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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...