Sunday, June 14, 2009

Netanyahu's Speech

Well, the room was smaller and the applause pathetic compared to Barack Obama's speech at Cairo University, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech as Bar-Ilan University has important ramifications. On the one hand, he finally accepted the idea of a Palestinian State, and called for negotiations with Arab countries. On the other, he refused to stop settlement expansion, declared Jerusalem will never be divided and demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, something they will never agree to.

The most interesting idea in his speech is his call for a demilitarized Palestinian State. He's absolutely right to demand that. Palestinians will always keep wishing Israel never existed. The only way to make sure Palestine won't try to retake what it sees as its rightful territory is by making sure it is disarmed. The new state must not look like Gaza does now. I don't support Israeli control of Palestine's airspace, though. While the proximity of Gaza and the West Bank to Tel-Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport poses a risk, I am sure there are ways to deal with the problem.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The End of the Islamic Republic?

I know this is probably wishful thinking, but I sure would be happy if the protests in Iran against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmedinijad would lead to the overthrow of the Ayatollahs. I have no idea whether or not the results were rigged, but they certainly are suspicious. Ahmadinejad and Mir Hussein Moussavi were in a tight race, according to polls, and in the end, Mr. Ratface wins over 60% of the votes?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Writers' Haaretz

It took me two days to finish reading Wednesday's special edition of Ha'aretz. To celebrate the annual Hebrew Book Week, the entire news section of the paper, an op-ed piece, the weather report and the "letters to the editor", were written by Israeli writers and poets. Two pieces were written by Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk (translated from The New Yorker) and Italian author and philosopher Umberto Eco (an amusing essay about taxi drivers originally written 20 years ago).

It was the first time I've read the entire news section cover to cover and I enjoyed every single one of the articles (except for Shimon Adaf's over-technical report about quantum physics). The different writers wrote beautifully and from very special perspectives. I especially liked Etgar Keret's interview with Ehud Barak (Hebrew here), David Grossman's report from a rehab center for youth (Hebrew here) and Nurit Gertz's observations about the disconnect between Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the staff of his ministry (Hebrew here).

To see all the articles in Hebrew click here. For the articles in English click here and choose June 10 from the drop down menu on the left (sorry, there doesn't seem to be a static URL for the English edition of the writers' table of contents).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Haaretz's Poetic License

Ha'aretz will conduct an interesting experiment tomorrow, in honor of the annual Hebrew Book Week, a nationwide celebration of literature. The paper's usual journalists will have the day off, and instead, the entire newspaper - news, opinions, features and even the weather report - will be written by 35 prose writers and poets, "through their own experience" (whatever that means).

Yes, it's mostly a publicity stunt (though not a very good one - since I only know about it because I read today's print edition - the website has nothing about it and I haven't seen any commercials about it either), and writing subjectively about the news by people who usually write literature is very un-journalistic. I don't see the New York Times, Washington Post or Le Monde handing over their news pages to non-journalists. I really don't care about all that, though. Since it is just a one time thing, I don't see this as an insult to the idea of objective, professional reporters covering the issues in as balanced a way as possible.

So, if any of you notice new bylines and offbeat reports tomorrow on Ha'aretz's website, don't be surprised.

Expect more on this tomorrow, after I read the special edition.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Amendment Amendment

Don't get me wrong, I have better things to do, but for some reason, after finding an old copy of the United States Constitution (old enough to be missing the 27th amendment), I just felt like writing an amendment to the method of proposing and ratifying amendments. Here it is, and any Senator or Representative can feel free to submit it to Congress (not that I have delusions that anything like that is going to happen):

Section 1. (1) Proposed amendments to this constitution may be proposed either by two-thirds of both houses of Congress or by a Constitutional Convention called by Congress.

(2) A Constitutional Convention shall be called whenever the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states shall submit applications to Congress regarding a specific issue within three years of each other.

(3) The number of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention from each state shall be the same as the number each state in entitled to have in the House of Representatives and shall be elected by the same method as representatives by the people of each state. The qualifications to serve as Delegate shall be identical to the qualifications to serve as a Representative, as shall be the compensation each shall receive for their service. However, no senator, representative or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall serve as Delegate.

(4) The term of a Constitutional Convention shall not exceed two years. The Convention may dissolve itself earlier if, after proposing at least one amendment to the Constitution, a majority of Delegates so decides. If, after two years, a Convention fails to propose amendments, Congress may call a new convention, even without the application of the state legislatures. This right of Congress shall expire six months after the end of the Convention's term.

Section 2. (1) Amendments proposed by either method mentioned in Section 1 shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures, conventions, or the people of three-fourths of the several states, as whichever of these three modes the proposing body may direct, provided that no more than seven years shall pass from the date of proposal to the date of ratification, unless the proposing body shall specify otherwise when proposing the amendment; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

(2) Whenever conventions shall be chosen as the mode of ratification, the delegates thereof shall be specially elected for that purpose, by whichever method each state shall by law provide. No state delegate shall simultaneously serve in a state legislature, Congress, or any federal or state executive office.

Section 3. All amendments proposed to the several states more than seven years before the ratification of this article and which have not yet been ratified, shall expire one year after the ratification of this article.

Section 4. The Congress and the several states shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 5. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as previously provided in Article V of the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Goodbye Avoda

The Labor Party is finally going to split up. It's about time. Under Ehud Barak's leadership the party has lost its way. Barak takes any crap Benjamin Netanyahu throws at him.

Unfortunately, only four Knesset Members have decided to ditch Labor. Of those four, just one is a politician I like – Ofir Pines-Paz. I have mixed feelings about Eitan Cabel, who was a failure as Labor Party secretary-general but at least had the courage to quit the Olmert government after the Second Lebanon War. The other two defectors are Amir Peretz and Yuli Tamir, both of whom I dislike just as much as I dislike Ehud Barak. Peretz is the incompetent fool who botched the Lebanon War as Defense Minister. He's nothing more than a petty wheeler and dealer. Yuli Tamir, who I used to like, was a terrible Minister of Education who promoted the horrid "Ofek Hadash" (New Horizon) reform plan, which gave teachers a very slight raise in salary in exchange for a lot more hours of work, in effect cutting their per-hour salary.

There are three MKs the defectors need in order for me to support them: Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman, Labor caucus chairman Daniel Ben-Simon, and Shelly Yechimovich. I voted for all three in the Knesset primaries (among those who ended up in the Knesset, Ofir Pines is the fourth person I voted for). If at least one of them joins, the chances of my vote going in their direction will be higher.

In any case, my association with the Labor Party is over. Unless they make major changes, I'm not going to vote for them ever again. Since I've already paid my membership dues for the year, I'll stay on as a party member in case leadership primaries are held during the time I've already paid for anyway. I will not renew my membership after that.

Six Years of Blogging

Just wanted to mention that today is the blog's sixth anniversary. It is also Emmanuel Schiff's sixth birthday as a pseudonym. On Friday, June 6, 2003, I lost my bloginity (blog virginity).

In 2006, when the date was 06/06/06 (666) I joked that my blog is satanic. Not that it's 06/06 again and the 6th anniversary, should I repeat the same joke?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Bibi and Dudu

Here's a hilarious cartoon from today's Ha'aretz:

Prime Minister Netanyahu asks: "What will we do with this Obama guy?" and one of his ministers answers "Let's consult Dudu [Topaz]".

If you don't know who Topaz is - well, to make a long story short, he is a former television star who, as revealed this week, responded disproportionately and violently to the decline of his career and to perceived threats to his prospects for renewed success.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Nakba In the Classroom

Ha'aretz reports today that Zochrot has been disseminating an educational kit about the Nakba to school teachers, and some teachers have used it. The kit includes units about Palestinian communities before 1948, personal stories of refugees, events of the 1947-1948 conflict, a discussion of the right of return and a tour of a destroyed village.

Zochrot, whose name is the feminine form of "[we] remember" in Hebrew, is an anti-Zionist organization dedicated to remembering the Palestinian villages destroyed during Israel's War of Independence, the return of Palestinian refugees and the one state solution. It is mostly made up of Jews rather than Palestinians, which makes it all the more irritating. I have no problem with Palestinians wanting to commemorate their own heritage, but far-left Jewish Israelis whining about how evil we are just piss me off. These are not the people I'd like to see teaching Israel's children.

The Nakba is a fact and should be addressed in high schools. Zochrot's way is not the way, though. Teaching children that we are the bad guys is no less simplistic than teaching them we're the good guys. Let's not teach the anti-Zionist narrative instead of the Zionist one. Show them both, side by side, analyze the differences and think about the Israeli and Palestinian versions critically.

Do it the PRIME way, not the Zochrot way.

Obama's Cairo Speech

I was very impressed by President Barack Obama's speech to the Muslim world. I disagreed with almost nothing he said. Cooperation with Muslims is a positive thing. The belligerence of the Bush years only created hostility and hindered progress for both the United States and Muslim countries.

I agreed with Obama's words about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the general Israeli-Arab situation. The two-state solution is crucial. Israel has to stop settlement activity while Israelis, Palestinians and Arab countries work toward building the infrastructure of the future Palestinian state. I also agree with his demand that Hamas must renounce violence and recognize Israel in order to be part of the peace process.

The only part of his speech I disagree with is his vision of a nuclear-free world. I'd love nothing more than to see all nukes destroyed, never to be seen again. However, I don't believe that is how things will play out. A "nuclear-free world" would, in reality, mean a situation where rogue countries would have nukes and international law-abiding nations wouldn't. What deterrent would the rogues have against nuking their enemies? Just imagine a world where nobody has WMD except for North Korea.