Credit: Creative Commons
When a head of state, Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has already used what amounts to mobile gas chambers on his own people, remains firmly in power – with no prospect of end to that power – there is nothing whatsoever about that circumstance that can be remotely characterized as a moral victory.
And yet, many on the Tea Party Right and what I’d call the Neo-Soviet Left are indeed crowing about the post-August 20th series of domestic and international political events vis-a-vis the Syria crisis; political events, like the deluge of Americans calling and writing to their members of Congress, which have averted what may or may not have been a pointless and merely “symbolic” cruise missile strike against the Assad regime, a mere “shot across the bow” as President Obama put it.
At President Obama’s United Nations General Assembly address today, much attention was paid to his overtures toward Iran. However, his pointed comments directed toward Israel – which placed resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on equal footing with Iran – were just as significant.
Obama made this equal footing clear from a foreign policy perspective when he said:
In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab- Israeli conflict.
When Obama came to the topic of Israel and Palestine, he first affirmed both peoples’ right to exist in secure, self-determining states. Then, he turned the speech personal:
Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just and possible. And I believe there’s a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state.
On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah, whose ambition and incredible potential are matched by the pain they feel and having no firm place in the community of nations.
They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and they’re frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation. But they, too, recognize that two states is the only real path to peace. Because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.
Across the world, gay Catholics and allies have been rejoicing over the comments made by Pope Francis in his America magazine interview. Yet looking strictly at the pope’s comments on homosexuality, I see only a more clever iteration of the Catholic church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” teaching. Frankly, as one who rejects sexual identity labels as nothing more than the social trauma-rooted intellectual residue of the twentieth century, and who embraces homosexuality as an extraordinary erotic gift from Almighty God that is available to all men and women of open mind and open heart, I think the pope’s ever-evolving cleverness on homosexuality is getting way too much attention.
Yet far more interesting and substantive are his remarks on abortion, given in his America magazine interview and subsequent sermon to a group of Catholic gynecologists.
Credit: Creative Commons
To the Catholic gynecologists, Francis said abortion was part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” Just a day earlier, the pope caused a stir stemming from his America magazine interview when he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”
Reviewing the pope’s zigzaggery on this issue, at least in terms of his communication style, a legitimate question could be raised: Could Pope Francis be trying to turn a new page on the Catholic approach to abortion, specifically an approach that would uphold the fundamental sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception, while simultaneously steering conservative Catholics away from their decades-long effort to use the heavy club of state power to control the lives of women who seek elective abortions?
On Friday, Israeli soldiers threw sound grenades at a group of European diplomats trying to deliver emergency aid in the occupied territories, pulled a French diplomat, Marion Castaing, from a truck and threw her upon the ground. The image below, of Israeli border police surrounding Castaing as she lay on her back, was taken by a human rights activist as other journalists, including those from Reuters, looked on.
French diplomat Marion Castaing on the ground as Israeli border police surround her. Photo via Hugh Naylor.
This image, and others like it, received attention yesterday across the world, principally because the force used by Israeli soldiers was against a group of diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office. It’s the type of force that is used against Palestinians on a daily basis.
However, while outlets such as the BBC, AFP, and Israel’s Haaretz carried full stories which included photos like the one above, not a single mainstream American outlet did so. In fact, even outlets that used the Reuters wire report, which included an image similar to the one above, choose not to display such an image in their reports. This includes The New York Times, which carried an abbreviated summary of the story under the title, “Israeli Soldiers Quarrel with Diplomats,” in contrast to the Reuters headline, “Israeli forces manhandle EU diplomats, seize West Bank aid.”
Beale Anti-Drone Protestors
My four friends and I were sentenced today to ten hours each of community service by the judge who convicted us last month of trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest. Judge Carolyn K. Delaney in U.S. District Court in Sacramento acknowledged that we were motivated by conscience and by “deeply held ethical and religious beliefs.” We were delighted with the light sentence, which sets a precedent for other protesters. The judge could have imposed up to six months in jail, a $5,000 fine, and/or five years probation.
Shirley Osgood, Janie Kesselman, David and Jan Hartsough and I had engaged in civil disobedience by crossing a line onto Beale Air Force Base last October during a demonstration against the U.S. drone warfare program. Global Hawk surveillance drones, based at Beale, assist in finding targets for weaponized drones. Here is the statement I made in court today:
Prepare for the above claim – masquerading as the title – to be swiftly employed by hawkish politicians and ‘pro-Israel’ squawk boxes alike.
Why? The Netherlands’ oldest engineering firm, Royal Haskoning, has canceled a massive water treatment project with the Jerusalem municipality after intense pressure from the Dutch government to do so.
The reason: part of the plant would have been built over the Green Line, in Palestinian territory. According to Haaretz, the firm pulled out of the deal after strong pressure from the Dutch government, and released a statement detailing its refusal to violate international law:
“Royal HaskoningDHV carries out its work with the highest regard for integrity and in compliance with international laws and regulations,” it stated. “In the course of the project, and after due consultation with various stakeholders, the company came to understand that future involvement in the project could be in violation of international law. This has led to the decision of Royal HaskoningDHV to terminate its involvement in the project.”
The Dutch government warned Royal HaskoningDHV about the possible consequences of carrying out projects for Israeli companies in East Jerusalem or the West Bank.
Check out Peter Beinart’s latest piece on the American Jewish community. It is brilliant.
It is about the cocoon American Jews live in when it comes to the reality of Israel and Palestine. They know nothing and care less. And their leaders who do know intentionally work to keep them ignorant.
Add to that a lot of bigotry and you have the self-described “pro-Israel” community today. No, not the Jewish community — the Israel-centered minority of the Jewish community (of which I am one).
The New York Times
has a pretty shocking revelation
on page one today. White House correspondent Mark Landler reveals (after interviewing unnamed senior Obama aides) that the “most compelling ” reason the President is seeking Congressional authorization to strike Iran may be this:
…acting alone would undercut him if in the next three years he needed Congressional authority for his next military confrontation in the Middle East, perhaps with Iran.
If he made the decision to strike Syria without Congress now, he said, would he get Congress when he really needed it?
In other words, attacking Syria now makes it possible to attack Iran later.
Something remarkable happened in London yesterday. Members of Parliament prevented Prime Minister Cameron from joining in a U.S.-led attack on Syria. For the first time since Vietnam, the British government, reflecting the views of the British people, is refusing to be led into war by the United States.
Prime Minister David Cameron says “I get it.” The British don’t want to attack Syria which means he just can’t do it,
This is huge.
But even more huge is the precedent it sets for Iran. If a relatively small action in the Middle East is rejected out of fear of a larger entanglement, what are the chances that the British people can be led into an infinitely larger war in Iran? And what are the chances that the British government will even try?