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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Year from Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Another on the Horizon

Amidst all the discouraging news, Obama's speech and inaction in the Middle East, Congress's blind devotion to a state as equally devoted to ethnic cleansing as some of the worst of the worst, we have this bit of hope in the solidarity flotillas. The Mavi Marmara or one like it will sail again. Until the powers that be see there will be no peace without actual justice and equality, Palestinians need to keep up the non-violent protest, flotillas and UN 377 pursuit. I would have liked to see more influence of the "Arab Spring," but when you've got a power of suppression that is far more acceptable- and even beloved- than Iran or Mubarak for that matter, everyone's going to have to get involved.

This flotilla and last year's incident with the Mavi Marmara has been frowned upon by the US, UN and others that also say Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory is unsustainable. What should they do then? Wait on the US and Israel to decide on a palatable (for them) solution that guarantees Israel's absolute control over the area while giving the appearance of a degree of democracy and human rights for Palestinians?

The flotillas are unhelpful (UN) and provocative (Ottawa), but what, may I ask, of Israel's push to rename ALL cities with Hebrew names? Is this effort to erase Palestinian history in Israel not provocative? When white people in this country wanted to erase black history- or their very presence with segregation- what did we call that?

What about bills to enact loyalty oaths to the Jewish state (what if you're not Jewish??) and bills that make commemoration of genocide/ethnic cleansing a crime? Is this not provocative? Who is trying to push whom into the sea these days? 

What about the extremist in Israeli gov't behind these things- are we going to deny Israel aid? Say anything about this guy to them? Shall we refuse to deal with them until they "fix" the problem and get someone in there willing to give Palestinians rights?

Why is no one in our government the least bit concerned that Israel can't even treat Palestinian Israelis with dignity, so how on earth are they going to be able to give refugees (those they chased out under threat of death at various times) and neighbors any respect at all??

Some points on Israeli apartheid in case you're still thinking I'm ridiculous for using the term:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Obama's Middle East speech May 19, 2011

I was conflicted about the speech. At first I didn't think it was so good. Everyone seemed to think that he was paving a new way by mentioning the '67 borders. Big deal! Hasn't this been around awhile? Democracy Now! brought up a speech Bush made that was nearly the same exact thing. Neither of them addressed Jerusalem. Jerusalem is as occupied as Gaza and the West Bank, yet the US doesn't want to recognize that fact. 

Obama did change US policy, but it wasn't with the '67 borders. He referred to the "Jewish state," rather than the "Israeli state." A state for Jews, not a state for all Israelis- Jew, Christian, Muslim, Arab, Polish, American, etc. If he did indeed mean to say that, then he canceled out part of his speech. He is sanctioning, protecting and encouraging discrimination based on religion.

Now, I realize it was in fact a great speech, with the exception of every place he mentioned Israel. And those places he talked about equality and oppression- because I know he was excluding Israel from these lofty goals and very conditional support for Arab nations.

 Full text at:

First, Obama discussed the "Arab Spring."  That part was ok, except he got it wrong when he spoke of Israel. 

"Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression."

This sentence may be true of the corrupt Arab leaders, but the implications of it are false. What is implied here when paired with the statement about the West being the source of all ills is that people are brainwashed and there is no reason for the antagonism toward Israel. Israel's original land theft and declaration that this is exclusively their homeland, denial of Palestinian rights and self determination, and continued violation of international law is no reason for antagonism??

In describing America's role in and after the Arab Spring:
"...standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace."

This reflects the same old view that Israel's security is paramount and Arabs still need to (for example) come to the table, try harder to to x, y or z. The only way forward is to value both peoples' security adn human rights equally. Right now, we only value Israel's.

It was good to hear this, but unfortunately, it seems it is limited to the portion of the speech devoted to Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Libya, etc:
"The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran." 
This is a good message, but as with most of the good things said of the Arab Spring and current and future Arab allies, it does not apply to Israel. 
"Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States."
They enjoy our support verbally and monetarily and militarily- unconditionally. We ask nothing of the country that owes the most. We support it as though the connection is divine and therefore not open to question. Well, you can question it, but you will be sidelined as an irrelevant heathen if you dare.

