Friday, June 24, 2005


A perfect parking space for the peace process

Daniel Levy has a depressing, but accurate in my view, take on the Gaza disengagement plan in today's Ha'aretz. He calls his piece "after Gaza, more Gaza" -- basically illustrating the way in which the refusal to deal with any of the serious issues stemming from the Gaza disengagement (some previously mentioned here) by Sharon has set up an opportunity for the "disengagement" to continue ad infinitum even after the settlers have been evacuated.
The Gaza and northern West Bank disengagement is complicated, very complicated. It throws up a host of issues that are only now being addressed and coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, despite the 18 months of lead time. These are weighty and important issues: ensuring the free flow of goods between Gaza and external markets, Gaza and the West Bank, and Gaza and Israel; arrangements for the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt, the Philadelphi route, as well as the territorial link between Gaza and the West Bank; defining the legal status of post-withdrawal Gaza; access of Gazan laborers to Israel - and the list goes on.

Having started (intentionally?) dealing with these issues so late, they will never be resolved in the 53 remaining days. A committee is needed, and not just one committee but a steering committee with many sub-committees. Its work can take weeks, months, perhaps even years. You want a peace process after Gaza, you got it. Israelis and Palestinians will meet, in hotels, in European capitals, over hummus, over croissants. "After Gaza, more Gaza."

The tactic is politically convenient. It can provide the glue for maintaining the governing coalition and avoid elections; it muzzles any prospective Israeli opposition and public debate on what comes next; it defers more concerted international engagement, and may even catch the Palestinian leadership off balance. A perfect parking space for the peace process. The tactic gives Sharon his desired time-out from any serious political process or the need to tackle the difficult questions for which he either has no answers or risks being exposed as the unreasonable naysayer.
It fits perfectly with Sharon's history of manipulating the "peace process" to avoid dealing with both the Palestinian question and with domestic considerations. You can't bail on him in the middle of a crisis can you? And what is more of a crisis than the Gaza disengagement, which involves the Palestinians, the settlers, border issues, etc. And so the Palestinian fears of "Gaza first and Gaza last" may be replaced with "Gaza first and Gaza forever." And the U.S., of course, will insist that it can't rush Israel in the process of making painful concessions. And the longer it takes, the more Gaza becomes a powderkeg, the more attacks from Palestinians there will be, the more the Israeli and U.S. governments and right-wing echo chambers will clamor about how "this is what happens when you give the Palestinians anything (land, territorial control, etc.), when you try to appease terrorists" and on and on and all the same old bullshit.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Supreme Court Decision and Radio Show

I must say I'm a bit taken aback by the Supreme Court decision allowing local governments to seize people's homes so that the property can be used as part of private development initiatives. It just seems so ... (dare I say it?)... un-American! Ha! No, rather, I just think that it seems absolutely an affront to private property rights. I am a bit suspicious to begin with of the government being able to take private property for use in state projects, but that's something I'm willing to live with. But this just seems so purely and simply against the individual property owner. Sandra Day O'Conner put it nicely in her dissenting opinion.
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
Once again The Man steps all over the little guy.

In other news, you might want to listen to the radio show that I do with my friend David tonight, 10 pm to 12 midnight (EST), on WMUC. You can tune in here, view previous playlists here, and even download the show and listen to it after the fact here (click or download the files titled "Terrapin_Sexxxpress_2200.mp3" and "Terrapin_Sexxxpress_2300.mp3" -- you can listen to last week's show if you click on those same files before the show tonight)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Avi Shlaim in the Guardian

Oxford historian Avi Shlaim holds back no scorn in his op-ed in the Guardian regarding Condoleezza Rice's visit to the Middle East, specifically with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here's how he starts off:
Condoleezza Rice hailed the understanding between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the need to destroy the homes of the 8,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza as a historic step on the road to peace. This is a fatuous statement by one of the most vacuous US secretaries of state of the postwar era.
Tell us how you really feel, Avi! Definitely a spirited read. I love it.


HRW Report

Here is the link, as promised, to the Human Rights Watch report on Israeli military "investigations" (and the lack thereof).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Global warming and Bush

I must say that I really enjoyed reading the recent three-part series on climate change in the New Yorker over the past couple months (unfortunately the articles aren't up online -- they may have been at one time when the articles first came out, but the New Yorkers certainly arrives faster than I can read it, so who knows). The articles reiterated the scientific evidence for human involvement in climate change and convinced me at least that global warming is a serious problem and we better start taking it seriously (as a nation, seeing as how the U.S. is by far the greatest producer in the world of greenhouse emissions) and very soon if we want to avoid potentially disastrous climate changes in the future. Here is an online interview with Elizabeth Kolbert, the author of the three articles, on the New Yorker website. Here also is an article from the Christian Science Monitor regarding a leaked document that is illustrative of the Bush administration's refusal to let science stand in the way of business.
The documents show that Washington officials:

# Removed all reference to the fact that climate change is a 'serious threat to human health and to ecosystems';

# Deleted any suggestion that global warming has already started;

# Expunged any suggestion that human activity was to blame for climate change.

Among the sentences removed was the following: 'Unless urgent action is taken, there will be a growing risk of adverse effects on economic development, human health and the natural environment, and of irreversible long-term changes to our climate and oceans.'
But wait, you'll say, this may just indicate a reasonable skepticism of the science on the part of the Bush administration, that has absolutely nothing to do with business, so why did you bring that up?
News of the leaked documents comes the week after Exxon Mobil announced that Peter Cooney, chief of staff of the Bush administration's Council on Environmental Quality, would soon resign his position with the White House and work for Exxon.

Although Mr. Cooney said the move had been long planned, it came to light two days after The New York Times and the Government Accountability Project reported that he had "made changes [during final editing] in several government climate change reports that were issued in 2002 and 2003." The changes "consistently played down the certainty of the science surrounding climate change."
And so the refrain of the Bush administration ("Fuck your kids, fuck your future, we're going to make some money now so just sit down and shut up") is sung out once again, loud and clear in a belting tenor.


Who said that?

It's time for a new game. It's called "Who said that?" It's pretty self explanatory. Let's play, shall we?
"The Muslim Brotherhood committed 9/11 through its offshoots. All of them, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Gemal Islamiya, are offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood," he claimed. "There is no such thing as a moderate Islamist."
Alrighty, everyone, WHO SAID THAT? Was it (a) Daniel Pipes (b) Barry Rubin (c) Martin Kramer or (d) Ahmed Abul Gheit.

SPOILER! OK, I'm giving away the answer -- it's (d) Ahmed Abul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister. This is the explanation given for why you can't allow free and open elections. That's the damn thing about democracy, isn't it, once you have it then you have 9/11 perpetrators in office. Is that what you want? Of course it isn't, which is why Condi didn't say a peep about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.


IDF "investigations"

Human Rights Watch will be releasing a report this week (according to Ha'aretz -- I will try to throw a link up when it is released) on the IDF's pattern of failing to take accountability for its actions against Palestinians, including unarmed civilians. Not only does the IDF investigate only about 5 percent of reported Palestinian civilian deaths, but the investigation process is subject to pressure from the military command (often pressure that results in no investigation taking place at all), that the investigation process is almost totally closed off to the injured parties. Furthermore, the IDF investigation (or lack thereof) is the last and only word on the subject.
The report notes that, in contrast with Mexico or Ireland, there is no national human rights institution in Israel that accepts complaints pertaining to human rights violations. In contrast with Turkey, Colombia and the Russian Federation, Israel is not subject to the judgment of a regional court in matters of human rights.
Then of course, there's the few times that IDF soldiers are found to have been to blame for the death of an unarmed Palestinian civilian. Even in these few cases, the results are hardly satisfactory -- if anything they are insulting.
A soldier was convicted of killing a 16-year-old Palestinian boy named Mohammed Ali Said. The punishment: two months in prison and a demotion in rank. A soldier stole a cellular phone, a cigarette lighter and $500 in cash. The punishment: six months in prison. Conscientious objectors were sentenced to 12 months in prison. According to statistics gathered by human rights organizations in Israel, from the beginning of the intifada until May 22, 2005, the IDF opened 108 investigations of deaths or injuries of Palestinians, which yielded 19 indictments and six convictions. Two soldiers were convicted of manslaughter, two were convicted of causing serious injury, and two were convicted of illegal use of weapons. The most severe sentence in these cases was 20 months in prison.
As the Human Rights Watch report notes, this kind of treatment builds an atmosphere of impunity, where the IDF soldier believes that the killing of unarmed Palestinian civilians is of no consequence. Notably, Israel defends its behavior by pointing to, guess who, the United States.
The IDF invokes the behavior of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, and claims that the system cannot contend with the practical difficulties of investigating such a large number of cases of deaths of civilians in the territories. The report notes a resemblance in the behavior of the American army and that of the IDF in the territories, but advises Israel to follow the example of nations like the United Kingdom, Canada and Belgium, which have reformed their military judicial systems to integrate external systems of judgment and enforcement.


Israeli survey results

In a survey conducted by Sami Smooha within Israel, it seems that a large majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel are willing to accept Israel as a Jewish state but cannot accept Israel as a Zionist state.
According to the results, while 70 percent of Israeli Arabs are able to accept Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, only 13.8 percent agree to the concept of Israel as a Zionist state. Over 72 percent believe that "Israel as a Zionist state, in which Jews and Arab live together, is racist."
This of course differs with the general concept of Palestinian citizens of Israel as a fifth column just waiting to be on the front lines as the Arab hordes push the Jews into the sea. And while some 75 percent of Israeli Jews pay lip service to "equal citizen[ship] with full rights" for Palestinian citizens of Israel, this distrustful attitude and question of dual loyalty looms large:
Some 80 percent of the Jewish respondents, however, said that an Israel Arab who defines himself as "a Palestinian Arab in Israel cannot be loyal to the state and its laws."
And thus the contradiction -- how can one be allowed "full rights" if one cannot be afforded the right to one's identity?

Monday, June 20, 2005


War on Terrorism Update: From Today's News

Condi is taking a little trip around the Middle East, talking the democratic talk. In the meantime, though, U.S. actions (or in some cases, failure to take action) continue to see results that are not exactly promising. In Afghanistan, the first country the U.S. invaded after 9/11, the Guardian reports that "al-Qa`ida militants raise fears of Taliban resurgence." Meanwhile, the news from Iraq continues to feature attacks by insurgents resulting in more dead and wounded. Today's attack: "At Least 16 Iraqis Killed in Suicide Car Bombing" (Washington Post). Meanwhile, in Israel/Palestine, Danny Rubinstein warns of "The third intifada" that is brewing in the current conditions -- conditions that the U.S. policy toward Sharon (giving him a free hand in terms of building the wall in the West Bank and continue settlement expansion there as long as he continues to talk about "disengagement from Gaza") and Abbas (asking him to take politically costly actions, such asking for an enforcing a cease-fire, while providing him relatively little in terms of accomplishments that would boost his political capital) have in no small part induced. Of course, one might induce from this news that occupation does not solve the problem of terrorism/political violence and, indeed, serves only to inflame it. But of course we must stay the course, we can't give in to the terrorists, and all that crap.


Snail on hand. (photo by my dad)


Fresco, San Pellegrino, Bominaco, Italy. (photo by my dad)

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