Monday, March 19, 2012

Just In Time For Passover Shopping:
Beinart Calls for Boycott of Settlement Products

Peter Beinart has an important article in today's NY Times, calling for Jews (and others) to boycott goods and services from the occupied territories. I could quibble with some of his points, (and I may do so later) but his gist, and the fact that it is published in the NY Times are important. Ken Yirbu.
In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the settlement of Ariel, which stretches deep into the West Bank, “the heart of our country.” Through its pro-settler policies, Israel is forging one political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — an entity of dubious democratic legitimacy, given that millions of West Bank Palestinians are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.

In response, many Palestinians and their supporters have initiated a global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.), which calls not only for boycotting all Israeli products and ending the occupation of the West Bank but also demands the right of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes ....

The Israeli government and the B.D.S. movement are promoting radically different one-state visions, but together, they are sweeping the two-state solution into history’s dustbin.

It’s time for a counteroffensive — a campaign to fortify the boundary that keeps alive the hope of a Jewish democratic state alongside a Palestinian one. And that counteroffensive must begin with language.

Jewish hawks often refer to the territory beyond the green line by the biblical names Judea and Samaria, thereby suggesting that it was, and always will be, Jewish land. Almost everyone else, including this paper, calls it the West Bank.

But both names mislead. “Judea and Samaria” implies that the most important thing about the land is its biblical lineage; “West Bank” implies that the most important thing about the land is its relationship to the Kingdom of Jordan next door. ...

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it. We should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities. Every time an American newspaper calls Israel a democracy, we should urge it to include the caveat: only within the green line.

And I might add, Jews should not buy settlement produced goods for Passover - the holiday of freedom, after all. Passover wine from non-democratic Israel would be particularly inappropriate on Passover. See my previous post on boycotting such wine for details of what not to buy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Israel - Iran Love Fest?

Didi Reider at +972 reports on an Israel-Iran solidarity movement on Facebook. The image above and the one below where sent by an Iranian and an Israeli respectively, and are part of many more posted there.

Reider adds his own thoughts:
So what does it all mean? Quite simply, that neither party has any appetite for a war right now. As an Iranian first strike on Israel is not even on the cards right now, Iranian opposition to war may come as no surprise. But it’s important to stress the Israeli opposition to war reflected above is also far from an abstract “make love not war” one. A recent survey found a whopping 50 percent of Israelis were totally opposed to an attack on Iran, even if the diplomatic efforts to stall the nuclear program failed. 43 supported the move, .... An earlier survey that specifically asked if Israel should attack on Iran on its own found 65 percent of Israelis were opposed.

Although I’m normally very cynical on just how much leaders care for public opinion when making a decision to go to war, we should remember Netanyahu is first and foremost a populist and that this is an election year.... In this situation, such campaigns might – just might – add a few grams of pressure on Netanyahu to stay his hand.
Read the full article and see more images at +972.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Rich Get Richer:
Is the ever growing income gap the issue of the decade?

The graph above was derived from data in a Globe and Mail article entitled "The Numbers Get Starker For the 99%." And the graph shows that indeed they do. The income gap is growing, and growing faster: as fast as it ever has.

Since 1993, in the U.S., the income of the 99% has risen by only 6.5%. The income of the 1% by 155%. (That's a relate growth ratio of 24:1.) Since 2009 the income of the 99% has risen by only 0.4%. The income of the 1% by 24.5%. (That's a relate growth ratio of 61:1 !)

The graph above shows only relative change to income. It shows the 99% and the 1% at par in 1993. In absolute terms however, the 1% were already making about 15 times the income of the average American in 1993, and the top 1% of the 1% (the top 0.01%) about 400 times the average. To graph that data linearly would require an image 1200 times as tall as the one above, or about 50 meters (150 ft) tall !!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Ad d'Lo Yadah

On Purim (tonight in case you aren't paying attention!) we are commanded to get inebriated. How inebriated? "Until they do not know" (ad d'lo yadah) the difference between Mordecai and Haman - between good and evil.

Well the good voters of Ohio got a head start on Purim last night, when in the under card of the Ohio primary, they chose "Joe the Plumber" as the Republican candidate for House of Representatives in Ohio's 9th district, while at the same time defeating long term congressman Dennis Kucinich in his bid for the Democratic nomination in the same district.

Kucinisch is probably the most progressive member of the U.S Congress, smart and honest too. Joe, on the other hand ....

Happy Purim ! (and pass the bottle)

For more on this see: cnn

Monday, March 05, 2012

Shooting and Crying?

I receive this on an NHC email list:

Why? Who died?
by David Grossman

Translator: Sol Salbe on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 2:53am ·

Translator's Note: Last Friday Haaretz did something unusual: it placed an opinion piece on top of its front page. But it wasn’t just an ordinary opinion piece, it was written by one of the country foremost novelists, David Grossman. The article, like Emile Zola’s J’accuse, to which it has been compared, was a moral critique. Many who read it were very moved. But the moral missive never appeared in English (at least to my knowledge). And of course translating Grossman is not easy, he is a master of the language and the art of writing.I have no idea whether I have done justice to this work. But it needed to be translated. The message is too important.*Hebrew original:

*Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia*

All said and done it is merely a minor story about an illegal alien who stole a car, was injured in an accident, then released from hospital to have cops dump him, still injured to die the by the roadside. What are the building blocks that lead to such an atrocity?

-David Grossman

Omar Abu Jariban, a resident of the Gaza Strip, staying illegally in Israel, stole a car and was seriously injured while driving it. He was released from the Sheba Medical Centre while his treatment was still ongoing and handed over to the custody of the Rehovot Police station. The police were unable to identify him. He himself was bewildered and confused. The Rehovot Police officers decided to get rid of him. According to Chaim Levinson’s account, they loaded him onto a police van at night accompanied by three policemen. He was still attached to a catheter, was wearing an adult nappy and a hospital gown. Two days later he was found dead by the roadside.

It’s a minor story. We have already read some like it and others where even worse. And when it is all said and done who is the subject of this story: an illegal infiltrator, from Rafah and a vehicle thief to boot. And at any rate it happened as long ago as 2008, there is a statue of limitation to consider. And we have other, fresher, more immediate matters which are more relevant for us to consider. (And beside all that, they started it, we offered them everything and they refused and don’t forget the terrorism.).

Ever since I read the story, I find it difficult to breathe the air here: I keep on thinking about that trip in the police van, as if some part of me had remained there, bonded on permanently and impossible to be prise out. How precisely did the incident pan out? it? What are the real, banal, tangible elements that coalesced together make up such an atrocity?

From the newspaper I gather that there were three cops there alongside Omar. Again and again I run the video clip mentally in my head: Was he sitting like them on the seat or was he lying on the floor of the van? Was he handcuffed or not? Did anybody talk to him? Did they offer him a drink? Did they share a laugh? Did they laugh at him? Did they poke fun at his adult nappy? Did they laugh at his confusion or at his catheter? Did they discuss what he was capable of while still attached to the catheter or once he would be separated from it? Did they say that he deserved what was coming? Did they kick him lightly like mates do, or maybe because the situation demanded a swift kick? Or did they just kick him for the heck of it, just because they could, and why not?

Besides, how can someone be discharged just like that from medical treatment at the Sheba Medical Centre? Who let him out in his condition? What possible explanation could they put down on the discharge papers which they signed off?

And what happened when the van reached the Maccabim checkpoint [not far from Jerusalem -tr]? I read in the newspaper that an argument ensued with the Israeli checkpoint commander, and that he refused to accept the patient. Did Omar hear the argument about him from within the van, or did they drag him out of the van and plonked him in front of the commander, replete with catheter, nappy and hospital gown for a rapid overall assessment by the latter? And the commander said no. And yalla! We are on our way again. So they returned to van, and they kept on going. And now the guys in the van are perhaps not quite as nice before, because it is getting late and they want to get back and wonder what have they done to have deserved copping this sand nigger and what are they going to do with him now. If the Maccabim checkpoint rejected him, there was no way in which the Atarot checkpoint will take him. It is now pitch black outside and by the by, while traveling on Route 45, between the Ofer military base to the Atarot checkpoint, a thought or a suggestion pops up. Perhaps someone said something and nobody argued against, or perhaps someone did argue back but the one who came up with the original suggestion carried more weight. Or perhaps there was no argument, someone said something and someone else felt that this is precisely what needs to be done, and one of them says to the driver, pull over for a moment, not here, it’s too well lit, stop there. You, yes you, move it, get your arse into gear you piece of shit – thanks to you our van stinks;, you ruined our evening, get going! What do you mean to where? Go there.

And what happens next? Does Omar remain steady on his feet, or are his legs unable to carry him? Do they leave him on the side of the road, or do physically take him there, and how? Do the haul him? Do they drag him deeper into the field?

You stay here! Do not follow us! Do not move!

And then they return to the car, walking a little bit more briskly, glancing behind their shoulder to ensure that he is not pursuing them. As if he already has something infectious about him. No, not his injury. Something else is already beginning to exude out of him, like bad tidings, or his court sentence. Come on, let’s get going, it’s all over.

And he, Omar Abu Jariban, what did he do then? Did he merely stand on his own feet or did he suddenly grasp what was happening, and started running and shouting that they should take him with them? And perhaps he did not realise anything, because as we said, he was confused and bewildered, and just stood there on the road or in the field, and saw a road, and a police van driving away. So what did he do? What did he really do? Started walking aimlessly, with some sort of a vague notion that somehow being a little further away would turn out somewhat better? Or maybe he just sat down and stared blankly in front of him and tried to figure it, but it was clearly beyond his comprehension for he was in no position to understand anything? Or perhaps he lay down and curled up on the ground and waiting? Why? And whom did he think about? Did he have someone, somewhere, to think about? Did the thought occur to any of those police officers, at any time during that whole night that there was someone, a man, a woman or a whole family for whom Omar was important? Someone who cared about him? Did it occur to them that it was possible, with a little bit more of an effort to locate this person and hand Omar to them?

Two days later they found his body. But I have no idea how much time had elapsed from the moment they dumped him by the roadside until he died. Who knows when it dawned on him that this was it; that his body did not have enough strength left to save himself. And even if could have summonsed the energy, he was trapped a situation from which there was no exit, that his short life was about to end here. His brother Mohammed, said by telephone from Gaza, “They simply threw him to the dogs”. And in the newspaper it says, “Horrible as it may sound, the brother accurately described what happened.” And I read it and the image turns into something real, and I try to wipe that image from my mind.

And in the police van, what happened there after they dumped Omar ? Did they talk among themselves? About what? Did they fire each other up with hatred and disgust at him, to retrospectively justify what they did? To justify what in their heart of hearts they knew stood in contrast to something. Maybe that thing was the law (but the law, they probably imagined, they could handle). But maybe it was contrary to something deeper, some deeply ingrained memory in them which they found themselves in, many years ago. Maybe it was moral tale or a children’s story in which the good was good and the bad was bad. Perhaps one of them recalled something they learnt at school — they did pass through our education system, didn’t they? Let’s say it was S Yizhar’s HaShavuy (the captive).

Or maybe the three of them pulled out their mobile phones and spoke to the wife, the girlfriend the son. At such times you may want to talk to someone from the outside. Someone who wasn’t here who did not touch this thing.

Or maybe they kept quiet.

No, silence was perhaps a little bit too dangerous at that point. Still, something was beginning to creep up the van’s interior; a sort of a viscous dark sensation, like a terrifying sin, for which there is no forgiveness. Maybe one of them yet did suggest softly, let’s go back. We’ll tell him that we were pulling his leg. We can’t go on like this, dumping a human being.

The paper says: “As a result of the police Internal Affairs investigation, negligent homicide charges were filed in March 2009 against only two of the officers who were involved in dumping and abandoning Abu Jariban. Evidence has yet to be submitted in a trial of the pair but in the meantime, one of the two accused has been promoted.”

I know that they do not represent the police. Nor do they represent our society or the state. It’s only a handful or bad apples, or unwelcomed weeds. But then I think about a people which has dumped a whole other nation on the side of the road and has backed the process to the hilt over 45 years, all the while having not a bad life at all, thank you. I think about a people which has been engaging in a brilliant genius-like denial of its own responsibility for the situation. I think of a people, which has managed to ignore the warping and distorting of its own society and the madness that the process has had on its own national values. Why should such a people get all excited over a single such Omar?

* * *

The news article that originally broke this story can be read here.

I am not entirely sure how to take this.

On the one hand it is very similar to several (many?) incidents reported in Canada over the past years of police taking native people (often drunk) and driving out of town, and dumping them (sometimes shoe-less) far from town, to make their way back - or not - as best they could. Often this has been in winter (30 below on the prairie) and several time these people froze to death. This practice was so common it has a name: "The Starlight Tour."

So is Israel better or worse than Canada in this respect? Is Israel better because one writer and one newspaper eloquently speaks out? Or is this just a case of what the Israelis call - somewhat cynically - "shooting and crying" - of baring witness to our sensitive souls but doing nothing to stop the tragedy?

Is this blog any different?

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Why There Will Be No War With Iran This Spring (unless ...)

Despite all the sabre rattling I don't believe there will be a war with Iran in the next 3-4 months (beyond that even fools shouldn't prophecy.) My reasons:

2) President Obama will not instigate an attack and will not participate in a joint attack with Israel, and will not guarantee to Netanyahu that he will come to Israel's aid after a unilateral Israeli attack. Obama believes that sanctions may yet work, and under no circumstances will start a war before the U.S. elections.

3) An Israeli attack can only delay - not stop - Iran's nuclear program. Moreover it will guarantee that Iran will definitely go for nuclear weapons and missiles no matter what - something that is still in doubt today. Netanyahu knows this.

4) An Israeli attack will cause thousands of Hezbollah rockets to rain down on Israeli cities. Haifa is well within range. Tel-Aviv is probably too. Israel would ultimately win such a war, and inflict terrible damage on Lebanon. Israeli intelligence estimates however predict that such an attack would cause many hundreds of Israeli civilian casualties and billions of dollars of economic damage. Netanyahu knows this too.

5) A unilateral Israeli attack would severely disrupt world oil supplies and therefore the very fragile world economy. This would cost Israel dearly in international support. It would also completely alienate the U.S. administration and its professional defence and diplomatic corps: even if they might mute this somewhat in public, these people have long memories. If the economic disruption was sever enough, it might even cost Israel its single greatest strategic asset: the support of the American people, and Israel's "lock" on Congress. Netanyahu knows this too.,

So unless Israel is being run by a megalomaniacal, suicidal and/or apocalyptic leadership, there will be no attack on Iran in the next few months.

(But then again, unless Iran is being run by a megalomaniacal, suicidal and/or apocalyptic leadership, there is no chance of Iran instigating a nuclear attack on Israel. So why all the fuss?)


Quick! Who said this about whom?

"[diplomatic talks are dangerous. It allows them] to pursue, or exploit the talks, as they’ve done in the past, to deceive and to delay, so that they can continue to advance their ... program and get to the ... finish line by running the clock, I think the international community should not fall into this trap. I think the demands on [them] should be made clear."

In fact it was said by Bibi Netanyahu in Ottawa on Friday, arguing against negotiating with Iran about its nuclear plans. But more accurately it could have been said by any Palestinian leader in describing the futile "peace talks" that Israel is trying to get the PA to engage in. This, in fact, exactly describes Israel's approach to such talks since Netanyahu first became Prime Minister in the mid-1990's.