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Israel

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The Massacre in Gaza.

“In the past seven or more years, Israel has besieged, tormented, and regularly attacked the Gaza Strip. The pretexts change: they elected Hamas; they refused to be docile; they refused to recognize Israel; they fired rockets; they built tunnels to circumvent the siege; and on and on. But each pretext is a red herring, because the truth of ghettos…is that, eventually, the ghetto will fight back. It was true in Soweto and Belfast, and it is true in Gaza.”

In the New Yorker, Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi excoriates Israel’s “collective punishment” in Gaza, and our complicity in it. “[T]he United States puts its thumb on the scales in favor of the stronger party. In this surreal, upside-down vision of the world, it almost seems as if it is the Israelis who are occupied by the Palestinians, and not the other way around. In this skewed universe, the inmates of an open-air prison are besieging a nuclear-armed power with one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world.”

And before the Jon Stewart heads start popping up to accuse Khalidi of rabid anti-Semitism for questioning the targeted bombing of civilian infrastructure, see also Roger Cohen’s recent piece in the NYT:

“What I cannot accept, however, is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the inexorable growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; that has, for almost a half-century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank; that has led to the steady expansion of Israeli settlements on the very West Bank land of any Palestinian state…that pursues policies that will make it impossible to remain a Jewish and democratic state; that seeks tactical advantage rather than the strategic breakthrough of a two-state peace; that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and is then surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates; and that responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children.” This.

When Gaza erupted in 2009, I posted about how we needed here in America “the type of broader range of discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that you can find it…say, Israel. It’s both embarrassing and extremely counterproductive for our nation to be seen — and to continually be used — as a knee-jerk diplomatic dupe that will always blindly support policies initiated by the most conservative factions in Israeli politics.”

Well, not much seems to have changed in Washington, unfortunately. Bibi Netanyahu is still the Dubya of Israel (tho’ these days Andrew Jackson comes to mind), still doing all he can to destroy any hope of a two-state solution. His government is offering up absurd defenses for murdering civilians that we wouldn’t countenance for a second if they came, from, say, Russia. And, as usual, we — and we alone — are backing their play at the UN.

Still, whether it is social media, a generational shift, or just shock at the scale of death and destruction happening, at least a broader discussion about the conflict is breaking out here in America this time.

Let’s hope it continues. Despite all the heat that’s shed on this topic, we should all at least be able to agree that there is such a thing as a wildly disproportionate response, and the IDF killing 1200-odd civilians who have nowhere left to evacuate to, in a bombing campaign with no end in sight, should probably qualify. At the very least, we can stop footing the bill for these sorts of atrocities.

Quantum Echo.

‘It’s really cool,’ says Jeremy O’Brien, an experimenter at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the work. Such time-separated entanglement is predicted by standard quantum theory, O’Brien says, ‘but it’s certainly not widely appreciated, and I don’t know if it’s been clearly articulated before.'”

By utilizing (as I understand it) the transitive properties of quantum entanglement, scientists in Israel manage to link two photons that never exist at the same time. “It’s really neat because it shows more or less that quantum events are outside our everyday notions of space and time…This sort of thing opens up people’s minds and suddenly somebody has an idea to use it in quantum computing or something.”

Ruins of Babel. | Pompeii of the North.

“The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of ‘unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders,’ and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons, the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships.” A sonar survey of the Sea of Galilee uncovers a large, ancient, and man-made cairn beneath the waves. “Underwater archaeological excavation is needed so scientists can find associated artifacts and determine the structure’s date and purpose, the researchers said.” Seems pretty clear it was built either to hide an ancient spaceship or hold in Cthulhu.

In similar news, and as seen in the comments of Charlie Pierce’s post on this subject, a dig in the center of London uncovers the ancient Roman city beneath. “The area has been dubbed the ‘Pompeii of the north’ due to the perfect preservation of organic artefacts such as leather and wood. One expert said: ‘This is the site that we have been dreaming of for 20 years.'”

(Ground) Zero Tolerance.

I can’t think of a surer way to lose both our national soul and the struggle against terrorism. Yes, Mr. Gingrich and Ms. Palin, there’s a cultural-political offensive afoot to undermine our civilization. And you’re leading it.Slate‘s William Saletan reviews the current GOP jihad against a potential mosque near Ground Zero (not to be confused with the mosque that’s already been there for 40 years.) But, on the bright side, at least now we know not to take the ADL seriously anymore. (See, by way of contrast, J-Street’s statement.)

Troubled Waters.


The Israeli commando raid on Monday on an aid flotilla, which left at least nine people dead, has dragged relations between Israel and Turkey to a new low, political experts here say, threatening to derail diplomatic relations between two close American allies.