When he said this, I immediately thought, why does this not apply to Israel? Is occupation (Territories) and apartheid (in Israel) genuine and inclusive democracy??
"We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities."
Why is it ok to ostracize democratically elected Hamas, but embrace the extremist Israeli leaders, including Liberman who was part of a terrorist organization and other officials (PM on down) who were "former" Irgun and Stern Gang operatives?? Never mind that had Israel not interfered in Palestinian elections and prevented them from being able to gather (curfews, closures) and cast votes, Hamas probably wouldn't have had the support that it gained through providing relief and another option during Israeli oppression and incursions to win.
On the up side, these are two lines from two very good sections about women's rights and the right way to aid nations. I thought he hit the nail on the head.

 "History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered."
"...focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance."
The portion on trade was encouraging. We're going to help Tunisia and Egypt and get others to do the same. Will this right all the wrongs we have committed in the region? No. But I do think it is a necessary and natural step. 
The only issue that stands out, again, is Israel. In all this Western helping out of Arab economies, who is going to condemn Israel for crippling trade and economic growth in the Palestinian Territories and fix that? We have given money to Palestinians and that's all well and good, but you need to stop the bleeding and confront Israel with the hard truth already. How can we confront them when we can't bear to utter it ourselves, though? The President and Congress are securely wrapped around Israel's little finger. Individuals can sometimes find the strength to speak against Israel (and I find it hard to believe Obama is as in Israel's pocket as he appears), but as a whole our government is lacking. We can only hope someone else can step up and/or give us a push in that direction.
And now what we've all been waiting for- the word on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
  "For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own."
Even in his opening remarks, the danger to Israelis (the implication is Jews rather than Israelis, though - further proof that either Obama or his speechwriter doesn't know there's a difference between Jews and Israelis) is brought home and made familiar in terms of physical and psychological harm to children; while Palestinian suffering is "humiliation" and the concern is nationhood. This ignores or covers up the fact that Israel kills and imprisons children and so Palestinian parents also worry, Jewish children are also taught to hate and so Palestinian children also suffer (not to mention PTSD due to occupation and attacks), many more Palestinians than Israelis have been murdered, Israel uses disproportionate force and causes more death than necessary for security (they have a demographic problem to solve, after all), and all the other crimes against humanity.

Let's take a look at this one.
"Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks."
 This makes is seem like both sides are at fault and both are equal in guilt. Israel continues to build settlements... in violation of international law. Palestinians have walked away from talks. Really? Would you not walk away from talks, too, if the other side's security were guaranteed and your very rights were on the negotiating table (or chopping block as it were)? If you owned the whole thing and you were "generously offered" half, then smaller and smaller pieces, would you stay and entertain their version of your story or would you walk away?

Palestinians get read the riot act:
"For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist."
 When negotiations lead nowhere and Israel refuses to accept anything but 100% of its demands and the US is complicit, it is time to go to the UN and get things done. Declaring a Palestinian state is absolutely not denying Israel the right to exist. Obviously, the message is that the US will fight any attempt at Palestinians gaining independence by any other means than a long, drawn out process in which the terms are wholly decided upon and acceptable to the US and Israel and then taken to Palestinians to see if they will see if they will be willing to sign on. If they don't sign, the event will be marked a failure on Palestinians' part. Of course.

Compare the "riot act" to this glowing description of Israel:
"As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums."
He mentions after this that we have to tell friends the truth, but to tell the truth, we haven't been a great friend in that regard.

 He does say or reiterate a few things of value. Israel can't be Jewish and democratic and an Occupier. True. Peace can't be imposed. True. 

In talking about the two state solution, there are many problems and Obama created another:
"Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace."
He has now escalated things and declared Israel a Jewish state. See second paragraph at top.
By saying Israel is a homeland for Jews and Palestine a homeland for Palestinians he seems to be caving to the extremist Jewish demand of "transfer" (a.k.a ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians. As with the "Jewish state" wording, I'm not sure if this reflects policy or is just an oversight of a mistake.
No one seems to want to talk about the fact that Palestinians are going to need more land than the West Bank and Gaza (and E. Jerusalem) if right of return is going to be limited to a Palestinian homeland and Palestinians are going to have an equal right to go to this homeland. I guess we are throwing out the facts of international law and UN Resolutions that say that refugees can go back home after a conflict, so we don't have to talk about Palestinians having a right to go back to what is now Israel. Why throw it out? Let's tell our "friend" the truth, Mr. President!

I'm just going to start by saying, "??? !"
"The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state."
Demilitarized? Why should Palestinians be demilitarized even for a minute if both are expected to defend themselves? I hope this is a short duration rather than permanent demilitarization, but it doesn't really sound that way. Or it seems Israel could stretch out the time if it felt like it. Since Palestinian rights are negotiable in a way Jewish rights aren't. (Yes, I said Jewish rights since Obama is committed to a Jewish state rather than an Israel for all its citizens.)

There is an emphasis on secure Israel and "viable" and contiguous Palestine. Israel withdraws only to a demilitarized Palestine. Palestinians must be able to stop terrorism, stop weapons from getting in and stop Palestinians from getting out. "Viable" meaning capable of protecting Israel and not so much referring to "workability" and getting back what Israel took with settlements, bisecting bypass roads, and a giant concrete wall (Not meant to predetermine borders at all, btw! Wink, wink.).

Jerusalem and refugees are considered by Obama as "issues that remain." This is nuts! You absolutely can't agree on borders and THEN settle these issues. You have to settle these first. There's nothing to settle really. What does the law and UN Resolutions say? E. Jerusalem is Occupied Territory and hence goes to a Palestinian state. Palestinian refugees have the same rights to go home as any other. If Jews from all over can go to Israel, then Palestinians have more than that same right (or at least an equal one in the case of those born in the Diaspora) to back to their homeland be it theirs or their recent ancestors home.

The violence against peaceful protesters in Egypt, Syria and Libya was mentioned and protesters praised. It is interesting how none of the peaceful protest of Palestinians was mentioned at all. Only that a future Palestinians state must protect Israel from terror, Palestinian guns and Palestinian people coming across the border.

"That is the choice that must be made -– not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region -– a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife."
Eloquent words, but we are not telling the truth to our "friend" or ourselves. 

 Edit: Netanyahu comes to Washington:

Netanyahu chooses to make things worse with Capitol Hill speech

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Another academic hindered anti-Israel views

And by anti-Israel we mean calling attention to Israel's human rights abuses and violations of law or stubbornness without either justifiying Israel's actions in some way or slandering Palestinians.

I have flirted with the idea of supporting an economic and cultural boycott on Israel. Not that that would mean anything if I made a big announcement or anything. OK, more than flirted, but I’ve had reservations about it- though I can't really say why.

What I’m saying is that an economic boycott is what people expect for countries behaving badly. It is the go-to punishment. It has been argued- and I tend to agree- that boycotting them in academics, music, sports, etc in addition to economics would be more effective. This is rather controversial and seems to generate more cries of anti-Semitism than your average criticism or action. I also am a bit wary of supporting this all out boycott- I don’t want it to be about hatred for the Jewish culture or traditions. On the other hand, I don’t want the US to have an “unbreakable bond” with a country that is blatantly and brutally oppressing an entire population of people either! These seem like desperate times when you look at what Palestinians are up against.

Then you hear about these sorts of things. Israel banning Norman Finkelstein or Noam Chomsky from entering the country because of something they wrote said in a speech that mentions Israel’s human rights abuses without justifying them.

In the US, a professor is fired for mentioning the same sorts of concerns about human rights in Israel. This time, specifically, a man is nominated for an honor, has it shelved due to his political views on Israel, then reinstated.

I wonder why we can’t discuss cultural boycotts (without feeling a twinge of guilt that perhaps they are right-you are an anti-Semite) for vast human rights abuses (a la S. Africa), but it’s perfectly ok for Universities to fire professors and revoke honors if they aren’t sufficiently supportive of Israel and apparently all the crimes it commits?

Maybe some people use academic freedom as a reason not to support a cultural boycott. If that’s valid, then more people should be up in arms when people are fired for expressing concern for the way Israel treats Palestinians.

Maybe it’s not about academic freedom.

CUNY was going to give Kushner, a playwright, an honorary degree. They tabled it after a long diatribe by Wiesenfled. Then they reinstated him when people balked at the disregard for academic freedom.

I don’t know why Wiesenfeld was listened to. His diatribe took things Kushner said out of context (which even then didn’t reveal anything worthy of the horror Wiesenfeld portrayed; and his actual position is actually pretty mildly critical) and referred a lot to Norman Finklestein (whom he also demonized for his criticism of Israel) instead of to the subject matter for which Kushner was being honored- his work as a playwright.

“…heinous anti-Israel views, including his belief that the Jewish State was responsible for “ethnic cleansing.”

The second page, if you dare go there, is a heroic attempt to show the real victim to be the guy who got up to oppose the Kushner degree with a pretty wild speech. People who called for the guy to resign were called Marxist and Communist- don’t know if they are and I know it doesn’t matter for the question at hand. An effort (criticism of Weisenfeld) to “chill potential criticism of Israel demonization in the future” is mentioned with horror and indignation.

It ends with a report of a letter in which alumni are threatening to pull their donations to CUNY if it doesn’t address the “assault on Jews” disguised as anti-Israelism (???) and make CUNY friendly to supporters of Israel again.

This turned in to quite a list and I'm sure it's not even comprehensive. Wow.

Just for kicks I decided to write down a few others (off the top of my head and web search) who have suffered the same sort of thing- some more, some less than the current victim:

Early 2000s project by Daniel Pipes (still ongoing?) urging students to report on any professor they deem anti-Israel that usually results in some sort of pressure by groups (ADL, etc) and individuals (Dershowitz, among others) to get them fired or silenced.

Sami AL-Arian

Helen Thomas

2003 cartoonist Malcolm Evans

2006 surprisingly a Christian radio host

Octavia Nasr CNN, She expressed empathy on the death of Sheikh Sayyed Mohammad Fadlallah, a man who was considered the founder of Hezbollah

Norman Finkelstein denied tenure at DePaul

2/2009 Joel Kovel  Bard College

3/31/2009 Ottawa College, Denis Rancourt

1/31/2011 Kristofer Petersen-Overton, adjunct professor, Brooklyn College

3 offers to speak rescinded over “anti-Israel comments”, Harvard, 2002 and 2007

NYU historian Tony Judt

Harvard University professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer

Jimmy Carter Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

2005 Joseph A. Massad- urged Columbia to fire by Anthony Wiener, a Democratic member of Congress
Rashid Khalidi- Columbia

2004 prof targeted by ADL
ADC campaign to help

And there's Odeh's murder if we move away from academics and into the more blatant silencing...

The great halva/halawi quest

Halva. I have to say I wasn't always crazy about it. It doesn't look quite as appetizing as the nutty filo desserts. It definitely tastes better than it looks! The best I've had is extruded- it was so sweet and nutty and light- you just pinch it out of the container- but I'll probably have to pass on that unless I intend on buying some machinery. I could probably figure something out, though... I've got a french fry cutter and I'm sure I could find something small to force it thru... :)

And finally as of Oct 2011, I have a pic of this yummy "cotton candy" of halawi:

Trying to find a recipe has proven a bit tricky. I tend to think the real thing is probably pretty simple- ingredient-wise anyway... (there was mention of crystals as in fudge making)... but keep running into ones that contain confusing substitutions or additions:  semolina or flour (probably not the variety I'm going for) or farina/cream of wheat with or instead of tahini; honey vs simple syrup (the familiar debate); brown sugar or regular; the addition of egg whites, arrowroot, soapwort. Arrrgh!!

In my search, I have seen it described as long and tiresome or really easy, depending on the source. (???) I have read all about the root of the word, the wikipedia article, about different varieties and everything else. What I'd love about now is a good recipe. If it is truly tiresome to make, though, I guess I will have to find a good vendor... which may require some tasting. What a pity.

