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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving... and other stuff

Nothing's ever simple, is it?

In my sorting out the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I've at times thought about our own "origins" here in the US. We've got our own myths like Israel does. Cowboys and Indians. Thanksgiving decorations with the pilgrim, Indian, and turkey hanging out together, BFFs beside a cornucopia and a table full of food.

Shel Silverstein has a poem about looking at holidays from the food's point of view. It's kind of funny as is. But it made me uncomfortable a few months back as we read it as I thought about point of view in general. It doesn't help that I've been wondering how to explain some things to the kids- to tell the truth, but not to instill fear and hate (Thanksgiving and the Israeli occupation, for example). Back to POV- How the winner writes history in war. How the Palestinians in the current and historical conflict have the same problem even though we have the benefit of hindsight and the benefit of it's not being too late to right the wrongs. And Thanksgiving coming up. The kids are old enough to ask questions and notice certain things. One is in school and so she is learning the usual pilgrim myths from what I've gathered so far. Maybe genocide is too tough a topic for them yet, but maybe we can talk about some of the values they had and that these are often better than what the pilgrims brought (disease, superiority, crops that didn't work here, selling to replace giving, etc).

I don't know that I will boycott Thanksgiving, but I certainly want to be like some of the Native American groups who give thanks every day since this is also part of my own faith. I appreciate that this fact was brought up in worship just this morning. There is plenty that is good about it. It is pretty rare that Americans are encouraged to take days off (we like a disgruntled stressed out workforce here- it's great for the economy), so I'm all for anything like Thanksgiving where we can have a dependable widely recognized break. The time to get together with family is important, so I'd hate to see Thanksgiving done away with. On the other hand, I don't want to contribute to the preservation of the pilgrim (good) and Indian (bad) myths in any way. I feel that I should take a stand and bring up Native Americans and learn and ask questions, but most likely we'll focus on being thankful and avoid the pilgrims. I guess I don't have a solid plan on that one. We'll see.

I referred to this  above...

Some Native Americans have 13 celebrations of thanks a year and some don't celebrate Thanksgiving because they feel it is against their culture of being thankful every day.

I wish it were like this...

Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect.

 In my semi-disenchantment with our brand of capitalism, I have often wondered how or if something a little less synonymous with greed and more in line with the Bible could succeed. I listened to a bit on Quaker capitalism but we can also learn from Native Americans. The statement above is opposite of the atmosphere today. Today, it matters how much you have and can get; the method matters a lot less. If you're giving something away, you're seen as a sucker (your loss!) and definitely not respected more. If you're ripping people off, you are savvy, not a thief. Yes, there will always be bad apples, but these attitudes are the norm in society. For a country that prides itself on a Christian foundation and values, this capitalism thing sure is messed up. But for a country who wants to believe that Indians were dirty savages save a handful who helped out, converted to Puritanism and participated in harvest festivities while pilgrim diseases and guns (and subjugation) emptied the land for "discovery" and colonies I guess it's not much of a stretch.

I wonder if our myths aren't part of the reason we are so fond of Israel and theirs (Lucky us- a land without people for a people with no land! After massacres...).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reading Lolita in Tehran

So I'm reading Reading Lolita in Tehran. It reminds me of separation of church and state rants I've done on the blog in some ways.

I had these thoughts while reading the first part of the book. She goes into some description of Iran and compares it with her life abroad. The recent republican debates, Eid stamp hysteria emails, sharia law hysteria, Muslim hearings in Congress, etc have also been in the background of my thoughts on church and state and extremes lately.

Voting according to religion is good, but legislating it is often not- be careful what you wish for- we may end up living up in a Christian version of Iran. Imagine if baptism was the law or baptized individuals received rights others didn't get. The state loses and religion loses. We need to vote our conscience; that is our right and duty. When we start to impose our (or certain) religious rules on others, it becomes a problem. Not only have we taken away their right to work things out for themselves, but it may very well backfire on us. We start with the good intention of shielding children and ourselves from immorality and then the balance of power shifts and suddenly others are telling us how to practice our religion and what's moral and who we can and cannot hire as a preacher (for example).

