Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ari Shavit is a favorite among the superstitious and despairing

At a Shabbat service in August, Zemel’s 22-year-old daughter, Ronit, a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, sat in the front row of Micah’s sanctuary. She listened to her father say, “What is needed to make peace between the peoples of these two lands is probably more than humans can summon,” which is from “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” a history of the country’s ethical struggle since its independence, by Ari Shavit, a columnist for the left-leaning Israeli paper Haaretz.

(New York Times : 12/21/2014 : Jason Horowitz)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Democracy" and "communism" in Cuba and the United States

As the Obama administration argues for changing US policy toward Cuba, US professors and newspaper editors are putting the focus on telling us we're the heroes, introducing the pagans to what the Brooking's Institution calls "a rainbow of international investors who will be more respectful of Cuban political sovereignty." Secretary John Kerry hailed the breaking of "ideological cement" that "isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba"  and says with US help we can expect to "promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba" with the official support of powerful healthcare and telecommunications  companies that have been banned by Haiti and Mexico.

But heroes need villains. These elites who are pushing to end the sanctions (because they will "never work") are warning us that Cubans like to put their greedy little paws on our business. Paolo Spadoni, a Very Serious Person quoted in Reuters, says that Cuba needs to stop "attempting to seize greater control of businesses once they prove successful." Without turning over their phones and hospitals to US multinational investment their economy will not be able to "show substantial improvement." However, what they aren't telling us is this is the very policy of the US business environment. In the World Economic Forum's recent report on infrastructure they highlight "two common distinctions in projects," the "greenfield" investments, where the investors must pay for new construction, and the preferred "brownfield type" in which the wealthy simply buy "existing infrastructure assets that have been operating, and frequently
have a demand history." In other words, taxpayer-funded roads, schools and hospitals.

Moreover, US investors actually celebrate spending millions of dollars to undermine democracy through propaganda:

In a referendum in 1997, voters in Denver in the United States rejected a measure to fund a massive expansion of the city’s transit system, called Guide the Ride. But seven years later, Denver voters agreed to fund a redesigned and rebranded “FasTracks” programme – the largest voter-approved, all-transit expansion in the country at the time.
To win support, the city government had proactively engaged with the public and local businesses in the planning of FasTracks and clarified the benefits. It also hired a political consulting firm and conducted a US$ 3.5 million television ad campaign featuring Denver’s mayor. A Citizens Advisory Committee was later established to provide input and advice on implementation to the board of directors of FasTracks.
Whether this deal will end up helping Cuban democracy and health is beyond me but it's very far from what US elites are trying to see happen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What happened to the security guard? Oh, he was Arab so we fired him.

"There are calls on social media sites to sack workers from annexed East Jerusalem. The municipality of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, has instituted a rotation system by which parents take turns as guards at their children’s nursery schools, Ynet news agency reported. Another municipality, Kiryat Ono, imposed a ban on workers from the occupied West Bank."

(The Independent)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Predictors of sexual assault

We compared the most recent dates of people who had versus had not experienced SA to identify differences in their date habits. (c) We compared attitudes of people who had versus had not been involved in SA. Results showed that 77.6% of the women and 57.3% of the men had been involved in some form of SA; 14.7% of the women and 7.1% of the men had been involved in unwanted sexual intercourse. Variables that appear to be risk factors are the man's initiating the date, paying all the expenses, and driving; miscommunication about sex; heavy alcohol or drug use; "parking"; and men's acceptance of traditional sex roles, interpersonal violence, adversarial attitudes about relationships, and rape myths.

(Journal of Counseling Psychology) (mirror)

In NYT article, US responsibility for war crimes isn't "virtually" anywhere to be found

Serious allegations of war crimes -- "unprecedented" in scale --  have come out through the human rights group Amnesty International, which is not a favorite of the New York Times. Often Amnesty's reports are just ignored in the New York Times. Apparently trying to step up their effort, the newest strategy is to skim the document, quote some government officials, and hope nobody notices the US is responsible at all.

In the article we are presented with an argument from an Israeli military spokesman who says Amnesty "ignores documented war crimes perpetrated by Hamas." This is echoed by Israel’s embassy in London ("ignoring the nature of the enemy") and the Israeli foreign ministry ("Hamas is not mentioned, as if the group has no responsibility for the bloodshed"). But a quick look at the link (in paragraph 2) disproves this.