Some info I have looked at in my search for this elusive recipe:

Here is quite a discussion (didn't really help much, but was interesting to read):

Promising maybe (?) :

This one is with honey and is linked to EVERYWHERE (doesn't mean it's any good, though)- blogs,ehow, about, etc:

One with brown sugar and milk(??) :

Something called natef (!) --could be the answer to part of my question (how does soapwort figure in) and may be the reason for an egg white substitution, but no recipe... good stuff though...with video...

Now I'm stumped on what is authentic and what is short cut or Americanized. Some of this was originally a question put to a recipe group, but it figures why not stick it here, too.If anyone's got ideas or recipes, please comment.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Celebrating Death? Even Bin Laden's?

If you are on Facebook, this may be a repeat...

I am relieved Bin Laden is gone, but is outright celebration really appropriate?! Death doesn't really put me in a celebratory mood. It also seems like the celebrations would just increase the size of targets on your (and my) backs for revenge attacks. Must everything be like a sporting event here? We didn't just win a match at the Olympics. You can't tell, though. It reminds me of all the flag waving in support of the Iraq war. Nauseating. It was said on the radio that the cheers were patriotic, not vengeful. Interesting  observation. I disagree. Doesn't anyone remember the run-up to Iraq? Dissent was unpatriotic. The flag waving and patriotism was code for vengeance which is what disgusted me twice over.

I mean, we don't even know if this is going to help the terrorism situation. With him in hiding, the group seemed to splinter and not be so dependent on him anyway. 

Our policies and relations with the Middle East are a HUGE problem that hasn't really changed. At least we aren't cowboy diplomats anymore, but we still have policies that seem to imply we are entitled to oil and certain things in this world- and we are still yoked to Israel in a co-dependent, delusional unbreakable way...

Some other thoughts I had...

Obama's methods were a clear asset in the Bin Laden affair. He reached out to Pakistan. He didn't act rashly and embarrass them and threaten them so that force would be our only option. Had it been Bush or Palin or McCain or Trump, who knows how this would have turned out. Badly.

I wonder if people will give credit to Obama. They wanted to dump the financial mess in his lap even though the bottom fell out during the campaign and the last 8 years had nothing to do with it. I think Obama averted disaster, but no one will recognize that because the worst didn't happen. I wonder what he will get credit for and what he will get stuck with when it's all said and done.

I hope the death of bin Laden frees us to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We can now close the book on questionable and/or wrong methods like torture, extra-judicial assassination, Guantanamo, wrongs past and present. Can't we? Obama hasn't quite lived up to my expectations foreign policy-wise, but if we can get out or significantly reduce our presence, we'd be able to completely turn the page or close the book on Bush's presidency in record time. It usually takes longer to fix things than to break them, but I'm now hopeful that won't be the case here.

Israel disgruntled over PA reunification (?)

Israel suspends cash to Palestinians after Hamas deal

Israel won't release the tax revenues even though it is part of peace treaties signed in the past because the PA has succeeded or nearly succeeded in reuniting Fatah and Hamas. I thought the divide was a problem that needed to be worked out before talks continue and now Israel (and probably the US, though I haven't heard) wants to hang everything on eliminating Hamas. Unity is needed to conduct elections and resume democratic reforms. This should be considered a good thing. Unless you are Israel an know that your oppression of an entire population empowers extreme elements... but that's the Palestinians' fault, not yours. Of course. (???)

Israel is allowed to take such measures when the PA makes progress, but doesn't go the way Israel wants. Palestinians on the other hand have to deal with Israel regardless of which terrorist is at the helm. Most of Israel's PMs have been members of Irgun and Haganah and Stern Gang, but that doesn't factor in at all despite the fact that they haven't really renounced any terrorist beliefs, only (in addition) embraced a kind of pseudo-democracy where Palestinians deserve nothing more than second class citizenship- and in many cases- not even that.

Palestinians have been expected to "negotiate" in the time of Kahane and his Kach movement and TNT.

They had to deal with Ariel Sharon in Ministry of Housing, Defense and PM.
Two of my posts on Sharon:

Palestinians must deal with Israel even when people such as Avigdor Lieberman with terrorist credentials are in government in such posts as Foreign Minister.
Two of my posts about Lieberman: