Sunday, June 26, 2011

Journalists Just Doing Their Jobs

Israel's Government Press Office has warned journalists that joining the flotilla to Gaza, a.k.a Freedom Flotilla II, is an illegal act, even for members of the press. Anybody on board would be deported, barred from entering Israel for the next ten years, and their equipment would be confiscated.

This is an idiotic policy. By joining the flotilla, the journalists are just doing their job - covering news as it happens. They aren't there to try to break the blockade, just to report about the activists who are. The more respectable news outlets are on the boats, the better. Had there been serious journalists on the Mavi Marmara last year, the world would have probably seen more images of the armed IHH activists.

Israel should not deport journalists. It certainly shouldn't confiscate their gear. We should respect the freedom of the press, including the foreign press.

Update: The government has rescinded the Press Office's warning. Journalists will not be deported and barred from Israel for ten years, and neither will their gear be confiscated. Good. I'm glad the government has come to its senses. It is just too bad that it didn't do the right thing from the get-go. The warning should never have been issued in the first place.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Second Gaza Flotilla

Pro-Palestinian solidarity activists from around the world are preparing for the adventure of a lifetime. The so-called Freedom Flotilla II will set sail for the Gaza Strip this week. Fortunately, the most extreme faction of the first flotilla, the Turkish IHH, has decided not to participate and will not send the Mavi Marmara for a replay, probably because of pressure from the Turkish government. So now, those who are left on the different boats are mostly well-meaning people who don't fully understand that they're trying to enter a territory controlled by a terrorist organization (and who in their right mind would try to do that?), and that they are playing into the hands of said terrorist organization, Hamas, rather than helping the Palestinian civilians of Gaza in any way, shape or form.

As for Israel, I'd rather it decided to inspect the boats for weapons and then let them continue on their way. That doesn't seem to be the policy. The second best approach would be to drag the boats to Ashdod without boarding them at sea. That would definitely minimize the chances of violence erupting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weiner Resigns

Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York is resigning after it was revealed that he sent lewd pictures of himself to women online. This is probably the right thing to do. After all, at least some of these women did not ask for pictures of his man parts, which would make what he did sexual harassment. Had all the women involved consented to sexting and Congressional porn, I'd think Weiner should stay, despite his perverted ways.That doesn't seem to be the case, though.

I'm tempted to make juvenile jokes about who would run for his seat (Andy Dick? A-Rod?), but I won't. Oh, wait, I just did... :)

When Prose Writers and Poets Take Over a Newspaper

Today's Haaretz is the third annual Writers' Edition (Hebrew here), marking the beginning of Hebrew Book Week. 53 Israeli and foreign authors have taken over the entire news section, op-ed pages and some of the culture section (but interestingly, TheMarker, Haaretz's economic section, is still in the hands of professional business journalists, at least in the Hebrew edition), plus there is a 120-page book section.

Here are some highlights worth reading:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Military Intervention in Syria?

It now seems like Bashar Assad's war crimes are equal to, if not greater than, those committed by Muammar Gadhafi. It is logical to ask, then, why is the world intervening in Libya but not in Syria. I heard one analyst say that the answer is that nobody knows who will win in Syria, while in Libya, it seemed clear that Gadhafi was a gonner. I'm not satisfied by that answer. After all, the Brotherly Leader is still holding on. Maybe the answer is oil? I just don't know.

There is one more factor that should be taken into consideration, and is probably on the minds of NATO leaders. If NATO attacks Syria, Assad could retaliate by attacking Israel. Hezbollah, which has reportedly sent thugs to help the Alawites suppress the demonstrations, could also launch missiles at Israel, hoping such an action would help secure the regime of one of their two patrons. After all, nothing can unite an Arab nation more than hatred for Israel.

For this admittedly self-centered reason, I oppose military intervention in Syria. I support other kinds of sanctions against the regime.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Blog List

I just noticed my BlogRoll has been out of commission for a while. Apparently stopped operations months ago. Now I'm using Blogger's "Blog List" feature, which shows the blogs I choose to list, as well as a link to their latest post. If a blog is on my list, it means I like reading it and find it interesting, but it doesn't mean I agree. As you'll notice, the blogs on the list don't agree with each other, either.

I don't remember what was on my BlogRoll, so some blogs I used to list may not be on there anymore. I'm sure I'll add some more as time goes by.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Netanyahu the Rejectionist

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made sure today that France will vote in favor of a Palestinian State at the UN next September. He rejected the French offer to hold a peace conference, despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas has already accepted it. Netanyahu's explanation was that he can't negotiate with a government that includes Hamas, and neither can he accept a negotiation based on the 1967 lines.

First of all, despite the reconciliation agreement, Hamas is not yet in the government. Secondly, Israel should continue negotiating with the Fatah representatives in the Palestinian government, and just not talk to the Hamasniks. Also, even if Netanyahu opposes the 1967 lines, he should say "okay, we'll negotiate in France, but not based on any preconditions".

A Note to Naksa Day Protesters

If you try to cut down the border fence, climb over it or try to cross it in any way, and you get killed in the process, it is your own goddamn fault.

