Friday, July 09, 2004


Seriously, it's not racism. I'm no racist! Are you calling me a racist?

An article in Ha'aretz, beautifully titled Just keep them away from our daughters!, about Ashkelon Likud Party activists and their effort to keep the Arabs out of the Israeli city. As Arabs with Israeli citizenship come to Ashkelon to work as laborers, much to the dismay of some of the local Jewish citizens.
"This is truly a life-and-death issue," says [Pini] Sabah, adding that other cities in southern Israel, such as Ashdod, face a similar threat. "This is not racism," he is quick to point out. "In principle," he does not discriminate against anyone. However, he is not an ostrich that is prepared to hide its head in the sand. He would never dream of opposing Arabs coming to Ashkelon but he cannot ignore what they bring with them, such as "sexual harassment, break-ins into homes and shops, and crime in general."
And anybody who knows a bit about the US's own history of racism might find statements like this eerily reminiscent of the bad old days:
"Suddenly," says [Michel] Buscila, "we start hearing about some of them harassing our daughters and it slowly becomes clear that some of them, just because they are Israelis in every respect, have become a little bit too self-confident; they say to themselves: `I've got an Israeli identity card, I can do whatever I want.' And these people start up with our daughters."
Really it's a "cultural" thing, yknow. And, of course, it's a slippery slope.
"Don't let them sell you a bill of goods," Sabah says, his face expressionless. "We don't want to become another Ramla, Lod, Acre or Jaffa. First, they arrive as laborers. Then they start renting apartments and, after that, they start bringing in their families. We don't want to become an ethnically mixed [Jewish-Arab] city. Because an ethnically mixed city spells trouble in every possible sense and you end up with an eternal headache ... They have their own culture and we have ours. We want to preserve our culture and our standard of living."
The article is very well written, in-depth, and insightful, going on to interview Jewish Ashkelonis who find the racism distasteful and want nothing to do with it, as well as Arab laborers in Ashkelon. And throughout the article, the refrain remains the same: "This is not racism", "Look, I don't want to sound racist", and on and on.



Not that I think that online polling is perfect, but this QuickVote result is simply astounding. Props to Oliver for the eagle eye.


Isn't al-Qaeda just Arabic for "Bad Guys"?

The full text of a letter by David Wright to the Washington Post on Informed Comment is well worth the read. In it, Wright points out that Abu Musab al Zarqawi is not actually part of al Qaeda, and should not be referred to as an al Qaeda operative or any such nonsense. The Washington Post is hardly the worst when it comes to this (ahem...FOXNews) but as a (supposedly) responsible print publication, at least they can have a consistent editorial policy.


World Court Rules Israel's Wall Illegal

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the biggest shock of all is that "Israel said it would disregard the decision." Whoah whoah whoah. Slow down there. Israel? Disregarding a decision made by an international body? Unheard of! Equally shocking is that Israel's defense, the longheld "two wrongs make a right" legal theory, didn't hold up in front of the International Court of Justice. And while some would like to consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a complex issue with many nuanced factors playing a role, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yoni Peled broke it down for all of us idiots who don't get it: "If there were no terror, there would be no fence." Forget all those issues of occupation, land confiscation, settlements, pre-1967 boundaries, home demolitions. In fact, why stop there? If there were no terror, there would be no Zionism. Right?

Some other non-sensical quotes from the Yahoo!News story:
A spokesman for President Bush (news - web sites) brushed aside the ruling. He said the World Court, formally the International Court of Justice, was not the right place to settle the issue:

"This is an issue that should be resolved through the process that has been put in place, specifically the road map," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Because that's what's worked so far right? Why is it that Palestinians must always undermine the peace process? I mean things were right on track, this - what is it again? Road...Map... - was going perfectly and then the Palestinians had to get all uppity and go to the International Court of Justice.

Also this:
"We will abide by the ruling of our own High Court and not the panel in The Hague with judges from the European Union (news - web sites) who are not suspected of being particularly disposed toward Israel," Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said earlier Friday.
God forbid you should have a panel made up of judges not particularly disposed toward Israel. The injustice of it all. They should go ahead and change the name of the court to the International Court of INJustice. Get it?

