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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

To Any of You Going to the AIPAC Policy Conference – Please Send Me a Report

February 27, 2014 1 comment

I know that you will have an exciting time with lots of energy and hoopla.  But I am very curious to hear about the tone and content of what transpires.AIPAC Policy Conference

First, I would like to know whether Kerry’s diplomatic push is spoken of in a positive or negative manner.  That is, whether U.S. getting the sides to the table is a good thing or not – NOT whether the chances of success are good.  Not whether there is no partner, etc.  That is, does AIPAC support diplomacy with regard to the Palestinians?

I am interested to hear how much support you hear for a two state solution.  Again, not whether or not it is likely to come about right now – but whether it is a good idea or not that trying our hardest to work towards  that goal or not.  In that regard, do you hear anyone talking about the importance of coming up with some solution to the current Occupation?  Do people think that the status quo can continue indefinitely?  Or, annexation of Judea and Samaria into one Jewish state where the Palestinians have less rights than Jews?  Annexation of Judea and Samaria where it’s one person, one vote? Or, again, Do you hear anyone talking about creative solutions, like saying that it might be a good idea to freeze construction in the West Bank temporarily to see whether this might force the Palestinians to ‘put up or shut up’?

Do you hear anyone talking about very real everyday facts on the ground in the West Bank?  Like in East Jerusalem that Palestinians are being forced from their homes and replaced by Jews?  Or, about Settler violence (so called “price tag” attacks) including burning of olive trees, torching of mosques, and even firing guns at Palestinians by both settlers and even IDF – with almost no legal recourse?  Or the destruction of Bedouin structures (as flimsy as they may be) that are on their own land?  These are facts which are written about in Israeli papers that should be discussed here as well.  In the same way that the rocket firings from Gaza, or the buildup in arms by Hezbollah, or the fact that Hamas is going broke need to be discussed.  (One excellent thing is there isn’t much to discuss about violence from the West Bank against Israelis because as I understand it, in the last two years, thank God, there has only been one killing of a Jew by an Arab from the West Bank.  That is one too many – but frankly if you look into it, I believe that you will find that it is less than the number of Palestinians that have been killed by settlers and IDF during that same time period.)

Next, I am curious to know whether you hear support for diplomacy with Iran – and what the nature of the agreement is that they would support.  I personally am a big supporter of keeping the military option on the table – but even more importantly, I believe that we need to push very hard to make this diplomatic effort work.  Public criticism of the administration makes very little sense given that we are in negotiations at the moment.  Doesn’t this type of rift show weakness, not strength?  Although AIPAC finally backed off pushing the Senate Sanctions bill when the Republicans tried to force a vote (and they are still trying to force a vote by attaching the language to other bills), they essentially ignored Kerry’s specific call during Senate hearings for them to hold off on this bill until the talks had run their course.  If sanctions were supposed to force the Iranians to the bargaining table, then they worked.  It is time to support the negotiations and the negotiators.  While I have heard the argument that the Senate sanctions bill will provide more leverage, that is not the Administration’s position.  The move in the Senate appears to be more grandstanding than anything else – and particularly now that the Republicans are moving to call a vote.  Wouldn’t it be more effective to work behind the scenes to make sure that the Administration drives a hard bargain?

Also, I would like to hear about the diplomatic proposals that are being discussed.  Although it would best if Iran dismantled their entire program – no enrichment, no centrifuges, no missiles – realistically, they will never agree to this.  It would be too much of a loss of face for them both internationally and domestically.  Therefore, be aware that anyone proposing no enrichment is not seriously supporting a diplomatic agreement.  They aren’t necessarily warmongers – but many do in fact know that the Iranians will never accept this, but it is their way of “supporting” diplomacy while knowing that their position has no chance of acceptance.  Listen carefully to people.   Some will say that Iran must be prevented from getting a nuclear Others will say that it must be prevented from having a nuclear capability.  This is a significant difference and you should listen closely for who says which.  If they say capability, they are usually also saying that Iran must eliminate their entire nuclear program – which as I said above is totally unrealistic.

