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 Yourmiddleeast.com )

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.