Thursday, July 08, 2004


American ISM activist denied entry to Israel

A Tel Aviv District Court Judge ruled today to expel 44-year-old graphic and video artist Anne Robinson-Petter, who has been held for two weeks in a holding cell at Ben-Gurion Airport. According to Ha'aretz:
She was denied entry to Israel on two grounds, says the report on her being questioned at the airport: "Her guaranteed participation in hostile sabotage activity," and belonging to "a leftist organization."
And what exactly constituted "guaranteed participation in hostile sabotage activity"?
She arrived two weeks ago for a 14-day visit with the intention of filming a video about a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor traveling the country and the territories, and to take part in demonstrations against the separation fence.
Whew, thank goodness for the Shin Bet.
The security services claimed at the closed door hearings two weeks ago that they have "secret information" about the woman. At a court hearing Tuesday, say her lawyers, the prosecutors refused to provide a statement backing up the claims of the security services, which had originally argued at her arrest that her presence in the country endangers state security.
So at first there was this "secret information" that proved that Robertson-Peter (an artist) endangered state security. But we can't know this information. So now all we've got is that she belongs to "a leftist organization" and wants to make a film about a Holocaust survivor. And this prevents one from being allowed to enter Israel? Since when was belonging to a "leftist organization" a crime?
While Robertson-Peter is not being allowed contact with anyone other than her lawyer, she answered through him why she insisted on staying in Israel despite the considerable discomfort it has involved for her.

"My client," said Leibowitz, "refuses to allow the state to impugn her with the stigma of being a terrorist who is involved in hostile terrorist activity, and she is disgusted by the way her activities on behalf of human rights are regarded as a so-called danger to the security of the state. She is fighting to prove that there is nothing wrong with her activities."
Right on! I only wish it would have some effect.


34 Days Until the Summer Olympics

And Greek hotel workers are threatening suprise work stoppages throughout the games if their demands are not met. According to the Guardian:
Workers said yesterday they "didn't care" if the likes of Spain's Queen Sofía, or the Prince of Wales, who is also due to fly in for the games, had to do without the five-star service they are used to.
Is that great or what?


War on Terrorism Update

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Three Americans arrested in Afghanistan were on a self-appointed counterterrorism mission that included holding eight inmates in a private jail, a senior official said Thursday.

U.S. officials identified one of the men detained Monday in a raid in Kabul as Jonathan K. Idema, a purported former Green Beret who claims to have links with Afghan militia forces.

The American military has warned that Idema had been posing as a U.S. military or government employee.
This is pretty crazy, but it definitely fits in with the Bush administration's approach to fighting terrorism. In fact, probably the best quote fromt he article is this:
Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said the three men had, along with four Afghans also arrested Monday, "formed a group and pretended they were fighting terrorism."
Formed a group and pretended they were fighting terrorism, eh? I'm sorry, but I can't help but think of the Bush administration when I read that. Also, what do you think are the odds that Idema is going to be held as an "unlawful combatant"? Although really, at least Idema wasn't ripping off the Pentagon for millions of dollars like some of these mercenary companies.


Oh, the humanity

The Cruel Face of Zionism, Ari Shavit's article in today's Ha'aretz, searches for the underlying truths to be found in the statements of the radical Israeli right. There is a growing fear in Israel that there might be a repeat of the Rabin assassination in response to Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan. "The statements now being uttered by the radical right wing are grave," writes Shavit. "However the problem that these statements expose is real, and cannot be swept under the carpet." So what, then, are these problems?
The heart of the problem is this: The disengagement plan is about to cause a humanitarian catastrophe. Already in the first stage the plan will strike a fatal blow to the human rights of 8,000 women, men and children. At a later stage it will trample the basic rights of some 80,000 additional people. The plan will destroy the homes and life's work of tens of thousands, bringing an unprecedented human disaster on close to 100,000 Israelis.

Make no mistake - this is not a transfer. A transfer is a deportation that one nation inflicts on the members of another. However, it is certainly a Draconian decree that no democratic state has inflicted on its citizens in recent generations. The state has decided to destroy dozens of communities and to erase dozens of villages, to send destructive bulldozers to crush homes.
Humanitarian catastrophe? Trampling of basic rights? Destroying the homes and life's work of tens of thousands? Destroying dozens of communities and erasing dozens of villages? Sending destructive bulldozers to crush homes? Unprecedented. Hah! The strangest part is that I really can't tell whether Shavit really gets the irony of what he is writing. Also, the lead from an editorial in Ha'aretz pretty much sums up the way things stand right now:
It appears that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, which the prime minister presented and the cabinet adopted in essence, is standing motionless. The political discourse in Israel against the disengagement is growing stronger, mainly because of the loud, threatening voices coming from radical right-wing circles, the settlers and the advocates of Greater Israel. This is the same kind of discourse that accompanied the Oslo Accords and ultimately triggered the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
And we all know how well the Oslo Accords worked out, right? Personally, I will be suprised if this gets anywhere close to as much momentum as the Oslo Accords (remember - that included Palestinians who were pushing for a change). In the end it may only be remembered if the potential for violence in the radical Israeli right is realized.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Scandinavians: Freedom haters?

