Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Liberal Muslims Appeal For Release Of Gilad Shalit

According to the JTA, a group of prominent American Muslims has issued a letter urging Hamas to immediately release captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Aug. 26 letter’s 11 signatories include the two Muslim members of Congress – Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Andre Carson (D-IN) -- as well as Muslim academics and communal figures.

The letter said in part,

"We believe Hamas’ harsh treatment and five-year detention of Shalit is wrong. ... The struggle for Palestinian human rights and self-determination must be based on this ethical and moral code. Hamas’ inhumane detention of Shalit undermines the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations for human rights and a state of their own, existing in peace and security beside Israel."
I don't expect Hamas will be moved, but it is good to see liberal Muslims speaking up on this.

But they do end their letter, with a strangely obsequious line, "Thank you for considering our request." Maybe its a cultural thing, but to my ears it undermines the potential power and seriousness of the rest of the letter.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Who Benefits And Why?

As more rockets hit southern Israel and more bombs fall on Gaza, it might be useful to recall the timeline - especially in light of misleading headlines like: "IDF strikes targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire"

1) Last Thursday, terrorists, crossing from Egyptian controlled Sinai, attack Israelis near Eilat, killing 8.
2) Within hours, Israel declares that the terrorists are from the Gaza based PRC, and bombs a PRC hideout in southern Gaza, killing 2 PRC leaders and 3 others.
3) Both the PRC and Hamas deny responsibility for the Eilat attack.
3) Israel declares that it holds Hamas responsible, and bombs workshops (claimed to be weapons factories) in northern Gaza, as well as the Gaza electric power plant.
4) Rockets are launched from Gaza into Israel. Various groups including Hamas and the PRC are involved.
5) Israel responds with more bombings in Gaza. 9 Palestinians and 1 Israeli are killed in this round of reciprocal attacks.
6) Israel declares that the PA is responsible.
7) A ceasefire is brokered by Egypt, both Israel and Hamas agree to stop rocket/bombing attacks.
8) After two days of quiet, early on Wednesday morning, the Israel Air Force killed an Islamic Jihad operative in the southern Gaza Strip - Ismael al-Asmar. (See here.)
9) Later that day Israel kills two "operatives" in the northern Gaza strip, claiming they were planning rocket attacks.
10) Still later that day numerous rockets and mortars are launched from Gaza into Israel.
11) Israel responds with more bombing of Gaza.
12) As of now reciprocal rocketing and bombing is continuing between Gaza and southern Israel. 12 Gazans and no Israelis have been killed in the fighting of Wednesday and Thursday.

What makes this particularly bizarre - at least at first thought - is that by now it is clear that neither the PRC nor Hamas had much of a role in last weeks attack near Eilat. (See here.) Israeli authorities have no doubt known this since at least a few hours after the attack - since they hold the bodies of several of the attackers, and the Egyptians have admitted that the at least three of the attackers and their leaders came from Sinai.

So why is Israel bombing Gaza, and provoking retaliatory rocketing of its own people? Well, several thoughts come to mind. Perhaps it is just an excuse to remove Palestinian militants who have long been on the IDF hit lists, and damn the consequences to Israeli citizens within Gazan rocket range. Or maybe its just a case of meeting pressure from the Israeli public to "do something." Or maybe its part of a strategy of appearing wild and unpredictable and dangerous - part of a larger (misguided, at least in this case) deterrence strategy. Or maybe its a way of defusing the large "tent movement" social protests that had been rocking Israel for the past month: in this it seems to have succeeded. Or maybe its part of a strategy to heat up the border, and discredit Hamas and the PA - in preparation for the PAs bid for U.N. recognition in 4 weeks. Or maybe its all of these combined.

