Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Question for Elliot Abrams

On his CFR "Pressure Points" blog, former Iran-Contra liar Elliott Abrams bangs on about what he obviously sees as the silliness of tomorrow's scheduled UN General Assembly vote to recognize "Palestine."  He also reminds us all that afterwards, presuming that the vote will be favorable, the US (via Israel's amen corner in Congress) will promptly "punish" the UN by withdrawing its funding from any UN body in which a "Palestine" delegation will be allowed to participate (remember UNESCO?).

Abrams concludes, though, by admonishing Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians (whom he labels the PLO; nothing like raising the specter of Arafat and 1960s terrorism) to desist with silly UN resolutions and instead focus on building "a decent, prosperous, democratic state."

But here's my question for Abrams: how are Palestinians supposed to build a state without territory on which to build it?  For years, Abrams has tried to downplay the significance of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank - even as successive Israeli governments have ramped up their financial and military support for those settlements.  The settler movement wields extraordinary power in the Knesset.  And in recent days, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has melded his Likud party (historically the most stalwart proponent of Greater Israel/Judea and Samaria) with the Yisrael Beiteinu party of  Bibi's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman, himself a resident of a West Bank settlement and on record with virulently racist anti-Arab comments.  

Bottom line: the Zionist colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has become a juggernaut that can no longer be headed off.  Most Israelis hardly give a rat's behind about the fate of West Bank Arabs.  The ranks of the IDF are becoming increasingly imbued with a quasi-racist religious nationalism promoted by military rabbis who provide Biblical "justification" for the eradication of indigenous Palestinians.  

The "peace process" has become both a bad joke that Netanyahu can play on Abbas whenever he needs it - and a card that Abrams can cynically play whenever he sees Israel's interests threatened.

As for the US, the peace process has become a stained and shredded, but nonetheless still flapping, pendant which it pathetically lifts in order to remind the world that it is the "indispensable" global power.  Yet Russia and China will surely back the Palestinians' resolution in the UN.  And both France and Spain have declared their intention to support the resolution as well.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gaza 2012: the IDF's Beat-down Goes On

Sitting in a recliner, coffee at hand, laptop on lap (which is aching; only 2 weeks since my left hip was replaced) . . . and pondering how it is that I can sit here comfortably and securely, even as the newly re-elected president of my country essentially condones Israel's murderous bombardment of the tiny, over-populated enclave that we call the Gaza Strip.

Some of today's reporting is here from the New York Times, here from the Washington Post (which notes the IDF's destruction of two buildings used by journalists in Gaza.  The IDF's rationale: Hamas was using the journalists as "human shields." Oh.)  The death toll in Gaza is near 50 - and despite Bibi's insistence that the IDF is being extremely careful not to target civilians (like journalists?), the pictures coming out of Gaza suggest that, as ever, the "most moral army in the world"'s resort to disproportionate force is wreaking lots of "collateral damage."  (A sample of pix is here . They're heart-rending.)

Who's to blame?  The WaPo runs a useful chronology of recent events, most of it lifted from work by Emily Hauser and posted by Robert Wright at The Atlantic.  At The Daily Beast, Leslie Gelb, one of the champions of the mainstream US foreign-policy establishment, assigns some blame to Israel and the US, but lays "the lion's share" of it on Hamas.  (Interesting expression, that; reminds me of the seminal role Great Britain played in the creation of the Zionist colonial-settler state in Palestine.)  After all, says Gelb,

Hamas pledges to destroy the state of Israel. Hamas-lovers lose all credibility when they ignore that fact.

Well, yeah, that's indeed in the Hamas charter.  But a recent, well-regarded academic study of Hamas (I own the book, but in my current circumstances am not up to retrieving it from my stacks) noted that several Hamas figures have expressed regret that that passage was ever included in the charter as well as willingness to ignore it if the Israelis were willing to negotiate in good faith on Palestinian statehood.  My point here is that Israel hawks keep throwing up that passage in the Hamas charter as an argument-ender (as Gelb does), but that many in Hamas have moved on in their thinking - as have many in the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' parent organization, which now leads the new Egyptian democratic government, and upon whose support Hamas in Gaza surely has to rely.

IMO, a much better take on the current crisis is that of Juan Cole (at Informed Comment), who lists the Top Ten Myths about the Israeli Attack on Gaza ais nd provides a much deeper historical underpinning than do the reports in the MSM.

