Monday, November 26, 2012

State Dept's Shifting Standards For Rights

In response to political concessions that might not be very effective granted after a 2011 uprising against a corrupt Moroccan king, US State representative Victoria Nuland said:
As you know, we believe that all people have the right to free assembly and to
express themselves, but we’re encouraged by the proposals that were put forth by the King on June 17th to transform Morocco’s democratic development through constitutional, judicial, and political reforms, and we’re watching closely.
Great, we have all the ingredients of a successful human rights movement! I'm sure they will show up in a similar situation, like say Honduras, where they have corrupt unaccountable leaders and terror. But in response to the unsolved killing of a human rights worker reportedly killed before he could testify in Washington, the US State department representative Victoria Nuland said:

Mr. Trejo Cabrera worked tirelessly to resolve the tragic and complex land conflict in Honduras’s Bajo Aguan, relying on legal challenges and negotiations in a region where disputes are too often settled through violence. We urge all parties to continue his efforts to bring peace to the Bajo Aguan.
We're now down from government reforms to just government petition. What about Palestine, where they don't even have much of a state to reform? In response to the upcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, Nuland said this:
"We continue to make clear that we believe that the only realistic path for the Palestinians to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last month.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Raising The Right Questions to Shut Down the Israel/Palestine Conflict


My last blog post argued terrorism is predictable. I listed three ways to prevent it: organizing, rapport, and petitioning. This blog will look at Brown vs. Board of Education as a model for a successful movement. For some balance, I'll include the Indian Independence movement and Occupy Wall St. This doesn't mean I'm answering all questions about civil rights, national independence, and stopping violence, but it's a start. It should never be assumed that the information on Wikipedia is a fair sample of the things but if it's included it's generally no more or less correct than a typical encyclopedia.

Organizing, rapport and petitioning in Brown vs. Board of Education

The Civil Rights movement presents several pieces of evidence in support. The story I learned was the government came to its senses and had to enforce desegregation with military might. But  according to a source on Wikipedia

Herbert Brownell Jr.: Instrumental in convincing Eisenhower to give up his Army service and run for president, Brownell was rewarded when Eisenhower appointed him as attorney general in 1953. He served until 1957, helping make the case for Brown vs. Board. According to biographer John P. Burke, Brownell "tenaciously supported and enforced" the Brown decision despite personal attacks by opponents on his integrity. He died in May 1996 at 91.
The main politician involved was only there because he left the army. The Indian independence movement further shared this rapport-building.Ex-patriots were reportedly very good at getting their fellow nationals to stop fighting for the British. This carries more weight than it first seems.

One thing to highlight in the Indian movement though is, although mass education and organizing were there from the start, Wikipedia articles again and again document divisions within the movement -- radicals and moderates could not agree, and Muslims were left out. Gandhi himself was not a part of the movement at first, and much of his early writings do not show respect for the humanity of Africans. I think this could go a long way to explain the current corruption in India.

Back to the US Civil Rights, petitioning has further evidence here:

But Eisenhower did not prevent the action, saying in a letter to a longtime friend there "must be respect for the Constitution -- which means the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution -- or we shall have chaos."

Eisenhower wanted to protect the ideal of the Constitution. He was pushed, but he was pushed into the right place.

And finally organizing is obvious from the sub-headline itself: "Thirteen parents representing 20 children signed up as Topeka plaintiffs."

Unfortunately for Israel/Palestine, it breaks down along nationalities, with more than one government there to petition, more than one set of religious values to appeal to. Occupy Wall Street had a similar problem, but an impressive and documented effect on lowering crime rates where the protests occur. The lessons should be clear. Movements that care about the least fortunate, and that press their claims through courts will be effective. 

After considering my experiences and comparing them to three historical cases, I arrived at these questions to ask in regards to Israel/Palestine:

What are the organizations that exist, and how inclusive are they?
What choices does a soldier have besides joining an army?
If someone brings a court case, who will enforce it?
Are the potentially criminal being fed and given a voice?
What are the enjoyable things for them to do in a protest?

What I learned about these from my own life

When I showed up to an Occupy demonstration, the protest was fun and the people were very educated and straight-forward. We were fed, we sang, and made it in the paper. This inclusiveness is the strength of the movement. The focus on economics is a strength as well. It's not clear to me if there were fun ways of standing up to racism in the 1950's, if there is an equivalent yet to the desegregation law for example, or what that would even look like. But the positive lessons from the Civil Rights movement should be easier to see in effect-- to gather a dozen or so people together and press for action.

