Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Guitar Blogging

Television. A very nice rendition of "1880 or So" from their underrated 1992 self-titled reunion album. (Richard solos at 1:50, Tom at 4:05.)

Sources report that Richard Lloyd, after missing the band's performance at Central Park's Summerstage last week due to being hospitalized for penumonia, "will, after 34 years, be amicably severing all ties with the band Television."

I was lucky enough to catch Television live twice, in 2001 and again in 2003. Both of the shows were among the best I've ever seen. As you can gather from the video, a band featuring either Tom Verlaine or Richard Lloyd by himself would have been very impressive; a band with them together was transcendent.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Objectionable Smell of Blowback

In Sunday's Outlook section, Warren Bass wrote a short profile of Hamas, and about the competition between it and Fatah which has now boiled over into a Palestinian civil war. For some reason, however, while noting that Hamas grew out of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, he did not mention the role that Israel played in cultivating the Brotherhood as a pan-Islamic alternative to the secular nationalist Fatah. While the true extent of Israeli support for the Brotherhood is not known, that it took place is not questioned. Sari Nusseibeh, whose memoir Bass recommends, writes about this in some detail, noting that while the Israel occupation authorities harassed and detained Palestinian activists of every stripe, Sheikh Yassin and his organization were left strangely unmolested, as Brotherhood-run social services and study centers went up at a peculiarly high rate throughout the territories. In addition to being rather relevant to Hamas’s story, you’d think that a bitter irony such as this, Israel now frantically trying to prop up Fatah against Hamas as it earlier propped up Hamas's precursor against Fatah, would be attractive to any writer.

Curious at why Bass ignored this low hanging fruit, I wrote and asked him about it. He responded that because of “limited space” he was not able to include every little bit of information on Hamas than he might have wanted. You will notice, however, that he devoted some of this very precious space to referencing a satirical Onion article about Hamas. Heh, indeed.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Guitar Blogging

Otis Rush.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just Because Alan Dershowitz Agrees Doesn't Mean You're Wrong

I wrote last week that I don't think the boycott of Israeli universities is appropriate. Having considered Alan Dershowitz's argument against the boycott, however, I have concluded that I'm still against it.

I do think it's interesting, though, that, according to Dershowitz, when British academics undertake a boycott against Israeli universities for their alleged support for, and complicity in, four decades of occupation, colonization, and expropriation, that's anti-Semitism, but when the Israeli military undertakes to bomb, displace, and kill thousands of Lebanese civilians for their alleged support for, and complicity in, Hezbollah terrorism, that's tough luck.

Dershowitz claims that the boycott "wildly overstates the significance of the Israel/Palestine conflict," and then goes on to claim that "the fight against the boycott is one aspect, perhaps the most urgent aspect, of the contemporary fight against anti-Semitism." Right. As usual, when defending Israel, or rather, when attacking Israel's critics, Dershowitz permits himself the sort of arguments for which his TA's would fail a freshman.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Oh Yes He Did

Marty Peretz on George Soros:
"His authority comes from nothing more than his money."

Hey, but at least it's his own money, right Marty?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Guitar Blogging

Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, and Grant Green.

The Boycott

I don't endorse everything Martha Nussbaum has to say here, but I strongly agree with her central argument that that academic boycott declared by British scholars against Israel is not appropriate.

I know that I tend to focus in this blog on the abuses of the Israeli occupation regime, but I do recognize that there is a great amount and variety of excellent work being done in Israeli universities, much if not most having nothing whatever to do with conflict with the Palestinians. Trying to subsume all of the Israeli academy under the heading "in service to the occupation," as the boycott essentially does, seems to me kind of bullshit. For those scholars whose work does serve to justify and support the Israeli occupation and settlement project, their work should be (and repeatedly has been, most devastatingly by their fellow Israelis), singled out and refuted. I don't think that boycotting and attempting to silence those scholars, who, by virtue of their being in and of Israel, are in a unique position to produce work on various aspects of Israeli culture and society (which, again, is obviously not reducible to its conflict with the Arabs), will be productive. If anything, Israeli scholars who oppose the occupation should be engaged and supported by those hoping and working toward a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Man We Must Do Business With

I recommend Bartle Breese Bull’s op-ed from last Sunday, in which he discusses the ways in which Muqtada al-Sadr has actually been contributing to Iraqi stability, while also maintaining his steadfast opposition to the U.S. presence.
The Sadrist movement has always been about Iraq for the Iraqis. They might accept help from Iran — and I saw Iranian supplies in their compounds in Najaf in 2004 — but the movement is not for sale. Mr. Sadr gets his strength from the street. And the Arabs of the Iraqi street have no time for Persian bosses.