Thus in the introduction on page 5 of Amnesty's report finds:

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortar rounds into civilian areas of Israel, killing six civilians, including one child. Dozens of other Israelis, including at least six children, were directly
injured by rockets or shrapnel. A total of 66 soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Amnesty International has documented and is continuing to document serious
violations of international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings and injuries to civilians and destruction of civilian property, both by Israel and by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups. 

The biggest omission however is further on. Although Rudoren claims to provide a summary of "virtually all of its 49 pages" the sole citation of Amnesty that merits more than a two word snippet is where the group:

calls for both Israel and the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court so it can prosecute cases from this summer, and urges Israel to participate in an inquiry by the United Nations Human Rights Council that it has so far boycotted out of concern for predetermined bias.
This is accurate. But frustratingly, these are only two of the three. On page 43 there is a recommendation "to other states" (such as the one where Rudoren's newspaper is based).  In this section, Amnesty International is arguing as publicly as possible that Israeli war crimes could be mitigated by withdrawal of military support:

Embedded image permalink

Putting all this together, Rudoren's article warps the picture both of our military support and the record in general. There is no explanation for quoting three sources unless you are trying to give a representation of consensus. But this party line exists solely in the government, and their strategy of working the human rights organizations with accusations of bias. Ironically, as the report goes on to say on page 41, "Amnesty International agrees with the conclusion of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem that “there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law”"  The New York Times editors, reporters and especially readers should ask themselves why it's acceptable to crowd out US culpability and an Israeli human rights source.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In Defense of Palestinian Statehood (Response to Jeffrey Goldberg)

In his latest essay, Jeffrey Goldberg observes world opinion is turning against Israel and that this isn't (entirely) due to anti-Semites. To illustrate this he highlights Israel's "friends" who "criticize it on occasion for continuing to advance the settlement cause." I think this is an important principle: if you truly care about someone you'll tell them when they need to get their act together. I'd also add, if they are asking for it, to help them.

My issue is about three quarters of the way through the essay where Goldberg takes a hard-right turn. "None of Israel’s true friends believe that it should immediately, haphazardly remove its army from strategic areas of the West Bank" because that could create "another Arab state that would be susceptible to takeover by fundamentalists." He further cautions that settlements might not be the central issue because "Arab rejection of Israel does predate settlements....their leaders and representatives walked away from each chance." The logic is clear: without the variable of the settlements, Arabs rejected a state anyway, therefore the real issue isn't Israeli behavior but Arab.

I won't go into too considerable detail about the negotiations but I think it's fair to say they are more nuanced than Goldberg allows. Arguing that Arab negotiators continually reject peace is about as accurate as me telling everyone you're lolling around on the floor, which makes you lazy, without mentioning every time you try to sit down I pull the chair out from you. Israeli negotiator Ron Pundak said the rejection of the Palestinian state was part of this maneuvering overall. Goldberg claims there's a "steadily intensifying" tension between Israel and its friends -- but over 20 years ago Israel blocked a deal on "an independent, viable, Palestinian sovereign state" (says Pundak) and yet each president since then has ramped up support for the country. Rather than being adversarial, the US was complicit.

Sticking to the issue of the settlements, Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi argues Israel is able to use a strategy of "banking concessions" whereby the negotiators push their luck with more and more demands (recognition of the State being the latest) as a way to paint themselves as the reasonable ones. Goldberg continues this two-faced act. In his pleasant fiction, Obama's administration are the good guys and Netanyahu's buddies are "venting" reasonable fears. Yet without negotiations, and presumably the legal petition to the ICC which Israel's concerned friends like President Obama oppose, Goldberg is left advocating we sit on our hands and hope the Arabs simply calm down in the name of Israel's security.

If his concern is preventing extremism, Goldberg has it truly backwards. Much like the coup in Egypt and the chaos in Iraq which were a result of US and Saudi policies of finding who is "with us," according to the former US official Larry Johnson "the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism... They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than to curb it." Americans need to stop the intentional corruption of Palestinian independence. Like the IRA/British conflict, the deal doesn't have to be popular with everyone, it just has to give each side something to leverage against their violent comrades.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

US wants a blitzkreig in the Mideast

 Retired US Air Force commander David Deptula complained the air campaign is nothing more than a "drizzle" and that only a "thunderstorm" will suffice.
To strike a genuine blow at the IS group, analysts say President Barack Obama will have to ramp up the air raids and send US military advisers with local forces into combat, to ensure bombs hit their mark and that operations succeed.

(Source AFP via )

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 November Election Cheat Sheet (UPDATED)

When researching the referendums on the ballot, I had to do a little digging. Here is what I found.

LEAN NO: The Crime Victim amendment is supported (in principle) by Human Rights Watch,

but it is being used elsewhere to limit speech

While HRW reminds us that "there's not enough enforcement" of victim's rights, in practice this type of bill has been proposed to stop Abu-Jamal from writing anything.

That evidently motivated lawmakers in Pennsylvania to come up with a remedy that is, on its face, flatly unconstitutional. The Revictimization Relief Act, as the Philadelphia Inquirer (10/14/14) reported,
would allow the victim of a crime, or prosecutors acting on the victim's behalf, to bring a civil action to stop an offender from engaging in conduct that causes the victim or the victim's family severe mental anguish.
The story was covered on today's edition of Democracy Now! (10/21/14), with excerpts of an interview with Abu-Jamal conducted by Prison Radio journalist Noelle Hanrahan:
The press ignores prisoners, as a rule. Most of what happens in prisons are never or rarely reported in the press…. Silence reigns in states all across the United States. But I went to court. I was forced to go to court by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And I won, in a case called Abu-Jamal v. Price, which gives me the right to write. Now they’re trying to take away my right to read my own writings. How unconstitutional is that?
I think it's arguable the text in the Illinois in the amendment uses similar enough language to be something to vote against (underlining in original):

 (1) The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy and to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice process.

Here's the Pennsylvania one by comparison (emphasis mine):

) Redress on behalf of victim.--The district attorney of
2the county in which a personal injury crime took place or the
3Attorney General, after consulting with the district attorney,
4may institute a civil action against an offender for injunctive
5or other appropriate relief for conduct which perpetuates the
6continuing effect of the crime on the victim.

YES: The millionaire tax helps all the schools

I had to read this text a few times but that's what it says:

Should the Illinois Constitution be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3% tax on income greater than one million dollars?


NO: The phrasing of the medical cannabis question is not to be trusted

I personally don't smoke, and considering the reputation of California weed, I'm wary of encouraging others to smoke. But this is irrelevant. According to the Annals of Epidemiology, there is no evidence medical marijuana turns everyone into junkies, and in fact, legalizing medical cannabis reduces its  use among adolescents.

Even once you make up your mind, the tricky wording in the referendum might have you fooled. The words "local municipality" seem positive. But in effect this could spell the end of medical marijuana. Because this is what happened in some in Oregon:

According to the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and drugs, there isn't evidence that dispensaries create crime, so the only reason to push this onto the municipalities is to un-legalize it. 

A research study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that medical cannabis is used to treat variety of conditions including chronic pain, migraines and AIDS-related problems. Denying it to people who are suffering then becomes a pointless attack on the sick. Not a nice thing to do to do.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The New York Times vs the Faggy Dissident

The New York Times is running an odd homophobic puff piece about Glenn Greenwald.

RIO DE JANEIRO — On approaching Glenn Greenwald’s home office high in the jungle-encrusted mountains above Rio de Janeiro, all is tranquil, bucolic even. A gurgling stream at the entrance frames the idyll.

And then the dogs notice the incursion. They bark, yap and yowl, and while it’s less “Heart of Darkness” than “101 Dalmatians,” the sheer volume is mind-erasing.

Should we be surprised that the house of Mr. Greenwald, the legendarily combative privacy and national security reporter, is surrounded by loud, barking defenders — or that they are actually pussycats once you get to know them, as is their rescuer?

People on Twitter are mocking the focus on Glenn Greenwald's dogs. But inside of this story's posture of levity in the face of serious business is a subtle character assassination.

In 2009, writing about school bullying Judith Warner looked at what calling a person gay means:

Being called a “fag,” you see, actually has almost nothing to do with being gay.

It’s really about showing any perceived weakness or femininity – by being emotional, seeming incompetent, caring too much about clothing, liking to dance or even having an interest in literature.

 In addition to implying he's a "pussycat" the story clearly supports this idea:

On television and in print, he comes across as the ultimate alpha, ferocious and unbending, but here the dogs refuse to obey him, looking for guidance from his husband, David, instead. The guy who issues face-melting rebukes on cable and Twitter is also the softy who keeps a pack of hot dogs in his car’s glove box to throw to the dogs wandering the favelas.

Of course, you might say an offhand comment or two is a gentle poke. But seeing dissidents as ironic threats has always been both a way to gloat and highlight them as threats.

The story picks up several paragraphs later, happy to trope on his poor technical skills by painting him as a dangerous virus engaging in immature, childish pleasure:

“I went to Google and typed in ‘create a pie chart’ and I ended up with an online pie-chart maker probably intended for first graders,” he said.

True to his intent, Mr. Greenwald’s first-grade pie charts entered the bloodstream of the web, coursing around Twitter and various blogs. Nothing — other than yet another dog rescue — pleases Mr. Greenwald more than lobbing in something from a great distance and watching it detonate. He was doing that long before he ever wrote for The Intercept, the name of the site that he works with at First Look.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What is it good for?

 Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer:

DW: How has the current escalation in Gaza changed life in Israel?
Yehuda Bauer: It has changed it quite meaningfully, because over two-thirds of the country was under attack by rockets. Although the rockets have not caused a tremendous amount of damage, the whole country was decisively hampered in its economic, social, cultural and other activity.
Chinese intellectual Mozi from a little over 2,400 years ago:

When feudal lords entertain suspicion, enemies will be stirred up and cause anxiety, and the morale will be weakened. On the other hand, if every preparation is in good shape and the state goes out to engage in war, then the state will lose its men and the people will neglect their vocations. Have we not heard it said that, when a warring state goes on an expedition, of the officers there must be several hundred, of the common people there must be several thousand, and of the soldiers and prisoners there must be ten thousand, before the army can set out? It may last for several years, or, at the shortest, several months. So, the superior will have no time to attend to government, the officials will have no time to attend to their offices, the farmers will have no time to sow or reap, the women will have no time to weave or spin: that is, the state will lose its men and the people will neglect their vocations.

Human nature has changed so little that most of Mohist criticism of war still holds up today:

The rulers and lords of to-day are quite different. They all rank their warriors and arrange their boat and chariot forces; they make their armour strong and weapons sharp in order to attack some innocent state. Entering the state they cut down the grain fields and fell the trees and woods; they tear down the inner and outer walls of the city and fill up the ditches and ponds; they seize and kill the sacrificial animals and burn down the ancestral temple; they kill and murder the people and exterminate the aged and weak; they move away the treasures and valuables. The soldiers are encouraged to advance by being told: "To suffer death is the highest (service you can render), to kill many is the next, to be wounded is the lowest. But if you should drop out from your rank and attempt to sneak away, the penalty will be death without moderation." Thus the soldiers are put to fear. Now to capture a state and to destroy an army, to disturb and torture the people, and to set at naught the aspirations of the sages by confusion - is this intended to bless Heaven? But the people of Heaven are gathered together to besiege the towns belonging to Heaven. This is to murder men of Heaven and dispossess the spirits of their altars and to ruin the state and to kill the sacrificial animals. It is then not a blessing to Heaven on high. Is it intended to bless the spirits? But men of Heaven are murdered, spirits are deprived of their sacrifices, the earlier kings are neglected, the multitude are tortured and the people are scattered; it is then not a blessing to the spirits in the middle. Is it intended to bless the people? But the blessing of the people by killing them off must be very meagre. And when we calculate the expense, which is the root of the calamities to living, we find the property of innumerable people is exhausted. It is, then, not a blessing to the people below either.

On who is allowed to get rich

One way to know when people are corrupt is what kind of transportation they use. For example, the Sandanistas in Nicaragua who resisted US terrorism were easy to recognize as horrible people:

Most important, the U.S. is continuing to provide covert support to thousands of Nicaraguan insurgents, known as contras (counterrevolutionaries), whose hit-and-run attacks along Nicaragua's northern and southern borders have, according to the Sandinistas, claimed more than 700 lives. President Reagan has justified U.S. support for the contras by accusing the Sandinistas of having "betrayed" their countrymen, calling the junta members "counterfeit revolutionaries who wear fatigues and drive around in Mercedes sedans." (Source: subscription required)

But this doesn't just hold true for Hispanics. As Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post pointed out it generalizes to Arabs as well.

Hamas has hired more than 40,000 civil servants, and analysts say the top tiers are filled by loyalists. Members of the Hamas elite are widely thought to have enriched themselves through investment in the dusty labyrinth of smuggling tunnels beneath the border with Egypt and taxes on the imported goods. That money has been channeled into flashy cars and Hamas-owned businesses that only stalwarts get a stake in, critics say.