While I'd rather the IDF used non-lethal methods to push people away from the fence, I can also understand the use of live ammo. Breaching the border is not non-violence. The so-called Palestinian refugees will never be able to exercise their mythical right of return by force.

And by the way, I'm not denying there are Palestinian refugees, or that the question of what happens with the Palestinian diaspora is not a problem that has to be solved. However, most of these protesters are not refugees according to the standards set for all refugees who are not Palestinians.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Israelis and the Refugees

Carlo Strenger is a smart guy. He is a Tel-Aviv University professor and a Haaretz columnist. He usually knows what he's talking about. In this weekend's newspaper, however, he showed ignorance about the Palestinians' views on one of the conflict's toughest issues:

"There is but one way in which the looming collision could be made less catastrophic. Obama could decide to change course; instead of opposing recognition of Palestine, he could support it, as Israel should, if it acted rationally, under two conditions: Palestinians have to renounce any claims this side of the 1967 borders, including the right of return, and the Arab League would recognize Israel’s legitimacy and move towards normal relations. Palestinians would probably agree to that, and so would the Arab League as this corresponds to its peace initiative."
(Read the whole thing in English or Hebrew)
Strenger thinks the Palestinians would probably agree to renounce the right of return in exchange for American and Israeli recognition at the UN. In the Hebrew original, he even uses stronger language - instead of "probably" there is a phrase closer in meaning to "obviously". Obviously, the Palestinians will give up the right of return, Strenger thinks. Really?

This is one of the Palestinians' core issues, one that the masses say the leadership has no authority to compromise on. They see this as an inalienable individual right. Abbas may one day compromise on this, but only in a final agreement. He would lose all support if he announced the refugees won't come back even before he achieved de facto independence.

Strenger is just one of many Israelis who do not realize how hard it will be to reach peace with the Palestinians, especially because of their unwillingness to come to terms with the fact that they can't become citizens in Israel proper. 

Anyway, today it seems there will be another way out of this mess other than Strenger's suggestion. Abbas has agreed to resume talks in France. I hope Netanyahu follows suit.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Arab Spring and the One State Solution

The lack of democracy in the Arab world is one of the main reasons I oppose the idea of Isratine, a single country from the River Jordan to the sea. The closest thing to an Arab democracy right now is Lebanon, a country where every party has its own militia. My view has alrways been that, in a One State, we'd probably be like Lebanon at best - if democracy doesn't break down completely, that is.

Now the Arab Spring brings with it a glimpse into the possible future of the theoretical One State. Of course, this will be a long process with different outcomes in different Arab countries, and what happens in Egypt or Syria isn't exactly what would happen with the Palestinians. We can approximate, though, since many of the refugees who would return under the One State plan live in these other Arab countries, and there are other cultural similarities.

These are the questions that have to be asked: Will there indeed be Arab democracies? If so, what kind of democracies will they be. If we see illiberal democracies forming, where people get the formal right to vote but other freedoms are suppressed, this may indicate the illiberal future of an Isratine. Already, we see that the religious freedom of minorities has greatly diminished in some Arab Spring countries. I do not want to be persecuted in my own country like the Coptic Christians are in Egypt.

Also in Egypt, it seems like the new transitional regime is more interested in hanging Mubarak and his henchmen, rather than in recoving the money they stole and rebuilding Egypt. Will the new Palestinian majority not want to do something similar, by wishing to hang Jewish Israeli leaders who they believe committed crimes against them, rather than building the new joint society?

I am looking to see whether or not any Arab country will manage to achieve the level of democracy Israel has. I live in a very vibrant democracy, even though it is very flawed. Don't even start talking to me about a binational state before you prove to me that there is even a slight chance that it won't become less liberal and less democratic than it is now.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

New Sharing Options

I just enabled Blog sharing, so you can easily share my posts. Until now, the only thing you could do directly from the blog was e-mail posts to friends. Now you can blog about it, and share it on Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz (does anyone actually use Google Buzz?!? But I digress). You can also recommend it to friends by clicking on the "+1" button, and then if your friends search for something related to the content of the post, right next to the link to the post, they'll see that you recommended it. More info on "+1" in the video after the jump.

Jerusalem Day

There is no holiday with a greater disparity between the way the government celebrates it and the way the general population does not. Cabinet ministers, Knesset members and the mayor of the so-called United, Undivided Eternal City love participating in events commemorating the conquest of East Jerusalem, especially the Western (Wailing) Wall. Public schools also hold ceremonies. However, the average Israeli does not celebrate Jerusalem Day in any way, shape or form - accept for some religious people.

That most Israelis don't celebrate the holiday is an interesting fact. It isn't being boycotted. People just aren't that aware of it. I remember that in school, I'd always be surprised when teachers took us to the ceremony. "Oh, Jerusalem Day is today?" my friends and I would wonder. We also didn't understand why, if it is a holiday, we didn't get the day off from school.

So why hasn't Jerusalem Day taken root with the Israeli public? Maybe there's an Israeli sociologist or political scientist out there who knows the answer.