Israel/Palestine: In Their Shoes

My friends and family are very much split when it comes to Israel/Palestine.  Nearly a year ago I examined my own feelings and observations on the mess.  Its nearly impossible to really get a handle on a reality most of us don’t have to confront on a daily basis.  I remember my own understanding of the issue took a turn for the deeper after reading what it was like for children to see their parents treated like criminals, never mind treated brutally, at Israeli checkpoints.  So I’d like to invite you to join me in a very short thought experiment.  I’d like to briefly examine an aspect of both sides of this conflict.

First the Israelis.  Let’s imagine that the party to take power in Canada is a mix of social conservatism and fiscal liberalism.  Thet build schools, hospitals, and provide jobs.  The Canadians are wild about them.  They also commit violent acts against US citizens.  They send suicide bombers who travel down into Boston, New York, Chicago, and blow themselves up in buses, night clubs and crowded intersections.  They launch rockets into the US, hitting farms, schools, and random houses.  People you know have been killed in these attacks.  The Canadian government not only supports this party, they have threatened to bury us if we retaliate.  How would you want to react?  How do you think our government should react?

Let’s scale this down for the Palestinians.  Imagine your home state is divided in half.  The bulk of the land is owned by by Mexicans.  To travel from one end to another, we have to submit ourselves to military checkpoints, were we can be beaten or detained at will.  Most of us live in poverty.  The local party to gain power promises not only to fight back, but to ensure our broken infrastructure is repaired.  Members of the party regularly fire rockets into Mexico’s borders.  The Mexican government responds with overwhelming force, killing not only the men firing rockets, but nearby civilians.  Your friends have been killed.  After a failed attempt to negotiate a cease fire, Mexico is going to invade our home.  Given the inability of their military force to spare civilians, it is likely that even if you are not killed or wounded, someone you know will be.  How would you respond?  How would you expect your elected officials to act?

The interesting thing with the Israel/Palestine conflict is that both sides, upon reflection, inspire sympathy.  Something to keep in mind when reading the many one sided notes and articles from friends and media.


The New Taliban

What’s keeping me up at night?  Via Majikthise, an article in Rolling Stone by the incredibly brave Nir Rosen.  I couldn’t stop reading it.

At one point, I got the distinct impression our leaders are acting like irresponsible doctors prescribing anti-biotics, sending more and more troops.  Amid the same signs of hope for negotiation Rosen picks out, he finds pretty solid evidence we are seeing the development of superbugs:

The guarantees of safety that once protected civilians have been replaced by a new generation removed from traditional society — one for whom jihad is the only law.

In spite of assurances about women being allowed to attend school and work, we see pictures of theocracy in action:

As we wait for the Doctor to arrive, Shafiq has other problems to deal with. His nephew has been arrested by a Taliban patrol after being spotted walking with a girl. After Shafiq secures his release, other Talib fighters call to complain that they heard music coming from his house the night before. Exasperated, Shafiq protests that it was only Al-Jazeera. He doesn’t mention the Iranian pop singer.

The outlook is pretty grim (emphasis mine):

Simply put, it is too late for Bush’s “quiet surge” — or even for Barack Obama’s plan for a more robust reinforcement — to work in Afghanistan. More soldiers on the ground will only lead to more contact with the enemy, and more air support for troops will only lead to more civilian casualties that will alienate even more Afghans. Sooner or later, the American government will be forced to the negotiating table, just as the Soviets were before them.

What’s more, the direct U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan is now likely to spill over into Pakistan. It may be tempting to attack the safe havens of the Taliban and Al Qaeda across the border, but that will only produce a worst-case scenario for the United States. Attacks by the U.S. would attract the support of hundreds of millions of Muslims in South Asia. It would also break up Pakistan, leading to a civil war, the collapse of its military and the possible unleashing of its nuclear arsenal.”

…But the Taliban have their own faith, and so far, they are winning.

This is the reality of Afghanistan as it stands today.  A new Taliban, divided, is taking the country back.  We need people with intelligence and good judgement leading this country to take advantage of that:

The internal split provides an opening — if U.S. intelligence is smart enough to exploit it.

“The U.S. should try to weaken the Taliban,” a former Taliban commander tells me. “They should make groups, divide and conquer. If someone wants to use the division between Haqqani and Omar, they can.”

Its a very slim silver lining hiding underneath an enormous storm cloud.

Making Killing Liberals Normal

Hate of liberals has been festering throughout the Bush years.  You’d think two terms of conservative rule would calm and reassure wingnuts, but the crazy contigent of the radical Republican army has been working on its foaming skills assiduously.

My “most active” posts are about a Obama: The White Supremacist Backlash, and on Eliminationism: Kill All Liberals.  I regularly see search terms like “white supremacist obama”, “fuck obama muslim nigger”, and “kill all liberals” rise to the top (also encouragingly “progress hope obama”).

While we wonder if the recent murder of the Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman was politically motivated, we do know the Church killings were (David Niewert at FireDogLake):

An update on the Knoxville shooting rampage, from the Knoxville News:

Police found right-wing political books, brass knuckles, empty shotgun shell boxes and a handgun in the Powell home of a man who said he attacked a church in order to kill liberals “who are ruining the country,” court records show.

Knoxville police Sunday evening searched the Levy Drive home of Jim David Adkisson after he allegedly entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children’s musical.

Knoxville Police Department Officer Steve Still requested the search warrant after interviewing Adkisson. who was subdued by several church members after firing three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the congregation.

Adkisson targeted the church, Still wrote in the document obtained by WBIR-TV, Channel 10, “because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets.”

Adkisson told Still that “he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office.”

Meanwhile the presence of a possible terrorist in Denver has excited the right wing blogosphere to the point that they overlooked the probability that the terrorist was one of their own rather than the “Muslim Terrorist” they rushed to brand him as.

The ugly side of repeatedly insisting it would be acceptable, desirable, or even honorable to kill liberals is that some people are easily convinced.  That they believe the radio hosts and right wing shock jocks of news are rooting for them when they take a gun and aim it at a human being whose politics they don’t like.  Sad, sick people.

We ought to be more aggressive in pushing back against eliminationist speech.

The question is how?

Lebanon is Fucked

This makes my stomach churn.  Via XX Factor, Mona Charen at the Politico writes:

Smadar wrote later, “I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades.” As police began to arrive, Kuntar and the others dragged Danny and 4-year-old Einat down to the beach. With Einat watching, Kuntar shot Danny in the head and then threw his body into the surf. Kuntar then repeatedly smashed Einat’s head against a rock with his rifle butt, killing her, too. Yael did not survive the attack either. In an effort to keep the baby from crying and betraying their hiding place, Smadar had accidentally suffocated her.

He was recently released in the prisoner exchange.

This week, Kuntar, dressed in fatigues and sporting a Hitlerian mustache and haircut, walked down a red carpet arrayed for him in Beirut. The government closed all offices and declared a national day of celebration. Tens of thousands of Lebanese cheered, waved flags, threw confetti, and set off fireworks as Hezbollah staged a rally to celebrate their “victory” over Israel. Mahmoud Abbas, the “moderate” leader of the Palestinian Authority, sent “blessings to Samir Kuntar’s family.” PA spokesman Ahmad Abdul Rahman sent “warm blessings to Hezbollah … on the return of the heroes of freedom … headed by the great Samir Kuntar.”


Mona asks at the start, “What can you say about a people who welcome a child murderer as a hero?”.

That might be an unfair question.  A better question would be what can you say about a culture that welcomes a child murderer as a hero?  And the answer is, that culture is fucked.  Perhaps even worse than fucked.  Because our own culture is fucked in the way our wars kill massive numbers of children, in the way blood is spilt daily, and we only react to news of whats happening to our own soldiers.  But this…  Imagine if the US threw a national holiday for a soldier accused of shooting an Iraqi man and beating his 4 year old daughter to death.

Violence might become necessary in the gravest situations, but worship of violence will always be the deepest kind of civil disease society can inflict upon itself.

Lieberman Asks Youtube to Remove Terrorist Videos

No word yet on whether or not the videos are under copyright.  From the article:

In a blog posting, YouTube said it welcomed the dialogue with Lieberman but noted that “most of the videos” his office had drawn to their attention “did not contain violent or hate speech content” and had therefore not been removed from the site “because they do not violate our Community Guidelines.”

Lieberman made a mistake.  If he was going to call for the removal of material that showed people being killed, that’s one thing.  If he’s going to use strident language and simply flag videos he does not agree with, he weakens his own argument.  Although one wouldn’t expect such a stalward supporter of the war in Iraq to understand that sometimes it isn’t wise to overreach.

Hamas Sacrifices Children, Israel Firing Anyway

This is just awesome for anyone fortunate enough to live in the “land of milk and honey”.  (New York Times, emphasis mine):

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian mother and her four young children were killed in northern Gaza on Monday during an Israeli operation against militants there, and a dispute quickly arose over exactly how they had died.

The Israelis said they shot a missile from the air that hit two armed men who were carrying heavy explosives which blew apart the family’s house behind them. Palestinian witnesses said they believed an Israeli tank shell or a missile from an unmanned drone flew into the small house, killing the four as they were eating breakfast. Two other children from the same family were badly wounded and hospitalized.

The killings prompted vows of revenge and seemed likely to complicate Egyptian efforts to mediate a cease-fire between Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, and Israel.

Shortly afterward, seven rockets and nine mortars were fired at southern Israel from Gaza. No one there was injured although a building was damaged.

Is it just me, or is firing rockets from a residential neighborhood a bad way to avoid civilian casualties?

Defense Minister Ehud Barak placed the blame squarely on Hamas.

“We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens there, for all injuries,” he said while on a tour of an Israeli weapons factory, as reported on Israeli radio. “The army is acting and will continue to act against Hamas, including inside the Gaza Strip.”

This is insane.  Hamas terrorists are using their own people as PR talking points.  Meanwhile Israel is firing anyway, ignoring both the ethical and practical problems with doing so.

Great time to be a Palestinian.  If I were growing up there, I’d pretty much hate everybody.

McCain’s Dismal Foreign Policy Expertise

John McCain is going to run as an expert on foreign policy, an experienced heavyweight with security his centerpiece strength.

Which makes this pretty fucking alarming (via Greg Saunders at TMW, emphasis mine):

The foolishness of this John McCain “gaffe”, to use the media’s favorite understatement, should terrify anyone who actually thinks the commander-in-chief should have a basic understanding of the wars we’re fighting :

Sen. John McCain, traveling in the Middle East to promote his foreign policy expertise, misidentified in remarks Tuesday which broad category of Iraqi extremists are allegedly receiving support from Iran.He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives “taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.”

Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.” A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate’s ear. McCain then said: “I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.”

Wow. If foreign policy is supposed to be the area in which McCain is an expert, I’m terrified of what he might do to the economy.

McCain’s being transparent.  He wants to yell “boo, Al-Qaeda!” when pressed with a foreign policy question, even when it makes less than zero sense to do so.  If McCain’s experience amounts to staring at a wall while people whisper the answers in his ear he’d better come up with another angle to market his presidency.