Gotta keep bars on all our windows

27 07 2014

Israel is us or, shall I say, US, as told by Jon Snow:

I feel guilty in leaving, and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.

It is accentuated by suddenly being within sumptuously appointed Israel. Accentuated by the absolute absence of anything that indicates that this bloody war rages a few miles away. A war that the UN stated yesterday has reduced 55 per cent of  Gaza’s diminutive land to a no-go area.

Go tell that to the children playing in the dusty streets or the families forced out of  shelters like the UN school compound, to forage for food beneath shells and missiles.

In and out of an Israeli transit hotel for a few hours in Ashkelon, an hour from the steel crossing-point from Gaza, there were three half-hearted air raid warnings. Some people run, but most just get on with what they are doing.

They are relatively safe today because  Israel is the most heavily fortified country on earth. The brilliant Israeli-invented, American-financed shield is all but fool-proof; the border fortifications, the intelligence, beyond anything else anywhere.

This brilliant people is devoting itself to a permanent and ever-intensifying expenditure to secure a circumstance in which there will never be a deal with the Palestinians. That’s what it looks like, that is what you see. It may not be true.

The pressure not to go on this way is both internationally and domestically a minority pursuit.

He notes the security demands and commands from behind windows and walls, disembodied voices demonstrating control over voiceless bodies:

“Feet apart!” they said. “Turn! No, not that way – the other!” Then, in the next of five steel security rooms I passed through – each with a red or green light to tell me to stop or go – a male security guard up in the same complex above me shouted “Take your shirt off – right off. Now throw it on the floor… Pick it up, now ring it like it was wet” (it was wet, soaked in sweat).

From entering the steel complex until I reach the final steel clearing room where I held the baby, I was never spoken to face to face, nor did I see another human beyond those who barked the commands through the bullet-proof windows high above me.

Is this not how we in the US approach the rest of the world? We send drones over deserts and bombs into buildings and we sit in our sumptuously appointed country pointedly ignoring what we do and how we are.





O the dragons are gonna fly tonight

17 07 2014

I.

I understand the difference between unintentionally and intentionally killing someone, I do.

I understand that Hamas fires off rockets with the intention of killing Israelis, military & civilian alike, and I understand that the Israeli Defense Force fires missiles into Gaza with the intention of killing Hamas fighters, and in so doing, unintentionally kills civilians.

I get it: the purposes are not the same.

But.

When you are aware that your intentional actions will lead to large numbers of unintentional deaths, well, then it’s hard to see how much that lack of intention matters to the unintentionally dead, or to the families of the unintentionally dead.

Or to those of us witnessing the bodies of the unintentionally dead.

II.

If the Malaysian airliner was shot down unintentionally, accidentally, does that make it okay?

III.

I understand, really I do, the thinking behind the statement that Hamas are responsible for the civilian dead in Gaza: were they not to insist upon firing rockets into Israel, it would not be necessary for Israel to fire missiles into Gaza.

But the fact remains: Israel fires missiles into Gaza.

The fact remains: Israelis missiles killed those boys on the beach.

IV.

You may argue, if you wish, both that Israel is morally responsible in its attempts to limit civilian casualties and that Hamas is completely responsible for civilian casualties.

You may argue that, if you wish.

But if Israel is not responsible, then how is it responsible?

V.

I don’t know what I would do, how I would think, if I lived in Tel Aviv, Gaza, Hebron, or Jerusalem, if it were me, transplanted from my junior one-bedroom in Brooklyn to an apartment in Israel or the Occupied Territories.

If it were me, would I call those territories occupied, which they are, or would I call them Palestine, which is what some want them to become?

(Judea & Samaria? No: it is still me.)

How would I understand Israelis, Palestinians? the soldiers, the militants, the terrorists? the politicians? the underpaid academics, the cafe-goers and olive farmers and scientists and tour guides and those for whom the land is their home, their everything?

The kids, the families, anyone at a beach in July: that I understand.

VI.

From where I sit, in my junior one-bedroom in Brooklyn, it is clear: this must stop!

But of course. How obvious is that observation. How useless it is.

How many people disagree, by agreeing to its extremes; who seek for it to continue, without end, until it all can be finally ended.

Who don’t care what it takes to get to that final end, how much and how many will be destroyed.





Give peace a chance

24 11 2013

A preliminary deal to pause, and eventually reverse, Iran’s nuclear weapons program: good.

Good for the US, good for Iran, good for the world—and yes, when I write “good for the world”, I include Israel in that calculation.

Benjamin Netanyahu, and his various supporters in the US, would disagree. They consider this a “disaster” and, generally, bad for Israel. Former UN Ambassador Wilford Brimley John Bolton goes so far as to urge Israel to bomb away anyway, but as he’d likely suggest bombing someone who cut in front of him at Starbucks, I don’t how seriously anyone should take his analysis.

If the Israelis do bomb Iran (for presumably their own reasons), I don’t know how much cover they could expect from the US. There are many members of Congress who are, as the phrase goes, “staunch allies of Irael”, but I don’t know how staunch the rest of the American populace is. Yes, polls regularly show high levels of support for Israel, but it’s not at all clear that that support would hold if Israel were seen to be drawing the US into yet another Mideast war.

Would such a backlash be driven by anti-semitism? Some of it, yeah—there’s a fair amount of anti-Jewish sentiment in the US—but mostly by a sense of ENOUGH, the same sense of ENOUGH that lead to a backlash against a possible US strike on Syria.

Not going to war is a good thing. Kerry isn’t Chamberlain, Rouhani isn’t Hitler, and the P5+1 group and the UN aren’t the League of Nations. It’s possible this could all go sideways, but it’s also possible that this might, just might, lead us away from war and toward peace.

A good thing, yes?





Brooklyn: Represent!

3 02 2013

Brooklyn College, actually, but close enough.

The brief story (or not so brief) is that the Political Science Department at Brooklyn College is sponsoring an event put together by the Students for Justice in Palestine on the Boycott-Divest-Sanctions movement (directed against Israel). Torture apologist and local-boy-gone-bad Alan Dershowitz howled about the injustice of this event (then suggested all could be made better were only other voices—hm, I wonder whose?—were brought in for “balance”), then various local politicians entered the fray, including a number of City Council members who oh-so-helpfully reminded* Brooklyn College President Karen Gould that:

A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and to Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City—and many who would feel targeted and demonized by this program—want their tax money to be spent on.

To which one can only politely reply: Fuck you. Twice.

Happily, President Karen Gould has defended both the department and the principle of academic freedom—rather too rare, these days.

I admit that I am not particularly a supporter of the BDS movement, largely because I think those who act on behalf of human rights in Israel and Palestine should be supported, not abandoned. But, as I wrote to the various politicians who signed these terrible letters, I see less threat to academic freedom in the airing of opinions with which I disagree than in the pressure applied by public officials on institutions to distant themselves from even the consideration of those views.

