Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 

If you read one article this week

The article by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker about the concerted efforts of the Bush administration (especially those with Rumsfeld/Cheney connections) to make torture an available option for U.S. interrogators and to sideline and silence any critics of this policy is a chilling read.

Friday, February 17, 2006

 

Joe Sacco on the Danish Cartoon Controversy

From the Nation:
Frankly, I don't give a damn about these Danish cartoons. In the end, yes, there is a principle about the freedom of expression that concerns me, but I'm always sorry to have to rush to the defense of idiots.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

 

Democracy in action?

According to today's Ha'aretz, the Likud party is pushing to ban the United Arab List from participating in the upcoming Israeli elections. And why? Because they are the wrong religion. You see, while any Jewish party can run on a religious platform, the Israeli right-wing can't possibly allow Muslims in Israel to do the same. And of course the excuse is that it is antithetical to Israel's "democratic Jewish nature." But of course, that's misleading. Because it's certainly not antithetical to Israel's democratic nature. What's antithetical to Israel's democratic nature (although it seems pretty ridiculous to talk about the "nature" of a government, but leaving this aside for now) would be banning parties because they talk about the wrong religion. Now perhaps you could argue that it undermines the Jewishness of the Israeli state. But of course, this isn't exactly an open and shut case, considering the very small number of seats that the UAL is going to win in the elections; they won 5 seats in the 1999 election and 2 in the 2003 election out of a total of 120, hardly enough to be considered a credible threat to the "Jewishness" of Israel. So though not at all a threat to the "democratic" part, and barely a threat to the "Jewish" part, the right-wing in Israel (and their supporters in the U.S.) feel that they are justified under the slogan of "Jewish and democratic" to try to eliminate any means of democratic expression available to the Palestinians inside Israel (as the article mentions, "in the last Knesset elections, the [central elections] committee voted to disqualify the Arab party Balad under the leadership of MK Azmi Bashara, but the High Court ruled against this decision). Three cheers for democracy!

Friday, February 10, 2006

 

A Museum on Top of a Grave (perhaps it is Irony's)

Donald Macintyre reports in the Independent about the plans for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (based in L.A.) to build a museum of "tolerance" on a Palestinian cemetary in Jerusalem. Yes another death knell for irony, but also for shame. I think even Orwell would gasp at this affront, yet another symbolic blow to the Palestinians and the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, in the name of "tolerance" so that Arnold Schwarzenegger can come talk about "tolerance" and shout down anti-Semitism. Are you kidding me?


(Thanks, Maha, for sending this article to me)

Monday, February 06, 2006

 

Arabs treated differently than Jews by Shin Bet

Yes, a shocker, I know (I do hope, dear reader, that you were sitting down before you read that astounding news). In a talk at a West Bank Jewish settlement, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin announced the racist treatment of Palestinians by the Shin Bet in an attempt to fend off accusations that the Shin Bet was treating extremist Jewish settlers unfairly.
"If I had arrested a terrorist from Nablus and Eden Nathan Zada," Diskin said, referring to the Jewish terrorist who gunned down four Israeli Arabs last August in a bid to hamper the Gaza disengagement, "they wouldn't have received similar treatment in interrogation or court."

"A Jewish detainee and one from [the Israeli-Arab town of] Umm al-Fahm, would not be treated equally by the judicial system," Channel 10 news quoted the Shin Bet chief as telling a group of teenagers in the West Bank settlement of Eli.

"If we're talking about discrimination, you would find out that the discrimination leans much more in favor of Jews than Arabs."
Of course, Zionists will tell you that Israel should be immune from the charge or racism, and that the Palestinians of Umm al-Fahm should be praising Israel to the heavens, because it allows them to vote in the Knesset. That some might not is only evidence of typical Arab ingratitude.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

The "Right" to Spit on Those Below You

In a display of anti-Muslim sentiment couched in terms of "free speech," newspapers across Europe reprinted a series of cartoons that originally appeared in the Danish press, that depicted the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist (doubly offensive to Muslims, as Islam considers any depiction of the prophet Muhammad blasphemous).
[France Soir]'s front-page headline declared: "Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God"...
Now here's the question: who was trying to take away that right? The Danish government did not censor the original cartoons (which were published in September). So where exactly is this "threat" to free speech coming from? Where in Europe has it become impossible to ridicule Muslims? This concept that somehow it is the duty of other European newspapers to reprint this absolutely offensive crap out of a show of solidarity is ridiculous. What if a Danish newspaper had printed an anti-Semitic cartoon? Would it then be the responsibility of other newspapers around the world to reprint it? If they didn't, would free speech be in peril? It's just such a bogus pretense.

