Monday, August 28, 2006

We Order Our Priorities

It’s frustrating to read the mainstream news today. It’s fairly frustrating everyday, since short attention spans overtook demand for some depth to news reporting and all the average citizen can handle is a sound- or word-bite that tells an entire story in a sensational headline. Today’s big story: Karr Won’t be Charged in JonBenet Murder.

The frustration lies in the other news stories that are all more important for each of us in our lives than some nut wanting a moment of fame by falsely confessing to a crime with which he had nothing to do. The big stories are a tropical storm, Ernesto, rumbling up the waters toward eastern Florida, and the overreaction of the authorities in the face of earlier under reaction to what could prove to be yes, a lot of rain, but no, not much of a hurricane. Then again, W’s smarter, more serious, younger brother, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, is positioning himself for a dynastic plunge into the presidential wannabe foray, so when he can point to his utterly remarkable management of the onslaught of Ernesto with all of it’s fury, that would be a nice notch on his political resume.

There have been bombings in Turkey with people killed, UN Secretary Kofi Annan is in Lebanon trying to get Hezbollah to release 2 Israeli soldiers so that Israel won’t kill additional hundreds of Lebanese again. And in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a state probe into his conduct of the recent war in light of the failure to defeat, utterly, Hezbollah in Lebanon. Instead he will authorize a downsized, less antagonistic committee investigation. "I am not going to allow the army to be a whipping boy, nor am I ... simply to satisfy some Tom, Dick or Harry," he said.

I can see his point, especially based on some back ground supplied in a New Yorker Article by Seymour Hersh of August 21, 2006. Why would Olmert want to take the blame for being a go-along kind of guy, appeasing Israel’s number one ally and financial benefactor, not to mention the most powerful nation on earth, the US?

The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

Hersh describes the complex discussions and planning back and forth, and the customary denials and affirmations of both sides, Israel and the US, that there were plans, or not, and who first decided on the plans, or who acquiesced. No matter what story is the bottom-line truth, the obvious initial US detachment from trying to negotiate an end of the bombings allowed the horrendous destruction of years of Lebanese infrastructure construction, and of course several hundred innocent civilian deaths and homeless and villages gone. All to make Israel safer, and keep the US safe, from Iran nuke possibilities and other evildoings by those Islamo-Faschist folks.

It’s hard to blame Olmert for not wanting to be called on the carpet for not coming out of that war with a shiny new Hezbollah-free southern Lebanon. It wasn’t his entire fault.

Worry not, my fellow US citizens—that news isn’t going to see the light of conversation at today’s water coolers or tonight’s dinner table. A plane went off the wrong runway in Kentucky yesterday killing 49 people, and Conan O’Brien had a pre-taped spoof showing a plane in trouble on the Emmy telecast last night. Some consider that bad taste and it got attention in today’s papers. That story, the JonBenet case, and a possible hurricane get the big billing.

The long term problems of ongoing US military occupation of war-torn Iraq, tensions between Israel and its neighbors, declining ability of Americans to pay for necessary health care—these items which affect each and every one of us—will be on the back burner--out of sight, out of, what would be for Bush politically-detrimental, mind for now. Even on his best day, Karl Rove couldn’t engineer this favorable order of news-story priorities for the sake of his bosses, Bush and Cheney. Then again, in terms of supply and demand and the news—we all engineered it for ourselves.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It’s the Bigotry, Stupid!

It’s time to play the racism card again. Every so often, the number one problem of our society—bigotry—raises its angry gorgonesque tentacled head throughout the media. Lately we’ve been bombarded with stories about Mel Gibson, the anti-Semite; Andrew Young, an icon of the civil-rights movement, incredibly inserting racist foot in mouth as a Wal-Mart rep; Virginia Republican Senator George Allen using a possible racial slur to make a point at a political gathering—all of this while we are told by pundits and partisans that bigotry in the good ole USA is nothing compared to what it was 40 years ago.

Oh really? All those old bigots died and left all of us clean tolerant love-thy-neighbor wannabes to carry on in the tradition of “all men are created equal?” So that book I’ve been working on--Pardon My Prejudice: America’s Excuse for Bigotry—which was inspired by what I see and hear on a daily basis just living in America, all that fire I felt that needed to be put on paper about what is wrecking the great American dream, or at least postponing its potential through the little everyday words of hate, was a mirage invented in my head for more writing practice? With all due modesty and respect for a margin of error, I am not that delusional.

