Over the past 24 hours, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has appeared on several major news networks groaning about his curtailed power to enforce immigration laws and denying allegations of racial profiling which many believe are the reason federal immigration authorities decided to present him with a new agreement which limits his authority. However, in a CNN interview with Rick Sanchez this afternoon, Arpaio revealed that his deputies are in fact arresting people based on the way they look:
SANCHEZ: You just said you detain people who haven’t committed a crime — how do you prove they they’re not illegal?
ARPAIO: It has to do with their conduct, what type of clothes they’re wearing, their speech, they admit it, they may have phony IDs. A lot of variables are involved.
SANCHEZ: You judge people and arrest them based on their speech and the clothes they’re wearing sir?
ARPAIO: No, when they’re in the vehicle with someone who has committed a crime. We have the right to talk to those people. When they admit that they are here illegally we take action…the federal law specifies the speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior. It’s right in the law.
Arpaio insists that his deputies do not employ racial profiling. The 2,700 lawsuits collecting dust on Arpaio’s desk seem to suggest otherwise. Complaints of discrimination finally mounted to the point where the Department of Justice had to intervene and open up an investigation of Arpaio’s immigration enforcement tactics which the Sheriff has refused to cooperate with. Arpaio probably won’t be receiving any awards from the Obama administration, but he has acquired a few neo-Nazi fans.
The Department of Homeland Security ordered the standardization and review of all agreements between local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the Government Accountability Office released a report showing that many local police are using their authority to deport immigrants stopped for minor violations such as speeding. Arpaio’s new agreement with ICE will only allow him to scan the immigration status of his inmates. While Arpaio is already acting as if his new agreement is a done deal, ICE head John Morton has yet to officially sign off.
In the day’s first panel — “The War of Narratives: Do the Obama Administration and Israel Have Different Views of History?” — New America Foundation’s Daniel Levy attacked that presumption head on, blasting cynical attempts by neoconservatives to raise questions about President Obama’s commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship in order to undermine his Middle East peace agenda. “I think it is irresponsible if not dangerous to turn the US-Israel relationship into an instrument of cheap political point scoring,” Levy said. “And I think those who are serious about the US-Israel relationship should be very, very careful in the way in which they discuss this over the next years.”
Levy’s comments came right after co-panelist Doug Feith delivered a meandering disquisition on the history of the conflict. Unsurprisingly, Feith laid all the blame at the feet of the Arabs for not recognizing the right of European colonial powers to divvy up their land, and faulted the Obama administration for failing to recognize Arab opposition to Israel’s existence as rooted in “principle” — an odd claim, given the existence of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel recognition in exchange for ending the occupation. While Levy agreed that we should have a debate in the U.S. over the U.S.-Israel relationship, he insisted that we shouldn’t use the debate “in a scurrilous way… to undermine the administration.”
“What I think this should really be about is not the historical narratives,” Levy said, “this is really about what do we do next.”
I think there are two key point of departure for this conversation and the first point of departure is that America has an interest in seeing this conflict solved and a new equilibrium created, that there are consequences for American national security interest in the continuation of the conflict and its deterioration. And my second premise and point of departure is that the US-Israel strategic relationship needs to be maintained and there are consequences for the United States if that relationship is not maintained.
Now there are two ways of then relating to this. What I would call the head-banging, hard-line ideological right spends much of their time trying to dismiss the first part of that equation and trying to convince us that in fact there is no cost to America to the conflict continuing as is, and America playing the same role, that this is actually a side show, settlements are not a problem, it’s all about Arab rejectionism, the Arabs don’t really care about the Palestinians, this is all an invention. They don’t live in the real world.
The hard-line ideological left questions the second part of the premise. America doesn’t need to maintain its alliance with Israel, they would say. ‘Let’s haul Israel up in front of the International Criminal Court after the Goldstone Report, let’s through Israel under a bus, let’s cut the aid — let’s end the aid — this is too costly for America. I’d suggest there is a way of squaring the circle, of addressing the US national interest, and of maintaining the relationship with Israel. And that that would be the sensible way forward to create a new equilibrium.
Acknowledging the difficult strategic and political situation in which Israel currently finds itself, Levy stressed the importance of American leadership, advising that “we should take very seriously the notion that the way to help Israel out of this malaise is to help Israel make real choices.”
I don’t rule out Benjamin Netanyahu being a Menachem Begin, who made the historical peace with Egypt and withdrew from all of the Sinai, but I don’t think we can expect it to happen of our own volition. I think we have to take seriously the option of American leadership in getting there. And I think we have to take even more seriously an irresponsible effort underway in this country to discredit an American president who is a friend of Israel, and to use and instrumentalize the U.S.-Israel relationship to score cheap points in ways that will undermine that relationship in the long term.