Friday, February 25, 2005
And now, on a lighter note...
Frank J. of imao.us was, it seemed, highly amused at the latest rantings and ravings of Ted Rall. (Well, so am I. I drew better cartoons than that when I was ten -- and more politically relevant, too.)
So, in a post entitled Who the Hell Do You Think You Bloggers Are?, he introduces a Blogger Quiz, to wit:
THE "WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?" BLOGGER QUIZ1. Who the hell do you think you are?
My driver's license says "Daniel", which means that I'm willing to publish under my own first name... whatever that means. (Want my last name? Dig it up, it's not hard to find.)
2. So, other than blogging, what's your job? Do you work at some fast food joint, dumbass?
Not at the moment. But programming at a successful Cambridge startup allows me to buy all the hamburgers I want.
3. Do you have like any experience in journalism, idiot?
Oh, sorry. I wasn't aware that journalists needed experience in journalism. (Does Dan Rather have any experience in journalism? Judging by his recent work, you have to wonder.)
4. Do you even read newspapers?
Now and again, to supplement blogs. They also make good drop-cloths and paper airplanes.
5. Do you watch any other news than FOX News propaganda, you ignorant fool?
Actually, my wife and I don't watch television, FOX included. That should make for an interesting dilemma: does not watching TV at all make me more ignorant or less?
6. I bet you're some moron talk radio listener too, huh?
Make up your mind, please. I'm not a radio, nor a moron, nor a "talk", whatever that is. I am occasionally a listener; try talking to me sometime.
7. So, do you get a fax from the GOP each day for what to say, you @#$% Republican parrot?
Absolutely. Today Karl Rove made a point of calling me, to remind me to brush and floss. Oops, sorry, that was top secret, I guess you have to die now.
8. Why do you and your blogger friends want to silence and fire everyone who disagrees with you, fascist?
Actually, I don't want to silence anybody. Once you've watched Al Jazeera, CBS News and CNN seem pretty tame.
As I get tired of repeating, on Citizen Smash and elsewhere -- I'm willing to discuss the issues reasonably if you are. If ad hominem attacks and straw-man arguments are your forte, kindly pick up your dolls and go play somewhere else.
9. Are you completely ignorant of other countries, or do you actually own a passport?
Actually, I own two passports, both legal and both recognized. (And I'm not afraid to use them! So there.)
10. Have you even been to another country, you dumb hick?
Gee, that would be hard to do without a passport, huh? But yes, actually, I have. Unfortunately, I currently only speak two languages fluently... but I'm working on a third.
11. If you're so keen on the war, why haven't you signed up, chickenhawk?
I put in my time with the IDF in 1986-1989. Unfortunately, the United States hadn't invaded Iraq yet at that point... and Israel wasn't invited to the party anyway, more's the pity. (You think the 2003 invasion of Iraq was fast? Well, it was... but Israel still holds the MidEast record on that score.)
12. Do you have any idea of the horrors of war? Have you ever reached into a pile of goo that was your best friend's face?
My, now that's a vivid image, isn't it?
I didn't serve in wartime, no. But I was trained for it, for whatever that's worth.
13. Have you ever reached into any pile of goo?
Damn, that's disgusting. Put it this way -- I was brought up around dogs, with brief incursions of goats, sheep, chickens, and a horse. Draw your own conclusions.
14. Once again, who the hell do you think you are?!
Here's who I think I am. Thanks for asking. Have a nice day.
An Iraqi Hero
It's pretty startling when you see the same name come up in different contexts.