In the midst of gathering my thoughts for this post, I came across the latest blog entry on Huffington Post by Dave Johnson, a super-blogger:

The other day I wrote about how the Right's amplification machine was picking up the signal on this, calling for "racial profiling" of Middle-Easterners, even though not all Muslims are Middle Eastern. Of course, never mind about Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph and others of domestic origin.

Let's be clear what "profiling" means - it means singling out all people of a certain racial appearance for harassment and intimidation. And let's be clear about what complaints about "political correctness" and "multiculturalism" are - they are racist phrases demanding domination and privilege for those of European descent.

That goes for the anti-immigration activists as well. There really is a lot of grist to go into on the racist subject, and those who would deny this problem, or excuse it as a momentary aberration, like Jackie Mason, famous Jewish comedian, explaining that Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Jewish vitriol was nothing he hadn’t heard before from other drunks, and shouldn’t carry any weight.

A better viewpoint comes from Jonah Goldberg’s latest op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times in which he argues that besides reinforced prejudice towards others who are different, like Nazi hatred of Jews, there is a learned fear along with the prejudice, so that the racist mind can actually believe that it’s worthwhile morally to act on the hatred:

…the Nazis really believed that the Jews ran the world and wanted to destroy Germany. They believed that Jews controlled not only the Bolsheviks to the east but the capitalists to the west. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a mere pawn of his Jewish friends and advisors. The British Parliament, Goebbels wrote in one diary entry, was "in reality a kind of Jewish stock exchange." The "Jewish-Plutocratic enemy" was everywhere, benefiting from, and responsible for, every piece of bad news for Germany. In fact, the Nazis were sure that the Jews had declared war on Germany first, giving them no choice but to respond to the Jewish campaign to "exterminate the Germans." This paranoia led the Nazis to believe that rounding up millions of Jews and gassing them was an act of self-defense.

What is so frightening is how similar this is to the sounds from the Middle East today.
Goldberg goes on about Iran and the anti-Jewish rhetoric of Ahmadinejad. These leaders in the spotlight, including of course Nasrallah of the Lebanese Hizbullah, are not the only ones to stir up the base prejudices of their people.

The incursion into Iraq, and the ongoing proclamation by Bush and his neocon "nudgers" that the US is spreading democracy, has all the implications of racism. It’s obvious this policy is flawed since the flower and confetti–throwing grateful Iraqi population never appeared to welcome the invading army of US military might, as was predicted by Cheney and Rumsfeld. Chris Dickey explains simply why it didn’t work out quite as predicted:

What does not help in the process of encouraging peace (because no one is going to “bring” peace), is the notion that we Americans can apply our nationalist vision to people who never chose to participate in our immigrant aspirations to begin with: people who feel safer, stronger and saner in their worlds of belonging than in our world of having. When we make that mistake, threatening to the core their sense of who they are, all we do is invite hatred.

Chris, Newsweek’s Middle East and terrorism expert, understands intimately the thinking of the man on the street, as well as his leaders. One thing Chris makes poignant in his latest discussion of media priorities vs. reality, is the perpetual mutually-fed fascination with sensation in the US by those who provide the news, and by those who choose what news they want:

In the genocides of Rwanda and Bosnia, how many children with smiles every bit as warm and guileless as JonBenet Ramsey's were slaughtered by machete and hand grenade, sniper rifle and mortar shell? How many children died from AIDS in Africa or were orphaned by it? While the United States debated the true significance of that stain on the dress lovingly preserved by former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the Taliban were taking over Afghanistan and their ally Osama bin Laden was declaring war on the Western world.

What does the American viewing news and media priorities have to do with prejudice, bigotry and racism? They are completely intertwined, because no one would care about the JonBenet Ramsey case if she were a poor African-American, or a poor African living in Africa, or an Iraqi girl slaughtered by accident in the crossfire between Coalition fighters and Iraqi insurgents. That’s just one example.

Chris chooses to use the closing of the movie The Ugly American, showing political figure Marlon Brando on a TV screen in a middle-class American home about to describe what he thinks will help the growing problems of Southeast Asia, and the viewer watching the TV clicking it off with his remote control as he reaches for a cold beer. That image, from 1963, shows that American apathy towards the rest of the world is nothing new. That this apathy partially derives from racism is not clearly understood.

Comments made by people are striking, that ardent racism is a thing of the past, that anti-Semitism was really bad after WWII when there were restricted neighborhoods etc, that African Americans have all the benefits of society since the civil rights laws were passed.

After Mel Gibson’s DUI dilemma, and the publicizing of it through Harvey Levin’s TMZ web site, I was looking at the latest info about a rabbi asking Gibson to speak on one of the High Holidays this fall. As I glanced at the comments after the article, I was amazed by the percentage of anti-Jewish remarks, and by the abject anger and hatred of them. But I also noticed that both sides of the “debate” were heavy with intensity. Apparently, bigotry-wise, whether you’re on one side or the other, you’re pissed! Here are some quotes:

fuck this homophobe / jew hater


It is about time jewish people get over this for crying out loud, i myself have had a bad experience with bad jewish a racist who was out to make his students life miserable, and to top it all off he was a faggot. Get over yourselves greedy idiots.

listen you jew loving b****es, who the FU** cares wat he said about the jews, he said they were responsible for all the wars in this world, THE MAN IS PROBABLY RIGHT, YOU A**HOLES, First i think people who talk out loud like that are stupid idiots in the first place, but don't think the jewish people are crying over this incident, they are too busy working the poor folk , those bitches dont even tip, they are the scum of this planet.

Good god. Enough is enough. The poor little Jewish people that can't handle someone talking bad about them need to grow up. Didn't your mommy ever tell you stick and stones.... I'm sure if she didn't that someone else has. This whole thing is completely ridiculous.

OK class—so what have we learned here: there’s a lot of anger out there. Anger needs to be focused, and sometimes it’s easier to see a group of people who are not part of one’s homogenous group as the problem, and cause, of one’s troubles. That’s a lot easier than blaming oneself for ones troubles.

Then there is disappointment: I have always admired Andrew Young, civil-rights worker with Martin Luther King, and political activist in the name of tolerance and understanding. So I was appalled and saddened to hear of his choice of verbiage to describe why Wal-Mart was going to help the inner-city communities he champions:

Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.

"Well, I think they should; they ran the `mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," the paper quoted Young as saying. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough.

First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."

Young resigned his Wal-Mart post, and I’m not the only one who saw the problem in what he said:

The remarks surprised Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who pointed to Young's reputation of civil rights work.

"If anyone should know that these are the words of bigotry, anti-Semitism and prejudice, it's him," Hier said. "I know he apologized, but I would say this, ... during his years as a leader of the national civil rights movement, if anyone would utter remarks like this about African-Americans his voice would be the first to rise in indignation."

Well, nobody’s perfect. What’s happening is not just bigotry, but the ease with which it can be generated. Lack of tolerance for someone who is different comes from ignorance of the meaning of that difference. Knowledge of why people dress a certain way, or why their culture has certain aspects—that knowledge brings tolerance and understanding. The constant barrage of tiny bites of visual and audio stimulus which has become how we receive our information through the media—that promulgates ignorance, which perpetuates prejudice and bigotry.

Chris Matthews on the Imus show last Friday morning explained why cable news has devolved into one quick sensational story after another. He said the person watching with the remote-control clicker in his hand has a choice of hundreds of options to switch to—if there is hesitation or pause, he’ll click to another choice. Thus, the way to keep your audience is to offer quick bites, quick ideas, which leads to easy labels and generalizations—stereotyping—and furthers prejudice and bigotry which feed off of simplicity and naiveté.

William Lederer, who co-wrote Ugly American, also wrote in a preface to his book Nation of Sheep how the death of an individual affects each of us. He described a pyramid, where the top narrow section equaled the death of a loved one, and the bottom widest area was the equivalent of several million people in a foreign country dying—each segment of the pyramid would affect us equally.

It may never be possible for us to equate the death of someone in Tibet with the death of a member of our family. But unless we come to understanding that our priorities of interhuman relationships has to come down to treating others as we would treat ourselves--not only as individuals but as a nation--the current Middle East skirmishes and deaths are going to seem minor compared to what may be coming.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Like the Common Folk Do

Bush doesn’t open his own car door, and hasn’t since he was inaugurated as POTUS in January, 2001. Condoleeza Rice shops for shoes at the finest boutiques on 5th Avenue, without giving a thought to the cost or how to make the bill payment. Cheney and Rumsfeld are corporate animals who may never see their own checkbooks because those who manage their affairs manage everything for them.

Can you imagine one of these titans of power standing at the counter at the dry cleaners, asking if this shirt would be better off laundered or dry cleaned? Or any of them taking the time to stand in line at the local market, answering the checker’s ubiquitous inquiry, “Did you find everything OK?”

Can you picture one of them wondering if they should run the air-conditioning on any given night during this ridiculously-hot summer in order to get a night’s sleep without sweating on the pillow, because they might not be able to pay the horrendous electric bill as a result next month? Or can you imagine any of them thinking about whether to buy those pants, or this shirt, or more milk or less bread, because they just can’t make financial ends meet by saying yes to every purchase?

What would happen to these people’s decisions if they had to give up living like royalty, and scrape along like the rest of us, worrying about our budgets and medical care for our families and all the rest that goes along with the American Dream? Would they consider what the consequences are of carrying out a reckless foreign policy that jeopardizes all sides, as well as alienating potential allies throughout the world? Would they look at the other person’s dilemma with a bit more empathy, instead of through a telescopic viewer with only political goals and ends in the sight?

Bush uses a term “Islamic Fascist” for the enemy in the so-called cause of eliminating terrorism from the world, as if that could be done. He might as well have said, "Moon-men,” for all the unintelligent gobbledygook "Islam-Fascist" means.

Fascism is a quasi-political term given to a government that is not democratically elected, is totalitarian, and wants to control the means of production—as opposed to communism which purports to have the people, which is to say the “state,” own the means of production. Islam is a religion, followed by millions and millions of people world wide. Islam and fascism together is like saying Native Americans and parliamentary government. There is no connection. But “Fascism” sounds really bad—like saying “axis of evil,” or “evildoers.”

There is no reality check for our executive leaders. They are a bunch of hysterical megalomaniacs trying to punch their way out of a paper bag of trouble that they have created for themselves. The real problem here, is that they’ve dragged American citizens along with them into this mindless abyss, along with a good portion of the rest of the world as well. It is mind boggling to even think of the untold damage a mere two terms of Bush’s presidency has done to the people of this small planet. Our only hope is that by voting, we can bring this to a halt sooner than later.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Revolutionary War—It’s Old Hat

Guerilla war, fought from within the matrix of a country, hiding in homes, places of business, hospitals, schools, and appearing now and then to fire hodge-podge destructive potshots to hurt the enemy—the guerillas always win.

The French vacated Indo-China when they could see the handwriting on the wall. The US moved in gradually until ten years later there were 500,000 American troops stationed there fighting an unbeatable enemy. 50,000 troops were killed in Vietnam, then the US vacated and is trading with that country today.

The obvious best example of guerilla warfare is the American Revolutionary War. There is no known casualty total--several thousand died in battle on each side. Disease killed ten times the number of war casualties in the same period. Around 40-45% of American colonists were supportive of the revolution. It became a burden for the British to continue fighting on another continent, so they recognized the new nation of the United States.

The Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon operates in a similar fashion as any guerilla group, blending in with the population and not staging specific battle grounds. They fire their vintage WWII Russian-made Katyusha rockets into northern Israel from just about anywhere, hiding them in private homes, schools, hospitals—anywhere.

Hizbollah does not expect to be able to wipe out the Jews in Israel, or destroy the State of Israel. Hizbollah is a proxy militia force set up by Iran subsequent to Israel vacating southern Lebanon in the 1980’s. Hizbollah is Iran in Lebanon. And Syria is the pimp go-between.

They are trying to start a gathering storm of congealing groups of anti-Israel forces throughout the Arab world to eventually make it impossible for Israel to continue as Jewish state, and to give up as much of its land as they can force.

And there is the demigod—the “idol” to see on cable news and Arab TV--their leader, Nasrallah, wants a world stage from which to bloat his bloateries, not unlike Arafat 40 years ago, who was a nobody without a cause--until he got the Palestinian diaspora to see itself as unjustly displaced. Never mind that it was the Arab countries who displaced them.

Israel wants utterly to destroy Hizbollah, and Israel is not making any progress so far in accomplishing this aim. The US powers-that-be – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, mouthpiece Rice – see a chance to gain an upper hand against Iran while Israel fights the battle on the front. Bush and cronies are itching for a “good” reason to start bombing Iran. How else do they distract the American “proles” from the real issues at hand—relying less on fossil fuel for this nation’s wealth and resources; taking responsibility for the hungry and suffering of the rest of the world while there is the means and method of alleviating that insufficiency. That’s too much work—that doesn’t buy a better cushion for the power-elite in the US.

The current strife has managed to gain recruits for Hizbollah and the radical anti-Jewish anti-Israel movement in the Arab countries surrounding Israel, while not to diminish the zeal and numbers of militia. In addition, Israel has thrown enough firepower into the structures of Lebanon, including the airport, to knock it literally fifty years back in time from its pre-current-war state.

Israel does have the right to defend itself from unfriendly invasion, with which Hizbollah started off this business. Israel military might, including it’s nuclear capability, has the power to destroy Lebanon completely, and Hizbollah with it, which Israel won’t do for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the immorality of killing millions of innocent people to get rid of a few tens of thousands of the enemy.

Short of such all-out destruction by Israel, Hizbollah will survive, probably gain strength, and negate all of the goals and reasons for Israel’s attack on southern Lebanon in order to avenge the original, initial Hezbollah invasion. Israel’s number one, and these days only, international friend, the United States, resolutely stayed out of the fray hoping that Israel would do it’s dirty work alone.

There is even rumor that Bush and Rice don’t see 100% eye to eye on trying to stop the conflict:

"The United States and Israel must understand that it is not in their long-term interests to allow themselves to become isolated in the Middle East and the world," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Rice ally and senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Both Damascus and Tehran must hear from America directly."

Bush the warmonger trumps Rice this time.

All this contradiction and futility is not lost on the saner leader of the region, Jordan's King Abdullah II, in an interview with the BBC. His judgment, while negative and depressing, is the reality of the day, after one month of fighting:

Each time we have a crisis it gets far more unstable and the end game or where we're going to be leading a region is dim," he told the BBC.

"I can't read the political map of the Middle East anymore because I see all the heavy clouds over our shoulders at this stage.

"I fear for the future of the Middle East."

The king, after reiterating his calls for an "immediate ceasefire" in the conflict, said that if Arabs and Israelis did not sit down and "declare a new future" for the region, countries in the region "will continually be sucked into the abyss."

While stating his hopes for a United Nations Security Council resolution bringing an end to the conflict "today as opposed to tomorrow," the king said:

"You can't destroy Hezbollah."

The ongoing conflict is even starting to take second and third-tier importance in the daily news. The primary vote for democratic senator from Connecticut between incumbent Lieberman and challenger Lamont is the big story today, along with the closure of the British Petroleum pipeline section which may cost Americans more money for gasoline, and the Fed pausing rate hikes after 17 increases in the last 2 years.

And American Idol is having auditions at the Rose Bowl, where several thousand wannabe contestants showed up at 4 AM to wait in line to get put down by Simon Cowell and his gang.

The Lieberman-Lamont race is important to catch a flavor of how democrats prefer their candidates from now on—will the pro or anti Iraq war stance make the difference, Lieberman being pro and Lamont anti?

That campaign’s importance to the future makeup of congress in the US lies in the enormous shadow of the conflict in the Middle East. There is a worldview in the leadership of the US that is completely apart from the reality of politics and society internationally. Some citizens are starting to get the message.

The Bush administration is looking for a fight against radical Islam. Bush sees himself as the “wartime president,” wants a war with Iran, and Syria if necessary. This will take the minds of American voters off the failure of US policy on the grand scale. and fear can be generated in place. The press can join arms with the government to make people think it’s better to have an armegeddon in the Middle East than to have one in New York, or St. Louis, or Omaha…

But the longer it takes to stop the conflict, the worse America’s options are, not to mention Israel’s. That Bush and company don’t understand this in all of it’s clarity gives more reason toi claim their incompetence. Over two weeks ago, Newsweek reporter Christopher Dickey already wrote what is happening and what Bush should have known:

The United States, following Israel’s lead, does not want an immediate ceasefire precisely because that would hand Hizbullah a classic guerrilla-style victory: it started this fight against a much greater military force—and it’s still standing. In the context of a region where vast Arab armies have been defeated in days, for a militia to hold out one week, two weeks and more, is seen as heroic. Hizbullah is the aggressor, the underdog and the noble survivor,
all at once. “It’s that deadly combination of the expectation game, which Hizbullah have won, and the victim game, which they’ve also won,” as my straight-talking friend put it.