There is a bit of discussion on the veil in Iran in the book. Before the revolution when you could wear colors and read fiction and laugh in public, the veil was a symbol of a choice. When it became law, the power of the symbol was lost, though the intent of the law was no doubt a moral one. The veil changed from being a personal, religious symbol to one of oppression in a lot of ways.

Sorry- just getting a lot of hits on my Muslim stamp post and listening to the republican candidates and debate highlights (sharia law in the US?!) ...

And another thing occurred to me- about page 209. A thought about the Bush administration. Not to make a direct comparison between Bush and Iran or anything. (Seriously!) She spoke of a mood of resignation and tiredness with all of the bombings and interruptions of life (Iran-Iraq war) when they were forced to hear military marches, news of a "victory", or mourn a "martyr." And then she talks about the complete opposite attitudes of people in the street with anti-war sentiments and the government droning on- "the regime's ideal continued the play itself out undeterred." This sentence reminded me so much of the voices (many experts and former US officials) of doubt about Iraq's possession of WMD, yellowcake and Africa, link to 9/11, etc and the Bush administration's smug superiority when Bush, Cheney or the others would continue to repeat things (Bush doctrine, mushroom cloud, hit them there rather than here, Iraq has WMD, Iraq is linked to 9/11) with the same smug certainty when they were first only suspected as false (by liberals generally-and me, though I hadn't decided what I was at that point but plenty of people told me what I was...) as when they were increasingly known to all as false and maybe lies. I'm not calling Bush a dictator or anything, but there was that same distance so vast it was unbelievable and almost funny (tragic) between the public and the government in both cases. That sentence really struck me as extraordinarily applicable- especially Cheney's certainty and the way he quoted something picked up by the Times, leaked by the administration itself. Bush was always concerned about his legacy and history;  he can rest assured that he'll go down in it all right. Legendary.

Oddly enough , a recent event ties in somewhat. It's not the government, but still odd:
Did a Marriot Vacation Club survey and was asked a series of questions about vacations. Also included was a question about believing in 7 day creation and prayer in schools (?). We aren't members, but took a deal that offered a low rate in return to listening to the presentation and offer to do this timeshare thing, etc. I have no problem with discussing these things, but what is the motivation, here? It's none of their business. I am immediately suspicious and have less of a desire to join, not that it was high to begin with! This kind of gets at what I was saying- what if questions like these become routine for everything- businesses you want to enter and buy from, school admission, traffic stops.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ex-israeli president to serve 7 years

I guess it's good news. Everyone's saying how the legal system works or is improving and officials aren't above the law. There is a celebration of rights and freedom, but it begs the question for whom? We know there is a functional democracy for one segment of the population for whom the state and rights were designed- Jews.

And the judge quoted is Salim Joubran. I wonder if he felt the irony of talking about freedom or if he has access to the top tier of the legal system (he has pledged allegiance to the Jewish state?) and so he has no further obligation lest he lose his own station he's achieved.

Joubran seems to be all about Israeli democracy, but Daniel Pipes has branded him a destructive Arab nationalist. I don't know much about him, Pipes' accusations seem overblown and irrational, as usual. I'll try and find something better than Pipes- that's what came up first on Google.

Some links I plan to look up:

Irish and Canadian flotilla seizure, arrest, detention

November 8, 2011

An update on the newest flotilla. I had posted earlier about the attempt when a Democracy Now correspondent was being held captive.

 Here is the scoop:

No violence of the Mavi Marmara type (thought someone almost got shot for telling the truth) , but still several interesting items to note:

  • A guard told them: you are not an Israeli, you are in Israel, and we make the laws (asserting jurisdiction over international waters essentially). Maybe they were referring specifically to the special US Israeli relationship? See the next one.