Recently, many of us have read with horror about the car bombing of an Iraqi politician. He survived the attack, but his two sons did not; also dead is the man's bodyguard and longtime friend. As if this was not enough, he was recently attacked again. This would have convinced many of us to call it quits and go home; but this man is determined to see Iraqi democracy through, come what may:
Shortly after the attack, in his shock and grief, al-Alusi refused to give any ground. In an interview with Radio Free Iraq, he said, "If (the attackers) thought that by attempting to kill Mithal al-Alusi, the advocates of peace in Iraq will be stopped, then they have made a grave mistake...I remember reading, a while back, about a different sort of courage -- in this case, an Iraqi who travelled to Israel to participate in an anti-terrorism conference. In a reasonable world, this would make perfect sense -- a man in a country plagued by terrorism, travelling to participate in a Middle Eastern conference on terrorism. But Israel is not treated the same way as other countries, and this man, upon his return to Iraq, was relieved of his post in Allawi's interim government and threatened with imprisonment by the authorities.
Yes, you guessed it -- they're the same man.
Mithal al-Alusi did not lick his wounds after returning from Israel in September 2004. As Iraqis geared up for the January 2005 elections, he formed his own party, the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, and prepared a slate of candidates for the elections. His message, of secularism and peace and tolerance, must have struck a chord; his list got 29,000 votes and 16 seats in Parliament.
At the risk of sounding cliched, this is the sort of man Iraq desperately needs. A man of courage and vision, who understands the importance of Iraqi democracy and freedom -- even in the face of great personal tragedy -- and knows that his friends and allies can come in all forms, including Americans and even Israelis.
(There's a great article about the man in today's Metro West Daily, written by Ilana Freedman. Please read the whole thing. Full disclosure: Mrs. Freedman is my mother, and I'm damned proud to be her son.)
I will pray for Mr. al-Alusi's continued good health and clear-headed wisdom. If you have not seen his story elsewhere, please do spread the word -- this is a story that people need to hear.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Meryl to Israel's Critics: "Put Up Or Shut Up"
Meryl Yourish is usually a good source for late-breaking commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and prominent bias vis-a-vis same). But her post today is so good that I feel obliged to quote it in full:
Let's take a look at events in Israel in the last few weeks.
- The disengagement from Gaza and several West Bank towns is still on.
- Palestinian prisoners are scheduled to be released.
- The IDF will stop demolishing the houses of terrorists.
- The route of the security fence is being modified by Israeli courts
- Israel is allowing palestinian terrorists who were deported to return, including the terrorists who were responsible for the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
So what's the Presbyterian Church (USA) doing about disinvestment now that the moves they requested are actually starting to come to fruition?
However, more Protestant churches are discussing disinvestment. It's good to know that Israel's moves are being greeted by positive steps by her critics.
I believe we've gone past anti-Zionism here and are treading dangerously close to anti-Semitism. But then, I'm just one of those people who yells "anti-Semitism" when the world criticizes Israel, right?
Put up or shut up, Israel critics. Ariel Sharon is risking his political career, and frankly, his life, to do exactly what the world has demanded he do. Now it's time to see positive moves from Israel's loud-mouthed critics.
Or was the point really just to criticize Israel, after all?
All I can add is: I doubt very much if Sharon is doing anything at the behest of American Presbyterian churches; I imagine Sharon couldn't care less. These steps (some of which I agree with, others I do not) have many reasons for them; pleasing anxious American church-goers and whiny Somerville yuppies are, I'm sure, not on the list.
On the other hand, from their perspective, it shouldn't matter what Sharon's motivations are; he's doing what they've said they wanted, as Meryl points out.
So. Do they have the courage of their convictions? Or do they merely see Israel-bashing as a popular sport, and want to get with the in-crowd before Noam Chomsky shakes his finger at them?
UPDATE: Israpundit features an interview, on the subject of the WCC and its divestment considerations, with Prof. Paul Charles Merkley, an historian and an expert on Christian-Israeli relations. Don't miss it.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Getting on the Map, One Bit at a Time
So now I'm listed! Cool.
(Did they find me on their own, or did someone turn me in?? Inquiring minds want to know.)
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
A New Step Forward?
Today was the Sharm-el-Sheikh summit between Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas.
Is this a significant event? One can only hope. Personally, I'm skeptical; I've heard far too much talk over the years, filled with wonderful platitudes, followed by innocent people being murdered.
