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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Congress pro-peace letter (or is it-- you decide)

This particular letter is supported by (Jewish) Americans for Peace Now and is from May 2010 (my apologies). The Congressional action in my last post reminded me of this other one. A lot of stuff they do is great, but support for this letter is not one of them. It's apparent goal is to verbally support peace and the start of peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, but it actually smears rather successful Palestinian efforts and puts Netanyahu and Israel on a pedestal they most certainly don't deserve.

Full text of the letter is at this link:

"Pro-peace" Senate letter (as it's called)

As steadfast supporters of Israel and the U.S.-Israeli relationship, we are writing to express our support for the start of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on ending the Israeli-Palestinian dispute with the active participation of U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell.

It will solidify Israel's identity as a Jewish, democratic state by giving it safe and secure borders.

Attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah are mentioned as obstacles, but they are often in areas not controlled by the PA; they are Israeli controlled. This is often blamed on Abbas, though. Interestingly, Netanyahu's obstinance isn't alluded to, nor the fact that he chose such to embrace people like Lieberman who are in fact settlers (part of the problem) and terrorists who make public statements that undermine peace and call into question Israel's desire for peace and value placed on human life and rights.

This is indicative of congress's view:

We applaud Prime Minister Netanyahu for committing to direct talks and we urge you to press President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to reciprocate.

Just one report on this reciprocation that Congress is so intent on not seeing:

While No One is Looking, the Palestinians are Building a State (June 2010)

US House to vote no to Palestinian state

Sign the petition. Palestinians are ready for a state. It's always us and or Israel (what's the difference really) who aren't.

This reminds me of another Congressional action this year in the form of a letter by Feinstein, I believe, that I found utterly ridiculous. It was meant to support peace talks, but ended up smearing Palestinians and their efforts and putting Israel on a very high pedestal it doesn't deserve in the least.

And as for the "problem" with a unilateral decision... boo hoo. Israel makes them all the time and often innocents die as a result. I'm glad Palestinians are taking the bull by the horns for a change.

From the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:

We are outraged to learn that Rep. Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is trying to push through Congress today a resolution “condemning unilateral declarations of a Palestinian state.”

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the worst stumbling block to freedom’s advance is the person who “paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's [or woman’s] freedom.”

Yet, this is exactly what Rep. Berman’s resolution seeks to do: subjugate Palestinian freedom and self-determination to Israel’s indefinite timeline. As MLK said, “‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’”


Supporting a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and for other purposes.

Whereas a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties;

Whereas Palestinian leaders have repeatedly threatened to declare unilaterally a Palestinian state and to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations and other international forums;

Whereas Palestinian leaders are reportedly pursuing a coordinated strategy of seeking recognition of a Palestinian state within the United Nations, in other international forums, and from a number of foreign governments;

Whereas on November 24, 2010, Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization, wrote to the President of Brazil, requesting that the Government of Brazil recognize a Palestinian state, with the hope that such an action would encourage other countries likewise to recognize a Palestinian state;

Whereas on December 1, 2010, in response to Abbas’s letter, the Government of Brazil unilaterally recognized a Palestinian state;

Whereas on December 6, 2010, the Government of Argentina announced its decision to recognize unilaterally a Palestinian state, and the Government of Uruguay announced that it would unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state in 2011;

Whereas, on March 11, 1999, the Senate adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, and on March 16, 1999, the House of Representatives adopted House Concurrent Resolution 24, both of which resolved that ‘‘any attempt to establish Palestinian statehood outside the negotiating process will invoke the strongest congressional opposition’’;

Whereas Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stated on October 20, 2010, that ‘‘There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace.’’;

Whereas, on November 5, 2010, United States Department of State Spokesman Mark Toner, responding to a questions about the Palestinians possibly taking action to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, said, ‘‘[T]he only way that we’re going to get a comprehensive peace is through direct negotiations, and anything that might affect those direct negotiations we feel is not helpful and not constructive’’;

Whereas Secretary Clinton stated on November 10, 2010, that ‘‘we have always said and I continue to say that negotiations between the parties is the only means by which all of the outstanding claims arising out of the conflict can be resolved. . .There can be no progress until they actually come together and explore where areas of agreement are and how to narrow areas of disagreement. So we do not support unilateral steps by either party that could prejudge the outcome of such negotiations.’’;

Whereas on December 7, 2010, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley stated, ‘‘We don’t think that we should be distracted from the fact that the only way to resolve the core issues within the process is through direct negotiations.’’;

Whereas Secretary Clinton state on December 10, 2010, that “it is only a negotiated agreement between the parties that will be sustainable”;

Whereas the Government of Israel has made clear that it would reject a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence, has repeatedly affirmed that the conflict should be resolved through direct negotiations with the Palestinians, and has repeatedly called on the Palestinian leadership to return to direct negotiations; and

Whereas efforts to bypass negotiations and to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, or to appeal to the United Nations or other international forums or to foreign governments for recognition of a Palestinian state, would violate the underlying principles of the Oslo Accords, the Road Map, and other relevant Middle East peace process efforts;

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) Reaffirms its strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states, a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace, security, and mutual recognition;

(2) reaffirms its strong opposition to any attempt to establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians;

(3) urges Palestinian leaders to—

(A) cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process, including efforts to gain recognition of a Palestinian state from other nations, within the United Nations, and in other international forums prior to achievement of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and calls upon foreign governments not to extend such recognition; and

(B) resume direct negotiations with Israel immediately;

(4) supports the Obama Administration’s opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state;

(5) Calls upon the Administration to:

(a) lead a diplomatic effort to persuade other nations to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and to oppose recognition of a Palestinian state by other nations, within the United Nations, and in other international forums prior to achievement of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians; and

(b) affirm that the United States would (i) deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and (ii) veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties.


