Sunday, January 18, 2009

Love and self-infatuation

Paul Rosenberg has a post on Open Left talking about the changes in the media environment for Israel. He ends thus

Let's put it bluntly: The "pro-Israel" crowd is not pro-Israel at all. They are pro their own narcassistic self-infatuation. They do not love Israel any more than a stalker loves a celebrity. Neither the love nor the object is real. It is self-centered, self-obsessed infatuation that is above all a cowardly, terrified retreat from the real world. And vitally important as the emergence of J Street has already proven itself to be, it represents, so far, mere baby steps at the beginning of a long pathway to recovery. Recovery from a form of addiction that deludes itself into thinking it is love.

The stalker does not love. The addict does not love. The addict kills what it thinks it loves. The addict does not know the meaning of the word "love." The addict knows nothing-nothing of themselves, nothing of love, nothing of what they claim to love.

No wonder they kill everything in their path. No wonder they make a wilderness and call it peace.

Well said.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Torture and its consequences

Dahlia Lithwick points to an important consequence of the admission by Susan Crawford, the convening authority for the Guantanamo Military commission, former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, former Inspector General of the Department of Defense, former General Counsel for the Department of the Army, that the US had indeed tortured a prisoner.
"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Not indulged in activities that "could produce effects reaching the level of torture," but plain outright "tortured." Having a senior government official declare that his treatment met the legal definition of torture leads immediately to the next step. As Lithwick points out under Article 4 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence.
It is incumbent, by law, on the Justice department that they pursue criminal charges against those who committed torture and who were complicit in the torture. This is not a choice that the Justice department or the President-elect can make. They are required under the laws of the land to prosecute the torturers and those complicit in the torture. If, of course, we are a nation of laws.
(h/t Obsidian Wings via The SideShow )

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thomas Friedman - boy genius

Roman Hruska, senator from Nebraska, while defending the nomination of Carswell to the US Supreme court against charges that Carswell was of mediocre intellect said
Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance?
Thomas Friedman clearly demonstrates that the New York Times is a fan of Roman Hruska. Thanks to Donald Johnson, a commenter at A Tiny Revolution, we have this gem. In one sentence Friedman claims that Israel was not directly targeting civilians and that Israel's purpose was to target civilians. Note the sentence and read it twice.
Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large.
And read it again
Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large.
And then just to make sure he contradicts his own claim that Israel was not directly targeting "the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined,"

It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.
As Donald Johnson puts it:
This is a logical contradiction worthy of Godel. Captain Kirk ended at least two robot threats to his ship saying stuff like this. It's just awe-inspiring what comes out of that man's mind (I use the term loosely).

Tail wagging dog

The White House is denying Israeli prime minister Olmert's claim that he ordered George W. Bush to abstain from a UN Security Council resolution that the US helped draft. From an IPS report by Daniel Luban at

Olmert's comments were made in Ashkelon, a southern Israeli city that has been the target of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

According to Olmert, he called the White House upon hearing of the upcoming UN Security Council resolution. "I said, 'Get me President Bush on the phone.' They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care: 'I need to talk to him now.' He got off the podium and spoke to me," Olmert said, according to multiple media reports.

As a result of his conversation with President Bush, Olmert claimed, the president called Rice and forced her to abstain from voting on the measure, which she herself had helped author.

"He gave an order to the secretary of state and she did not vote in favor of it – a resolution she cooked up, phrased, organized, and maneuvered for. She was left pretty shamed and abstained on a resolution she arranged," Olmert said.

The Security Council resolution passed by a vote of 14 to 0, with the U.S. the only abstention.

Gaza coverage

Here are some sources for coverage of events in Gaza.
The Real News
Democracy Now
Lawrence of Cyberia
Lenin's Tomb

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hope and despair

I don't know the provenance of this video or when it was shot but this young woman inspires hope and despair. Hope for her bravery and despair - well watch it.

(via Cannonfire)

You can still view the video at Cannonfire.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Taking oil to fire

LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tons of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as "ammunition" on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.

Ashdod is about twenty miles from Gaza.

