American academics stand up to be counted


Joining a growing list of people who are protesting the Israeli genocide in Gaza, American members of academe have come out to call for a cultural boycott of Israel, with five goals it wants to achieve.

“Refraining from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine,” “promoting divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions,” and “supporting Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.”

The group’s press release continues,

“We believe that non-violent external pressure on Israel, in the form of an academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel, can help bring an end to the ongoing massacres of civilians and an end [to] the occupation of Gaza and Palestine” — with “Palestine” referring to the West Bank land occupied by Israel since the 1967 war

explained David Lloyd, a professor of English at the University of Southern California.  I am glad to see Americans joining in the initiative and I note that they very clearly say they are interested ina  non-violent form of protestation, not something that is designed literally to exterminate the Jewish state.  What this boycott is asking for is a modification of Israeli behavior that will ensure its existence as well as that of its neighbors, the Palestinians.  It is NOT a zero sum game but you can expect the Israelis will portray it that way.

My heroes of the day


I want to congratulate two men who took a principled  stand at the risk of their careers and even their lives when you look at who they are and what they represent, to categorically denounce positions taken that were detrimental to the people suffering in Gaza.

Tayyip Erdogan, whose country Turkey is trying to get admitted into the European Union as well as NATO probably jeopardized those chances when he made an impassioned plea at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland against the Israeli aggression and genocide in Gaza.  He criticised the audience of international officials and corporate chiefs for applauding Peres’s emotional defence of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead. Not sparing any measure, Erdogan said what needs to be said to an Israel that seems to think it is above reproach.  You can view his comments, translated into English, here

Imagine all the things in store for Turkey now that he, its prime minister, did what he did?  Threats will be made against the country’s application to the world bodies it wants to enter, as well as against Erdogan himself and the usual cries of anti-semitism will come from every corner of the world, but the substance of his remarks, that Israel engaged in wholesale slaughter of a population, much like that which occured between Turkey and Armenia which will be thrown in Erdogan’s face, will be ignored.  Nevertheless, kudos for Tayyip Erdogan for being principled.

My other hero is Mohammad Baredei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who said a BBC decision not to air an aid appeal for victims in Gaza violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people, irrespective of who is right or wrong.  The BBC said it wasn’t airing the appeal because, now hold on to your seats, it would get in the way of their objectivity in covering the events in Gaza.  Several other channels in England aired the appeal, but the BBC and SkyNews, owned by James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, *ahem* refused to do so.  As a result Baradei has cancelled planned interviews with the BBC, without mentioning how long such a boycott would last.  Kudos to him as well.  He too chose principle over political expediency, taking a position in light of today’s news which is necessary to stem the Israeli juggernaut that refuses to accept any criticism or consequences of and for its actions.   Here is the highly milquetoast ad the BBC refused to air.

We are not talking about the destruction of Israel


ghaziand with that simple declaration by Ghazi Hamad, peace between Israelis and Palestinians should be close at hand, right? Wait, there’s more.

Senior officials in the Islamic group Hamas are indicating a willingness to negotiate a long-term truce with Israel as long as the borders of Gaza are opened to the rest of the world.

“We want to be part of the international community,” Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad told The Associated Press at the Gaza-Egypt border, where he was coordinating Arab aid shipments. “I think Hamas has no interest now to increase the number of crises in Gaza or to challenge the world.”

*snip*

“A dialogue with Hamas as a terror organization would be a strategic mistake, because Israel advocates dialogue with the moderates and displaying toughness against the extremists,” Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the Maariv daily this week.

Israel’s position is based on the fact that Hamas refuses to recognize its right to exist. However, the three Hamas leaders interviewed said they would accept statehood in just the West Bank and Gaza and would give up their “resistance” against Israel if that were achieved.

“We accept a state in the ’67 borders,” said Hamad. “We are not talking about the destruction of Israel.”

How long will it take to derail this show of goodwill from Hamas?  What kind of conditions will be placed on them that would not be worthy of consideration by any nationalist movement, forcing them to reject the idea of peace with their implacable opponent, Israel?  At first glance this should signal the end of all hostilities between the two parties, but in reality, this is only the beginning.

America’s Iran jones


What is it with US policy makers that they have to go off and antagonize Iran at every chance they get, even when it’s not necessary?  Two threads have appeared in news stories today centered around Iran with this trend as if to anticipate and undermine what Obama is going to say in a letter he’s putting together to send to that country’s leaders.

Before getting onto those two themes, let me say I’ve always been distressed at how government has this seamy undercurrent that works to under cut what official Washington is doing, and both the official and unofficial seem to like the give and take in this relationship of setting, revising, ignoring, cancelling policy.  It would seem to me once you get  your marching orders from the CiC you take them and run with them, not go off and rub his nose in them with your own pronouncements, but that’s what it seems Robert Gates, Defense Secretary has done.

When U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran of “subversive activity” in Latin America Tuesday, it raised the question whether he is trying to discourage President Barack Obama from abandoning the hard-line policy of coercive diplomacy toward Iran he has favored for nearly three decades.

In his Senate armed services committee testimony Tuesday, Gates said Iran was “opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on.” Gates offered no further explanation for what sounded like a Cold War-era propaganda charge against the Soviet Union.

Gates has made no secret of his skepticism about any softening of U.S. policy toward Iran. In response to a question at the National Defense University last September on how he would advise the next president to improve relations with Iran, Gates implicitly rejected what he called “outreach” to Iran as useless.

Gates’ 1992 sabotage of the Bush plan for reciprocating Iran goodwill relied in part on making public charges against Iran that created a more unfavorable political climate in Washington for such a policy.

It will be interesting to see what Obama’s reaction to all this political posturing Gates is making so early in the Administration’s efforts towards rapprochement with Iran. We will  be able to take measure of Obama depending on his response; if he lets Gates continue with his “subversive” activity he can be viewed as a weak President undeserving of a second term, the nation’s trust, or respect of his “underlings”.  If he kicks Gates out so soon after asking him to stay on as Defense Secretary he’ll find himself facing criticism for not being a stable administrator or able to hold his people in check, preferring to give in to his impetuous side and getting rid of them whimsically.  The perfect damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The second salvo against Obama comes from of all places the Likud party’s boisterous and wrong Benjamin Netanyahu who says the Iranian nuclear weapons are more a problem than the global economy.  Netanyahu is great for hyperbole, probably something he picked up as a result of his public school education in Cheltenham, Pa. back in the day.  This we expect from Bibi who likes to somehow challenge the masculinity of America’s leaders by questioning their ability to take on his enemies for his benefit.  Using his typical adroit slight of foot maneuvers he turns everything that has to deal with anything into Iranian nukes.

Asked about achieving peace in Gaza, Netanyahu swiftly turned his answer to Iran, which he said is in a “100-yard dash” to get nuclear weapons.

*snip*

“We have had two wars with two Iranian proxies in two years and Persia has now two bases on the eastern Mediterranean,” said Netanyahu, referring to this month’s brutal fighting in Gaza against Hamas and Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“I think we are going to have to deal with neutralizing the power of the mother regime,” he said. “The Hamas stronghold would be about as important, if Iranian power was neutralized, as Cuba was when the Soviet Union became irrelevant.”

What Netanyahu doesn’t tell you about his metaphor  is while the Soviet Union became irrelevant because American ideas triumphed a military dictatorship without the US having to fire a single shot at the Soviet Union, Iran’s leadership and in fact all of that country has to be laid to waste militarily, according to the Netanyahu school of thought in order for his enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah, to become irrelevant. Typical.  In any event, this kind of bluster is to be expected from this quarter, and Obama would do well to ignore it and press on with his agenda, not that of an intractable and petulant “ally”.  Unfortunately, he can’t so easily dismiss Netanyahu, and if Gates continues with his own agenda as well, it might be even more difficult.  Bush may be gone, but the neocons are still lurking and haven’t given up hope of re-establishing themselves in policy making  positions or of somehow influencing policy.

Like shooting fish in a barrell and other analogies


The Israelis are continuing to pound the defenseless population of Gaza and there’s little hope that will stop short of any international intervention.  The reasons for the continued attacks are the operation that left one Israeli soldier dead earlier this week, when a mine or IED went off killing him and wounding others.  It’s significant to point out that Hamas did NOT claim responsibility for this breach of the truce, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Israelis from keeping the borders closed and bombing southern Gaza for this latest breach.  Moreover another added benefit of this return to hostilities is Israel gets to implore the mantra of being a victim and or self righteous indignation at those who question their retaliation in order to  keep headlines such as these off the main pages of newspapers.

The Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded. The rescue team found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses.

However, all that is not enough to obscure the reality of what Israel has done and is now doing.  In a very well written essay by Norman Finkelstein entitled, Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Initiative”,  the reasons and motivations for the continuing violence against the Palestinians is laid out in rather stark detail with quite alot of foresight into what is driving the Israelis.

The fundamental motives behind the latest Israeli attack on Gaza lie elsewhere: (1) in the need to restore Israel’s “deterrence capacity,” and (2) in the threat posed by a new Palestinian “peace offensive.”

Israel’s “larger concern” in the current offensive, New York Times Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner reported, quoting Israeli sources, was to “re-establish Israeli deterrence,” because “its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be.”

As Israel targeted schools, mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and U.N. sanctuaries, as it slaughtered and incinerated Gaza’s defenseless civilian population (one-third of the 1,200 reported casualties were children), Israeli commentators gloated that “Gaza is to Lebanon as the second sitting for an exam is to the first—a second chance to get it right,” and that this time around Israel had “hurled [Gaza] back,” not 20 years as it promised to do in Lebanon, but “into the 1940s.

Electricity is available only for a few hours a day”; that “Israel regained its deterrence capabilities” because “the war in Gaza has compensated for the shortcomings of the [2006] Second Lebanon War”; and that “There is no doubt that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is upset these days….There will no longer be anyone in the Arab world who can claim that Israel is weak.”

The justification put forth… in the pages of the Times for targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure amounted to apologetics for state terrorism. It might be recalled that although Hitler had stripped Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher of all his political power by 1940, and his newspaper Der St?rmer had a circulation of only some 15,000 during the war, the International Tribunal at Nuremberg nonetheless sentenced him to death for his murderous incitement.

Beyond restoring its deterrence capacity, Israel’s main goal in the Gaza slaughter was to fend off the latest threat posed by Palestinian moderation.  For the past three decades the international community has consistently supported a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict that calls for two states based on a full Israeli withdrawal to its June 1967 border, and a “just resolution” of the refugee question based on the right of return and compensation.  The vote on the annual U.N. General Assembly resolution, “Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine,” supporting these terms for resolving the conflict in 2008 was 164 in favor, 7 against (Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau), and 3 abstentions.  At the regional level the Arab League in March 2002 unanimously put forth a peace initiative on this basis, which it has subsequently reaffirmed.

Hamas was “careful to maintain the ceasefire” it entered into with Israel in June 2008, according to an official Israeli publication, despite Israel’s reneging on the crucial component of the truce that it ease the economic siege of Gaza.  “The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations,” the source continues. “At the same time, the [Hamas] movement tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement on the other terrorist organizations and to prevent them from violating it.” Moreover, Hamas was “interested in renewing the relative calm with Israel” (Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin).

The Islamic movement could thus be trusted to stand by its word, making it a credible negotiating partner, while its apparent ability to extract concessions from Israel, unlike the hapless Palestinian Authority doing Israel’s bidding but getting no returns, enhanced Hamas’s stature among Palestinians.  For Israel these developments constituted a veritable disaster. It could no longer justify shunning Hamas, and it would be only a matter of time before international pressure in particular from the Europeans would be exerted on it to negotiate. The prospect of an incoming U.S. administration negotiating with Iran and Hamas, and moving closer to the international consensus for settling the Israel-Palestine conflict, which some U.S. policymakers now advocate, would have further highlighted Israel’s intransigence.  In an alternative scenario, speculated on by Nasrallah, the incoming American administration plans to convene an international peace conference of “Americans, Israelis, Europeans and so-called Arab moderates” to impose a settlement.  The one obstacle is “Palestinian resistance and the Hamas government in Gaza,” and “getting rid of this stumbling block is…the true goal of the war.”

In either case, Israel needed to provoke Hamas into breaking the truce, and then radicalize or destroy it, thereby eliminating it as a legitimate negotiating partner.  It is not the first time Israel confronted such a diabolical threat—an Arab League peace initiative, Palestinian support for a two-state settlement and a Palestinian ceasefire—and not the first time it embarked on provocation and war to overcome it.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated in early December 2008 that although Israel wanted to create a temporary period of calm with Hamas, an extended truce “harms the Israeli strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement.” Translation: a protracted ceasefire that enhanced Hamas’s credibility would have undermined Israel’s strategic goal of retaining control of the West Bank.  As far back as March 2007 Israel had decided on attacking Hamas, and only negotiated the June truce because “the Israeli army needed time to prepare.” Once all the pieces were in place, Israel only lacked a pretext.  On 4 November, while the American media were riveted on election day, Israel broke the ceasefire by killing seven Palestinian militants, on the flimsy excuse that Hamas was digging a tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers, and knowing full well that its operation would provoke Hamas into hitting back. “Last week’s ‘ticking tunnel,’ dug ostensibly to facilitate the abduction of Israeli soldiers,” Haaretz reported in mid-November was not a clear and present danger: Its existence was always known and its use could have been prevented on the Israeli side, or at least the soldiers stationed beside it removed from harm’s way.  It is impossible to claim that those who decided to blow up the tunnel were simply being thoughtless.  The military establishment was aware of the immediate implications of the measure, as well as of the fact that the policy of “controlled entry” into a narrow area of the Strip leads to the same place: an end to the lull.  That is policy—not a tactical decision by a commander on the ground.

After Hamas predictably resumed its rocket attacks “[i]n retaliation” (Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center), Israel could embark on yet another murderous invasion in order to foil yet another Palestinian peace offensive.

The historical context of this conflict is illuminating; that Israel repeatedly has foiled every attempt at peace with its neighbors the Palestinians is clear today, despite the elaborate claims and provocations to the contrary.  It’s for this reason I have chided the present Obama administration by saying this handwriting is on the wall; unless a strong Western government says to the Israelis it won’t fall for or accept their spin in the face of repeated attempts by the Palestinians towards peace  Israel must face being outed for the pariah it really is…if such an unequivocal statement isn’t made, Israeli genocide and atrocities against the Palestinians will continue and even escalate.  The present escalation of the conflict is a clear example.

Backbiting in Islam and on the web


I came across a thread  on several blogs that disturbed me somewhat and I responded.  At the risk of being vague, and it’s done intentionally, I will not identify the blogs because it would defeat the purpose of this post about backbiting.

I noticed a lot of bloggers, Muslim and non Muslim alike seem to delight in using terms and expressions that are meant to hurt and verbally defeat a perceived opponent.  Muslim bloggers have clear injunctions in their deen,or way of life, that this type of behavior is not acceptable. There is no doubt what is considered backbiting in Islam; the words of the Last Messenger of God are quite clear and succinct:

‘Do you know what backbiting is?’ They replied, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best’. He said, ‘It is saying something about your brother which he would dislike’. Someone asked, ‘What if I say something about my brother which is true?’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, ‘If what you say of him is true, it is backbiting and if it is not true you have slandered him.’

The implication of the above is clear: backbiting is defined by the object of the statements, not by the one uttering them.  That is to say if one doesn’t like what is being said about one’s self, then what is said is considered backbiting, a most grievous sin.

O you who believe! Shun suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor that. And keep your duty (to God). Lo! God is Relenting, Merciful.

It would seem the above are enough to keep the level of discussion from falling  into backbiting, the likes you can find available on the ‘net these days. Regrettably it isn’t.  The notion of discussing  ideas and not personalities is one that will be strictly adhered to here on the pages of Miscellany101.  If I have somehow not followed the guidelines of backbiting that were clearly enunciated in the voluminous pages of prophetic tradition and the clear verses of Quran Kareem, I apologize and promise to do better.  I will hold comments made to Miscellany101 to the standard that don’t allow for backbiting so don’t go there, here.  As long as comments are in English and not abusive or profane they will end up here.



Quote of the day


We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force.

Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.

Martin van Creveld – professor of military history – Hebrew University in Jerusalem

Nothing more indicates the suicidal nature of the Israeli zionist government and their complete disregard for international law and opinion than this obscure quote by a rather mainstream Israeli historian. It also explains both the reason for Israeli actions in the occupied territories and the silence of the world community towards them.  It lays to rest the notion that Israel is a client state of the US and instead confidently asserts the premise that America, along with most other western powers is a client state of Israel and can be threatened to pursue the Israeli program with military force or retaliation at the slightest hesitation on their part.  It’s an indication of the brazeness of that supposition that von Creveld make this statement to a western audience without any reservation or reluctance.

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