Thursday, July 27, 2006

ON HIATUS (in case I haven't noticed).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Almost Beside the Point

The issue of “disproportion” re Israel/Lebanon is almost beside the point.

15 Israeli civilians are already dead. According to Lebanese Health Ministry figures cited in Ha’aretz, the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon is 342 as of the latest count.

To put this horrifying tragedy (for Israel and Lebanon) into a proportion-wise perspective, the respective populations of Israel and Lebanon are roughly 6.3 and 3.8 million.

If we reversed the guns, this is the picture (again, keeping the proportions) that emerges: 9 Lebanese civilian dead, 567 Israeli civilian dead. Every life is of equal worth; a Lebanese civilian is of the same moral weight as an Israeli civilian. I shouldn’t have to say that.

For the U.S., the picture is wickedly frightening, lest we not pay attention to the events as they unfold: 720 dead (if we take the place of Israel) or 27,000 (if we take Lebanon’s place).

[The latter number is, then, about equivalent to nine September 11ths.]

I continue to pray for the people of Israel and Lebanon, hoping that the bloodshed will end, that the forces of extremism and the blinded, hating souls it holds hostage will be defeated forever.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


India, the largest democracy in the world, did not suffer such an atrocity in Bombay to deserve this outrage against free people.

The latest bulletin reads that some ISPs in the country "began restoring access to some Web sites", though the government ban has "remained in place despite protests" there and abroad.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid reports that in Beirut, “politics are conflating with identity” — singularly troublesome when looked at in relation to the phenomenon of terrorist-militant-group-turned-political-factions like the so-named Party of God (Hizb’ollah).

In his survey of the common population’s outlook (“Barrage Reopens Wounds of a Fractured Beirut,” 16 July 2006), Shadid writes that Hizbollah “provided schools, hospitals, pharmacies and dental clinics, spending millions of dollars — made possible by Iran” and its theocratic machinations.

[Such ‘social services’ were allegedly key to the political ascendancy of Hamas — euphemistically dubbed the Islamic Resistance Movement — as opposed to the weak and reportedly corrupt Fatah.]

Personally, it is very interesting how Lebanon can be so deftly transformed from a supposed bastion of democratic heroism (as in the beloved Cedar Revolution) pitted against sinister Syrian occupiers, into an existential enemy of a fundamentally embattled Israel — which, in turn, is portrayed in Arab news media as a monstrous aggressor.

Thomas O’Dwyer, a former Jerusalem Post foreign editor and current contributor to openDemocracy, asks whether Hizbollah fatally “miscalculated” by abducting Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers. O’Dwyer quotes Tel Aviv University political science professor Shaul Mishal as registering his own surprise that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — reportedly something of a politico-military novice — “was ready to take such a risk, (in) account of the fact that Israel was going to suffer from missile attacks against its population”, perhaps a predictable result coming from a roguish set of militants hell-bent on ‘resisting’ foreign ‘domination’ as Hizbollah.

The reactions abroad seem instructive. Israel is engaging in “disproportionate” use of force, says the European Union. Hizbollah, for its part, is roundly condemned by the Arab League for “irresponsibly” dooming the Lebanese to the might of the IDF. And only very recently has the U.S. sent out a State Department delegation to the region, though has so far rejected talk of any ceasefire, which ought to be mutual, unequivocal and immediate.

Ari Shavit, in an opinion piece from the premier Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, explains that laying down arms “would serve to redefine what is now mistakenly perceived as a savage war between two savage and bloodthirsty tribes” (“Start Over,” 17 July 2006). Shavit adds, without a hint of doubt, “We are killing and being killed for our border. We are killing and being killed for our liberty … for our very existence as a free society.”

The words of Knesset member Yossi Sarid are worth heeding:

Deterring capability [with which to fight terrorism] consists not only of military might, but also of moral might. After all, Bush himself, and not the defeatist bleeding hearts, often talks in the name of the Moral Majority and world morality and cites it as the culmination of his vision. … The president himself is violating human and civil rights by ordering mass wiretapping, by the wholesale penetration of private bank accounts and by unrestrained assaults on journalists who are faithfully doing their job. Most of these phenomena are of course not foreign to Israel, which encountered difficulties when, in the biblical metaphor, it did the deed of Zimri and demanded the reward of Pinhas.[*] This is … joining the evildoers and strengthening them and their arguments.”

As Yigal Sarena notes in Yedioth Ahronoth, “‘A cat pushed into a corner becomes a panther,’ goes the Arab saying.” From the first front, “The miserable Gaza panther fires its annoying tin-can Qassams as a call of poverty from those choking, those who lack answers.”

*This story (to the best of my understanding, anyway) refers to violent moments of zealotry, to which the antidote is clear, calm thinking. Scholarly, rabbinical commentary from Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom, a humanistic religious Zionist group, provides this interpretation. In “The Deed of Pinhas and the Breaking of the Tablets,” Pinchas Leiser puts it this way: “Even though Pinhas’s intentions were pure,” Israel protecting its people in Sarid’s analogue, “there is no guarantee that the zealot’s soul will emerge unscathed by zealous killing, even if that killing appears to be justified.”

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

UPDATE: Professor Juan R.I. Cole, an Orientalist scholar at the University of Michigan fluent in Arabic, had written,

“People often ... ask me about this verse:

“[5:51] ‘O you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as friends; these are friends of one another. Those among you who ally themselves with these belong with them.’

“This is actually not a good translation of the original, which has a very specific context. In the Arabia of Muhammad’s time, it was possible for an individual to become an honorary member or ‘client’ of a powerful tribe. But of course, if you did that you would be subordinating yourself politically to that tribe. The word used in Arabic here does not mean ‘friend.’ It means ‘political patron’ (wali). What the Quran is trying to do is to discourage stray Muslims from subordinating themselves to Christian or Jewish tribes that might in turn ally with pagan Mecca, or in any case might have interests at odds with those of the general Muslim community.

“So the verse actually says:

“[5:51] ‘O you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as tribal patrons; these are tribal patrons of one another. Those among you who become clients of these belong with them.’ ...”

Thanks for clearing that up.
But who is responsible?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Prayers for Bombay, and our solidarity with Indian resistance to such barbaric atrocities as we have seen today.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rumble-Jumble (part 2):

warns of “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza, forgets he laid a wreath for a guy who was a really big “humanitarian disaster” for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Harper’s reports that President Bush has added so-called “‘signing statements’” claiming Executive “exemption … from provisions of new laws” to Congressional legislation — such as the one instantly nullifying Sen. McCain’s absurd DON’T TORTURE PEOPLE ACT — 750 times.

(Continues: “… since Washington”, “all other presidents” up until Bush have done this 568 times.)

Why is the website for the Korean Central News Agency (
KCNA), the Pyongyang propaganda organ, hosted by the Japanese? Don’t they hate each other? The site even has an English mirror, so you can catch up with all the wacky bulletins yourself.

Dave Chappelle has returned. Well, no, he hasn’t, but we all would like to think so.

[Banana muffins are really not that bad, seriously.]

So psyched for A Scanner Darkly.

According to a couple forums (those of the New York Times and Foreign Policy magazine, respectively), my “ignorant and superficial” observations consumed with “delusional” “prejudice” are not worthy of civilized company… so, my apologies for brainwashing all of you.


Interesting things about the Koran (Qur’an?), maybe this is a matter of translation, interpretation or whatever, but it sheds some light. Now, the enemy of Western civilization is Islamic fundamentalism, right? Or, in more modern parlance, radical Islamism; nonetheless, not Islam itself, as a religion, as a body of holy laws, precepts, etc. That’s the moderate consensus. Yes?

Yet according to The Bible of the World (eds. Robert Ballou, Friedrich Spiegelberg & Horace Friess, 1939), an impressive anthology of all major holy texts, the central “Mohammedan” verses (suras) are riddled with calls toward respecting Jews and Christians as “readers of the Book” (p. 1313), therefore only God (Allah) can “judge between them as to that in which they have differed” (ibid.), as all three are originally rooted in Abraham’s covenant — that is at least my read of it.

But then there’s this passage, under the title ‘The Holy War’:

“And fight for the cause of God against those who fight against you … kill them wherever ye shall find them … for seduction from the truth is worse than slaughter … War is prescribed to you” (p. 1317). [Then again, preemptive attacks are strictly forbidden; they strike you, strike back but never strike first.]

More worrisome, there’s this:

“O believers! take not the Jews or Christians as friends. They are but friends to one another [what?!]; and if any one of you taketh them for his friends, then surely he is one of them! Verily God will not guide the evil-doers” (p. 1322). What happened to the benign “people of the book” stuff? I’m confused. Then again, mirroring the contradictions of the Judeo-Christian testaments, “God loveth not the abettors of violence” (p. 1324).

[Mohammad(ed?), historically, was a great warrior, who lead the charge of wiping out the Arabian pagans and conquering the surrounding lands by the sword; this contradicts the ‘peaceful prophet’ theme we often hear. Then again, God delivered the Israelites from the Canaanites, Jebusites and others, all the idolaters, which is often interpreted as a literal succession of genocidal battles against polytheistic tribes by the early Hebrews. So, if Islam was in fact established through violence, that’s hardly unique.]

Clearly, if not less obscurely, there is the bloody window of fanatical interpretations and demagoguery one could take away. To do so is to sully and corrupt the inner truths, the spirit of this and any religious text — not simply the letters that stride its thin surface. The letters are important, sure, but literalism is dangerous.

Like any religious text, I think, the Koran reflects the mental schism within all humanity, that is good and evil, right and wrong, the light and the darkness, viz. the wrath in the Old Testament and the compassion in the New — with the obvious exceptions of the Roman crucifixion and the Apocalypse.

Enough of my sermonizing. Afraid of EURABIA? In al Hayat, an Arabic daily printed in London, Elias Harfouch writes, “Unlike the theories expounded and exported to European cities by extremist ideologists in the Muslim world who consider the ‘other’ as an enemy, the facts confirm that the majority of Europe’s Muslims has the option of opening up and integrating the community, as well as embracing its cultural values.

poll which covered a wide segment of Muslims and that was published by ‘The [London] Times’ showed that 13% of those surveyed considered the London bombers martyrs. However, it is noteworthy that 87% deemed the bombings offensive to Muslims, and highly condemned the perpetrators” (6 July 2006, “The Responsibility to Fight Extremism”).


Gotta kick the cynicism and paranoia, though it’s mostly the former. And the na├»ve fatalism. (Am I this crazy?) “Trust your instincts,” I hear. “If something appears suspicious, or out of the ordinary, please report it immediately ...” Until next time.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
And let us destroy the Enlightenment together ...