  • Another interesting fact is the US response to its citizens being held. The Irish delegation came every day and these prisoners had the right to associate in the courtyard, read and write. The US did not respond for several days and discouraged the prisoners from demanding the same rights as other prisoners because they were told this is a foreign country and the US is powerless here and it would be too much to ask as they are trying to work on their release. (???) Perhaps we should hand over our role as mediator in the conflict to the Irish and Canadian. The seem to have both the will and capability to secure rights for people and get things done.

  • The detainees were pressured to sign a false confession much like in, say, Iran. They were in a supposed democracy, though. Go figure. They were told to sign that they had illegally entered Ashdod even though they were seized in international waters and pulled into Ashdod by Israel. Israel was not their destination. Gaza, which Israel likes to remind everyone they have disengaged from when it suits their purposes, was.

  • Jihan Hafiz, an American citizen, was assigned the characterization activist rather than journalist simply because they didn't like her reporting. (How convenient for them!) She has DN credentials as well as US government issued credentials that allowed her into the House, Senate, State Department, etc. But what Israel says, goes, right?

  • The official Israeli position is that it is a clear case of provocation and they have a right to defend their borders. The destination was Gaza. That is not Israel's border.

  • Israel called the embargo the flotilla was supposedly violating an international embargo, not the Israeli embargo. Interesting. So, Israel is looking to the international community to uphold and take responsibility for this embargo and the lend it credibility and concurrently overlook illegal settlement building, apartheid, disproportionate use of force and human rights violations. (Well, it already overlooks it in practice, but Israel is always complaining when reports are issued about concern over these issues as though they are exempt.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Palestinians Statehood Bid Friday- no consensus

Wednesday and Friday are big deadlines this week. The 15 members have to look over the report and make changes by Wednesday and the admissions committee meets Friday (which is likely to send it to the Security Council for a vote).

What is up for debate: whether the Palestinians have a defined territory, are a peace-loving state, and are able and willing to fulfill the obligations in the U.N. Charter.

Let's take a look at this.

Well, on the first item, Palestinians' territory is as defined as Israel's, if you think about it. If Israel's a member in good standing, Palestine absolutely should be.

A peace-loving state. I know some people will be "up in arms" about that one. But given Israel's use of disproportionate force, collective punishment, and ethnic cleansing on a captive population, causing humanitarian crises, economic collapse, and massacres, Palestine is at least as peace-loving as Israel.

Willing and able to fulfill obligations. Here we might have a problem. Willing is not a problem. The Palestinian leadership has shown it's eagerness to "fulfill obligations" by offering to give up nearly the full menu of rights just for acceptance. Able. Let's see. Israel won't allow Palestinians a military for their own self defense and frequently targets the police force and infrastructure for raids and deadly/destructive attacks. Able could be an issue.

So, what we have found is that either Israel should be kicked out of the UN and international community (let's make this pariah state thing official) or we should fast track this ending the occupation thing that we've all been neglecting (no, not peace talks, I mean ending the occupation), allow refugees to go home (as directed in the UN resolution that is ignored), and pressure for equality for all citizens (maybe start with creating an Israeli nationality, rather than just Jewish?) and let Palestine and Israel (or Israel/Palestine as a single state) in after the occupation is ended.

A few more details here:

News flash- Netanyahu's a liar!

I know. We all know this already. Netanyahu's a liar, a racist, etc. But to hear world leaders discuss it is refreshing...sort of. I am glad they acknowledge who and what is fishy. Too bad their policies don't reflect these fleeting moments of truth we occasionally witness when there are "technical difficulties." I had hoped Obama was different. Maybe he is. But he can't do anything about it because of those crazy laws that made us stop funding for UNESCO or Congress who takes field trips sponsored by AIPAC and writes humiliatingly obsequious open letters of support to the only so-called democracy who institutionalizes discrimination and depends on that for their so-called existence.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," Sarkozy told Obama, 

"You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.

 OK, so Obama's comments aren't that bad, but at least he's possibly annoyed that he has to deal with Netanyahu, who's going to really end up making us look like idiots every time. For whatever reason we have to give them what they want, which makes us look like we either don't know international law, or know it and don't care anything for justice. What a bother.

