Thursday, March 24, 2005


Archbishop Oscar Romero

Today is the 25th anniversary of the assassination of El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. The world surely misses him and is direly in need of more people like him (and less like the pope). On ZNet, Marc Chmiel, a professor of theology at St. Louis University, draws on the memories of Oscar Romero and Rachel Corrie in an impassioned plea that a voice of morality emerge and that it be heard. Chmiel writes:
In the last election, much was made of Republican religiosity and some voters’ insistence on the primacy of moral values. Yet I think that in the very different lives of an Oscar Romero and a Rachel Corrie, we can discern, not a shared religiosity (marked by ritual, doctrine, and in-group identifications) but a shared set of moral values, a kind of social spirituality that is manifested in a solidarity with the victimized and the daring to stand up to their victimizers.

We are now moving into our third year of the war in Iraq. May we cross borders and boundaries and go where we are not supposed to go. May we hear the anguish of those who are being maimed and murdered by this filthy, rotten war. May we remain human in the dire circumstances ahead. And may more of us find our voice, like Oscar Romero’s, to intone, “Stop the repression!” and Rachel Corrie’s, to insist, “This has to stop.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Honest Brokers?

Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. According to this article from the Forward, a bill restricting money from the US to Palestinians that was passed so that aid money would not go directly to the PA was hammered out so as to reach a "compromise" ... between AIPAC and Tom DeLay!
According to well-positioned sources, members of the appropriations subcommittee tapped Esther Kurz, who directs Aipac's legislative department, to broker compromise language that would satisfy DeLay's demands while allowing the administration to have the money. Aipac, up to that point, had only been marginally involved in the Palestinian aid package. Now it was requested to exert its authority on Israel-related issues and to broker compromise language.
When AIPAC is brought in to compromise, you know the Palestinians are screwed!


Complete Closure of West Bank and Gaza Over Easter

Israel has decided to enforce a complete closure of the occupied territories for the next five days. The stated reason is to ensure that there are no terrorist attacks during the Jewish holiday of Purim. However, it also means that no Palestinians will be able to travel to Jerusalem for Easter celebrations this Sunday (not to mention the thousands of Palestinian laborers and merchants who travel to Israel to work).


What American Jews Think of Israel

This isn't exactly breaking news (it made headlines a little over two weeks ago with articles in Ha'aretz , Arab News, the Forward and elsewhere) but I just checked out the actual results of the 2004 National Survey of American Jews (in MS Word document format). The results are very interesting to look through, but one thing that really struck me was that in response to the statement "Israel occupies lands that belong to another people", the responses broke down like this: 2% "strongly agree"; 11% "agree"; 22% are "not sure"; 34% "disagree"; and 31% "strongly disagree". It seems to me that there is a fundamental refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation here.

I am strongly of the opinion that if there is going to be a change in the foreign policy of the United States toward Israel (e.g., more restrictions on aid, an attention to human rights for Palestinians, etc.) it needs to happen with the American Jewish community on board, and not in defiance of them. However, there can be no successful movement involving people who refuse to acknowledge the fundamentals of the situation. It's not that you have to get every American Jew to reject Zionism or anything like that. But to think that only 13 percent of those surveyed even somewhat agreed that the West Bank and Gaza were occupied territories! This seems to me a rejection of the very basis of a two-state solution. This seems to me a rejection of the basic foundation of the claims of the Palestinians, claims to a sovereign state, to an end to military rule, to an end to occupation! If there is no "occupation" in the minds of at least 65 percent of those polled, how do you convince somebody with that mindset that the occupation is a bad thing. There is no common ground on which to stand.

This is a bit upsetting to me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Disengagement/Budget/Referendum Mess Gets Even More Tangled

OK, so I thought I was pretty on top of things in terms of the upcoming Israeli budget decision coming up. But now, a whole new monkeywrench has been thrown into the mix. A referendum on the disengagement from Gaza, which Sharon previously opposed, has now been tied to the budget by the Likud "rebels", such that their support will allow for the budget to pass in committee (but not necessarily in the Knesset as a whole). And now, Shas, which previously had opposed a referendum and the budget (I think I have that right) is now offering support for the referendum (but maybe not the budget?). Of course, this will affect the way that the other "undecided" parties are going to view the budget as well. Those who may have supported the budget in order to pave the way toward disengagement will see the referendum as essentially a stall tactic that may just nix the disengagement plan. And that would be bad, because they certainly would be opposed to the budget if its passage was not linked directly to the disengagement plan. The essence of this agreement, then, is that Sharon thinks that he can count on some right-wing parties who support the referendum (and not the disengagement plan) and in general feel more comfortable with the budget more than he would like to have to count on the left-wing and Arab parties. No real shock there, of course, given Sharon's political leanings, but I think it should serve as a reminder to all those who think that the disengagement is already a done deal, that there is nothing that can stop it, that it will set off a process of settlement removal that is irreversible--I think it should as a reminder that this is not the case. Nothing is set in stone.


Fereidoun Mahdavi

And you thought they couldn't find anybody shadier than Ahmad Chalabi? You thought wrong. From the American Prospect article to which Aunt Deb refered in her comment here:
The Prospect has learned that the true identity of “Ali” is Fereidoun Mahdavi, formerly the shah’s minister of commerce and, more importantly, the close friend and business partner of Ghorbanifar, legendary arms dealer, infamous intelligence fabricator, and central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal that almost brought down the Reagan administration. It was “Gorba,” as he was known back then to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, the rogue National Security Council officer, who lured the Reagan administration into secretly selling U.S. missiles to the Islamic regime in exchange for the release of Western hostages.

“I knew him to be a liar,” North eventually acknowledged. Robert McFarlane, the national-security adviser who approved the Iran-Contra arms trades, once described Ghorbanifar as “one of the most despicable characters I have ever met.”
Of course, as becomes clear over and over again, the current administration (and it's think-tank cohorts) don't care much for the character of their sources or the veracity of their claims, so long as they say what it is that they want to hear. As we also know, if their claims ultimately turn out to be exaggerated, falsified, unprovable -- well, at that point you just change the message. And then bully others who dare to "distract" the public from the American success story. The sweet smell of success.


A few words from Vladimir Nabokov

This is from Bend Sinister, the first novel that Nabokov wrote in America. It is spoken by the Professor of Modern History (this is why one loves Nabokov, I suppose, if one chooses to love Nabokov):
As with so many phenomena of time, recurrent combinations are perceptible as such only when they cannot affect us any more--when they are imprisoned so to speak in the past, which is the past just because it is disinfected. To try to map our tomorrows with the help of data supplied by our yesteryears means ignoring the basic element of the future which is its complete non-existence. The giddy rush of the present into this vacuum is mistaken by us for a rational movement.

Monday, March 21, 2005


A few words from Joan Didion

The following is a passage from Joan Didion's book Political Fictions, specifically from the chapter entitled "Political Pornography," which was originally published in the New York Review of Books on 19 September 1996 under the title "The Deferential Spirit":
The genuflection toward "fairness" is a familiar newsroom piety, in practice the excuse for a good deal of autopilot reporting and lazy thinking but in theory a benign ideal. In Washington, however, a community in which the management of news has become the single overriding preoccupation of the core industry, what "fairness" has often come to mean is a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured. Such institutionalized events as a congressional hearing or a presidential trip will be covered with due diligence, but the story will vanish the moment the gavel falls, the hour Air Force One returns to Andrews. "Iran-contra" referred exclusively, for many Washington reporters, to the hearings.

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