January 27, 2009

On the Abuse of the Dead

Even our dead are not safe. They have been called up, disturbed, dredged from their mass graves and forced to testify against their fellow human beings in pain, to confess a hatred that was alien to them and to offer themselves up as justification for a new cycle of suffering in Palestine. Their ghosts have been enlisted to help displace fellow Jews from Arab homelands, and to bequeath to them that same alien hatred, conscripting those of us descending from Arab lands to become enemies of our own memory and past.

--International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

HT: Philip Weiss

January 25, 2009

Strange New Respect List, Take 1

Juan Cole
Robert Fisk
Barack H. Obama

Candidate Member

Frank Rich

I Never Thought I'd Say Anything Good About Frank Rich

I generally refer to the man as "the insufferable Frank Rich." I despise his smug, self-satisfied East Coast liberal snobbery and his obsession with homosexuality.

However, this week he is right. He points to the sober tone of Pres. Obama's inaugural speech and the severity of the crisis we face. Rich says it's wrong to blame our woes simply upon the incompetence or misguided policies of W. Rather, our problems are deep in our culture and require a collective rethinking.
This debt-ridden national binge of greed and irresponsibility washed over our culture not just through the Marie Antoinette antics of a Schwarzman and a Thain but in mass forms of conspicuous consumption and entertainment. Cable networks like Bravo, A&E, TLC and HGTV produced an avalanche of creepy programming catering to the decade’s housing bubble alone — an orgiastic genre that might be called Subprime Pornography. Some of the series — “Flip This House,” “Flip That House,” “Sell This House,” “My House Is Worth What?” — still play on even as more and more house owners are being flipped into destitute homelessness.

The austerity of Obama’s Inaugural Address seemed a tonal corrective to the glitz and the glut. The speech was, as my friend Jack Viertel, a theater producer, put it, “stoic, stern, crafted in slabs of granite, a slimmed-down sinewy thing entirely evolved away from the kind of Pre-Raphaelite style of his earlier oration.” Some of the same critics who once accused Obama of sounding too much like a wimpy purveyor of Kumbaya now faulted him for not rebooting those golden oldies of the campaign trail as he took his oath. But he is no longer campaigning, and the moment for stadium cheers has passed.
I can't quarrel with the man.

One good column does not earn Rich a place on my Strange New Respect list. But for once the man staggered into the truth.

January 23, 2009

Goodbye, contentions

For some time now, I have regularly read contentions, the group blog of the odious neocon journal, Commentary. I have also commented regularly, challenging the policies and worldviews advocated there, especially support for Israel, which has become a criminal state, whose original creation is now in question.

I've decided, now, to give up contentions. I'm also done with the zionofascist Caroline Glick.

Since the Gaza "operation," aka war crimes, I have found myself beside myself with rage whenever i open the page there. The rationalizations and the reality behind them are so odious, that I find myself descending into anger. I spend a lot of energy censoring myself.

We are taught to eschew anger. If my anger accomplished something other than annoying the regulars on the site, I might feel differently. It makes no more sense to comment on contentions than to do so on Stormfront or Vanguard.

But if I convince no one, lower myself, interfere with my spiritual progress, it's time to move on. Something positive would be better.

January 21, 2009

Koi Polloi

I sometimes post on Goodreads, which I recommend if you're bookish or like people who are.

Some ladies concluded that the fear of death being less than seductive, Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" might be poetical, but to them was unappealing. One thing led to another, and I dropped the following into the tank:

Had we but tank enough, and slime,
This koi-ness, lady, were no crime.
We would swim ‘round and think which way
To flit, and pass our long love's day;
Thou in the filter’s flow
Shouldst sweet flakes find; I in the glow
Of the heater would eat grain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
To be gefilted for the Jews.
My algaeical love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy tail-fins gaze;
Two hundred to adore each gill,
But thirty thousand for my fill;
An age at least to every fin,
And the last age should your heart I’d win.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's drift net fishers hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
The fish-knives of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall one day be filetted,
And in some fish store rudely billeted,
And then you’re gone; a corn-meal batter,
Your streamlined form shall flatter,
Or your lithe form shall one day fill,
Some suburbanite’s new grill.
The grave is fine for poet’s flesh,
But fishes seldom there do rest.

Now therefore, while multicolored scales
Sit on thy back, some bright, some pale,
And while we indulge our feeding frenzy,
With energy that bards must envy,
Now let us batten while we may
On food men sprinkle every day,
Rather at once it all devour,
Be fattened by its nutrients’ power,
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
Leave your caviar with rough strife,
And I’ll swim by and give it life.
I know we cannot make our sun
Stand still, but they say the two-legs have more fun.

January 20, 2009

I Won't Ever Be Able to Read Tom Friedman Again With a Straight Face

Sliced, diced, and salted. Here.

The graphs are to die for.

Friedman does write for the Times, once home to Abe ("I'm writing as bad as I can") Rosenthal.

I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about—in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn’t make them up even if you were trying—and when you tried to actually picture the “illustrative” figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.

Remember Friedman’s take on Bush’s Iraq policy? “It’s OK to throw out your steering wheel,” he wrote, “as long as you remember you’re driving without one.” Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman’s analysis of America’s foreign policy outlook last May:

The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging.When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the fuck is he talking about? If you’re supposed to stop digging when you’re in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense? It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if the editors over at the New York Times editorial page spend their afternoons dropping acid or drinking rubbing alcohol. Sending a line like that into print is the journalism equivalent of a security guard at a nuke plant waving a pair of mullahs in explosive vests through the front gate. It should never, ever happen.

* * * *

So, yes, Friedman is suddenly an environmentalist of sorts.

What the fuck else is he going to be? All the other ideas he spent the last ten years humping have been blown to hell. Color me unimpressed that he scrounged one more thing to sell out of the smoldering, discredited wreck that should be his career; that he had the good sense to quickly reinvent himself before angry Gods remembered to dash his brains out with a lightning bolt. But better late than never, I suppose. Or as Friedman might say, “Better two cell phones than a fish in your zipper.”
HT: Rod Dreher.

January 18, 2009

January 17, 2009


This is Dr. Aboul Aish, three of whose daughters were killed and two injured by Israeli tank fire. No doubt the shell was American.

See two posts down for an Israeli television account, including this man's wail of pain, the most nerve-shattering sound I've ever heard.

Over a thousand are dead, many more wounded, and still more bereaved. Yet by the accident it was broadcast on Israeli television, this man's story is iconic, like the naked Vietnamese girl's, or the Afghan girl with the piercing blue eyes. He stands for all of Gaza.

Enough lies. Enough sanctimony. Enough killing.

Lord, have mercy.

Fisk on Nazi Analogies

My admiration for Robert Fisk is growing. Here's his piece on WWII analogies and their misuse in the context of Israeli-Arab confrontation. Excerpt:
I have long raged against any comparisons with the Second World War – whether of the Arafat-is-Hitler variety once deployed by Menachem Begin or of the anti-war-demonstrators-are-1930s-appeasers, most recently used by George Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara. And pro-Palestinian marchers should think twice before they start waffling about genocide when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem once shook Hitler's hand and said – in Berlin on 2 November 1943, to be precise – "The Germans know how to get rid of the Jews... They have definitely solved the Jewish problem." The Grand Mufti, it need hardly be added, was a Palestinian. He lies today in a shabby grave about two miles from my Beirut home.

No, the real reason why "Gaza-Genocide" is a dangerous parallel is because it is not true. Gaza's one and a half million refugees are treated outrageously enough, but they are not being herded into gas chambers or forced on death marches. That the Israeli army is a rabble is not in question – though I was amused to read one of Newsweek's regular correspondents calling it "splendid" last week – but that does not mean they are all war criminals. The issue, surely, is that war crimes do appear to have been committed in Gaza. Firing at UN schools is a criminal act. It breaks every International Red Cross protocol. There is no excuse for the killing of so many women and children.

January 16, 2009

Watch and Weep

Israel has not allowed the press into Gaza while it conducts its "operation." Israeli TV ran this report, in which a Gazan doctor, three of whose children were killed in an Israeli tank strike, speaks via cell phone to an Israeli TV station.

I do not understand Hebrew or Arabic, but the pain in the man's voice says it all. This is a medical doctor, who speaks fluent Hebrew and apparently worked in Israel at one time, and gave intereviews to Israel TV, and calls the newsman by his first name, wailing like a wounded animal.

Reuters reports:
Channel 10 correspondent Shlomi Eldar, who said he had planned a live on-air interview with Aboul Aish on Friday evening, produced a mobile phone in the studio, letting viewers here the voice of Aboul Aish: "My God, my girls, Shlomi," he said. "Can't anybody get to us, please?"

Eldar told his audience: "They have killed his family".

He said three of Aboul Aish's children were killed and two were seriously wounded. Building up the sense of drama, cameras followed him as left the studio, saying he would try to help arrange for their transfer for treatment, and safety, in Israel.

Surviving members of the family were later shown being transferred to Israeli ambulances and taken out of Gaza. Aid agencies have complained that Israel has not done enough to help Gaza's hospitals and allow the transfer of some wounded people.

Aboul Aish's brother was also wounded and Eldar said two of his brother's children had also been killed in the incident.

The Israeli army said troops fired on Aboul Aish's house because a sniper had fired on soldiers from the building.

Aboul Aish responded: "All that was ever fired out of our house was love, hugs and acts of peace, nothing else, ever."
In the name of God, stop this, now!

HT: The strange but indispensible Philip Weiss.

We Need a Hero

Capt. Sullenberger. Handsome fellow, too.


European diplomats, UN officials and a senior PA official all said Thursday that as of last Friday night it was clear to almost everyone that the U.S., like the other 14 Security Council members, would vote for the softened resolution. They said Rice had promised as much to her European colleagues.

In Jerusalem, however, officials went to sleep thinking the Americans had only agreed to support a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire. At 1 A.M., final confirmation came from New York: The U.S. had promised that no cease-fire resolution would be brought to a vote any time soon. An hour and a half later, however, it became clear that not only was the Security Council due to vote on a cease-fire resolution at any minute, but Rice had ordered America's UN ambassador to support it. Olmert promptly telephoned U.S. President George Bush to complain about Rice's behavior and demand that he restrain her. What Bush said to Rice remains unknown. What is known, however, is that the U.S. suddenly changed its vote from "yes" to "abstain."

The whole story would have ended well had Olmert behaved like a responsible adult and restrained his own impulses. Even his close associates admit that he would have done better to skip the public boasting about how he persuaded Bush to overrule Rice. Quite aside from the fact that this embarrassed the U.S. administration, Olmert's associates understand all too well that this story merely provides fresh ammunition to those who claim the Jews are the ones who really control America.
--Akiva Eldar, in Ha'aretz.

January 15, 2009

All Hail

The US Airways pilot, crew, and the sailors and captains of the rescue vessels.

Social discipline and courage aren't dead.

January 14, 2009

Deconstructing the Tijuana Analogy

This article does a fine job of debunking the analogy between Tijuana-San Diego and Gaza-Israel.

January 11, 2009

Pretty Cogent

A London Times letter by predominantly British lawyers and such, on Gaza, courtesy of Prof. Cole:

This letter of attorneys and academics appeared in the Times of London on Sunday. I suggest that all bloggers who agree with it just reprint it so that it is everywhere in the blogosphere. It is a succinct and cogent refutation of the reigning right-Zionist talking points that have dominated American media reporting on this atrocity.

"January 11, 2009
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime

ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.

The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.

For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.

Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. Israel could have agreed to renew the truce with Hamas. Instead it killed 225 Palestinians on the first day of its attack. As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

Ian Brownlie QC, Blackstone Chambers

Mark Muller QC, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Michael Mansfield QC and Joel Bennathan QC, Tooks Chambers

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, University College, London

Professor Richard Falk, Princeton University

Professor M Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Chicago

Professor Christine Chinkin, LSE

Professor John B Quigley, Ohio State University

Professor Iain Scobbie and Victor Kattan, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Professor Said Mahmoudi, Stockholm University

Professor Max du Plessis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College

Professor Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University

Professor Thomas Skouteris and Professor Michael Kagan, American University of Cairo

Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University

Daniel Machover, Chairman, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Dr Phoebe Okawa, Queen Mary University

John Strawson, University of East London

Dr Nisrine Abiad, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Dr Michael Kearney, University of York

Dr Shane Darcy, National University of Ireland, Galway

Dr Michelle Burgis, University of St Andrews

Dr Niaz Shah, University of Hull

Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer

Prof Michael Lynk, The University of Western Ontario

Steve Kamlish QC and Michael Topolski QC, Tooks Chambers

A Video the IDF Didn't Want Israelis to See

HT: Juan Cole.

January 10, 2009

When Does the Statute of Limitations Run on the Theft of a Country?

Zionism teaches that the Jews were entitled to a state in Israel because they were dispossessed in AD 70. Sometimes they add there has been a continuous Jewish presence since AD 70, consisting mostly in a handful of pious Jews. The Arab refugees are not entitled to return, say the Zionists, even though they left in 1948. After all, they (or their allies in the Arab states) started a war and lost, then lost again and again.

These same Zionists doe not advocate that the Anglo-Saxons return to the mainland, the Magyars to Central Asia, the Cherokees to Georgia and Tennessee, and certainly not the Arabs to Sicily, Spain, and Portugal.

Question: Is there a right of conquest? If so, the Israelis may be able to claim the benefit of it, but must abandon their ancestral claim to a right to return to a land where they were twice soundly defeated in AD 70 and AD 135 or so.

If there is no right of conquest, and conquering and expelling another people is a crime, when does the statute of limitations run, such that undoing the wrong is no longer an option? If it's less than 1800 years, the Zionist claim to possess the land as of right goes by the boards. But then, when does the Palestinian right of redress expire?

If Jews have a religious right to the land, it must have been revealed by a new-fangled prophet no one has ever heard of, because no sect of religious Jews, 150 years ago, had heard of such a thing, and Reform or Orthodox, Jews until recently rejected the notion. It took a bunch of atheists to invent it. In short, it is a recent fabrication with little religious credibility, notwithstanding the "religious Zionist" thugs of Hebron.

January 7, 2009

Yet More Strange New Respect

Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week, thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale. This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.
Who said this? Robert Fisk, of all people.

I've adopted the net neologism "to Fisk," as here.

I've begun to read the man, a British reporter who lives in Lebanon and knows that country well. He's compassionate, passionate, and if he has a bias, it's against atrocity. He has few illusions about any of the players.

But then, even at my advanced age, this Gaza misadventure has opened my eyes, and is rapidly destroying whatever residual respect and affection I had for Israel.

Read, as the saying goes, the whole thing.

January 5, 2009

A Norwegian Doctor Tells It Like He Sees It

This story is from CBS, not Al Jazeera.

The truth will out.

A Desert Called Peace

Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

Translation: To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.

Above: American phosphorous bombs falling on Gaza.

January 2, 2009

It's Not the Holy Land, It's Chinatown

The bombing of Gaza continues unabated, the dead in their hundreds and the wounded in their thousands, the hospitals already decimated unable to cope. To the American press, this seems of little consequence. These people are, after all, sand niggers who don't look at death the way we do.

If one adopts a short-range perspective, the crude utterances and indiscriminate rocketing of Hamas justified a response by Israel. No sovereign power, after, all, can tolerate such things, even if largely ineffective. That the bombing campaign, like the starvation campaign that preceded it, is likely to prove as useless as it is deadly, could be merely a tactical deficiency.

I have argued that its military and civilian successes, and the exile of Jews from much of the Arab world, make the existence of Israel a fait accompli, whether one likes the place or finds it quite unpleasant, as I did forty odd years ago.

A short-range perspective is not enough, however. If this were so, battles would not rage between the Palestinians and Jews over such questions as whether the old Temple ever existed in Jerusalem.

One Zionist claim is that Jews have rights to the land because it was theirs—up to 70 AD, when their revolt against Rome proved a failure. To the “it once was ours” claim is usually added a quasi-religious justification. Then of course there is the rationale that Israel is needed as a refuge against persecution.

It is true that the land was Jewish before, even if Gaza and Ashkelon were Philistine. The notion that we are going to return the heirs of long-defeated ethnic groups to their former territory is quixotic and ridiculous. If the Palestinians lost several wars and need to adapt to that, and the Sudeten Germans and Smyrna Greeks can lament but not undo their expulsions, why is the Jewish War of AD 70 something different?

The answer given by the atheist Zionist movement is that Israel is the Biblically Promised Land. Sometimes they will add a claim that Jews always lived there.

This claim is, of course, a modern fabrication. Christians, at least before the current dispensationalist fad, have always viewed Judaism as a false religion, and the Christian church as the true heir of the Biblical covenants. Although ADL types lambaste this as “supersessionism,” it is perfectly good Chrisian theology.

Both Talmudic Judaism and early Christianity had to cope, among other things, with the collapse of the Temple cult after the Jewish War. Fulfillment of the Law required pilgrimages and support of the vast abattoir that was the Temple. When the Temple was destroyed a second time, the Law--these practices-- became impossible to fulfill any longer.

Talmudic Judaism was invented to preserve Jewish identity under conditions of exile. Talmudic Judaism did not share the assumptions of modern Zionism. It taught that exile (galut or galus) was a spiritual consequence of Jewish sins, and redemption would come only with the arrival of the Messiah, seen as an earthly king rather than God made flesh in the Christian manner. Christianity generally taught that the Jews (the descendants of those who did not become Christian) would be converted in the fullness of time. There is no traditional Christian support for the view that Jews had any religious claim on the land. To the extent there is any such support, it arose in late Anglo-American nonconformist Protestant circles.

Paradoxically, however, the secularists and atheists who founded the Zionist movement looked to what is now Israel as the Jewish homeland—because it was the historic home of the Jews looked at as a nation, and because it was “promised” to the heirs of Abraham and Jacob.

This attitude was consistent with the European imperialist notion that wogs begin at Calais, and it was perfectly acceptable for the “civilized” to dispossess the “natives” whenever that was convenient. The Zionists, of course, started late, when these imperialist notions had begun to collapse.

Virtually from the beginning of Zionist settlement, it stimulated Arab hostility. Zionists like to point to this history as reflecting badly upon the Arabs, but what would one expect? Strangers come to your country, buying up land, gabbling about creating a state of their own, and refusing event to hire Arab labor.

All the rest flows naturally from this contradiction. Israel's creation always depended upon the dispossession of the Arabs, and it soon became clear that this dispossession would have to be done by force. The rest is history.

In short, at the root of all the violence is the simple fact is that the Arabs lived on the land and the Jews decided to take it from them. (Zionism also destroyed centuries-old Jewish communities around the world, but that's another story for another day).

In the film “The Battle of Algiers,” the French military officer points out that if you want to keep a French Algeria, you must countenance the brutal tactics then followed. In the same way, the starvation and slaughter in Gaza stem ultimately and almost inevitably from the Zionist claim to the land, supportable, if at all, by right of conquest. The ultimate Zionists, then, are not the “beautiful souls” of the crazy Israeli left, but men like Moshe Feiglin and Avigdor Lieberman, uncompromising, ideological, and brutal.