Organizing brings to mind power. There is a tendency to see oneself only as doing good. Bullies get jealous of it in others, and bullies deserve to be stood up to.  Doing this is a demonstration not just to the bully, but hopefully to others as well. A charity worker once told me that volunteering is something you do out of kindness, not status. It was hurtful to hear that, because I wanted the status that came from it, but I was wrong to demand that. That's not a helpful tendency to have. She stood up to me for representing the lust for status and abusing a kind institution for my own protection. 

Before that I once told someone the US crushes liberty and used a very ugly metaphor that I knew would make the person I was talking with insecure. Someone pointed out to me this was abusive in a very matter of fact way. He didn't yell it, in fact we were on Internet Relay Chat.

Rapport comes in with clear communication. On the one hand, I find rapport sometimes too difficult to establish. Someone I once considered a friend, although he was very right-wing, once argued that homosexuality was a social disease. I found it too much to bear respecting him as a friend. On the other hand, I still get along with my ex-girlfriend because I applied psychology to our misunderstandings. Each person has a way of thinking, either in labels or contrasts, emotions and so on. Once you establish this, and can adjust what you say, every idea you have will be understood. It's not about changing opinion at all, just finding a way to open up ways to talk.

Finally there is petitioning. I know about this from the Indian independence movement. Reportedly, the ex-patriots were able to get Indian nationals who were working for the British to their side. What comes to mind with my life is when I had to discuss evolution with a friend. I asked him why there were dinosaur bones. I don't think that was all that it took, but it was the tipping point. What he really wanted was to understand human nature, because he started to apply evolution in his thoughts as he expressed them to me. I am the most wary of this strategy though, because he became disillusioned with religion shortly thereafter. I respect him for living out his life, and I think it's for the best that he was free from that doubt, but it's possible he was harboring a separate self, something he didn't understand fully, and it made him pursue more irresponsible things associated with that self -- not serious problems, just undeveloped wishes like a road trip and worshiping marijuana. I think it's important to ask people to anticipate those conflicts, so that the truth can be less shocking to the person.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Terrorism Is Not Random

As I write this highly civilized Israelis are flying over Gaza bombing various things and people, reportedly with the President's approval. Israel's attacking Gaza right now follows the usual pattern of violence and political insecurity lining up. Palestinians are at the UN this year asking for state recognition, Netanayahu's elections are coming up, and reports now are saying that a peace deal not only was on the table, but the Palestinian who was to be involved, was killed. This is significant for a reason.

I first developed an understanding of terrorism as I studied civil wars and assassinations in the US. But more recently, I found other people who discovered the same thing. They weren't bloggers either.

Some months back (my memory doesn't deal with timelines well) there was a massive rise in antiSemitic attacks across the world. My neighborhood was hit with graffiti and broken windows. It was worse in Europe, particularly France and UK.

Two explanations were possible. One was that this violence was chaotic and unpredictable -- a very scary option. The other is that terrorism is predictable. Every time there was political uncertainty between Israel and the Palestinians, serious violence broke out. I recall Glenn Beck disagreeing, citing the more scary version, but according to the people being hurt, who for their own interest have to figure out why, a different reason is available.

The first has one useful quality -- it easily parallels in justifications for more violence. If someone is choosing targets randomly, it's a greater more pressing threat, and deserves more effort, because more people will be hurt. That is to say some particular belief of a person is the problem, and they cannot be dealt with. This is already a predatory mindset, and I question whether it should be ever used on higher mammals, let alone people. If there was a reason why people seem to be acting stupid, I would put it on this. They have to be ignorant in order to justify violence.

There's another theory, and one does not have to rely on testimony from violent people. A study done by the group CRIF, the leading group of Jewish civil society in France, while cautioning that this evidence alone was not enough to confirm an exact parallel, confirmed that more reports of antiSemitic attacks occurred during the times of year when political insecurity in Israel/Palestine was greatest. It turns out there is quite possibly a reason for the terrorism, not a just cause at all, but an undeniable pattern.  It was traceable not just on a timeline but in the acts themselves. Graffiti in France named Israeli figures. This second theory is something I think any reasonable person can understand and apply. It suggests that terrorism, or violence against civilians in order to establish a political goal, can be predicted.

I think getting everyone on the same page about this is a good step. In my next essay I will outline strategies to stop political insecurity. These will include popular organizing, establishing rapport with people who work for powerful interests, and demanding accountability.