Really, I think, it is simply evidence of the commonplace anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe. It wasn't that there were governments trying to quash free speech. Rather, it seemed that the Muslims were getting a bit too "uppity." What, they think that we shouldn't print cartoons that mock their religious beliefs? Well, we'll show them! And I guess some did... and gave free speech a bad name in the process.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

 

Don't be fooled by Richard Cohen

It looks like it took Richard Cohen, the smarmy, pompous Washington Post columnist, to get me writing in this blog again. Today Richard Cohen has a brilliant analysis of the Hamas victory in the latest Palestinian parliamentary elections: Here come the Nazis!
History speaks on this matter. If you asked a random German in, say, 1932 whether by voting for the Nazis he was voting for the murder of Jews and a destructive European war of unimaginable scope and horror, he would have said, "Nein!" What he really wanted was an end to the brawling in the streets, a robust foreign policy and a big thumbs-up to traditional German culture -- no more of this smutty modern art and filthy plays: "Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome." Not any more. The cabaret is closed!

I saved for this paragraph any reference to Hitler himself so as to postpone the reflexive outburst of "Nothing can be compared to the Nazis!"
But surely Cohen knows that nothing can be compared to the Nazis, except for Arabs (especially Palestinians), and so he is treading on safe ground. A simple google search of "Hitler" and "Arafat" or "Palestinian" and "Nazi" will show that the comparison is commonplace among the virulent right-wing and pro-Israel crowd in the U.S. and in Israel as well (in fact, one of the first news stories you might find would be Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel, comparing the rise of Hamas to the rise of the Nazis). Demonizing Palestinians is nothing uncommon, so stop trying to knock down that straw man Richard!

Cohen then tries to sell us the same old song and dance about the destruction of Israel. I mean, let's be honest, for all these years of people being committed to the destruction of Israel, it sure hasn't happened... oh wait, probably because Israel is a massive military power occupying Palestine, and not the other way around.

Cohen decides that for all Fatah's faults, at least it wasn't Hamas -- you know, it was a "modern" movement, like Zionism. If Cohen had bothered to do a little research, he might have noticed that Fatah grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, the same Muslim Brotherhood whose role as the foundation of Hamas is "medieval." He also forgets that back in the day, it was a little too modern, a little too friendly with the Soviets, had a few too many members talking about "Popular Fronts" and things of that nature. And of course, instead of understanding it as a reaction to the Palestinians' dispossession of their land and their subjugation under Israeli military rule, it was simply part of the vanguard of the latest international threat (at that time it was communism, now it's Islamofascism, in case you forgot).

Meanwhile, Cohen writes:
The mistake of the Bush administration is to think, based on not much thinking to begin with, that people are people -- pretty much the same the world over. This is why the president extols democracy. It must be what everyone wants because it is what everyone here wants. To denigrate this kind of talk suggests racism -- You mean we are not all the same? -- or a musty neocolonialism. But the hard truth is that culture and religion matter, and we should not expect moderation just because that's how we would react. Toto knows the truth. The Middle East is not Kansas.
So first of all, to have ideas that do not essentialize and demonize Arabs and Muslims is suddenly to be associated with the Bush administration. Sorry, Richie, you're not going to fit this square peg into that round hole. And just because you take down the straw men of racism and neocolonialism doesn't mean that you aren't a racist, a bigot, and a neocolonialist. Because, by all means, you are all three. Christianity (note the reference to Kansas) and Judaism are simply strong faiths, part of our progressive, modern Judeo-Christian heritage. Islam, on the other hand, is "medeival." Sharon can change. Hamas cannot. Settler fanatics are "virtually" racist, but certainly don't approve of killing innocents (from an old op-ed of his), but Hamas is the Third Reich reincarnate! Richard Cohen is almost a charicature of the Arab-loathing Orientalist and yet he takes the ideas of FrontPageMag and other flagrantly racist websites, blogs, and magazines, and sells them to the broader public in the Washington Post, telling them not to be "fooled."

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