Might I make a suggestion? Boycott, divestment, sanctions, anyone???

A few other interesting points in the article:

"I didn't appreciate your way of presenting things over the Palestinian membership of UNESCO. It weakened us. You should have consulted us, but that is now behind us," Obama was quoted as saying.

 Really? France should have consulted the US? I disagree. This is the point of votes, to make things a bit more equal so that there isn't this back door dealing and strong-arming! 

It weakened us. Boo hoo. Was that not the point? The issue needs a broader audience; the US has failed to deliver and the deck is stacked here such that we cannot ensure justice and equality for Palestinians (you know, the oppressed and occupied ones). To get out from under Israel's thumb, they clearly need to get the conflict resolution out of the US's death grip. This equal blame thing and equal call to the peace table for very unequal rights is a dead end.

Obama wants Sarkosy to tell the Palestinians (this is sounding a little like middle school) they have to stop joining UN organizations, so the US doesn't have to pull funding for the IAEA and Food and Agriculture. I think the Palestinians should go for it. Join as many as possible. It would be a little like the BDS movement in that it would highlight how not in our best interests Israel's occupation, oppression, ethnic cleansing and apartheid are. Or at least we might be forced to ask how committed are we to these crimes Israel commits versus Food and Agriculture, IAEA, intellectual property rights, and everything else.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Irish and Canadian flotilla- preliminary

Israel's holding a Democracy Now correspondent in the latest flotilla action! 

Whether activists of aid workers, I hope they can make a difference.

I don't have so much to say on this that I didn't way with the last flotilla except that I can only hope the freedom waves idea catches on so that this is a continuous "operation." Go Ireland and Canada!

I think the BDS movement is probably more likely to get the desired results, but things like this are needed as well for raising awareness, challenging injustice and showing solidarity.

Justice= EQUALITY, end to occupation, right of return for ALL refugee (AKA the full menu of rights).

There cannot be peace without justice.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
                                                                                     --Desmond Tutu

Jerusalem fight in US

Seems like I've heard this story before...

High court to weigh whether passport of Jerusalem-born American can say he was born in Israel

A US family is suing to try and get Jerusalem, Israel listed as the birthplace on a passport for their son. An argument they are using is that he was born in West Jerusalem, so only those who don't want Israel to exist would object. Hmmm. Typical. But doesn't really follow international law that the status depends on the final outcome of negotiations. 

Why are we even hearing this? Shouldn't this be thrown out? If the courts side with the family, we are essentially making a unilateral decision to say Jews have a right to Jerusalem as the undivided capital since we'd be making a move on this law that was passed but was on hold due to international law concerns. That concern would be gone. We might as well get behind Israel's initiatives to ethnically cleanse (or transfer if you prefer the soft term) Jerusalem and Israel to the 1967 borders of Palestinians. Or a one state solution where all have equal rights. But this is something not even a black president will dare to do. I thought Obama would be able to see the injustice and want to fight it wherever it occurred, but that was a mistake. This is America. Rights are for certain people. And that is determined by us, what's in it for us, and how much economic gain there is for us. This is the part where we forget about our "Christian nation" until the abortion and gay marriage stuff comes up. After we stop talking about money and power and how much we want and have, then let's remember God.

There is or was a law trying to get the embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and this is what this is about.

This is from Bush's unusually wise decision to delay moving the embassy:

The truth is, it is a bit like anything else Israel does (true, these are Americans, but acting in the interest of Israel). Building a wall on Palestinian land, building settlements on Palestinian land, bulldozing homes in East Jerusalem due to building restrictions for Palestinians only. Build a light rail connecting Jerusalem to the settlements in the occupied territory to go with those Jewish only roads. Anything to prejudice the outcome in their favor. 

