Friday, January 28, 2011

The Bad News Blog is Back, January 27, 2010

This week we open the nasty blog with what I think is an appropriate picture, the mug shot of   Al Capone at Alcatraz prison. It is appropriate because this arch criminal, head of an empire of prostitution, gambling, bootlegging and drug dealing, who murdered countless people, went to prison for violation of Prohibition laws and income tax evasion.  It is analogous to investigating land grabs as a possible  impediment to appointing the new Chief of Staff of our glorious IDF, the most moral army in the world.   Gideon Levy has pointed out most aptly that the land theft, false statements and self-aggrandizement of Yoav Galant pale in comparison with his war crimes and brutality towards the civilian population of Gaza during Cast Lead over which he presided as Southern Command General.  The furor over the greed and arrogance seems silly when the man is not tried for his real crimes.   Alon Idan notes sarcastically, but correctly, that the greed, arrogance and general turpitude of Galant qualify him perfectly to be the Chief of Staff.  I say that if his appointment is blocked, we should settle for the justice that we can get.

ישעיהו מ"ב ו אֲנִי יְהוָה קְרָאתִיךָ בְצֶדֶק, וְאַחְזֵק בְּיָדֶךָ; וְאֶצָּרְךָ, וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם--לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם.
 For the Hebrew-challenged amongst the readers:
 Isaiah 42:6
I, the Lord, Have Called you in Righteousness, and Will Hold your hand and Keep you. And I Will
establish you as a Covenant of the people, for a Light unto the nations.

THE WORLD Before we get on to the calamities in Israel let us take a look around the world.


 The successful uprising in Tunisia, which, we have reason to hope. will lead to a democratic regime, is having echoes elsewhere in the Arab world. Tens of thousands are protesting the Mubarak regime in Egypt and, while the government is trying to put it down by force, the demonstrations are going forward and deserve support from all of us. Here is a. report from Amnesty USA.  The establishment of a democratic government in Egypt and other Arab countries can only be good for Israel and the cause of peace. The opposition is led by the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Nobel peace laureate and Egyptian opposition politician Mohamed  El Baradei who has arrived in Cairo as anti-government protests continue to spread. For more details, I refer you to the BBC.  If  El Baradei becomes the leader of Egypt, the country will enter a new age. Let us hope for the best.

Cambodian textile workers protesting

If you buy clothes from Gap, Zara and H&M, you should know that you are wearing the fruits of the labor of exploited sweatshop workers. Events at a factory in Cambodia came to a head and workers were fired for striking and demanding better working conditions. Please raise your voice to protest  this injustice which, alas, is only too typical of the way corporations from the developed world exploit and abuse the Third World.

IN THE USA the situation is not much better for workers at a food plant. The US AFL-CIO and the global union federation ICEM have joined the IUF in lodging a formal complaint against French-based sugar and starch maker Roquette Frères for violating the Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The workers have been locked out since September 28 in a contract dispute. Please join the protest against this abuse of working people.

REPRESSION OF WORKERS IN TURKEY While we are talking about workers' rights, the time has certainly come to reform the abusive and repressive labor laws of Turkey. This country, which considers itself a progressive democracy has shameful laws on the books. Please let the Turkish government know that this is
unacceptable to you.

RETRIBUTION FOR WIKILEAKS--ILL TREATMENT OF US SOLDIER We do not usually think of the United States as a country where human rights are trampled upon by the military establishment. A 23 year old soldier,Bradley Manning, accused of collaboration with Wikileaks, is being held in inhuman pre-trial detention conditions.  Amnesty International has protested to the American authorities. "The repressive conditions imposed on Manning breach the US's obligations to treat detainees with humanity and dignity," said Susan Lee. It seems that they are taking revenge on him for the embarrassment caused by the disclosures, although he has not yet been tried nor convicted of any offense

TUNA IS BAD NEWS for all of us who are concerned about mercury pollution in our food supply. The FDA says: “Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of methylmercury. However, larger fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of methylmercury because they’ve had more time to accumulate it.”
What can methylmercury do to us humans? For starters: brain damage, memory loss, personality change, tremors, spontaneous abortion, and damage to a developing fetus. Fatigue and memory loss caused by mercury poisoning from eating fish is so common that doctors even have a name for it: fish fog.  Read more.
Global warming which leads to  loss of sea ice also plays a role in the enhancement of the risk of mercury poisoning in the food chain. This is not a trivial matter and I think we should all reconsider our consumption of top-of-the-marine-food chain fish in which mercury accumulates.

