Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Carrying the Torch for Constantine XI

Mark Krikorian, living in a small, rough lean-to and feeding on roots, berries, and moss out beyond the farthest frontiers of Wingnutistan:
We shouldn't let May 29 pass without noting the anniversary of one of the great tragedies of history, the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Sure, the Byzantine Empire was already finished at that point, but its final snuffing out by the Turks was an important milestone in the jihad we continue to face.

Wow. Does this mean that we should celebrate our allies', the Mongols', sacking of Baghdad in 1258 as a victory in the war on terror? Or lament the Quraishi defeat at the Battle of Badr in 624 as the moment when 9/11 really became inevitable? Here we have incontrovertible proof that education and knowledge do not necessarily make one smarter; in many cases they just provide a grander framework for one's preexisting resentments and prejudices, a larger stage upon which to rehearse one's stupidity.

Also, I think Krikorian is letting those damn back-stabbing Paulicians off too easy. If only they hadn't weakened Byzantine resolve in the 9th century, we wouldn't all be speaking Turkish now.

How I hate the Paulicians.


Mark Steyn objects to the president's suggestion that those against the immigration bill "don't want to do what's right for America":
I respect the President and I appreciate that his sincerity on this issue has been obvious for his entire political career. But I don't think he should impugn the good faith of those who, equally sincerely, disagree - not on "narrow slices" but on the central proposition: that drive-thru legalization for millions of people subject to desultory background checks by an agency without the resources to conduct them is not "what's right for America".

Uh huh. I'm pretty sure Steyn still considers it okay, though, to impugn the good faith, and patriotism, of those who sincerely disagree (and who have been largely vindicated in their disagreement) on the central proposition: that invading and occupying Iraq will not inspire democratic reforms throughout the region, and will serve as a recruiting poster, boot camp, and proving ground for violent, radical jihadism.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Guitar Blogging

Merle Travis.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ignatius J. Peretz Has A Posse

Regarding the rather entertaining dustup between Matt Yglesias and a small confederacy of dunces, let me just say, first, that having your views on Palestinian politics recommended by Marty Peretz and Jonah Goldberg is a bit like being hailed as the world's greatest living poet by Jewel and the person who cleans Jewel's pool.

Second, any analysis of the Fatah-Hamas conflict which attempts to ignore or exonerate forty years of Israeli occupation, and the cultivation of Palestinian disunity which has been a central goal of that occupation, is, quite simply, not to be taken seriously. Blaming the factional violence in Gaza on the supposedly inherently violent nature of Palestinian Arab society (which, remember, doesn't really exist, according to Peretz), while turning a blind eye to the myriad ways in which the Israeli occupation has proscribed, manipulated, and handicapped Palestinian political life during the last four decades, is as racist as it is daft.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Missed Him By That Much

Patrick Cockburn, on the recently revealed U.S. attempt to assassinate Muqtada al-Sadr:
[Mowaffak al-]Rubai'e had gone to Najaf in August 2004 to try to mediate an end to the fighting. He met Mr Sadr who agreed to a set of conditions to end the crisis. "He actually signed the agreement with his own handwriting," said Dr Rubai'e. "He wanted the inner Najaf, the old city, around the shrine to be treated like the Vatican."

Having returned to Baghdad to show the draft document to Iyad Allawi, who was prime minister at the time, Dr Rubai'e went back to Najaf to make a final agreement with Mr Sadr.

It was agreed that the last meeting would take place in the house in Najaf of Muqtada's father Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr who had been murdered by Saddam's gunmen with two of his sons five years before. Dr Rubai'e and other mediators started for the house. As they did so they saw the US Marines open up an intense bombardment of the house and US Special Forces also heading for it. But the attack was a few minutes premature. Mr Sadr was not yet in the house and managed to escape.

Although Dr Rubai'e, as Iraqi National Security Adviser since 2004 and earlier a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, is closely associated with the American authorities in Baghdad, he has no doubt about what happened.

He sees the negotiations as part of a charade to lure Mr Sadr, who is normally very careful about his own security, to a house where he could be eliminated.

The cloddishness on display here, the utter ignorance of history and symbolism, is no less staggering for being unsurprising. Attempting to kill Muqtada as he entered the house of his revered, martyred father Grand Ayatollah Sadeq al-Sadr(assassinated by Saddam in 1999), under a flag of truce, in Shi'ism's holiest city...Like so much else having to do with this war, it seems like it could have been designed in a lab to produce precisely the opposite of the the desired result: Increased distrust of the U.S. Coalition by majority Shi'is, massively enhanced street cred for Muqtada.

Even if the assassination attempt had succeeded, I doubt it would have made things better, and could very likely have made things worse. The success of Muqtada has less to do with his own political acumen, though it's become increasingly apparent that that is a factor, more with the deep resonance among poor Shi'is of his father's populist-nationalist program, which even before 2004 was supported by a large network of clerical activists. At least, in Muqtada, you have a figure who can draw together a substantial majority of the groups identifying as "Sadrist," rather than it devolving into a contest between Sadrist leaders to see who's more hardcore.

Also, the Israelis have been killing "key" Palestinian leaders for decades; if you want to know how well that's worked out, note that they've been doing it for decades.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Memoirs of a Palestinian Patriot

“Real lasting peace is made between peoples, not governments,” writes Sari Nusseibeh near the end of his excellent memoir, Once Upon a Country. Nusseibeh is a philosopher and some-time Fatah activist who has dedicated himself to making that peace a reality by, among other things, cultivating relationships with like-minded Israelis. In this, he and his allies have been repeatedly undermined by the suspicion, mistrust, and belligerence of extremists on both sides, and in both governments, Israeli and Palestinian.

Nusseibeh comes from a noted Palestinian Arab family, whose ancestors entered Jerusalem along with caliph Omar in the seventh century. Having family roots in Palestine that go back thirteen centuries, Nusseibeh repeatedly confronts and eviscerates the notion that the Palestinians “aren’t a real people,” as well as the frankly preposterous idea that some dude just off the plane from Kiev or Brooklyn should somehow have more of a moral claim than he to the land in which he was born and raised.

One of the central themes of the book, unfortunately little remarked upon in the reviews and interviews which have followed its publication, is the way that the efforts by Palestinian activists to develop democratic institutions, such as trade unions and academic associations, organizations which could support and strengthen a mature Palestinian state, have consistently been frustrated and crushed by Israel. Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, virtually all efforts by Palestinians to organize around the principle of their own nationhood have been vigorously stamped out by an Israeli government that saw the very existence of Palestinian political consciousness as a national security threat. Israeli support for the pan-Islamic Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, the precursor of Hamas, as a means of diluting support for the secular nationalist PLO is just one example, one with particularly severe consequences.

Nusseibeh has no illusions about his own side. He recognizes that tragic mistakes have been made, and good opportunities missed, by the Palestinian leadership. He recognizes that the use of terrorist violence has been both morally disastrous and politically counterproductive. But neither is Nusseibeh willing to give any credence to the lazy “equal blame to go around” dodge, a form of rhetorical hand-washing that works decidedly in Israel’s favor, that unfortunately characterizes so much mainstream American liberal thinking on the issue. The root cause of the conflict in Palestine is, and has always been, the attempt by one group to realize its own national aspirations at the expense of another’s, and Nusseibeh is very clear that the Israeli occupation, and the illegal settlement enterprise which it facilitates, is, has been, and continues to be the single biggest obstacle to peace between the two peoples.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peretz Droppings

I know that I cannot be the only one who finds Marty Peretz’s smug satisfaction at the escalating violence in Gaza to be reprehensible, even if it isn’t the least bit surprising. There is literally nothing that transpires among the Palestinians that Peretz will not attempt to use as a prop for his rancid bigotry, as he rehearses yet again the utterly discredited, racist hasbarist myth that “there is no such thing as Palestinians.”
Let's face facts. Only if you are "Eyeless in Gaza" can you believe that these people are a "nation."

There were no Palestinians until there were Israelis. And there will be no Palestine until Israel imposes it. Then it will be a nation-state like most of the other non-nation-states in the Middle East. Yes, a fraudulent nation-state.

More :
Why are men wearing ski masks on the streets of Gaza? So that they will all look alike, and people will think that this proves the unity of the Palestinian people.

It gets worse, if you can believe it :
And, as Steve Erlanger reported, the Palestinian death toll from Palestinian killing rose to 17 on Wednesday. Any bets on high it will go on Thursday?

What kind of twisted pervert thinks, let alone expresses, these sorts of things? And what kind of “liberal" journalistic establishment allows him to get away with, virtually without censure, for so many years?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Al-Nakba Day

Today, May 15, is the day in which Palestinians remember al-Nakba ("the catastrophe"), the events surrounding the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes and lands by the paramilitary forces of the Zionist Yishuv, the subsequent war between the newly declared state of Israel and surrounding Arab countries, and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem which continues to this day.

As an American of Ukrainian descent, I approach the remembrance of this event in several ways. The year 2007 represents the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, and the founding of the colony of Virginia. Amid all the articles, celebrations, and visits by the Queen, I recognize that my own country, indeed, my own newly adopted state, was founded on the lands and destroyed villages and homes of indigenous peoples, whose diverse cultures and societies were disregarded and crushed by European colonists.

My father's family were themselves refugees, forced to flee their homes by war. My grandparents were able to make a great life for themselves, their children, and for me, here in the U.S., but my grandmother always spoke of her homeland with a longing and an aching that never went away. I can only imagine how much more painful it would have been for her had she regularly been confronted with people insisting that the Ukrainians never existed, or that the events which caused her and her family to flee never took place, or, most ludicrously, that the Ostapenkos and a few hundred thousand of their neighbors had simply picked up and fled of their own accord. This is the sort of deeply offensive propaganda, the attempted erasing of an entire people and society from history, with which the Palestinians have had to contend since 1948.

Monday, May 14, 2007

All Dub's Children

Good Daily Star profile of the Cairo-based experimental music label 100Copies. Be sure to check out some of the great music available on the site.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Nothing To See Here, Move Along

You’d never know from reading this article on Jewish and Arab growth rates in Jerusalem that Israel’s attempts to de-Arabize the Holy City represent a gross human rights violation.
Israel is facing a challenge it never expected when it captured East Jerusalem and reunited the city in the 1967 war: each year, Jerusalem’s population is becoming more Arab and less Jewish.

For four decades, Israel has pushed to build and expand Jewish neighborhoods, while trying to restrict the growth in Arab parts of the city. Yet two trends are unchanged: Jews moving out of Jerusalem have outnumbered those moving in for 27 of the last 29 years. And the Palestinian growth rate has been high.


While it is virtually impossible for Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza to move to Jerusalem if they were not born there, natural population growth and restrictions on building in Arab parts of the city mean large families often share very small apartments.

An estimated 18,000 apartments and homes, or a third of all the Arab residences in East Jerusalem, were built illegally because permits are so hard to obtain, Mr. Nasrallah said, adding that Israel has not approved the development of a new Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem since 1967.

“Israel sees Jerusalem as a demographic problem,” he said, “and sees the solution as getting rid of Palestinians.”
In contrast, Israel has established many Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and more than 200,000 Jews now live in the eastern part of the city.

Since conquering and occupying East Jerusalem in 1967, successive Israeli governments have used a combination of security and bureaucratic measures, as well as violent invasions and takeovers of Arab homes and neighborhoods by government-sanctioned Jewish settler militias, to increase the Jewish population in East Jerusalem while simultaneously limiting the increase of Arabs. I tend to think that if this were an article about similar efforts to change the ethnic character of Hong Kong, Istanbul, or Detroit, we might see some indication that such efforts are, you know, objectionable.

In Israel, this policy of ethnic cleansing (which right-wing Israelis naturally refer to as the “liberation” of Jerusalem, and which Ehud Olmert strongly supported as mayor of Jerusalem, and continues to as PM) is controversial. Less so in the U.S., where pointing out that Israel’s policy toward its Arab subjects is morally reprehensible, deeply inhumane and illegal, as well as disastrously counterproductive in terms of Israel’s security, is likely to get you labeled an anti-Semite. That Israel is apparently failing in its attempt to de-Arabize the Holy City is gratifying, but it doesn’t make the policy any less racist or provocative.

From a 2002 Christian Science Monitor article on the Israeli policy:
Benny Elon, an ultra-nationalist member of the Knesset who is spearheading the settlement effort, puts it this way: "If you don't create facts on the ground, everything blows in the wind. We saw that during Barak's time – Jerusalem was on the negotiating table."

Mr. Elon says the new sites are links in a map of Jewish territorial contiguity in East Jerusalem. His plan is to ring the old city with 17 settlement points, some just a few houses, but one, with 130 planned units. Many of the points already exist, the houses or land purchased privately but the security, roads, and infrastructure paid for by the government.

In Sheikh Jarrah, at the traditional burial site of the Judean sage Simeon the Just, authorities last month paved a road for three closely guarded settler houses. The left fork, which accesses Palestinian homes, remains a dirt path.


Sprawling Jewish settlements, considered suburbs by Israelis, have also been built in East Jerusalem territory on land expropriated from Palestinians.

Elon says he looks forward to a time when there will be no Palestinians living around the tomb of Simeon the Just and in Simeon's Heritage, the names he prefers to Sheikh Jarrah. "It was a Jewish neighborhood and it will be a Jewish neighborhood."

At a Jerusalem Day party organized by Elon, many among the thousands of young revelers draped themselves in Israeli flags. Some sported stickers reading: "The solution: Expel the Arab enemy."

Remember: When Palestinian politicians employ eliminationist rhetoric, they are to be condemned as terrorists, and deemed unacceptable to negotiate with. When Israeli politicians do the same, they are to be hailed as evidence of Israel’s “vibrant democracy.” No partner for peace, indeed,

New Name, New Attitude

In what I think is a very significant move, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has changed its name to the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council , and has indicated that it will now look to Ayatollah Sistani, rather than Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, as a main source of guidance. As Juan Cole notes, just as important as the move away from Iran is the move away from Khomeinism, the rule by the jurist, in which a supreme jurisprudent can effectively overrule any government decision which he holds is not appropriately Islamic. Sistani has declared his support for a more limited, though of course still significant, role for clerics in an Iraqi Islamic republic.

President Bush received SCIRI’s leader, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, in the White House a few months ago. It seemed odd to me that Bush was cuddling up with Hakim while continuing to try, and failing, to marginalize Muqtada al-Sadr, Hakim’s main rival. I think it’s been apparent for a while now that Sadr is the key figure in the new Iraq, representing both Shi’i ascendancy, with a social activist program modeled on Hezbollah’s, and strong Arab-Iraqi nationalism, which always made charges of his being a pawn of Iran hard to believe. Muqtada has stridently opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq since the beginning, which, in the harsh light of Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, and Haditha, make him look prophetic to many Iraqis, even those who don’t particularly sympathize with his harshly conservative agenda.

The struggle for political power among Shi’i parties has, to a great extent, been a struggle between Shi’i scholarly families, most notably the Sadrs and Hakims. While Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim represents a clerical line as prominent and revered as the Sadrs, Muqtada has nationalist credentials that Hakim can’t touch. Muqtada’s uncle, Grand Ayatollah Baqr al-Sadr, is considered by many to be the most significant Shi’i scholar of the 20th century, and many Iraqi Shi’is had hoped that he would lead their own revolution after the success of Khomeini in Iran. Fearing this exact thing, Saddam did the unthinkable: He had Sadr executed in 1980, the first execution of a Grand Ayatollah in modern history.

Muqtada's father, Sadiq al-Sadr, assassinated by Saddam in 1999 along with two of Muqtada’s brothers, while not regarded as an intellectual equal of his cousin, nevertheless actualized Baqr’s theories about clerical activism, building a ministry and broad base of support among Iraq’s poor Shi’is. It was Sadeq after whom Baghdad’s Shi’i slum neighborhood Saddam City (originally built by Qassem as “Revolution City”) was renamed “Sadr City” after the fall of Saddam’s government and the neighborhood’s immediate takeover by activists and militants loyal to Sadeq al-Sadr, now represented by his son, Muqtada.

In the wake of Baqr al-Sadr’s death in 1980, scores of Iraqi Shi’i clerics, the Hakims among them, sought refuge in Iran. It was there that the Hakims helped to found SCIRI, with Iran’s support. Around the time of the U.S. invasion, Abd al-Aziz reentered Iraq as commander of the Badr Brigade, the militia wing of SCIRI, armed and trained by the Iranian Republican Guard. He took over as leader of SCIRI after his elder brother, Grand Ayatollah Baqr al Hakim, was murdered by a truck bomb in Najaf in 2003

Though both families suffered greatly from Saddam’s tyranny, the fact that the Sadrs stayed and struggled, while the Hakims fled, has been relentlessly hammered at by Muqtada’s adherents. That the Sadrists have been able to compete so well against the far better organized and funded SCIRI indicates just how effective this line of argument has been among Iraqis, and SCIRI's new name and redirection away from Iran and Khamenei indicate that they are trying to fix this.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Guitar Blogging

Nori Bucci.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Clown Show Must Go On

I'm almost finished with Sari Nusseibeh's memoir, Once Upon a Country, I'll try to post a review of it in the next week or so. I can't resist, though, calling attention to this bit of typical Peretzian assholery:
I watched Nusseibeh, so to speak, write the book while he was in Cambridge at the Radcliffe Institute. Well, he didn't exactly write the book alone...and the title page doesn't pretend that he did. And I didn't literally watch him. His co-author was a man called Anthony David, a ghost-writer who followed him around Harvard taking notes. James Boswell to Dr. Johnson. Can't a real intellectual produce his own books?

Indeed, one could ask of Peretz: Can't a real intellectual produce books? Or are "real intellectuals" too busy spending their wives' money to indulge their obsessive anti-Arab bigotry? Needless to say, it's not uncommon for political figures to employ ghostwriters to help them compile and write their memoirs, so Peretz's catty insult would be ridiculous even if Peretz had ever written a book himself.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Feith on Tenet

In a questionable example of editorial stunt-casting, the apparently still utterly and defiantly clueless Douglas Feith produces this jaw-dropper in his review of George Tenet's new ass-covering memoir:
Anyone can make an honest mistake. But the problem with George Tenet is that he doesn't seem to care to get his facts straight. He is not meticulous. He is willing to make up stories that suit his purposes and to suppress information that does not.

Oh my.

We are also informed that Feith's own ACM will be forthcoming. This presents a problem, as who will be found to review it who has even less credibility than Douglas Feith?