An article in the Norway Post (best slogan of any newspaper: "The doorway to Norway") quotes many leading government officials there in response to allegations of over 100 Iraqi children being detained by the US (they must mean sovereign Iraq) in Iraq (as reported by the German TV magazine "Report").
The leader of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland (Labour), calls for those politically responsible in the US to step down.

-It is completely atrocious and contravening international law, if this is true, and it is difficult to understand if this should not have the consequenses that someone in the US take direct political responsibility and step down, Jagland says.

He says that US cerdibility within the international community has been weakened by the reveleations.

The Norwegian Government said earlier on Tuesday that they will bring up the matter with the US authorities at the earliest covenience.

-Such abuse is unacceptable. It is in violation of International Law. We will take the matter up in a very sharp and direct way, said Undersecretary of State at the Prime Minister's Office, Odd J.Saeter, to public broadcaster NRK.

The Socialist Left Party (SV) has also reacted, and states that the alleged child abuse must have repercussions for the US authorities, but also for the relationship between the US and Norway.

-If this turns out to be true, it must have consequenses for our relationship to a close ally in military operations. It will be very difficult to participate with an ally who is willing to carry out such a breach of International Law, says SV's Secretary General, Baard Vegar Solhjell.

Leader of the Agrarian Party, Aaslaug Haga, says the Government should react vis-a-vis the US immediately, and at the same time she proposes a discussion among NATO member countries to avoid that similar things should happen in Afghanistan.
Of course, one quick look at the names of these parties (the Agrarian Party, Labour, Socialist Left Party) will reveal that these people simply hate freedom.

[I'm much obliged to Aunt Deb for passing this on to me - although sometimes I get this funny feeling, like maybe she hates freedom, too. No, it can't be.]

UPDATE: Sadly, No! has posted links to the video and original German transcript, as well as an English translation of the transcript. It is very powerful stuff.


Those damn pesky reporters, asking their questions

Yesterday, Sec. of State Colin Powell told reporters, "We have some disappointment in the rate at which [illegal Israeli settlement] outposts had been removed." As usual, Israel brushed aside the criticism. What is interesting this time, after last week George W. Bush got all miffed at his treatment by an Irish reporter who didn't stick to the script, was Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom's response:
The foreign minister told an Israel Radio interviewer that Powell's "remarks at the news conference came after your reporter repeatedly asked him the question, until he finally succeeded in prying out that answer."
The nerve of that reporter, to ask a question more than once to try to get a straight answer. Recently, too many people have had it far too easy from the press. Public figures and government officials are so used to being served softballs, being allowed to turn the question here, there, and everywhere to spout some scripted response, that they get upset when they are challenged. Of course, for too long the press was OK to go along with everything. Now, though, people are getting pissed off at the acquiescence of the press in all of this (even if you think Michael Moore is a nut, you'd find quite a few people who agree with his challenging of the press in his recent interviews on morning TV shows, etc.), and championing those journalists who won't get bullied by the people in front of the microphones and cameras. But that's just my take on it.

From the same Ha'aretz article:
At their meeting, Shalom asked Powell to try and convince the nations donating money to the Palestinian Authority to condition future financial aid on the cessation of Qassam rocket attacks against Israel, and on the political reform of the PA. Shalom also told Powell that Israel opposes an Egyptian proposal for a Palestinian cease-fire declaration in September.
First of all, to condition financial aid on cessation of Qassam rocket attacks is ridiculous. You can count the number of fatalities from Qassam rocket attacks on one hand - on two fingers. They do not pose a serious threat to Israeli security and they are not being launched by the PA, that's for damn sure. Second, political reform would be great, but at this point political reform is going to need to come with something attached - Palestinian elections, perhaps, would be the best solution. Third, why would Israel oppose a Palestinian cease-fire? It's not really the cease-fire they oppose, they oppose giving anything in return for a cease-fire, right? What exactly is Egypt proposing Israel give in return for the cease-fire in September? This I would like to know.


