Thursday, December 23, 2004


Who, me? Racist?

Allow me to quote from a Ha'aretz article:
The Arab mentality is made of "a sense of being a victim," "pathological anti-Semitism," and "a tendency to live in a world of illusions" ... the Arabs neglect sanitation in their communities. "Most of the Arab villages are dirtier, physically - it's a fact," he said.
So let's try to guess who the "he" that said is. A settler activist against removing settlements? A member of the Knesset? No, this time it's Prof. Rafi Israeli, a lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at Hebrew University and an expert witness for the State Prosecution in a case against five members of the Islamic Movement in Israel. This guy is obviously a right-wing racist, which in and of itself is scary, but no scarier than say, Michael Savage or Bobby Fischer. But for this man to be considered an "expert witness" (especially for the State) is disgusting.
The Islamic Movement and its defense team expressed shock and outrage at the choice of Israeli as a witness for the prosecution. "It's a shame and a disgrace," said attorney Feldman, noting he would be taking the matter up with the attorney general "to see if he stands behind this testimony."
Unfortunately, there will probably be greater outrage over the defendants comparison of Prof. Israeli's opinions to certain tenets of Naziism. Of course some of those who would be offended to hear mention of the Holocaust out of the mouths of a Palestinian Muslim would have no problem with certain settlers using an orange Star of David badge (to recall the Holocaust) to protest the proposed evacuation of settlers from Gaza. Absolute dispicable madness, really. Fortunately, the settler badge ploy was met with resounding criticism from the vast majority of sectors within Israel.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


The State of the Israeli Left

I am quite busy at work and so I don't have much time to post (or even to read as much as I'd like) these days, but there is an article by Yitzhak Laor in Ha'aretz that I thought was worth sharing. In it, Laor discusses the Gaza disengagement plan, and the Israeli Left's acceptance of the limits of discussion that have been imposed by Ariel Sharon, the Likud, and the Israeli Right in general. In a way, there is a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg situation in that the more the Left accepts the way the Right has framed the debate, the less likely it is to succeed. And the less success the Left has, the more it must enter the national debate on the terms of the more powerful Right. Laor writes:
Meretz's people and the doves can talk all they want about dismantling settlements as part of a process, but none of them truly expects Sharon to dismantle the main settlements in the West Bank, the settlements that slice it into cantons. But, since the political system needs to invent subjects for debate to keep their constituencies going, there is no safer argument than the "departure from Gaza." Since 1967, Gaza has been a favorite subject for the opponents of annexation and a laboratory for "eradicating territory," a "a settlement enterprise of real agriculture," and mostly for extreme ghettoization, that the entire political system, including Meretz-Yahad, supported....

Here, therefore, is the renewal of Israeli democracy: the "territories" are no longer a subject good enough to discuss, so the debate is narrowed down to Gaza, the eye of the needle. The problem is that it is impossible to shove through that needle's eye the thick rope of the political crisis of the occupation.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Bring the heat

Donald Rumsfeld seems to be getting it from quite a few different angles these days. The Guardian reports on Rumsfeld's use of a mechanical signature writer to sign letters of condolence to the families of those troops that have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
David Hackworth, a retired US army colonel turned writer, reported that Mr Rumsfeld had used a mechanical signature writer to sign his name on letters of condolence to relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although the charge was initially denied by the Pentagon, Mr Rumsfeld issued a statement on Thursday acknowledging the practice and promising to halt it.

"While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter," Mr Rumsfeld said in the statement.

Mr Hackworth also reported allegations by relatives of deceased soldiers that letters they had received from the president had been signed by a machine.

Ted Smith, whose son Eric was one of the first 100 US soldiers to die in Iraq, told Mr Hackworth that the letter he received "from the commander-in-chief was signed with a thick, green marking pen. I thought it was stamped then and do even now. He had time for golf and the ranch but not enough to sign a decent signature with a pen for his beloved hero soldiers".
I'm not sure why there would be any more reason to believe that Bush was signing the letters than Rumsfeld. Especially given the recent election, Bush was, I'm sure, unbelievably busy, and most of his time was spent travelling from place to place. In any case, it's disappointing but not surprising. Of course, Andrew Card thinks that "Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a spectacular job." Spectacularly poor maybe. Also tacked on to the Guardian story at the end was a small bit about Bush being Time magazine man of the year.
• Mr Bush has been named Time magazine's person of the year "for sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters this time around that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years".
Gag me with a spoon. What kind of tripe is this? Do we really need this bullshit about a "10-gallon-hat leadership style." Seriously, give me a break.


Barghouti's withdrawal

Graham Usher expounds in al-Ahram upon those points that I was trying to make in this earlier post about Marwan Barghouti's decision to withdraw his candidacy. Usher writes:
From the outset of his candidacy Barghouti was met with wall-to-wall opposition from the Fatah establishment, with its newly appointed leader, Farouk Qaddumi, threatening the elected parliamentarian with expulsion.

There was also what can only be described as a global campaign of intimidation. Colin Powell called Barghouti's campaign "problematic"; President Mubarak all but instructed him to stand down "since Palestinians do not need differences at this time"; and Britain hinged a London conference in January in support of the Palestinians on Abbas (and only Abbas) being elected president. The message from all was unequivocal: there would be no diplomatic reward if the Palestinians replace a besieged Palestinian leader with an imprisoned one.

Barghouti presumably anticipated this opposition. What he may not have expected was the degree of hostility from those who had been his supporters in Fatah. The grassroots Fatah Higher Committee was split over his candidacy, while Fatah's parliamentary deputies, prisoner leaders and militia commanders opposed it.

The prisoners and militiamen's opposition is not hard to fathom. In a clear sign of the times they see Abbas -- and the international and regional legitimacy he commands -- as perhaps the only key to their early release or general amnesty. The others however clearly preferred the conservatism of national unity to the radicalism of democratic choice. "We don't need Marwan to run now," said one reformist Palestinian lawmaker. "We need a unity candidate so that the elections will happen and Israel has no pretext for refusing to negotiate with us."...

Perhaps the saddest consequence of Barghouti's decision to withdraw is that the Palestinians will be denied a say on the wisdom of that strategy. As Palestinian political analyst, Khalil Shikaki, points out, Barghouti's candidacy would have turned the presidential election into a referendum on "continuing or ending the four-year Intifada, which he helped to instigate". Instead the Palestinians have a candidate who opposes the Intifada in the hope that negotiations and international support will deliver them a state. The alternatives are not running: they are languishing in an Israeli jail or mining tunnels filled with explosives in Gaza.
There is no longer any real election; the winner has been chosen and now the Palestinians are just going through the motions (to the extent that the IDF allows them). The idea that this was primarily determined by internal party power plays and international pressure (some might even say meddling) is not the way to go about inspiring and exciting those in the Middle East about democracy. In fact, I'm sure it only reinforces the prevailing belief that democracy is just a word that the US throws out there to soften criticism of it's use of power and force in the region for US gain.

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