Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The only Republican ever I'll vote for ...

.... is a DEMOCRAT! The NYTimes reports:
In an unexpected turnabout in political loyalties, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the Republican Party to become a Democrat
As a Democrat from Maryland who goes to college in Pennsylvania, I always said that Arlen Specter is the only Republican I'll ever vote for.

On more legal news

Haaretz has an AP report on another legal case in the Holy Land, this time under the jurisdictiona of the Palestinian Authority:

A Palestinian military court has sentenced a man to death by hanging for selling land to an Israeli company.

Land sales are considered treason by the Palestinians because of their long-running dispute with the Israelis, however the sentence is unlikely to be implemented.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas routinely withholds the required approval for executions. Several others are on death row as suspected informants for Israel.

The sentence was handed down Tuesday in a military court in the West Bank city of Hebron after two days of closed-door hearings.

Prosecutor Issa Amer said the defendant sold land that didn't belong to him in the village of Beit Ummar using forged documents.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Free Speech vs Incitement to Lawless Action

There is an interesting case right now in Israel about the arrest of seven people who operate two websites suspected of encouraging youths to not enlist in the IDF and gave advice on how they can dodge service. The police released the suspects after questioning and confiscated several computers and documents.

According to a statement issued by the Justice Ministry spokesman at that time, the Web sites of New Profile and Target 21 were suspected of preaching evasion of military service, thereby violating Article 109 of the Penal Law. They were also suspected of helping those slated for military service to obtain an exemption by deceit or by knowingly submitting false information, the ministry said.

Members describe New Profile as a feminist organization.

"The organization does not encourage people to evade military service," she told The Jerusalem Post. "It is in favor of refusal to serve and anti-militarism, but it does not encourage conscripts to do so if they do not want to in the first place."

Ben-Natan added that when the organization explained the options open to a conscript who does not want to serve, it did not include illegal options such as forging medical opinions.

But the state thinks otherwise. In its September announcement that it was opening an investigation, the Justice Ministry spokesman said, "The deputy attorney-general believes that the gravity of the incitement on these sites, in its scope, quality and thoroughness - and especially by the fact that it also tries to persuade conscripts to obtain an exemption by deceiving the army, and gives finely detailed instructions on how to execute this deception - obliges the state to deviate from its [usual] highly restrained policy of not investigating a priori suspicions of incitement to evasion of military duty."

I'm bringing this up because this case prompts an intereting debate on the matter of law and freedom.

It would be more appropriate for me to refer to Israeli law, but I am more familiar with US jurisprudence and it has a much longer history. SinceI am going to refer to US Supreme Court cases, I want to make it clear that I am using the Israeli case as just a launching pad for my post discussing law regarding free speech and that Israel isn't obligated by American jurisprudence.

In the US, falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded movie theater is illegal. Wikipedia actually has an article about this which I used as a starting point for my adventrue through American jurisprudence (if by now you don't know what jurisprudence means, google it). This scenerio refers to a passage in the unanimous opinion in Schenk v. United States (1919) which established the "clear and present danger" test which deemed regulations of speech constitutional if the prohibited language poses a clear and present danger.

I highly encourage readers to read further about the cases I discuss and the people involved.

The "clear and present danger" test was later modified in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) which established the "imminent lawless action" doctrine. This doctrine states that speech is NOT constitutional protected if it advocates criminal activity immidiately. This doctrine is the current legal standard in the US.

Now let's apply this to the current case in Israel. Did New Profile publish texts trying to persuade youths to use deceit to evade military service?

The New Profile charter states: "While we were taught to believe that the country is faced by threats beyond its control, we now realize that the words 'national security' have often masked calculated decisions to choose military action for the achievement of political goals. We are no longer willing to take part in such choices. We will not go on enabling them by obediently and uncritically supplying soldiers to the military which implements them.

We will not go on being mobilized, raising children for mobilization, supporting mobilized partners, brothers, fathers, while those in charge of the country go on deploying the army easily, rather than creating other solutions."

I do not interpret this as advocating "immidiate lawless action". But this is not all the organization published. I don't exactly what else they have published but if they did advocate to youths how to evade "military duty", I would say that it does fall under the "immidiate lawless action" doctrine".

I'm interested how this will play out. There is another incident which was investigated I'd also like to apply American jurisprudence too. I'm referring to when soldiers were incited to refuse orders to evict settlers. The article I linked above is from the end of November of last year. I don't know how it played out.

Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has instructed police to launch an investigation regarding a ceremony that was held to praise soldiers who refused an order to evict settlers from the Hebron market. During the ceremony these soldiers received payment as reward for their refusal.

The order was given following a police investigation that raised suspicion that soldiers were incited to refuse commands, an act which under Israeli law is a crime in itself.

Nitzan also ordered an investigation into an ad published on the Internet by a group called the Headquarters to Save the People and the Land of Israel, which is suspected to be the organization responsible for orchestrating the ceremony for the soldiers. The ad states that any soldier that resists orders to evict the residents of the Hebron house will receive monetary reward of several thousand NIS.

I think this obviously falls under "immidiate lawless action". If New Profile advocated in the same "scope, quality and thoroughness" as this ultra-right settler organization, than they too would be guilty under the same doctrine of "immidiate lawless action".

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kuwait, Hamas, and freedom

If there is one country in the Middle East that can teach democracy to the region, which one would it be? Definetly not Kuwait:
Salah Bahman, an independent candidate for the Kuwaiti parliament, has dropped out of the race a day after he called for full normalization of relations between Israel and Kuwait, igniting a storm of controversy in the Persian gulf state.

I was actually going to write about the politician and what a great move forward he is. Unfortunately Kuwait begs to differ.


Hamas has dismissed allegations that it systematically killed and maimed dozens of opponents during and after Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, the news Website ANI reported on Wednesday.

In a report released earlier this week, the Human Rights Watch accused Hamas of directing its gunmen to eliminate political opponents and suspected collaborators under the cover of Israel's military offensive in Gaza.

Lebanon is a pseudo-democracy heavily under the influence of Iran.

Israel? Perhaps that's why they are so afraid of Jewish self-determination. They, the Arab governments, are afraid that the Arabs will ask for their own transperent, democratic, and responsible government.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Al Jazeera, Al Dura, and Youtube

People who are familiar with the Al Jazeera English Youtube channel know that they allowed people to post comments on their videos. Videos were filled with comments in a matter of minutes. Like all Youtube videos regarding political issues, especially about Israel and Jews, there were many antisemitic comments. It now appears that Al Jazeera has disabled the comment feature of their Youtube videos. I can't really say that it is unfortunate because the discussions there didn't resemble anything close to intelligent.

For those that wonder why I watch Al Jazeera English, it is because I want to see what the Arabs are saying. I also like to watch the debates between Israeli pundits and opposing pundits. Do I think Al Jazeera is a good network? No. Here's why. They are still talking about Al Dura and only give slight mention at the end of the program that "some" question whether Al Dura actually died. Look here and watch this if you still have doubts.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blog mission restated

When I started this blog, my main goal was to cover stories about New Ideas such as social cohesion, caring about the environment, technology, democracy, and human rights being brought to the Old World, aka the Middle East. In this regard, I failed. I let the old political debate overcome me. Honestly, I'm bad at changing my bad habits. It is something I have to change as I grow older.

Durban II

It's finally here. The much anticipated event in the blogosphere and the international diplomacy scene has exploded online and offline. Here are some interesting pieces from blogs and newspapers about the UN-sponsored Anti-Racism conference:

1. Haaretz article about the exit of dozens of delegates during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speech. Includes a CNN video of when the delegates were leaving.

2. Haaretz has two correspondants writing two opposing views about the "forum", one for the boycott and one against the boycott. The first by Benjamin Hartman calls the conference "a self-righteous Anti-Zionist jamboree". He explains why the UN has lost any credibility with Zionists and Jews:
Then-Israeli Ambassador to the UN Chaim Herzog told the UN General Assembly in 1975, after resolution 3379 ("Zionism is racism") was passed, "For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such."
So before you reference any UN resolution to a Zionist, keep in mind that he/she and many other people view the UN has having no credibility. I also view the UN has having no credibility. Here is why, when billions of people from scores of states have no influence, either by voting or other democratic processes in their own countries, on how they are represented in the UN, how truely is the UN representatives of the people of the world?