Not as pithy as Fuck you, but, y’know. . . .

~~~

*You really need to click on this second link. The first letter, by Congressman Jerome Nadler, et al, is bad enough, but the second, by Lew Fidler and nine other City Council members, calls the event speakers Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti “either anti-semitic or simply ignorant” who promote “the worst kind of hate.”

Unsurprisingly, they end with the reverse-double-flipspeak: “We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong.”

Yeah, no.





Jeffrey Wiesenfeld: Go fuck yourself

6 05 2011

Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, trustee for the City University of New York, recently railed against playwright Tony Kushner for his alleged anti-Israel views.

That’s not why I invite him to go fuck himself.

This speech led the [boneheaded] CUNY trustees to withdraw—without hearing from the playwright himself—the honors John Jay College was to bestow upon Kushner.

That’s not why I invite him to go fuck himself.

No, it was this statement to New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer:

I tried to ask a question about the damage done by a short, one-sided discussion of vigorously debated aspects of Middle East politics, like the survival of Israel and the rights of the Palestinians, and which side was more callous toward human life, and who was most protective of it.

But Mr. Wiesenfeld interrupted and said the question was offensive because “the comparison sets up a moral equivalence.”

Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “People who worship death for their children are not human.”

Did he mean the Palestinians were not human? “They have developed a culture which is unprecedented in human history,” he said.

That is why I invite Wiesenfeld to go fuck himself.

credit: Jim Dwyer, New York Times





Yes, he really was that bad

11 12 2010

More lovely thoughts from the one who we can no longer kick around (unless we dig him up). . . .

Yes, the New York Times reports on more tapes released from the Nixon White House—with links to the audio so that you, too, can listen to the dulcet tones of the 37th president.

Here is Nixon the anthropologist:

In a conversation Feb. 13, 1973, with Charles W. Colson, a senior adviser who had just told Nixon that he had always had “a little prejudice,” Nixon said he was not prejudiced but continued: “I’ve just recognized that, you know, all people have certain traits.”

“The Jews have certain traits,” he said. “The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”

Nixon continued: “The Italians, of course, those people course don’t have their heads screwed on tight. They are wonderful people, but,” and his voice trailed off.

A moment later, Nixon returned to Jews: “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”

. . .

Nixon listed many of his top Jewish advisers — among them, Mr. Kissinger and William Safire, who went on to become a columnist at The New York Times — and argued that they shared a common trait, of needing to compensate for an inferiority complex.

“What it is, is it’s the insecurity,” he said. “It’s the latent insecurity. Most Jewish people are insecure. And that’s why they have to prove things.”

Nixon the expert on race relations, talking to his secretary, Rose Mary Woods:

“[Secretary of State] Bill Rogers has got — to his credit it’s a decent feeling — but somewhat sort of a blind spot on the black thing because he’s been in New York,” Nixon said. “He says well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on.

“My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years,” he said. “I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it, Rose.”

Nixon the diplomat, commenting upon a 1973 visit by Golda Meir:

The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel.

But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

Nixon the statesman:

In his discussion with Ms. Woods, Nixon laid down clear rules about who would be permitted to attend the state dinner for Meir — he called it “the Jewish dinner” — after learning that the White House was being besieged with requests to attend.

“I don’t want any Jew at that dinner who didn’t support us in that campaign,” he said. “Is that clear? No Jew who did not support us.”

And, once more, Nixon the keen observer of domestic politics:

Nixon also strongly hinted that his reluctance to even consider amnesty for young Americans who went to Canada to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War was because, he told Mr. Colson, so many of them were Jewish.

“I didn’t notice many Jewish names coming back from Vietnam on any of those lists; I don’t know how the hell they avoid it,” he said, adding: “If you look at the Canadian-Swedish contingent, they were very disproportionately Jewish. The deserters.”

They don’t make presidents like that anymore.

 





Mad world

19 08 2010

I cannot believe (as in: I despair) that this is being considered:

Are there enough curse words in all the world’s languages  to be dropped in response to this?

On a (very small) upside: check out the serious debate on the Atlantic‘s website about Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in particular and the Iran-with-nukes scenario in general. Goldblog irritates me to no end, and in looking at the participants in the debate my first reaction was Elliot Abrams? Seriously?!

Still, there’s a real—as in, serious and reasoned—argument happening there. Wish there were a wider spectrum of views—well, more skeptical and radical views—but then again, I wish I could run 5 1/2 minute miles and that eating Doritos helped me to lose weight.

So just as I puff out oh-so-much-more-than-5 1/2-minute-miles and limit my Doritos consumption, so too do I limit my ambitions as regards mainstream debates about world affairs. That is, I accept that sometimes the less-than-ideal can still be worthwhile.

Now, if only we could get various delusional/sullen world leaders to agree. . . .





One thing leads to another

9 10 2009

It’s happened again.

I finish one novel, wait, start another one. Then a new set of characters pushes into my words, and the new idea is set aside as a completely different novel unfolds.

I don’t understand it, but I go with it.

_____

So the President has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I’m among those who wonders a bit about this, but I have a hard time seeing a downside.

This nearsightedness would apparently disqualify me from a career as a pundit, insofar as the bright lights of blovi-nation have deemed this as ‘having no upside’ (Mark Halperin, Time), as damaging (Mika Brzezinski), and a couple (George Packer, Mickey Kaus) suggesting he turn it down.

Yeah, because that would accomplish. . . what, exactly?

I’m not much of a nationalist, which, depending upon one’s definition, may mean I’m not much of a patriot, but why are all these ostensible America-Firsters so opposed to having something good come to US president?

_____

Biter Boy still bites. Not as often—not nearly as often—but even as he nears the end of teething (all four adult fangs are now in) he chomps more than he should.

Oh, and he knocked over his first plant this morning. Pissed me off, led to some, mmm, yelling, but as I was plopping the plant back into the pot, I remembered that Bean and Chelsea had their own bad encounters with their leafy co-inhabitants.

Jasper is also in full bathroom-fixation mode. Into the sink, sniffing the faucet. Running into the tub after I open the door after a shower, to watch the water finish its slow slide down the drain. And every time he hears me use the facilities he runs to inspect the process—sometimes to mildly distasteful results.

I should note that his fascination is strictly observatory: he does not appreciate forced participation in bathing.

_____

I hate grading. Have I mentioned that?

That’s the one, big, drawback to working at a community college: no teaching assistants on whom I can offload the papers.

_____

I’m not much either for Twitter or Miley Cyrus, but jeez Louise, even I took note that Stage Dad Billy Ray is pushing for her to, uh, what the hell’s the story? Oh, yeah, she shut down her Twitter account, and Mr. I-Miss-the-Limelight is begging for her return.

Excellent idea, ’cause I’m sure the SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD girl doesn’t have enough to do, what with going to school, starring in a t.v. show, promoting an album, and whatever else an over-scheduled future-rehab patient does.

Now that’s some fine parenting.

_____

Your socialist-feminist-pomo-cranky blogger is. . . looking for corporate work.

Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

_____

C.’s got a new post up at SoundofRain about moving on, hashing out, and forgiveness.

I haven’t yet responded because I don’t know how to respond. Moving on? Check. Hashing out? Check—sometimes. Forgiveness?

Have I mentioned that I can move on?

_____

Newsflash! Migraines suck.

_____

EmH has a post responding to a question I asked: Why support a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians?

Haven’t yet responded to her (grading: grrr), but it’s a certainly a reasonable position, one to which I am resigned.

Still, even this resignation is studded with uneasiness, insofar as I don’t see how the two states can actually be accomplished without massive—and forced—resettlement. Ethnic cleansing, in other words.

I’m not one to state (to continue the hygiene theme) that ‘we’ should wash our hands of the whole thing, but I wonder if the continued (over?) involvement of everyone and her mother in Israel and Palestine’s business doesn’t simply make it easier for Israelis and Palestinians to avoid dealing directly with each other.

Not that there’s any way to keep everyone’s mother out of this.

_____

I have a decent, if complicated, relationship with my parents—a situation which I’d guess would describe most adult kids’ relationships to their parents.

Perhaps that’s why I find this site, My Parents Were Awesome, so poignant.

Yeah, they once had lives that had nothing to do with us. Lives with their own complications.

And the beat goes on.





Give up

16 04 2009

. . . and then we’ll talk.

From today’s New York Times:

“Israel expects the Palestinians to first recognise Israel as a Jewish state before talking about two states for two peoples,” a senior official in Netanyahu’s office quoted the new prime minister as telling George Mitchell, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy.

Why not just tell them they have to hit themselves repeatedly in the face with a hammer before you’ll deign to speak with them?





Thinking like a mountain and wishing like the sea

22 03 2009

My t.v. sits there, mute and uncomplaining. Or mute and seething. If a t.v. could, you know, uncomplain or seethe.

Do I liberate it?

I’ve watched t.v. twice since I’ve moved in, and both times it was chore: I don’t have cable, so the reception was more snow than picture. I’ve thought about getting the Roku box and streaming movies through Netflix, but beyond my initial research, I’ve done nothing about it.

So do I sell or give away the t.v.?

It’s in decent shape, but it’s also a few years old, and the big ol’ console type—not a sleek, new flatscreen.

I dunno. If someone would offer me 25 bucks, I’d probably unload it.

A plant would fit nicely in its spot.

____

On my continuing inability to write that elegant piece on abortion, or to patch together anything coherent on Israel and Palestine: why oh why?

It’s not as if I don’t have well-formed ideas on either issue. On abortion, for example, I think that it’s a no-brainer that it remain legal, but that morally, it’s murky. And that it’s murky means that, for some people, it’s not a no-brainer that it remain legal. I think it’s silly to expect all women to feel guilt or shame or regret for terminating a pregnancy, and silly to expect that no woman would feel guilt or shame or regret for terminating a pregnancy.

But wait! There’s more! There’s freedom and equality and sex and contraception and men and motherhood and meaning and. . . all that.

So much to write.

Similarly with Israel and Palestine. Why should I take side other than that of peace and pluralism? Why would I support a two-state solution, one which implies—no, practically requires—a single-identity set of states, which in turns would necessarily involve some version of ‘transfer.’

As in ‘ethnic cleansing’. As in a crime against humanity.

Hannah Arendt (who was and is not beloved in Israel) made the argument in favor of a Jewish homeland—but not a Jewish state. Edward Said (who has his own unbeloveds) ended up supporting the goal of a single state as the most just solution.

The current situation is unjust. A two-state solution would simply reify this injustice, and in so doing, make such reification irresistible. In other words, the injustice involved in bringing reality to the two states would itself become an argument in favor of the process of states-making itself.

Perversity. The entire damned situation abounds in perversity. Again, so much to say.

Too much to say, perhaps. Perhaps that’s why I am unable to say it.

____

I am temporarily working three jobs again, but the third job will soon go away for the spring and probably the summer.

The second job (teaching) is secure through December, and probably the following spring.

Job1 is the current angst-generator. It’s a retail position, not difficult, but low-paying and irritating in the usual way of retail positions. It sucks up time, both on the job and in travel. And did I mention the customers?

But it has had one great benefit, however: benefits. Most part-time jobs do not offer health or other benefits, but this one does.

This has kept me working there even when I thought AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH! That, and the need to pay rent.

But I now qualify for health care through Job2, and am in the process of switching my coverage. Wrinkle one.

Wrinkle two: My store is in the midst of a shake-up, and not all of us currently employed will be offered jobs past June. I went through the process to keep my job, but I’m not at all sure that I do want to continue working there.

This is different from the AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH reaction. I’m getting more courses, and while the pay for adjunct teaching is lousy compared to a tenure-track job, it’s great compared to retail. And there’s a good chance I’ll be able to continue working off-and-on at Job3—a job which also pays more than Job1, and is closer to home.

The big reason to leave, however, is that I have no damned time to write. I wrecked my life to leave academia, and wrecked my finances to move to New York to write—which I have, in my first two years here, managed to do. In the midst of my third year, however, I haven’t been able to grab those chunks of time necessary for writing.

Yeah, I have time to blog and to web-surf and to play spider solitaire, but none of these activities requires the particular kind of concentration I engage in while writing. These are filler activities, wind-downs—only now I’m winding down from my commute or course prep, not from cranking out a crucial scene.

And I have a new idea. I have characters and a rough sense of where I want to begin. I want to find out what happens. And I don’t have time to write to find out what happens.

The economy? Oh, yeah, that. How could I give up a job in this economy? Is wanting or needing to write enough? Yeah, the check’s small, but it’s not nothing; how could I give that up?

Perhaps I won’t make the cut, which means the decision is out of my hands. But this is my life, and it should be in my hands. I should have to figure out what to do.

Should. Not that I have, yet.