Friday, March 18, 2005


The sequel is just never as good as the original.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Why we shouldn't celebrate Gandhi

No, not that Gandhi. I'm talking about Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, the former Israeli Tourism minister who was assassinated by a PFLP member in response to the Israeli assassination of PFLP secretary general Abu Ali Mustafa. A Knesset committee yesterday approved a bill that would commemorate Ze'evi's legacy, a legacy of anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism, calling for "transfer" (that is, ethnic cleansing) of the Palestinians out of Israel and the occupied territories, with a "Ze'evi Center." Leftist firebrand poet and writer Yitzhak Laor comes to the rescue in a Ha'aretz op-ed, decrying the celebration of Ze'evi's "love of the land."
What Ze'evi called "love of the land" was first of all the demand to throw the Arabs out of their land, and at the same time remove them from the historiography of the country, as he tried to do as the scandalous director of the museum from which Tel Aviv City Hall tried to remove him, but about which his "friends from the army" (from left and right) made a scandal and prevented it.

...Anyone who calls those values "love of the land" obviously thinks that everything that comes from love is permissible. Ze'evi's love of the land was perverse, and perversion does not get memorial institutes.
And on the subject of memorial institutes (as well as perversion and ethnic cleansing), Amira Hass has a very powerful piece on the subject of the re-opening ceremony of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial museum. In it, Hass excoriates both Israel and the European powers of using events like this to shirk responsibility and ignore their own wrong-doings.
One of the infuriating absurdities in every injustice, especially one of inconceivable proportions like the German murder industry (with extensive European aid), is that the victims and their offspring remember and live it day in and day out. The perpetrators, however, repress and forget it, and it is easy for their offspring to ignore it.

So let the entire diplomatic throng, which is seeking Sharon's audience today, go and talk of the European responsibility for the Holocaust in its own territory, not in Israel. Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Krakow, Sarajevo, and the villages and forests around them are soaked with the memories of our parents, with the forgetfulness of the perpetrators and their offspring, and with the helplessness and indifference of those standing idly by. Let the prime ministers and foreign ministers go there and raise the memory and knowledge and historic understanding. And not just once a year, on the day of Auschwitz's liberation or Germany's surrender, just to pay lip service.

We remember and feel the pain of that liquidation day by day. Let us confront them with it day by day. For example, let it be inscribed on a large marble slab outside every house in which Jews used to live, where they were deported and where they were murdered. Let every railway station from which the human transports were dispatched provide the information: when, how many trains a day, how many people. Let the names of those responsible for the transport be written down - at the police station, the railway station, city hall.

The way to fight the fading memory is not merely with memorial monuments and ceremonies. It is done mainly with an uncompromising rejection of the master race ideology, which divided the world into superior and inferior races and denied the principle of equality among human beings. We were placed at the bottom of the ladder of the Nazi ideology. Would this ideology not have been criminal had we been ranked in the upper rungs?

An ideology that divides the world into those who are worth more and those who are worth less, into superior and inferior beings, does not have to reach the dimensions of the German genocide to be improper and wrong - the apartheid in South Africa, for example.

Thirty-eight years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian nation have accustomed generations of Israelis to regard the Palestinians as inferior, and therefore not as deserving as we are. But hush, one must not say that out loud, because Israelis will raise an indignant cry: "How can you compare?"

In the same way, it is forbidden to demand of us - with diplomatic threats - to change our ways. Because then we will remind them of our people who were murdered.

This widely covered event shows that Israel has turned the liquidation of Europe's Jews into an asset. Our murdered relatives are being enlisted to enable Israel to continue not giving a damn about international decisions against the occupation. The suffering our parents endured in the ghettoes and concentration camps that filled Europe, the physical and mental anguish and torment that our parents were subjected to every single day since the "liberation," are used as weapons to thwart any international criticism of the society we are creating here. This is a society with built-in discrimination on the basis of nationality, and the discrimination is spreading on either side of the Green Line. This is a society that is systematically continuing to banish the Palestinian nation from its land and usurp its rights as a nation and its chances for a humane future.
Strong and moving words from the daughter of Holocaust survivors.


