Thursday, April 30, 2009

"...they are animals"

Here is something to trouble any decent person: the dire situation of Roma in East Europe, especially in Hungary:

From Sign and Sight:

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 28.04.2009

Markus Bauer looks at anti-Roma sentiment in Eastern Europe, and in particular in Hungary where the situation is critical: "The ombudsman for minority rights, Ernö Kallai, is talking about a 'cold war'. The already struggling government wants to speed up a new law against incitement of racial hatred, which the opposition is only grudgingly backing. Hungarians cling over zealously to their beloved freedom of speech and the simplistic anti-Roma discourse has spread like wildfire. The once liberal newspaper Magyar Hirlap has transformed into a far-right pamphlet under the new ownership, a home to columnists who write things like: "They (the Roma) are not human beings, they are animals.'"

Monday, April 27, 2009

A celebration of tolerance and dignity

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay summed up the Durban II conference on Friday by calling it "a celebration of tolerance and dignity for all."

A reminder:

Durban II: The UN Platform for
  • Undermining the West and democracy
  • Promoting anti-semitism
  • Demonizing Israel as racist
  • Foiling efforts to combat radical Islamic terrorism
  • Manufacturing Islamophobia everywhere
  • Fomenting religious extremism
  • Curbing free expression
This celebration included the speech by notorious Holocaust denier and would be genocider, Mahmoud Ahmanideinjad, addressed, ironically, to the other seekers of human rights and justice on Holocaust Memorial day:

" A kind of racism that has tarnished the image of humanity ... The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces." And Jews control the media! And the major world powers! "Cultural endeavors are not enough. Efforts must be made to put an end to efforts made by Zionists and their supporters. ... Governments must be encouraged in their efforts and their fights to eradicate this barbaric racism."

This speech apparently was "tempered down" for the sake of the conference. A triumphant Mahmoud returned to Tehran and gave there the speech that he would have liked to give:

"Wherever we want to visit and at every conference in which we participate, they [the Western countries] say: 'Who do you want to criticize? [You can] criticize the U.S., Europe, the [Second] World War, the Vietnam War, or the Korean War, but you must not criticize the Zionists.' The people of the West fabricated what is known as the Holocaust and Zionism, and they have sanctified it and placed it at the top of all holy beliefs. They have all united around it, and by hoisting the banner of Zionism, while using violence and aggression, spreading civil strife, and [perpetrating] Zionist crimes, they have taken over the world and wish to rule it.

"I say to them: 'In your countries, you permit [even] the affronting of the divine prophets, the holy of holies of the world.' They respond by saying: 'That's freedom of speech.' But when it comes to [the issue of] the Zionists, they say: 'Shut up, and don't utter a word.' They [the Western countries] have fabricated an idol called Zionism, which they worship and want to force all the nations to worship.

"I declare from [this pulpit] that this idol of Zionism must be shattered in order to save humanity...(1) They must know that the free nations, the Iranian nation, and the people of Eslamshahr will not tolerate this modern idol-worshiping, that they will shatter this idol with force... Indeed, they have already shattered this idol.

"A journalist asked me: 'Do you still want to export your revolution?' I said to him: 'Iran's revolution has already been exported. The world's nations chant the slogans of the Iranian nation, and talk about brotherhood, justice, and peace, and about the confrontation with oppression and with the crimes of the Zionists. The Islamic Revolution of Iran has already been exported. Can't you see that? Can't you discern that? If you go to America, [you will see] that there too people chant the slogans of the Iranian nation."(2)

When Himmler made his famous speech in Posen, he still had some sense of shame about what he was instructing:

I shall speak to you here with all frankness of a very serious subject. We shall now discuss it absolutely openly among ourselves, nevertheless we shall never speak of it in public. I mean the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish race.

It is one of those things which is easy to say. 'The Jewish race is to be exterminated,' says every party member. 'That's clear, it's part of our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination, right, we'll do it.'"

Clearly, Ahmadinejad is not constrained even by Himmler's standards.

This Himmlerian celebration of tolerance and dignity, which UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has endorsed with such unreserved warmth will join other days that live in eternal infamy.

One wonders, these people, have they no shame?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Seven songs that make a spring

I've been tagged by the New Centrist with this meme:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

So here is the list I compiled for New Centrist:

Summer wine

Moliendo cafe

Cuando la tarde languidece
Renacen las sombras
Y en la quietud los cafetales
Vuelven a sentir
Que son triste canción de amor
De la vieja molienda
Que en el letargo de la noche
Parece decir.

Una pena de amor, una tristeza
Lleva el sambo Manuel en su amargura
Pasa incansable la noche
Moliendo café.

Summertime (Here is the original of this version) but any version of Summertime is fine with me


Sweet Caroline

Where it began, I can't begin to know when
But then I know it's growing strong

Oh, wasn't the spring, whooo

And spring became the summer

Who'd believe you'd come along

Hands, touching hands, reaching out

Touching me, touching you...

It's a small world after all (this one dedicated to New Centrist, as he is expecting his first baby)

Shall we dance tango

I'm tagging: Selma, and any other six visitors to my blog who wish to participate... (my blog has recently been flooded by practically thousands of hits, the source of which I cannot find, so among these thousands surely there are a few real people who might be interested in sharing their songs with us).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Literary Excellence

Terry Glavin, whom I mentioned once or twice on my blog, "has been named winner of the 2009 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence."

The reason for awarding him this honour is cited as :"for having "an extraordinarily holistic vision that ... shows us a world where culture and nature, human aspiration, natural beauty, language, history and social justice are inextricably intertwined."

I can only judge from what I read about the man and from his own political writings, but I can say this: He is authentic and his nimble facility with words is put at the service of accurate reporting and well-argued positions. He does not shy away from calling a spade a spade and that is a rare quality in journalists and writers these days. His judgment I trust, even when I disagree with some of his avowed objects of admiration (such as Slavoj Zizek).

This is his most recent book: Lost & Left Behind.

Terry Glavin, more recently, reached nearly global fame (or notoriety, depending on your point of view) when he challenged Christopher Hitchens' account of the Galloway kerfuffle. As usual, when you speak from cognition, having gone to some trouble to dig out the sequence of events and facts that comprise a news story, your account cannot be waved away by mere rhetorical flourishes*. Faced with the evidence, Hitchens graciously admitted a week later:

In my last column, it seems I may have done an injustice to the government and people of Canada in the matter of George Galloway's canceled visit to that country. For elucidation, please consult the following blog post."

I get the feeling that Terry is embarrassed by accolades and paeans so I'll stop right here. And just wish him continued successes and many happy returns of such honours.


* This statement made by some Canadian poster on some obscure message board exemplifies the sort of blithe ignorance I speak about here:

"We even kept that kooky British Member of Parliament out of here even though he got to make a speech in New York."

Of course no one kept Galloway out of Canada. It is the story that never happened but why be troubled by mere facts when the imagined reality is so much more convenient to one's way of thinking?

Represented in such an opinion is the cliche type of knowledge that can be gained from reading only what appeals and fits your worldview, happily oblivious of where the truth actually lies.

Ahmadinejad's glorious moment at Geneva: nothing but peace in his heart

Eye on the UN reports:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance in Geneva Monday at the UN's so-called anti-racism conference, Durban II, made the point better than anyone else. The UN's idea of combating racism and xenophobia is to encourage more of it. Ahmadinejad was the very first speaker as the substantive session opened. Handed a global megaphone by the UN, out flowed unadulterated hate speech.

Watch a video here

The comment by Mark S. Devenow is worth repeating here:

It’s almost amusing (if not entirely funny) to watch this little weasel preaching to his rump caucus of third and fourth world flunkies and satraps for various despotisms and arrantly corrupt, expensively clothed UN bureaucrats. Of this menagerie of anti-semites much might be said, but the word “hypocrisy” hasn’t fulfilled its meaning until the video appears as caption to it in the dictionary. The spectacle of representatives for countries whose denizens appear to be about two weeks away from swinging from trees is, if not merely appalling, something to behold with a sense of humor. Watching this little moron rant to the fulsome cheers and applause offered reminds me that what passes for civilization is indeed only skin deep.

This sentiment I fully share, as the quote from Ortega y Gasset at the top of my blog attests:

"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done."

Hungary: Raising the Golem

From sign and Sight:

poet Akos Györffy has some ideas about where Hungary's hatred of Roma, Jews and gays is heading: "All the petty anti-Roma, anti-Semitic and anti-gay verbal abuse will roll into something much bigger than anyone can imagine – and this will happen at precisely the moment when all the homosexual, Jew and Roma-baiters start washing their hands or crawling into quiet corners and claiming that they had nothing to do with it all. If there is a moral crisis in this country, and there certainly is, then all the Jew, Roma and homosexual abuse, which over the last two decades have been expressed in industrial proportions, has precipitated it. The fruit is gradually ripening and blood has already been spilled. All the foul and cowardly talk has collected and formed into a Golem which is now setting out on its terrifying way. Wherever he goes, it leaves a trail of bodies behind it, fathers and sons filled with bullets, teachers and old women battered to death. We have made this Golem with our words. He needed us to come into life, and we were only too willing to help."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lurid Analogies:

Via: But I am a Liberal comes this:

"The American taxpayers are the Jews to Obama's ovens"

"Obama's plan - white slavery"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hitler's war of self-defense

(Via: Mick)

Egyptian MP Ragab Hilal Hamidah, on Al-Nas TV, explains what was really going on in World War II:

What Holocaust are they talking about? They are the epitome of corruption. I am speaking as a Muslim who has read in history books - even if I'm not an expert - that Hitler was defending his country against the conspiracies devised by Russia along with Serbia at the beginning of World War I.

Later they scorched Poland in World War II. Who did? The Jews. So [Hitler] was acting in self-defense.

What Holocaust? Everybody casts doubt on it.

There is no such thing as "Semites". We are the true Semitic nation, because we are the ones who belong to the true faith.

A rose by another name may not be a rose after all:

Persuant to
this, comes this:

The Obama administration has come under intense criticism for replacing the term "war on terror" with the emaciated euphemism "overseas contingency operations," and for referring to individual acts of terror as "man-caused disasters."

This semi-official attempt to disassociate the administration from the fierce rhetoric favored by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney has enraged Americans on both the right and left. Many feel that such vaporous bureaucratese is a self-emasculating action that plunges us into an Orwellian world where words have no emotional connection with the horrors they purport to describe.

Yet, if the intention of the Obama administration is to tone down the confrontational rhetoric being used by our enemies, the effort is already reaping results. This week, in a pronounced shift from its usual theatrical style, the Taliban announced that it will no longer refer to its favorite method of murder as "beheadings," but will henceforth employ the expression "cephalic attrition." "Flayings" -- a barbarously exotic style of execution that has been popular in this part of the world since before the time of Alexander -- will now be described as "unsolicited epidermal reconfigurations." In a similar vein, lopping off captives' arms will now be referred to as "appendage furloughing," while public floggings of teenaged girls will from here on out be spoken of as "metajudicial interfacing."

A Taliban spokesman reached in Pakistan said that the new phrasing was being implemented as a way of eliminating the negative associations triggered by more graphic terminology. "The term 'beheading' has a quasi-medieval undertone that we're trying to get away from," he explained. "The term 'cephalic attrition' brings the Taliban into the 21st century. It's not that we disapprove of beheadings; it's just that the word no longer meshes with the zeitgeist of the era. This is the same reason we have replaced the term 'jihad' with 'booka-bonga-bippo,' which has a more zesty, urban, youthful, 'now' feel. When you're recruiting teenagers to your movement, you don't want them to feel that going on jihad won't leave any time for youthful hijinks."

Central Asia is not the only place where the coarse terminology of the past is being phased out. In Darfur, the words "ethnic cleansing" are no longer in use, either by rebels nor by the government itself. Instead, the practice of targeting a particular tribe or sect or ethnic group for extinction is being called "unconditional demographic redeployment." In much the same spirit, the archaic term "genocide" -- so broad and vague as to be meaningless -- has now been supplanted by "maximum-intensity racial profiling." (via: Norm)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Big surprise: The BBC is biased against Israel

"What happened today was the publication of a landmark decision. The highest level of the BBC’s complaints-handling structure - the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust - has ruled that Jeremy Bowen breached both the guideline on accuracy and that on impartiality..."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Comment trail:

@ The New Republic: a discussion of the Walzer and Margalit's article ( parts of which I translated for the benefit of those interested posters) in which a case is attempted to be made that IDF soldiers were following morally-flawed rules of engagement during the Gaza war. I outline my critique of the weaknesses of this case as it is presented by the two intellectuals.

@ The Magnes Zionist
: treats the same Michael Walzer and Avishai Margalit article, celebrating Walzer's condemnation as " carefully worded but uncompromising". I took issue with some of Mr. Haber's expressed positions, based on some peculiarly misleading interpretations of Hebrew slang terms and what not.


I'm going to park here my latest comment to the Magnes Zionist until such time as it makes through his moderation. He has already banned one poster because he didn't like his line of thinking, so I get the impression that Mr. Haber is not too tolerant of people disputing his truths.

"Mr. Haber,

I’m sorry to belabour the point. I get the feeling that you get very impatient with posters who take issue with your so confidently-stated accounts.

I took your advice and googled the term "lech-le-azza". It took a few attempts at different transcripts to get a substantial number of results. Here is what one of them says:

"Faced with attacks from the Gaza Strip since the early 1950s, Israelis were cursing “Lech le’Aza” – literally “go to Gaza” and figuratively “go to hell” –
years before their conquest of the coastal strip where their sworn enemies lived in the largest numbers and worst conditions. Now, as Israel leaves the Strip after nearly four decades of strategic disorientation, Gaza is showing no signs of shedding its dubious distinction as hell’s synonym. Indeed, a vast majority of Israelis – including ones who would not part with its Jewish settlements – woke up this morning happily Gaza-less. To them, this part of the surgery they have just undergone feels less like an amputation and more like the removal of a tumor. Though this rule has had its exceptions, on the whole when Israelis heard “Gaza” what came to mind was hostility, fanaticism, violence and irredeemable destitution. The place author Amos Elon once described as “the Middle East’s
armpit” was where most years, most Israelis would not go unarmed, if at all.
It was the sprawling maze of makeshift alleys, shanty towns and open sewage channels that two generations of Israelis patrolled incessantly and recall traumatically. It was the place that a succession of Israeli administrations tried, and failed, to rehabilitate;"

So your characterization of this colloquialism as a "double entendre" (the etymology of which you neglected to mention in your original post, leaving the reader with the impression that "lech le-azza" was a malign invention of the average Israeli mind, meant to express utter contempt, disregard, and indifference to the life of Gazan Palestinians) is indeed closer to the linguistic meaning. However, you fail to identify properly the rationale of this abbreviated form of "Lech le-azazel", namely, that the misery of the place had less to do with it than the fact that since the early fifties Gaza was the place from which terrorists infiltrated into Israel, always leaving behind death and destruction.

The ill wish conveyed in this expletive has more or less the same function as "Go to hell". People tell each "go to hell" when they hope their enemy will go to a place in which they will feel very uncomfortable and maybe even their life will be endangered. “Lech le-azza” has less to do with Gazza than with the fate that awaits Israelis should they attempt the excursion without protection.


@ Bob's: the thread on Hannah Arendt generated a long long comment exchange which I hesitate to call a discussion. By 'long long comment exchange" I mean a long thread with excruciatingly long comments left there by posters whose thought processes
I cannot begin to fathom, and whose staunch loyalty to historical revisionisms would not shame even Holocaust denial aficionados. One needs to read it to believe it.

@ Terry Glavin's about Galloway's banning from entering Canada - the story that never happened

Making bombs in a mosque

Palestinian security officials said on Sunday that they had found a Hamas bomb-making factory underneath a mosque in the occupied West Bank.

"Security forces found a bomb-making factory inside a mosque in Qalqiliya," an interior ministry statement said. "Many of the bombs were ready to use and many of them were of industrial grade."

A senior security official told AFP that Fatah-led Palestinian security forces had detained "many" people for questioning after the discovery, and said the "factory belongs to Hamas."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gunned down

Another murder in the series of murders committed by the Taliban in their war against women. Terry Glavin,
co-founder of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee reports:

Sitara Achakzai Is Dead.

Gunned down in Kandahar. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Achakzai, a prominent women's rights activist and Kandahar Provincial Council member, was one of the leaders of a nation-wide women's strike that coincided with International Women's Day last month.

Lauryn Oates of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, and my co-founder with the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee: "(In the Taliban statement) they used the words that she was involved in 'bad things' without elaborating on what exactly that meant. I think we can assume it just meant that she was a woman who worked outside her home and she was involved in politics with the government that they are opposing. So she was a worthy target for that reason."

Achakzai had received several death threats. She was planning to leave for a visit with family and friends in Canada on May 1.

Read it all, here.

In the meantime, we hear that "Pakistan's parliament on Monday passed a resolution on enforcing Shariah, or Islamic law, in the restive northwestern Swat valley.

The resolution will be followed by the signing of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

The Taliban militants have been fighting for the enforcement of Shariah law in Swat since 2007 by burning down girls' school, outlawing entertainment and clashing with security forces".

Pay close attention to Terry's concluding statement:

A blistering rebuke to the Obama Doctrine: There is no such thing as "moderate" Taliban.

Update: (Via Mick)

The Taleban in Afghanistan have publicly killed a young couple who they said had tried to have an illicit affair, officials say.

The man, 21, and woman, 19, were shot dead on Monday in front of a mosque in the south-western province of Nimroz....

Officials said the couple were traced by militants after they tried to go to Iran. They were made to return to their village in Khash Rod district.

"Three Taleban mullahs brought them to the local mosque and they passed a fatwa (religious decree) that they must be killed. They were shot and killed in front of the mosque in public," the governor said.

He said there were some reports that the families of the young couple could have links with the Taleban.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Obama and Obeisance

This story refuses to go away.

Did he or didn't he?

It appears increasingly obvious that he did and is now somewhat embarrassed about it. Why else would his acolytes pretend that it did not happen, or that what we saw was not what we saw?

Is Obama’s deep bow (with slightly bent knee) to the Saudi king as bad as it seems? The White House, apparently forgetful that we live in the Internet age, where everything is swiftly documented and disseminated — or else thinking it leads a nation of the blind — insists the president did not bow. He supposedly always bends in half when shaking hands with shorter people, though he certainly seemed quite erect when saluting the British queen, who is much shorter than the Saudi king.

Raymond Ibrahim
of Pajamas Media went exploring a bit about the historical meanings of a bow or a kiss and brings us some interesting insights:

Writing in the 5th century B.C., the Greek historian Herodotus explained: “When the Persians meet one another in the roads, you can see whether those who meet are of equal rank. For instead of greeting by words, they kiss each other on the mouth; but if one of them is inferior to the other, they kiss one another on the cheeks.”

This explanation reminds one of Bush’s hand-holding/kissing sessions with the same Saudi monarch, which some insist exonerate Obama’s bow. Not so; as the Greek historian explains above, such behavior is representative of equal rank in Eastern cultures.

As for Obama’s conduct, Herodotus continues, “yet if one is of much less noble rank than the other, he falls down before him and worships him.”

And then goes on to put the matter in the present context:

... Obama’s obeisance should give nuke-seeking Iran even more hope in its endeavors. After all, if the leader of the free West so readily bends the knee to Wahhabi despotism, how long before he bows to Iran, the true heir of proskunesis-Persia? ...

... any would-be “moderates” or assertive governments who may have been serious about combating radical Islam and its attendant humanitarian abuses via Sharia have, through Obama’s bow to the personification of radical Islam, just received a clear message: aside from occasional, perfunctory lip service, you’re really on your own.

...When Alexander the Great, drunk with hubris, took on despotic ways, demanding that others prostrate themselves before him, the Macedonians revolted; some were put to death. What a long way Western civilization has come when today the leader of the free world and heir to democratic ancient Greece, far from despotically demanding that others offer him obeisance, voluntarily opts to prostrate himself — and in essence, all of America — before another. And what another.

It is a strange affair and I have to wonder who it was that gave President Obama such bad advice. Could it be the same source responsible during Obama's campaign for Obama's nontraditional salute to the American anthem and flag?

When I first saw the clip, I thought the notion that Obama would bow to the Saudi king was so outlandish that for sure there must be some other explanation. Maybe his trouser leg rode up and he bent over to straighten it when he realized the king was already extending his hand. So he stopped right in the middle of bending down and awkwardly extended his hand. The whole thing is done pretty gauchely and Obama is usually a graceful man.

In which case, why did the White House spokesman offer his lame excuse for the incident?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Apparently, this is not a joke:

See here

Johannesburg - A mysterious campaign which states that the current skirt length of the majority of ladies restroom signs is too short, is attracting widespread interest, with people wondering who is behind it.

A half page advertisement for the so-called National Skirt Extension Project (NSEP) appeared in the Sunday Times over the weekend.

On its website,, the NSEP says that after extensive consultation, it has reached the conclusion that skirt lengths on the images on toilet doors are too short.

The website does not say who conducted the consultation process or who was interviewed, but does go on to say that, from now on, a new image with a longer dress should appear on toilet entrances.[-]

The Pretoria company which runs the website on behalf of those in charge of the campaign, is also not allowed to identify their client.

The website even suggests a sticker with the new skirt length to be added to the images with short shirts, where new, longer skirted images have not yet replaced old ones.

According to the website, all owners of public restrooms will in future be forced to install images with longer skirts.

Moral Priorities

Via: The Iconoclast

"Nour Hadid is accused of beating her 2-year-old niece Bhia Hadid to death over four days at her home on the 9000 block of West 140th Street. The child had 55 separate bruises and was beaten "from head to toe," according to prosecutors, who say Hadid confessed."

But what draws the ire of her husband and their circle of acquaintances?

"The Hadids are Muslims and Nour "never leaves the home without covering up," said Alaeddin, who's vowed to sue...

In the mug shot, a bare-headed and obviously emotional Nour appears to be protecting her modesty with her hands.

"It is against our religion; we do not do this in our culture," Alaeddin said.

"People have been calling me about this all day."

Remarkable: the woman beat a toddler to death over the period of four days but somehow this gets dwarfed by the much more urgent concern for her Islamic modesty. And this is happening not in some medieval theocracy but in
Great Britain the United States!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gaza first

A thought experiment, or a modest proposal?

Avi Trengo, an Israeli journalist, indulges in a momentary fantasy here:

Israel's current government is composed of persons whose worldview is more sober than that of their predecessors. They recognize the futility of the "peace process" (clueless European statesmen are enamoured with the term "process", but peace has not been advanced by it). Conversely, the clear-headed Right realizes that we must back away from dominating another people forever.

Netanyahu and Lieberman are holding in their hands the possibility of reversing the status quo. If Obama and the Europeans are so intent on the two-state solution, then, go ahead. Hamastan in Gaza can be regarded as a pilot scheme for a Palestinian state. Can it comply with the requisite conditions that would qualify it for gaining international recognition?

Israel can no longer afford to be perceived by the world at large as a peace rejectionist. Calls for economic boycotting of Israel gain momentum every day and in Europe many bodies implement a silent boycott. The one-state solution is being pushed by radical factions as the alternative to the two-state solution, which includes a no-win situation for Israel: allowing the vote to millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories, combined with the demographic increase of Israeli-Arabs, Israel will soon become a bi-national state.

This problem lead to Sharon's disengagement plan and turned him from one of the most hated leaders in the world to the darling of world leaders. Netanyahu and Lieberman can take the disengagement idea to its logical conclusion.

Israel should treat Gaza as a fully independent sovereign state, while putting to it and its neighbour to south (Egypt) clearly delineated conditions.

In order to forestall various complaints hurled against Israel, the economic disengagement between Israel and Gaza must be complete. You want independence? Take it, with all that it entails. No goods will pass from the Israeli side. There is no control, anyway, over what gets transported through the Philadelphi tunnels so that the reason for Israeli supervision for security reasons is no longer compelling.

Israel has become a laughing stock and was bombarded with condemnations when it imposed restrictions over the products that go through while a thriving smuggling trade, from pasta and soap to Hamas projectiles of any kind kept flowing through the tunnels. The solution is patently obvious: bring out the clandestine trade into the open and make simple demands to Egypt and the UN: They will both cooperate in disarming Gaza, in return for Israel withdrawing any claims over the Rafah border crossing.

Egypt and Gaza will manage the border crossings on their own. The tunnels will become redundant, as all legitimate trade will take place above board, flowing from Egypt into Gaza. Egypt's excuse that the tunnels are used for smuggling food, and Hamas' demands for removing the "blockade" will vanish.

Israel will issue a declaration insisting that any international player that wishes to be involved in the conflict will be required to acknowledge that Israel is no longer Gaza's occupier. Israel will call on the UN to look for solutions to the residential crowdedness in Gaza and to put an end to the "refugee" status of its inhabitants.

Egypt will have to consider allocating some of the area that stretches between Rafah and El-Arish to relieve the living space of Gazans.

This way, Gaza's dependence on Israel will come to an end immediately. No one will be able to complain that Israel does not allow in Palestinian patients, or that it does not facilitate the passage of activists in the strip, or that it bans money transfers. Go to Rafah. The Erez checkpoint is closed down.

Another bonus for Israel will be all those UN personnel and foreign correspondents who currently enjoy the good life in Jerusalem while on their periodical excursions into Gaza, they take the opportunity to make some Israel-bashing speech or write an anti-Israel article. They will have to move the center of their operations to El-Arish in Sinai.

Gaza will become a place in which the UN in Africa is active on the outskirts of the Egyptian government. When did you last see such a place at the centre of international attention?

Water and power infrastructures will be gradually transferred to facilities that will be built with Egypt's assistance. Israel should propose a tight schedule for the transfer. The world having pledged billions of dollars for the "rehabilitation of Gaza" should funnel some of these funds into the construction of these infrastructural facilities in Egypt and connecting them to Gaza.

Israel will commit to allowing the Gazans to build their own seaport in the next three years. There is no security risk involved. If the Hamas government should allow a Karin A type arms ship to dock at its port, the Israeli secret services will know how to deal with it. In return, Israel must ask to conclude the Shalit deal, while maintaining the principle of uni-lateralism. Israel will decide who will be released in return for the kidnapped soldier, and certainly those will have to be Gazan prisoners.

Thus the Islamic state of Gaza will be launched and the world will judge if Gaza state can meet the minimal set of terms required for gaining international legitimacy: governing its own citizens, without blaming Israel and without harming its neighbours.

I'm not quite sure about the suitability of applying the term "modest proposal" to this proposed programme, since it is based on eminently solid principles universally acknowledged, such as Palestinian self-determination, viability of a Palestinian state, the bringing about of an end to occupation or Israel's lingering obligations towards Gazan Palestinians. There is nothing outrageous about the premise, unless, of course, you are Hosnei Mubarak. And that is the rub. Egypt would never agree to such a solution. Why? Hard to answer this question. Maybe because Egyptians are not known for their generosity or affection to Palestinians except in their current form, where they serve as very convenient pawns in the eternal Arab chess game of diverting the inhabitants of the "Arab street" from noticing what really inhibits their possibility of thriving?

Comment trail:

Chez Bob: Reading Hannah Arendt in Cafe Crema

@ The Spine: Blessed is the Righteous Judge

@ Terry Glavin: About Freedom and Seders and Leshon Harah

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Comment Trail:

@ Bob: A Shylock moment"

One of the topics was Eric Lee's "Shylock moment", described here. He is talking about speaking in support of Israel at debates like this one in my neighbourhood.

“The questioner will speak softly. Their face will show real concern, even pain. And what you’ll hear is not an accusation, but a real question, because the person is genuinely confused. They will say something like this: “I’ve been watching the scenes from Gaza on TV. I’ve seen small children standing in front of the ruins of their homes. I’ve seen parents weeping over the loss of their children. And I can’t understand how you can see all this and still support Israel.”
Noga, who blogs here, wrote this long comment, which I thought deserved some space of its own:
This is what Eric Lee calls “the Shylock moment”. An impossibility to break through an impenetrable barrier.. A moment when he suddenly realizes that it’s not his politics that are being questioned but his very humanity. According to Lee, he succumbs to it. He pleads for recognition of his humanity.

From whom?

Shylock’s words are probably the most famous speech in the Merchant of Venice. But we tend to overlook the situation in which it is made. In the play, Shylock addresses them to Salanio and Salarino, two very minor characters who were accessories to Jessica's elopement. They mock Shylock, ridiculing him for speaking of his daughter as his "flesh and blood". Jessica, they say, is no more like Shylock than ivory is to jet, or Rhenish wine is to red wine. Jessica had renounced her ancestral home, robbed her own father and married one of his enemy’s most loyal friends. That is what makes Jessica human in Salanio and Salarino’s eyes. Her only path to human respectability. Only by these acts of betrayal did she reinstate her claim to humanity, according to these two.

It’s a humiliating scene.

We should not allow people to abdicate their elementary responsibility to question their own premises, their own knowledge, and their own ethics. These people should be challenged as to why they think like they do, why their pity is so exclusive, lopsided, so uni-directional, so devoid of genuine understanding and human compassion.

These people must be forced to confront the question of why they are so impervious to the pro-Israel arguments and facts.

My husband calls it “the coffee machine syndrome'”. It has to do with the story of an automatic coffee machine which he had bought for me a few years ago. It suddenly stopped working, the display instructing me to: “check water level”. As if there was not enough water in the water tank. The only problem was, the tank was full to brim. It was the sensor that failed. And the malfunctioning sensor prevented the machine from producing my espresso. The faulty sensor acted as the ultimate arbiter in this matter and the machine, quite healthy in all other respects, obeyed its decree. There was no built-in manual alternative to the sensor. So the ruling of the sensor could not be circumvented. I could see the water level, and knew the problem was in the sensor, but I could not communicate this to the machine. So the damn machine refused to prepare the coffee.

Presumably, the person who asked Lee a question that seemed to distrust Lee’s very humanity is in the same spot as my coffee-making machine. His trust in the sensor to relay the information is so complete, that he never so much as considers the possibility that the problem might not lie with the actual level of the water. In other words, the asker completely forgets his own responsibility, independently- thinking agency and, yes, his own humanity, implicit in which are vulnerability, proneness to misjudge, and a keenness to believe the worst about others, that is, to believe sensors even when they are so obviously malfunctioning.

@ Poli-Gazette: Michelle Obama for President?

@ Poli-Gazette: The wrong direction

@ Z-word blog: Livingstone formulation, Spanish style

@ The Spine: What is the impediment?

@ The Plank: Quote of the day

Monday, April 06, 2009

Swat flogging a Jewish plot

Via Mick

This video documenting the flogging of a 17 year old girl in a Taliban-controlled region in Pakistan incurred much repulsion and anger across the world.

Pakistani Daily times informs:

Federal Minister Senator Azam Khan Swati of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) said on Saturday that the flogging of the 17-year-old girl in Swat was a Jewish conspiracy aimed at destroying peace in Swat and distort the image of those Islamists who sport beards and wear turbans.

Speaking at a reception hosted by the JUI-F Karachi Chapter in his honour, Swati said that the JUI-F may part ways with the PPP-led coalition government if drone attacks continue to violate the sovereignty of Pakistan. “We shall not tolerate the violation of our country’s sovereignty through drone attacks,” he said, adding that under a deep-rooted conspiracy, the Pakistan Army was being defamed.

I found it mildly ironic that the honourable Minister was speaking about a Jewish conspiracy "at a reception hosted by the JUI-F Karachi Chapter". As I commented elsewhere, it sounds as if he was addressing the French chapter of B'nai Brith in Karachie...

"Jaw-dropping" report presented to Canadian Parliamentarians

The Ottawa Citizen Editorial Pages Editor, Leonard Stern, described the "chilling... hallucinatory libels" cited in the PMW report, calling the report "jaw-dropping."

Yesterday I posted an item about a small ray of sun in the otherwise long and dark night that has been Palestinian-Israeli relations for the past 60 years. Well, for every spark of reconciliation there's a bucket of hate to drown it.

This week Canadian parliamentarians got a glimpse at just how intractable the hatred can be. They had a briefing from Itamar Marcus, an Israeli researcher who specializes in monitoring Arabic media. His website Palestinian Media Watch is an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to understand what many Palestinians really think.

Palestinian clerics and other opinion-makers have long had a tendency of saying one thing to English-speaking audiences but saying something entirely different when speaking in Arabic to domestic audiences. Palestinian Media Watch allows non-Arabic speakers (western journalists and policy-makers, for example) to get an honest and candid sense of Palestinian attitudes.
Itamar Marcus and his North American colleague Barbara Crook ­- she lives in Ottawa, by the way ­- have produced a jaw-dropping report on the crazy things that, at this very moment, are being broadcast on Palestinian TV and printed in Palestinian newspapers. Most chilling are the hallucinatory libels ­ that Israel is deliberately spreading AIDS and drug addiction in Palestinian communities, that Israeli soldiers stab "the wombs" of Arab women so they can't reproduce, that Israel conducts Nazi-like experiments on Arabs.

Most bizarre is the libel, in circulation in the mainsteam Palestinian press, that Israel is using a breed of rats immune to poison and have set them loose in Arab neighbourhoods. Seems that the Jews have retained their Biblical power to control the elements and unleash supernatural plagues on their enemies.

And this:

Jews drink the blood of Muslims and believe that God wants Jews to hate Muslims, according to a Hamas TV skit. Performed before a live audience at the Islamic University in Gaza, the segment features actors playing a father and son, in traditional Hasidic Jewish garb, discussing their God mandated hatred of Muslims.

Or this:

According to Hamas, the Jews are responsible for all the ills of modern society - the French Revolution; the Communist revolution; the establishment of secret associations (Freemasons, Rotary and Lions clubs, B'nai B'rith) designed to help them gain control of the world by secret means. They control the economy, press and television; they are responsible for the outbreak of World War I, which they initiated in order to destroy the Muslim caliphates (the Ottoman empire), to get the Balfour Declaration and set up the League of Nations with the aim of establishing their state. They also initiated World War II in order to make a fortune from selling war materials; they use both capitalism and communism as their agents.

Sound familiar? Yes, some of it is taken directly from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and some, particularly the parts dealing with the world wars, is original.

Don't tell me that these are merely words and Hamas must not be judged only on the basis of its covenant. Would anyone dare say that if a similar movement were to arise in Europe or America and, in addition to statements like these, was busy killing Jews?

When you read this kind of information, you can no longer wonder at some of the more bizarre opinions one encounters on the Internet, like this one:

Once we have dumped Afghanistan, maybe the time has come to dump Israel. They have a nutso new government... Along with many others I have had a belly full of Israel.... I find myself very tired of Israel's inability or more accurately, unwillingness to find a solution to what has been going on since 1948. Enough already. . That does not mean I praise the Palestinians. I don't. I simply give them more slack because they aren't as industrious and don't have the wherewithall that the Israelis have.

Think about it. You'll see the logic of it. I still haven't found the words to explain how Palestinian pathologies of this type directly get translated into proof of Israel's illegitimacy and undesirability. But apparently they do. Maybe people cannot imagine that such hatred can actually develop on its own. No doubt it must be deserved. So the reasonable response is to "dump Israel", whatever this plea means in actuality. It's a bit like the Jews in Europe during WWII. They must have done something to deserve all that German hatred or else, why would they be so industrially exterminated? I was once actually asked this question, by a Canadian teacher. The comment I quoted was also made by a former teacher.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

History Lesson:

Lashing Back - Israel’s 1947-1948 Civil War

By Benny Morris |

At stake in this civil war was Israel’s existence, and in the early months the Arabs appeared to be winning. By the end of March 1948, most of the Haganah’s armored car fleet lay in ruins, and Jewish West Jerusalem, with 100,000 residents, was under siege. Had the run of successful Arab convoy ambushes continued, and had Jerusalem gone under, it seems certain that the armies of the Arab states that invaded the country seven weeks later would have aborted the tiny state before its birth.

Instead, in April 1948, with its back to the wall, the Yishuv (in Hebrew, the Settlement)—as the 630,000-strong Jewish community in Palestine called itself—struck back. In a series of campaigns lasting six weeks, they battled mercilessly with the Palestinian Arab militias and overran dozens of Arab villages and towns. Slowly but surely, the balance of the war began to tip in their favor. [-]

The Zionists feared nothing less than a second Holocaust should the Arabs win political control of Palestine, obliterating the Jews and their dreams of a homeland. And, from 1939 on, the Zionists also had to contend with a British government that had turned from pro-Zionism to appeasing the Arabs. That year London issued a new Palestine White Paper, severely curbing Jewish immigration and providing for an independent Palestine governed by its Arab majority within 10 years.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Comment trail:

@ The Spine: Tel Aviv's centennial birthday

A song
and a picture:
Nature in
Tel Aviv------>

An interesting discussion @ Bob's about Hannah Arendt

@ Mick Hartley: Springtime there, and here

@ PoliGazette: Turkey's looming regression into darkness

@ Z-word blog: About Israel's "Arab Jews" and such like:

Just for the record, my own position is that it is possible to speak legibly about Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi or Yemenite Jews, but not about "Arab" Jews. "Arab" is more than a culture or a nationality, just as "Jew" is more than just a race or religion. For Jews who live in Arab lands there may have been some overlapping in taste in music, food, dress with their Arab neighbours but Jews formed a separate ethnic group which everyone was aware of and assiduously preserved. I would venture to suggest that while there are Arab Christians, Armenians (who are also Christians) who live in Syria do not designate themselves as Arabs, just as Armenians living in Israel do not consider themselves Armenian Hebrews.

Listen to:

Terry Glavin on the "Galloway affair"

Or read, if you so prefer:

This Is Not A Story About Free Speech. This Is Not A Story About National Security.

Or this here:

Mr. Galloway was not barred from Canada. Mr. Galloway was not banned from Canada. Mr. Galloway did not ask to come to Canada, or attempt to enter Canada. He was not turned away, nor was he denied the right to speak here. None of these things happened. None of these things occurred. No Canadian was denied the right to hear Mr. Galloway, either. He beamed his speeches by video to the Canadians engagements that he himself chose to avoid.

Canada showed Mr. Galloway every possible courtesy, but one: We declined his request to be set above the law, to be exempted in advance from an ordinary border admissibility stipulation that requires prospective visitors to be neither triggermen nor bagmen for any organization that Canada lists as a terrorist organization. For this one impertinence, Canada was shunned by Mr. Galloway. Yet Canada stands accused of shunning him, trampling upon his rights, and doing so for the most fantastic and non-existent reasons.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I don't get it:

Watch this video.

Did President Obama bow to the Saudi monarch? What can be the meaning of it?

Update: This is related

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark’s leader, was one of the few European politicians who refused to give in to pressure from fundamentalists in the Middle East when a Danish newspaper published the now infamous “Mohammed cartoons.” His attitude was welcomed by may Europeans, especially by conservatives. He was quickly promoted to “hero of the freedom of speech,” and became one of the old continent’s most popular politicians.

But then something changed. Rasmussen set his eyes upon NATO. He wanted to become the organization’s next secretary general. An ambitious man, he proved willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals.

One of those ‘things’: apologizing to the “Islamic world” for the cartoons.

Rasmussen reportedly agreed. Dutch magazine Elsevier says he will do so tomorrow, in Istanbul.

One world leader bowing too deeply to a medieval monarch and another to apologize for his faith in the freedom of speech in his country, and for a something a newspaper did.

Chas Freeman's Crow Song

Iranian Press TV, according to wikipedia: " is an English language international television news channel which is funded by the Iranian government, based in Tehran and broadcast in English"

Some of its infamous "journalists" we can count
George Galloway, Yvonne Ridley, Tariq Ramadan, Lauren Booth.

It published an article by the British science historian Nicholas Kollerstrom, a Holocaust denier who once wrote:

'Let us hope the schoolchildren visitors are properly taught about the elegant swimming pool at Auschwitz, built by the inmates, who would sunbathe there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons while watching the water polo matches,' he said of the Nazi genocide. 'Let's hope they are shown postcards written from Auschwitz, where the postman would collect the mail twice weekly.'

Even the British newspaper The Guardian noted that "Press TV's website once included an article asserting that the Holocaust was 'scientifically impossible".

On this media outlet of dubious ethics and even more dubious agenda, we recently saw a familiar name, Chas Freeman:

"I was obviously disappointed that I didn't have support from the White House. But as I understand the way this administration works I shouldn't have been surprised," Chas Freeman said in an interview with an Iranian international news network headquartered in Teheran. Freeman also said, "I don't see how Israel can continue to survive in the long term as a state in the Middle East if it is not prepared to deal with respect and consideration with its Arab neighbors specially the Palestinians." Predictions that Israel cannot survive are common on Iranian TV.

And he still wonders why he did not have the support of the White House.

Freeman is well known for his support for and faith in the Mearsheimer&Walt new era "Protocols of Elders of Zion", aka "The Israel Lobby". It is strange that he can easily embrace this theory of an all-powerful lobby playing puppet master to the poor deluded American administration, even as he has no problem appearing on a TV channel which is known to have embraced Holocaust denial. Someone should ask him about his choice of ventilation forum and what it says about his own position and inclinations. Everything suspected of him during his short nomination has been proved correct, and more than correct.