We’re asking you to take action now because this resolution will be voted on today. (By the way, the text of the resolution isn’t even public yet, but we got our hands on a copy of it, which we’re publishing below.) Here’s what you can do:

1. Sign our petition to Rep. Berman letting him know that it is wrong for the United States to put a timeline on Palestinian freedom and self-determination.

If we get 5,000 signatures before the vote, we will hand deliver the signatures to Rep. Berman to let him know in person how outraged you are by his resolution. Help us reach our goal now by signing the petition and then spreading the word.

2. Call your Representative and ask him/her to vote “no” or “present” on this resolution and to speak against it on the House floor. After you sign the petition, you will be redirected to a page where you can enter your zip code and then get the phone number for your Representative.

Use one or more of the talking points below when calling your Representative, but be sure to call now before the vote!


* I urge Representative X to vote “no” or “present” on the resolution condemning Palestinian statehood, and ask him/her to speak against the resolution on the House floor.

* It is wrong for Congress to condemn Palestinian attempts to achieve freedom and self-determination. Congress has no business putting a timeline on Palestinian human rights.

* Israel has shown repeatedly that it prefers to colonize Palestinian land, rather than end its illegal 43-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip and negotiate in good faith to establish an independent Palestinian state. Under these circumstances, Palestinians cannot be blamed for seeking alternatives ways to establish an independent state.

* This resolution paternalistically demands Palestinians “resume direct negotiations with Israel immediately” even while Israel continues to illegally colonize Palestinian land supposedly designated for a future Palestinian state.

* This resolution calls on the Administration to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries by opposing the recognition of a Palestinian state by other nations.

* The text of this resolution was kept secret prior to the vote, the Obama Administration probably had no time to offer its opinion on it, there were no hearings about it, and the public had little chance to offer its opinion on it. The process by which this resolution is being brought to a vote is fundamentally anti-democratic.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

South America's got brains- and guts

And that's what it's going to take to solve this thing. Maybe the US should hand over the mediator job to them.

Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are recognizing Palestine and possibly establishing diplomatic ties. Apparently, Iran said France was also recognizing Palestine, but that's false. Of course, you can guess what the US and Israel have to say...

A U.S. State Department official said Argentina's move was a "premature step [that] does not contribute to our common goal of a two-state solution."

"Negotiations are the pathway for the parties to see the realization of their aspirations - for the Israelis, security - for the Palestinians, an independent, viable, and sovereign state of their own," the U.S. official added.

I mistakenly read this as an Israeli official's statement at first. Kind of funny. In most cases, I guess they are interchangeable anyway.

Israel called it regrettable and said the recognition won't change the Israel-Palestinian relationship. (What will, pray tell??)

What about recognizing the already legally accepted boundaries of 1967 doesn't contribute to a two state solution?? The longer we wait, the more settlements Israel will build. They build them whether or not there's an agreement not to build and they announce it during high profile state visits. How about those settlements for the future of a two state solution?? Countries should have recognized Palestine a lot sooner. They'd have more land without settlers that need evicting. Hope it catches on.

Interesting how Abbas (unilaterally, I suppose) requesting recognition by various countries is frowned upon, but Israel's unilateral decision of "withdrawal" which was meant to be in their words political formaldehyde was welcomed as a step toward peace... I guess when you consider the settlement situation, this is just par for the course, but it further reveals our perverted view of this conflict and unjustifiable support for Israel alone.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Science vs. Religion (?)

Just saw a bumper sticker: Take a stand for science. Support evolution.

Why? Is it in trouble?


This is on a car outside a building full of scientists. They should know what science is.

Yikes. I don’t want to know what kind of research they are putting out.

What I mean is anytime one comes to a conclusion and tries to prove it right (rather than prove it wrong or be open to all the outcomes), that’s bad science. You are supposed to observe and report the results. That’s science. My personal take is that science explains (or can explain) God’s creations.

I do believe God created the world, but even to start there and prove it right scientifically (not consider objections) would be bad science. I admit that. But to say that you’re more open minded or more scientific for taking evolution as fact and molding evidence to fit that is just wrong. The same folks will laugh at religious people for doing (what they perceive as) exactly that. The irony of “scientists” saying evolution is fact and creation is fiction or framing the debate as science vs religion makes me smile. I’m no longer perturbed, I’m amused. You have to go with the evidence and try and prove yourself wrong to really get anywhere, but that goes out the window for evolution.

The answer or right path rarely is found in the extremes. The Bible gives one a heads up on that one, so Christians I suppose have a leg up on that fact… I refuse to believe the ‘either science or religion argument’. It’s too simplistic and pretty unscientific. This is not to say I’m into theistic evolution or anything, but science is about observation, not persuasion. Since science is about observation, perhaps the origin of the universe and man is beyond the scope of science. I suppose that won’t stop people from trying. It hasn’t, that is. Since we can’t observe these things, we aren’t going to get any credible methods or results to explore this. Until time machines are invented I suppose.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Greed, prosperity, contentment, capitalism. What's a Christian to do?

Here we are in the season where people are nicer and trying to help and give more. I guess that’s a good thing, but too bad it can’t happen in other times of the year… What I’m about to say next is not to say that we shouldn’t give (we should!), but that we have a lot to learn from those “less fortunate” that we are intent on helping around this time.

So I have been thinking about wealth and greed. Maybe it’s all the talk of the financial crisis or maybe it’s just my pet peeves of little plastic key fobs that promise to save you tons of money and coupon cutting. I have heard a few things in sermons and classes in church and on Democracy Now that have kept me thinking about this.

I’m going to post a couple of things I’ve been writing. I apologize because they aren’t really finished and I don’t know if I’ll have time to put them in a more coherent form, but I thought I’d share anyway.

This is the version I heard Friday:

It appears to be much like the September version I found a transcript for, but with an added question by Amy about what did they, those in poverty, want to know from him (after asking what he learned about them). The question is at around 8:20

min in the show.

A rough quote:

“It may surprise you. They are not so interested in us. We overestimate ourselves. We believe they want to be like us. We believe they will overcome their problems when they look as much as possible as we look. Nonsense. “

His example from the Peace Corps:

He saw a woman in a village making 2 ponchos in a week, so they brought in another machine so she could make 20 in a week. They came back a few months later to see her increased production. They asked how she liked it and she said ok and when they asked how many she was making, she said two per week. They were shocked and wanted to know why and she said she didn’t need to make more than two and now she has more time to be with her friends and her kids.

We live in a society that would think this way was stupid and shortsighted. She would have been fired if she were working for us. Our culture tells us that making more money is the way to support your family (in a godly way) rather than spending actual time with them. We have it backwards. Everyone likes to say that we can do both, but we have really failed big on that and so I'm not really a believer in that anymore.

And here is another thing I heard that I have also thought a lot about at times, having visited the third world a few times myself:

“Solidarity of people. You know, respect for the others. Mutual aid. No greed. I mean, that is a value that is absent in poverty. And you would be inclined to think that there should be more there than elsewhere, you know, that greed should be of people who have nothing. No, quite the contrary. The more you have, the more greedy you become, you know. And all this crisis is the product of greed. Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done.”

Anyway, I struggle to understand what makes America what it is both for better and worse. The good is pretty easy. We’re free. We’re prosperous. The bad is more complicated. This could be due to our wealth as well. Poor countries and former socialist countries seem to do light years better than us (the Christian nation) in the very Christian traits of being content with what you have, not greedy, and taking care of everyone. Is capitalism to blame? Is the Christian nation not living it's Christianity? Or has Christianity been changed in America to fit our economic system?

*** ***
Here's the part I actually started with and have had saved in here for awhile:

I don't claim to be an expert on financial matters at all. Let me just get that out there. If you are on one side or another- because fans of capitalism or whichever economic system are equally as rabid as political fans- you will probably think me a complete idiot. Maybe you're right. It's early and maybe I'm not even awake as I type this.

Anyway, my whole thought process started with these dumb little "very special deals for our very special customer" cards you get. (And a friend's website: )

I have dozens on a key ring I have long since dedicated to this purpose. I mean why can't stores just have us all pay a fair price? Why must I carry a hundred little pieces of plastic to get a better deal than my neighbor? On the plus side, they do entertain children... But, is that the driving force, for us all to be cutting coupons, all to pay less (or appear to be doing so) than our friends? Yet, if we sell something, our capitalist instincts tell us we have to try our best to get the most out of people. And if we do, we feel good enough about this to brag about it and people respect it and consider you savvy. When you add Christianity to the mix, it all seems wrong and backwards.

An aside on the cutting coupons. We got sucked into a coupon cutting phase once. We thought, great, free money. Why haven't we been doing this? We soon found out why. To make it worth your while, you have to spend hours researching the best deals, knowing which stores are offering double coupons, look for cash in every rebate, go to seminars, talk about it with friends, join groups on Facebook and other social media, etc. It seems to consume people who do it. As I clipped my coupons and went to a few websites, I saw that. Maybe it's a hobby for some and if so and they derive some enjoyment from that, that's great. I'm not knocking wanting to save money either. We work hard and want the most we can get for our families. But therein might lay the problem. Always wanting the best value can turn a bit greedy when you get past clothing and food essentials I think...

We are told to be content with what we have (Philippians 4:11) and to pursue righteousness rather than wealth. And there's the story of the rich man who was told he'd have to give up his earthly possessions who walked away from eternal life. Jesus said it is harder for a rich man to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

Sometimes I think we gloss over these things by saying that you can still be rich and be godly. That way, we don't have to address that there might be something fundamentally un-Christian about the way we Americans do everything and think. Oddly, I have heard that more in discussions of these topics during the economic downturn than at other times, but perhaps I've just been thinking more about it myself. I mean is the eye of the needle just a saying? That seems to be what we treat it as. Otherwise the Bible would be saying the rich can't enter heaven because camels can't go through a needle. Or, they could in Jesus' time since he was healing the sick and turning water to wine in those times... so the application would be after the time for the miraculous passes, the rich could still enter due to Jesus' death on the cross... There is just so much in the Bible about helping others, not desiring riches, giving til it hurts, etc. Of course that is balanced with working so that you can eat and taking care of your family lest you be worse than an infidel. But I don't think these things allow for us to so casually dismiss them so often to say that, but the rich can go to heaven and it's not wrong to want to get paid more, etc. It's a fine line.

With drinking, we quite easily make a distinction. Drunkenness is sin. Period. Like the love of money is the root of all evil. Both sins have sort of shades of grey before you reach that point where people would judge that you (or yourself) have sinned. Perhaps the money one is more grey. Perhaps the money one is more convenient because you can say that you are rich yet still have your mind on the spiritual and don't love money and no one can really say much because only God can see what's in your heart. We can all see, however, whether or not someone can walk a straight line or put their finger on their nose. I like the description of choosing not to drink being like walking on the side of a cliff. We should have our minds on God, which would take us far from that cliff, rather than be constantly concerned with getting close enough to that cliff to feel the adrenaline, but not fall off completely. I mean, that's having your cake and eating it too- social drinking. Could it be the same with money? No one ever really says that if you have your mind on Christ, you probably would be a lot worse off financially than most of us are; we simply accept the fact that we are better off than most and move on. And we'd be fine with that. It's not an absolute or something I necessarily believe even, but I really wonder about that when people follow up the rich man story with that most important caveat- but the rich can be godly, too. Do we really need to be so concerned with that?

So, then there's the financial crisis and people debating which economic system is best. Ok. So maybe no one's really advocating abandoning it or questioning capitalism. But it seems like the church should, if anyone. A system that advocates no regulation in its purist form and encourages people to get as much as they can by virtually any means (lying or misleading is fine-its up to the market/customer to choose the best). I don't necessarily agree with everything socialism is and has been, but in countries that have been socialist, there seems to be more of an emphasis on helping each other out even if you take a hit personally, which should appeal to Christians. It seems odd to me that a Christian country would tend toward such a cold, vicious system rather than one that looks out for people. Many Christians object to socialist and semi socialist models on the basis of rewarding people who refuse to work and working for your food is in the Bible, so this is ruled out an ungodly. But how is a system that encourages and produces so much greed and allows us the "freedom" to gouge and lie and rely on the market to sort out right and wrong supposed to be more godly?

Since I've had this in the draft folder, I've heard a bit on NPR about Quaker capitalism. Now, maybe this is something Christians can relate to better than socialism??

Note to self. Stop saying socialism. Say Quaker capitalism.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Juan Williams firing

NPR: The Diane Rehm Show
Juan Williams
October 26

First, THE comments:

Williams responded: "Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.


I have a few different things I'm thinking. Two that differ quite a bit and one that is not too important.

I'll start with the superficial one. Muslim garb. Tee hee. That makes me want to giggle. Maybe not so superficial when you consider stereotypes and how they play into prejudice...

With that out of the way, lets move onto a few things that stick out to me.

Ok. I'm going to start with a defense of sorts, then move to the other direction, hoping that all these things that popped into my head can make some sort of sense.

One might say he's brave for stating that he's afraid of people dressed in traditional dress. It's not really PC to judge a book by its cover, but really he can't be wrong necessarily for stating his opinion. That's how he feels. He either wasn't thinking or bravely opened himself up to criticism.

In the clip that was played, he did say that this opinion doesn't justify profiling or denying mosque building. It appears as he says- he was trying to reign in O'Reilly. Now, reigning that guy in at all means you're probably still in the abyss, but slightly less so, but he makes a point.

Having said all that, I don't think he should have stated his fear on the air. On The Diane Rehm Show, she tries to get him to examine his roles as journalist for NPR and commentator for Fox and he kind of talks around it. I think he was in a precarious situation balancing those two roles and failed.

Another reason he shouldn't have gone there, even with the disclaimer that his fear doesn't justify discrimination, is that people DO use this fear as the basis for discrimination, especially lately. The Park 51 mosque thing and Quran burning and the infamous survey was educational in this regard. I also learned what some people I know thought about Muslims that I wish I didn't.

I mean, just think. When or if you hear that a white person is afraid of black people, what do we think? It isn't PC. We might not think a lot of them. We might think they need to be educated and talk to black people so that they can see that people are people and there are common threads among us all. I have this same reaction as I do to people afraid of black people as I do people afraid of Muslims or "Muslim garb." ( Jeans and scarves--ooooh. Scary. :( )

This fear of black people has been used to discriminate and that's not ok. Same for Muslims. Unfortunately, it seems it will take us a bit longer to figure that out. It seems people are more accepting of judging Muslims by the small percentage of extremists who use religion to recruit to fulfill their political ambitions than to judge all black people or all Jews by whatever stereotype comes to mind.

His comments in the times we live in now are inflammatory and are just going to feed the fear and give it more of a voice and higher profile. The comments about not using the fear for discrimination are irrelevant in the present time given how the majority of Americans feel (and know) about Muslims. See the polls below.

I guess it's not really the fear of the group that's really wrong. I mean, that's your feeling. What you do with that fear and your feelings is the really important thing. Do you ask questions and find out about this group? Do you talk to them despite your fear to find out what is prejudice and what is real? Or do you retreat and believe all of the junk email forwards, Fox News commentators and movie stereotypes and freely spew them forth as though you are an expert on the topic?

***Links to the polls I mention or reasons why I think Americans think it's PC to hate Muslims:

Poll: Americans think "Muslim" means someone they dislike

Poll shows more Americans think Obama is a Muslim

TIME Poll: Majority Oppose Mosque, Many Distrust Muslims,8599,2011799,00.html

Palestinian statehood imminent??

Palestinians renew threat to seek UN recognition
Jordan Times
October 26, 2010

One possibility would be asking the United Nations to recognise a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.

That would not dislodge the Israeli military from the West Bank, dismantle the 120 Jewish settlements there or give Palestinians free access to East Jerusalem. But it could isolate Israel and change the diplomatic equation.

Now, I like the sound of that last sentence. But, if the Palestinians get any small piece of what they deserve or some form of justice, it will isolate Israel and change the diplomatic equation. One state will produce a more familiar form of apartheid, after all.