NOW TO THE SITUATION IN ISRAEL The brouhaha concerning the appointment of a new Chief of Staff for the Army is discussed above. It is symptomatic of the general state of affairs.   The latest Al Jazeera leaks have shown that we could have had a peace deal long ago if only our government had had the cojones to face down the settlers.  Gideon Levy points out what a catastrophic error was made by our government. It is not the first. As far back as 1983, we could have given the West Bank back to King Hussein in framework of the London Agreement between Hussein and Peres, which was rejected by Shamir and his right wing government. That Zipi Livni would reject a most generous Palestinian offer because of Har Homa and Maaleh Adumim, two settlements near Jerusalem, is shocking, although it should not be in view of her track record as a right-winger. To be fair, we should recall that this is Israel and that she and Olmert might have well paid with their lives for accepting such a deal.   It is becoming apparent that peace is not a high priority for Israel, government and people, and that holding on to territory is more important.

In the light of these disclosures it is hard to know what to make of two  op-eds, one in the New York Times by Jeffrey Goldberg and Hussein Ibish on so called  Good News from the Middle East and the other by Bradley Burston, who should know better, in Haaretz online.  The articles are both upbeat with respect to the prospects of peace and ending the occupation. These writers, with all due respect, are, in my humble opinion, whistling in the dark. There is a grasping at straws in both articles. I participated in the big demonstration for democracy in Tel Aviv and indeed thousands turned out, but we in the liberal community in Israel are still highly marginalized and the signs of peace that Goldberg and Ibish  as well as Burston grasped at are ephemeral at best.  Yes, Niztan Hurwitz and even Meir Shitrit gave inspiring speeches, but there was no sign of Zipi Livni nor Shaul Mofaz, the real power brokers in Kadima  I would be delighted to be proven wrong and promise to eat my favorite Tilley hat in public if indeed all these beautiful prophecies were to come true.

I attended the granting of the  Yishayahu Leibowitz prize this week to  Shulamit Aloni  and   Sara Beninga the leader of the Sheikh Jarrakh struggle.
A banner from a demonstration against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions.
We saw film clips of Leibowitz predicting exactly what is happening today as a result of the continued Occupation, our steady descent into bestiality as he described it and what he called the nazification of our society. Again, inspiring speeches were made, but it was all preaching to the choir. Indeed many young people see the futility of our path and some even are broken by it, as was  Khalil Givati-Rapp , but too many others buy the brainwashing and a large part of the population just enjoys the good life in the bubble known as the State of Tel Aviv.

I often wonder why we are so DUMB as to believe that the Palestinians will all pack up and move to Jordan at our behest and that we shall inherit the Greater Land of Israel from a benign God who knows only us. I came across an article by William Rivers Pitt in Truthout that helps to put it in perspective. The DUMB that we are dealing with here is the same DUMB that drives the Tea Party and the rest of the right wing around the world. I would like to share his article on  DUMB with you, not that there is much consolation in it.

Let us least make some noise. There will be a demonstration on Tuesday Feb. 1 in front of the JNF office in Jerusalem to protest the barbaric actions of that organization at El Arakeeb. For details write to Buses from Tel Aviv Central Railroad station at 1300.

Lest I send you off completely depressed, I wind up with  some good news about the progress towards recovery of  Gabrielle Giffords,  a new years greeting from the Elders and a few smiles from  Andy Borowitz on Michelle Bachman and Gene Weingarten whose  Below the Beltway blog deals with nothing more momentous than life at the laundromat.

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