And let's not even mention how these Americans are fighting over putting the word Israel on a passport when they are allowed to have citizenship in Israel free and clear while Palestinian natives in Israel (and refugees abroad while we're at it) have no such right. There is no Israeli nationality; there is a Jewish nationality. Christian and Muslim are not nationalities, so where does that leave them? 93% of the land "belongs" to the JNF and like foundations for Jewish use only. Attempts are often made to ban Arab political parties. The Citizenship and Entry in to Israel Law- disproportionately affects Arabs, if you marry an Israeli, you can't live in Israel and the Israeli must give up citizenship if you live in OPT. Arabs are exempt from military service which makes sense (given that they'd be required to occupy and control fellow Palestinians), but this means a lot of services, benefits, opportunities of citizenship are not open to them since they often have the stipulation that you have to have completed your compulsory service.

Minority Rights in Israel:
(legal organization)

Palestinian Rights Absent From Recent Israeli Protest Demands:
(describes some of the institutionalized discrimination)

***(not described is how institutionalized discrimination is apartheid and should not be supported by the US government or anyone)***

Normal (non-political)

A break from politics...

What is the meaning of life? What is normal? These are very common questions in society, often meant to evoke a conundrum with so many answers it is impossible to decide, but that's not what I'm getting at here.

So the words not normal were uttered in relation to my daughter recently. I have to admit that along with the anger in frustration simmering, there was concern and doubt. Not normal to me says someone is beating around the bush about a disability (anything from shyness to autism to psychopathology could be implied) and if that's the case, we need to be speaking openly in order to get the best outcome. I honestly don't think that's what is going on, despite my moments of weakness and desire to consider all possibilities. Either way, my daughter is going to need an advocate and I'm the best and worst person for the job. I wonder if that's why I was able to quit my job at precisely the time she started school?

What exactly was meant by not normal? She doesn't participate or play much with other kids. OK...and? She's happy. That's good, right? Do you know what my Kindergarten and maybe preschool and 1st grade teachers said about me? They were worried and couldn't tell if I was happy, sad or bored. I have often thought if the various spectrums for disabilities were as well defined then as now, I'd have been put on there. Who knows. It was also said that my daughter knows the answers when she is asked. So, again, I'm thinking what's the problem? What was probably meant for her was shyness or introversion (which is totally normal to me!) either learned or inherited from me and to some degree and in some ways my husband. I should put this into context because I myself have a hard time with normal given how different what I like, do, and am is from what is expected.

Normal is loud and obnoxious and in your face- needing to sell yourself to everyone all the time. If you know it, show it; if you've got it, flaunt it. This is The American Way. Morals and politeness are for those the "successful" (this, too, has an American definition) will crush to get to the top. That is what American Dreams are made of. That is the reason we Americans have a certain... ahem... reputation. I guess I'm not normal in that I don't share the view that these types of things are positive. Is my personality a result of this view or vice versa? I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter.

When I say doubt at the beginning, I don't just mean about her- is there something wrong or not? I mean doubt about myself, too. I've spend many childhood years (and a few adult moments revisiting these childhood years) convincing myself I am normal and there's nothing wrong with me. The day I learned the word introvert could have been as valuable to my life as baptism was to my soul. Not to make it sound like it was definitely the difference between life and death; I never made it to that place- but I always think, if this or that were different, who knows.

It would explain my fascination with other countries and cultures despite my relatively "normal" American life- I didn't grow up traveling the world and didn't grow up among immigrants (though I have some surprisingly recent German immigrants in the family, no longer living). I figure there's got the be a culture where I fit in. The Japanese think more of reserved people, not less. And the eye contact thing that could make or break you in American first impressions- that not looking people in the eye respects privacy- I completely get that! Personal space is important. In Europe, quiet people are popular (apparently). When I've gone to Honduras and Peru, I know I enjoyed a bit of popularity. That could have been cultural, but it could have also been that fascination with a foreigner that would wear off if I were to stay or the fact that I was nearly the only gringo who spoke enough Spanish to converse. Either way, it was nice to be noticed and not invisible in a good, "normal" way (if I can use that meaningless word again). Being noticed here usually involves being put on the spot and expected to perform- say or do something totally unexpected and entertaining or fantastic.

