Saturday, May 21, 2011

Titan is back

Titan and Saturn
This is Titan's turn to rant at you about all the things that neither he nor his sister Pollyanna, despite her sunny disposition, are glad about.
The world scene of human rights is as dismal as usual, but we have no choice but to continue our struggle in solidarity with all our friends and supporters around the world.  I am appending a link to several cases of individuals at risk and call upon you to act, to write letters, to raise your voice in protest.  It is not true that individuals cannot change anything.  When we act together, we have tremendous power.  So please open this link and do what is right.   Expand the pdf to 100% size or more and it should be legible.  I suggest that Israelis refrain from writing to places where our voice will do more harm than good, such as Sudan.  The addresses and fax numbers of foreign embassies in Israel can be found at this link.

The Arab Spring is moving at its own pace.  In Egypt and Tunisia, there seems to be some hope of democracy evolving, but Libya and Syria are festering sores.   Lest you consider me a cynical paranoid, I shall  give you Noam Chomsky's take on it.  Of course, he invokes his bete noir of US imperialism and indeed the waffling of the Obama administration during the first part of the Tahrir Square events lends some weight to his analysis.   To be fair, Obama seems to have embraced the wave of change in the Mideast and North Africa as may be seen and heard in this speech.  He also predicted that the Mideast and North Africa would soon be in ferment (vid. The New Yorker, May 2 if you can open the link) and wrote to his staff in August 2010, inter alia,
“Progress toward political reform and openness in the Middle East and North Africa lags behind other regions and has, in some cases, stalled,” the President wrote. He noted that even the more liberal countries were cracking down on public gatherings, the press, and political opposition groups. But something was stirring. There was “evidence of growing citizen discontent with the region’s regimes,” he wrote. It was likely that “if present trends continue,” allies there would “opt for repression rather than reform to manage domestic dissent.”

Good News sometimes does appear.  The Uganda parliament has adjourned without passing the terrible law that would have imposed the death penalty on LGBT people.   Let us hope that it is dead and gone and is not revived in the next session.

Elephants in Africa, on the other hand, are facing bad news, as poaching and sale of ivory continue.  Please sign this petition calling for an end to the ivory trade.  It is disgraceful that these magnificent animals are being driven to extinction by human greed.

Before moving on to our home turn, I would just like to  express my disgust at the behavior of two famous Europeans.   One is Lars von Trier  who gives as#$%les a bad name.  He was justifiably kicked out of the Cannes Festival and should be shunned forever by all decent people.  Anyone who can identify with Hitler has lost his credentials as a member of the species Homo Sapiens.
The other is Dominique Strauss-Kahn who allegedly tried to rape a hotel chambermaid in New York and is now awaiting trial.  His buddies in France leaped at this opportunity for some USA bashing and made jerks of themselves.  A few years ago he had an affair with a subordinate at the IMF which did not cost him his job, but prompted the formulation of a new ethics code for the organization.  BTW, in Israel, use of authority to obtain sex from a subordinate is defined as rape.  If we are to judge by the amount of victim-blaming coming from France, we must conclude that French women are fair game for sexual predators.  The former president of Israel, Katzav, has been sentenced  to jail for seven years for that kind of behavior.  I would like to add something from the Gene Weingarten chat in the Washington Post, for once serious, on why this is disgraceful and can be defined as a Shanda For the Goyim:

Gene Weingarten :

Fact: The loyal readers of this chat have come to expect from us the most comprehensive and accurate information on Shandas For the Goyim, those rare but horrifying examples of Jews Misbehaving In Ways that Give Gentiles Reason To Point and Say, “See How Bad Jews Are?”   In the past, in this space, by mutual agreement, we have elevated to the universal Shanda Hall of Shame Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Judas Iscariot, Jack Abramoff, Daniel Snyder, and, finally, Bernard Madoff, whom most of you believe to be the greatest Shanda for the Goyim in history.   I concur.

[Producer's note: Here's a reprint of Gene's definitive "Shanda" post from March of 2009.]

We have a new candidate for the pantheon.  Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn,  the naked ape.   He doesn’t really qualify in the sense that his transgressions do not reinforce a negative Jewish stereotype – my people are not notorious as sexual predators – but I’m giving him a pass on this because he is (or was) The World’s Most Influential Moneylender!   Yay!  Welcome to Shandaland, Dominique.  We are SO not proud of you.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking that I am making too much of Dominique's Jewishness.   No one thinks that way anymore, you are thinking.   And, see, that's where you are wrong.    Go to Google,and enter "Domique Strauss-Kahn" and look what appears on the drop-down bar as the number two hit, based on people's searches to date. 

I am delighted to see that after about 24 hours of this, the media stopped referring to DSK as a “womanizer,” which seems like an unacceptably mild term for a recidivist attempted rapist and serial creep.  It would be like calling Hitler “rude.”
This week in Israel was marked by Nakba Day, on which the Palestinian community marks the catastrophe that was caused to them by the creation of Israel.  It is tragic that the achievement of self determination by people who had been driven out of Europe by  the Nazis caused the displacement of another people.  Last Sunday, thousands of Palestinians approached Israel’s borders to claim, at least symbolically,  their right of return on the anniversary of Israel’s founding. Israeli and Lebanese troops opened fire and more than a dozen people were killed. While the numbers of protesters were relatively small, there are Arabic social media pages calling for such marches to the fences to occur with greater frequency, especially as September approaches and the Palestinian Authority seeks membership in the United Nations. If tens of thousands of Palestinians were to march, Israel would find itself in great difficulty.  The army was poorly prepared and the marchers from Syria managed to enter the town of Majdal Shams.

As the time for action approaches, all sides are trying to present  their position.  Mohammed Abbass  the President of the Palestinian Authority published an op-ed in the New York Times.   He made some valid points, but negated his impact by indulging in a fabricated version of the early history of Israel.  I would like to quote the relevant paragraph to illustrate what I mean:
"It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at
the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued. Indeed, it was the descendants of these expelled Palestinians who were shot and wounded by Israeli forces on Sunday as they tried to symbolically exercise their right to return to their families’ homes."

This is simply an unmitigated piece of mythology.  In fact, the Jewish community accepted the UN decision and it was the Arab side, with British connivance, who went about trying to wipe out the Jewish presence in the land.  Even the most revisionist of the New Israeli Historians do not sweep this fact under the rug.  The Palestinians failed miserably in their attempt to abort the new state and the Arab military intervention that began on May 15, 1948, with the departure of the British, failed as well.  There is plenty of mythology on our side as well, but of all the wars in the history of Israel, the War of Independence in 1948 was certainly one that was forced upon us.  The others could probably  have been avoided by negotiation, but this was a matter of life and death.  Indeed, there were great injustices done, but a la guerre, comme a la guerre, as our French friends say.
Certainly no one can accuse me of being an Israeli chauvinist or of being indifferent to Palestinian suffering.  I agree fully with those who say that Natanyahu is stalling and the settlements are a major  impediment to peace.  Nonetheless, the op-ed by Abbass is divorced from reality.  Let me link you to two major analysis articles on the present situation, one from the Guardian, somewhat right wing biased, and the other, more objective, from the New York Times,  which published the initial op-ed. 
Natanyahu is going to Washington with shopworn goods that he might sell to the older generation of American Jews, but not to the younger people who see Israel to be a moral failure as long as the Occupation persists.  As pointed out by Haim Gans  last year, the fundamental attitude of the Israeli right that Jews and only Jews have rights in this country and that Arabs are inferior interlopers cannot be maintained unless Israel is willing to become a  pariah state.   New voices are being heard abroad and at home.  A recent attempt to prevent Tony Kushner from getting an honorary doctorate because of his legitimate criticism of Israel's policies failed miserably.  Roger Cohen puts it well into perspective.
Of course, the political geography gets complicated but we all do our best...
There is also good news from Israel.    A bilingual school in Beersheva brings together Jewish and Arab children. as shown in this video.  This is the hope for the future.

BOOK REVIEW  If sister Pollyanna can bring book review, so can I says Titan.  He would like to call your attention to a new biography of Mahatma Gandhi by Joseph Lelyfeld review by Vilas Bajaj and Julie Bosman in the NYTimes Review of Books.  Gandhi certainly had a life worth documenting and indeed several biographies have been published over the years.  This one is controversial since it deals with the possibility that Gandhi may have had a homosexual relationship, which  has caused the book to be banned in one state of India and may lead to a nationwide ban.  That also says something about Indian democracy.

Of course we end with some good news from Andy Borowitz about Donald Trump  and a socially beneficial effect of the advent of the iPad.     We also see how our friend Gene Weingarten strikes a blow for the common man in confronting a powerful corporation.


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