Gee, I wonder why (and as if we need another crisis right now.) All the facts aren’t in yet on what happened — in international waters — yesterday on the humanitarian-aid flotilla headed to Gaza. But, right now Slate‘s Fred Kaplan seems to be on the right track: “Israel’s storming of the Mavi Marmara, killing at least nine Free Gaza activists and wounding several more, was an act of jaw-gaping stupidity–strategically and tactically, even leaving aside morally.

And morally, there are obvious problems too. As Peter Beinart — continuing his recent heterodoxyexplained today: “[T]he embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve…There’s a name for all this: collective punishment.Also of note: today’s J-Street response: “This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza…We urge President Obama and other international and regional leaders to take today’s terrible news as an opportunity to engage even more forcefully in immediate efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I agree, and I hope our immediate actions in the wake of this flotilla fiasco (I feel like I’m using that word a lot lately, and yet it continually applies) — watering down the UN resolution and working the phones for Israel — are being done with an eye to the long game of bringing peace to the region, not just the usual, reflexive circling of the wagons.

Forward Unto Zion.

Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster — indeed, have actively opposed — a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Making the rounds this week, and making a break from his former boss Marty Peretz, former TNR editor Peter Beinart laments the “failure [re: conservatizing] of the American Jewish establishment.” (See also the follow-up interview.) An interesting piece, but Beinart — who, by the way, is wrong often — seems to have neglected to mention the very welcome formation of J Steet. They seem to be way ahead of him on this.

Frere Jacques, Dormez-Vous?

z'[W]ith Reagan, the prophecy appreciation part of his brain functioned quite independently of the part that started wars (there’s nothing in the Old Testament about Nicaragua or even Grenada). Bush seems to have taken the threat of Gog and Magog to Israel quite literally, and, if this story can be believed, to have launched a war to stop them.

One rather frightening story from a few days ago: As if the recent “Onward Christian Soldiers” war reports in GQ weren’t Crusadery enough, it appears that Dubya explictly invoked the End of Days to convince Jacques Chirac to get involved in the Iraq War, making his appeal Christian-to-Christian about the unholy dangers of Gog & Magog. Uh, really? (Apparently, Chirac has confirmed it.)

Harman on the Hook.

“‘It’s the deepest kind of corruption,’ said a recently retired longtime national security official who was closely involved in the AIPAC investigation, ‘which was years in the making. It’s a story about the corruption of government — not legal corruption necessarily, but ethical corruption.” In a fascinating (and depressing) must-read, Congressional Quarterly‘s Jeff Stein lays bare a byzantine corruption scandal involving AIPAC, the Dubya WH, and Jane Harman, former Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee and, some grumbling aside, basically a “team player” for Dubya during the illegal and warrantless wiretaps episode. (Irony of ironies, it appears Harman’s misdeeds were caught on — a court-approved — wiretap.)

Talking Points Memo offers a handy timeline of the case here. Basically, on one level it’s your basic political quid-pro-quo. Harman told an unnamed suspected Israeli agent that she would “waddle into” a federal espionage case then extant against two members of AIPAC and gum up the works somehow. In return, “the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi…to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections.” (It didn’t take: Pelosi instead chose Silvestre Reyes.) “Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, ‘This conversation doesn’t exist.’

Sordid enough. But what’s a mid-oughts scandal without the Dubya angle? After she had been caught on said wiretap, a federal investigation into Harman was approved…for awhile. But it seems Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now knew he had Harman in his pocket, and took advantage accordingly. “According to two officials privy to the events, Gonzales said he ‘needed Jane’ to help support the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times. Harman, he told [CIA Director Porter] Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program. He was right. On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, ‘I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.’

Not that I need to remind anyone here, but Dubya’s use of illegal and warrantless wiretaps would, in more cases, be recognized as an impeachable offense. As it was, the Senate GOP (then in the catbird seat) held firm against hearings, and many of our congressional Dems — Feingold, Leahy, and a few other lonely souls notwithstanding — folded like a house of cards. Now, at least in the case of Harman, we know why.

Update: The NYT weighs in with their side, and it’s TLDR’ed by TPM. And Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald has a good bit of snarky fun with Harman’s recent “road to Damascus” moment regarding wiretaps.

Gaza: No Easy Answers.

Speaking of those ostensibly terror-despising free peoples, I haven’t written here on the depressing situation in Gaza, but friend and colleague Liam of sententiae et clamores concisely and elegantly summed up my basic sentiment toward recent events the other day: “it seems that almost all the discussion and reporting on the issue is one-sided and simplistic. Let me state my position: I am pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, anti-Hamas and against current Israeli policy. I oppose what the Israeli government is doing now in the same way I opposed my own government’s war against Iraq: not only is it immoral, heartless, and cynical, but actually increases the long-term security problems for Israel, much like our invasion of Iraq has weakened our own security situation.

Given what little I know about what’s going on, that’s basically my view of it as well. On the one hand, Israel is responding to an untenable security situation — Hamas rockets being fired into neighborhoods and cities — that we wouldn’t tolerate for a second. (In fact, we invaded Iraq on a much flimsier security pretext.) Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Israel is trying to run the table right here right now, in the twilight moments of the Dubya presidency, because they know they have carte blanche from 43 to do what they will. And I suspect this particular neocon-run advance, like all the rest of ‘em in recent years, is doomed to failure — if anything, I’d wager, it’s just swelling the ranks (and the coffers) of Hamas.

Regardless, the Obama administration and Secretary of State Clinton are going to have their work cut out for them. I’m not one who believes particularly that conflicts with roots in millennia-long religious strife can get “solved” in one or two US presidential terms. But let’s at least hope, under their watch, we can start to achieve the type of broader range of discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that you can find in…say, Israel. It’s both embarrassing and extremely counterproductive for our nation to be seen — and to continually be used — as a knee-jerk diplomatic dupe that will always blindly support policies initiated by the most conservative factions in Israeli politics.

Ex-Pats United.

It’s not just here at home. Sen. Obama takes the Americans Abroad primary 2-1 (65%-32%), winning most of the countries around the world (Ex-pats in Israel and the Philippines opted for Clinton.) Thanks, Kris, and all the other Obama voters out there across the seas. Update: Clinton did well in the DR as well.

Annapolis: Too Little, Too Late?

“The consequences of Bush and Rice’s passivity were disastrous. Israel didn’t lose the war, but it didn’t win, either, and that’s what it had to do to maintain its image of invincibility, which has long deterred hostile neighbors from contemplating aggression. Hezbollah didn’t win, but all it had to do was not lose, and it clearly achieved that goal, enhancing its reputation as the power that had stood up to the Zionists and faced them down.” In his discussion of the recent Mideast summit in Annapolis (which publicly aimed to kickstart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and privately aimed to pry Syria further away from Iran), Slate‘s Fred Kaplan brings up a crucial — and missed — opportunity for diplomacy last year, during the Israel-Lebanon crisis. “(By the way, this may have been the genesis of a new Israeli verb, lecondel—in Hebrew, ‘to Condel,’ short for ‘to Condoleezza’ — meaning, as the New York Times’ Steven Erlanger has explained, to come and go for meetings that produce few results.)” And, speaking of political linguistics, it turns out that Annapolis, however picturesque, might not have been the best place to hold the summit — In Arabic, “Annapolis” roughly translates to “I am the Police.”

No Time for Fools.

“If you’re really worried about Iran, do you want to put your faith in the United States, the country that bungled Iraq? If you really care about Islamic fundamentalism, do you want to be led by the country that, distracted by Iraq, failed to predict the return of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan?” Why has the world soured on America of late? The real reason, argues Slate‘s Anne Applebaum and the data she surveys, is that, thanks to seven years of Dubya, we’re starting to look incompetent. “And even if the surge works, even if the roadside bombs vanish, inept is a word that will always be used about the Iraqi invasion.

Song for Bill.

“Seen the arrow on the doorpost saying, ‘This land is condemned, all the way from New Orleans to Jerusalem.’ I traveled through East Texas where many martyrs fell, and I know no one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.” Or Kind Willie Clinton, for that matter…a belated happy birthday to our ex-president, who turned 60 yesterday.

Democracy Dubyaed Down | Condi’s PhD Shield.

“Once again, Bush demonstrated that he doesn’t understand what makes young democracies flourish or why Hezbollah has appeal even to many nonterrorists. He doesn’t seem to realize that democratic governments require democratic institutions and the resources to make them thrive. He evinces no awareness that the longer Israel bombs Beirut into oblivion, the harder it becomes for Siniora (who has few resources) to retain legitimacy — and the easier it becomes for Hezbollah (which has many more resources) to gain still greater power.Slate‘s Fred Kaplan parses yet another dismaying press performance by Dubya regarding the current international scene.

Update: “Scholars who enter the chambers of power should use their training as a tool to help them make decisions. Condi Rice is using hers as a chant to wish away the consequences.” In a related piece, Kaplan examines Condoleeza Rice’s tendency to hide behind her PhD when faced with tough questions. Well, she may be a “student of history,” but as Sean Wilentz noted earlier, she’s never been a very good one when you get right down to it (although, to her credit, she has been very busy creating work for future members of the profession.)