I have limited faith in Sharon; he's at least demonstrated that he's willing to take unpopular steps in the name of security and peace. Abbas, as far as I'm concerned, is completely unproven. What he did while under Arafat's thumb is of no consequence to me, and doesn't bode well for him in any case. I am not impressed by the results of his election (yes, the most democratic election Palestinians have ever had under their own control, but that's not saying much), nor am I impressed with what he's done so far, which is virtually nothing. We'll see what he does next.
Nor am I impressed by Sec. Condoleezza Rice and her statements thus far. For example, she refers consistently to "President Abbas" rather than "Chairman Abbas" (he is Chairman of the Palestinian Authority and of the PLO; he is not President of the State of Palestine, for as yet there is no such thing). Her language also refers repeatedly to the need to cease violence and extremism on both sides, thus embodying a moral equivalence that is very disturbing. (Equating PA-sponsored terrorism with Israeli military security measures, or equating the rare Israeli extremists -- who are punished heavily under Israeli law -- with Palestinian terrorists that are supported, trained, and paid by the PA -- is reprehensible. Equating the firefighter with the arsonist is not a good way for Dr. Rice to begin her new job.)
Sharon's words do indeed sound good:
There is only one answer to [extremists]: we must all announce here today that violence will not win, that violence will not be allowed to murder hope. We must all make a commitment not to agree for a temporary solution, not to allow violence to raise its head, but to act together, determinedly, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, to disarm and subdue it once and for all. Only by crushing terror and violence will we build peace.
I have no intention of missing this opportunity - because we must not let the new spirit, which grants our peoples hope, pass us by and leave us empty-handed.
That is why we have acted quickly and with determination, with an understanding of the needs of the Palestinian side. Over the past few days, we reached a number of understandings with our Palestinian colleagues, which will enable us to grant both peoples tranquility and security for the near future. Today, in my meeting with Chairman Abbas, we agreed that all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere and parallelly, Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians anywhere. We hope that today we are starting a new period of tranquility and hope. Furthermore, we agreed on a process of transferring security responsibility for Palestinian areas. I informed Chairman Abbas of our intention to take a series of confidence-building measures: soon we will release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and also establish a joint committee to explore future release of prisoners.
I am determined to carry out the Disengagement Plan which I initiated. The Disengagement Plan was initiated by a unilateral decision. Now, if new change does emerge on the Palestinian side, the disengagement can bring hope and become the new starting point for a coordinated, successful process.
Only actions and not words - this is the only way to attain the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and tranquility. (emphasis added)
Sounds good, as far as it goes. Sharon has already earned the wrath of his own party (and many Israelis not of his party) for his Disengagement Plan.
Abbas, for his part, echoed the same sentiments:
We have agreed with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to cease all acts of violence against the Israelis and the Palestinians wherever they are.
But it remains to be seen if Abbas can rein in Palestinian terror as he has pledged to do:
However, the Hamas representative in Lebanon said shortly after the summit that his group will not be bound by the cease-fire declarations. "The talk about what the leader of the Palestinian Authority called a cessation of acts of violence is not binding on the resistance because this is a unilateral stand and was not the result of the outcome of an intra-Palestinian dialogue as has been agreed previously," Hamdan told The Associated Press.(Will Abbas be able to control Hamas et al? To my mind, it is irrelevant whether or not Abbas has the political clout, and/or the military muscle, to stop the Palestinian terror. He is morally obligated to do so, one way or another. For many years, the Palestinians claimed to have no control over terror, forcing Israel to take its own steps against terror. Palestinians have insisted that these Israeli tactics must stop; but for them to stop, the Palestinians must shoulder the burden themselves. If they do not, then terror effectively remains the official policy of the Palestinian Authority, which is thus no partner for peace with anyone.)
Do I seem unreasonably harsh on the Palestinian side, and unreasonably understanding of the Israeli side? Undoubtedly so; I am an Israeli. Furthermore, I know that Israel does everything it possibly can to avoid hurting innocent civilians, while Palestinians seek out innocent civilians to kill.
It will be up to Sharon and Abbas, but primarily Abbas, to change that. We'll see what he does next.
UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post editorializes as follows:
Based on experience, yet contrary to the international conventional wisdom, premature Israeli concessions lead not to the beginning of a peace process but to the end of Palestinian compliance with their commitments. This time, as in the past, Israel will doubtless release prisoners, pull back its forces, stop running after wanted terrorists, release funds, remove checkpoints and welcome more Palestinian workers. But if this time is to be different, the Palestinian claim that Israel has not done enough of all these things should not be accepted as an excuse for the PA not doing what it can and must do. Showering Abbas with 'help' will have the opposite of the intended effect if such help is not made conditional on concrete results.I see little here to disagree with. As noted above, Israel is already planning to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and pull back IDF units... in return for the hope that Abbas can (and will) do what he promises.
The Jerusalem Post points out that Abbas also said:
Let me be very clear: There will be no military solution to this conflict, so we repeat our renunciation, a renunciation of terror against the Israelis wherever they might be. Such methods are inconsistent with our religious and moral traditions and are dangerous obstacles to the achievement of an independent, sovereign state we seek. ... We will exert all of our efforts, using all our resources to end the militarization of the intifada, and we will succeed.That sounds wonderful... except that Abbas said it at the Aqaba summit, in June 2003. Hundreds of Israelis have died in dozens of acts of terror since then. (Hence my mistrust of sweet-sounding words without actions to back them; see above.)
It's hard to be an optimist. But I'll keep trying.
Monday, February 07, 2005
"The World Does Not Like The Jews"
I'm not sure that it makes sense for me to link to Meryl Yourish; she gets far more traffic than I do. But this blog isn't about traffic for me; it's about saying the things I want to say, and pointing out the people who say it far better than I could.
On Friday, Meryl summed it up as bluntly as I've ever seen, with plenty of details and links. "The world does not like the Jews."
Antisemitism is on the rise, worldwide; we haven't seen a surge like this since the 1930s. We can be thankful that there's an important difference this time -- even should another Hitler arise to destroy us, Israel will be there, defending Jews worldwide and rescuing Jews in dire need. And, as Meryl points out in another post, America is in a different category entirely. She may not be the protector and rescuer of Jews that Israel is, but America protects her own... and the America of 2005 will not stand idly by in the face of tyrants, as the entire world did in 1938.
Nonetheless, the parallels are profoundly disturbing, and must not be ignored.
Meryl ends her post as follows:
The Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim says that Jew hatred has three stages:
You cannot live among us as Jews.
You cannot live among us.
You cannot live.
Exactly. And let me add another of Emil Fackenheim's unforgettable quotes, from his book To Mend The World:
For Christians, the first priority may be theological self-understanding. For Jews it is, and after Auschwitz must be, simple safety for their children. In pursuit of this goal, Jews seek -- are morally required to seek -- independence of other people's charity. They therefore seek safety -- are morally required to seek it -- through the existence of a Jewish state. Except among the theologically or humanly perverse, Zionism -- the commitment to the safety and genuine sovereignty of the State of Israel -- is not negotiable.Amen.
Friday, February 04, 2005
As seen on Power Line: a global conference on anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism will be convened tomorrow in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. No representatives from Israel were invited, or will be welcome. Nonetheless:
“We have invited all countries that have suffered from terrorism to the conference, and all have agreed to take part,” said Prince Turki ibn Muhammad, assistant undersecretary for political affairs at the [Saudi] Foreign Ministry...If Israelis do attend, after all, I'll apologize. But as it stands, this is abominable. The inexcusable part is that the United States will send an official delegation, headed by Homeland Security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend.
The conference was initially announced at the UN General Assembly in September by Saudi Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Mizar Midani. When asked why Israel was not invited, he accused the Jewish state of “being responsible for extremism in the region.”
Convening a conference on terrorism without inviting Israel is like holding a symposium on the 9/11/2001 attacks and not inviting Americans. Without Israel, this conference can only have one purpose -- as a repeat of the infamous Durban conference of 2001. That the United States is participating in such a conference at all indicates that we learned nothing from the first one.
Powerline has covered this well, and points out four articles in the New York Sun by the executive director of MEMRI: part I, part II, part III, and part IV. If you haven't read them, please take a moment to do so.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice, this does not bode well for your future performance as Secretary of State.
UPDATE: Slightly off-topic, but worth remembering -- it takes a special sort of chutzpah to leave Israel out of a list of "countries that have suffered from terrorism". The terrorism Israel faces, from official arms of the Palestinian Authority, is chilling.
Do you remember what the Nazi Sieg-Heil salute looked like, and what it represented? Not everyone does -- Janeanne Garofalo does not, for example. But there are others that do.
UPDATE II: Also courtesy of PowerLine, here's an update. It quotes Frances Townsend, the head of the American delegation; the full speech is available here.
The part that got to me was this:
We are the product of different cultures, different religions, different educations, different forms of government and many different experiences.This, at a conference on terrorism from which Israel was explicitly excluded? What a pathetic joke.
But today I invite you to put differences aside and seek common ground.
Had such a statement been made in the presence of an Israeli delegation, I would have applauded. As it is, this is a farce, and very much a transparent one.
What Part Of "Move On" Don't You Understand?
Just yesterday, driving to work, I saw two of these incredible bumper stickers:
It's amazing enough that, even after the first free democratic elections in an Arab country in history, someone still has the gall to say "nothing accomplished". A tyranny is replaced outright by a popularly-elected assembly; amid death threats and very real fears of terrorism, Iraqis go to the polls in higher percentages than Americans do. People who, only a few short years ago, could not speak out in public for fear of their lives, now proudly wave their ink-stained fingers.
But even more amazingly, the organization printing these ridiculous bumper stickers has the temerity to call itself "move on"??
If I had one of those stickers on my car, I'd like to think that I'd have had the honesty to scrape it off on January 30th, 2005.
I'm still seeing a fair number of these as well:
UPDATE: I was not able to determine if moveon.org (or their sister organization, moveonpac.org) is still selling these stickers. On the other hand, I have to give them credit for linking to heromiles.org, an organization that helps soldiers fly home by helping you donate your frequent-flier miles to them. Thanks!!
UPDATE II: Today, Feb. 8th 2005, I saw a new wrinkle:
This, on a Nissan Pathfinder festooned with Marine Corps insignia (and a yellow "support the troops" ribbon). No doubt there's an interesting story there.
UPDATE III: And now there's this:
"Support Our Troops", indeed. The fact that they also sport a design featuring a peace sign (also known to some by other names) explains a lot. They're not supporting 'their' troops, they're promoting peace... and defining 'peace' as 'the absence of American troops on foreign soil'.
(Peace is, of course, an admirable abstraction. But peace, like nearly anything else, can come at too high a price. These folks are advocating the sort of peace that Neville Chamberlain would have understood.)
Personally, I'd much rather support the troops by making sure they get a chance to finish the job they started! In fact, I think I'll make my own bumper sticker with that in mind:
Iraqis are still under attack from marauding bandits. But it looks like they're up to the task of defending themselves:
Citizens of Al Mudhiryiah (a small town in the "death triangle") were subjected to an attack by several militants today who were trying to punish the residents of this small town for voting in the election last Sunday.Good for you, citizens of Al Mudhiryiah!
The citizens responded and managed to stop the attack, kill 5 of the attackers, wounded 8 and burned their cars.
3 citizens were injured during the fire exchange.
The transition from tyranny to freedom is by no means an easy one. Iraqis will have many obstacles to overcome, and some of the most difficult will be in their own minds -- taking responsibility for themselves, for example, and their own actions and their own thoughts. (This is unfortunately quite rare in the Arab world today.)
But it looks as though one Iraqi town, at least, is up to the challenge! My hat's off to them.
with great respect,
Daniel in Brookline