You can bring this up about US elites of course, but there's a very good answer "What is this Russia? We're not allowed to get rich anymore?" When Americans make money it's because of "the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work." Unfortunately, despite their flashy cars, we're still waiting for Arab creativity to solve the problem of decades of deliberate attacks on their infrastructure. Maybe it's time they upgraded to private jets that creative American businessmen use to visit tropical islands?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic:

Jeffery Goldberg's psychoanalysis begins with the idea of  "Palestinian self-destructiveness" then switches to Hamas. Well, which is it?  What Palestinians -- in fact Hamas -- were proposing, and did last week again at the height of Israeli hysteria, was simply enforcing international law. Goldberg doesn't come right out and say it, but has his reasons not to call for an end to the collective punishment and a release of prisoners held without fair trial. Of course, the most serious issue is the dead civilians. But people often put their lives on the line when fighting for what they want.  Goldberg appears to admit this is a problem with a single sentence fragment: It's

Entirely, miserably, true.

that Israel is killing Palestinians. But he tempers this in the way many in the US press have been taught to do so, in the passive voice. Innocents "get killed" from "that country." If anything, they're being lured into the "self murder" strategy of Hamas. By projecting responsibility for these crimes onto others, Goldberg shows more humanity in this dithering than he does saying he's concerned about them. If he were a true psychopath he would simply say "kill them all, and be proud." His facade of quiet rational analysis when push comes to shove supports war and brutality in a way the fanatical terrorists on his side cannot.

I'm not one to assume Hamas doesn't have its legitimate critics.I know that powerful people can influence the masses and for that reason ordinary people are  less responsible. But ordinary Americans and Israelis do not face the same pressure of Palestinians. They have working electricity, internet, regular elections and so on.

So keeping to the issue of myopia. The true "enemy of compromise and progress" in the situation is the whole concept of military domination. It would only be myopic to limit this criticism to the weakest party in the conflict. Yet most pundits even on the left when confronted with the notion of political Islam put their fingers in their ears and go la-la-la it's all about religion. One exception to this is Noam Chomsky who frequently tests ideas by taking examples from the past, or from another country in order to short-circuit our temptation to see ourselves as The Good. He also helped create the warning of genocide, a fear of his resulting from a combination of Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons and its tendency of to defend a Jewish majority at all costs. Goldberg either ignores the context of this warning by the left or simply doesn't know about it.

 Either way, what he's demanding is actually more myopia. He takes the standard partisan approach, and parrots Bill Clinton into assigning all this blame outside the tribe, and the Israeli/Obama mantra of rockets, rockets rockets. Obama gives canned speeches about his love for little dead children who aren't his own -- granted they're from the right country. Does Obama's sympathy include the Palestinians who do resist lawfully? What about Goldberg's? They are not asked to compromise but are instead thrown into jails, tortured and assassinated. Goldberg himself whitewashed the humanitarian flotilla incident a few years back as "a project of pro-Hamas Turkish activists" basically mirroring the Israeli and US government lines that it was "engineered" by the sinister Turks. If one looked, one could probably find humanitarians in Gaza being called agents of Israel, and a dutiful journalist shaking his fist at them as they're shot. It wouldn't be a stretch to expect this from a Palestinian ex-prison guard, Goldberg's twin.

Being supporters of crime, the elites the US media prefer are naturally liars, saying the US influence in the region is something to cautiously praise. These people live in more security than Hamas elites do. And thanks to US policies, they have much more say in their governments than their restive populations (the majority of Egyptians view the government's court system and the police as a total sham.) Egypt and Israel are both in the US orbit that was instituted as soon as Truman was told how much oil there was in the region. US military cooperation with Egypt was cemented following the 1973 war. On the freedom of information act section of the CIA website is an interview President Sadat gave wherein he explained something interesting. He wanted a "miracle" similar to Vietnam, and Israel knew it was coming days before. Publicly it was claimed to be a surprise. This is right out of one of Kissinger's favorite books "The Prince" on how to acquire a new territory, namely showing overwhelming force. Sound familiar? Or is looking at official Israeli policy without help from Gulf commentators too myopic?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Two experts on peace

I know this is not representative of all the ins and outs of the ceasefire proposals, or even this particular one. But this similarity was so striking I wanted to point it out:

Palestinian representative from the Hamas party today:

Israel accepted the truce in a surprise move Tuesday morning, after Hamas categorically rejected the notion of a ceasefire Monday night.
"A ceasefire without reaching an agreement is rejected. In times of war, you don't cease fire and then negotiate," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told AFP.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zahri reiterated this Tuesday morning.