Of course, Netanyahu said only direct talks would produce peace. Hmmm. What, then, was the Gaza disengagement? Was that through direct talks? How was Israel formed?? Did Israel talk to Palestinians about that? Direct talks (i.e. filtering any national ambitions through Israel's sieve) are fine for Palestinians, but Israel is above all of this and must control any and all outcomes?

I've often thought scrapping talks and declaring a state should be the way to go, especially if you're going for two states. The only one who doesn't recognize Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory is Israel, who considers it Israel. They really shouldn't encounter too many problems... Except the US's unreasonable and predictable objections.

This seems like a bold move for Abbas, who has lacked backbone in dealing with the US and Israel. This article speculates that it's only a threat to move things along or pressure Israel. I hope they can make good on this if they need to. I think it could be the only way they will get anything from Israel.


And on a sort of related note, an UNRWA person telling Palestinians to not count on a state; just work on assimilating into whichever country took you in. I wonder if he is commenting on how likely Israel is to allow a state or on what he thinks Palestinians have a right to do...

The formatting was crazy on this email (below), so I got rid of it. Now I have to fix it, but maybe it won't be too annoying to read:

November 1, 2010
For Immediate Release

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition is shocked and dismayed that a senior UNRWA official, Andrew Whitley, made a statement to the National Council of US-Arab Relations on October 21, 2010, that the Palestinian refugees should not entertain the "cruel illusion" that they will ever exercise their inalienable Right of Return and that they should start considering "their own role in the societies where they are", or elsewhere. This statement is a grave breach of duty and betrayal by Whitley of the trust vested in UNWRA by the world community and, particularly, by the refugees themselves. As a UN official, Mr Wiltley undermined the integrity and the credibility of UNRWA and exposed himself as the enemy of the people he is supposed to serve. In 1948, The UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 which calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and affirmed this resolution 110 times so far. This same resolution created UNCCP to repatriate the refugees. UNRWA was established in accordance with Resolution 302 which, in paragraph 20, requires UNRWA to uphold Resolution 194. Thus, while the UN affirms every year the call for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands of origin, in order to reverse the ethnic cleansing of 1948, this UN official has called for the perpetuation of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian refugees; such ethnic cleansing is a war crime according to the Rome Statute of 1998. ACTION

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition calls on all its members, supporters and people of conscience to write to His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, The Secretary General of the United Nations to demand the immediate dismissal of Mr. Andrew Whitley.


His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon
The Secretary General of the United Nations

Your Excellency,

I was shocked and dismayed that a senior UNRWA official, Andrew Whitley, made a statement to the National Council of US-Arab Relations on October 21, 2010, that the Palestinian refugees should not entertain the "cruel illusion" that they will ever exercise their inalienable Right of Return and that they should start considering "their own role in the societies where they are", or elsewhere.

While the UN affirms every year the call for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands of origin, in order to reverse the ethnic cleansing of 1948, this UN official has called for the perpetuation of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian refugees; such ethnic cleansing is a war crime according to the Rome Statute of 1998.

Therefore I call on your Excellency

1. To dismiss Andrew Whitley from his UN position immediately
2. To censor him for his breach of his duties as UNRWA official and disavow his statements.

Such measures are necessary to maintain the integrity of the UN's main agency, UNRWA, and the confidence of all people, especially the Palestinian refugees, in this unique agency.


Your name
Telephone number

Please address messages to: and cc;;;;;;;;;;

Please cc us at on all your correspondence Until Return,
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-918-9441
Fax: 760-918-9442

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) is the largest network of grassroots activists and students dedicated to education and advocacy for the restoration of Palestinian human, national, legal, political and historical rights in full with particular emphasis on the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and lands of origin from which they have been dispossessed since 1948. PRRC is a not for profit tax-exempt educational and charitable 501(c)(3) organization as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America. Under IRS guidelines, your donations to PRRC are tax-deductible. To donate, go to and follow the instructions. To become a member, go to

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New book- 'suicide terrorism due to occupation'. Go figure. And Israel's child abuse.

Wow. Accounts of Israel electrocuting children and threatening them with rape. Some people can't fathom why people would commit a suicide bombing. I'd submit that it could start there. I mean, when you're brutalized (beaten, threatened with rape, family's home vandalized, etc) by a foreign military power from the age of 12 for waving or throwing stones or walking down the "wrong road," one could easily get a sense that there will be no hope and no justice. Ever. Doe this treatment automatically get better when they turn 18? No, it's worse. Since they're adults, Israel can get away with some degree of mistreatment. They get away with it for the kids, so one can only imagine what happens to adults.

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And on a related note, here is a guy who now has evidence for the theory I bought into ("It's The Occupation, Stupid" as the saying goes) rather than the "Muslims want to kill us all" explanation for terrorism.

Understanding Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It
NPR, Talk of the Nation, October 11, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Palestinians Reject Israeli Offer on Settlement Freeze

Palestinians Reject Israeli Offer on Settlement Freeze

Right on! I hope they don't fold on this.

On some issues, I'm a bit conflicted, like armed resistance vs non-violent resistance. I mean, I do support non-violence, but you have to have boatloads of popular support and even more international support to make this go anywhere. And what about the fact that Israel is allowed self-defense without question in all of its forms (arresting and holding children and innocents, using human shields, building walls on other peoples' land, building and protecting settlements on others' land, making people perform at checkpoints, etc), but you are not allowed to support self-defense (called armed resistance or terrorism, not self-defense) for Palestinians. I think non-violence can work, but there are obvious problems and inconsistencies that aren't really ever allowed into the conversation. Unless you want to be considered a terrorist, which since I've said this piece, you now think I am.

Back to the issue at hand. I'm not conflicted on this. No one should recognize Israel as Jewish until there is an independent Palestine (an actual one, not Netanyahu's "vision"). This kind of thing rules out a one secular state solution, which would be the best option (IMO) for all. Maybe not the most palatable at first, but has the best chance of providing equal rights for all- settlements would be irrelevant, Jews and Palestinians could enjoy right of return, everyone could go to all holy sites, etc.

The offer for Israel made this week is classic " (Barak's) generous offer" material. Israel makes a grand statement that it will now comply with international law- for 3 months- except in some areas- and if, most importantly, Palestinians recognize Israel as Jewish. Since it is becoming more well known that Palesinians do in fact recognize Israel and don't in fact want to push it into the sea, as the myth goes, Israel has upped the ante- now, recognize it as Jewish. Now this presents some problems. What happens to you and your rights given this recognition, the loyalty law, and the fact that there is no constitution to guarantee your rights (which Israel claims to give to all equally, but facts on the ground show otherwise)? If you are Palestinian Israeli, will you be "encouraged" to move from your home in some way. What protections are there?

Settlement freeze for 3 months in return for giving up your rights and maybe agreeing to be ethnically cleansed. Doesn't seem very generous to me. For recognizing a Jewish state, they should at the very least get an independent state, not a piddly partial temporary settlement freeze- but that still leaves the ominous implications for non-Jews...

Flipping us the Israeli peace sign

There is a lot of talk about the restarted peace process and the differing opinions on how great things are in the West Bank or how dismal, depending on from which side of the fence you are looking. I'm undecided on whether the talks will go anywhere. One thing is clear. Israel is flipping us what I will euphemistically call the Israeli peace sign.

This link referenced these two items below, the US Passport and the 1951 Treaty of Friendship. The link is old, but the problem of Israel mistreating US citizens persists to this day.

The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.


The 1951 Treaty of Friendship could explain the reason for the continual reference to an "unbreakable bond" between the US and Israel. I have tried and failed to understand, but perhaps we are obligated by contract. I wonder if we are obligated to abide by it even if they don't? Too bad it's just another agreement they don't bother to honor. I'd say we do a pretty good job- listen to Congress and look at how much we spend on them, how much intelligence we share and how many violations of international law we overlook.

“to travel therein freely, to reside at places of their choice; to enjoy liberty of conscience…and to bury their dead according to their customs”

prohibits “unlawful molestations of every kind”

guarantees U.S. citizens “the most constant protection and security.”


Now, for the reality. My father-in-law was "hassled" this week on his way out of the West Bank to Jordan by Israel. So I go online and check out what exactly the State Department has to say about our dearest friend and ally and its obligations. Essentially, Israel is supposed to treat US citizens equally and grant the right to travel freely, but don't expect it and basically there's nothing the US can do to make the situation better. Some friend!

This doesn’t sound at all like “pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection” or “to travel therein freely, to reside at places of their choice; to enjoy liberty of conscience” :

U.S. citizens are advised that all persons applying for entry to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are subject to security and police record checks by the Government of Israel, and may be denied entry or exit without explanation.

If you are “suspected” of being Middle Eastern or Muslim origin, look out. Just the terminology used gives you the idea that that’s your crime.

If you’re a missionary- forget it. People often make it sound like Arab countries are the only ones who don’t allow proselytizing. Wrong.

And if you’re an activist- you might as well be an Arab or a terrorist- they are synonymous in Israel.

And if you bring electronic equipment- laptops, cameras, etc, prepare to have it confiscated, probably returned, and likely damaged.

If you’re Palestinian, they won’t recognize you as a US citizen (below, possible=certain):

“It is possible that Israeli authorities would consider as Palestinian anyone who has a Palestinian identification number, was born in the West Bank or Gaza, or was born in the United States but has parents or grandparents who were born or lived in the West Bank or Gaza. Any such U.S. citizen may be required to travel to Israel using his or her PA passport, regardless of whether he or she holds U.S. citizenship. Without the PA passport, such Americans may be barred from entering or exiting Israel, the West Bank or Gaza, or they may face serious delays at the ports of entry.”

Read the US Passport and 1951 Treaty of Friendship. Dissonance.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quiver Full

For reference:

Psalms 127

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

I heard a story on NPR's The Story about the Quiver Full movement (No Longer Quivering). I didn't know it had a name. I had just thought of this as a characteristic of radical borderline cultish Christians, along with prairie wear, long hair, and beliefs that are much more narrow than the Bible (and claiming the rule is from God), reminiscent of Pharisees.

I know I'm entering dangerous territory. I'm not questioning anyone's family planning, nor do I hate kids or question those who want a ton of them. I personally think large families are great. What I'm questioning is if one should abandon God-given reasoning skills in achieving it or if achieving it should be the primary goal. Is it Biblical to have as many kids as possible or to use our knowledge of our bodies and situations to try to some degree to make a decision in this area or are they equal?

I have always approached family planning thinking about how many would we would like, then tempering that with how many we think we can give a good start in life. It goes without saying that children are a blessing from God. No question. Some approach this topic as "leaving it up to God". I guess I have always assumed that people who said that still thought about finances and family dynamics in saying that. I mean, even if you don't use chemical or other birth control, we know enough about science today to be able to more or less control whether or not you're going to have 1 or 2 or 20.

In listening to this The Story, I got a different impression of "leaving it up to God." The Quiver Full movement's interpretation of that is to I guess ignore the body's signals and have as many kids as humanly possible. I guess God will give you as many as you are supposed to have- 2 or 20? It is an interesting and certainly different approach than I am used to. I don't think I am just trying to justify my own view is correct when I say that it seems like that interpretation is akin to using the passage in Matthew 6 (verse 25-34) to say that we don't have to go to the store for food and clothes (God will drop it on your doorstep) or using the many verses in Proverbs about wisdom extending one's life to jump from the 20th story of a building and not expect to die.

I realize the intent is to fill that quiver, be pleasing to God, and put your family's needs above your own (career, a desire not to have 20 kids, etc). Not bad things at all. I have no doubt that a large family would teach one to work hard, be frugal and how to "play well with others." I just don't know that the verse says that you should have as many kids as humanly possible to be pleasing to God. Or that having 20 is more pleasing to God. Or that those with 1 or 2 kids have an empty quiver. Or that choosing to aim for 1 or 2 is against God. Or that you should ignore the health of the child or children or the mother and just trust that God wants you to keep having kids. I don't know for sure if the Quiver Full folks believe this stuff or not; the issues came to mind when I heard this story (and switched on TLC reality TV). I think interpreting a full quiver as having as many kids as you possibly can is taking it a bit to the extreme. (Much like their view on the roles of men and women...) The main point is, I think, about kids being a blessing, not about having as many as God wants you to have vs how many you want to have or whatever. I'm still not sure I understand the movement. I'll just stop here.

These movements are so intriguing. I mean look at the Amish. They are against cars and buttons. They live as though they are in the 1800s. Why not go farther back than that? This isn't where innovation started. Why choose that time? Anyway, I'll save that for a another time. :)

Loyalty oath up for a vote??

I said in the previous post that guaranteeing Israel’s Jewish character is as good as campaigning for ethnic cleansing. The offer is back on the table to codify a preference for Jews into law in this so called democracy.

This, while Israel is being congratulated by Congress for being so gracious as to come to the peace table to wait on those Palestinians again. When will we see things for what they are? We are a little like the abused wife- the skewed view of reality, the return again and again to the source of much shame and violence (though the violence is not against us so I guess that helps us perpetuate this alternate reality).

May 2009, Israel rejected this party's demand for a loyalty oath.

October 2010, Israel will vote on it.

Lieberman: Zoabi is the reason we need a loyalty oath

Cabinet to vote on Israeli loyalty oath


A few things that came to mind while thinking about pledging loyalty to an exclusively Jewish state, while being denied your own:

As Avishai observes in his deeply incisive book The Hebrew Republic: "You cannot live in Hebrew and expect no repercussions from its archaic power. You cannot live in a state with an official Judaism, in addition to this Hebrew, and expect no erosion of citizenship. You can, as most Israelis do, speak the language, ignore the archaism, and tolerate the Judaism. But then you should not expect your children to understand what democracy is." (p369-370)
--From the book, Ambivalence, by Jonathan Garfinkel

This is a video interview:

Levy: Israel needs to decide whether it's going to have an ethnocracy or a democracy

Israel has never treated Israeli Palestinians equally, but this loyalty oath would put that into law. Its kind of in contradiction to its Declaration of Independence where it declares equality for all races and religions, etc. If they had a set of laws, like a Constitution, we could go to that to protect the rights of all, but they don't have that so we will continue to generously support this preference by law for Jews only.

Some people believe Israel is always reaching out the hand of peace. When Israel refuses to extend equal rights to all its citizens, how can we expect them to do right by those not in its borders???


A few more items on Israel and democracy. I'm not just trying to hate on Jews. It's an interesting question.

Is Israel a Democracy?

The American Prospect

Dec 4, 2009

Israel's slipping democracy

Sep 24, 2008

William Cook: Israeli Democracy, Fact or Fiction?


Jan 25, 2003

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Israeli Palestinian peace process- one idea and Congress' non-starter

The Impending Collapse of Israel in Palestine

Don't sign anything; wait for Israel to collapse.

I don't know that I agree, but it is certainly a different take on this issue. I agree in that at least then they'd be on more equal footing and more likely to come to a viable agreement...

The CIA has recently given Israel 20 years before this would happen, if the article’s claim is correct. They’ve all wasted 22 already. Can they wait out another two decades?

Interesting article, though. Not that the US would let Israel collapse without draining our resources this is not really a real option anyway.

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And on that note, we have the most recent unhelpful (and uninformed) move by Congress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue:

Pro-peace Senate letter ( I take issue with this title :) )

It opens like this:

“As steadfast supporters of Israel and the U.S.-Israeli relationship, we are writing to express our support for the start of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on ending the Israeli-Palestinian dispute with the active participation of U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell.”

Why must everything start this way?? Members of Congress must pledge or demonstrate their state’s undying love and ties to Israel before they can say anything about the region. It must be in the orientation proceedings. It never fails. They must reaffirm Israel’s right to self-defense before saying anything about Palestinians rights to even things like food and water. Is this really where our priorities should be?

The first problematic piece: “It will solidify Israel's identity as a Jewish, democratic state by giving it safe and secure borders.”

Here, we fall right in line with Netanyahu’s and other right wingers’ demands and prejudge or rule out a path to peace. Why should we ignore the one secular democratic state idea? This is the best chance for all to have access to holy sites, freedom and equality. I am sympathetic to the idea of a Jewish homeland as the UN set forth originally. It was, however, never intended for Jews to set up an exclusive state, probably for good reason. In order to keep that majority in this region, there will have to be legalized ethnic cleansing of some sort(s). I am all for having a provision or guarantee in any one state agreement that makes sure that when either Jews or Palestinians are the minority, that they are protected, represented, given rights and guaranteed a certain minimum of land or something like this. Guaranteeing Israel’s Jewish character is as good as campaigning for ethnic cleansing. Or it will be soon.

Attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah are mentioned as obstacles in this letter, but attacks are often in areas not controlled by the PA; they are Israeli controlled. This is often blamed on Abbas, though. Interestingly, Netanyahu's foot dragging isn't alluded to, nor the fact that he chose to embrace such people like Lieberman who are in fact settlers (part of the problem) and terrorists who make public statements that undermine peace and call into question Israel's desire for peace and value placed on human life and rights.

This probably sums up the Congressional mood, bias, and distance from the facts the best:

“We applaud Prime Minister Netanyahu for committing to direct talks and we urge you to press President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to reciprocate. “

It makes no sense, but this is the way the Israeli Palestinian conflict is always depicted in the US and Israel. Israel is the one looking for a partner, always stretching out the hand of peace, always has the men of peace; Palestinians are refusing generous offers, returning good faith with terrorism, always the last ones to the table.

This time it was different. Palestinians have a very pro-US moderate in Abbas, they have been working on institutions of government- as best one can under occupation, they have been ready to come to the table since Obama was elected, if not before. Netanyahu, on the other hand, only recently conceded to the two state solution, if you can call his version (permanent occupation) a real solution. He also chose some very strange allies in Lieberman and others from that end of the spectrum if he is truly looking for peace. They are settlers and terrorists; part of the problem.

If they are part of this, then why not let Hamas in and legitimize them? Israel in many cases is doing what Hamas does to innocent people. The only difference is, Israel’s operations are on a large scale, they are UN members, they have a state, they call it security, and it is anti-Semitic to criticize them. None of these things actually make what they do any more right than Hamas, but I guess they are reasons we can’t call them on it and make them as accountable as Hamas.

For related posts on Avigdor Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu, see the right side key words...

Monday, September 27, 2010

The High-Fructose Corn Syrup Debate

I'll probably get more hate mail for this than the Middle East posts. :)

I hope I don't get sued by the corn industry. I could be perceived to be quite anti-corn. Remember Oprah with the beef disparagement?

Having taken a nutrition class and more than a few science classes, I have a huge problem with myths surrounding food and weight loss.

The pet peeve:

People incessantly trying to make the point that HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) is no worse than sugar; they’re chemically practically the same!

Yahoo’s on HFCS’s side. The link that started this post:

While this is technically true, there are so many reasons that HFCS deserves to be demonized. This myth is definitely one best left alone- at least until we can talk about all of the facts and not just stop at – HFCS is exactly like sugar. I'm totally fine with people thinking it's the devil. Though, not technically correct, it's infinitely less annoying than people who are virtually fans of the stuff.

To be fair, though, some of the anti-HFCS articles and blogs go a bit far and pin all our problems on this one substance. I’m not going along with all of that, but to say that it’s the same as sugar makes me snicker and want to say something sarcastic.

Along with the campaign to defend HFCS, there is a name change campaign. It won’t sound nearly as processed. And it will now have “sugar” in the name. The article mentions it will join the ranks of Phillip Morris/Altria and Blackwater/Xe and that is such a great analogy, really. They’re all trying to sell the same old poison by just changing the name. It will probably work. We love being lied to.

Speaking of snickering...The corn industry’s ad campaign:

What can you say? Sugar-coating the truth. Sickeningly sweet.

Both sides do have some valid points, but I’m definitely for kicking the HFCS habit.

It is said to be sweeter than sugar. If this is true, then it would make it worse since we definitely don’t eat less of it, we actually eat and drink more of it according to statistics.

You might call me a liar, but I can attest to the different taste. Mexican Coke rocks.

Of course HFCS isn't the only thing that is driving the obesity numbers up, but I'd have to say it's a big factor. It makes convenience food more convenient and cheaper.

Maybe part of what bothers me is that the government is part the problem. You'd think they'd want to promote healthy eating for their constituents well being and for lower heath care costs, etc, but they're more concerned with economics.

I realize that it is our choice to eat junk or not, but I don’t think it’s fair to let the corn industry get away with marketing this as just as good as sugar. Just like Vitamin Water and various unnecessary supplements sold at sports nutrition stores shouldn't be allowed to claim health benefits (if you're not regulated by the FDA, like most of thse supplements, you can say basically whatever you want on those packages). Britain has better rules for this and has, I think, succeeded somewhat with Vitamin Water at least in banning some misleading ads.

And then there’s the political aspect. Sugar vs corn industry. US vs the world- in this case- Central America. I write a lot about the actions of the US in the Middle East. In comparison to the Israel-Palestine issue, what we have done in (mostly to) Central America will make you physically ill. Think School of the Americas where we helped out the death squads. Think banana plantations. Gringo. Literally- “green go”. Americans go home. That’s where the not-so-endearing term for us Yankees came from. I don’t think it is unfair of them to think ill of us. We very much deserve it.

A few sites/blogs that explain the political aspect a little:

A few more links:

Common sense advice from the Mayo Clinic. They admit the conflicting data sets on how unhealthy it is. One interesting note was that some studies that “prove” it isn’t less healthy than sugar or a cause of obesity are sponsored by the beverage industry. You always have to look at the funding for this-- and drug studies.

Corn subsidies make unhealthy food choices the rational ones

Halfway down, Goodman asks him why he’s ‘going after HFCS’ :