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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Holocaust Day lessons

Should the lesson be attack Iran or Never Again?

After the speeches, I was a little confused.

I think it is a good thing to remember the Nazi Holocaust and its victims and to vow that nothing like it should ever happen again.

There is, however, a certain irony that is becoming increasingly inescapable- especially with the one year "anniversary" of the Operation Cast Lead (Gaza siege and blockade) last month.

What I found rather strange in reading bits of Netanyahu's speech was that Holocaust Day was used by Israeli leaders speaking that day to stoke anger against Iran. It seemed inappropriate to me. A day to remember suffering (and to vow not to let it happen again) used to incite people to support an attack while oppressing another entire population.

If any comparisons are drawn to the Nazi Holocaust, it should be to Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians or the Nakba or something. Instead of Iran, people should reflect on their nation and what the Occupation is doing to society and democracy. I cannot believe there are Holocaust survivors who have lived to see their own people do similar things to others. Is the slogan 'never again' or 'never again to Jews'? Some Jews do argue that the Occupation is doing far more damage to Israeli society already than anything else.

A quote from the article at the top:

August Kowalczyk spent two years at Auschwitz and survived.

"This place determined who I am today, aged nearly 90," he said.

"I still have one mission - to pass on to the next generation knowledge of what happened here."

It is more than ok to remember Jewish suffering and learn about the Holocaust- for Jews and Gentiles alike. In American schools, we read Anne Frank and do special projects and have guest speakers to learn more about this horrible tragedy. I enjoyed hearing the stories of perseverance myself. I just wonder when it will be ok for Palestinians to talk openly about their tragedy and when others will openly want to learn about it. How long will it take for people to stop calling you a terrorist sympathizer for wondering why Palestinians can't have equal rights and self-determination and aren't entitled to live free and defend themselves? How long will it take for Israeli leaders to acknowledge their role in Palestinian suffering and death and express remorse and sympathy as the leaders embrace, as Germany and Israel do? I wonder when (some) Israelis and others who deny Palestinian suffering or Israeli crimes will be treated as Holocaust deniers are- marginalized and shunned instead of as one presenting valid points to consider.

Maybe you will think me horrible or an anti-Semite to suggest a similarity between Nazis and Israel. It is indeed a sick irony. I don't think I am to blame, though. I read a book last year that told of the intersecting of two lives in the past and present- a Jewish family who came in 1948 and an Arab refugee family who was forced to in 1948. The historic descriptions of the Jewish march to the trains and death camps was so strikingly similar to the descriptions of the Arabs being forced on long marches to one city and then the next, farther and farther from home. In both cases, people died on the way, had babies on the way, the women strapped gold to their bodies in the same way and for the same reasons, and both peoples left with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs. One group, however, is allowed to remember their dead and prosecute their killers; the other isn't.

Random opinions:

The Jewish left on Holocaust remembrance:

'Holocaust remembrance is a boon for Israeli propaganda'

Finkelstein's book

An Arab opinion:

Arab MK slams Holocaust denial

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

54 people with guts - thank you!

I often talk junk about Congress people and how they want to keep their jobs so they bow to the Israel lobby, but if just for a day, there is hope.

They used the words "collective punishment." I really am impressed!

Representatives, unlike most senators, won't let you write them unless you are a constituent, so I'll have to thank them here on my turf:

I want to thank you for your letter to President Obama to ask him to help pressure Israel to act according to international law and respect human rights and basic needs of Palestinians. My own representatives have failed miserably in taking this stand (or any on this issue), so I say a special thank you for stepping up in the absence of their moral stand for representing my interests and bringing them before our President.

The right would have us believe that they represent the interests of Christians in supporting Israel unconditionally. On the contrary, such abused and marginalized people as the Palestinians under brutal Israeli control are the very people Jesus went to. As a Christian, I applaud you for taking this stand.

AIPAC has tried to silence voices like ours who desire more balance in our approach to the Israeli Palestinian problem so as a voter (though not in your district) I thank you for risking your seat doing what is right.

Thank you for your courage and your understanding of the real situation in Israel/Palestine.

Please continue to stand for human rights and international law for the betterment ourselves, the country and our security.

Sent January 21, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for your ongoing work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for your commitment of $300 million in U.S. aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip. We write to you with great concern about the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

The people of Gaza have suffered enormously since the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt following Hamas’ coup, and particularly following Operation Cast Lead. We also sympathize deeply with the people of southern Israel who have suffered from abhorrent rocket and mortar attacks. We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Truly, fulfilling the needs of civilians in Israel and Gaza are mutually reinforcing goals.