What the hell are we supposed to use, man? Harsh language?

‘What about Kofi Annan?’ Bush asked Blair. ‘I don’t like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically cease-fire and everything else happens.’Dubya and Tony Blair get caught (apparently) off-guard and on tape discussing the escalating crisis in the Middle East. “Bush said that he feels ‘like telling Kofi to get on the phone with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and make something happen. We’re not blaming Israel, and we’re not blaming the Lebanese government.’” (A lot of news sources seem to be fronting Dubya’s use of the S-word — “See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” — but, really, who gives a shit about his language?) “Bush also told Blair that he would be sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region soon. ‘She’s going,’ Bush said. ‘I think Condi’s going to go pretty soon.’Update: Watch it online, just to get a sense of how boorish and out-of-his-depth our president seems on the world stage. (Exhibit B: Dubya’s ill-fated and cringeworth back-rub attempt.)

From Beirut to Jerusalem.

More grim news in the world-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket department: So, obviously, there now seems to be a full-fledged firing war going on between Israel and Hezbollah, one which has already set back Lebanon years and threatens to bring in Syria and Iran as official combatants (a.k.a. Hezbollah‘s main backers) if it keeps up. For his part, other than having Bolton spike a UN resolution condemning Israel for “disproportionate use of force,” Dubya has been basically AWOL in terms of world leadership — in fact, he’s been more effusive about a German pig of late than he has a conflagration that threatens nothing less than full-scale war across the Middle East. Where have you gone Bill Clinton, our nation turns it lowly eyes to you?

The Rockets’ Red Glare.

A belated happy 230th Independence Day to you and yours, and here’s hoping the recent spate of scary news (North Korean missiles, incipent war in Gaza) didn’t detract too much from the festivities in your parts. (Also, with regards to more joyous fourth of july rocket launches, congrats to the crew of Discovery STS-121 on a successful return to space yesterday.)

Tehran Talks (More) Terror.

We say that this fake regime [Israel] cannot … logically continue to live.” How ’bout some WWIII grandstanding to go with your Monday coffee? In a press conference early this morning (EST), Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes more freakshow statements about Israel, and Israel, rightly, is not amused: ‘Of all the threats we face, Iran is the biggest. The world must not wait. It must do everything necessary on a diplomatic level in order to stop its nuclear activity,’ [Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz told a conference on Iran at Tel Aviv University. ‘Since Hitler we have not faced such a threat,’ he added.

Rumors of War?

“God may smile on us, but I don’t think so. The bottom line is that Iran cannot become a nuclear-weapons state. The problem is that the Iranians realize that only by becoming a nuclear state can they defend themselves against the U.S. Something bad is going to happen.” Although Dubya is personally dismissing the report as “wild speculation”, The New Yorker‘s Sy Hersh argues in a terrifying piece that the administration is actively planning for “regime change” in Iran, and — no joke — the use of tactical nuclear weapons (particularly “bunker-busters”) is on the table.

No doubt about it, this is trouble. A nuclear Iran would represent a grievous threat to the region (and particularly Israel), and must be prevented by diplomatic means if at all possible. But, after the Iraq WMD debacle, this administration has become the boy who cried wolf, and — just as the US is facing perhaps its thorniest diplomatic issue yet, neither our European allies nor many US observers trust Dubya’s motives or credibility any more, to say nothing of his basic competence. (“Speaking of President Bush, [one] House member said, ‘The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.’.”) And, needless to say, if Dubya and the neocons screw this one up, the consequences for both the entire Middle East and the war on terror — as well as our own homeland security — could be nightmarish. “If we move against Iran, Hezbollah will not sit on the sidelines. Unless the Israelis take them out, they will mobilize against us…If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle.

Update: ““I’m announcing officially that Iran has now joined the countries that have nuclear technology.” The situation darkens with Iran’s successful (increased) enrichment of uranium. “Iran had previously enriched uranium to a level of about 2 percent, using a smaller cascade, and separately enriched uranium to about 15 percent during laser experiments in 2002. Bomb-grade uranium must be enriched to a level of well over 80 percent…Though it is technically possible, most nuclear experts agree it is unlikely Iran would be able to make bomb-grade uranium with the[ir current] 164-centrifuge cascade.” Still, Russia and Britain are decrying the advance, and Secretary Rice wants “strong steps” by the UN Security Council in reply.

Burning Bush.

Thanks to the ugly public machinations of Casino Jack and Boss DeLay, GOP courting of the “September 12″ vote stalls out. “‘September 12 Republicans’ were Jewish Democrats and independents who would switch their allegiance because of their concern over national security and their appreciation of President Bush’s stalwart support of Israel.

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