Archive for the ‘Israel’ tag
Eyal Press’s review of a new film that premiered at Sundance is very good, but also stands alone as a story of how Israel came to support the interests of overzealous ultra-Zionists instead of international law.
The Ottomans, who had controlled Palestine until World War I, had used the term to designate land far enough from any neighboring village that a crowing rooster perched on its edge could not be heard. Under Ottoman law, if such land was not cultivated for three years it was “mawat”—dead —and reverted to the empire. “With or without your rooster, be at my office at 8:00 in the morning,” Sharon told Ramati, who was soon crisscrossing the West Bank in the cockpit of a helicopter, identifying tens of thousands of uninhabited acres that could be labeled “state land” and made available to settlers, notwithstanding the Geneva Convention’s prohibition on moving civilians into occupied territory.
(The fact that the film premiered and Sundance and probably won’t be available for normal people for over a year makes yesterday’s point all over again.)
I’m not sure whether to blame myself, or America’s Zionist or nothing relationship to Israel (non-Zionists only really care about Israeli-Palestinian relations, not Israel itself), but I learned a lot about modern Israeli society from this story about the summer housing protests there. (Like for example, the fact that there were widespread protests.)
You remember that thing I said about how much I love those deep, long country profiles in the book reviews? Still do.
Adam Shatz’s piece on Palestine is not short, but it’s a better portrait of what it’s like there now than you’d get from decades of news-watching.
There is a mental disorder called “paranoia vera”. Patients adopt a crazy assumption – e.g. “everybody hates me” – and then build an elaborate structure around it. Every bit of information which seems to support it is eagerly absorbed, every item that contradicts it is suppressed. Everything is interpreted so as to reinforce the initial assumption. The pattern is strictly logical – indeed, the more complete and the more logical the structure, the more serious is the disease.
(The typesetting on this page is atrocious. I recommend Readable if you don’t have a good system in place to deal with this problem.)
Eric Calderwood thinks that while the network’s coverage is unquestionably biased, it’s not without merit.
But in a larger sense, Al-Jazeera’s graphic response to CNN-style “bloodless war journalism” is a stinging rebuke to the way we now see and talk about war in the United States. It suggests that bloodless coverage of war is the privilege of a country far from conflict. Al-Jazeera’s brand of news - you could call it “blood journalism” - takes war for what it is: a brutal loss of human life. The images they show put you in visceral contact with the violence of war in a way statistics never could.
If only to establish my present ignorance of current events, I was until today largely unaware of the widening problem of Gaza. One could trace the beginning to the complete Israeli blockade — as Sara Roy does — but the widely reported cause is an Israeli desire to lessen the rocket attacks.
While Democrats can always threaten to flee to Canada in the event of an election loss, where can conservatives flee to?
Lebanon has announced plans to sue Israel over the food copyright for tabouleh, kubbeh, hummus, falafel and fattoush. The suit relies on the absurdly named feta precedent; as David Kenner describes:
Six years ago, Greece was able to win a monopoly on the production of feta cheese from the European Parliament by proving that the cheese and had been produced in Greece under that name for several millennia.
World opinion diverges enough to shock Blake Houshnell. While the greatest number of people appear to believe that it was Al Qaeda, Israel and America also won big votes. Israel was most often blamed by Arabs, with Egypt showing 43%, Jordon 31, and Palestine a (mere) 19.
Curiously, Mexicans were the second most likely — at 30% of those polled — to blame the United States. Turkey (36%) was the first, Palestine third at 27, and Germany fourth at 23.
You probably missed it — I nearly did — but Joshua Keating points out that three important things happened yesterday:
Israel and Syria, technically at war since 1967, are holding historic peace talks in Turkey that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described as a “national obligation.” The Lebanese government negotiated a compromise with Hezbollah, ending 18 months of violence and political deadlock. And Pakistan’s government defied the U.S. by agreeing to withdraw from Taliban-controlled territory in exchange for security guarantees.
They also make the point that this is clear sign of the current irrelevance of the United States to world politics.
It’s not surprising that Israel’s 60th anniversary has gotten a lot more ink than the 60th anniversary of the coincident nabka (catastrophe). Yesterday, Elias Khoury wrote an Op-Ed adressing the latter.
Israel has depicted the problem as rooted in the Arab world’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. But even after the majority of Arab states demonstrated their recognition of this right by supporting the Saudi peace initiative of 2002, nothing changed; in fact, things became worse. To Palestinians, the true problem lies in Israel’s rejection of the Palestinian right to an independent state, and in the prevailing Israeli culture’s refusal to recognize that Palestinians were themselves victims of forced expulsion from their lands.
Recognizing the sufferings of the victim, even if they are of the victim of a victim, is the necessary condition for an exit from this long and tragic tunnel. However, as the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci suggests, it is difficult to maintain the optimism of the will in the face of the pessimism of the intellect.
Pessimism of the will is what we are living today in the Middle East. It is a pessimism that warns not only of the danger of recurring episodes of catastrophe as Arab societies break apart, but of the dismal prospect of an endless war that will provoke future tragedies in the 21st century.
Emily Bazelton does an admirable job explaining Israel’s conundrum with it’s recent influx of African refugees.
Israel loves to be the first on the scene when there’s a humanitarian crisis: In 1977, Menachem Begin welcomed 66 Vietnamese boat people spotted by an Israeli cargo ship near Japan; more recently, Israel sent medical teams to India after the 2001 earthquake and arrived in Asia with emergency aid after the tsunami in 2004. But if Israel embraces thousands of African refugees, millions in Egypt alone could try to follow. All developed countries worry about the effects of an influx of poor refugees. But the problem is especially delicate for Israel, which worries about someday losing its Jewish majority to the growing Palestinian population (especially if it does not relinquish control of the West Bank). And then there’s the country’s location: It’s not as if there are other prosperous democracies in the region for refugees to choose among. Maybe it was only a matter of time before Africans decided to opt for this shorter trek over the long voyages to Europe and North America.
Shmuel Rosner’s argument against Jimmy Carter’s recent plea for engagement is rather inelegant. I did, however, find this contention interesting.
There’s no moral virtue in talking to one’s enemies. Engagement is a tool, but so are disengagement and isolation. Both are effective, if used wisely; both can be damaging if used in haste. Talking to one’s enemies is a tool—as is complaining about one’s reluctance to talk to one’s enemies. This is the tool now being used by Hamas and Syria—assisted by Carter—as they try to escape and counter the isolation being applied to them. Making the case for engagement helps them achieve their strategic goal.
As you may have heard, a new Israel-focused lobbying group opened in Washington recently. Gary Kimiya’s thoughts on the subject are worth considering:
Nothing is more urgently needed in our political discourse than for the taboo against speaking forthrightly about Israel to be overthrown. After all, notwithstanding its profound connection to some American Jews and its (partly justified) status as a beloved icon with whom we have a “special relationship,” Israel is not the 51st state — it is a foreign country, and one smack-dab in the center of the Middle East, a region in which we have some considerable national interest. The enforced silence about Israel has prevented us from thinking clearly about the Middle East, and helped enable both the disastrous war we are now fighting in Iraq and a possible future one against Iran.
But because of the highly sensitive nature of the subject, American Jews must lead the way.
Which is why the birth of J Street, whose goal Ben-Ami says is “to redefine what it means to be pro-Israel,” is cause for unalloyed celebration. “Over the course of a quarter century of doing American politics, I’ve seen the way in which the Israel issue plays out,” Ben-Ami said in a phone interview from J Street’s Washington, D.C., office. “And it greatly disturbs me and it greatly disturbs a very large number of progressive American Jews, who believe very strongly in Israel but feel that the way in which the American Jewish community’s voice has been expressed on these issues doesn’t reflect our values or opinions. Only the voices of the far right have been heard. They’ve really hijacked the debate when it comes to Israel.”
In an interesting special report, The Economist explores the sociological impacts of what it’s calling the nomadic future.
Humans have always migrated and travelled, without necessarily living nomadic lives. The nomadism now emerging is different from, and involves much more than, merely making journeys. A modern nomad is as likely to be a teenager in Oslo, Tokyo or suburban America as a jet-setting chief executive. He or she may never have left his or her city, stepped into an aeroplane or changed address. Indeed, how far he moves is completely irrelevant. Even if an urban nomad confines himself to a small perimeter, he nonetheless has a new and surprisingly different relationship to time, to place and to other people. “Permanent connectivity, not motion, is the critical thing,” says Manuel Castells, a sociologist at the Annenberg School for Communication, a part of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
Also, because it seems I forgot, the magazine ran a special report about Israel the week before that was also rather good.
Nothing in this piece is terribly surprising, but still I like to know how events in the United States are understood in other parts of the world. It would happen that though Hillary Clinton and John McCain are preferred by most Israelis, Mr. Obama is generally the favorite of Arabs. With one caveat:
Some Arabs are less smitten. Anti-Syrian politicians and activists in Lebanon may worry about Mr Obama’s willingness to start talks with Iran, fearing that they could result in America “selling out” Lebanon in exchange for a deal elsewhere in the region. But, for now, he seems to be the candidate of choice among Arabs.
The complexities of the Israel-Fatah-Hamas are often lost on me. But this I was heartened by:
However, Hamas is now attempting to sell the virtues of a ceasefire to a battered people accustomed to talk of “steadfastness” and “resistance”. A group of leading thinkers is to visit universities and hold symposia to convince Gazans that a period of calm will help lift the siege and rebuild their disappearing economy.
Though that hardly means that a resolution is suddenly within sight, I can’t see this as a bad thing.
The CS Monitor asks a question that should be answered quickly (and affirmatively).
The hand-wringing over talking to Hamas reflects a shift away from the black-and-white diplomatic approach of President Bush’s first term to a more realist and results-oriented tendency in the second. If the US can talk to archenemy Iran to get something it wants in Iraq, the reasoning goes, then why not explore what might be gained from someone sitting down with Hamas?