I am particularly interested to know how much talk there is about the consequences of possible military action – and what the speakers say about it.  I haven’t seen the agenda, but I believe that there may indeed be some experts discussing this and I would be interested to know what their assessments are.

Finally, a little prognostication on my part.  My bet is that every Congressman and Senator will say the following:

“Israel is our greatest ally”

“Israel shares our values”

“Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, the US and the entire world”

“Iran is the greatest supporter of terrorism in the world”  [What ever happened to Al Qaeda?]

“The military option must not be taken off the table”  [A very true statement – but how many folks are willing to talk about the exact make up of the military action – and what the resulting risks and consequences might be.  Are folks willing to risk Hezbollah raining down hundreds or thousands of rockets on Israel?  The question needs to be discussed]

“Israel’s security is our number one priority”

“I love Israel [more than the next guy]”

Don’t get me wrong, these are all good things.  Most of these are true statements.  However, the answers are so pat, that they border on pandering – and most important, it is not good if this is the level of sophistication with which these people are going to be basing their votes on when it comes to legislation that has such serious consequences for the US, Israel and the entire world.

Looking forward to hearing about the Conference.  Have a great trip and enjoy!

President Obama’s Plans Trip to Israel: Hopefully It Can Break the Logjam

February 6, 2013 Comments off

Facts To Think About Regarding Handling Jerusalem In A Two-State Deal

June 7, 2012 Comments off

As Richard Goldwasser points out in his op-ed “Jerusalem The Divisible” in today’s Times of Israel:

The ostensibly unassailable assumption that Jerusalem must remain Israel’s undivided and eternal capital, however, fails to take into account the evolution of Jerusalem’s boundaries.

He goes on to give an extremely brief – but enlightening – outline of some of the highlights of the history of Jerusalem’s boundaries.  His conclusion:

Abraham Lincoln once posited, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” So it is with Jerusalem. Calling the Palestinian village of Beit Hanina Jerusalem doesn’t make it Jerusalem. At least not in a way that has any meaning for the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem. Perhaps that is why two of Israel’s past prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, were prepared to cede the Palestinian neighborhoods in present-day Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state. 

A Sane View of The Diplomacy vs. War Options with Iran: Watch Trita Parsi on Last Night’s Daily Show

March 10, 2012 Comments off

Perhaps, one of the wisest, most common sense observations that I have heard to date regarding the current situation with Iran can be heard in the following clip from the extended interview of my good friend, Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), last night on Jon Stewart’s show. Here is the quote:

You don’t get democracy to be born out of a war, I think that we should have learned that by now…and where there is a war, it enables governments to further do away with civil liberties of their populations…The pro-democracy movement [in Iran] is yelling and screaming “Don’t go to war”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the media is picking that up.

Here is Part 2 of the interview (which the quote comes from)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Trita Parsi Extended Interview – Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:410247
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

In Part 1 of the interview, which was the actual footage shown on air, Trita presents some insightful counter-arguments to the current push for military action against Iran.  Trita’s new book, The Single Roll of the Dice, documents the history of U.S. diplomacy with Iran from 2003 to present and how internal domestic interests and unlucky timing prevented any progress. 

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Trita Parsi Extended Interview – Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:410246
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

The Sleeping Giant Awakes or, at least, Yawns

March 2, 2012 Comments off

Ok. It’s been many moons since you’ve seen a post from me.
It’s been partly a matter of time, partly a matter of not having anything brilliant to say, and partly (maybe mostly) because a lot of things to be said regarding the Middle East were so depressing.  Although I can’t say things are less depressing now – actually just the opposite – but it is time again to try to make a real push to say some things worth saying and to expand my readership.  Coming up on the agenda: the AIPAC Policy Conference – this Sunday and Monday. I will be tweeting (www.twitter.com/beyondzs) live from the floor and hopefully wrapping up with a post each night. Check it out for a different perspective.

To see a very cool giant awake, sip a Johnnie Walker and watch this video. I think you’ll enjoy it.

So, please review my next few posts and if you find them worthwhile, please circulate them to any friends that might be interested.  I would appreciate that.

Scathing Attack on J-Street in Today’s Jerusalem Post

August 11, 2011 4 comments

In what was nominally a review of Jeremy Ben-Ami‘s new book, “A New Voice for Israel“,  inIsi Leibler an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post titled ” J Street’s Soft Sell for the Uninformed“, Isi Leibler pulled out every argument to discredit J Street as not being “pro-Israel” that has been used over the past two years .  His arguments use half-truths, lack of context, and every mistake that J Street has ever made (and there have been a few) to malign the organization.  He trots out Gaza, Goldstone, UN vote, blah blah blah.  His conclusion can be summed up as follows:

The dividing lines between J Street and mainstream Jewish groups are not its views, but its efforts to convince Americans to encourage President Barack Obama to pressure the Israeli government. It is surely unconscionable for trendy American Jews to canvass their government to force Israel to act contrary to its will regarding national security, with potential life-and-death repercussions. J Street justifies this on the grounds that Israelis need “tough love,” comparing us to children on drugs who must be pressured into doing what’s good for them, or impounding the car keys of a drunken friend…

The list of J Street’s anti-Israel initiatives is endless. Most are either ignored or played down in Ben-Ami’s misleading book, which could well serve as a case study of Orwellian double-speak, topped by the dishonest manner in which it portrays itself as “pro-Israel”.

I sent a Letter to the Editor of the JP in response to the column that essentially said:

“This is a fantastic* piece of satire.  Some of the facts presented are undoubtedly true – but many of them simply repeat previous criticisms of J Street which have been shown to be half-truths or simply taken out of context.  Since, I doubt that Mr. Leiber is ill-informed about these matters, they are either thinly veiled political polemics, or meant to be viewed in a satirical context.  I assumed the latter because there was a clue that clearly gave it away.  He writes that “in Ben-Ami’s misleading book, which could well serve as a case study of Orwellian double-speak, topped by the dishonest manner in which it portrays itself as “pro-Israel”.”  Once I read that I realized that he had written a piece filled with facts that were either “ignored or played down” that he meant the entire column to be read as a mobius strip of so-called Orwellian logic.

Brilliant.

* Merriam-Webster Online:  Definition of FANTASTIC

1 a : based on fantasy : not real”

David Grossman’s Poetic Essay on Saturday’s March in Tel Aviv

August 9, 2011 Comments off

From the Guardian: Thousands of Israelis march in central Tel Aviv during a protest against the rising cost of living in Israel. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

Richard Goldwasser translated a heartfelt reaction and reflection by one of Israel’s top writers, David Grossman (Yellow Wind, To the End of the Land) about his march on Saturday night, along with 300,000 others, in the demonstrations in Tel Aviv.  A sample paragraph seems to capture how many of us feel about the world around us today.  As a matter of fact, it strikes me that by changing a few names and places – and squinting into the future at the descriptions of the demonstrations actually taking place – this essay could just have easily been written about the situation right here in the USA:

And then also rises the amazement where were we until today? How did we allow this to happen? How have we put up with governments that we have chosen turning our health and our children’s education into luxuries? How did we not shout when the Treasury officials crushed the social workers, and before them – the disabled, the Holocaust survivors, the old, and the pensioners? How for years have we pushed the hungry and the poor into soup kitchens and charities and to lives of humiliation for generations. And how have we abandoned the foreign workers to the abuse of their persecutors and exploiters, to the slave trade and the trafficking of women. And how have we put up with the destructive instances of privatization, and among them the privatization of everything dear to us – solidarity, responsibility, mutual aid and the sense of belonging as a people?

I urge you to read the entire essay at Blog Zahav:  http://blogzahav.blogspot.com/2011/08/david-grossman-window-to-new-future.html#comments

   

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