And it is with such thoughts that I must teach my daughter how to be like me, but better. Normal and not so much. How to fit in or join in where I can't and not sacrifice what is important (to me, not those American traits above). In general terms, it's a universal struggle, but more so if you happen to have been born in the wrong place.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

US caves on settlements- again

This is an extension of my last post, really. Ban Ki-moon called settlements unacceptable and Clinton sometimes views them as inconvenient or whatever. We at one time had the brilliant idea to go with international law on this and so I had hope justice would be served when we said settlement building should be frozen. They should also be dismantled to be fair, but a freeze is a start.

Apparently, that is not our policy anymore. Because George Mitchell's gone? Who knows.

Our new position on settlements:

And as I said in my last post, this settlement issue in which Israel is clearly in the wrong is used as an opportunity to call Palestinians out for throwing in obstacles and pretexts. And not only that! Oh no! Israel gets praise for unprecedented restraint! Good job on doing a little less illegal and unjust behavior?! Really? 

Note in the article how Clinton says patience has it's limits with respect to Iran. Ha! What is the limit on Israel?? The sky apparently! We will endure (not that we are the victims and have to endure squat) any amount of injustice and international law breaking from these criminals, but not others. That was in the same article. It shows perfectly the double standard and contradictions of the US.

More than ever, Palestinians and supporters should demand what Desmond Tutu did:
"I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

UNESCO vote- YES!!

 Palestine state wins first victory in UNESCO vote:

Clinton insisted that "the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups."
Now this is an interesting change in policy. Seems like just a short time ago Clinton maintained that the UN was not the place for deciding statehood...

Clinton also called this move confusing, which I find confusing.
France said it was "not the time." ??? They want negotiations. ??? The occupied negotiating for human rights with their occupier? It hasn't worked and what can one possibly trade (as is common in negotiations) to get inalienable or fundamental God given rights??? How about boycott, divest, sanction the occupier?

Why are we punishing Palestinians for pursuing a non-violent, smart, international and on top of it all LEGAL move to gain human rights and justice? It just doesn't make sense. It makes even less sense when you consider the US-Israeli special relationship. Israel constructs illegal settlements in teh W. Bank and E. Jerusalem and expands them in violation of international law and often in situations that embarrass us. What do we do in response to this one example of many illegal and unjust moves? Do we think about pulling funding from Israel or occupation sustaining institutions immediately? No, we mumble our position here and there that settlements are unhelpful or counterproductive or some equally ineffective thing that makes Israel think that they have to green light to keep on violating the law! Clearly they aren't getting the message. What does one typically do when a country violates the law repeatedly and doesn't listen to warnings and doesn't respond to diplomacy. If it's anyone but Israel, we attack or sanction or cut funding, or whatever Micronesia and the Coalition of the Willing is up for at the time.

 *** *** ***

Of course Democracy Now has something good on this:

With this yes vote, it is automatically eligible to join some other groups as well. I found it interesting that as the US pulls funding for UN organizations that let Palestine in, the US vote goes and this could hurt our interests in groups like the one on Intellectual Property Rights and others. I really am curious how this will play out. Will we bend the UN and world to our will or will the US be forced into recognizing reality and support Palestinian equality at the expense of a "special" relationship.

I particularly enjoyed Matthew Lee's questioning of Victoria Nuland, State Department spokesperson. She didn't have any answers for why Palestine joining was undermining peace. She contended that the US was trying to "improve the environment" and apparently Palestine going to the UN rather than sitting down with their oppressor and seeing what rights they are "allowed" to have would make Israel not want to sit down at the table and so it is ill advised. Never mind the imbalance of power. Never mind the fact that Israel's settlement building actually does undermine peace due to the fact that Israel is grabbing land for the to-be-negotiated state in violation of international law (but when Palestinians bring this fact up, they are condemned for obstructing "negotiations" with preconditions).

*** *** ***

This link talks more about the positive side of the UNESCO vote. I also think it will give Palestinians leverage so they won't have to be so dependent on the US and Israel. 

Maybe they can soon demand what Desomnd Tutu spoke of:

"I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights."