Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaza Suffers Israeli Wrath

It is time for Israel to stop punishing the people of occupied Palestine and the Gaza Strip for aspiring to freedom and statehood. Stop the bombing Now! It is time for Israel and its apologists to acknowledge what has been painfully obvious for years, namely that they have no real appetite for negotiating a peace, coexisting with the Palestinian people, or conforming to any UN resolution that doesn't suit their purposes.

Yes, frustrated and unemployed Palestinian youth launch home made rockets into Israeli settlements. And they often create shock and minor injury, rarely hospitalization and on an even rarer occasion a single fatality. In the last three days of Gaza incursions, the Israeli Defense Force has killed almost 300 residents, half civilians and about twenty children. Read about a father who lost five of his children to Israeli bombs, here. This was after weeks of border closures and blockades that made it hard for the average Gazan to buy bread to feed his family.

Of course the Palestinians are frustrated. They've been forced to endure decades, generations of scorn and neglect - after being summarily evicted from their ancestral lands. Then, locals have been witness to an unprecedented boom of illegal settlement villages and cities on formerly Arab land. And now, Israelis funded by American Jews are buying up every square inch of Arab land to convert to Jewish control. These "deals" are often shams that take place long after the death of the supposed seller in foreign countries that were never visited by any of the parties involved. Read this recent article about the practice, involving a business and notary in Tustin, California. Uh-huh. Like we're believing that!

The Israeli military monitors travel, transportation and access. Israeli gates and checkpoints have a long history of denying passage to the elderly, the sick and pregnant women for hours or days. This winter, the Israeli government has sanctioned a policy that has kept even heating and cooking oil out of the Gaza Strip.

Then there's the wall, separating Palestinian families and dividing up what is left of traditional Arab olive groves and agricultural land. Adding insult to injury, the Israeli authorities are now building a rapid transit, light-rail train through Arab Jerusalem to connect illegal Jewish settlements to the Israeli part of town. Trains that the local Arab residents will never be able to use.

I have posted about the enormous vacuum of U.S. Policy in the Middle East in previous articles. I noted that the United States provides Israel with more annual foreign aid than all other countries on the planet combined. Combined? That's right. We do so in spite of the end of the cold war, questionable national security benefits, and the ill-will our positions engender in the entire Muslim world. Go figure! For the record, there are about 7.2 million Israeli citizens including about 2 million Arab Israelis; and, there are almost 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. Can you say: Do the numbers?

There's just something so wrong about a people who were treated in such a horrific manner in recent history spending four decades systematically committing small-and-sometimes-large everyday insults and ignominy to a group that they perceive to be weaker and less powerful than they are. The irony is just too profound. The justifications and rationalizations just too paltry and insufficient. Have you seen the pictures? Can you imagine the pain that comes from a generation of teenagers in prison for resisting an unfair and heavy-handed occupation? Not to mention the outrage of collective punishment and the wholesale revision of history.

I confess to having a dog in this fight. It wasn't always that way. Like most Americans, I admired the thinking and work of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir even if I knew nothing of the politics behind the creation of the state of Israel. But things changed rapidly. Angry far-right Stern Gang sorts with attitude and muscle took over the Israeli political scene and put an end to the dreaming of their socialist colleagues. One has to wonder if the underworld wasn't also involved in that transition. In any case, I had been working closely with the Rainbow Coalition in the early and mid-eighties on racial justice and the political campaigns of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. A colleague who was also involved with me in that process, Alex Odeh, was murdered in an explosion, caused by a bomb planted by a Jewish terrorist in his office in Santa Ana, California. Blew his legs off and he bled out, right there in his office on 17th Street. The Jewish Defense League member that was implicated and in his guilt fled to open arms in Israel has never been returned to justice in the United States.

Then there are the two, high-level spies (here and here) in Federal Prison for life for conducting espionage for the state of Israel. In my experience, allies don't spy on allies. And finally, there is the still open folder of the U.S.S. Liberty, sank while on a research assignment in the Mediterranean in 1967. Is this the kind of friend we want (or need) in this moment in history? I may be in a very small minority, but I think not.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winter Holiday Musings

The December solstice has come and gone. Mid-Winter is upon us, and a couple of weeks of snow has finally yielded to rain and unwelcome morning fog. The holidays were bearable, we all survived with personalities and relationships intact. No small task, given the perversion of the season and the excess that it invites.

On December 13th, we enjoyed yet another installment in our annual holiday fest - the best local social gathering of the season. Guests this year were treated to catered fare from the Jacksonville Inn and lots of big, red wine. Thanks to my friend Platon Mantheakis for his help and support in that regard.

Following our annual fest, we made Tamales, in a nod to my two adult daughters' Hispanic maternal roots; and brewed pots of hearty Assam tea, in a nod to their Scots-Australian grandmother. Our holiday dinner included a standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, baked veggies, sweet potato pie and plum budding with hard sauce for desert. In the run-up, my partner and daughters were a whirlwind of baking projects: Persimmon cookies and pudding; Coffee Cake; and, Mouse au chocolat. Lupe cracked some of her 2006 vintage Cabernet, and my eldest contributed some of her home-made hard cider. Our youngest found time to join us from her ever-changing living situation in close-by Ashland, where she will be teaching the finer points of carving to classes full of anxious pre-teen plankers on the slopes of Mt. Ashland.

I'm heading back to work for at least a while tomorrow morning. Just to check the pulse of the business and catch up. I'll be posting about that assignment next week. I have been at this new consulting gig since July 18th, and I'm very grateful to be working in this tough economy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ginormous Ice Santa Rules

Leave it to the Chinese to sculpt what is claimed to be the world's largest ice Santa.

Yea, that's what I'm talkin about. A mountainous St. Nick in an Asian winter wonderland. How counter-intuitive from an ostensibly communist country. And the day after the holiday, some lucky planker may get to carve Santa a new pirate face. Arrghh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Convenient Death - Troubling Implications

Here's a very troubling report, worthy of attention and close monitoring. Whenever a high-level whistle-blower dies unexpectedly, especially Karl Rove's IT guru, questions are begged; investigation is mandatory; and press coverage is presumed. Thanks to Boing Boing for ensuring this story didn't get lost in the noise.

This would be alarming enough by itself, but there's more. The whole email and White House communication scandal shows no signs of going away or being resolved anytime soon, as this comprehensive overview in the Washington Post reveals today.