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“The day the US decides to put an end to the Gaza occupation, it will cease”

I have suspected that for years. It has always seemed to me that the massive, multifaceted US support was essential to Israel’s unsustainable aggressions. But the title is a quote from Gideon Levy who actually knows what he’s talking about. He’s spent years pushing for peace.

It’s people like that who make Israel worth saving. And what makes Palestine worth saving. It’s what makes the human race worth saving. The hundreds and thousands who go beyond the hatred and anguish and desperation, especially their own, and try to understand others. The Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families For Peace. The Holy Land Trust. The Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center. The Library on Wheels for Nonviolence and Peace. Haaretz, the main Israeli news source, has much sterner criticism of Israeli actions than its US equivalent, the New York Times. The best reporting on the situation that I have seen, bar none, is 972mag.com, a large group of Israeli and Palestinian reporters and writers.

But what triggered me to write this right here and right now was the Independent’s report on Gideon Levy. (What follows actually excerpts only a small part of it.)

[H]e has done something very simple …. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda. “My modest mission,” he says, “is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say, ‘We didn’t know.’” …

Once, in Jenin, his car was stuck behind an ambulance at a checkpoint for an hour. He saw there was a sick woman in the back and asked the driver what was going on, and he was told the ambulances were always made to wait this long. Furious, he asked the Israeli soldiers how they would feel if it was their mother in the ambulance – and they looked bemused at first, then angry, pointing their guns at him and telling him to shut up.

“I am amazed again and again at how little Israelis know of what’s going on fifteen minutes away from their homes,” he says. “The brainwashing machinery is so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg. It makes people so full of ignorance and cruelty.” He gives an example. During Operation Cast Lead, the Israel bombing of blockaded Gaza in 2008-9, “a dog – an Israeli dog – was killed by a Qassam rocket and it on the front page of the most popular newspaper in Israel. On the very same day, there were tens of Palestinians killed, they were on page 16, in two lines.” [I can think of too many non-Israeli examples of exactly this process.]

The historian Isaac Deutscher once offered an analogy for the creation of the state of Israel. A Jewish man jumps from a burning building, and he lands on a Palestinian, horribly injuring him. Can the jumping man be blamed? Levy’s father really was running for his life: it was Palestine, or a concentration camp. Yet Levy says that the analogy is imperfect – because now the jumping man is still, sixty years later, smashing the head of the man he landed on against the ground, and beating up his children and grandchildren too. “1948 is still here. 1948 is still in the refugee camps. 1948 is still calling for a solution,” he says. “Israel is doing the very same thing now… dehumanising the Palestinians where it can, and ethnic cleansing wherever it’s possible. 1948 is not over. Not by a long way.” …

He appeals to anybody who is sincerely concerned about Israel’s safety and security to join him in telling Israelis the truth in plain language. “A real friend does not pick up the bill for an addict’s drugs: he packs the friend off to rehab instead. …

Levy believes the greatest myth – the one hanging over the Middle East like perfume sprayed onto a corpse – is the idea of the current ‘peace talks’ led by the United States. … Now, he says, he is convinced it was “a scam” from the start, doomed to fail. How does he know? “There is a very simple litmus test for any peace talks. A necessity for peace is for Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. So if you are going to dismantle settlements soon, you’d stop building more now, right? They carried on building them all through Oslo. And today, Netanyahu is refusing to freeze construction, the barest of the bare minimum. It tells you all you need.” …

He believes only one kind of pressure would bring Israel back to sanity and safety: “The day the president of the United States decides to put an end to the occupation, it will cease. Because Israel was never so dependent on the United States as it is now. Never. Not only economically, not only militarily but above all politically. … It isn’t only bad for Israel – it is bad for America. “The occupation is the best excuse for many worldwide terror organisations. It’s not always genuine but they use it. Why do you let them use it? Why give them this fury? Why not you solve it once and for all when the, when the solution is so simple?” [Elsewhere in the article: a two-state solution with fair borders, real rights, and security for Palestinians.]

But then, as if it has been nagging at him, he returns abruptly to an earlier question. “I am very pessimistic, sure. … The Israeli society will not change on its own, and the Palestinians are too weak to change it. But having said this, I must say, if we had been sitting here in the late 1980s and you had told me that the Berlin wall will fall within months, that the Soviet Union will fall within months, that parts of the regime in South Africa will fall within months, I would have laughed at you.”

And then he says this:

“You have to be realistic enough to believe in miracles.”

And this:

“A whistle in the dark is still a whistle.”

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This is an actual headline in the actual US of A

What kind of people can even think such a thing?

Headline on an editorial opinion piece — this has the full weight of the newspaper behind it! — in the Miami Herald:

Israel must put down Hamas

The full headline is “Israel must put down Hamas – rebuild relations.” Well, sure. After you slaughter all the chickens with bird flu, you try to “rebuild relations” with the uninfected chooks.

 

Update: Aug 18, 2014. I guess the Miami Herald reads this blog and noticed how atrocious that sounds. Now the only thing that comes up is an editorial from July 26th with the same meaning but more marketable words: Israel’s Challenge. The Orlando Sentinel still has a copy up. And I’ve taken a screen shot this time in case it disappears again. The point, I would like to tell these editors, is not to delete the article. It is to delete the mindset.

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Et tu, BBC? Bias in Israel reporting

I’m just like everyone else. I don’t understand what’s going on in Gaza. So when the BBC ran an article titled “Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?,” I read it.

It makes the point that Hamas has been much weakened by political changes around them. Iran used to contribute enough to run the government of Gaza, but (Sunni) Hamas supported Sunni rebels in Syria so (Shia) Iran stopped that funding.

Then while the Muslim Brotherhood ran Egypt, there was a good bit of trade going on and hence revenue for Hamas from taxes. But the current Egyptian government considers Hamas too close to terrorists and that source of funds has also dried up.

I’d heard about the new understanding between the West Bank Fatah group and Hamas, but I didn’t realize Hamas had no choice. They’re down to their last bean and fighting in the last ditch.

Meanwhile, Israel was just doing its usual “carefully calibrated” air raids.

[T]raining grounds and launching sites in Gaza were attacked. The target list was enough to persuade the Israeli public that Hamas was being punished for the rocket fire but not enough to push the militant group to step up its attacks.

There were even hints that a truce might be possible….

According to the report, the impression I get is that the escalation just happened.

The article says maybe Hamas was hoping that the sight of suffering civilians would increase funding and international sympathy for them.

The Israelis? They’re trying to get rid of rockets, apparently. This will be very difficult. They’re small, distributed, some are even home made.

I’m a bit boggled. So that’s why we see pictures of whole blocks blowing up in Gaza? There must have been a pipe full of gunpowder and nails in there somewhere.

A Palestinian reacts in front of a fire which police said was caused by an Israeli tank shelling in an industrial area in the east of Gaza City July 12, 2014. REUTERS-Ashraf Amrah

A Palestinian reacts in front of a fire which police said was caused by an Israeli tank shelling in an industrial area in the east of Gaza City July 12, 2014. REUTERS.
(Ashraf Amrah, Reuters)

Nowhere in this narrative of monsters willing to sacrifice their neighbors and persecuted people trying to defend themselves does the article make the obvious point.

Hamas is weakened. Israel swoops in to try to finish them off.

Sure, that may not be the explanation for the current carnage. But it’s certainly one explanation.

How could a news organization of the BBC’s caliber not even mention it?

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Inside a mind too safe to care

“I understand [Obama] wants to fight terrorism, but send in robots, drones. Don’t send in our troops. Our men and women are dying for what?”

Seen here, quoting someone in the USA regarding Obama’s moves in Iraq.

Translated: I don’t care who dies or how they die so long as it’s nobody I know.

Further translation: I know nothing about warfare and think it’s like a video game where drones work on their own and problems get solved by smashing them.

And also too: I don’t have to care or make sense because nothing’s gonna change my world.

Arrogance made a dog’s breakfast out of the Middle East. Now it’s their problem. Right?

My taxes pay for this shit. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Which does no good at all. Dear God, what a mess, what a crime, what an atrocity.

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Not so cynical about Afghanistan

You know, mostly the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. Afghanistan, I would have said, has been fasttracked.

And then today I saw this.

Afghani man backpacking a ballot box up a mountainous trail in the rain

Ballot boxes were carried by hand and by donkey all over Afghanistan
(Ahmad Masood / Reuters)

Sure, Afghanistan is corrupt and war-torn and sexist and poor. They know that. They know that no election is going to make a big difference all at once. And yet they carry ballot boxes up mountains to small villages because they can see a better world even if they don’t live there.

They may make it.

Which means there may be hope even for the rest of us.

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The roots of war

I was reading an article about Syria’s civil war, and sentences kept jumping out at me.

The white Horseman of war

For three men in northern Syria, the second civil war started shortly after the first staggered into a quagmire of sectarian violence. …

Like many others, the three men are bewildered at what has become of their war. Their alliances – and their goals – are shifting. …

They are a businessman, a smuggler and an army defector who became respectively the political officer, treasurer and military commander of a once-formidable battalion in northern Syria. …

“Maybe in 10 years we will all be bored with fighting and learn how to coexist.” He paused, then added: “In 10 years maybe, not now.” …

He opened Google Earth on his phone, zooming in closer and closer until the screen showed a small grey square: the house where his family used to live. “Before, all my family was in Syria, and I worried about them. Now, they’ve got out but I have lost my land. I have reached a point of despair,” he said. …

“I was in the revolution at the beginning, and I used to think that was going to be progress – but now we have lost everything. We don’t talk about military plans and hitting the regime – now the plotting is against each other.”

“I can’t defeat them [the jihadis] and the army. I am about to collapse. I can hold out for a month or two at most. Isis [jihadis] are expanding in a fearful way.” …

When they reached the base, the lieutenant sank down in a corner. He seemed weary. “I have been fighting for two years and a half. Tell me: what have I achieved? All I think about is attacking this checkpoint, getting that tank – maybe using the tank to attack another checkpoint.

“In all this time did I ever think of establishing governance? Did I consider working with the civilians in the areas under my control to get electricity or provide anything? …

He sighed. “… I want to get away from here and forget the absurdity of war. The liberated areas are in chaos: there is more purity on the frontlines.” …

“For three days I’ve been attacking this checkpoint,” said the lieutenant “I ask myself why, but I don’t know. Maybe because I can. Maybe because I need to keep my men busy. But honestly, I don’t know the purpose of all this. In Syria, everyone has lost. No one is winning.” …

The next day, the lieutenant decided he needed a break from war. A few days later, the smuggler, the lieutenant and another rebel officer were walking in an Istanbul shopping centre packed with Arab tourists. After two and a half years, the two men said they had finally decided to leave Syria and the war for good. …

Later, in the food court upstairs, the smuggler and the lieutenant ate lunch with another man, a people-smuggler, who told them how they could be spirited across the border into Greece and from there into Italy, where they could start a new life with their families. …

By now, the excitement of being in Istanbul had waned: the three men walked the streets aimlessly and sat for hours in cafes. … One evening, he admitted that he had tried to leave once before: he had stayed away for 25 days, but found he could not live in the world of peace: he missed the excitement, the combat, the camaraderie. …

The lieutenant left the cafe, and there was no news of him for weeks. Nobody knew if he was still in Turkey, or if he had gone with the people-smuggler and made his way to Italy.

When he finally called, he sounded relieved and almost cheerful. “I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “I couldn’t leave, I went back to Syria, to fight.”

People who go to war always say they do it to serve — their country, an ideal, their way of life, always something outside themselves. But then when the fighting is destroying what they care about they would stop, wouldn’t they?

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If you want to send a message to Syria, use the Post Office

Just for the record, I’m not much of a pacificist. Self-defense is the least-bad option after an attack. And I do believe that everybody has a duty to stop crimes against humanity wherever they occur. On my planet, the UN has a militia ten times the size of any nation’s army, because those are all so small, and stops criminal nations.

But we don’t live on my planet. We live here, where the rhetoric about Syria has so many layers of hypocrisy it looks like a sedimentary rock.

Governments tolerate all kinds of dictators. No way we’re suddenly all hot and bothered about Assad.

Chemical weapons are horrible. No question about that. But death by shrapnel is no picnic either. Nor is being buried alive in fallen masonry. Around 100,000 children, women, and men have died in the Syrian war. A recent 1500 of those were the awful chemical weapons fatalities. Now suddenly senseless painful civilian deaths are unacceptable? Where have we been the last three, four years?

While we’re on the subject of bombs, I’d just like to mention how badly they work as envelopes. Any messages they’re carrying get all shredded and come out unrecognizable at the receiving end. If you’re trying to communicate, bombs don’t.

And then there’s the Israelis and Saudis expressing chagrin about the US lack of action. They’d prefer to have that mess near their borders cleaned up. As a purely practical matter with no ethical dimensions, I can understand that. I can also understand wanting the 600-pound gorilla on your side. But shouldn’t they at least be saying, “We’ll send so many tens of thousands of soldiers and so many tens of billions of dollars. We know it’s our fight, too.” Instead it’s all about what a spineless piece of cheese Obama is because he hasn’t already done it with US lives and cash.

So, if I’m so smart, what’s my solution? Well, one, we (meaning people, humanity) go back some sixty years and don’t get rid of Mossadegh in Iran. After that, we don’t do another million and a half idiotic things in the intervening decades. We transition to solar power and energy efficiency. We provide scholarship money to every remotely qualified woman in the whole Middle East. If there even was an effective Taliban in that world, and if the US did have to go after them in Afghanistan, then afterwards the US would have concentrated all its energies on the “nation-building” Rumsfeld had no use for.

I know. We don’t have time travel. (Although we may get it sooner than peace in the Middle East.) In this world, I have no idea what I’d do if I was handed the current crap on a plate. There are no good choices because too many idiots have made bad ones. So, do I want military dictatorships or religious ones?

No.

 

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Update, Sept. 5. The Saudi government reads this blog? I just saw this: Kerry says Arab countries offer to pay for invasion. (Now, if only they’d take on board some of the other, more important messages I keep pushing here. Equality, for instance.) Update, May14, 2014.: The link for Kerry’s statement has vanished from the Washington Post site. Neither the Senate hearing nor the House unequivocally contains such a statement in the full transcripts.

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From pet rocks to key


Now they figure this out? Now, when it’s too late? After years of putting women on a par with rocks — in a purely egalitarian sense, of course. Not like the Taliban.

Exiting U.S. general says Afghan women’s rights are key.


War is Peace. Murder is Good.


It’s not war if no Americans are killed.

Americans may be killed at will because it’s all self-defense. There’s a war on, you know.

Only a handful of decades have passed since the soaring words of the Geneva Convention. The US was pleased to think it was leading that charge at the time.

But it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

MQ-1PredatorDrone

Flying blind
(Source: US military file photo?)

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About that Iranian nuclear threat


AP has a big, exclusive story based on a graph of a simulation leaked by they’re-not-saying-who from they’re-not-saying-where. This is Proof the Iranians are working on a big bad nuke.

 
(graphic from AP)

 

Glenn Greenwald seems to be getting exasperated at the silliness of such setups:

even if one assumes that this graph is something other than a fraud, the very idea that computer simulations constitute “evidence” that Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon is self-evidently inane.

Well, yes, there is that.

But there’s one even bigger piece of evidence suggesting that the Iranians aren’t doing much, and for some reason that’s not being mentioned. They have a border with a huge and powerful country. (Well, a mere 200 or so miles away across Azerbaijan.) Russia has zero reason to want powerful Islamic fundamentalists right on its southern border who might encourage friction in other Central Asian majority-Islamic countries.

If the Iranians were really that close to useful nukes, you can bet your Sunday bonnet the Russians would be making noise about it and/or doing something about it.

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Israel has a right to defend itself

Damage from Palestinian rocket in Ashdod, Israel, not far from the border with Gaza.

pothole-sized damage to road

 
(Nir Elias, Reuters)

Damage from Israeli strike in Gaza.

smoking crater which has demolished several buildings to rubble

 
(photog. unknown, Reuters)

Israel, like everyone else, has a right to defend itself. Lethal force against vandalism does seem a tad excessive. (Maybe their big friends and good buddies could explain that to them? On second thought, maybe not.)


Syria

I can’t write about this.

Wael, said he had seen a six-year-old die after being tortured and starved.The 16 year-old told the report’s authors: “I watched him die. He only survived for three days and then he simply died.”

BBC News – Syria child trauma ‘appalling’ – Save the Children

What kind of monster can do that? What kind of people are we that such things happen?

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No. We should not respect other people’s beliefs


No. No, no, no. This is not about free speech as opposed to beliefs. It better not be. If it is, we’re headed straight for holy wars.

I’m talking about this sort of thing: BBC News – Film protest: Egypt PM urges US to end ‘insults’.

“At the same time we need to reach a balance between freedom of expression and to maintain respect for other peoples’ beliefs.”

There is no way to “respect beliefs” and have freedom of speech. It’s impossible. Think about it, Minister Qandil, for a microsecond. If my belief is that you speak drivel and should shut up, you can say nothing. If your belief is that I speak drivel and should shut up, neither of us can say anything if we’re both going to be “respectful.” Or, if we both talk and infuriate each other, then the only way to get “respect” is to silence the other. And only the dead are silent.

The malicious film is not a problem because it insults a religion. It’s a problem because its whole and only purpose is to inflict hate on people. It is not making a political statement, it is not arguing about anything. It’s trying to spit in the eye of people it hates. That is hate speech. It is incitement to riot. It is already illegal. It is an abuse of free speech. It is not protected under free speech laws.

The only problem is the growing US inability to understand that religion is a belief system, not an excuse. We should not lose all ability to tell right from wrong just because somebody hangs a judeochristian religious label on crap.

(Although when it involves a Muslim, the FBI seems to see “material support” for terrorists where only criticism exists. One example: Glenn Greenwald on the arrest of a person expressing outrage over the Abu Ghraib atrocities.)

We should take a deep breath, take our courage in our hands, and actually be responsible for some judgment calls. Avoiding responsibility with wishy-washy excuses about not having any right to judge anyone means only handing a blank check to the biggest bully to do their worst.

It’s pretty obvious where that leads. Haters incite hate and before you know it, real people with real families and real friends have died.

That’s why there are laws against hate speech. That’s why there are laws against incitement to riot.

By understanding the real reason why that sort of crap has to be squelched, it becomes clear that it is not criticism of religion which is the problem. Nobody can tell anybody to stop expressing their thoughts on a religion. They can insist on not hearing them. It’s the same as the idea behind the brown paper covers on porn mags. I don’t want to know what’s going on in the sewer of your mind, and you don’t have to tell me.

It becomes hate speech when you insist on rubbing my mind in your hated message. Then the intent is to hurt. Not to communicate. Then it’s hate speech.

That revolting film wasn’t noticed by anyone but the revolting people who made it. Pathetic, but not a huge issue. They didn’t like that. So they paid to have it translated into Arabic. That is hate speech, pure and simple.

We don’t have to slavishly avoid offending every bizarre — or even ordinary — belief system on the planet. We have to enforce our own laws against hate speech and incitement to riot. As a matter of fact, the solution is to be more willing to offend beliefs. When somebody’s beliefs result in hatred and harm we have to be ready to stand up to them and say, “NO.”

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We need anti-pollution laws for free speech


Religious nuts belong in padded cells with the other nuts. They think they can say anything they want, no matter how untrue and nasty it is. And because it’s based on something they call “religion,” nobody wants to deal with them.

There was the kook in Florida who was going to make a big deal out of burning the Koran. Apparently in his mind that shows the superiority of something he believes in. That time people died in the Middle East and Africa.

This time another lunatic’s hate speech has led to more deaths.

Ambassador J Christopher Stevens reportedly died of smoke inhalation after a crowd stormed the consulate.

Three other Americans were also killed and the consulate set ablaze.

Update 2013-05-14: The four deaths at the consulate seem to be unconnected to a specific hate speech event. Hate speech repeatedly incites people to kill, but this is not an example of that as it turns out.

Not only that, but Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria, Afghanistan, Sudan, and probably a score of other places are having to take steps to prevent — they hope! — violence. That’s effort, time, and money better spent on real needs, not on hysteria whipped up by infectious mental patients.

These troglodytes are a terrorists. We have a whole goddamn department of government to deal with terrorists these days. Why are they asleep at the switch?

The Biblebangers have no right to spew hate speech and incite riots. Why aren’t the creeps thrown in dungeons for their flagrant flinging of poo?

What is it going to take for people to wake up to the fact that we have to stop giving religious nuts a free ride? Religion is a belief system. It’s not an excuse.


Update Sept. 14, 2012: Good background, details, and more recent information by Juan Cole.

Update Sept. 15, 2012: Roger Ebert adds some points about the complete lack of merit in the clip and its purely inflammatory nature. One real give-away for the intent to inflame: when it didn’t get enough Muslim attention, our local loonies paid to have it translated into Arabic.

Update Sept. 18, 2012: I can’t resist a you-heard-it-here-first remark. Sarah Chayes opinion piece in the LATimes going into more detail as to exactly how much the Nastiness of Christians film is incitement to riot.

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The Bombs Fall Elsewhere


There’s a bit of a flap over Iran, nukes, Israel, the US, etc., etc., etc. Discussion of sanctions, unexpected strikes, war. In other words, no biggie.

But, this just in, as they say, from Reuters:

But Israel, in weighing military action, faces the risk of a backlash from Congress and the American public if oil prices spike during a still-fragile economic recovery ….

“It’s the law of unintended consequences,” said an outside expert who advises the White House on national security. “This could lead to the first real reassessment in a generation of how America and Americans feel about Israel.”

If gas prices go up, that’s different. That changes everything.

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Iran and nukes


I agree. Iran should not have nuclear weapons.

Neither should China, Russia, North Korea, Britain, France, the US, India, Pakistan, or Israel.

Hello? Those things are either bad, or they aren’t. What kind of quadruple standard are we using here? And don’t tell me that it’s different when sensible countries, who would never actually use mass death against civilians, have them.

Only one country has used nuclear weapons to mass murder civilians. And it currently has more of the things than anyone else and shows no sign of thinking that’s a bad idea.

Could we just tell the truth? Nobody wants Iran to get more power. Iran, on the other hand, does want more power. If you want to stop them, just say so. Enough of this sanctimonious dogwash.

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