The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering, and we ask that you advocate for immediate improvements for Gaza in the following areas:

* Movement of people, especially students, the ill, aid workers, journalists, and those with family concerns, into and out of Gaza;

* Access to clean water, including water infrastructure materials,

* Access to plentiful and varied food and agricultural materials;

* Access to medicine and health care products and suppliers;

* Access to sanitation supplies, including sanitation infrastructure materials;

* Access to construction materials for repairs and rebuilding;

* Access to fuel;

* Access to spare parts;

* Prompt passage into and out of Gaza for commercial and agricultural goods; and

* Publication and review of the list of items prohibited to the people of Gaza.

Winter is arriving and the needs of the people grow ever more pressing. For example, the ban on building materials is preventing the reconstruction of thousands of innocent families’ damaged homes. There is also a concern that unrepaired sewage treatment plants will overflow and damage surrounding property and water resources.

Despite ad hoc easing of the blockade, there has been no significant improvement in the quantity and scope of goods allowed into Gaza. Both the number of trucks entering Gaza per month and the number of days the crossings have been open have declined since March. This crisis has devastated livelihoods, entrenched a poverty rate of over 70%, increased dependence on erratic international aid, allowed the deterioration of public infrastructure, and led to the marked decline of the accessibility of essential services.

The humanitarian and political consequences of a continued near-blockade would be disastrous. Easing the blockade on Gaza will not only improve the conditions on the ground for Gaza’s civilian population, but will also undermine the tunnel economy which has strengthened Hamas. Under current conditions, our aid remains little more than an unrealized pledge. Most importantly, lifting these restrictions will give civilians in Gaza a tangible sense that diplomacy can be an effective tool for bettering their conditions.

Your Administration’s overarching Middle East peace efforts will benefit Israel, the Palestinians, and the entire region. The people of Gaza, along with all the peoples of the region, must see that the United States is dedicated to addressing the legitimate security needs of the State of Israel and to ensuring that the legitimate needs of the Palestinian population are met.


Members of Congress


* Raul Grijalva D-AZ7


* Lois Capps D-CA23
* Sam Farr D-CA17
* Bob Filner D-CA51
* Barbara Lee D-CA9
* Loretta Sanchez D-CA39
* Pete Stark D-CA
* Michael Honda D-CA15
* Lynn Woolsey D-CA6
* Jackie Speier D-CA12
* Diane Watson D-CA33
* George Miller D-CA7


* Jim Himes D-CT4


* Andre Carson D-IN7


* Bruce Braley D-IA1


* John Yarmuth D-KY3


* Elijah Cummings D-MD7
* Donna Edwards D-MD4


* Michael Capuano D-MA8
* William Delahunt D-MA10
* Jim McGovern D-MA3
* John Tierney D-MA6
* John Olver D-MA1
* Stephen Lynch D-MA9


* John Conyers D-MI14
* John Dingell D-MI 15
* Carolyn Kilpatrick D-MI13


* Keith Ellison D-MN5
* Betty McCollum D-MN4
* James Oberstar D-MN8

New Jersey

* Donald Payne D-NJ10
* Rush Holt D-NJ12
* Bill Pascrell D-NJ8

New York

* Yvette Clarke D-NY11
* Maurice Hinchey D-NY22
* Paul Tonko D-NY21
* Eric Massa D-NY29

North Carolina

* David Price D-NC4


* Mary Jo Kilroy D-OH15
* Marcy Kaptur D-OH9


* Earl Blumenauer D-OR3
* Peter DeFazio D-OR4


* Chaka Fattah D-PA2
* Joe Sestak D-PA7


* Peter Welch D-VT


* Jim Moran D-VA8


* Jim McDermott D-WA7
* Adam Smith D-WA9
* Jay Inslee D-WA1
* Brian Baird D-WA3

West Virginia

* Nick Rahall D-WV3


* Tammy Baldwin D-WI2
* Gwen Moore D-WI4


* Glenn Nye D-VA2

"Hebrew slogans" and another reason settlements should be razed

Maybe not razed- if they want one secular democratic state where all Jews and all Palestinians everywhere are welcome and have equal rights...

I read a BBC article and they referred to "slogans" written by students (more accurate= suspected terrorists). I mean ynetnews even recognized them as slurs.

