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What do they eat inside the Gaza Strip?

 18 Jul 2010

Information about a forthcoming book on cooking and food inside Gaza.

What are we doing to arrest Israel’s slide into authoritarianism?

Posted: 18 Jul 2010

There really isn’t anybody like Gideon Levy in Haaretz. His latest piece is stunning, and although it’s directed at Israeli Jews who look away as their country is declining towards fascism, his criticism could equally be targeting the Zionist Diaspora who largely remain silent when occupation deepens and outright racism is a daily fact of life:

This piece might not be meant for everyone. Nationalists, racists and fans of militarism and fascism can continue to be satisfied by the developments of the past few months. For them, democracy means only an election every few years, tyranny of the majority and the crushing of the minority, lockstep thinking, the state above all else, Judaism before democracy, a coopted media and clapped-out control mechanisms, an academia under supervision and citizens subject to a loyalty oath – and to hell with all the fundamental values, which are being trampled before our very eyes. This piece is not meant for the false patriots, the brutes and the brainwashed, for those who want a Jewish, Arab-free Knesset; a Jewish, foreigner-free society; and a state without B’Tselem or the High Court of Justice.

But they are not the only components of Israeli society. There remains another significant component. The legions who gathered to protest the Sabra and Chatila massacre of 1982 are still with us. There are many people here who know the history, who understand democracy, who should be terrified by what is going on.

Terrified? That’s exactly the point: They’re not. They hear what happened to MK Hanin Zuabi, and are silent. They hear MKs from the center and the left verbally bullying their Arab colleagues, and turn a deaf ear. They read about the torrent of dangerous draft laws, and show forgiveness. They witness the McCarthyist witch hunt against nonprofit organizations, MKs and university professors, and remain complacent. They realize something is happening here that poses a greater threat than all of the external threats, whether real or imagined, that lie in wait for Israel, and they persist in their indifference.

From history they have learned that regimes that begin to act this way are doomed, that Israel is on a slippery slope, mainly because its control mechanisms have all been rendered impotent, and yet they do not protest. They sense that something terrible is happening, but fool themselves into believing that “it won’t happen to me.” They hear every day about the growing danger, and they cluck their tongues, sigh, complain and abandon the field. This piece is meant for them.

Zuabi is hounded, MK Ahmed Tibi is threatened – so what, they’re Arabs. Those who express unconventional views are denounced as traitors, boycott organizers will be fined, Gaza flotilla participants punished, human rights activists and critics of the Israel Defense Forces outlawed – and the majority of Israelis think that nothing bad will happen to them as a result. They think that to be a good citizen it’s enough to support Gilad Shalit. If some Jewish community abroad were under siege they would put together a solidarity flotilla, but when Zuabi is punished for performing a simple act of identification with her people, they do not care.

They hear about the rabbis who inveigh against leasing apartments to foreign workers, about the witch hunts against foreigners who cross the border illegally in search of work, about the deportation of the children of refugees, and about rising police violence. They think it’s not nice, but that it won’t happen to them. They see the representatives of Kadima, their party of hope, joining this campaign of incitement. They see the representatives of this false “centrist” party out-Liebermaning Avigdor Lieberman. They see their leader, Tzipi Livni, cloaking herself in disgraceful silence, and they do not protest the deception being perpetrated against them by their fraudulent party. Why? Because they are convinced that they themselves are in no danger.

The time has come to tell them, the ones who have withdrawn and who care only about their own lives, that it’s coming. Soon, soon, it will happen to you. It won’t stop at the Arab MKs or at the NGOs, not at the universities and not at the demonstrators. It won’t even stop at your doorstep. It will enter your daily life. Police violence? It will come to your children, too. Thought police? It will reach you, too. Your newspaper and your television will look different; the Knesset, your courts and your schools will be unrecognizable. It has happened more than once, and it will happen here, too. If not today, then tomorrow. The monster has reared its ugly head, it is approaching all of us, no one remains who can stop it and when it gets here, it will be too late, much too late.

