? To serve that state in the
United State by lobbying for Israeli eco-
noniec and military aid? Is this a voca-
tional choice faithful to a history filled,
with suffering and struggle? Can such a,
choice be maintained over time without
changing the essence of what it means to
be Jewish? Can Jews continue to pretend
to an innocence and redemption when ac-
tions of the state of Israel closely replicate
the history of suffering Jews sought to
escape? These are the questions which con-
front Jews as a people and Jewish theol-
ogy. Can we say that any theology that.
does not address these questions as central
is a theology that leads to torture and mur-
der? One that threatens the very tradition
of suffering and struggle which Jews in-'
herit?
In the coming months, as in the previ-
ous years, these questions will remain
unasked, at least in public. Those who
raise them in public will be villified. Jew-
ish theologians will continue to legitimate
Israeli behavior or, when this is no longer
possible, at least equivocate. But the con-
sequences of Israel's diversionary tactics of
abduction and the power it exercises to de-
stroy a people are too serious to be ig-
nored. The day of reckoning will come.
By then, however, Jews will survey with
Benjamin the treasures of victory which
have an "origin which we cannot contem-
plate without horror." That is the day Jews

'The policies and action endemic to the Israeli
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza simply
replicate those of occupations by other states.'

evaluate critically the history the people
are participating in, and the structures
which promote or hinder the Jewish strug-
gle to be faithful. Palestinians, Muslim
and Christian, will face a similar theologi-
cal task when they achieve statehood.
Since the Jewish struggle occurs in diverse
communities historically and in the pre-
sent, communal structures are to be judged

will relate with tears the history Jews have
bequeathed to their children. To minimize
that history we must act now. We are very
nearly too late.
Marc Ellis is Professor of Religion, Cul-
ture and Society Studies at the Maryknoll
School of Theology where he directs the
Justice and Peace Program.

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pro-choice views.
Despite this, the leadership
of the anti-choice forces have
decided to come to Ann Arbor
in order to plan their strategies
to further restrict reproductive

have blocked the doors of
women's health care clinics
across the state, denying
women access to birth control,
pre-natal care, gynecological
care and abortions. They have

rights.
AACDAR is participating in
a picket of the right-to-life con-
ference at Weber's Inn on Oc
tober 13. Students, workers and
community members must

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