The BBC is usually pretty good and brings out points critical of Israel where the US media fails miserably. For example, in many stories, this appears at the end:

"All settlements in the the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this."

This time the BBC was way off.

Anyway- the slogans.

One was "We will burn all of you." A slogan? Really? If this slur is in fact a slogan or mantra, then they've got a terrorist cell on their hands and heads need to roll.

When Palestinians- or anyone for that matter, says these types of things, we call them threats or worse. When accompanied by an attack, such as the arson here, it's attempted murder, except in this case.

I'll go along with "Price Tag" being a slogan (grafitti also defacing the building). Taking into account what it means, though, I'm going to have to go with slur or threat:

"Price tag" is the slogan adopted some months ago by extremist settlers who carry out reprisals against Palestinians in response to the evacuation of settlement structures by Israeli defense forces.

"Rabbi Shapira published a controversial book last year which includes discussion of interpretations of the circumstances under which Jewish law permits Jews to kill non-Jews."

"The rabbi has been condemned for writing a book called "The King's Torah" that says it is permissible to kill non-Jewish children if they pose a threat or as a deterrent for the future. It states that only a Jew who kills a Jew violates the commandment against murder."

Hmmm. Now what do we think of and do with Muslims who teach (or support those who teach*) this type of thing? I probably don't need to tell you.
*=seminary students and a Knesset member were protesting for his release

He refused to cooperate and is suspected of withholding information. He's getting off pretty easy. Ask a Palestinian what happens when they are suspected of knowing anything about a person they suspect might become a suspect. Ask a police officer what they think of someone who refuses to cooperate. I'm guessing they think that is a sign of guilt. Not, here, though.

What are they doing with this guy? Releasing him, of course! If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a cow. Now at least they can say they "looked into it" and we in the US can feel good again about our support for normal life and natural growth in illegal settlements.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

3 more reasons why the settlement freeze means nothing

This is news of the recent temporary “settlement freeze”.
It is hailed as a great step toward peace by the US and Israel for which the Palestinians are now significantly indebted. Never mind that this is only a partial freeze on something that is completely illegal in the first place…

If there is any doubt that a settlement freeze means nothing, Israeli officials will spell it out for you:


“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday planted trees in West Bank settlements, in a move which he said sent a clear message that Israel would retain major settlement blocs under any peace deal with the Palestinians.”

The absurdity of that quote blows my mind.

Planting trees means you aren’t giving the land back?? If trees have so much meaning that way, what about those Palestinian olive and fruit trees that were uprooted by Israel to build those settlements?? If the US pushes some settlers out of the way, occupies a hill over there and plants some trees, can we get in on this action, too??

Planting trees in Israel. I've seen the ads. It sounds rather benign and eco-friendly, right? I never thought about it as engaging in breaking international law, but that's what you're doing.

This must be proof that if you say something enough times, it can in fact be true. Gold Meir said there are no Palestinians. Others have said Palestine was uninhabited before 1948. Prime Ministers after her have said, hinted, and acted the same way. The US pretty much believes it, given the way we're letting Israel ethnically cleanse the area.


A new college in the Territories. Should be good news. I'm all for education. Except Palestinians aren’t allowed to attend or go near it. Chances are, they have been pushed off the land it sits on (and the surrounding area needed for Jewish only roads and "security" trenches, barbed wire, guard towers, etc).

The apartheid analogy is looking more valid each time Israel takes action.

It’s just one more thing that makes settlements look less and less temporary or negotiable. The only thing we can hope is that it doesn't sabotage the peace process and Palestinian self-determination. Maybe it will force the binational state idea back onto the table.


Soldiers Get “Free Space In Settlements” For Military Service

Giving soldiers land to thank them for their service. Sounds nice. And it is, given that you’re not the one it’s being taken from to thank soldiers for killing your family and stealing yours and your grandparents land.

Free space indeed! Like the whole land without people for people with no land lie.

“It is the second half of an initiative granting free higher education to soldiers who chose to study in colleges in the Negev and the Galilee.”

If it’s an issue of being able to visit and see the land they view with religious significance, fine. Let them visit. If they want a University or neighborhood on Palestinian soil, they should be paying Palestinians, following Palestinian laws and regulations, asking permission from Palestinians, working with Palestinians and allowing Palestinians access. Anything else is theft and should be a big problem for US-Israel.

Monday, January 25, 2010

kids say...

A few kid things before I forget to write them down...

My daughter is at the stage of 1000 questions- age 4.
Yes, I'd guess that's probably literally thousands.

The most common by far are:
-"Who gave you/me/us that?" - for quite possibly every toy and object in the house
-"What does (fill in the first 100 animals that come to mind) eat?" - I have to admit I've made some answers up...
-"What are we on?" - As in road. I imagine she'll know how to get anywhere in a one or two hour radius from the house, which is more than I could say for myself until at least college!

Next is 'how do you like me, mom?' The correct answer is a lot. I answered her the first time that I love her (I do, that's a good answer, right?) and so the next time she asked, she said, 'you don't like me, you love me?' I said yes, afterward regretting it because that sounds like I don't like her. She continued over the week to ask do you like me or how do you like me, so I said I like you a lot, more than anything, I love you. She eventually told me and her dad that I like you a lot means I love you. That was pretty neat to watch her sort through this problem and come up with something that makes a lot of sense.

Thankfully, "why" is not popular at this time! Can't wait for that one! :)


R is two.

At the doctor's, both kids had to get shots and R went first. He was crying and making his sister nervous, so the nurse explained that he was just a little boy, but that she'll be fine, etc and in the middle of sobbing, R yells - I'm - not - little - I'm - big !! The nurse nearly hit the floor laughing.

When I punish him or something doesn't go his way, he tells me he's a little baby, which means he wants extra hugs and kisses, to be carried, etc.

Another pretty entertaining thing about him is when he's describing something in a few sentences (a toy needs a battery, for instance), he looks so serious and expressions cross his face like he's defending his thesis or something.

They are both in a dance class now. R's is mom and tot, so that is interesting... S really likes hers. I wasn't sure if she liked it at first, but maybe she was worn out. When you ask her about it, she smiles shyly. I catch her pointing her toes or doing a little ballet move sometimes. Last week, she told me she was going to show Daddy what she learned, so I think she likes it. R doesn't follow directions as well as the little girls in his class, but he is always ready to go first, unlike the girls (and S at age 2). They all get tired and lose interest at times. R didn't ask me if he could go to sleep during his second class, though. Progress!

The kids like to play together a little now. They will throw a ball to each other, play with their nurf bowling set, or play more abstract things like they're cooking or driving. Most of the time they are "driving" to pick up food at McD's- they always ask me "burgers or nuggets"- that's always our question to them when we go. I try and add 3 or 4 extra things to their "list". They usually remember it all, too!

The kids have always had good verbal skills and were well above the recommended number of words, sentences, etc. This is good and I have always enjoyed it... but they have recently added a wide variety of cuss words, which is mortifying. Of course, as my luck or Murphy's Law would have it, they most like to practice these in worship services. I'm sure everyone thinks I must say these things every other word! Oh well. Maybe they won't be as interested in them when other kids discover them. Or other parents will blame me for their kids discovering them...

We were watching Lord of the Rings and wondering if R was paying attention or if he'd be ok. S was fine with it, but R calls Gollum the bald monkey and doesn't want to watch 'the bald monkey show'.

Similarly, S used to call Yoda a monkey when she was about 2. In a scene where he gets thrown backward and flies through the air, she said "uh-oh monkey".


I like NPR, but this segment bothered me:

The topic isn't a bad one. Denialism is apparently when popular opinion goes in the opposite direction from scientific evidence due to emotion or who know s what.

I'll start with what I agreed with. I did like the talk about the actual denialism - organic food, some homeopathic medicine (I did think he was too critical, but to put all your eggs in that basket I'll agree is gambling with your life), all herbs are good, vaccines are bad, etc.

I have been shocked by the number of people who have bought into weight loss gimicks, the idea that it's herbal, therefore it is safe and side-effect free, or all dietary supplements do something and things like that. There is so much evidence that says this stuff is garbage and in some cases harmful, but it still sells. If people listened to scientific evidence instead of emotion or whatever drives these trends, GNC (and many an infomercial product) would be out of business!

I can't really blame people for the herbal supplement thing. The research can be confusing or conflicting. More significantly, most people assume they are regulated by the FDA or under an obligation to tell the truth on product labeling. If you think that, you'd be wrong!

I liked where the guy was going with this:

“Mr. SPECTER: I believe this is an issue for moral debate, and I'm truly really trying to focus on clear-cut scientific lines in the sand about studies and why we use things and why we don't and why we trust things and why we don't. And abortion is something I didn't write about because I don't think it's that kind of issue. I wouldn’t actually call it denialism.”

