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Monday, March 23, 2009

missed opportunity for real change on Israel/Palestine

Having Chas Freeman on the National Intelligence Council could have been really good for "change". Guess Obama's not looking to get change at the expense of an early lame duck situation (which AIPAC could arrange). We could have really had a real national discussion about our influence in the Middle East, human rights, international law, etc. The choice of Freeman really fit well with Obama's approach of appointing a wide range of people to bounce ideas off of. Except on Israel. We have to placate our Israeli constituency, right? We must appoint people who "love" Israel and would never admit Israel was doing anything remotely wrong (despite the truckloads of evidence to the contrary)-- OR ELSE-- no re-election. That's always the bottom line. Forget peace and justice and the sanctity of life. Power and money are the important things in life. Apparently.

What's kind of sad about this is that Israel, who can't vote in our elections, dictates our foreign policy in the region. That alone would be bad, but what's worse is that they have convinced us it's our idea and that it's "right" and moral. History is not going to look favorably on this. We're going to look like a bunch of idiots.

The Lobby Falters

Freeman's statement upon getting dumped:

Schumer and Emanuel's involvement in the dumping:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Now toilet paper is dangerous!!

"But U.S. and Western officials complain the limited list of humanitarian goods that Israel allows into Gaza changes almost daily, creating major logistical problems for aid groups and donor governments which are unable to plan ahead."
Weapons banned. That's debatable. Jam, cheese, toilet paper, pasta, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, among other items on an ever-changing imaginary list??? That is a deliberate attempt to starve people, confuse the aid work, and hold up the peace process.

Israeli defense official Peter Lerner said in response: "I'm not aware of any problems with toilet paper, toothpaste, dairy products ... and other food stuffs. Basic necessities are being met and are going in on a daily basis."

And of course Israel is "unaware of any problems" and says goods are moving freely. Free is apparently a relative term. Basic, necessity, problem, being met, going in may also beg some serious clarification. Either Israel is incompetent or they are lying to our face. Either way we need to do more than complain. We are a superpower and all we propose to do about Israel terrorizing Palestinians and blocking the peace process is beg and plead??? Why not take $1000 a day from our $4bn gifts until Israel respects international law and commits to a one or two state solution? Or give them 3-4 chances, knocking off $1bn each time? Or cut them off totally? They aren't entitled to our money, they don't need it, and if they break our laws it makes more sense for them to pay us! Sanctions, anyone?

This issue is significantly different from other conflicts. Other times, we are generally will at least sympathize with the oppressed, if not help them. This is not to say we haven't supported and trained some opposition groups that have done much harm (i.e. School of the Americas), but we never have supported a group that continually defies international and our own laws so openly and to the extent we have Israel. We do give aid to Palestinians, the oppressed, but we give so much more to those who are increasingly more vocal about their opposition to peace and desire to starve/kill/whatever Palestinians if it means keeping Israel Jewish (always cast as an existential threat to their lives, rather than the truly racist goal).

We always have said we support Israel because they are committed to peace, while Palestinians aren't, they value freedom and equality like us and Palestinians elect terrorist and corrupt leaders. We really have no basis for the distinction we have made in the past- whether or not it is true. Israel's current leaders aren't committed to the previous agreements, two- state solution, freedom and equal rights for all. We are currently funding terrorism- or what has been referred to as collective punishment, occupation, apartheid. Israel is punishing all for the crimes of a few and is using basic necessities, health and starvation as a method to change the Palestinian political landscape to one it likes better. With Lieberman, the card-carrying, State Department-identified terrorist as FM this should now be more than clear. Shall we nip this in the bud now, or wait until he sets up gas chambers?? They've already got the concentration camps.
(Here's my other bit on Avigdor Lieberman.)

We are funding this nonsense!!

Especially with our nation looking for extra dollars these days, could we not make better use of this money that's funding massacres, Israeli terrorists, the starving of Palestinians, and promising to run peace negotiations off course???

Edit 3/24/09:

"Items banned by the Israeli authorities last week included jam, biscuits and tomato paste, resulting in 498 boxes of USAID cargo and 2,488 boxes of World Vision cargo stopped from delivery to Gaza. According to COGAT*, food parcels containing these foodstuffs, as well as tea, sweets and date bars, will be rejected in the future."