Rachel Corrie's family sues Israel, IDF, Caterpillar

Yesterday, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in the Haifa District Court against the State of Israel and the IDF. I wish them luck.

UPDATE (17 March 2005): It seems that the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar, Inc., on behalf of Rachel Corrie's parents. Again, I wish them all the success in the world. Unfortunately, it is impossible for either lawsuit to bring their daughter back to life. But maybe they can help save somebody's life in the future.


What the (bleep) do we know?

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll results show that 67 percent of those polled think that Iraqis are better off as a result of the war, and 74 percent of those polled think that Iraqis will be better off in the long run as a result of the US-led invasion. No disrespect to the pollees, but what the fuck do Americans know about whether Iraqis are better off or will be better off as a result of the war we started with them? Here are the requirements, I would think, for being able to answer that question with an answer that even approaches being worthwhile: (1) living in Iraq before the war and (2) living in Iraq after the war. I don't think too many of those people fell into the 1,001 randomly sampled adults in the US that took part in this poll. If anything, it speaks to the conclusions Americans draw from the information that we get, but little more than that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I (heart) Academic Freedom

There are two interesting reviews of the conference on the Middle East and Academic Integrity on the American Campus, one in the Jewish Week and one in the Forward. From the Jewish Week:
When [Phyllis] Chesler defended Israel’s actions regarding the 2002 battle in Jenin, one woman in the audience shouted, “We should have bombed them from the start,” referring to the Palestinian residents of Jenin.

“We should have killed them all,” a man yelled.

Another man in the audience, who turned out to be a member of the leftist group Jews Against the Occupation, rose to ask a question, prefacing his remarks by saying that he had once been shot by the Israeli army.

He was drowned out by a sea of invectives.

“Too bad they missed,” shouted a young man with a denim shirt.

Another man added, “They should have shot you in the head.”

Members of the press, who sat in an easily recognizable section of the room, were not immune from the harsh words.

Several reporters were approached numerous times by angry audience members demanding that they identify themselves.

“I want to know who you are,” one man told a freelance reporter, wagging his finger near the reporter. “I want to see how your obvious bias affects your reporting.”

The Jewish Week’s reporter was approached with similar demands for identification and was flash-photographed repeatedly by a woman in the audience. When asked to stop, the woman said, “We’re taking pictures of you. We want to know who you are.”

A New York Times photographer, taking photos of the silenced dissenter from Jews Against the Occupation leaving the room, was surrounded by a large group of people telling her to put down her camera.

“You have no right to do this,” one woman yelled, waving her hand in the photographer’s face.

Another man said, “It’s our event, not his. Don’t distort it like the Times always does.”

The photographer left the auditorium.
Wow, I just love open discussion, free debate, and all the other hallmarks of academic freedom (like bullying the press, shouting down dissenters, etc.). Here's what the Forward had to say:
"I have to take serious issue with many of the statements made here today," said Ariel Beery, one of the students whose protests helped launch the Columbia furor. Beery is co-founder of Columbians for Academic Freedom, which helped produce and distribute a documentary film alleging that Arab professors bullied pro-Israel students.

"Much of what has been said today is not only unproductive, it is counterproductive," Beery said. "Anything that is said in order to disparage or to generalize or to characterize some type of people is wrong."

The students drew angry shouts from an audience that had applauded their arrival onstage moments earlier. Their appearance was billed as a question-and-answer session, but the students were cut off by the organizers after just a few minutes....

The conference was titled, "The Middle East and Academic Integrity on the American Campus," but of the 21 listed speakers, only four work on an American campus.

The Columbia students were the only speakers during the day to dissent with other presenters. They were also the only members of the Columbia campus community listed in the printed program....

One of the sharpest-edged speeches came right at the end, from the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein. "There is no occupation," Klein said, referring to Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza.
Apparently, Beery was uncomfortable with certain speakers and with situations like the one described by the Jewish Week above and by the Forward here:
When Chesler was talking about the ethics of the Israeli army, one person called out that he had been shot by Israeli soldiers, but members of the audience yelled, "Get out" and the boos from the audience drowned out the questioner. Later in the day, a protester rose to leave the room, with duct tape over his mouth. As he walked out of the room, many booed, and one man yelled, "Maggot."
Understandable, though I don't know why Beery, who has no problem doing legwork for Daniel Pipes and his Campus Watch group, would find anything here that would upset his sensibilities. Whatever it is, though, I can't say I feel too much sympathy for him and the other students. You'd think Columbia students would be smart enough to realize that this would be the logical outcome of their actions.


Sasson Report; also, Israel and Iran

First things first, I located the summary of Talia Sasson's report on settlement outposts online. Unfortunately, the summary is 108 pages! Actually, though, if you save it (it is a .doc file, so it's not difficult to work with) and reduce the font size to 12 point throughout and single space it, you can get it below 50 pages. It certainly is a fascinating read and not too difficult (only difficult to stomach).

Also, according to a Sunday Times of London report, Israel has drawn up preliminarly plans for a combined air and ground attack aimed at crippling Iran's nuclear capabilities.
The newspaper said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his inner cabinet had given "initial authorization" for a unilateral attack on Iran at a private meeting last month....

"If all efforts to persuade Iran to drop its plans to produce nuclear weapons should fail, the U.S. administration will authorize Israel to attack," the paper quoted an Israeli security source as saying.
However, any action by Israel I think would have to be precipitated by a change of some kind. I think this could happen if (a) the budget doesn't pass and Netanyahu comes to power or if (b) Sharon actually attempts to follow through on the disengagement plan and things go horrendously bad, as certain indications prove that they might. In such a case, in order to divert attention from that kind of internal fracturing, a war might be just the thing to reforge national unity.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Strange headline

The Guardian has done a very strange job of headlining (and subheading) it's foreign press review of coverage of the killing of Aslan Maskhadov last week. The Guardian headline reads: "The prospects for peace in Chechnya: Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen separatist leader, was killed by Russian special forces last week. Could his death bring peace to war-torn Chechnya?" All in all, the headline/subhead gives a certain impression of hope. Meanwhile, the snipets included in the piece (and press coverage in general) almost universally declared that this would either have little to no effect on the Russo-Chechen conflict with things continuing along their current dismal path, or (and this seemed even more widely reported) that the killing of Maskhadov was a significant blow to the already-grim prospects for a peaceful settlement.


Climate Change Photos

The Guardian has some nice photos up on its page of "a 360-degree view of climate change."



Yitzhak Laor is his usual self in an editorial in Ha'aretz today. If you feel like I do, that's a good thing. Starting from the debate over Yigal Amir's (Rabin's assassin) right to conjugal visits, Laor embarks on a condemnation of the Israeli justice system that sets up two parallel systems: one for "security" prisoners and one for "criminal" prisoners.
Let's say this openly: In all these places, the system (police, State Prosecutor's Office, the Prison Services) is accustomed to clearly discriminating between Jews and Arabs.
Laor points to the discrepancies between the attention to Amir's conjugal visits and the "rights" of other "security" prisoners.
How many of the 5,000 Prison Services "security prisoners" have committed crimes as severe as that of Amir - i.e., homicide? How many of them get to go out on leave? Not one. How many of them receive family visits? For years, "security prisoners" from the territories have not seen their children, their wives, their fathers or their mothers. Never mind "conjugal visits."
Laor also laments the use of a parallel judicial system to literally let settlers get away with murder (as long as the victim is Palestinian).

Meanwhile, Mahmud Abbas is spending political capital right and left, even (according to a report in the newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat) putting feelers out about abandoning the right of the refugees to return. In the meantime, Israel is saying that it will turn security control of a few West Bank cities and towns over to the PA "soon" (oh yeah, this deal was worked out weeks ago now) and saying that the "unauthorized" outposts (who needs authorization when you have funding?) will be dismantled but "not just now" (according to a conversation between Ariel Sharon and Kofi Annan). Everybody's going to just have to wait until after the disengagement plan. Which is going to have to wait until after the budget is passed. Wait and wait and wait some more. And then they'll get around to it. "Soon."

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