3. Haaretz correspondant Ariel Zibler has the opposing view. Instead of giving my own summary of the article, I'll show you two opposite responses commenters left on the article. Someone by that went by the name "Wmr" had this to say:
There`s nothing to be afraid of, and there are very intelligent and capable people in Israel that would leave these clowns from "democratic countries" in the dust.

An opportunity lost.
Someone that went by the name "getting it wrong" said this:
The last paragraph shows the true agenda of this refusal to face reality,the false hope of appeasementand and a touch of self-hate thrown into the mixture.

Israel`s survival as a Jewish State is not some intellectual exercise that should be subject to discussion with those who would destroy it.
I concur with the second commenter.

4. Harry's Place has a guest post by UJS Students in Geneva Liveblogging from the conference. The writer is describing the mass walkout of delegates, attendants, and protesters, including an appearance by Alan Dershowitz. The writer has an important question:
... whether or not the walk-out has been permanent or temporary…more later.
This conference is looking more and more like the antisemitic orgy that its organizers planned and the liberal supporters wished to ignore.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Iran's drones

Iranian state-run news agency Press TV ran a story on its website this week praising the unveiling of an Iranian-made drone, that according to the Israeli daily Maariv bears a striking resemblance to an earlier photo taken in Israel of an Israeli-made drone.
I'm still not convinced it's the same UAV.

Gideon Levy and Israel

Gideon Levy has this issue with Israel. He's sobbing over the fact that the vast majority of Jewish Israelis don't agree with him. He claims that the occupation has been "completely missing from the national agenda" because the Knesset is "devoid of Jewish anti-occupation activists".

There are some very fundemental flaws in his argument. First of all, assuming that there are no "anti-occupation" Jewish MK's, does that mean that all the Jewish MK's are in favor of ruling over another people just for the heck of it? Second, does supporting a two-state solution to end the occupation not "anti-occupation" enough? The answer to these two questions is obviously no. In Netanyahu's first speech as PM, he said that Israel does not want to rule over another people. And Kadima, the party which supports a two-state solution, has won the most seats in the recent election.

Levy's columns are usually about how horrible the occupation or the wars are and how Israelis are generally blind to it. The most surprising thing in this is that he blames the "blindness" on the Israeli media. Hello? You are party of the media, Mr. Levy. You are write regularly in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. Not only that, who does he think mans the checkpoints? Settlers? No, the IDF does, and who serves in the IDF? I really doubt that soldiers are silent about what they do in the West Bank.

Rather than focus on why so many Israelis support the security measures, aka the occupation, Mr. Levy focuses on why everybody else doesn't share his passion showing how bad Israelis are. I'd like to see Levy write saying that he supports unilateral withdrawl of the West Bank and what he thinks will happen afterwards. Isn't that what he supports? His biggest audience is outside of Israel, people who like to get their fix from the source.

Levy is blinded by his ideology. He is neither effective nor constructive. There are too many negative adjectives one can attach to Levy. Take your pick.

So much to write, so little time to actually do it

For the last several weeks if not two months, I have been so busy. Aren't we all? I shouldn't complain. I have been gathering links to articles I found interesting. I'll show you two of them today but there will be more to come later. To some I'll write long responses and counter arguments, while others I'll just mention briefly to share what I found interesting.

A new issue from the Palestine-Israel Journal has come out dealing with "The Refugee Question" aka the Palestinian "right of return". This journal gives Palestinian and Israeli perspectives on Palestine-Israel issues. I can't say I'm a long time follower but I found this issue interesting. The first article in the issue I read was by Salman Abu Sitta called "The Implementation of the Right of Return". I must admit it was very uncomfortable to read. It is very well presented and deals with a wide range of issues. There are flaws in his argument and his approach is a bit detached from reality no matter how many figures or spins he makes. It was so powerful and yet uncomfortable that I just have to write a response. I don't know when I'll post it but hopefully it will be in the next few days.

I don't know how often David Brooks of the NYTimes writes about Israel but he has a column on her today. It was an admirable characterization of Israeli society which is a nice break from what Roger Cohen has been doing for the last few months. Brook's column makes me miss my days in Israel. I like reading articles generally describing societies. There was an Op-Ed a few months ago about Japanese society that I also found intriguing. I can't say Brook had anything new to say but it might be new to other NYTimes readers.

Sometimes life is just the process of keeping up with it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm back

Hello readers. I've finally found time to blog again. Anyway, I found this video at Jewschool. It shows a Jewish Jerusalemite, an Arab Jaffan (Yafo/Yaffa, not Jiffa), and a Jewish Tel-Avivan speak about their perception of history, their narrative. In less than 5 minutes it shows you the conflict of two narratives, and the humanity behind it. This video was created by Amy Rubin.

From the Jewschool post:

In her introduction to the video she writes, ” Trying to achieve peace in Israel without addressing the past is akin to trying to find a cure for cancer by treating the symptoms without ever considering why the cancer developed in the first place.”

I can only add that I believe that we (Jews, Arabs and everyone else in this world) have very slim chances of moving ahead if we can’t take a clear, honest look at history.

A commenter that goes by the name 'Firouz' left a long comment so I'm going to put only some of it here:

I must say, in all these years, I have never experienced a Palestinian empathize with the Jewish experience in the levant. The classic case of “acceptable empathy” is often with regards to the Holocaust, where Palestinians feel they can empathize with the Jews without undermining their essentially political agenda. In fact, this Holocaust empathy is often turned around on the Jews - we empathize with you about the Holocaust in Europe, now you should empathize with us about the Holocaust in Gaza.

But to exhibit a real understanding, much less empathy, for the situation in which the Yishuv found itself in the early part of the 20th century and leading to 1948… I have never seen a Palestinian do so. Indeed, thinking about it now, I’ve never experienced a Palestinian question the actions of their community leading up to Israel’s birth, besides bemoaning that Arab disunity meant it could not be aborted.

I am left to understand that such considerations would be anathema for “the other”, and this makes me question what purpose such an exercise in history serves, when the empathy of one, becomes a weapon for another.

I think Rubin's and Firouz's persepctive both have merit. But Firouz is right that these exchanges of narratives don't go far enough. How constructive are these? They soften us and prepares us for the "divorce" but how much impact do they have on Palestinian society? I know of a few programs that brings together Israeli and Palestinian youth but they are always in small numbers.

This video was also posted on Huffington Post and someone left this comment:
Beyond debate:There was about equal exchange of Jews and Arabs between Muslims world and Israel.

Beyond debate: Israel absorbed the entire stream of the Jewish refugees.

Beyond debate: Muslim world keeps Palestinian Arab refugees in deplorable conditions and deny them basic human rights.
Primary Reason: Even great-grandchildren of Palestinian immigrants must be kept indigent and without hope so as not to reward Israel.
It is important to remember that forces that led to this conflict are regional, not just between two people fighting over one piece of land.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What I'm reading this morning

1. Bahrain embraces its Jews. All 36 of them.

2. The leading reformist candidate, Mirhossein Mousavi, in upcoming Iranian presidential elections on Monday condemned the killing of Jews in the Holocaust. "Our country was harmed because of extremist policies adopted in the last three years.... My foreign policy with all countries will be one of detente."

3. Israeli whiz kid behind Google's advanced search algorithm.

4. How to build a Palestinian state, by Khaled Abu Toameh

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In the news

1. Egypt will boycott new Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman unless he apologizes for insulting statements he has made about the country, an Egyptian official said Wednesday.
2. The Palestinian Authority has issued yet another warning to Palestinians against selling their homes or properties to Jews, saying those who violate the order would be accused of "high treason" - a charge that carries the death penalty.

3. Dozens of Amish residents from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, toured a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn's Crown Heights to learn more about their culture.

Gazan workers hurt in Israel not getting due insurance. Someone blames Zionism.

5. Arab couple sues fertility clinic for malpractice. Nobody commented yet but I promise you someone will blame Zionism soon.

Latest Palestinian to be expelled

A Palestinian woman was expelled from Palestine on Tuesday. The latest victim of "racism" and fascism was told by the authorities that she had to leave because those are the instructions to those holding her identification card.

Fortunately, she was given refuge and citizenship in Israel.

Wait, I thought you just said that she was expelled?

She was, but it was by Fatah authorities under pressure from Hamas.

Well then she must have done something terribly wrong.

She's a music teacher.

Well, she must have used it to indoctrinate the children against the wishes of the cause.

She held concerts for Holocaust survivors, families of captured Israeli soldiers, and to families of Palestinians in jail.

She can't do that. She's identifying with the racist and fascist enemy. The parents must be angry because she did these things without their permission.

Actually, she is famous in the Jenin camp she works at. And she was speaking with the children's parents when she was given the order to leave. And how is Israel fascist when they allow an elected Arab MK to identify with Iran, a country whose government openly advocates for Israel's destruction, saying that she wished that they get a nuclear bomb? While Palestinian authorities won't even allow their fellow Arabs to even play music to, or with, non-government elderly Israelis. Also, the Palestinians gave conductor Daniel Barenboim, an Israeli Jew, honorary Palestinian citizenship for bringing Israeli and Palestinian musicians together. How are they any different?

Zionism is racism. Palestine will be free! From the river to the sea!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NOW Lebanon

NOW Lebanon has two interesting articles.

1. Comedy and criminals at Doha: For Lebanon in particular, the support voiced for Sudan’s president in Doha is cause for concern.

2. Interview with
Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm. Intro:
Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, the Syrian philosopher, made his name after the 1967 Six Day war when he published a book entitled Self-Criticism After the Defeat, which looked hard at what it meant to be Arab. Following this, as he did, with the Critique of Religious Thought in which he dismissed many Arabs as, he says, "a bunch of sectarians," landed him in jail in Lebanon in 1970. A leading light of leftist philosophy in the Middle East, he is now emeritus professor at Damascus University, although his books have been repeatedly banned there. He also teaches at a number of Ivy League universities in the US. NOW Lebanon sat down with him to discuss Islam, Syria and freedom of speech.
Read the rest here.

Sufian Abu Zaida Addresses Netanyahu

From the Israel Policy Forum blog - In today's Yediot Acharonoth, Fatah leader and former PA Minister Sufian Abu Zaida addresses Netanyahu personally.

Also from that blog, a group of Israeli windsurfers that led the battle against building a marina on the Haifa beach is offering help to Lebanese surfers who are trying to prevent a new plan to build a huge artificial island. (Israel Radio)

What I'm reading

1. Parody/critic of Caryl Churchill's "Seven Jewish Children" 10-minute play. The parody is called "Seven Themes for Caryl Churchill" and is featured on normblog.

2. Another parody of Churchill's play called "Five British Children: A Play for Britain (by Shalom Lapping)".

3. No matter how much Israel allows their minority, even elected officials, to say treasonous statements, people still equate it with Nazi Germany and fascism.

4. General of Israeli "Nazi" Forces raps soldiers for tasteless t-shirts.

5. Study by the United Nations Development Program finds that 70% of Palestinian youth believe that violence to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not very helpful.
Only 8 percent believe violence is an important tool, the study, based on interviews with 1,200 Palestinians over the age of 17 in the West Bank and Gaza.

It found that 39 percent were "extremely" depressed and 42 percent were depressed by their conditions. Depression was more marked in the Gaza Strip where 55 per cent said they were "extremely" depressed.

When asked to define their identity, 47 percent identified themselves as Muslims, 28 per cent as Palestinians, 14 percent as humans and 10 per cent as Arabs.

Funeral owner Haniyeh probably isn't happy.

Sharp rise in number of reports of soldiers harming Palestinian civilians. Not good.

7. Haaretz poll: 54% of public dissatisfied with new government and it hasn't even done anything. Not surprising though. At least it is better than the 3% approval of Olmert.

8. UNRAW's director of operations, John Ging, threatens employees who don't disassociate themselves from political parties, mainly Hamas and Fatah.