President Shimon Peres, 2007:

NS: Well, you say you were acting under legal constraint but this is all territory which under the 1948 partition of the UN was not part of the land of Israel.
SP: All right, but they refused to take it. Look, would they take the whole partition of the Israel as the legal foundation? Ben Gurion was ready. They rejected it. Look, you cannot say: I don't take it, I attack you. If I shall win OK, if I shall lose I win too. You cannot do it.
NS: But are you suggesting that the fact that the Arab armies attacked in 1948 means that the Palestinians living in the West Bank forfeited for all time their legal rights to that territory.
SP: No, the problem was: what is the West Bank, not the people. But what is the West Bank? Because you see the Arabs too agreed, they agree to 1967 not to 1948 they understand it. They changed the concept of the borders. Look, you cannot go to war, lose the war and then say pay me a price. Why should you pay a price? If you go to war once, twice, three times, the next time you say Just a moment, next borders should be defensible, and that's according with UN 242 and 238.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Response to the Tired Cliches in the Jewish Daily Forward

 This is a response to a recent article by J J Goldberg in the Forward newspaper.

What first appears to be an indictment of Israeli Machiavellian politics is instead an endorsement of them. Taking an approach similar to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Iraq, J J Goldberg laments in his new article that Israel is "stumbling into" a "war that nobody wanted," yet, on balance, this blood feud might just teach the Palestinian "crime family" a "lesson," creating a few more years of peace. Overall, he has written a stale portrait of Netanyahu's complex "pragmatism" which he claims is heading off a push in the Israeli right for a full-scale land invasion.

But we are not on the edge of the cliff as the Forward and the Israeli branding allege. Rather we have been at the bottom of the canyon for some time thanks in no small part to the perpetual fog of war and cult of personality. Such a miserable depth has blinded Goldberg and many others to the dignity of the Palestinian people (see this rundown for what I have in mind). A favorite of his colleague Mira Sucharov (who does not deny the nationalism of Palestinians), Max Nordau, was absolutely repulsed when he heard Israel was conquering already settled land, "we are committing an injustice," he said. If these are the reactions of people invested in the Zionist program, it's hard to be surprised when those living under occupation their whole life don't agree in principle. Yet Goldberg manages to be affronted by this.

The most important omission however in this article is what William Mardsen has called "the prime reason for the violent outbreaks," namely the occupation, the settlements, and the "daily humiliations and frequent outbursts of brutality." Mardsen further notes Obama's reminder of just which country pays billions to Israel, a very good reason for obeying US diktat on how to conduct the war. While Goldberg indulges himself in the spectacle of the violence he pretends to abhor, without worrying about repercussions, he totally misses what the cycle means politically. It was known in 1996 when Netanyahu was elected he was going to empower Hamas, not weaken them. Lisa Beyer of Time magazine noted "[t]he radicals of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, along with the smaller Islamic Jihad, hope to provoke Israel into abrogating its agreements with Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization." To do this, "Hamas would love to see the Likkud come to power. It would mean the end of the peace agreement." Goldberg will be surely happy to learn that, on balance, Israel too provoked attacks, assassinating a Palestinian with a cell phone -- a murder Israelis I come into contact with often laud as ingenious. Ten years after the "slimmest of majorities was persuaded that [Netanyahu's] youthful energy and conservative caution hold the greater promise," Hamas won its first election. The peace negotiations under the guidance of the idea of giving Palestinians no more than "fried chicken" pretty much brought us to where we are now, with some warning of a new intifada. This was done with full support of many wealthy Americans who were enamored by his polished, TV-friendly image, as well as a 15 point bump in polls from terror attacks escalated under the government of Peres. Pragmatic indeed.

Goldberg makes no mention of these Palestinian victims, nor US responsibility. Instead he engages in celebration of breaking the will of the Palestinian Mafia which includes members of Parliament and political prisoners "crush[ed]... according to the law," as an Israeli interrogator threatened. Goldberg indeed forgets to mention aggression itself is a crime under international law, although he brings up the damning Goldstone report as an aside. In fact, not only is aggression a crime but the threat of one is as well. Robert Kagan warns that the result of this aid policy will, in effect mean "that there will never be another chance" as a new generation of vengeful, oppressed jihadis follow the money. What a ticklish predicament.

It's time to give up the tired cliches and put pressure on the US to give up its role as chief negotiator,  and to suspend enough aid to isolate the stern politicos looking for a fight (this also includes universities such as BGSU and Abilene Christian University which have intimate ties to the US military industrial complex). I propose it should amount to $25 billion, a proportionate response to the amount divested in 1960 from South Africa in protest of their white nationalism (coincidentally, this is also about the sum Israel received from Germany in reparations for the Holocaust).

And it's important we do this before things get out of control. But with that in mind, what does "control" look like? Looking at only 11 days in January of this year, Ray Hanania documented "racist graffiti, burning and uprooting trees, breaking car windows and puncturing tires, in addition to attacks against the [Palestinian] villagers themselves" -- acts Mira Sucharov presumably sees as "casual racism." Contrary to the sympathetic image the Forward paints, Netanyahu's government warned in February of this year, before the ISIS/Islamic Jihad kidnapping, that he was going to "teach Hamas a lesson very soon." Minister Uri Ariel echoed this recently, condemning the "terror government," and vowing "a clear Zionist answer" -- more illegal settlements. Far from spontaneous self-defense, following an end to "seven years" of "the most tranquil in Israel’s history" these are leading Israeli politicians endorsing "sickening and appalling" tactics months beforehand. They have too much support already in their political campaign against Palestinian independence.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You are not allowed to tell me we're not great

Over at A Tiny Revolution you can catch a little drama on American commentator Christopher Hitchens and his obsession with American benevolence. He compares Hitchens' propaganda to the militant/terrorist group now taking over parts of Iraq.

The quote is as follows:

Someone Please Dig Up Christopher Hitchens and Show Him This Blog Post

Christopher Hitchens on Iraq, 2005:
The welcome that I've seen American and British forces get in parts of Iraq...I want to mention first because there are people who say that that never happened...where were the sweets and where were the flowers? Well I saw it happen with my own eyes and no one's going to tell me that I didn' was like this is the nearest I'll get to taking part in the liberation of the country, to ride in with the liberating army...I will not allow it not to be said that that did not happen.
What jumped to my mind was not Iraq however but the war in the Philippines over a hundred years ago (see this blog post of mine for why). Once again the path to war looks eerily similar:
On the surface, most of the changes taking place in the American pacification campaign appeared to increase its severity and to abandon the policy of benevolent pacification, but this was not the case. Provost-Marshal-General Bell's comments to the officers serving under him placed the policy changes in their proper perspective. Bell began by stating that he had "frequently heard the opinion expressed that no good has been accomplished" by the old policy. He continued:

I cannot concur in that opinion, for I feel convinced that this policy has had a good effect. Had we been building for a day only or solely in order to put an end to hostilities, a different policy might have been indicated but ... we have got to continue to live among these people. We have got to govern them

He goes on to say:

"This policy has earned for us the respect and approval of a large majority of the more intelligent and influential portion of the community. We cannot lose their support by now adopting such measures as may be necessary to suppress the irreconcilable and disorderly.

The historian who gathered this testimony goes on to quite dryly mourn this general's soldiers not living up to his professed ideals:

"Unfortunately, some Americans did not have as good an understanding of the new policy as General Bell, and for them it represented the inauguration of a campaign of severity. Consequently, some enlisted men could interpret the new policy as one of "taking no prisoners" with MacArthur "sweeping everything as he goes," and officers could write of substituting "the effective noose for the futile school-book"(28) The cruelties and abuses that appeared in increasing numbers during 1900 continued, and those men who so desired could interpret the new pacification policy as a sanction for such action.
Here's an inscription from the Achaemenid Empire:

[4.11] Says Darius the king: If thou shalt conceal this record (and) not tell (it) to the people, may Auramazda be a smiter unto thee and may there not be unto thee a family.
[4.12] Says Darius the king: This (is) what I did in every way; by the grace of Auramazda I did (it); Auramazda bore me aid and the other gods which are.
[4.13] Says Darius the king: For this reason Auramazda bore me aid and the other gods which are, because I was not an enemy, I was not a deceiver, I was not a wrong-doer, neither I nor my family; according to rectitude [I ruled] nor made I my power(?) an oppression to [those who praise me]; the man (who) helped my house, him who should be well esteemed, I esteemed; (the man) who would destroy it, him who should deserve punishment, I punished.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Response to Mira Sucharov

Sucharov's essay can be read here. You can watch the video of her debate with Max Blumenthal at CPAC or read my transcription of it here.

 "They heard the gentle remonstrance of a kindly king with an erring but much-loved minister." -- J.R.R. Tolkien

The responsibility of liberal Zionists is not just to defend Zionism from anti-Zionists but to police its own excess, and honestly admit its failings. This is what you are asking of anti-Zionists. It's fair to assume you ought to practice it yourself. Take one example from the debate, the right of return. It may be unrealistic and therefore unfair (as Noam Chomsky has pointed out) to tempt Palestinians with the right of return but just on an academic note, if Israel is to return to Zionist ideals, it would have to return the property it took from Palestinians. Theodor Herzl said if Arabs refused to give up their property you should simply build where you face no objection.

Another thing liberal Zionists must face in order to be taken seriously, however uncomfortable it may be, is Israel already is an apartheid state (EDIT 8/1/2014: or ready to become one). Between 1949 and 1959 the Afrikaner government passed the the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949), Suppression of Communism Act (1950), The Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act (1951), The Riotous Assemblies Act (1956), and the Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act (1959). These all are parallel with proposed and many enacted laws in Israel including banning of Arab parties in the last 20 years, mostly under the governments by the current ruling party Likud. None of these do you mention by name, either in the debate or in this essay. It was notably Max Blumenthal, the "anti-Zionist," who brought up the Bedouins facing eviction, not you. I think this is because it does not fit your endgame. This is a sign of degrading democracy, not a sign of hope or a defect in Israel. So you find it hard to face it.

It is also a feature of the society, not an accident. Israel has brought itself into this situation by creating a country of Western ideals (including the nation-state and the Fascism it entails) and Western trade interest, as Theodor Herzl intended. By aligning itself with the US, its main military supplier, as well as many dictators and opressive governments in the region, as well as Latin America, the idea that Israel means well loses credibility. We should also remember that in US history, the pretext of the war on terrorism overtook the pretext of communism specifically in relation to South Africa. When Reagan was in office he was advised to make a distinction between "authoritarian" and "totalitarian" governments and attacked, with undemocratic support, the helpless Latinos in his way under the pretext Israel's military hides behind today. This policy also included support of apartheid South Africa and the peaceful yet illegal annexation of Western Sahara by King Hussein II of Morocco. These are crimes concealed by nationalist fervor and a totally biased vocabulary (read the speeches of Hussein if you doubt me). That a state can be a benevolent force is an illusion, which is the point.

So what must be countered in Israel is not just specific laws. What should be discouraged is superstitious coveting of the power and credibility of nationhood, and the propaganda you write in its defense. Israelis and Zionists naturally recognize this about Iran and Gaza, but not themselves. While  it may not be necessary to abolish it -- Leftists do not support violent overthrow of Iran for example -- we certainly shouldn't encourage their propaganda either. For whatever reason, I don't know exactly the cause (human nature perhaps), the ability to make historical analogies is limited by the so called liberal Zionists to countries like Finland and Canada.

But the important history here is the US', Israel's main supporter. When the US oppressed the "Indians" we heard what we wanted: "Come over and help us." This goes right through American history, notably Vietnam which we wanted "spared" from the scourge of communism, and Iraq which we "liberated" into a country of sectarian warfare, its oil sold to the highest bidder. You hear this pop up in relation to the "myth" that Palestinian water is under Israeli control, and the crocodile tears shed for the women living under the government of the Hamas party. This mentality is also repsonsible for domestic and military pressure in Israel that is preventing the two state solution, a major step in resolving the conflict. Even if Arabs tomorrow went on TV and renounced terrorism, we would not see peace. Al-Jazeera reporter Clayton Swisher reports that Bill Clinton "falsely told the world that Arafat had rejected his parameters" out of fear of upsetting internal Israeli politics. That's not about laws, it's about political demographics which would be made impossible with a stronger check on military excess and Zionist nationalism. Israel currently has sitting in a jail cell a popular Palestinian politician who supports the two state solution. He is imprisoned thanks to the myth created in the wake of Kissinger's bad faith UN negotiations that Israel's security should be equally weighed with the national borders. He was tried in a military court in occupied West Bank for signing checks to "terrorists" -- namely Palestinian militants who have resisted the Israeli soldiers and need money for lawyers.

Even putting propaganda aside and going to concrete proposals, this is not contradicted by the two-state solution simply because it has Arab support. Mondoweiss writer Phan Nguyen pointed out we should remember that during apartheid in South Africa there were two-state solutions proposed (this was Abraham Lincoln's idea as well for African-Americans). It may be the best of the rotten ideas around but it does not mean apartheid doesn't exist. Rather, as US and South Africa illustrate, it is an idea very compatible with apartheid and an out of control state (remember, Lincoln also suspended Habeus Corpus). Much like other instances of US power and US involved powers, we understate the evils of the Israeli strategy. The rest is a red herring.