Herbert Marcuse, "Aggressiveness in Advanced Industrial Society"

Recently I was recommended this article by Herbert Marcuse. The more theoretical aspects of it are very interesting, so I recommend reading the article in its entirety. However, reading it, I was struck by the relevence of the article, written in 1967, to the present-day United States and the current war in Iraq. Excerpted below an especially apt passage, which could easily be manipulated to reflect the situation in Iraq (replace "jungle" with "desert", etc.):

The (anonymous) lead article in Les Temps Modernes (January 1966) links the war in Vietnam with the puritan tradition in the United States. The image of the enemy is that of dirt in its most repulsive forms; the unclean jungle is his natural habitat, disembowelment and beheading are his natural ways of action. Consequently, the burning of his refuge, defoliation, and the poisoning of his foodstuff are not only strategic but also moral operations: removing of contagious dirt, clearing the way for the order of political hygiene and righteousness. And the mass purging of the good conscience from all rational inhibitions leads to the atrophy of the last rebellion of sanity against the madhouse: no satire, no ridicule attends the moralists who organize and defend the crime. Thus one of them can, without becoming a laughingstock, publicly praise as the “greatest performance in our nation’s history,” the indeed historical achievement of the richest, most powerful, and most advanced country of the world unleashing the destructive force of its technical superiority on one of the poorest, weakest, and most helpless countries of the world.


Sovereign Iraq, meet Martial Law

As new violence flared in Baghdad, Iraqi officials announced Wednesday a new security plan that would increase detention powers and allow the prime minister to mobilize the country's armed forces to deal with the problem.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has signed the plan into law, according to an official in his office.

Word of the tighter security plan came as Iraqi security forces along with U.S.-led multinational soldiers battled insurgents in central Baghdad, a police official told CNN.
A fine step forward towards democracy, I say. Not that security is not important towards establishing any kind of stable democratic society in Iraq, but the way things are going, it could be quite some time before this "new security plan" (I see they've stopped using the words "martial law") becomes unnecessary in the eyes of Allawi and the US - did I say US? I meant sovereign Iraq.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Interesting Poll Results from Israel/Palestine

Although the prevailing wisdom is that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, a recent poll shows that the Palestinian support for Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan, which could have allowed for a much smoother pull-out and handover of the Gaza Strip, has disapated over the past five months or so.
Palestinian support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan has plummeted since it was first unveiled in February: At that time, 73 percent of Palestinians backed it, but today, only 34 percent do so, while 65 percent oppose it.
Possibly another nail in the coffin of the Gaza withdrawal (I believe it could happen, but I'm not going to hold my breath). The poll results also point to a great opportunity for reform in the Palestinian terroritories. There is some unpleasant news regarding the potential changes or lack of change in Palestinian politics were elections held today:
Some 28 percent of Palestinians said they would vote for Hamas or Islamic Jihad in free elections, compared to 26 percent who would support Fatah candidates, 17 percent who would vote for independents and 9 percent who would support clan representatives. In Gaza, support for the Islamic movements was especially strong, at 32 percent, compared to 23 percent for Fatah. But 54 percent of Palestinians said they would vote for Arafat for president.
These, as well as other pushes for reform, show a desire to dilute Arafat's power:
Support for reform of the Palestinian security services was very high: Some 81 percent of Palestinians favor unifying them and putting them under the cabinet's control, and 87 percent support the appointment of a strong interior minister to oversee them.
I think the most telling statistics are in regards to the "winning" of the intifada. As I've mentioned earlier, there has been some discussion over whether Israel has silently emerged as the victor in the current intifada. Well, if they did, nobody informed the Palestinians or the Israelis.
With regard to the intifada, 69 percent of Palestinian respondents said that the violence of the past four years had achieved national goals that could not have been achieved through negotiations. Some 40 percent said the Palestinians are winning the war, compared to only 16 percent who thought that Israel is winning; 37 percent thought that neither side is winning.

Israeli respondents agreed with this perception: Some 26 percent said the Palestinians are winning, compared to only 11 percent who thought that Israel is winning, while 57 percent thought neither side is winning.
So more Palestinians think that Israel is winning the intifada than Israelis? It's time that there was some effort spent by the US administration in supporting some bi-lateral actions and negotiations.

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