Editorials of The Times

Posted May 14, 2018 11:24 p.m. EDT

Trump’s Failure in Jerusalem

The day the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem is a day the world has longed for, because of what it was supposed to represent: the end of a seemingly endless conflict, a blood-soaked tragedy with justice and cruelty on both sides. Israelis and Palestinians have envisioned a capital in Jerusalem, and for generations the Americans, the honest brokers in seeking peace, withheld recognition of either side’s claims, pending a treaty that through hard compromise would resolve all competing demands.

But on Monday President Donald Trump delivered the embassy as a gift without concession or condition to the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and as a blow to the Palestinians. The world did not witness a new dawn of peace and security for two peoples who have dreamed of both for so long. Instead, it watched as Israeli soldiers shot and killed scores of Palestinian protesters, and wounded thousands more, along Israel’s boundary with the Gaza Strip.

Unilateral action, rather than negotiation and compromise, has served the purposes of successive right-wing Israeli governments. They have steadily expanded Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on land Palestinians expected to be part of any Palestinian state.

And even when the Israelis uprooted settlements in Gaza in 2005, they did so without negotiating an agreement that would have empowered a more moderate Palestinian government. They acted to increase Israeli security in the short term while increasing Palestinian despair and the power of militant groups like Hamas. For years, Israeli governments have insisted they have no peace partner on the other side, while behaving in a way that perpetuates that reality. The possibility of peace has continued to recede, and Israel’s democratic character has continued to erode under the pressure of a long-term occupation of millions of Palestinians who lack sovereignty of their own.

Trump has repeatedly promised a grand peace plan without delivering, and he has now lent America’s weight to this maximalist Israeli strategy. For decades, the United States prided itself on mediating between Israel and the Palestinians. Successive administrations urged a peace formula in which the two parties would negotiate core issues — establishing boundaries between the two states; protecting Israel’s security; deciding how to deal with refugees who fled or were driven away after Israeli statehood in 1948; and deciding the future of Jerusalem, which was expected to become the shared capital of Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump’s announcement that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, swept aside 70 years of American neutrality.

The ceremony Monday marking the embassy opening could hardly have been more dismissive of Palestinians. It was timed to make the American bias clear, coming on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence in 1948 — and the day before Palestinians observe Nakba, or Catastrophe, the expulsion of their ancestors from the newly formed Jewish state. The fact that Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor who has denigrated Jews, Mormons and Muslims, and the Rev. John Hagee, a megachurch televangelist who has claimed Hitler was descended from “half-breed Jews”and was part of God’s plan to return Jews to Israel, had prominent roles in the ceremony should embarrass all who participated.

Israel has every right to defend its borders, including the boundary with Gaza. But officials are unconvincing when they argue that only live ammunition — rather than tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal measures — can protect Israel from being overrun.

Led too long by men who were corrupt or violent or both, the Palestinians have failed and failed again to make their own best efforts toward peace. Even now, Gazans are undermining their own cause by resorting to violence, rather than keeping their protests strictly peaceful.

But the contrast Monday, between exultation in Jerusalem and the agony of Palestinians in Gaza, could not have been more stark, or more chilling to those who continue to hope for a just and durable peace.

The Legacy of Stop-and-Frisk in New York’s Marijuana Arrests

The New York Police Department has claimed that more black and Latino people are arrested for petty marijuana offenses because complaints are more voluminous in neighborhoods where black and Latino people predominantly live. That excuse was blown apart this weekend by a New York Times investigation showing that the complaints about marijuana use do not fully account for the racial arrest gap — and that, when complaints were held constant, “the police almost always made arrests at a higher rate in the area with more black citizens.”

These findings reflect the extent to which marijuana use has been informally legalized for white, middle-class citizens even as it has remained punishable under the law for black and Latino New Yorkers.

Studies have repeatedly shown that people across most racial groups use the drug at comparable rates. But the arrest rates for black and brown citizens are sharply higher than they are for whites — mostly because young men of color attract more scrutiny from the police.

Across New York City, for example, the police arrested black people on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of whites over the past three years, with Latino people arrested at five times the rate of whites. The race effect was especially clear in Brooklyn, where officers arrested people for marijuana possession in the Canarsie precinct, which is 85 percent black, at four times the rate of the precinct that includes Greenpoint, where only 4 percent of the residents are black, despite the communities producing marijuana complaints by telephone at the same rate.

A similar picture emerged in Queens, where the police precinct covering majority-black Queens Village had an arrest rate more than 10 times that of the precinct that serves Forest Hills, where blacks are a tiny portion of the population, even though the rate of complaints was the same.

These disparities are all the more indefensible because low-level marijuana arrests have no public safety benefit. A 2017 analysis by Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, debunked the oft-heard claim that petty marijuana arrests get serious offenders off the street, noting that 76 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession during the previous year had never been convicted of any crime.

But such arrests do immense damage to people who often have had no other contact with the criminal justice system. The charges are typically dismissed if the person stays out of trouble for a year, but over that period, having an open court record can get the person shut out of housing, job opportunities or entry into the armed services. In addition, people who journey to court to answer charges that the system intends to dismiss end up losing hundreds of dollars in wages.

Beyond that, the arrest disparities are strongly reminiscent of the ones that persuaded a U.S. District Court judge to rule in 2013 that the city’s stop-and-frisk practice violated the Constitution by illegally detaining and frisking minority citizens over a period of many years. If the city isn’t careful, it could find itself hauled into court again — this time for marijuana arrests.

Speaking at a City Council hearing Monday, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the department was “working to understand” what is happening in “areas of our city in which marijuana enforcement appears to be disproportionate to complaints received.”

The state Legislature perpetuated a long-standing injustice several years ago when it failed to make the public display of marijuana an offense akin to a traffic violation, as opposed to a crime. Until lawmakers come to their senses, district attorneys should lead the way by refusing to bring these cases to court at all.

Capitol Broadcasting Company's Opinion Section seeks a broad range of comments and letters to the editor. Our Comments beside each opinion column offer the opportunity to engage in a dialogue about this article.

In addition, we invite you to write a letter to the editor about this or any other opinion articles. Here are some tips on submissions >> SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR