Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Peretz confronts a large group of army officers and bureaucrats who have been coddling and cooperating with the settlers for decades They are accustomed to running the West Bank arbitrarily and no one dared question their decisions. Here is one small example of what Peretz is up against:
A couple of Saturdays ago, the Jewish settlers in Maon, south of Hebron, wearing masks, attacked Israeli soldiers who were escorting 18 Arab kids to the regional school in at-Tawani. .
On the following Saturday, Peace Now received the army’s permission to send two busloads of peaceniks to a demonstration in at-Tawani. At Gush Etzion junction the buses were stopped.
“Since we gave permission, the area has been declared a closed military zone,” the Peace Now demonstrators were told. “You cannot proceed.”
Ran Cohen, a Meretz M.K., was on one of the buses. He called Peretz who must have raised the roof with his army subordinates. After an hour the buses were allowed to continue on their journey and hold their demonstration.
Brigadier General Ilan Paz, who recently retired after 28 years in the army, seven of which were in the West Bank. commented:
“For 18 months the settlers in Maon have been harassing kids passing their farm on their way to school. Now they are attacking their army escort. How many residents are there in Maon Farm, Can’t they be stopped?”
Peretz made one very important decision on May 16. He reopened the Karni crossing to Palestinian goods and produce. It had been closed for months which prevented the export of the fruit and vegetables grown in the former Jewish hothouses.
“Our war is against terror and not the residents of Gaza,” he announced.
As for minister of education Yuli Tamir, .... she has inherited a peculiar situation with the four Jewish-Arab bilingual schools. All of them have an equal number of Jewish and Arab students but three are classified as Jewish and one comes under the section for Arab schools.
I have written her a letter pointing out that the Dovrat Report last year recommended that the Ministry further develop Jewish-Arab education. Her Likud predecessor ignored the recommendation. I urged that she follow it and as a first step she inaugurate a Jewish-Arab Department for the four existing schools and develop new ones in mixed towns such as Jaffa, Haifa and Akko,
I’ll let you know what she replies.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
A.B. “Buli” Yehoshua is an outspoken dove. He went to Switzerland in 2003 for the signing of the Geneva Initiative between leading Israelis and Palestinians. It remains the only feasible basis for Israeli/Palestinian peace.
Yehoshua is just as vehement in expressing his views on Diaspora Jewry. He is a prolific writer on political and social subjects. Two collections of his essays have been translated and published in English.
Briefly, he maintains that Jewish existence in the Diaspora is partial. Only in Israel can one live a full Jewish life. Only in Israel can every facet of Jewish identity find expression....
The American Jewish Committee must have been aware of Yehoshua’s views when they invited him to speak at their hundredth birthday party in Washington early this month. The subject of the symposium was the future of the Jewish people.
Buli was in a foul mood when he entered the hall. It was the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day and he had just talked by phone to his youngest son who had participated in a service in memory of the [22,000+] who have fallen in Israel’s wars. Buli’s suggestion that the meeting observe Memorial Day with a moment of silence had been rejected.
So he set off a couple of firecrackers that shocked his audience of AJC makhers and have been resonating in sermons and speeches ever since:
1. The past hundred years have marked a series of failures for Diaspora Jewry.
2. Only Israel, and not Judaism, can insure the survival of the Jewish people.
Click below for Lurie’s response.
I heard this Zionist credo when I attended high school in Haifa, 27 years before Yehoshua was born. I first heard it from Yehoshua around 1981 when Doubleday published a book of his essays entitled “From Right to Right.”
I told Buli that I was born in the United States and that I participated freely in every facet of American life that interested me. I liked it and it did not lessen my support of Israel. While I did not agree that my Jewish life was partial, if it was, so be it.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Grayling argued that only the US bombing of military-related industrial targets was justified, but not the RAF’s intentional carpet bombing of civilians nor the US Army Air Force’s wholesale destruction of the cities of Japan, directed by Gen. Curtis LeMay and planned by his assistant, Robert McNamara (yes, LBJ’s secretary of defense). Hitchens was more complex in his approach and I’m not sure that I got all its nuances.
Hitchens criticized the US use of atomic bombs, but seemed to defend the incineration of Dresden, Germany (a city of no military value), and other such targets in clearly demonstrating to the German and Japanese peoples that they were utterly defeated and thereby deterring them from ever again embarking upon military aggression. He regarded this as preventing “They stabbed us in the back” sloganeering such as the Nazis exploited after World War I — helping propel them to power — because Germany was not devastated in that prior war, nor borderlands lost or occupied until after the peace treaty of 1919.
Among the facts and figures cited is that approximately 350,000 German and Japanese civilian lives were lost in each of these countries; 55,000 British and Commonwealth airmen and 45,000 American crewmen died over the skies of Germany and Japan — but most over Germany, since Japan had virtually no effective air defense in the waning years of the war.
This subject brings to mind my article awaiting publication in the July-August issue of Jewish Currents, particularly with the following somewhat stark words (only slightly changed in the final version being published):
While instances of oppression against Palestinian Arabs are real enough [and their suffering is evident to all the world], I often think, by way of analogy, of what a proverbial Martian wandering around the devastated cities of Germany or Japan at the end of World War II might have thought: "What monsters could have done this?" This view and this question would have been totally divorced from the actions of the criminal aggressor regimes of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan that brought this cruel destruction upon their populations. Nevertheless, one can debate the morality of the carpet bombing of enemy cities, even as one accepts that the right side won World War II. Similarly, one can question Israeli strategies and tactics, while agreeing with the basic right of a country to defend its citizens.
Friday, May 26, 2006
I agree that all of us, Israelis, Palestinians and other nationals must increase our efforts to promote an end to the occupation and a peaceful, non-violent and fair resolution of the conflict, which I believe is based upon a two state solution - a viable Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state living in peace and security. We must this do this now, while there is still a window of opportunity for a resumption of negotiations, before we enter another round of unilateral actions and senseless mutual violence which will cause the loss of numerous lives on both sides.
So what would I propose to the NATFHE conference this weekend? Another British invasion.
In the early ‘60s, the so-called "British invasion" led by the Beatles, Stones, Animals, Kinks, etc., changed the face of pop music, in America and around the world.
I would recommend a British invasion of Israeli academic institutions. Come to conferences in Israel, say your piece and help reinforce the Israelis who are fighting the good fight. You will find a welcome ear in academia, among the students and in the Israeli media. Write what you believe in Israeli academic journals, and base it upon professional, scientific analysis. Help to strengthen the majority of Israeli public opinion that supports significant withdrawal from the West Bank and a two-state solution.
You should listen to Palestinian Professor Munther Dajani from the political science department at al-Quds University, who said the following in a roundtable organized by the Palestine-Israel Journal on the role of civil society:
In academia you are searching for the truth, and the truth lies in research and scientific cooperation between all parties ... By definition, cooperation is opening a dialogue in order to let the others know your needs ... Occupation is something we should all fight against. Most Israeli academic institutions are with us and have released statements calling for an end to the occupation. Why boycott them and prompt them to work against us when now they are working with us?
Your model should be Jean Paul Sartre. In the spring of 1967, at a time of total impasse in Israeli-Arab relations, he published a special issue of his journal Temps Modernes, devoted to rapprochement. He did this in cooperation with the Israeli peace monthly New Outlook, established under the inspiration of Hebrew University Professor Martin Buber's philosophy of dialogue, and the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram.
He did not succeed in preventing the six day war, but he did help to lay the foundations for future Israeli-Egyptian peace. You can't ask Sartre about this anymore, but you can ask Claude Landzmann, who accompanied Sartre to Israel and Egypt and edited the special edition, which featured articles by Israelis, Egyptians and other nationals.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
First, my credentials: From June 12, 1967, the day after the six day war ended, I have been opposed to the establishment of even a single settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As for Jerusalem, I regret the fact that it did not become an international city in accordance with the original UN partition plan in 1947. Since it's too late for that, in the future I believe that a creative solution to the Jerusalem issue requires the maintenance of a united city, with West Jerusalem serving as the capital of Israel, and East Jerusalem serving as the capital of a future, viable Palestinian state based upon the green line, the 1967 borders, with possible border rectifications based upon a negotiated equal land swap.
That said, I am also opposed to the motion that will be presented at the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) conference next weekend, which encourages academics to "consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those (Israeli academics and institutions) that do not publicly dissociate themselves" from the occupation.
If anyone wants to end the occupation, as I do, that is not the way to go.
First of all, most of Israeli academia, particular in the humanities, is a centre for anti-occupation pro-peace activity, by both lecturers and students. This is true for the universities of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben-Gurion in Beersheva and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as many of the new academic colleges that have emerged in recent years. Even the religious Bar-Ilan University features a number of prominent doves on its staff, such as Dr Menachem Klein and Professor Uriel Simon. These universities host many seminars and conferences that seriously explore the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how to resolve it. The journals published at these universities, frequently edited by members of the teaching staff, are open forums that discuss the problems of occupation, aspects of the conflict and the quest for a solution, both at the micro and the macro levels.
And secondly, a boycott, even a selective one, will only reinforce general Israeli anxieties about anti-semitism, particularly in Europe, and will cause Israelis to become more defensive and less open to constructive, realistic solutions. It's hard to feel the pain and hear the legitimate calls for justice from the other side when you yourself feel that you are under attack. I'm not saying that legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy equals anti-semitism, but it cannot be ignored that there is a growing anti-semitism, particularly in many European countries.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
According to most private security contractors, the AK-47 is the best weapon in the world. It may not be accurate, but it never jams. Submerge it in water or sand, shake it out, and it will fire every time — the Zippo of weapons. Modifying an AK takes tape and swapping the wooden stock for a folding metal frame that make it nearly a machine handgun – a mere 50 bucks. Iraqi private security guards, insurgents, terrorists, revolutionaries, and religious thugs prefer them.
Americans like modified M-16s, called M-4s after they are fitted with shortened barrels, converted to a variety of fire sequence options, and improved with night vision scopes and electronic sighting displays. M-4s cost three-four times as much as AK-47s but are ten times as accurate. They still jam from time to time, which can be a disappointment at an awkward moment. Modifying one typically costs $1,100. An experienced listener, I now can tell the two guns apart by their sound and firing pattern. Any ideas about how I can use this info back home?
... Lingering over coffee, Ammar tells me that he cannot trust anybody who works for him, though many have been with him for years. After the first attempt on his life, he took to confiscating all employee cell phones at the end of each day—that way they could not make a call to sell him. After the second, staying home was better. Nor do his kids go out—unless they are with him.
Ammar is a sophisticated man who used to have an IT company and peanut roasting factory. Though he is angry, Ammar accepts a world totally lacking in reliability. He accepts the bribery, lack of security, sectarian conflict, insufficient resources, absent medical care and impossible living conditions—none of which existed under Saddam. Mostly, what pains him are the assassinations that have happened when he has been in the car with his kids. The swerve of the car in front to block the way, the popping open of a door, the flash of the machine burst, and it is over in 30 seconds. By the time he shields his kids' eyes it is too late. Welcome to the next two generations of fear, hatred, insecurity and mistrust. What these folks need is democracy....
There is a difference between a fully protected machine gun nest and an outpost with a sniper or two. Along the Tigris where I sometimes walk alone in the very early morning, I pass two of each. Before the guards recognize you as okay, they let you pass, slap the side of their shack or hit the bottom of their chai kettle to make a sharp report. If you jump like a gun has gone off behind you, you are new in-country. I'm way too smart for that. I know that unless there is a whistle, the bullet isn't passing close..
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Note: Everything below the tildes [~~~] are either Judeosphere's commentary, or Zunes'.
A few months ago, I posted about Stephen Zunes, a lefty professor at the University of San Francisco (and no fan of Israel) who nontheless surprised me by publishing an article taking the anti-war left to task for blaming the Iraq War on a Zionist cabal.
Well, Zunes is back, and this time his target is Walt-Mearsheimer and their groupies.
For starters, he chides his fellow "progressives" for rallying around two academics who are, er, less-than-progressive:
With some notable exceptions, Mearsheimer and Walt have been largely supportive of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and subsequently. For example, during the 1980s, Mearsheimer—a graduate of West Point —opposed both a nuclear weapons freeze and a no-first-use nuclear policy. A critic of nonproliferation efforts, Mearsheimer has defended India's atomic weapons arsenal and has even called for the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states such as Germany and Ukraine. He was also an outspoken supporter of the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War. It is ironic, then, that these two men have suddenly found themselves lionized by many progressive critics of U.S. foreign policy as a result of their article.
What progressive supporters of Mearsheimer and Walt's analysis seem to ignore is that both men have a vested interest in absolving from responsibility the foreign policy establishment that they have served so loyally all these years. Israel and its supporters are essentially being used as convenient scapegoats for America's disastrous policies in the Middle East.
Perhaps the most twisted argument in their article is the authors' claim that the 2003 invasion of Iraq “was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.” This is ludicrous on several grounds. First of all, Israel is far less secure as a result of the rise of Islamist extremism, terrorist groups, and Iranian influence in post-invasion Iraq than it was during the final years of Saddam Hussein's rule, when Iraq was no longer a strategic threat to Israel or actively involved in anti-Israeli terrorism. Indeed, it had been more than a decade since Iraq had posed any significant threat to Israel and some of Israel's biggest supporters on Capitol Hill were among the most outspoken voices against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Zunes dismisses accusations of anti-semitism against Walt-Mearsheimer, but nonetheless notes:
There is something quite convenient and discomfortingly familiar about the tendency to blame an allegedly powerful and wealthy group of Jews for the overall direction of an increasingly controversial U.S. policy. Indeed, like exaggerated claims of Jewish power at other times in history, such an explanation absolves the real powerbrokers and assigns blame to convenient scapegoats.
Even more disturbing is the way that blaming the Israel lobby has been used in foreign capitals to get U.S. decision-makers off the hook for America's controversial policies regarding Israel and Palestine .... My interviews with a half dozen Arab foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers in recent years have confirmed that U.S. diplomats routinely blame the “Jewish lobby” as a means of diverting blame away from the U.S. government. This cynical excuse has contributed to the frightening rise in recent years of anti-Jewish attitudes in the Arab world.
In Zunes's view, the "real lobby" that drives U.S. foreign policy is the "military-industrial complex." (Yeah, I know, how original ... ) Still, I find this interesting. As I've noted previously, it seems to me that the Walt-Mearsheimer paper has exposed--and even accentuated--divisions within the poltical Left. It's a throwdown between those who see Israel as just another pawn of U.S. imperial policies and those who see support for Israel as the driver of U.S. foreign policy.
Monday, May 22, 2006
One of the toughest looking South Africans emerges from the Baghdad Hotel every evening about dinner time. He carefully builds little piles of cat food along a shallow curb near some graying grass. Half a dozen cats-- feral, skinny, skittish, wary as, well, cats--gather each evening for dinner. The South African squats hopefully, and talks to them softly and lovingly. But they are unapproachable. He will never quit. They will never acknowledge him. Love is where you find it.
Iraq will pay for its reconstruction in oil. Of course, it has zero refining capacity. With few if any gas stations in Baghdad gas is sold on street corners in plastic five gallon containers. Costs about $4/gallon. Gas runs the cars that scurry about to get out of the way of our armored vans. Our fleet of 13 SUVs likes to keep 25 or so containers on reserve. I am told that Iraqis wait up to 4 hours for a couple of containers. I don't know where they get theirs, but ours show up under my window about 7 AM every day. Iraq is lucky to be so oil rich.
I’ve mentioned previously that you need to buy a stamp for $1 to get your boarding pass. Iraqis can pay either 1,000 dinars or 500. I can't tell why the difference in fees. The boarding pass counter is a private enterprise, run by a woman who obviously paid for the concession. A dollar is worth about 1,500 dinars. The woman keeps meticulous records. It you pay in American, she writes down 1,000 dinars and pockets the 500. If you pay 1,000 dinars she writes down 500. I never saw anyone pay 500. My taxpayer's revenge? I steal a little something from the embassy every time I go. Requests?
If you see a person in full military garb and body armor plus a camouflage ski mask and helmet standing by the side of the road at full attention at a U.S. checkpoint in 100+ degree heat, while those around are slouching, casual and relaxed, who is it and what is he or she doing? An Iraqi translator. The translator will be assassinated if his/her identity is discovered by anyone in a passing vehicle who spreads the word.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Al-Manar is the Lebanese Hezbollah movement’s television station. A few years ago, I had the “pleasure” of seeing some well-produced video images from this station, which would constantly broadcast vile anti-Semitic hatred and blood-curdling incitement for war and terrorism. It’s hard to imagine that it’s spruced up or reformed itself for Prof. Chomsky’s visit.
JTA continues: “The terrorist group’s station broadcast that the American linguist and MIT professor met with Sheik Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut this week, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“ ‘Hezbollah’s insistence on keeping arms is justified,’ Al-Manar quoted Chomsky, a critic of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, as saying. ‘Nasrallah has a reasoned argument’ that the group should be armed ‘as a deterrent to potential aggression.’ He also called the United States the leading terrorist state, Al-Manar reported.”
At the same time, JTA reports: “China urged Hamas to recognize Israel.
“We don’t necessarily agree with Hamas policies, but we respect the people’s choice,” Zhai Jun, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official, told reporters Wednesday.
He added: “On this basis, we can urge the Hamas government to respect agreements previously signed with Israel, to recognize Israel and to return to talks.”
My observation: China is more constructive and reasonable in its role in the Middle East than Chomky! According to Robert Rosenberg’s “Today” e-newsletter:
“Beijing... was trying to persuade the Hamas government to abide by the Western conditions accepted by Israel, Fateh, Washington, and European capitals for a resumption of contacts with the Palestinian government: recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror, and abiding by international agreements signed by previous PA governments.
“Inch by inch, the Hamas does seem to be trying to wriggle its way into those conditions, without appearing to do so. The latest inch was a statement issued by a Hamas spokesman in Gaza saying that the PA government was considering approving negotiations with the Israeli government -- without recognizing Israel -- on the basis of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but without negotiations for a permanent peace, just a long term hudna (truce).
“Israel Radio’s hourly news broadcasts, not known for openness to nuances in Palestinian positions, made the Hamas spokesman’s remarks the lead item for three hours in a row this morning. The Hamas spokesman’s statement comes as the Palestinians head into what they are calling a ‘national discussion’ in which Hamas and Fateh, as well as the other political parties in the profoundly political Palestinian territories will debate the issues facing Palestinian society, including how to deal with Israel.”
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
A trailer and excerpts of the film were screened that evening, and a panel of four people profiled in the film engaged with each other and the audience. Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin of the Bereaved Families Forum, Sami Al Jundi of Seeds of Peace, and Shlomo Zagman, founder of the “Movement for Realistic Religious Zionism,” discussed their grassroots efforts for peace and reconciliation. They all came across as sincere and likable.
Since the clips and the personalities were so charming, I’m sorry to have missed the screenings of “Encounter Point” at the film festival. Not all critics liked it. With Steven Zeitchik writing in The Forward, you get a skeptical pro-Israel view; if you take Joshua David Stein at the Huffington Post, you get another, rather harshly anti-Israel view — both equally well-written.
For my money, Stein's and other unforgiving looks at Israel forget that the genuine hell that Palestinians are experiencing is the result of their failed (but still ongoing) campaign of violence. And Zeitchik, although correct to a degree, forgets that the right-wing pro-settler movement has too often called the shots in Israeli policy, driving Palestinians to regard violence as their only logical recourse. We can at least cheer people from both sides trying to do something different and positive.
Another thing that cheered me that evening was that Bereaved Parents Circle activist Robi Damelin spoke out effectively for the two-state solution when questioned from the audience about whether “one democratic state” might not be better. Only in an ideal world, responded Damelin, a world in which Jews never have to flee persecution to a country of their own.
Yet much, perhaps most, of this “progressive” crowd still has a hard time understanding the historic and humanistic basis for Zionism. One questioner, visibly incredulous, asked Shlomo Zagman to explain the progressive nature of his Movement for Realistic Religious Zionism; he did, but I think his English was insufficient for him to realize that the questioner’s assumptions about Zionism were hostile.
Another asked about the “wall,” adding his assertion that it has “nothing” to do with security. Regretfully, I don’t recall the exact response, but the Israelis on this panel had unique credibility in puncturing such prejudices masquerading as politically correct observations.
Monday, May 15, 2006
An interesting court decision came down in Israel the other day, and no, I'm not talking about this one, this one or this one, although I heartily applaud them all. Unlike some of the others I've mentioned, it didn't come out of a political or human rights case, but instead from the routine drug prosecution of Private Rapahel Yisascharof. At trial, Yisascharof claimed that he was being prosecuted on the strength of an involuntary confession. The court-martial agreed that the confession was improperly obtained, but nevertheless allowed into evidence on the ground that it didn't compromise the integrity of the trial. The Supreme Court, however, threw out the confession, and held for the first time in Israeli history that the defendant's rights are paramount in determining whether to admit illegally obtained evidence:
Up to now, Israeli courts had used a discretionary rule of exclusion similar to Australia's or Canada's, in which the main consideration in deciding whether to admit or suppress improperly obtained evidence is the integrity of the judicial system. The new ruling doesn't entirely eliminate judicial discretion, and courts are still required to "consider the circumstances of every case separately before declaring evidence admissible." However, by stating that suspects' rights are now the "key consideration in the disqualification of confessions," the Supreme Court moved Israeli law much closer to an American-style system in which suppression is used as a penalty to discourage improper police conduct.
The High Court of Justice set a precedent Thursday by ruling that any court hearing a criminal case has the authority to disqualify evidence obtained illegally. The panel ruled by a majority of eight to one that "the new doctrine would also apply to confessions by defendants and may cause [the confessions] to be disqualified in instances where the interrogators had not advised the defendant of his or her rights."
Those basic rights include "the right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer before making a confession," the ruling said.
The precedent changes the current procedure in place that allowed the use of evidence obtained illegally in a criminal case, although such evidence was considered to carry less legal weight.
This decision is of interest not only for its effect on criminal procedure but as an example of ... MORE
read this item in its entirety here.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
I differ from the ultra-critics of Israel in understanding that the current stalemate is a two-way street, not only (maybe even not primarily) of Israel’s making. The Palestinian Authority needs to effectively combat terrorism, Hamas needs to change its spots and convince Israel that, whether via President Abbas or Prime Minister Haniyeh, negotiations may be resumed. But Israel should not be rushing to move unilaterally, which is not likely to improve conditions on the ground enough to pave the way toward peace. By redrawing borders in an ungenerous way (as projected in the news) — leaving the West Bank truncated, walled off, scattered and surrounded by Israeli settlements and soldiers — the Palestinians would be encouraged instead to renew their all-out intifada.
Allow me to return to my Jewish Currents article to clarify another point of controversy related to the historic Golda Meir:
Golda is infamous... for having called into question the existence of the Palestinians as a separate Arab nation, asserting that she was also a "Palestinian," since that's what her passport read during the British Mandate. To be fair, the Jews of Palestine used the "p" word freely, including it in such stalwart Zionist institutions as the Jewish Agency for Palestine (the pre-state Zionist government) and the "Palestine [now Jerusalem] Post." The Arabs were relatively slow in calling themselves Palestinians, a term invented by the Romans to obscure the Jewish connection to Judea after the Jews massively rebelled against them twice....
Still, the transformation of the name "Palestinian," to identify Palestine's Arabs, exemplifies a truth argued by Prof. Rashid Khalidi in PALESTINIAN IDENTITY: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (Columbia University Press, 1997): "that national identity is constructed; it is not an essential, transcendent given,” but evolves in the course of a "national narrative." This is as true of the Jewish ethno-religious identity becoming a national one within 20th century Palestine/Israel, as it is for Palestinian-Arab consciousness evolving from local, regional, and imperial loyalties left over from Ottoman Turkish times. Alas, this would be too sophisticated and subtle a point for the very concrete-thinking Israeli politician.....
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Tovah Feldshuh concluded her record-breaking one-person Broadway run of "Golda's Balcony," January 2, 2005, and reconvened for a brief engagement in Los Angeles. In addition, a short documentary film, "The Journey To Golda's Balcony," has been made about Ms. Feldshuh's research into performing this role....
Although a capable leader in certain ways, and "Golda's Balcony" ably dramatizes some of her triumphs, the play does not truly examine Golda Meir's failures.... [A]s political leader of Israel for most of the time between the ’67 and ’73 wars, she must be blamed for failing to grasp the potential for peace offered separately by Egypt and Jordan.
Peace feelers from Anwar Sadat—including a public offer to sign a full peace treaty with Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai—received a cold shoulder from the real Golda. She even resisted a separation of forces agreement urged by Sadat, in which Israeli troops would withdraw to a new line at the Sinai mountain passes, permitting Egypt to peacefully resettle its civilian population in towns along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. Such a move was favored by a number of prominent Israelis, including Abba Eban, her foreign minister. A compelling case can be made that Sadat decided upon war out of frustration at Israel's lack of responsiveness.
Meir was under the spell of Dayan who famously declared, “Better Sharm el-Sheikh [a strategic chokepoint on the eastern Sinai coast] without peace, than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh.” Some, including her first ambassador to the US, Yitzhak Rabin, advised that Sadat’s public declaration of an intention to have peace was unprecedented from an Arab government and, as such, worthy of encouragement. When a similar feeler came from Sadat in 1977, this time suggesting that he’d be willing to address the Knesset in Jerusalem, it took the new right-wing prime minister, Menachem Begin, to respond with an invitation.
The other possibility for peace with an Arab country, prior to 1973, was even more likely [to have succeeded]. Jordan’s King Hussein had negotiated so cordially with Israel that the monarch piloted his own plane into Israeli air space; Moshe Dayan is said to have given him a night tour of Tel Aviv. And a week before the Yom Kippur War, it was Hussein who again visited Israel to personally warn of suspicious Syrian troop deployments. Yet Golda's Labor party, which continued in and out of power through the '80s to advocate the "Jordanian option," instead of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, turned down King Hussein's offer for exactly such a peace, because Jordan wanted to reclaim East Jerusalem—albeit granting some border adjustments, including Israeli access to the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall. If Golda had been less rigid or more imaginative, and more independent of her generals, she could have governed through 1973, not only without war, but with peace treaties with at least one and possibly two front-line Arab states.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Here are a couple of other things I don't get: the impact of terror and the role of Iran. In terms of terror, Americans and Westerners feel it least, because we have a pretty good level of protection. Up the ladder come Iraqi men. I read a story on the wires that people named Omar (a name more common among Sunni than Shia) are changing their name to Mohammed in fear for their lives. I had a casual conversation with the Iraqi doctor on compound. He said the few doctors left in Baghdad are being systematically killed. He stays here most nights, rather than going home. His mentor was killed Wednesday.
The most subject to terror are women. An Iraqi woman, who helps women form businesses, has been kidnapped twice and threatened numerous times for her activities. She does not even give her name out, much less her contact information, except to trusted friends. The Shia (and perhaps the Sunni, too) do not want women out of the house – or able to earn income, even if their husbands are dead or unemployed. These representatives of god are willing to assassinate to support this important principle of morality. Yet in Saddam's time, 60% of university graduates were women – largely because the society was secular. That women should have to fight for a return to Saddam's time is an unspeakable irony.
Iran's not so hidden hidden role: Iran is the shining star of modernism in the area--it produces the most educated population, the best doctors, the most advanced technologies, the highest average standard of living, even the best food. It also is a deliberate and vicious force for social disruption and violence. Committed to an aggressive ideology and pushing Shia forward everywhere, they are the leading funder of terrorist and insurgent activity (I distinguish the two by identifying the first with a method of operation and the latter with a goal). Both operate here. So does unofficial/official government terror, in an effort to make sure that certain insurgent Sunnis (and Palestinians still loyal to Saddam) get their come-uppance; all contribute violent diversity to Iranian death squad types. Almost all key military officers and government officials have spent extensive time in Iran and/or been trained outright there. Someone in the US once said that the Iraq war is over and Iran has won. This makes sense to me.
One of the programmers has told us that he dreams of Iran – that is, when he can sleep. They are not pleasant sojourns into which the sandman gently leads him by the hand. He stays awake much of every night, rifle on his lap, in fear for himself, his mother, and his little brother. We offer him a room here in the compound, but he won't take it because it would leave his family without protection. And this is only the second level of terror.
Monday, May 08, 2006
A lot of the contractors here – read mercenaries – are rich, especially the Aussies, New Zealanders and South Africans. They come here, make good money over a year or so, then go back and live like kings. Two have sheep farms and one just lives in retirement and isolation until he can't stand the lack of action and returns to the fray. They actually do dangerous work.
One group is leaving soon for a newly built camp on the Syrian border which is the main entry point for terrorists, in order to train locals on counter-insurgency techniques. They are in danger every minute. They do not even eat together, but grab their food and leave before an "incoming" can find them bunched in a group.
These guys do not appear to care what they eat so long as it has no nutrition. On their quiet days they are more aggressive than hungry shrews. One of my team went into the dining hall in the morning in shorts – against the rules – to pick up an orange and banana to eat in his room. He was almost attacked by one of the 300 orangutans who still yells at him when they see each other. Yet these same guys will get drunk carrying enough ordinance to stop a tank division – also against the rules, but "manly."
If you talk to any security-type contractor, he (there are very few "shes") will tell you a story of killed buddies. I overheard were two private security contractors talking in Erbil. One said he'd had enough and was leaving. His detail had to return from Erbil to Baghdad. While in Erbil he was sick and had to be hospitalized. His six buddies were killed on the trip back he was supposed to take. Because all died on the road and were incommunicado, nobody knew what had happened to him – or them – for almost a week. If one of them lives through an attack, the rule is they cannot tell their loved ones until the next of kin of the dead have been notified.
We all know about the 2,500 soldiers and 40,000 Iraqis killed. But nobody keeps statistics on contractors, though contractors will tell you they do informally and more have been killed than American soldiers. Given the vast number of security groups (137 as of the time of my last report), this guess makes sense – but does the situation?
Friday, May 05, 2006
Maybe writing in an Israeli newspaper made him feel that venting his spleen there, would not draw outraged or overwrought attacks on him as a self-hating Jew, etc. He’s correct that the Israeli press, especially Haaretz, is more tolerant of self-criticism (I wanted to say “self-abuse”) than American papers generally are, as the latter rightfully is more concerned with being charged with anti-Semitism or other bad motives.
It’s time for Israel to act like a grown-up and stop feeling picked on, stop playing the victim when it’s more usually the victimizer, he says. Well, yes, one despairs at certain habits of Israeli policy that we thought were done with by the early to mid-1990s but have returned.
For example, there was Sharon’s nasty habit of retaliating against the Palestinian Authority for terrorist attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad — as if all Palestinian factions were one and the same. We’ve seen less of this under Ehud Olmert, but the Israeli doctrine of disproportionate response continues, with a few rockets launched into Israel from Gaza responded to by the IDF with artillery in a ratio of about 100 to one — often killing innocent Palestinians when almost no Israeli casualties have been suffered.
But what of the timing of this tirade, let alone its self-righteous tenor? Why does he have a temper tantrum now, when the right-wing parties have been chased from power and a new centrist political party has just formed a brand new governing coalition? He writes as if Israel has not evacuated settlers from Gaza and ended the occupation there. He writes as if Israel didn’t withdraw from most of the West Bank and Gaza over ten years ago, establish an elected Palestinian Authority with armed PLO “police” (about 18,000 permitted under Oslo, but 55 to 60,000 under arms today — although they are apparently next-to-useless when it comes to stopping terror or even enforcing order).
I know, Israel is back in most of the West Bank, due to the terrorist campaign that murdered nearly a thousand Israeli civilians. Wouldn’t any country, “mature” or not, do the same or worse?
I too would like to see an Israeli policy that encourages moderation and negotiations and is not unilateralist with regard to establishing its permanent borders, but this government actually envisions an extensive withdrawal from the West Bank (would that it were bigger).
His one-sided diatribe is not typical of Prof. Judt at this best — and his best was very good — measured and written with historical and comparative perspective. I’ve read his writings for years with pleasure. Now Israel has made him “mad.”
Thursday, May 04, 2006
It was he who alerted us about the NY Sun editorial that attacked the rally organizers as liberals who are doing the right thing in calling for military intervention in Darfur but opposed the war to “liberate” Iraq. Personally, I was sympathetic to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (even wrote a “Liberal Case for War” in the Sun over three years ago), but opposed a unilateral US invasion in the face of vehement international opposition — especially after the UN Security Council voted against war. I share Doug’s outrage at this scurrilous attack against the humanitarian impulses of rally organizers and applaud the mobilization of so many American Jews against the systematic assault on the people of Darfur.
Similarly, I am outraged by the extreme left-wing and anti-Semitic attack on the rally as a new Jewish effort to get the US into a war, as discovered the other day and documented by Arieh Lebowitz.
Speaking of past and ongoing horrors, as well as triumph, our friend and Israel Horizons contributing editor, Hillel Schenker, has written his latest blog entry for the Guardian (the British daily) on his sentiments this season:
Is Israel the only country that insists on combining sadness with celebration...?
Yesterday was the annual memorial day for the accumulated 22,123 soldiers and civilians who have died in Israel's wars since 1948, and today is Israeli Independence Day, marking the 58th anniversary of Ben-Gurion's declaration of an independent state back in 1948.
For the first time, I found myself in (Palestinian) East Jerusalem, at the office's of the Palestine-Israel Journal when the memorial siren sounded. It was an eerie feeling, standing with my Israeli colleague Avi Hoffman in memory of the fallen soldiers. I told the Palestinians, Najat and Rena, that I didn't expect them to stand, understandably. Particularly in Najat Hirbawi's case, since her grandfather was killed at Dir Yassin by the Irgun forces in April, 1948. Part of the Palestinian Nakba (Disaster).... Read on at the Guardian Weblog, “Comment is free.”
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Outrageous was what my friend called it. The New York Sun pilloried the Save Darfur Rally in Washington DC this past Sunday as being full of "leftists" who were opposed to the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
On Monday, my friend wrote, when sharing it with me ...
"Here's a link to an editorial about yesterday's `Save Darfur' rally that appears in today's New York Sun -- www.nysun.com/article/31898. Headlined `Darfur Double Standard,' it's the kind of ultra-right-wing stuff I've come to expect from the Sun -- in this case, I think, something that verges on McCarthyism -- and I hope it generates a huge number of letters in response."
[Go to it, readers!]
Not to be outdone, some similar and worse tendentious stuff is taking place "on the left" -- see this item from the very worthwhile Engage weblog that links to something equally outragious in the independent leftist journal Monthly Review's weblog, MRzine, as well as the comments to same, which can be found at the end of each of the two MRzine items Jeff Weintraub's takes apart in "Lunacy about Darfur (in Monthly Review)"
FYI, there were a few quite good reports in the press of the rally in DC, which, I should add, I was at, albeit a bit later than expected: I slept over on a friend's couch to get a 7 am bus, waited fruitlessly while another bus traveling with us had a flat tire, got a lift via a taxi a resourceful fellow traveler called from the highway to Trenton, and then took a train to Washington, and then another taxi to the Mall ...
If you want to read all about it, just click here.
And if you want to find out what is to be done now, go to the websites of
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs [upper right corner of the site]
The American Jewish World Service
The Save Darfur Coalition and its homepage
and while you're at it
The Genocide Intervention Network
Last thought. Feel free to copy this and email it to some folks in your address book. Just remember to tell 'em you found it here.
The contrast [with Kurdistan] that awaits me at "home" in Baghdad: Baghdad is cement grey and sand tan. You cannot hear the calls to prayer over the mortar rounds, generators and sporadic gunfire. On an average day the central depository for Iraq security information broadcasts 90-250 incidents in Baghdad ( www.brief.aegisiraq.com ), 150 Iraqis die for every American killed, there are 137 private security forces in Iraq, of which 34 are "registered," there are 60-80 insurgent groups recognized and counted but nobody knows the real number. To put a more personal face on it, four days ago I was stopped from going to a site that our team had visited several times, because the convoy was attacked. The team reconnoiters every destination no matter how many times we've gone there (including one of our own compounds that has 80 guards on it), because the situation changes daily. Our chief of security told me that – having been in Iraq for two or three tours and Vietnam as well – this is the most violent time in this city and far more dangerous than Vietnam ever was for him. If this is not a full-fledged civil war, I do not know the definition.
Kurds hate Turks and Arabs, Iraqis suspect Kurds and hate Turks, etc. etc. Tribal, political, national, and religious hatreds are a speciality here. Mix in a belief in revenge and a long memory and politics gets very complicated. The Kurds do kind of like Americans. One told me many pointed stories about how the American military made significant inroads against corruption, causing Kurd dissidents to come out into the open in expectation of a freer society. Then "terrorism" in the south raised its ugly head, the Americans left the Kurds to their own devices and old leaders, and people who had expressed opinions were hung out to dry– literally.
Getting from Baghdad was a kick. Iraq proves that there is no institution too small to be confused and no place to small to be disorganized. We waited four hours to take off. We went through security five times, including some very detailed checks. In Baghdad you can't go through the last security check and the ticket counter until your flight is called. But sometimes it is not called, so you have to watch everyone you suspect might be going where you are. The counters (and gates, by the way) are unmarked. You can stand in the wrong line and get to the front only to be sent away.
After you get your ticket, you must go to another line to get a stamp--$1 American, then to another to get your boarding pass. Iraqi Airlines has a neat system for ticketing. Your ticket has no number, there are not assigned seats. Each ticket carries a termination date, like the bottom of a yogurt container. Because flights are cancelled all the time – sometimes in the evening when curfew makes it impossible to leave the airport – almost every flight is overbooked. The crush at the gate is astounding. I traveled with a women who converted to Islam relatively late in life. She is about 10 years my junior, but in garb and hajab she looks younger. We told everyone I was her step parent and we had to sit together – family is a big value here. Since no man would touch her, we barged ahead. Of course our flight back today was cancelled. So we leave tomorrow, we think.
My favorite story was of one of our team who had a 4 PM flight that was rescheduled – to 10 AM the same day! We call it “InShallah Airlines,” because whether it flies or not is a whim of fate over which nobody has control.
Monday, May 01, 2006
The first thing you notice about Erbil, a city in Kurdistan, is color. They have some. I was in Erbil to meet folks for our national business alliance, possibly to hire a Kurd and to attend a conference on investment options. From 10 AM to 5 PM there were 17 presentations and 17 translations – 34 in all – each so interesting that it was like having two more root canals than I have teeth. Still, it was a nice respite from Baghdad.
We exited the plane onto a tarmac lined with roses and later in the day went to a park filled with locust trees and roses. Did I tell you about T walls? They are interlocking upside down T- shaped blast barriers, about 12' tall, 6-9" in thickness, and lashed together. In Erbil they are painted with wall art or just color and pattern. Then comes sound--or rather its absence. There are no explosions, and large clanking noises are just loud clanking noises. It is even possible to hear the calls to prayer, eerily floating over the rooftops. The other night, two dueling mosques kept turning up their volume alternately. What began as an otherworldly chanting counterpoint transmogrified into a cacophony of prayer. Finally, one party gave up and just broadcast a loud and continuous horn.
And no body armor for us. Apparent security is minimal. I walked in the park, went to the market. Still I have armed accompaniment – company policy. Kurds are gracious and fun-loving. Today, Friday, about 2/3 are in the mountains or in parks picnicking. I've never seen anything like it. Construction is everywhere and business is flourishing.
So what's the cost? Every major intersection has a traffic light. Around the light will be found a traffic cop, a security cop, and an intelligence officer – the latter two in disguise. Everybody is watched. People who criticize the government disappear, and if they reappear at all it is with a new organization of their physical and mental subunits.
The corruption is astounding – about on a par with Nigeria and Cameroon and slightly better than Angola, according to an international survey. I am told by some young people that in a typical construction contract for, say one million dollars, up to $900,000 disappears at various levels before a spade of dirt is turned. So, everything built here is cheap and off kilter. As the chief of security described our compound. "It is 5 years old, so it only looks 25." It seems to be common knowledge that Barzani stays in power with U.S. complicity all the way.