But the commentator who perhaps best gets to the heart of the matter is Rami Khouri.  Khouri notes (in a Daily Star essay posted at Agence Global) that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza now possesses longer-range rockets that

"generate a significant new dimension of psychological fear in Israel that mirrors the fear and tension that Israel’s aerial attacks have long inflicted on Palestinians and Lebanese. The ability of Palestinians today to fire rockets deeper into Israel, and, presumably, with more accuracy in due course, is just one indicator of the fact that time is not on Israel’s side. "

(BTW, the NY Times also has a report on these rockets titled "Arms With a Long Reach Help Hamas."  The report is by long-time NYT Israel hand Ethan Bronner, whose continued role with that paper has been criticized by many, given that his son is an Israeli soldier.)  But Khouri goes on then to make his much more important point:


As long as the crime of dispossession and refugeehood that was committed against the Palestinian people in 1947-48 is not redressed through a peaceful and just negotiation that satisfies the legitimate rights of both sides, we will continue to see enhancements in both the determination and the capabilities of Palestinian fighters -- as has been the case since the 1930s, in fact. Only stupid or ideologically maniacal Zionists fail to come to terms with this fact.

As a former anti-Vietnam War protester, I remember distinctly a much-used chant of that era of civil-rights and anti-war protest:

"No justice, no peace."  

Pitifully few members of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment in the US - not to mention the Congress and the American electorate - evince any awareness that the Arabs of Palestine were done horrific injustice by the Zionist ethnic cleansing that made possible the creation of Israel in 1948.  None of the negotiations and agreements between Israel and various Arab parties since that time have ever come close to rectifying that injustice.  In a region of the planet where values of upholding honor and exacting vengeance for its violation run so deep, people across the Arab world, as well as Muslims in Iran and Turkey, have been left to seethe for decades about Israel's refusal even to recognize even that an injustice was done, and about the United States' unwavering support of Israel's refusal.  

This same injustice, of course, underpinned the motives of Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda in launching the attacks of 11 September 2001.  It continues to fire the fury of jihadists across the planet, many of whom are itching for opportunities to lash out at Israel's American enablers - be they soldiers in Afghanistan, or civilians in oblivious repose in the security of the American "homeland."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Biblical Dimension of New Israeli Campaign vs Gaza

At Moon of Alabama notes how Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF's current onslaught vs. Gaza, was initially named (in Hebrew) "Pillar of Cloud" - a Biblical term that indicates God's physical presence among the early Israelites during episodes of conflict.  The IDF evidently switched to Pillar of Defense to draw more secular observers' attention away from the ultra-religious-nationalist ideology that has begun to dominate Israeli security discourse.
That ideology hardly shines through, though, in these Instagram pictures recently posted by young IDF worthies as they muster for duty in Gaza.  War now becomes the equivalent of strutting down the runway.  These kids seem not to have a worry in the world.  Not surprising.  From a military standpoint, the IDF's war against Gaza is a turkey-shoot.  Pepe Escobar makes the same point at Asia Times.  And he also points out some of Bibi's more cynical motives here, to wit: if Obama is thinking about approaching Iran for direct talks, well then, I'll fix him! How 'bout a new war in Gaza to distract you?
Escobar correctly notes, though:

If Obama had any balls he would be fuming. Then he would smack down Bibi. Shouldn't even bet on it. We know he won't. 

But Obama needs to be climbing down Bibi's throat, pronto.  Sure, Bibi's ploy here may serve to back-burner Iran.  But as Escobar notes, it's not as if the Hamas government in Gaza is going to be left  hung out to dry:

Egypt under Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi will have to do ... something; the Egpytian street, which is all in favor of scrapping the Camp David accords, will demand it. On top of that, Cairo itself broke the truce between Tel Aviv and Hamas - now totally sabotaged by Israel. Moreover, Hamas is supported by Turkey and, crucially, the Emir of Qatar and his petro-billions. Will they just shut up and watch the carnage? As for King Playstation in Jordan, he cannot play conciliator towards Israel because he may be booking a one-way flight to London sooner than he thinks.

If anything, a lesson emerging in all of this - not that it's anything new - is that Bibi could give a rat's ass when it comes to US hopes, relationships, and interests in the Arab/Turko/Iranian Middle East. Netanyahu will seek to advance whatever he considers to be Israel's interests, whatever the cost to the US.
And it may well happen that, if the Gaza onslaught ramps up, that cost will include more US embassies and consulates stormed and burned, and more American diplomats terrorized and killed.  
If that happens, of course, don't look to the Dos Amigos and their posse in Congress to point a finger at Bibi. 

Another Vietnam in the Making?

Paul Rogers (at Open Democracy) makes a compelling argument that the African forces being readied to move against the Islamist militias that now control north Mali will not be up to the task, even with the help of 400 or so Special Forces advisors from various European countries.  

