How Not to Get It

A small, conservative, insanely-religious (but I repeat myself), newspaper in Israel has cropped out women marchers from photos taken at the recent march in Paris. You know, the one that paid tribute to people killed by religious extremists. Said one father:

“The eight-year-old can’t see what I don’t want him to see,” he told Israel’s Channel 10 television station. “True, a picture of Angela Merkel should not ruin the child, but if I draw a line, I have to put it there from the bottom all the way to the top.”

He also said he did not want to tarnish the memories of the people killed in the attacks.

“Including a picture of a woman into something so sacred, as far as we are concerned, it can desecrate the memory of the martyrs and not the other way around,” he said.

…what’s Hebrew for “clueless-asshat”?

I really don’t get how seeing a picture of a woman walking with men, when the woman is wearing a long coat that leaves basically only her head exposed, can possibly, even remotely, be something dangerous or lead to something dangerous. If your eight-year-old son is being sexually aroused by Angela Merkel, then something is going seriously wrong somewhere.

Oh, and lest you want to shake your head and say, “Well, at least that kind of stupidity can never happen in America,” allow me to point out the existence of Kiryas Joel, New York. This is a town that is basically run by Orthodox Jews, who are determined to force their religion on everyone else as much as possible.

Say what you like about places like Iran, but at least they don’t edit the existence of women from their newspapers.


עם זאת, שוב, ישראל?/مرة أخرى، فلسطين؟

So you’ve all doubtlessly heard about the shit hitting the fan in Israel. It all came in the wake of three Israeli teens being murdered, and spiraled from there, as Israel exacted revenge against…someone, via their usual policies of collective punishment. Hamas retaliated by firing off several missiles, which killed zero Israelis. Israel responded by attacking Gaza, and killed about 200 civilians. Tit, tat, etc.

Realistically what this situation calls for is for Israel and Palestine to be two separate countries, with Jerusalem as an open, international, city-state, freely accessible to basically everyone. This whole thing is a non-starter for Israel, as their prime minister said just the other day.

“I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

This, mind you, is the same man who called for revenge against the Palestinians following the deaths of those three Israeli teens. That revenge seemed to be partly fulfilled when a Palestinian teenager was murdered, and his cousin, an American citizen, was brutally beaten by Israeli police forces. The situation is further not helped by Israel continuing to repress Palestinians and treat them very much like how blacks were treated in South Africa and the United States. It’s also not helped by Israel continuing to expand their illegal settlements.

None of this is meant to say that Palestine is innocent here. Hamas needs to stop lobbing rockets at Israel. When your enemy is looking for even the slightest excuse to stomp on you, giving them that excuse is unwise. They need to be very loudly, clearly, engaging in peaceful actions against Israel if they’re going to have any hope for lasting co-existence.

But at this point, it’s obvious that the people in control on both sides don’t want peaceful co-existence. It’s clear that Israel’s government wants Palestinians to continue to be second-class citizens at best, and ideally gone from the areas of “greater Israel”. It’s also clear that there are many in Palestine, and many in the greater Arab world, who don’t want Israel to exist, either. So this is something of a problem.

I think at this point the best thing for Israel to do would to be to start to moderate their responses to attacks, and at the same time move toward either a free Palestine or full integration of the Palestinians into Israel. That means full citizenship, including voting and marriage (which is important, as Israel’s marriage laws make those of the Jim Crow South look tolerant and broad-minded). That isn’t something Israel is likely to do, since they want to preserve their identity as a Jewish state. They don’t want to give Palestinians their freedom, either.

As for the Palestinians, they need to start protesting hard against organizations that make their personal lives more difficult. If they’re ever going to have their own country, it will only be once Israel feels incredibly safe. That certainly isn’t going to happen under the current situation. They also need to accept, fully, the reality that Israel will be there now and forever.

As for what the United States needs to do, we need to stay the fuck out. We can provide help with negotiations or the like, but otherwise, we need to be far more neutral than we are. We also need to stop our knee-jerk support for everything that Israel does, no matter how evil it would be if someone else were doing it to Israel or to us.

Israel’s existence is, frankly, an error. The country should have never come into existence the way that it did; a way that completely ignored the rights of the people already there. In the wake of World War II, I don’t really blame the great powers for creating Israel, but they really should have thought about it a bit longer. Still, the country is there, and needs to be dealt with, and we need to stop treating them like our closest friend and start being a bit more skeptical.

Terrorism is Bad, Right?

I think, or at least hope, that we can all agree that it’s a very bad thing. So how come we support a state that engages in terrorism?

As you may have heard, an Iranian nuclear scientist was killed the other day by assassins who were almost certainly connected with the Israeli government. This was one of several murders of nuclear scientists that happened recently. Israel hasn’t admitted to doing these murders, but let’s be real here. We all know it was probably them. Yes, it is possible it was an internal conflict or that some other country did it, but Israel is certainly the most likely suspect.

I’m not at all in favor of Iran having nuclear weapons. I mean, that’d be something almost as horrible as, say, Russia, China or North Korea having them. But there are limits to what I’m willing to do to prevent them from having them. For example, I’m not willing to have us invade Iran. I’m not especially willing to tighten already tough sanctions that aren’t punishing the people in power. I’m also certainly not in favor of using terrorist tactics to prevent them from getting nukes.

I do understand and support Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself, but at what cost? I support our right to do those things, too, but that doesn’t mean I’d support us using terrorist tactics. It seems to me that targeting civilians for murder counts as terrorism. If they were targeting Iranian government officials, like the members of the clergy who are in charge, or the Iranian president, that wouldn’t be terrorism, but it would still be unwise.

Realistically we all need to just calm the fuck down and get to the negotiating table with Iran. We need to give them diplomatic recognition (though perhaps understandably we might not want to set up an actual embassy), and actually deal with them. We can’t just ignore them and hope they’ll go away and we can’t continue sanctions that don’t punish the people in power. What we don’t need is another war. What we don’t need are certain prominent politicians talking about how they’d love to have us invade yet another Muslim country.

What we certainly don’t need is to cede the moral high ground by engaging in terrorism or supporting terrorism done by our allies.

Yet More Religious Evil

You may have heard about a story recently where a little girl in the Middle East was on her way to school and a bunch of religious extremists, who make up a whopping 10% of the population of this girl’s country, attacked her verbally, spit on her, called her a whore, etc. Why? Well, she was wearing short sleeves. These are the same fanatics who believe there should be separate sidewalks for males and females. This isn’t even just confined to their country. No, these wackaloons have managed to export their insanity to the United States and have basically taken over a town in New York.

I really have nothing to say about this, beyond the fact that if your religious beliefs allow you to think that it’s ok to call little girls whores because they are wearing short sleeves, then you and your religious beliefs are fucked-up beyond all sanity.

Plans for Palestine

Mahmoud Abbas has announced plans for Palestine to seek full UN membership. This is a step toward them having their own independent state of Palestine. While I am very much in favor of a free Palestine, I am against this particular method.

First of all, it isn’t going to succeed. Even if they get a vote on it, the US, and likely the UK, will use their veto power to block it. So that’s the end of that. And second, trying to use this tactic at all doesn’t further their cause. All it does is make them look bad, further unite the Arab world against Israel and put everyone into an awkward situation.

Israel does need to grow the hell up and let Palestine exist as its own nation (ideally with Jerusalem as its capitol, or failing that, the city itself as its own nation). The current cycle of violence and reprisals doesn’t do anything to stabilize the region. A free Palestine might not do that, but on the other hand, it might. We do know that things as they aren’t aren’t stable.

But on the other hand, the Palestinian Authority needs to understand that trying tactics like this only makes them look bad and won’t accomplish anything good.

About Obama’s Speech

A few days ago Obama gave a little speech where, among other things, he told Israel that a good starting point for talking peace is returning to their legal, pre-1967 borders with land swaps to address both sides’ security issues and Hamas recognizing Israel. Naturally the right wing went apeshit because… I’m not sure why, actually. I mean, it wasn’t a departure from what Clinton and at least the previous Bush said. It’s just that it was Obama saying it. For a very good analysis, check this from Sully.

For the record, I fully agree with this stance. Israel has, for too long, gotten whatever they wanted to get because… I’m not really sure why, actually. Yes, it’s a democracy, but so what? We support, have supported and will continue to support nasty dictatorships in the region, so clearly that’s not why. I think it all dates back to the Cold War, actually. But anyhow, Israel has been far from a great ally and has seemingly gone out of their way in the last few years to avoid any chances of peace. Yes, Hamas and other groups don’t help, but we expect them to behave badly. We don’t expect that of Israel.

For there to be a permanent, fair peace in the area, Israel is going to have to make compromises. They need to stop building settlements everywhere. They need to stop treating Palestinians the way the Nazis treated Jews. They need to stop retaliating to every provocation in massively out-of-proportion ways. They need to let Palestine go their own way. They need to do a lot of land-swapping with the 1967 borders as a starting point. Ideally they should return their capital to the legally mandated location of Tel Aviv, but I don’t expect that to happen.

On the other side, Hamas needs to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The various extremist groups need to stop attacking Israeli settlements.They also need to be willing to make compromises on land and accept that they won’t get everything they want. On the other hand, at the end of the day they could end up with their own country again, and that’s pretty important.

Ultimately both sides need to grow the fuck up. They both need to stop acting like they’re the only ones entitled to that land. It’s stupid and wrong and doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. Extremists on both sides need to be ignored and then hopefully progress can be made.

What Should America Do?

As events in Egypt drag on, the central question on the Sunday talk shows is what we should do about it. Many people seem to have the opinion that we should, at all costs, stop democratic reform in Egypt, since it might lead to an Islamic government that’s hostile to Israel. I think this is what we call “obnoxious”.

Here’s what we should do: stand up for the principles we claim to hold. Defend the Egyptian peoples’ right to self-determination. Call loudly for reforms in public, and then Obama needs to be on the phone calling firmly but privately for Mubarak to resign. Yes, there’s a chance that a democratic government in Egypt might end up being Islamist and hostile to Israel. That would suck. But if that happens, it means that there needs to be a PR campaign to change the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people rather than the current situation, where there’s peace because a dictator is stomping out any possibility of no peace.

Besides, we should trust the Egyptian people. They have had thirty years of peace and diplomacy with Israel. There’s no reason to assume that’s going to suddenly disappear if they are allowed the same freedoms as we enjoy.

Ultimately in the long run we need to stop propping up anti-democratic regimes simply because we happen to like what their leader is doing for us. It’s a bad, odious habit that always comes back to bite us in the ass (Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are great examples of this). Either we are a country that supports freedom and democracy for everyone or we’re just a bunch of self-interested hypocrites. I know which I’d rather we be.