I thought that was a good approach. It makes sense. … but what these two said and did next annoyed me big time. They didn't go off on creationsts, like I thought they were going to do. People that say they value science over religion have to be the denialists, there, though. The public seems to reject that scientific evidence can or might suggest a higher power at work because of a bias or closely held belief that religion/God is not scientific or not logical or that concepts are either faith based (a guess, a shot in the dark) or science based. I think the more we discover about the earth, the more we'll find evidence of Deity. Back to the abortion thing, though...

OK. Keep in mind what he said:

“And abortion is something I didn't write about because I don't think it's that kind of issue.”

But after this, they tried to get the caller to say that she was against abortion (which she obviously was) and wouldn’t change her opinion if the science stated the fetus definitely couldn’t feel or sense anything and that that would be denialism.

I thought she did a good job of avoiding the trap and moving back to her point which was to say how science could help us understand the debate better (not necessarily solve it)- which is a moral one ultimately (and as such as Specter said, doesn’t fall under denialism!).

ELIZABETH: I wanted to thank your guest for the issue. I think denialism is an issue that's pretty important in a lot of social issues, too. And I think in some social discussions where there's a lot of disparity of opinion, denialism kind of derails the discussion on things a lot of the time.

One of the specific examples I was thinking of was related to the discussion over abortion. And one of the examples, I guess, I was thinking of is for years and years, it was thought that the unborn fetus was not aware of the abortion procedure when it was happening. And ultrasounds are already debunking that and illustrating that these unborn children are aware of the abortion as it happens. And I think science is actually going to be pretty useful in the discussion as we learn much, much more about unborn life.

FLATOW: Michael?

Mr. SPECTER: I believe this is an issue for moral debate, and I'm truly really trying to focus on clear-cut scientific lines in the sand about studies and why we use things and why we don't and why we trust things and why we don't. And abortion is something I didn't write about because I don't think it's that kind of issue. I wouldnt actually call it denialism.

FLATOW: Elizabeth, if there was a research to show you that the unborn fetus at those age - at that time that you're speaking about it - was not in the state that you think it is, would you accept that?

ELIZABETH: I think that that - I was just bringing that up as one example of a discussion in which science could be helpful. (unintelligible)

FLATOW: Well, that's why I'm asking. If the science showed you that it was not like you thought it was, would you deny that?

ELIZABETH: I think that he is correct that it's a moral issue, also. But I think that if you bring science to the table, it at least helps to open the discussion and hopefully help people on both sides of the issue find some common discussion areas that could then move it beyond, you know...

Mr. SPECTER: Can I just ask one question?

ELIZABETH: ...whether or not, you know, the baby can feel it, too...


ELIZABETH: the moral issue. But I think science could be very helpful in the discussion.

FLATOW: Good point. Go ahead. You wanted to jump in there, Mike?

Mr. SPECTER: I just wanted to ask a question. If science showed conclusively that an unborn fetus at a particular time couldn't feel anything, would you then change your mind? Because if you wouldn't, you are exactly what I'm talking about.

ELIZABETH: Well, I - what my point - that is an interesting point of view, and I do understand that. I think you're probably right that in moral discussions, people on both sides believe that either the viability of the baby or the rights of a woman would make the decision beyond science. But my point was just that you could bring science to the table to help find some common ground and discuss this as best as possible and lead to some progress.

I think that she was a good example, Michael, of bringing science - she made a point about bringing science to the table, and even bringing science to table didn't sway her one way or the other.

Mr. SPECTER: I mean, you know, I don't want to be rude because I do believe that that is a moral issue and it's very complex. But that really makes that's the example of what I'm talking about.


He was rude, though, and contradicted himself!

To be fair, (if I understand this made up term) denialism probably doesn't cover moral or social issues, so the caller really didn't have a point. But- I don't like how they went beyond the first statement on how it doesn't apply to have a conversation in which they tried to get her to say something so they could call her a denialist.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Abbas not as worthless as I thought...on this...

So Abbas's abandonment of common sense and decency this time was the result of a pretty good threat...

At the October meeting in Ramallah, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told Abbas that if he did not ask for a deferral of the vote on the critical report on last year's military operation, Israel would turn the West Bank into a "second Gaza."

Maybe he deserves a break on this one. Now, time ot persue the Goldstone Report!