The logical consequence will be the deployment of an expanded force with a substantial foreign input, whose responsibilities include a direct combat role, no doubt supported by both armed and reconnaissance drones . . . .


A bit reminiscent of the Vietnam War, no?  First, Green Berets, followed by regular army and marines when that proved insufficient?  Rogers continues:


It is possible that in the coming weeks there will be serious attempts to negotiate with at least some of the paramilitary Islamist groups operating in northern Mali. If they are successful, a conflict might still be avoided. It is clear, though, that intensive planning for military involvement is now underway, principally in Europe. If that military option does ensue, the result will be another international conflict with western participation - albeit likely to be on a smaller scale than Libya, and much smaller than Iraq or Afghanistan.


Its significance, though, may be less its size and intensity and more its status as a further example of western intervention against an Islamic region. In itself that may have little traction even with the great majority of the world's Muslim community, but for a core minority it will have a sharp impact. The most immediate effects may be felt in west Africa, where radical Islamist movements are influential, but also in east Africa, where similar currents are evolving. The experience of such wars also shows that once started they can take alarming directions, have very destructive results, and often enhance the very movements they are designed to counter. Whether such forewarnings make any difference remains to be seen.


With all of America's attention now riveted on the Dos Amigos' (John McCain and Lindsey Graham) frantic but flimsily supported attack on Susan Rice and the Benghazi "debacle" - and on the media carnival surrounding Petraeus/Broadwell/Allen/Kelley, Mali is getting nary a look-see in the US media.  But if it comes to what Rogers has outlined (and his track record in such predictions is quite good; he was spot-on about how Iraq would turn out), Mr. Obama may find himself signing off on drone strikes (and more) in yet another Muslim country.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Purple States Manifesto

I only wish I could claim to have written this.  It was shared by a friend (a history professor at the University of South Carolina) who had convinced HIS friend (the actual author) to share it via Facebook.

If you cannot find much here to agree with, then you are truly part of the problem.

The Purple States Manifesto

We reject the tired notion of Red states, Blue states. We are all Red, all Blue. We are Purple, one nation divided, diverse, but still American.
We stand together in the belief that polarization hurts us all, solves nothing, and ensures that our children and grandchildren will live in a country less powerful, less great, less happy than the one we know.
Together, we have conquered the British, slavery, fascism, segregation, polio, and communism. Surely, we can apply that same determination, passion, innovation, and genius to defeating climate change, racism, and debt. 
We are not moochers or takers. We are awake. We have witnessed middle-class wages stagnate for two generations. We have watched, with dismay, as unprecedented income inequality means our pensions disappear, our wages are cut, and the American dream as we’ve known it has been distorted into an oligarchic, winner-take-all monstrosity. 
We don’t want a hand-out. We want a cease-fire. If there’s a class war, we are its draftees. The first in battle, the first to die on the frontlines as the “Greed is Good” philosophy pummels equality of opportunity.
We are white. And brown. And black. And yellow. And red. And innumerable combinations thereof. We celebrate the not-too-distant future where the United States looks like the rest of the world. Rage all you will, but this is an inexorable reality.
We, unlike you, do not lament the death of “traditional” America. That is the America where Emmett Till was lynched. Where terms like “sexual harassment” and “domestic violence” didn’t exist. Where our Hispanic brothers and sisters were smeared as “wetbacks.” Where Native Americans were stripped of their lands and were victims of genocide. Where the back of the Statue of Liberty intentionally faced Asia. Where women were solely defined by their ability to serve their husbands and raise their children. Where Jews read “Gentiles only” want ads. 
We demand truth and openness. We deserve to know if our democracy is being sold to the highest bidder and if so, who is buying it and why. 
We believe that the richest nation in the world should be able to find a way to ensure that no American dies because of a lack of health care without simultaneously allowing our insurance companies and the prescription drug industry to hold us hostage; that national security does not necessitate our spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined; and that it is far past time to create a standardized, impartial national system for voting where votes are cast efficiently, fairly, and without fear of intimidation or invalidation. 
We demand that our public officials stop playing games, start compromising, and begin the hard work of tackling our fiscal crisis bravely, realistically, now.
We are willing to sacrifice, even to die, for America is she attacked by those who hate us, but we will not be lied to about the causes and costs of war again nor stand idly by while our warriors are expected to bear more than even the strongest soldier could endure. 
We are old and young; illiterate and educated; queer and straight; single and married; rich and poor; Southern, Northern, Eastern, Western. 
And we implore you to listen beyond whatever echo chamber you inhabit. 
We are so much more than the cynics claim, than the ratings require. 
There is a future we can build together; we can construct a bridge over all divides us. 
Isn’t it time we do it?


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