Twitter won’t really help America be more liked

Posted: 18 Jul 2010

A very revealing essay in today’s New York Times Magazine on the US State Department’s major use of the web, Twitter, Facebook and online tools to push Washington’s agenda globally.

The article is curious for its almost complete lack of discussion about whether Obama administration policies are in fact useful or productive but instead focuses on 21st century technology in the service of the state.

The message seems to be; ask questions but nothing too serious about wars or covert activity:

The underpinning philosophy of 21st-century statecraft — that the networked world “exists above the state, below the state and through the state” — was laid out in a paper in Foreign Affairs in 2009 by Slaughter, before she became head of the policy planning staff. Cohen rereads the paper all the time. Ross gives it to all new U.S. ambassadors. It is crucial to how Cohen and Ross see themselves: equal parts barnstormers and brainstormers, creating and sustaining networks of networks. Ross and Cohen share all their contacts and remain in touch constantly, though they’re often on opposite sides of the globe. (“Jared and I divide and conquer,” Ross says.) Their closeness might come as something of a surprise: Cohen was appointed by Condoleezza Rice and still considers her a mentor; Ross was deeply embedded in the Obama campaign. And they pursued very different paths to the State Department.

One apparent paradox of 21st-century statecraft is that while new technologies have theoretically given a voice to the anonymous and formerly powerless (all you need is a camera phone to start a movement), they have also fashioned erstwhile faceless bureaucrats into public figures. Ross and Cohen have a kind of celebrity in their world — and celebrity in the Twitter age requires a surfeit of disclosure. Several senior members of the State Department with whom I spoke could not understand why anyone would want to read microdispatches from a trip to Twitter or, worse, from a State Department staff member’s child’s basketball game. But Secretary Clinton seemed neither troubled nor bewildered. “I think it’s to some extent pervasive now,” she told me in March. “It would be odd if the entire world were moving in that direction and the State Department were not.” Half of humanity is under 30, she reminded me. “Much of that world doesn’t really know as much as you might think about American values. One of the ways of breaking through is by having people who are doing the work of our government be human beings, be personalized, be relatable.”

But is America any more popular with the world when endless wars continue in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere?

Smoking ladies cause divorce, Hamas laughably claims

Posted: 18 Jul 2010

Isolate a territory, target its rulers and don’t wonder why Islamism breeds (though it must be condemned and plays directly into Israeli hands):

Gaza’s Hamas rulers are banning women from smoking water pipes (nargilas) in cafes, claiming it violates tradition and leads to divorce.

The new order went into effect last week, and several cafe owners have been arrested for questioning in recent days under suspicion they have not been enforcing the order.

Police spokesman Ayman Batneiji said Sunday that officers are enforcing Gazan traditions. He said husbands often divorce women seen smoking in public but offered no evidence to support that claim.

The pipes are popular with both men and women in Gaza.

Police have warned business owners that they face heavy fines if the ban is not enforced.

International NGO views Zionist occupation in the right way

Posted: 18 Jul 2010

How Israeli apartheid infects attitudes around the world and will continue to tar Jews and many Israelis until the Middle East changes:

Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo – Having never visited Africa before, Israeli burn specialist Dr. Eyal Winkler was apprehensive about what was in store for the delegation of five medical specialists which he led this week to Congo. The locals turned out to be good hosts – but working with Western volunteers proved more complicated.

“I came to save lives, but also because it’s important to me to show that Israel is not the Flotilla Country that it is painted out to be,” said Winkler, deputy director of the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Sheba Medical Center.

On Tuesday Winkler arrived at the city of Uvira to treat 50 Congolese who were severely burnt in a fire that claimed more than 230 lives in the nearby village of Sange, where an oil truck had overturned and caught fire. Winkler’s five-man squad was the first team of specialists to arrive in the district of South Kivu to treat the injured.

They were there with Daniel Saada, Israel’s ambassador to Congo, as an official delegation of the Israeli foreign ministries Mashav aid agency. The team crossed remote border crossings with ease under the supervision of South Kivu’s governor, Jean-Claude Kibala. The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, telephoned the delegation to thank them.

But the relationship with the volunteers of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) Netherlands, who arrived at Uvira the previous week, began on a sour note, according to Winkler and the other Israeli specialists.

Winkler said he got the impression that some volunteers for MSF – which has accused Israel of war crimes and obstructing medical care for Palestinians – did not want to be around him or the other team members, Drs. Shmuel Kalazkin, Gil Gragov Nardini and Ariel Tessone, and nurse Noa Anastasia Ouchakova.

“This is the reality today: Doctors from international aid organizations treat a delegation of volunteer Israeli doctors to Congo as though we were occupiers”, Winkler told Nati Harush, the foreign ministries deputy chief security officer who accompanied the delegation.

How is the Iraqi nation gaining intelligence?Posted: 18 Jul 2010

This is what Iraq has become; a police state relying on taxi drivers:

Taxi drivers the world over are renowned as a bountiful source of gossip, sometimes dubious, sometimes not, gathered in large part via what they overhear from passengers. And in Baghdad, afflicted by a deadly insurgency and deep political instability, there is a special importance to some of the things that taxi drivers overhear.

Now, it appears, the country’s intelligence services have realised how much information can be gathered just by sitting in the driving seat of a cab – with the result, according to Baghdad’s cabbies, that undercover security agents have gone into the minicab trade and are stealing away all their customers

“There’s no doubt it’s the secret police,” said Amer al Husseini, a 29 year-old driver working in the Kadhimiyah neighbourhood. “All of a sudden you’ll see lots of new taxis in Kadhimiyah and none of us know any of the drivers. That’s how you can be sure it’s the security looking for information about some terrorist group.

“They go around, picking up passengers and trying to find out what’s going on. It’s might be good for the secret police but it’s bad for us real taxi drivers because they take all the business.”

Hardline Zionists want one Jewish state, so read onPosted: 17 Jul 2010

Fantastic freelance Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf examines in Haaretz the rise in the concept of a one-state solution amongst the settler Right:

It’s still not a full-fledged political camp and there are still holes in the theory. But although its advocates do not seem to be working together, the plans they put forward are remarkably similar. They all reject totally the various ideas of ethnic separation and recognize that political rights accrue to the Palestinians. They talk about a process that will take between a decade and a generation to complete, at the end of which the Palestinians will enjoy full personal rights, but in a country whose symbols and spirit will remain Jewish. It is at this point that the one-state right wing diverges from the binational left. The right is not talking about a neutral “state of all its citizens” with no identity, nor about “Israstine” with a flag showing a crescent and a Shield of David. As envisaged by the right wing, one state still means a sovereign Jewish state, but in a more complex reality, and inspired by the vision of a democratic Jewish state without an occupation and without apartheid, without fences and separations. In such a state, Jews will be able to live in Hebron and pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and a Palestinian from Ramallah will be able to serve as an ambassador and live in Tel Aviv or simply enjoy ice cream on the city’s seashore.

Why Americans love to hate EuropeansPosted: 17 Jul 2010

“Expressing one’s anti-European sentiment can be a way of building up and displaying one’s American identity and patriotism,” said Patrick Chamorel in a European University Institute study published in Italy in 2004. “Anti-Europeanism has always been part of American exceptionalism, which defined itself in contrast to European history, politics, and society.”

Can we please hear Muslims when writing about Muslims?Posted: 17 Jul 2010

The recent move in the French parliament to ban the public wearing of the burka was a major story that showed the growing intolerance of Western Europe towards Islam. It wasn’t really about women’s rights as much as subjecting Muslims to boundaries.

Furthermore, much of the American press while reporting the story couldn’t even bother to speak to Muslims themselves and gather their views on the subject.

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