Saturday, February 15, 2003
Can a Million Anti-War Protesters be Wrong?

I anticipate the question ahead of time and say, sadly, "Yes they can."

I find this day of protests going on in Europe a bit disheartening. It means that either Bush just isn't getting the message through or else that hundreds of thousands of people aren't willing to listen. Probably a combination of the two.

The sad drama being played out in the Security Council following the latest report by the Blix and Al-Baraideh makes me want to bang my head against a wall. The UN's Dumb and Dumber team seems to be perfectly happy playing hide-and-seek with Saddam indefinitely.

The great mustachioed one gives them just enough info for them to turn around and say "well, he's beginning to cooperate but he needs to cooperate more" without them ever finding anything.

He makes them into dupes, which I guess is fine by them.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of other dupes march in support of Iraq, the "real victim" in all this.

Sometimes I feel like a character in a Twilight Zone episode. I mean, is it me or is everyone else crazy?


Thursday, February 13, 2003
Israel vs. Belgium

It feels like Belgium week around here. Earlier in the week, Europe's poodle joined forces with France and Germany for another game of "Appease the Dictator". Today, the self-satisfied fritte munchers in Brussels are facing a bit of a diplomatic incident with my own home country.

Yesterday, Belgium's Supreme Court decided that it has the right to try Ariel Sharon for war crimes stemming from the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Chatilla camps. This case came about when a group of Palestinians decided to take advantage of Belgium's law giving it the authority to try anyone, anywhere for war crimes. They sued Sharon and a number of other IDF higher-ups at the time.

The case has been making its way through the Belgian courts and it was hoped that the Supreme Court would take the advice of the Belgian Attorney General and just let the issue drop. But, 'twas not to be. The Supreme Court decided that Belgium has the right to try anyone for crimes against humanity, even if they are not Belgian citizens, have not harmed Belgian citizens, and are not currently residing in Belgium.

In response, Israel has called in its ambassador to Belgium for consultations. In diplomatic terms, this is a fairly severe action. (The last time we recalled an ambassador was when Jorg Haider came to power in Austria).

This case pisses me off for so many different reasons. First, Sharon has already been investigated and punished for this matter. The Kahan comission ruled in 1983 that Sharon bore some indirect responsibility for the massacres, forced him to resign as Defense Minister, and ruled that he could never hold that post again.

Secondly, people seem to overlook the fact that the massacre was carried out by Lebanese militiamen on Lebanese soil under the command of Lebanese phalangist Elie Houbeika. However, the case in the Belgian courts names only Israelis. Granted, Houbeika has since shuffled off this mortal coil via a car bomb, but the original case was filed while he was still alive and no other Lebanese are named in the suit.

Third, what kind of voodoo jurisprudence gives Belgium the right to sit in judgement over everyone in the world? The International War Crimes Tribunal (which I'm alson not crazy about) would at least have the nominal authority of the UN. But how does Belgium have the authority (theoretically) to put me on trial?

It'll be interesting to see how this thing plays out, whether or not the Belgium court system will be able to get rid of this hot potato without too much diplomatic messiness. If it goes through, I sincerely hope that a similar suit against Yasser Arafat is speeded through the Belgian court system, along with another one charging any surviving Belgian colonialists for crimes against humanity perpetrated in the Congo.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Keeping the Weasels out of the Peace Process

An interesting bit of analysis in today's Ha'aretz. Ze'ev Schiff argues that France and Germany's current weaselly behavior with regards to the war will put them at a disadvantage if the so-called peace process ever resumes around here.

Schiff argues that now that the Euroweenies have shown their true faces, Bush will be a lot more amenable to Sharon's argument to keep them out of the eventual settlement. Sharon will argue against the European "road map" and in favor of a solution brokered exclusively by the U.S.

This is a positive development as far as Israel is concerned. Throughout the war, which will soon hit its 2 1/2 year mark, we have had to suffer a parade of meddlers from Europe who come here with a completely stilted and one-sided view of the confrontation. In this worldview, every Palestinian action is legitimate, or at least vaguely justifiable, and every Israeli reaction is a war crime. A peace solution brokered by these clowns or, worse, a solution which hinges on these clowns acting as a buffer between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a non-starter.

(The worst-case scenario would be the imposition of a multilateral force made up primarilly of Europeans. Such a force would doubtlessly stand by and let Palestinian terrorists sneak into Israel to kill civilians while stopping or hindering the IDF from taking any retaliatory action. We suffered this exact thing with the UN forces in Lebanon).

And this, by the way, is the Europeans acting in a semi-rational manner. France's latest manouevering -- essentially threatening to tear apart NATO and reduce the UN Security Council to a laughingstock all for the sake of l' ego Francaise-- seems to come from outer space.

I think I speak for a many Israelis in saying that if we can keep them out of this region, all the better.

Bad Poetry Season

Anyone remember Tom Paulin? As you may recall, Harvard came under fire a few months back for inviting Paulin, a visiting professor at Columbia University, to come speak on campus. This after Paulin gave an interview to an Egyptian newspaper where he mouthed off all sorts of anti-Semitic declarations, including the fact that he would love to machine-gun the "Brooklyn-born Jews" on the West Bank Settlements. The whole incident seemed to be part of anti-Semitic poets season, what with the attendant flap about Amiri Baraka.

Anyway, Paulin is leaving Columbia. Whether his leaving has anything to do with the controversy about his remarks is yet to be determined. However, Paulin has decided to leave with a parting shot, a 130-line poem called "On Being Dealt the Anti Semitic Card"

Paulin's poem is a whining, self-serving creation. Paulin trots out lines mentioning the Holocaust, the Dreyfuss affair, and the Jews killed by the Crusaders. This, of course, just to make sure that he can say "Look, I respect ths suffering of the Jews." At the same time, he engages in my favorite trick of turning against those that call him an anti-Semite and comparing them with the Nazis ("in this case the ones who play the a-s card/of death threats hate mail talking tough/the usual cynical Goebbels stuff") and the followers of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

A better, and more thorough ripping-apart of this piece of lyrical dreck comes courtesy of Ron Rosenbaum, still one of my favorite columnists out there:
It’s a shame that the "poem"—basically 130-plus broken-backed lines of mediocre prose aligned to make it a simulacrum of poetry—can’t be reproduced whole. Because forget the anti-Semitic card: The people who deal out the "lousy poet card," or indeed the "bad faith card" should be whipping them out now.
(Rosenbaum bundles this criticism with some commentary about a recent work by English poet Andrew Motion, calling it "Attack of the Bad British Poets".)

Also in poetry news, the White House recently cancelled a symposium on Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman called "Poetry and the American Voice". The symposium was to be hosted by the First Lady. It was cancelled after a number of the poets invited to attend, such as Sam Hamill, made it clear they would use the opportunity to attack the Bush administration and oppose the war.

Some people called the administration cowardly and others muttered the usual stuff about the First Ammendment. I don't think either charge is applicable. If you step back and look at it from a common-sense perspective, the poets have the right to criticize the administration, and the First Lady has the right not to give them a platform to do it from.

I don't, however, buy the accepted blather that the "job" of the poet is to protest and attack. I do, however, find the adolescent glee with which the poets prepared their attack on Laura Bush to be a bit sad:
"I don't think this is the hour when people should be polite for the sake of politeness," a poet named Mary Oliver told the Boston Globe, explaining her support for Hamill's campaign. At least she recognizes there are bad manners involved. Mrs. Bush's invitation could have been quietly declined by those whose opposition to her husband's policies is too strong to allow them to enter her home. Instead, they chose the other route. "What idiot thought Sam Hamill would be a good candidate for Laura Bush's tea party?" Hamill laughed. "Someone's going to get fired over this."
Now, I remember having this exact attitude towards the administration of Bush Sr. On the other hand, I was 19 years old at the time. Sam Hamill is in his sixties. I find this a bit sad.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Yesterday, I referred to Belgium as "Frog wannabes."

The correct phrase, of course, should have been "Germany's doormat."

My apologies for the confusion.

Monday, February 10, 2003
The Cult of the Shahid

Normally, I don't like harping on the cult of death that has become the defining feature of Palestinian society in the last couple of years. For one thing, LGF does a much better job of chronicling it than I could ever hope to do. And yet, sometimes you come across an article that really is worth sharing.

This feature appeared in the Canadian Globe and Mail. It tells the story of Aayat Al-Akhras, a studious young Palestinian woman who snuck into one of the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem last March and blew herself up in a supermarket, killing two. (The damage would have been much greater had the supermarket's security guard not sacrificed himself by physically preventing Al-Akhras from going in).

Al-Akhras' other victim was a young Israeli girl, Rachel Levy. Many of the news reports at the time latched onto the fact that both Al-Akhras and Levy were 17-year-old girls, giving the story a mawkish "under different circumstances they could have been friends" spin.

The media would have done better focusing on the relentless Palestinian propaganda aimed at their own young, which extols the virtues of Shuhada (martyrdom) over all. This message can be found at all levels of the Palestinian spectrum, emanating not only from Hamas and Islamic Jihad but also on Palestinian television and radio as well as Palestinian textbooks.

This is by far Arafat's biggest crime. He is responsible for systematically poisoning the minds of an entire generation of young Palestinians who learn that their greatest goal in life is to kill Jews. Israelis, who suffer when these kids turn themselves into human bombs, then look on the Palestinians and see a nation of bloodthirsty lunatics. And the mutual resentment between the two sides continues to grow.

The Palestinian Authority has been carrying on this incitement for years, regardless of the situation of the peace process. Even at the height of the Oslo accords, Israel raised questions about the material in Palestinian textbooks.
The saddest thing about it is that the Palestinians are slowly beginning to realize that they gain absolutely nothing from the suicide bombings. Israeli society is not falling apart. In fact, it's probably more unified than it was three or four years ago. On the other hand, the suicide bombings do bring about closures, arrests, targetted assassinations, and other IDF actions. They are also heavilly responsible for Ariel Sharon's landslide win in the latest elections.

And despite all this, the suicide bombers continue to try their luck. As the article points out, at some point the idea of becoming a shahid (martyr) loses any nationalistic or strategic significance. Martyrdom becomes the ends, not the means.

French Watch, continued

No sooner do I put to bed a collection of articles criticizing the French does a whole new crop of articles come along. At this rate, I may have to start a weekly "Why we hate the Frogs" segment. But I suppose this is what you get when you're a has-been world power jockeying for position (and protecting your deals with the Devil) by attempting to monkeywrench the Americans.

The latest Axis of Weasels ploy has the Frogs, the Krauts, and the Belgians (Frog wannabes) putting the kibosh on increasing Turkey's defenses in case of a war against Iraq. This while Saddam begins stonewalling the UN's Dumb and Dumber team of Blix and El-Baradei in an attempt to circumvent this week's Final Warning to cooperate with the inspectors. Whom does this kind of manouevering impress? Why the French, of course.

(BTW, as I was writing this, I heard the phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" being used on Sky News. This is becoming the fastest-spreading meme of the season!)

Anyway, herewith the latest and bestest bits of Frog-bashing:

Sunday, February 09, 2003
History at the UN

This little story sums up fairly well Israel's, shall we say, ambivalence towards the United Nations.

Last Friday, David Govrin was chosen to be one of three vice presidents of a UN working group that will help organize a disarmament conference.

Why is this of any import? Because this is the first time an Israeli has been chosen for any UN post in 42 years.

The unique makeup of the United Nations, Israel has traditionally fallen between the chairs when it comes to regional affiliation. Thus, the peace-loving democracies (oops, typo, I meant to say Third-World thugocracies) that make up the majority in the UN have been able to keep Israel from having any representation anywhere.

Meanwhile, of course, terrorist-sponsoring dictatorships like Syria sit on the Security Council and Libya heads up a commission on human rights.

And then you wonder why I thumb my nose at this organization...

More Junk TV

I turned on CNN and they were trumpeting their exclusive interview with Mohammed al-Douri. Al-Douri faced questions by CNN's Jim Clancy about all the subjects you'd expect: the Powell speech, the WMDs, the weapons inspectors, etc. For his part, Al-Douri responded exactly how you'd expect: parroting the Saddam line about how his country has now WMDs and is the victim of American and Israeli aggression. (The Jews, as usual, got heavy play; for as we all know, the main purpose of this war -- besides control of Iraq's oil -- is to turn the world's focus away from Palestine).

At first, I gave the interview my full attention. After about 10 minutes I went off to do some other things and left it on as background noise. I began to wonder what the point of this interview was.

It put me in mind of another interview of an Iraqi, this one with the Benevolent Uncle himself. Last week Tony Benn conducted a thoroughly craven interview with Saddam on behalf of Britain's Channel 4. (You can read the transcript here.) Benn fawns all over the Butcher of Baghdad, starting off the interview saying that its purpose is to help Saddam avoid a war. He then proceeds to pitch a series of softball questions at the Big Guy, leading to many of the same answers as al-Douri gave Jim Clancy: Iraq is the victim here, we pose no threat to the US, the Jews are behind it all. Saddam also expressed his appreciation for all the anti-war protestors.

Now, Tony Benn has a clear agenda. He is a useful idiot par excellence who believes that by giving Saddam a platform to show that he's actually a cuddly, friendly kind of despot that war might be avoided. But what what did the people at CNN expect to get from their big interview with the UN ambassador? Did they really think that Satan's flunky would offer up anything other than the same lies and obfuscations as his boss? Did they think they would be enlightening the world in any way?

These interviews strike me as another extension of the grand charade currently being played out in Iraq. No rational person expects the UN arms inspections to avert the war. For that to happen, Saddam would have to be willing to comply. We know he isn't. So, the UN arms inspectors are playing a kind of pantomime, going through the rituals of trying to prevent the war.

The same can be said of interviewing Iraqi officials. The news outlets ostensibly interview people in order to air facts, news (some even think they're airing The Truth). However, when you interview a murderous dictator or his flacks all you're going to get are lies and obfuscations. And the act of airing these lies and obfuscations -- especially when everyone right of Sean Penn knows that they are lies and obfuscations -- becomes a pantomime of itself.

Junk TV

Totally off-topic: E! is one of those pernicious inventions which eats up time without you even feeling it. For the last couple of weeks, I've found myself zapping channels and alighting on The Anna Nicole Show. I've never seen a television show that has caused me to stare at the screen with mouth slightly agape. Last week's episode featured Anna Nicole and her coterie of hangers-on going on a road trip to Las Vegas where they all proceed to get drunk, drive around the town in a golf cart (nearly getting on the highway), and end up in a strip club where they all (Anna Nicole included) get lap dances from the ladies.

You watch this stuff with a mix of fascination and uneasiness, as though by watching you're also helping exploit this woman who seems either stoned or retarted, possibly both. This is unlike the experience of watching The Osbournes. Ozzy might be a total burnout, but at least with Sharon on the scene you can rest easy knowing that there's adult supervision.