Neither U.S. nor Israeli policymakers have taken this dynamic into account. If they had, they’d understand that with each passing day, no matterhow many casualties it takes, Hizbullah’s political power grows. Several of my worldly Lebanese and Arab friends here in Rome today—people who loathe Hizbullah—understand this problem well. Privately they say that’s one of the main reasons they are so horrified at the direction this war has taken: they fear not only that Lebanon will be destroyed, but that Hizbullah will wind up planting its banner atop the mountain of rubble.

Cooler minds must prevail here. The defeat of Lieberman as a referendum on the Iraq war is a start. It’s time to rise up in dissension against what our representatives in Washington, D.C. think is OK—the passive status quo, following pollsters, not taking the lead in fear of losing voter support--it lines their mattresses with the green stuff while it mortgages our lives and our children’s future.

The immoral inaction of congress to stand up to Bush and his dangerous notions is staggering. We need to elect new leaders, so that King Abdullah's fear for the Middle East remains a warning, and not a reality.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Chosen People

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Tevye: I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?—Fiddler on the Roof
As a child I never understood how it could be fair that God, creator of the world, could choose a single people to be “above” everyone else. Granted, the biblical pact with Abraham, who first figured out 4,000 years ago that there was one entity beyond us all—the “force” in an eastern mythological sort of way—solidified his lineage as favored among humans. But still, it didn’t seem fair to me. Was every one else “not chosen?”

Then one day, as I, Jewish, was taking lessons on how to become a good converted Jew in place of my ex-wife-to-be who was busy orchestrating her bridal registration at several department stores in Boston so she couldn't attend these classes herself, I was told an amazing consciousness-raising point of view by the reformed Jewish rabbi who conducted the classes: “chosen” doesn’t mean “special,” or “unusual.” It means that when Abraham saw the immorality of the lifestyle of the ancient nomadic peoples—human sacrifices, not valuing life itself, worshipping clay figurines as if they were powerful--and wanted his family to be separate from all that, his agreement with God to stand apart in a higher ethic code made him and his descendents “chosen” to bear this burden of responsibility, of setting the example for everyone else. The Jews are supposed to set the moral example for the rest of the world.

I was quite moved. And I was in disbelief. I didn’t see this great moral “cut-above” in the community of Jews I knew, let alone in the general community at large. But the idea of the lesson stuck, and I was intrigued—it must have stuck since it’s thirty years since I heard it.

Point-at-hand: Israel, at almost 60 years of existence as an independent Jewish State, fighting for its life since day 1, has been invaded by militia from the bordering country of Lebanon, and has reacted to defend itself by bombing that country and sending in troops to root out the harassing militia—Hezbollah. In so doing, protecting its people and trying to neutralize the offenders, Israeli forces have inadvertently killed innocent people, many of them children.

Jesse Kornbluth, eminent writer and fellow observer of this horrible state of affairs in the Middle East, makes some powerful points:

My pro-Israel friends shrug off this kind of revelation. They tell me, "The Arabs do worse." And so they do. But since when is the bar set by the worst offender? Is Abu Ghraib okay because at least our soldiers didn't use electric drills on their victims' eyes? As long as Israel doesn't decapitate Arab prisoners, should we speak of Israel's "mercy"?

As I write, there is a scandal about Israel's most recent atrocity: a couple of dozen children dead in Lebanon, some of them all the kids in a family. The Israeli line is that Hezbollah used this apartment building to hide bombs, that the residents were warned several times. Yet, oddly, no one seems to have left. The reports suggest that residents felt safe moving to lower floors. And so the bombs killed hem as they slept.

Zionists who froth at the mouth--I'm thinking of Alan Dershowitz--say this is all Hezbollah's fault for using civilians as shields. Even if you agree, so what? People who bomb kids get hated for it, period. As even Israel should know. You want to create sympathy for people you call terrorists? Kill kids. Works every time. (Of course, it is disingenous to argue that civilians are not the target of modern wars?they are.)

I have been complaining about the lack of my country’s response in the face of this travesty—I honesty don’t care if the dead or injured child, or innocent civilian for that matter, is Moslem, Christian, or Jewish—the killing of modern warfare, which by virtue of the participants’ behavior--hiding in hospitals and school buildings etc--causes the agony of non-participants—is worth the involvement of the leaders of my country, the United States of America, with all the money, arms, and where-with-all to stop this ongoing violence. The inaction of the leadership—Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney—is indicative of the lost morality, the abrogation of the moral upper-hand—the reason that the fighting goes on, and that these leaders need to be replaced, removed, and that the moral authority of this country needs to be reasserted by another group, whoever that may be, elected hopefully—to get the present conflict stopped, and the troops out of Iraq, and a peace plan in order for the Middle East.

Jews are the chosen people, but over the past century they have become victims. There’s only so much you can ask of one group to manage, to take personally, to try to survive—really I think the Jews have about had it. In the response, which many diplomats and pundits consider an “overreaction,” of the Israeli forces to the invasion across the northern border by the terrorist militia Hezbollah, Jews were doing no less than any other sovereign country would do. Yet as Swami explains in his articulate blog entry, the killing of children is never reasonable.

If the Jews are supposed to inhabit the higher moral ground, what about the United States of America—shouldn’t the most powerful and “moral” democracy in the world be responsible for carrying the highest moral banner? Yet instead of acting as peacemaker for the past several weeks, Bush and Rice have been goading the Israelis on to fulfill some sort of imagined mission of ridding Lebanon once and for all of every member of the Hezbollah ranks—as if that could be done. It can’t, and they all know it, and that’s why there the moral element is lacking in the Bush policies, and the Israeli response. Never mind the Hezbollah—they’re beneath discussion of moral grounds. Artificially set-up by the Iran megalomaniacs, Hezbollah is in the class with Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, even Arafat—those who need a cause to justify their raison d’etre. Pathetic is the best label for Nasrallah and his ilk.

The irony is that these news stories are not new—Mel Gibson froths off at a Jewish policemen who’s arresting him for drunk driving—Mel probably knows the guy -- he starts screaming “F***king Jews” and “Are you a Jew?” You think that came out of nowhere, or because Mel had one too many drinks? He knows these cops in Malibu—it’s not that big an area to patrol. Ya think there’s no more anti-Semitism in our enlightened age? Mel’s a big mouth for the ambient word that’s out there. Hatred is all over the place—Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Muslims, Gays, Lesbians. Liberal Media. Thin, White, Pure… Unless you’re Bill O’Reilly, you’re not accepted anymore.

No these stories aren’t new—here is a bit of dialogue from the movie, Exodus, about the original transition of Palestine from British protectorate to Nation State of Israel. This conversation is between Ari Ben Canaan, who is working to get the United Nations to recognize Israel and have the British leave, and his uncle, Akiva, of the terrorist group Irgun, which not unlike today’s terrorists tries to bring attention to a cause:

Ari: I think these bombings and these killings hurt us with the United Nations. A year ago we had the respect of the whole world. Now, when they read about us, it's nothing but terror and violence.

Akiva: It's not the first time this happens in history. I don't know of one nation, whether existing now or in the past hat was not born in violence. Terror, violence, death. They are the midwives who bring free nations into this world. Compromisers like the Haganah produce only abortions.

Ari: Before you have a country, you have to have people. That's the job we've done. Tens of thousands of people smuggled in with the whole British Navy blockading the coast. The population we've built is our most valid argument for independence. How can we ask the UN for a just decision when we keep blowing up things like a bunch of anarchists?

Akiva: You have just used the words "a just decision." May I tell you something?

Firstly--justice itself is an abstraction completely devoid of reality.

Second--to speak of justice and Jews in the same breath is a logical uncertainty.

Thirdly--one can argue the justice of Arab claims on Palestine just as one can argue the justice of Jewish claims.

Fourthly--no one can say the Jews have not had more than their share of injustice these past years. I therefore say,

Fifthly--Let the next injustice work against somebody else for a change.

Ari: You just changed the subject on me.

Today, US Secretary of State Rice has delineated elements of a cease-fire resolution for the UN to vote on, 60 years after the above supposed
conversation above took place. One of the items in the resolution:
Disarmament of all militias in Lebanon and the deployment of the Lebanese army throughout southern Lebanon, which is now controlled by Hezbollah.

Now who’s going to police that and how? Isn’t it about time we Americans woke up to our responsibilities, instead of watching this “war thing” on CNN and wondering if our gas prices will be affected?

It’s us! We need to take the higher moral road. We are the chosen people, like it or not. We have the power, the money, the means to feed the whole world. We can end poverty, hardship, and we have the tools—don’t believe me?—It’s the TRUTH! We better get a handle on that for our own sakes!