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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Aid to Bahrain/Israel; Read Omar Barghouti's book about protest in protest!

The Monday, February 22, 2011 Democracy Now show had a few items of interest on Israel/Palestine

The first also has more to do with Bahrain, though it made me think of the Palestinian- Israeli issue. :)
The so-called Leahy Law – which requires the cut-off of U.S. military aid to forces determined to have perpetrated human rights abuses -- “does apply to Bahrain,” since "the U.S. Government provides support to the [Bahraini] Army," Carle said.

OK, we give a ton of all kinds of aid to Israel. We train them, they train us. Due to certain breaches of human rights and international law, shouldn't we also be reconsidering aid to Israel??

*** *** *** *** ***

The second directly has to do with Israel/Palestine. 

Since we were the only veto on the recent UN resolution on illegal Israeli settlements brought by cosponsors Germany, France and Britain, this piece of news shouldn't surprise us. But it is still shocking if you are one of those people who still believe America is free and just and fair. 

One of the founders of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement wrote a book and wants to tour. He faces a problem many Palestinians face. Travel. If he were a "self-hating Jew" like Noam Chomsky or Norman Finklestein, he might get hassled and detained, but he'd still get to tour. We will see how this unfolds. I wonder if he's famous enough to get through. I hope more people read his book because of this! :)

Since the topic is rather sensitive in the US, this adds another dimension to the travel hardships. The US government doesn't really want people talking about peaceful ways to protest its complicity in Israel's crimes. Violence is easy. We will not negotiate with terrorists. This is more delicate. We'd like to just sweep it under the rug as quietly as possible so we can get on with protecting Israel's right to defend itself, steal land, murder, kidnap, and collectively punish all for the crimes of a few (or the general feeling of discomfort that future demographics brings...). At the top, I think disagreeing or denying Israel anything is seen as anti-Semitic- though here at the bottom many are beginning to see the nuance through that fog. Or maybe we're just afraid they will detonate a nuke like they threatened to do before- they are trigger happy and they had or have something called the Samson Option. This policy being not inspired by God, it appears as though they care more about killing others than saving their own peoples' lives. Like my post about the NPR: Fresh Air about torture a few posts ago.  It sounds like they have learned quite a bit from their corrupt Arab dictator neighbors. But, you still  have to call Israel a democracy or people will not take you seriously. Until all those people come to the realization that Israel is not in fact the kind of democracy we give them credit for... With Wikileaks, the Palestine Papers, all of these protests, I think it could happen.

More info:

Omar Barghouti kept from entering the U.S. for BDS speaking tour

Omar Barghouti, Leading Spokesperson of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) Campaign Against Israel, Kept from Entering U.S. for Book Release Tour


Barghouti tour sponsors are calling on supporters to contact the US Consulate in Jerusalem and the Department of State to ask them to fulfill the promise from the Obama Administration of "promoting the global marketplace of ideas" and grant Barghouti's visa immediately.

US Consulate:
Consul General Daniel Rubinstein
US Consulate General, Jerusalem
18 Agron Road, Jerusalem 94190
Tel.: +972 2 622 7230, Fax: +972 2 625 9270

Email: and

Department of State:
Visa Services
Public Inquiries Division

On Facebook: Join the group "Let Omar Barghouti Be Heard" and invite your friends.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

My comment for BBC World Have Your Say on Muslim Brotherhood

I have a comment from listening to your (BBC World Have Your Say) program on the Muslim Brotherhood.

They were a bit evasive in some of the answers, but on this issue it is not as simple as yes or no as the moderator seemed to think:

You gave the Muslim Brotherhood quite a time over the question "do you believe Israel has the right to exist." I am an American and even I realize this is a loaded and difficult question. Israel's existence means different things to different people- respecting the rights and security of Jews or accepting the Occupation or respecting the rights of Jews at the expense of Palestinians. It can mean any number of things.

Israel believes it has the right to exist as a Jewish state and won't eliminate "transfer" or other forms of ethnic cleansing to maintain a Jewish majority. Leiberman, whom the US has hosted, has talked about such outlandish "solutions" as drowning Palestinian prisoners in the sea and "loyalty oaths". The current concept of the Jewish state includes occupying Palestinian territory, ignoring international obligations to allow refugees to return after war, making laws in Israel that discriminate against Palestinians (building permits for one example) building settlements illegally, building Jewish only roads to get to illegal settlements, and various forms of collective punishment in the name of "security". So, you see, one can say they have a right to a homeland. Everyone has certain unalienable rights. Does this right to exist or right to a homeland include the minority (which Jews would be if refugees lawfully returned) subjugating a majority or rearranging the borders or population (transfer, ethnic cleansing) so that you remain a majority in the territory you took in addition to what the original UN and or British Mandate agreement intended?

I'm not an anti-Semite, though questioning in any form Israel's existence will get me labeled- of that I am sure. Israel's existence isn't just about not being anti-Semitic, not wanting them pushed into the sea, etc. I think accepting Israel's right to exist is often equated with accepting the Occupation and all of Israel's other demands and actions as legitimate and lawful. Jews deserve a homeland (I suppose the question of why Palestinians were expected to pay for and continue to pay for the Holocaust is another question to explore...not that it makes any difference because I hope no one would take seriously the suggestion that all Jews be transferred out), but they need to be held to the standard of other countries, held to account, and made to face consequences for egregious violations of human rights and international law. They get away with murder and that makes people mad. I can see the apprehension of just getting on the "I believe in Israel's right to exist" bandwagon without clarification.

The question of Israel's existence is much more than a yes or no question.

UN resolution on settlements, hope and futility...

There was a petition to try and get Obama to not use the veto at the UN about a resolution to make Israel comply with international law on settlements.

Guess what happened. 14 members voted for it, the US voted against it. I really thought we'd have a chance for justice after all the people in the Middle East pushing for democracy and the Palestine papers revealing that Israel wouldn't bother with anything less than total capitulation by Palestinians. I guess justice and/ or democracy isn't really what we're after in the Middle East.

Two points I found particularly funny:

The US opposes new settlements but says taking the issue to the
UN will only complicate efforts to resume stalled negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution.

All that law and stuff just complicates things. Let's ignore it and resume negotiations?? If we throw out the law, what on earth are the basis for negotiations??? Israel's right to exist??? What kind of mediator are we anyway? Rubbish!

The UN vote came a day after Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
spoke by telephone, according to Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil
Aburdeneh. They discussed the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and the resolution
on settlements, he said.

He talked to Abbas. Well, that explains it! Might as well have been talking ot Israel. They talked about this resolution the day before the US vetoed it. I bet Abbas was all about that (See Palestine Papers). Wonder when the resolution is to give Israel Gaza and the West Bank, ban refugees, revoke Palestinian citizenship, give away Jerusalem and pay Israel for all the trouble they've had to endure? That's one UN resolution on Israel we'd be all over.

And speaking of futility...

Bil'in marks its sixth anniversary of nonviolent protest against the Wall and Occupation. It is encouraging in a way, but when you think of how the domino effect will miss Palestine and why, it is discouraging for sure.

Palestinians have been at the nonviolence thing for awhile. It's the way resistence started and it continues through present these several towns that hold weekly protests (more famously).

In hearing news that kind of takes the wind out of your sails after listening to all the hopeful voices in Egypt and Tunisia, I think of this quote I heard recently:

" order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a

---Stokely Carmichael talking about a flaw in Dr. King's theory.

I am against violence for a number of reasons, so where does that leave us? I would suggest the world's largest sit-in in the streets of Israel by Palestinians, but unless they were already in Israel, this would be a problem... This would be far riskier for Palestinians than for Egyptians or Tunisians simply stepping out to protest and going back home to shower- or a two week camp out (not to belittle the Egyptian effort at all). It would involve a series of acts of civil disobedience and risk of life or imprisonment just to get to the site of the protest where we could then talk af the Egypt or Tunisian style risks of arrests, beatings, riot police, tear gas, live ammo, Mossad dressed as Palestinian instigators of violence, etc and not so Egyptian and Tunisian risks of US forces being deployed to rid our "friend" of the "threat."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Violence isn't all Arabs understand?

NPR: Fresh Air 2/14/11

One Man Says No To Harsh Interrogation Techniques

I didn't like all of what I heard, but a few things were interesting.

He said the stereotype that Arabs grew up with violence and that's all they understand or are capable of was prevalent in the military and this led to the use of torture. Prejudice leads to the use of torture- "it's all they understand"- and so you've got to address and change people's minds about Arabs in order to make laws against torture successful.

He mentioned a shift in an America that stands for principles vs one that stands for security. This is an interesting concept.

If you look at Israel, you can see the extreme version of this. He didn't mention Israel at all, but it holds very true to that situation. If you read how their military talks about and thinks about Arabs, you see that prejudice definitely leads to torture and lack of respect for human rights. Even among Israelis, and more often, foreign supporters of Israel, I have heard epithets and slander along the lines of those exact prejudices more times than I can count! And now we have an explanation for why they don't seem to care about Israel's human rights abuses and why security trumps all. The situation Israel finds itself in with Palestinians also demonstrates quite well Alexander's other point that standing for security rather than principles will erode those principles.

Food for thought.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beck, O'Reilly and the budding romance

But I also wonder if we're seeing a transition. O'Reilly is face of Fox News' past success -- an aggressive, usually conservative-oriented take on the news of the day, laced with a dose of alamism and fear.
Beck is a new voice who takes that alarmism to operatic levels, creating a cult of personality through his show that is focused on the issues he finds compelling. Most recently, he's unveiled a 100-year plan to curb what he calls "progressives" attempts to turn America into a "socialist utopia."
Quote from:

Caught this while reading some more on the celebration in Egypt...

I thought Sarah Palin was bad. She is, but no one really takes her seriously.

But, these guys, I know for a fact some people respect. And that's sad.

This is Valentine's Day. I hate what comes out of these guys' mouths, but they appear to be having quite the love fest- appearing on each other's shows, laying the compliments on thick.

This was great:

Why Are Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly Touring Together?

Apparently, Beck was on O'Reilly's show Jan 31:

And again on Feb 11:

I think there were other times, but in these last ones they talk about Egypt some.

Beck actually says he thinks Egyptians don't hate us because of our freedoms, but rather because of our meddling in the rest of the world. This will be a serious breakthrough... or point of serious contention with his audience! :) I couldn't believe he actually said that. I mean, it made sense. Somewhat. I don't think Egyptians hate us, actually.

He then goes on to make a few more typical and ridiculous points (to which surprisingly, O'Reilly is skeptical!):

*the uprising "is being orchestrated by the Marxist Communists and the Muslim Brotherhood"
*if Mubarak goes, it will (he does say "could," but you know what he means) be the start of an Islamic caliphate across the region
(He is at least in part quoting Mubarak! I knew I heard it somewhere before.)

Apparently on the Feb 11 show, O'Reilly challenges Beck on these points. I kind of want to watch it, but don't know if I'll waste the time on these two Islamophobic spreaders of conspiracy theory and urban legend.

I wonder if this is a Presidential ticket or just a money making scheme or passing of the fearmongering torch. The Palin/ Joe the Plumber would be much more entertaining. Who would take which role? Surely neither ego would want the VP slot! It's probably about money.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A response to the protests- and my response to the response

Talk of the Nation - February 2, 2011
What the Protests May Mean For Middle East Peace
(and when we say peace, of course we mean how will this affect Israel...)

In the first minute, Halevy tells how Israel sees the region- Iran "coming closer and closer," Iranian proxy (Hezbollah) to the north, Hamas to the south (sunnis aligned with shi'ite Iran), and then Egypt and the threat of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. "The ultimate Israeli nightmare," he says.

So, I forgot to put what I was thinking here... Edit 2/10/11:
This view of the region Israel has really explains a lot, which is why it grabbed me. This is the answer to why do they constantly use disproportionate force to the threat, why do they keep who they can under lockdown, why do they disregard international law, etc. They feel they are the victim, the underdog when in fact the reality is that they are Goliath if Goliath had God behind him. I would like to say that I regret the comparison of the US with God for any other implications this might have for anyone, but this is only to make a point and has no other implications whatsoever.

5:17 Neal Conan asks guest Halevy if Israel is regretting having not made peace with the Palestinians in the 30 years it had before things may change with a new leader or new Egypt.

First, Halevy knocks off 15 years by saying that Palestinians didn't recognize Israel until the mid '90s. I was thinking, ok... that's still 15 years. What does he have to say about that?

He repeats the standard Israeli line. A total myth as it's commonly been called by those who respect human rights and recently- exposed to all. He says Israel made several offers. A long standing myth some still stubbornly fall back on... Clinton proposals Dec 2000- Arafat launched 4 year war of suicide attacks, 2008 or 2009 Olmert put a detailed map on the table, offering over 99% of "the territory" (of Israel/Palestine?, of Gaza/West Bank?, of the West Bank?)- didn't lead to an agreement. He says both sides made mistakes, but blames Palestinians. He says the crux of the issue is refugee return (covered in Palileaks...) which he thinks is code for "demographic disruption" which I see as code for we like apartheid and want everyone else to accept it. He says Palestinians must change their position, much like Israelis have in the willingness to give land for peace. Palestinians must offer on their part for a peace agreement a substantial concession on refugees. I say, first, what about international law? Does this matter at all? All people are supposed to have the right to go back home after war. Israel has not allowed this since its beginning. Now there's a backlog of refugees. Whose fault is that, really? Second, Palestinians did offer (in the past 10 years) a substantial concession on refugees and what did it get them? A "we appreciate it" from Livni and a big fat "no; all of our demands must be met, not just 99%."

Did he miss the Palestine papers leaks of recent weeks? Does he discount them? Does he know or suspect they are a pack of lies as Erekat says? Neal Conan missed a chance at a good question. Wish Diane Rehm was there.

~17:00Caller (Yanika in Washington) talks about the paranoia of Israel about its neighbors being exaggerated and compares Israel and Egypt's blockade of Gaza to Warsaw ghetto. This wasn't the focus of the comments, but it is what Halevy zeroed in on.

"What a comment," he said first. You can tell he wants to cuss her out... or laugh. He then justifies the paranoia and extreme military responses and dismisses the Warsaw ghetto comment as offensive. This type of response that nothing can compare with the Nazi holocaust kind of leads to thinking the Jews having a monopoly on suffering or that anything the Jews do to "defend themselves" is justified no matter how brutal because nothing compares to the holocaust. I just don't think you can use the holocaust to justify the type of collective punishment Israel is inflicting on Palestinians. Why Palestinians must pay for Nazi crimes anyway is a mystery that no one has explained. Why must they be the ones to concede on refugees, have a state with no army, accept a foreign army presence, give up Jerusalem, move to another Arab state, etc? They have already had to make the concession to be driven from their homes, have a large number of Europeans living on their soil, in their houses; what are Israelis prepared to offer in return? No one asks that. They didn't give; they took more land in 1967. They are still looking to take. Or at least make more of what they took unable to be contested- permanently. If it weren't for those pesky UN resolutions and international law to muddle things... Back to my other train of thought...

I definitely take issue with this superiority of Nazi holocaust suffering. Maybe that makes me a holocaust denier. There are so many similarities between the two when you look at Israel chasing out the refugees from their homes in 1948, among other times and various forms of collective punishment. Why can't you compare tragedies? The very fact that Israel is so focused on terrorism and yet is willing to torture and terrorize all Palestinians to force political change and that this is the very definition of terrorism is rich with irony that needs to be discussed, especially as the US has such a favorable opinion of that state.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Dietary Guidelines and the Opposition

Listened to this and it was quite good if you are interested in food and nutrition issues:

Apparently, they are better than before, but need a little more help. The experts don't like the term "solid fat". And who can blame them? But they like the recommendation about filling half your plate with fruits and veggies. There is still some disagreement as to whether the meat and dairy industries are influencing these guidelines... Interesting stuff. Also, they go into the current administration's efforts and focus on health and obesity.

I like the focus the First Lady has taken on obesity. The President himself has signed school nutrition legislation. New York I believe is trying to get permission to try out a tax on soda.

A lot of people are against taking vending machines out of school and passing laws against soda and other healthy legislation like that. I have to wonder if they are just against Obama, against "government in our lives" (code for anti-Obama or die hard Republican), or against health. "You should teach your kid to eat right." "It's not the state's job to choose healthy food." "Don't limit my choices." I personally don't think elementary and even middle schoolers are ready to make those decisions without a parent in most cases. Do we tell kids it doesn't matter if you hang out with the wrong crowd or dangle drugs and alcohol in front of them if we want to encourage them to make good choices and stay away from these things?? Why is food a different matter?

Another opinion I have is that above all places, schools and hospitals should be the places where only healthy stuff is offered. Often far from reality, but in a perfect world...

Above, I just listed some opposition off the top of my head I've heard in response to Obama's efforts, the soda tax, the proposed vending machine bans, campaigns for healthier school lunches, etc. Here is is in print.

Some of the opposition to vending machine school bans is just lame. More education? Really? Tell them to eat their veggies, then dangle sweets and sugary drinks in front of them at every turn? Is that how you get kids to stay off of drugs?

  • It is not up to the schools to determine the eating habits of children or teachers. These decisions should be made by those individuals themselves.
  • The revenues from these vending machines are used to pay for a range of school expenses, from football team uniforms to band trips. Machines serving healthful alternatives are not likely to generate the same amount of income.
  • In banning these machines, the schools are sending a message that some foods are "bad". People should be able to make those determinations themselves and to gain an understanding that most foods are acceptable in moderation. Rather than banning the machines, the schools should provide more education on healthy nutrition and the benefits of exercise.
  • Banning these foods on campus will cause many students to leave the school campus during the day in search of their preferred snacks. This will create additional safety concerns and cause potential increases in tardiness.

Shame on us. How dare we vilify a food. Don't call Cokes "bad" or candy bars empty calories. Really?

Face it. Some food is in fact bad or bad for you.

And the last one on the list? I thought that was called skipping school and kids got punished for that. If schools are respected as a soda and junk free zone and if parents helped reinforce this instead of talking junk about the President, government, etc for not allowing us the "freedom" to be fat and lazy in every sphere of life, perhaps kids would catch on as well. Just a thought. And when you go home from school, you can have your sweets in moderation. No one's banning all sweets. Why is it such a big deal that your kid can't access every possible choice of junk at any given time? People seem to be dealing with the peanut butter ban for health reasons just fine. Why not get rid of junk food for health reasons? People seem way more concerned that you might not be able to access junk food at every hour of the day than any aspect of their children's education (of which there's plenty to be concerned about).