"Shipping 3,000-odd tons of ammunition in one go is a lot," one broker said, on condition of anonymity.

"This (kind of request) is pretty rare and we haven't seen much of it quoted in the market over the years," he added.

You can find contact information for your senator here, and your representative here. Remember, they represent you.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


From a Guardian report:

Four exhausted children have been discovered cowering in a house next to the bodies of their mothers by staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which today accused the Israeli military of "unacceptable" delays in allowing medics safe access to injured Gazans.

The Red Cross workers found the small children, who were so weak they could not stand, sheltering next to the bodies of their mothers in a house in Zeitoun, southeast of Gaza City. Another man was found alive, but again too weak to stand. At least 12 bodies were lying on mattresses.


The Red Cross said Israeli soldiers were posted just 80 metres away and had several positions nearby, including two tanks.

It was a "shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, head of the Red Cross delegation for Israel and the Palestinian territories. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded," he said.

The Red Cross had been asking the Israeli military to allow them access to Zeitoun since Israel's ground invasion began on Saturday, but only a three-hour lull in the fighting on Wednesday allowed them to make the dangerous journey.

The Red Cross said Israel had breached international humanitarian law by not allowing access to the wounded and said it "considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable".


Obama continues to ponder the situation and will have "plenty to say" after January 20th. What a dick.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dahiya Doctrine

Norm Finkelstein in an interview on January 2nd:
Press TV: Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that Israel has affected almost what it called the infrastructure of terrorism presumably meaning Hamas. This while apparently heavy civilian casualties have been incurred inside Gaza. How do you see the imbalance in the loss of life in Gaza? How successful do you think that Israel has been in wiping out Hamas or the resistance if you will?

Finkelstein: Well the purpose was to inflict massive casualties immediately. The Israelis, after their attack on Lebanon in 2006, realized that their error was that they did not unleash the full might of their air force in the first few days. In in the first two days of Lebanon war, they killed about 55 Lebanese and then they targeted the Dahia suburb of Beirut. After the war, they began talking about the Dahia strategy which meant to obliterate anything which went against their rule. And what you saw in the first couple of days in Gaza was the application of the Dahia strategy to commit a bloodbath and slaughter of such huge dimensions that they thought it would deter the Arabs in the future from defying Israeli rule.
General Gadi Eisenkot in an interview in October of 2008 as reported by Reuters (via Lenin's Tomb)

"What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on," said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army's northern division.

Dahiya was a Hezbollah stronghold that Israel flattened in sustained air raids during a 34-day war with the Shiite group two years ago.

"We will apply disproportionate force on it (village) and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases," Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

"This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved," Eisenkot added.

This is what happened in Dahiya:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sane Israeli voices

Some sane Israeli voices on Gaza (I'll update as I find more)

The IAF, bullies of the clear blue skies, by Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz
Pacifying Gaza, by Ran Ha-Cohen at
Molten lead in Gaza, by Uri Avnery at
Shiva in Gaza, by Deb Reich at
Where is the academic outrage over the bombing of a university in Gaza, by Neve Gordon and Jeff Halper at
And there lie the bodies, by Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz.
How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, by Avi Shlaim in the Guardian.

Insane voices you can find aplenty all by yourself.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wise words

Commenting on statements by Asad Abu Khalil - The Angry Arab - Chris Floyd has this to say:
These are wise words. One sees many angry comments directed at "The Jews" for what is happening in Gaza. But The Jews are not bombing anyone in Gaza; the Israeli government is. That does not make every Jew in the world somehow complicit in these war crimes. Or should every American be placed in the dock at The Hague with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other perpetrators of the even larger and more savage war crime carried out in Iraq [not to mention the torture regime and other evils]? To rail against The Jews en masse for the actions of some Jews is as pig-ignorant as, say, condemning every person with black skin for the crimes of one ghetto gang, or every Muslim for the act of a single extremist group, or indeed, condemning every white person for the crimes of the Gangster-in-Chief, George Bush.

The structures of power make these crimes possible -- structures inhabited [and supported] at all times by specific human beings, individuals responsible for their actions, operating of their own free will. [For much more on this theme, see the excellent new essay by Arthur Silber here.] They are not possessed by some kind of racial or ethnic ectoplasm or in-built evil that directs their activities. All structures of power must be monitored with fierce diligence, and denounced and opposed when the individuals directing the particular structure commit evil acts. This applies across the board, in all societies, all ideologies, all countries, all historical eras. AbuKhalil's words are worth repeating: "Political anger is justified but that has to be articulated in a rational and humane manner. We can't, or shouldn't, allow Israel and its crimes to make us worse as human beings."
and from the Arthur Silber essay:
This is not because the human race is innately evil, but rather because each generation determinedly teaches the next how to hate, and how to kill. The unending procession of oppression, barbarity and widescale murder throughout human history is not inevitable. There have always been those rare individuals who, when confronted with the horrors of their time and asked to render support for them in any form and to any degree, will declare, simply and with no claim to heroism: No. Such individuals teach us that another mode of consciousness and a radically different manner of conduct exist and can be ours. The overwhelming majority of people are cowards; they consistently refuse to learn the lesson. Cowardice, too, is not inevitable or "natural": people are taught to be cowards. Most people learn that lesson very well indeed.
The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh in one of his lectures on mindfulness talks about the human consciousness as containing all kinds of seeds - seeds of anger, seeds of hatred, seeds of love, seeds of compassion - and we have some control over which seeds we water and which seeds we deprive of nutrition. When faced with feelings of helplessness it is easy to water the seeds of anger and I think the seeds of hate must lie close by. We need to be mindful of what we grow in our garden.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Arnon Soffer

From a May 2006 post from Lawrence of Cyberia
Professor Soffer was a confidant of former P.M. Ariel Sharon, and is a leading theoretician behind Israel’s policy of disengagement from the Palestinians. Indeed, his work is believed to have been a key factor in influencing Mr Sharon to remove the vastly-outnumbered Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, because Prof. Soffer is one of Israel’s leading demographers, and his obsession is the growth of the Arab population and the “time bomb” this represents for a Jewish state. (Hence his nickname, “Arnon the Arab Counter”).
From a May 2004 interview of Arnon Sofer with the Jerusalem Post (via A Tiny Revolution)
First of all, the fence is not built like the Berlin Wall. It's a fence that we will be guarding on either side. Instead of entering Gaza, the way we did last week, we will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won't allow their husbands to shoot Kassams, because they will know what's waiting for them.

Second of all, when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.
In a 2007 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Arnon Sofer clarified his statement (via A Tiny Revolution)

Yes. I said, "The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill."

That statement caused a huge stir at the time, and it's amazing to see how many dozens of angry, ignorant responses I continue to receive from leftists in Israel and anti-Semites abroad, who took my words out of context. I didn't recommend that we kill Palestinians. I said we'll have to kill them.

So its alright then.

Obama's pricipled stand on Gaza

The slaughter in Gaza continues and Barack Obama is still missing in action. The excuse is that "there is only one president at a time." It seems that particular statement is only true when Obama decides to duck and cower. From the Guardian:
This convenient excuse has not applied, say, to Obama's detailed interventions on the economy, or his condemnation of the "coordinated attacks on innocent civilians" in Mumbai in November.

The Mumbai attacks were a clear-cut case of innocent people being slaughtered. The situation in the Middle East however is seen as more "complicated" and so polite opinion accepts Obama's silence not as the approval for Israel's actions that it certainly is, but as responsible statesmanship.

It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel's murder of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab parliament.

It ought not to be risky or disruptive to US foreign policy to say that Israel has an unconditional obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to lift its lethal, months-old blockade preventing adequate food, fuel, surgical supplies, medications and other basic necessities from reaching Gaza.

But in the looking-glass world of American politics, Israel, with its powerful first-world army, is the victim, and Gaza – the besieged and blockaded home to 1.5 million immiserated people, half of them children and eighty percent refugees – is the aggressor against whom no cruelty is apparently too extreme.