*COGAT - [Israeli military] Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs


Monday, March 16, 2009

A step backwards for Israel; a step forward for EU

Hardliner Avigdor Lieberman set to become Israel's foreign minister

"Israel needs to explain that the demand for a Palestinian state and the refugees' right of return is a cover for radical Islam's attempt to destroy the State of Israel." Lieberman was a member of the current Israeli government, but walked out in January last year as soon as peace talks restarted with the Palestinians. (from the article)
You can see more gems from Lieberman in my Feb 16, 2009 post.

Sometimes "no partner for peace" is thrown around without much thought. For example, if Israel wants Palestinians to lay down arms, accept occupation, inequalities, injustice and apartheid, but Palestinians hold out for human rights, food, shelter, safety, and justice; Israel declares it has no partner for peace. In the new Israeli FM, Avigdor Lieberman's case, the term is more than adequate!

Solana and the EU are light-years ahead of the US here. Even though the statement is pretty mild, predictable and entirely reasonable, this is no doubt considered radical, biased and maybe even anti-Semitic. The EU appears to have actually set a boundary for this rogue state! We are far too terrified of the repercussions ("Will I get re-elected if I'm on AIPAC's blacklist???") to do any such thing to promote peace and justice.
"We will be ready to do business as usual, normally with a government in Israel that is prepared to continue talking and working for a two-state solution," he said. "If that is not the case, the situation would be different." (from the article)
Heaven forbid Israel should be held accountable for anything or held to any standard whatsoever! This isn't even talking about accountability. They just have to commit to work for peace. Guess that is too much to ask.

One might argue that the EU statement is more biased toward Israel if you buy into the thinking that a two state solution is now impossible. All they have to do is commit to the two state solution and -poof!- we have political formaldehyde just like the Gaza disengagement (looks like a goodwill gesture, actually is the opposite). Opposing the EU/Quartet/Roadmap/US in the two state solution is making them look kind of silly and belligerent at the moment even though agreeing to it would get them what they want without exposing themselves. Guess the current leaders are no Sharon or Weisglass. But they weren't exactly great at hiding motives all the time- I'm still trying to reconcile surgical precision and 1 ton bombs.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prayers for Obama

I have a bit of a rant today, I guess. It's a politics and religion one, so it may rub some people the wrong way. I've been noticing this inconsistency since, oh... around January 20.

James's thoughts on what exactly is pro-life could have inspired this, but since I find myself in the minority among another minority here, I suppose it is always on my mind.

Let me just say first that I am all for praying for the President, the country, the world, etc. Thank God for our freedoms every day. These are all good things and I am all for it. There just seems to be some differences in how this is applied while Democrats vs Republicans are in office and I think that shouldn't be the case. The other problem is when some folks say we should pray for the President, you can read from context and tone of voice that what they mean is- pray that that heathen Democrat you people elected to kill babies and glorify homosexuality doesn't do too much damage before we get another righteous Republican in office. Ok, that's a bit extreme, but you know what I'm saying. We've all heard it. No party has a monopoly on Godliness; all are made up of individuals who will fail from time to time and both parties deal with corruption and the like. Not one of our Presidents was sent from God... any more than any other world leader, that is. And if that is scripturally false, someone please correct me.

These groups were formed on Facebook (some just after the election, it seems):

Millions of Christ Followers Praying for the United States

Stop the Silencing of God-
This country was founded on Christian values
Separation of church and state means the government doesn't restrict my rights as a Christian
If we don't get God back in our country we will collapse

I keep hearing very frequently now about how we need to pray for the President, they're taking God out of schools, things aren't as good as they used to be, pray for the direction of our nation, etc. People seem to be giving the impression that now that Obama's president, the burden of sin is pressing so hard, it will soon envelop and suffocate us all. There wasn't nearly the urgency and frequency of calls to pray for our nation and President. When GWB was President, I occasionally would hear a reminder to pray for our leader and the troops, but other than that, it seemed people thought he didn't need prayers or he was from God so people didn't feel they had to pray the nation back on track (???).

And people, you really need to stop and think what the implication of more church in the state ("going back to our religious roots") means in this country before you ask God for it continually. Do we really want to go back to a time when one denomination ruled and if you weren't a part of that, then you couldn't hold public office or other things and probably would get thrown in prison for preaching anything else?? Or would we like such laws as:

"Settlers who failed to observe the Sabbath lost provisions for a week (first offense), received a whipping (second offense), or were executed (third offense). "
(From Steven Waldman's book, Founding Faith)

You have to remember that putting church in the state will also put state in the church.

I think rather than pushing for public communal prayers in schools, events, etc, we should embrace our freedom of speech and assembly. Perhaps we should think of it another way. If God isn't mentioned much anymore, maybe it's our fault. Maybe we don't use our freedoms to the extent we could. Do we really need the state to "bring God back" ?

Another thing I don't get is that many a Republican will say how they are against government hand outs in monetary form and yet they are up in arms that government isn't handing out religion. They want all these obstacles in the way of government aid to individuals, they are against welfare, and government programs to help the poor which I would think Christians would be in favor of. To be fair, they do often say that the individual Christian should be giving to the church and community instead of the government (which doesn't distribute wisely, etc?). I can understand that to some extent. But, that being said, why criticize Democrats for "taking God out of schools" and public life? In the same vein, shouldn't the individual rather than government be the one to put God in various places (free speech)? If you think the government can't distribute the money to the poor properly, what is it going to do to the Bible and God???

Just seems kind of odd to be ok with the individual tending to the poor (rather than the government) but to turn around and call the other party Godless for applying the same principle to religion.

It also seems that if you value your freedom of religion (freedom to practice as you see fit) that you'd want the church and state separate... maybe that's just me.

And after 4 sessions, I think that's all I've got for now...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rashid Khalidi (you know, Obama's best friend, the second terrorist professor?)

Remember that professor McCain/Palin was trying (really hard and without success on both counts) to paint as another terrorist and political ally of Obama’s?
"It seems that there is yet another radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama going back several years," Palin said at an event in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Radical?? I guess that’s the new substitute for calling someone anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel.

Anyway, he was on the Diane Rehm Show March 5 at 11am.

On the page for the link I’m giving, you can listen to the segment and see just how radical he is? Or perhaps Palin fits the radical label better and so from her perspective, Khalidi is radical? Or perhaps anyone is radical who expresses a minority opinion, no matter how commonsense- the US shouldn’t torture, the US should have gathered more info before flattening Iraq, the US should oppose war crimes on both sides of the Israeli Palestinian conflict?

Radical is “marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional”, so perhaps that characterization is correct, but when used in combination with the Ayers allusion (or delusion??) and the PLO, which was named a terrorist organization in 2004, she was giving it a bad connotation. Or trying really, really hard to do so.

I’ve got to say that the Ayres and Khalidi digs were a pretty far stretch. She introduced the Khalidi thing in the last week of the campaign when the Ayres thing had all but fizzled out. It looked pretty sad then, but take a listen to Khalidi speaking for himself and it looks even worse. You will see someone who has an understanding of world affairs that far supercedes hers. Obama has his flaws and limitations, but I think we averted disaster in that last election. Speaking of flaws—what about that Limbaugh garbage? Obama needs to stop taking Emanuel’s advice! Giving Limbaugh that much attention was a big mistake (it just boosted his already supersized ego); he’s got a big mouth, but he’s no spokesman.

Anyway, Khalidi’s got a new book, Sowing Crisis in the Middle East, and it touches on things I’ve thought about before as well as some other interesting ideas.

He apparently addresses my thoughts about terrorism being the new communism, as in it being an exaggerated fear, boogeyman, and something that is thrown about without much care in tough political contests or discussions.

He also talks about Cold War remnants and how that carries over to the current situation in the Middle East (and how Bush picked a lot of Cold War “experts”). The US and Israel were on one side and Arabs sided with the Soviet Union on the other. He thinks that this is how Arab nationalism got (wrongly) associated with communism and hence was opposed by the US and its allies on principle.

I don’t know if he talks about this in his book, but his interview led me to think that this could very well be a major reason for our unconditional support for Israel, despite its failure to uphold our values, and reluctance to support Palestinians gaining statehood and rights in general. I mean, think about how much and how carelessly in recent times the communism accusation is still thrown about- a good example would be the recent presidential campaign in 2008. It was used when people disagreed, to describe the run of the mill progressive tax, used to describe Obama, etc. The Cold War is very much alive in American minds, though it has been over for some time in reality.

The reasons I have usually given for our unconditional support for Israel despite the evidence for its human rights violations, war crimes, lack of respect for human life in general, apartheid tendencies, etc are:

*Christian Zionism/religious beliefs/ misunderstanding of Bible prophecy and the Old Testament in general

*Jewish Zionism

*Israel lobby (buying politicians, politicians loving power and money more than justice and freedom)

*Islamophobia and fear of a culture we aren’t familiar with

The Cold War should definitely join the ranks, here. None of these are justifiable for depriving Palestinians the right to freedom, statehood, self-defense, human rights, food, shelter and the like, but I definitely see it as a reason for our position.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Senators also need to check!! No kidding!

H. R. 1105 (Omnibus Appropriations Bill)

Amendments 629-631 failed!! Yay!! Leahy's statements opposing the amendments were surprising and welcome. It's the times like these when I have hope that the tide can change and we can have a policy that reflects the current understanding of the conflict, parties involved, peace and justice.

Kyl was trying to ban Palestinians from coming to the US as legitimate refugees based on a news story, aka urban legend. Unbelievable. You can read my letter asking to reject the amendments below, as well as the transcript of some of the discussion of the bill.

See the snopes link and scroll below to Kyl's comments in pink for the short cut- if you don't want to read all of Kerry's stuff.

Kerry and Lehy spoke out against it and some House Republicans wanted to ban aid to UNRWA. Take note in Kerry’s (lengthy) comments I got from (also see for the “menu” of sections of this session) I’m pretty sure Kyl is referencing an urban legend (aka “news story”) his constituents contacted him about!! Somebody should check snopes before making bold statements and actions.

Kerry's comments are interesting, but totally ignore Israel's role in the oppression (it's all Hamas's fault, Palestinians are mostly interested in escaping from Hamas's rather than Israel's oppression??) and Palestinian rights for that matter; they were in support of the right end, so I can't complain too much. Leahy showed a bit better grasp of the situation.

Here’s my
pre-written ADC letter below.

Message sent to the following recipients:
Tim Morrison
Representative Butterfield
Senator Burr
Senator Hagan
Message text follows:

As your constituent, I am particularly appalled by some amendments made to
H.R. 1105 in the Senate. S. AMDT 629 & 631, sponsored by Senator Jon Kyl,
attack a the Palestinian civilian population and do so at a time when this
population is most vulnerable. It is shocking that any American legislator
would seek to deny entry to refugees to our great Nation. Further, these
amendments would also place restrictions on aid being sent to Gaza for
reconstruction after a 22-day war which left much of the already
impoverished strip in ruins.

I urge you to vote against legislation that includes these amendments in
the Senate chamber and, should you have the opportunity to review this
bill in conference I urge you to strike these hateful amendments from the

Of all the deceptive "riders" which can be placed on large bills,
attacking a poor and suffering population in a distant land is a new low.
America should not send this message to the world.

from :

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. John Kerry :
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts is recognized.


Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I rise to talk about two amendments offered by the good Senator from Arizona, Mr. Kyl, amendment No. 630 and amendment No. 629. I say to my friend from Arizona that I regret to sort of be in the position of opposing a couple of his amendments because these are subjects I would have loved to have worked with him on closely and I appreciate the relationship we have and the conversations we have had recently about a number of very important issues in front of the Senate.

So I find myself a little bit in an uncomfortable position, but nevertheless a necessary one, because, first of all, on amendment No. 630--which refers to the issue of requiring a report on whether more United States assistance to Egypt is going to improve Egyptian efforts to counter illicit smuggling in Gaza--we all agree we have to increase the efforts with respect to smuggling.

In fact, we agree so much that over the course of the last administration, and now continuing into this one, we have entered into new agreements with the Egyptians, with new technical means that are going to be applied to this effort, with an increased effort that is going to be taking place right now.

But the problem with the amendment is--it is a well-intended amendment, but again everyone here understands what the effect of this amendment is going to be. It is simply to keep us, if it were to pass, from enacting this bill before the current continuing resolution expires. Because given what we have heard from the House, a vote for the amendment is effectively a vote against the Omnibus appropriations bill and a vote for a year-long continuing resolution at last year's funding levels. That is what is at stake here.

But going from there, given the fact there are so many priorities in this bill we want to pass, and we need to, let me talk for a moment about the substance, just on the substance itself. I personally do not think this is the best moment or best way to go about achieving what we want to achieve with the Egyptians, who have been particularly helpful at this moment with respect to the efforts to try to seek Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, and particularly helpful with respect to some of the issues on the border at Rafah and with respect to the tunnels.

Moreover, the bill that is in front of us states that ``not less than $1,300,000,000 shall be made available for grants only for Egypt, including for border security programs and activities in the Sinai.'' So there is additional money here. There is money available to be spent on this task.

It also reflects the fact we have recently upgraded our efforts with Egypt. I think if we come along now and pass this amendment, we wind up saying that the efforts we have made are insufficient, and it is a slap in the face to the Egyptians in the process. So this is a sensitive time. It is an important time. I hope Egypt's good interventions--and I recently was in Egypt. I met with President Mubarak. I met with General Suleiman and the people involved directly in this effort. I am absolutely confident about their focus on the border, as well as their focus on these reconciliation efforts. So in the context of those efforts, this amendment is, frankly, not helpful to the broader interests in the region at this moment.


The second amendment, No. 629, would prohibit the use of any funds in the omnibus to resettle Palestinians from Gaza into the United States.

Now, let me first point out, in 2008 the United States did not resettle anyone from Gaza. So this is an amendment, this is a solution in search of a problem. The fact is, there is no problem currently. But let's assume--let's assume for the purposes of argument--in the future a Palestinian escaped from Gaza to get away from Hamas oppression and applied to be resettled in the United States. This amendment would prevent that resettlement.

Now, obviously, any Palestinian refugee ought to be subjected to a complete and thorough battery of security checks, screens, background checks, as we do already for any refugee from anywhere. And, of course, we want to be assured that an asylum seeker does not have ties with Hamas, with Islamic Jihaddists or any other terrorist organization.

But the point is, we already have exactly those kinds of security screens and background checks. We have them in the regular Department of Homeland Security resettlement procedures. So I see no reason to make an exception to the normal procedures that suddenly singles out a resident of Gaza. It also sends a message, not just of indifference, but, frankly, of hostility to tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza who are victims of Hamas.

Now, I just was in Gaza. I became--unbeknownst to me; I did not realize it at the time--the highest ranking American to go into Gaza in something like 8 or 9 years, and I saw thousands of kids roaming around the rubble of Gaza. I met with Fatah businessmen and others, with people who are struggling to make ends meet and pull their lives together. If one of them were to escape because of the oppression of Hamas and wanted to come to the United States, it would seem, given the daily deprivations and brutality of Hamas militants, the United States, commensurate with our highest values and the traditions of this country, would not want to refuse the possibility of asylum to those folks.

In fact, this amendment assumes that every resident of Gaza, regardless of age, background, political opinion or any other distinguishing characteristic, is pro-Hamas and ineligible for consideration for resettlement in the United States, even if they are lucky enough to escape from Gaza. It ignores the fact that a whole bunch of folks in Fatah were killed by Hamas and some of them knee-capped and otherwise assaulted in the course of the recent war because they weren't part of Hamas.

It is unnecessary. There are ample laws on the books which prohibit entry into the United States of any person who has been involved in terrorism or other crimes. During the Cold War, we did not bar Russians from coming to the United States, just as we don't bar Cubans or North Koreans from entering the United States, even though they live in oppressive regimes that we object to--or did live, in the case of the Soviet Union, in that situation. This amendment, therefore, is not only unnecessary but it would establish for the first time since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act a law that discriminates against a particular nationality in a particular geographic region.

I urge my colleagues to vote against both these amendments, and I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. KYL. Madam President, while my colleague from Massachusetts is still here, let me advise him of two things with respect to amendment No. 629. First of all, it was certainly not my intention that we deal individually with political asylees, but the amendment could have been read that way and I appreciate the point. Secondly, it was a response to a news story which gained a great deal of attention from my constituents related to the January 30 order by the President, ordering $20 million for urgent relief efforts to provide migration assistance to Palestinian refugees. That has gotten a lot of attention from folks. They wanted to know what we were doing.

We have talked to the State Department, and while I haven't withdrawn the amendment yet, we have received assurances from them orally that--and I believe and hope we will receive assurances in writing--that was not the intention of that order. Assuming that is the case, there would be no need for the amendment, and it would be my intention tomorrow to withdraw it. I hope they will have something to us in writing. If not, if they have a spokesman of high enough authority to provide the assurance orally, that will suffice as well, but we will want to get that.

I will speak to the other amendment, but I wished to respond to my colleague.

Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I appreciate the comments of the Senator. As I said, I know he works reasonably on these things and I look forward to working with him on it and I thank him.

I thought these comments were interesting and worthwhile:

Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Sen. Patrick Leahy:

"I have to think back -- I read about my family 150 years or so [ago] when they came to Vermont, on my father's side, the Irish. I'm sure if we had a law like this in place; it is questionable whether they could have come in. The Irish were fighting to keep their land. If they were fighting to keep their rights, fighting for the ability to vote, and they live[d] in what is now the republic of Ireland, they were considered terrorists."

And on the other side of the issue, making a bad resolution even worse:

House Republicans lead by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), along with Reps. Boehner (R-OH), Cantor (R-VA), Pence (R-IN), McCotter (R-MI), are calling on Senate colleagues to amend the HR 1105 to bar funding for UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority.

Friday, March 6, 2009

2 news items that SHOULD make us think... but won't

Aid Groups Calls for Israel to Lift Gaza Blockade

International aid groups are calling on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, because they say it is preventing the Palestinians from rebuilding the Gaza Strip. Israel has banned the importation of cement, steel rods and other material necessary for construction. Over the past month, Israel has also arbitrarily refused entry to items like chickpeas, macaroni, wheat flour, notebooks for students, freezer appliances, generators and water pumps, and cooking gas.

Ok. Either Israelis are now living in an alternate universe, fearing for their lives from macaroni bombs or chickpea ambushes or they are obviously trying to starve the population. Israel can use white phosphorus, no problem, but don't let those Arabs have macaroni!! The US needs to take stand. Call Israel out! Sanction them! After all, they have stated that the disproportionate force is designed to "convince" the population to turn away from Hamas. Terrorism is violence against innocents to achieve political goals, is it not? Israel can't be guilty, they are the perpetual victims, so we will have to call it something else... security? self-defense? existential threat? Seems a bit extreme for macaroni, but Israel's not guilty, so this is what we Americans have to do- lie. Oh, and since Israel can't be guilty, the Palestinians struggle for rights, food, and place to live, etc must be called terrorism. And suddenly I have fallen into that wormhole into the alternate universe that US/Israeli propagandists live in...

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem has been "unhelpful" to Mideast peace efforts.

And the Holocaust was "unpleasant"... (?!?!)

You can do it. Say it with me - illegal settlements, human shields, torture, blockades, collective punishment, occupation, aparthied, violation of our laws = ......... what? sanctions? Well, I doubt that's going to happen in my lifetime, but it's definitely deserving of stronger language than unhelpful!! When other countries do this kind of thing, we invade, we support invasions to stop these things; when Israel does it, we ignore it and call them our friend, pass classified info to them, and otherwise glorify, help them continue to violate the law, and protect them from the criticism of the observant (you don't even have to be that observant, really...).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Free speech ?

No such thing. Guess it was only a matter of time, really. Perhaps I had way too much faith in people.