Whatever the reason, it is Israel who has heated up the Gaza border - twice within a week now - and whatever its goals, it doesn't seem to mind if its own citizens in the south pay part of the price.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Keep These Words As A Sign Before Your Eyes

Jack Layton, the leader of Canada's Official Opposition - the social democractic New Democratic Party (NDP) - died this morning of cancer. I won't go into his life or his accomplishments or the tragic irony of his death so close on heals of his greatest and historic achievement. You can google that all over the internet.

But I simply must bring to your attention his"Last Letter to Canadians", written on Saturday, when he obviously knew that the end was very near.

It deserves to be read, and read again. You can find it here.

His last words were:
Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
I am tempted to insert them into my "teffilin rosh"


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Israel Seems To Have No Idea Who Did It
As Rockets and Bombs Rain Down

The Israeli authorities seem to have no idea who was responsible for Thursday's terrorist attacks near Eilat that killed 7 Israelis. Within hours of the attack, the IDF had bombed a headquarters of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in southern Gaza, killing two senior PRC leaders as well as 3 others. Immediately, Netantahu claimed that those who gave the order for the Eilat operation had been killed. But later Thursday evening, the Israeli air-force bombed several workshops (claiming them to be weapons factories) in central and northern Gaza, as well as the Gaza power plant. IDF spokesperson Avital Leibowitz, pointedly refused to say that the PRC was responsible for the attacks, only saying that they originated in Gaza. Her evidence? The attackers used Kalashnikov rifles, widely available in Gaza. [They are also available all over the Middle East, including Sinai, Lebanon, and Syria.] After this second attack Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel held Hamas responsible for the Eilat atacks. Today, foreign minister Leiberman is quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying the the PA is responsible.

It should be noted that both Hamas and the PRC have denied responsibility, and that Hamas at least, has neverlaunched an attack from outside Israel.

It should also be noted that it was only after Israel bombed civilian targets (e.g the power plant) late Thursday, that rockets attacks from Gaza into Israel began. Of course this was followed by increased Israeli bombing of Gaza, which was followed by increased rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, which ... At least one Israeli and 9 Gazans have been killed in these mutual attacks and counter attacks - after the Israeli retaliatory bombing of the PRC headquarters.

Finally, let's not forget that the IDF managed to kill five Egyptian policemen in the immediate aftermath of the initial terror attacks. So it has now alienated Egypt, and put its peace treaty with Egypt on shaky ground. Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities say they have found a workshop in Sinai capable of making suicide belts like those used by the Eilat terrorists, thus further putting in doubt that the terrorists originated in Gaza.
* * *

Innocent people on both sides of the border are killed and wounded, and their friends and relatives can only hope that those who control the guns will one day act in the real long term interests of the people. For a view of all this from the common person in Gaza, read this report from Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rick Perry & Christian Zionism

Apostle Don Finto was a keynote speaker at Governor Rick Perry's Aug 6th Prayer Rally in Houston. Together with "Messianic Rabbi" Marty Waldman he delivered the "Prayer For Israel." Rick Finto is a leading member of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) whose mission is to convert the Jews, and to convince evangelicals of the importance of such. In a 2001 book he wrote:

"I have become convinced that Rabbinic Judaism is a more severe departure from biblical faith than I had ever realized in my early days of Jewish recovery...The atmosphere of New Testament carried on the spirit of the Hebrew Scriptures pervasively and profoundly. The essence of Rabbinism is a severe departure, replacing revelation with human reason...We who are Jewish are biblical New Covenant Jews, not Rabbinic Jews!"

I actually think the part about replacing revelation with reason was insightful and complimentary, but then I realized that coming in context and from Finto it is meant to be inciteful and anything but complimentary.

For a fuller (and scarier) discussion of this, of Christian Zionism in general, and its links to the Perry rally (and therefore to Perry himself) see

All this would be merely piquant, if it were not for the $100s of millions raised and spent every year by the Christians Zionists and if Rick Perry (now only 5 "points" back of Obama in opinion polls) was not so closely associated with them.

h/t to Richard Silverstein

Monday, August 08, 2011

Money Talks

Just to be clear, the panic in the stock markets and the looming economic crisis is NOT about the recent credit downgrade of the U.S. or fears of an American default. They are about the planned solution to these bogus threats, namely reduced government spending.

The proof? While the stocks plunge, the U.S. dollar rose against most world currencies and so did U.S treasury certificates - the very instruments that the Republican's held hostage and which S&P downgraded. Stocks fell because investors understand that major cuts in government spending will seriously depress aggregate demand for goods and services. And businesses only make money by satisfying demand for goods and services. The dollar and treasuries rose, because no one takes seriously the idea that the U.S will really fail to pay back its loans. Most of that debt is held by the rich, and the rich, after all, control Congress. (Only a truly radical left would allow default, thus freeing the masses from having to pay, while screwing the bond holders - disproportionately the comfortable, the rich and the super-rich, as well as foreign governments.)

So what would I do if I were king? Keep on spending! How to finance it? Increase taxes - or just let the Bush tax cuts expire, which, by the way, the President can do all by himself, by simply vetoing the legislation required to extend them. And by "quantitative easing" - aka printing more money?

But won't that cause inflation? Yes. But inflation is not necessarily bad, if it is steady, not excessive, and not uncontrolled. Inflation at 5-6% a year for 5 or 6 years, would eat away at the real value of all that debt - both public and private - and free up both governments and consumers to get back to the real business of the economy - creating goods and providing services that people need and can afford to pay for. And this in turn will put people back to work so they can afford what they need. (Special compensation would have to introduce for poorer seniors and others on fixed incomes.) Such a policy would reverse the negative loop we are currently in, and begin a much needed positive feedback cycle.

Is this cost free? No. Both taxes and inflation will - on average - hurt the rich more than the poor: which is, sadly, why none of this will not happen, at least not with this Congress and this President.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

300,000 Demonstrate For Social Justice In Israel

300,000 demonstrate for social justice in Israel. Its about time! Now if they could only link the struggle for social justice with the struggle against the occupation and with the struggle for equality of ALL Israeli citizens, that would be a real break through. As it is the demonstrations are very amorphous and still too well behaved to have a real effect. Lets hope that changes for the better.

My favourite slogan: "The Welfare State Shall Rise Again." - only because it runs so counter to the usual neo-liberal orthodoxy we are fed daily in the western media.

Bibi's (a neo-liberal even more than he is a hawk) response so far: to decrease government oversight of the construction and real-estate markets.

What's also interesting is how the biggest demonstrations in Israel in 30 years are getting almost zero coverage in the western MSM.

Below, another video of the demonstration. The main chant heard is "The people want social justice."

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Dream State

I just finished reading "The Moral Lives of Israelis: Reinventing The Dream State", by David Berlin. I recommend it. If you want to get a feel for the craziness - the surrealistic reality - at the heart of the Israeli body politic, the army, the religious right, and the (more and more confused) liberal elites, I recommend this book.

(Though it doesn't predict the current "housing" demonstrations in Israel, the frustration and disappointment displayed therein is presaged in these pages.)

Full disclosure: the author is a friend of mine. But its a good book anyway! A real page turner, yet thought provoking at the same time.

GPS Points To Apa....

Two Israeli GPS companies have taken different approachs to driving in the occupied territories. One explicitly lets you avoid driving in them if you wish (I wonder if they will be sued under the new anti-boycott law? Encouraging people to avoid the settlements is now a suable offence in Israel.) The other only allows you to avoid "PA controlled area", thus - not so tacitly - including areas "C" and "B" (more than half the West Bank) is if within Israel proper.

I don't want to make to much of this, but it does highlight the insanity of a country that has effectively annexed most of the West Bank, while extending its legal system only to its original citizens - mosty Jews - and failing to extend its legal framework to the native Palestinian inhabitants. In some places this might be called ....

Read the full article at +972mag.