Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moadim L'Simcha, Happy Holidays and some rants and raves

We are reaching the end of the fall Jewish Holiday season with  Succot and Simhat Torah
Succot  is a holiday on which we are commanded by God to be happy and
we do our best. We eat in tabernacles, little huts designed to
remind us of how our ancestors in our mythic history lived in
huts in the desert.

This week is marked by people traveling
around, camping, enjoying nature, all very nice. Thursday we
have the holiday of the Eighth Day, which here in Israel
coincides with Simhat Torah, the rejoicing of the completion of
the annual cycle of reading the Torah in the synagogue.
Actually in our little Reform synagogue we read the Torah in
three years, a third of each weekly portion each week. In any
case, people will dance with the scrolls and children will wave

The flags have pictures of little boys carrying Torah
scrolls. My granddaughter Maya asked a rabbi why there are no girls carrying scrolls. I doubt that she got a satisfactory answer.

The strip Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal to which Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy introduced me has a posting  starring him on how to debate with creationists, i.e. do not even try. One should never give them the legitimacy of sharing a platform. I get calls occasionally from local community TV stations to
appear with Gaists, astrologers or creationists and I always refuse. This is why:
you should never appear with them.

OK, enough of the fun that you can find on my nice blog.  Now we have to rant.

My first rant this time is in the area of the fundamental
rights of workers to organize and to bargain collectively with
their employers. We would like to think that this is something
that everyone understands, but unfortunately this is not the
case. I would like to introduce you again to a Web site that
deals with these issues and puts out calls for urgent actions
as matters come up. It is run from London by my friend Eric
Lee. It is called Labour Start.You
will find there many important petition actions and I strongly
suggest that you register and get on their mailing list. In any
case, I shall pass on cases to you.

A particularly egregious case is in  Cambodia and
I call upon you to click and act.

Another shameful case is in the United States where USAirways
has hired a union busting company to prevent organization by
its employees.

Capital Punishment
The USA continues to kill its citizens through the judicial
process. Here is a death penalty case that should elicit a
response from all of you.

The government of North Korea is one of the most odious dictatorships in the world. The people live in dire poverty while the regime develops nuclear weapons and delivery systems. All dissent is repressed and dissidents are put away in concentration camps. Please join the call to 
close them now

Human rights violators often manage to attain impunity for
their crimes by going into exile after removal from power. Such
is the case of the former president of Chad Hissene Habre who
has been indicted for crimes against humanity but has found
refuge in Senegal. Please join the call to Senegal to extradite
him to face trial for his crimes


In a movie about Israel called State in Suspension (plug: my son in law Danny wrote the score) someone is asked who will be Israel's new enemy once peace with the Arabs is achieved. The woman asked replied with no hesitation "men!" Seriously, it seems that people need an enemy just as much as they need friends and maybe more. I would like to call your attention to a posting by Laura Miller in Salon in reference to  an essay from the 1960's by the late Richard Hofstadter about the paranoid nature of the American right. In general Laura Miller in Salon is worth readying regularly.

Apparently a week cannot go by without some terrible human rights violation in China. Tian Xi
contracted HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C through a blood transfusion in 1996, when he was nine years old. He has become an activist for people who have HIV because of malpractice. He is now in prison and in severe danger of torture simply for trying to get answers from officials. Amnesty International has put out a call for support and protest. Please act on this horrible case.

BRAZIL The long term effects of the persecution and discrimination against indigenous people in the
Western Hemisphere go on. Amnesty International has issued a call for action on behalf of people who are being held hostage on their own ancestral lands. It does not seem to matter where--the expansion of European populations into the Western Hemisphere and the subsequent extirpation or suppression of the local people seems never to end. Please help out with this protest.

This is an odd story of a neo-Nazi couple in Poland who suddenly discovered that they
were Jews themselves. It is typical of anti semites that even in a country that has very few Jews, they
manage to get blamed for everything that goes wrong. In any case, this is a story that gives you an idea
of how the effects of the Holocaust and WWII reverberate down the down the generations.


Lest anyone think that I am only a ranter about the wider world, here come the shouting and screaming at what is happening in my back yard and is being perpetrated in my name. Before we get to that, however, I
would like to comment on something that we see too often, namely Israel bashing with human rights as the excuse and antisemitism as the real motivation. Certainly our government is deserving of criticism andit is wrong to brand critics as antisemites, especially since most Israelis have never seen nor met a
real antisemite. Recently we had an example in which the Executive Director of Amnesty Finland branded Israel a "scum state." I have never seen states that have been roundly criticized by Amnesty, such as Burma, Nigeria or China labeled as such. We also see criticism of Israel while Hamas and Hezbullah are not called to account. This phenomenon is very common in Europe and other countries with predominantly Christian populations. Apparently if you are told as a child in Sunday School that the Jews killed
Christ and then became usurious moneylenders, it sticks into adulthood. Nonetheless we should be careful about differentiating between antisemitic rants and legitimate criticism of policies and actions. I am appending a piece by Amitai Etzioni about fairness of criticism. He has been over the years a strong critic of our government and its policies, so his words have weight.

In a similar vein, Benny Morris, a once revisionist historian who has moved to the right wing raises an
issue about the competing narratives of the two sides in this dispute. I do not agree with his premises and conclusions in his debate with Hitchens, but it is a point of view to be considered.

OCHA REPORT from Judith Harel=no more encouraging than usual.  Civilians are still being abused in the Occupied Territories.


In the meantime, boats continue to come towards Gaza and the Piracy 13 commandos continue to intercept them and abuse the people on board. We have a report from the Mavi Marmara that exposes the lies of the official version. The person interviewed may not be totally reliable himself, as you can gather from his profile, but his description sounds more plausible than what the army spin command told us. You can read and drawyour own   conclusions. A small boat bearing nine Jewish and Israeli activists was intercepted and brought to Ashdod. The
passengers who included a Holocaust survivor, a bereaved parent who lost a child to a suicide bomber and a former Israeli Air Force pilot offered no resistance, but this did not keep them from being abused by the gorillas who beat them and used tase guns.  The army as usual has its tissue of lies, but we all know how to relate to that. It would have been much smarter to let the symbolic aid package arrive in Gaza. Of course, we recall the scene from Good Morning
Vietnam where the general says, "military intelligence, now that is an original idea." The decision
making progress in Israel is dominated by the army and the results are uniformly catastrophic.

Our enlightened Foreign Minister Liebermann has come up with the old idea of population swap, parts of Israel with Arab population for the West Bank settlements. He did this at the UN General Assembly and basically made his own Prime Minister look like an idiot. The idea of transferring territory to a
different government without out consulting the citizens living there is racist, antidemocratic and
despicable. Naturally many leaders of the US Jewish community were as outraged as I am--something to do with growing up and being educated in a democracy, however flawed it may be.For  details click

The freeze on building in the settlements has ended and I expect that Abbas will eventually quit the
negotiations since they are a farce. They are a farce because in this country tails wag dogs and a
minority of crazy settlers are destroying our lives. They have stolen our country and are dooming it to
become eventually an Arab state, as if there were not enough Arab states. I totally agree with Bradley
Burston and he can express the outrage we share much better than I can. I will soon provide a link to
his posting, but first let me vent a bit on my own. I came here 60 years ago as a young idealist, served
in the Army, conscript, regular and reserve over a period of nearly 30 years. I did my best to educate
young scientists at Tel Aviv University in the belief that we were creating a civilized country that
could take its proper place in the family of nations. What happened was that everything was stolen from me, my religion by the Orthodox enemies of humanity, my democracy by a nefarious coalition of military fascists and settler fanatics, my desire for social justice by a swinish capitalism (phrase coined by President Peres) and a xenophobic culture that enshrines racism and calls it Zionism. We try to protest, the doctors of Physicians for Human Rights try to show a different face of Israel, Women in Black stand on street corners and are spat upon and we have small futile demonstrations that are largely ignored. As Itzhak Laor puts it the most we seem able to do is to "like" things on Facebook.
Now you can get the full blast of what this is all about from a
more accomplished blogger.

This has become very long so I shall send you off for the holiday with some good news on a human rights struggle reported by Andy Borowitz.

  Gene Weingarten has some sad words on the demise of English.
should come to Israel where Hebrew after being a dead language
for 2,000 years was resurrected for a while and has died again,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for linking to our action for Reggie Clemmons and your support of human rights!

    Digital Engagement Team
    Amnesty International