Nor do they seem to want to foment an all-out civil war. For all the time I have spent with Sadrist death-squad leaders who focus on killing former Baathists and Al Qaeda’s supporters (Sunnis all), I have spent just as much time with Mahdi men who have been sent by their leaders to protect Sunni mosques after Sunni provocations, lest Shiites retaliate too broadly.

It was no coincidence that in February, a few weeks after the Baghdad security plan started, a Sunni mosque was reopened in Sadr City. Nor is it a coincidence that the current plan, while it has largely failed to stop car bombs, which are primarily a Sunni phenomenon, has for the moment more or less ended the type of violence in which the Mahdi Army participated most: roving death squads.

Why would Mr. Sadr cooperate with the Americans and Mr. Maliki’s government? While he runs the biggest popular movement in the country, his followers are far from a majority. He is doing exactly what any other rational actor would do: He keeps up the angry rhetoric, and he plays ball with the democratic project.

The real story about Moktada al-Sadr is not his exciting sermons but his broad underwriting, both passive and active, of the official project in Iraq. Since he stood down his forces in August 2004, he has provided the same narrative time and again. It is what we should expect from the canniest politician in Iraq: the rhetoric of the dispossessed, and the actions of an heir to power.

Sadr's fierce Iraqi nationalism is always what made accusations of fealty to Iran transparently ridiculous.

This is also worth noting:
It is no accident that he preaches from the Kufa mosque rather than the more prestigious one at Najaf. As the site of the tomb of Imam Ali, the great martyr of Shiism, Najaf is the center of the Shiite clerical hierarchy, a Vatican of sorts for the faith. It is a rich city.

But Moktada al-Sadr leads a movement of the poor, inherited from his father, who inherited it from an uncle. His singsong exhortation in Kufa last week was a direct reference to the most famous cry from his father’s epic, and ultimately suicidal, sermons under Saddam Hussein in the 1980s: “Yes, yes, to electricity. Yes, yes, to water.” Young Mr. Sadr speaks not for the elites but for the biggest and most deprived group of people in Iraq: the Shiite lower orders.

Kufa also has special significance Shi'i history. Kufa is where Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad, was travelling when his party was intercepted near Karbala by the forces of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid. Hussein had been traveling to Kufa at the request of the town's inhabitants, intending to lead a revolt against what they saw as the illegitimate Umayyad Caliphate. Yazid found out about this, sent his forces to crush the revolt in Kufa, and then to lay in wait for Hussein. Nearly all of Hussein's group were martyred, and Hussein's head was brought to Yazid as a trophy in Damascus. When Shi'is mourn the death of Imam Hussein during the Muharram observances, one of the rituals and themes is the lamentation and acceptance of the guilt of the Kufans for not coming to Hussein's aid in his hour of need.

Being based in Kufa, in addition to representing those who bore the brunt of Ba'athist tyranny, poor Shi'is, Muqtada is also able to place himself squarely within the Shi'i martyrdom narrative, and present himself and his movement as instruments of long-awaited Shi'i redemption and justice.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Things Dennis Forgets

Dennis Ross’s op-ed in this morning's Washington Post is, to my mind, sadly typical of the U.S. media's treatment of the Israel/Palestine issue. Read it: Nowhere in his discussion of the conflict between Hamas and Fatah does he make a single mention of the Israeli occupation. I tend to think that if someone were writing about the violence between Sunni and Shi'i factions in Iraq, it might be considered important to mention the fact that the U.S. invaded Iraq, toppled the government, and has occupied the country for the last four years. If it were also the case that the U.S. Army were bulldozing Iraqi neighborhoods, constructing huge American settlements, and diverting vast amounts of Iraqi water to service those settlements, one might consider that relevant as well. One might even be inclined toward the idea that this were contributing to Iraqi unrest.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Guitar Blogging

Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan.