Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are Land Swaps The Magic Bullet?

Maaleh Adumim: Israel want to keep this city deep inside the West Bank

President Obama seems to think that "the 1967 borders, with mutally agreed land swaps" are the formula that can bring an agreement between Israel and the PA. But it all really depends on how much land, and which land. If the Americans (or liberal Israelis) think they can keep all the major settlement blocks and give the PA a few dunam of inhospitable desert in return, they better think again.

Read more in the Forward.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How Long Will America Continue to Protect Israel's Bad Behavour?

On the one hand Netanyahu and the the Israeli right have overwhelming support in Congress. But on the other, mainstream American public opinion is slipping away. See the first 10 minutes video clip above to see what I mean. If CNN, Newsweek, and the New York Times are talking this way, how long can unconditional American support be guaranteed?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Someone Take Up Freidman's Suggestions, Please!

Thomas Freidman's latest article in the New York Times is worth a read.

I am pessimistic that either of the two suggestions he makes will be taken up. But he is right that either one could bring some peace and justice to Israel/Palestine. But if I had to give odds, I would bet on the Palestinians taking up mass civil disobedience before Netanyahu moves an inch.

Monday, May 23, 2011

89 Killed in Missouri: $260 Million of Economic Damage.
If This Were Al Quaeda ...

A monster tornado - the 4th largest ever measured - has destroyed the town of Joplin Missouri. 89 people are confirmed dead. Dozens are still missing.
This is after a series of tornados earlier this month caused record destruction in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. And after devastating floods in Tennessee, Mississppi and Louisiana, as well as Quebec and Manitoba. And after devastating forest fires in Alberta. And after the earthquake in Japan. And today an Icelandic volcano is erupting again.
If these were the work of Al Qaeda, you can be damn sure the U.S. - and the entire world - would be declaring war, investing billions in the fight, and calling on good people everywhere to rally 'round and sacrifice as needed to help defeat the evil enemy. Yet, no one in power wants to admit that all these disasters, - all this suffering and economic loss - is also man made. They are all the products of global climate change (aka global warming) caused by decades of human CO2 emissions.
(Global warming theory predicts more regional and seasonal variation in rainfall and temperatures in North America - exactly what has caused the flooding; more heat, driving more violent storms - exactly more large and violent tornadoes and hurricanes; more forest fires - a recent study shows that the number and size of forest fires has increased in North America every decade since the 1960's; and even more earthquakes and volcanoes, as the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps melt, relieving millions of tons of pressure on the earth's surface and allowing the earth's crust to slowly rise.)
So why is no government pointing this out and calling us to action. Because the enemy in this case is us and is among us. Big oil and coal stand to lose fortunes, and all of us, in the west at least, stand to lose something in the short term, if we started to do what is needed.
But we all stand to lose a lot more if we do nothing.
Politician's are scared to make the connections and call for action, because they will face powerful domestic opponents. But really, don't they have children and grandchildren, who will never forgive them for deliberately putting their heads in the sand?

The True Face Of The Israeli Government

President Obama has been largely ineffective in his foreign policy. But he has had at least one significant effect with his latest speech on the Middle East. He has exposed the true face of the Israeli Government. And it is a face that rejects what almost everyone else assumes is a fair solution to the Israel Palestine problem. It is a face that prefers land over peace and military dominance over even minimal justice. That is now clear.

Netanyahu articulated three "No's", in response to Obama's call for negotiations based on the "1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps" - itself hardly a radical formulation: really just a new phrase for what everyone has been talking about since president Clinton, at least. (When pundits say - ad naseum - that "everyone knows the shape of the final peace arrangement, we just don't know how to get there" - this is what they are talking about. But it turns out not everyone did have the same vision of the final arrangement!)

Netanyahu said no to the 1967 borders with minor land swaps - he wants to keep "the large settlement blocs" deep inside the West Bank, and he wants to keep the Jordan valley - and he certainly does not want to give equal territory in return. Explicitly demanding the Jordan valley was an upping of the Israeli ante. No one has mentioned that demand in a decade - and even then it was mentioned as a temporary military presence.

Netanyahu said no a Palestinian polity that includes Hamas. Prior to the PA-Hamas reconciliation his aides and sycophants often derided the possibility of reaching a peace deal with the PA since it represented only half of the Palestinians. Now that the PA can again speak for all Palestinians, Netanyahu declares the situation even more unacceptable.

Netanyahu said no to the Palestinian right of return - in any form. It is strictly a Palestinian problem, and Israel will not accept any responsibility and will certainly not accept any refugees back into its territory.

All this is designed to veto the possibility of a "two state solution" - and to be seen as such, at least by Netanyahu's coalition mates and his half of the Israeli electorate. And all this is designed to confront Obama - to embarrass him, to defeat him, and to teach him (and any other American politician who might have similar ideas) a lesson. Netanyahu is gambling, not without good cause, that AIPEC, the Christian right, and the Likud's friends in Congress will slap Obama down - and hard.

Is this good news? No - not if you are for a peaceful compromise in Israel/Palestine. But it may have the salutary effect of making the issues crystal clear: peace is not possible without the return of the occupied territories, and the Israeli government prefers the territories over peace.

The question for Jews everywhere is - will we continue to go along, now that the choice is clear?

The question for Obama is - will he put his money where his mouth is? Or is he the "anti Teddy Roosevelt." Will he continue to talk loudly and carry a tiny stick?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Watch Palestinians Cross the Cease-Fire Line at Majd El Shams

This is well worth watching.

The actual entry into Israel controlled territory starts at about 5 minutes into the clip. The dirt road between the two fences is in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights - but is a closed military patrol road. Beyond the far fence in Syria. The foreground is full Israeli jurisdiction, near the Druze village of Majd el Shams at the base of Mount Hermon.

Sometime after this film clip Israeli soldiers arrived and started shooting at the fence-crossers. Several were killed. The exact number is not known. The Israeli government now claims to have rounded up all the "infiltrators" and returned them to Syria.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Let the Bad Times Roll

If Bush and Co. could hold a trial for Sadaam Hussein, and if the Israelis could kidnap and then try Eichmann, and if the allies could try many of the Nazi war criminal at Nurenberg, why couldn't Obama bring back Bin Laden for a trial in the USA or at the ICC in the Hague. Coming on the heels of the killing of Gadaffi’s son and grandchildren, this is another blow to the rule of law and return to unbridled chauvinism. The crowds shouting USA! USA! (and the crowd in Benghazi dancing at the news of the death of Gadaffi's son) are sad indicators of the bad times we live in.

I have no doubt that Bin Laden deserved it. But Gadaffi's grandchildren did not, and the next guy taken out by a U.S. or NATO or Israeli hit squad may not either. The rule of law is all that stands between us and the rule of "might makes right." Rather than a victory over terrorism, this is a setback for an ethical world civilization.

Ironicly, today's JTA has an article, for Holocaust Memorial Day, praising war crimes tribunals and the ICC process as a milestone in human progress. The article ends by asking how we can make such trials unnecessary in the future. What the author clearly meant was how do do prevent the underlying war crimes and crimes against humanity - not how do we just do away with trials. Equally ironically JTA also reports Israeli and Jewish leaders praising this assassination.