Friday, March 28, 2008

Negroponte in Pakistan

Perhaps the most startling encounter for the 68-year-old career diplomat was the deliberately pointed question by Farrukh Saleem, executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies, at the reception Wednesday evening.

“How is Pakistan different to Honduras?” Mr. Saleem asked, a query clearly intended to tweak Mr. Negroponte about his time as ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, when he was in charge of the American effort to train and arm a guerrilla force aimed at overthrowing the leftist government in Nicaragua. He was later criticized for meddling in the region and overlooking human rights abuses in pursuit of United States foreign policy goals.

Don't forget that glass

Ms Rich had claimed a boys' club culture held her and other women back during her career with the firm from 1999 to 2004, a claim denied by PwC.

But, of course, they would deny that.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Double standards

This picture was published in the New York Times today. When the rioters set Chinese stores on fire in Tibet. If the Palestinians did that to Israeli stores, the leftists and progressives in the US media would cry out: why do the Palestinians have to do that? Why can't the Palestinians engage in non-violent struggle? Why can't the Palestinians just stick to civil disobedience? Why do the Palestinians have to tarnish their cause like that? And then the Nation magazine would publish an editorial supporting Israeli right to shoot at the rioters. Spare me.

(Thanks to

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Embrace the contradictions

I have often been asked how it's possible for someone like me to carry two quite different world-views within, of Islam and the west; not, of course, that I do. Once my uncle said to me with some suspicion: "You're not a Christian, are you?" "No," I said. "I'm an atheist." "So am I," he replied. "But I am still Muslim." "A Muslim atheist?" I said. "It sounds odd." He said: "Not as odd as being nothing, an unbeliever."

Like a lot of queries put to writers, this question about how to put different things together is a representative one. We all have built-in and contrasting attitudes, represented by the different sexes of our parents, each of whom would have a different background and psychic history. Parents always disagree about which ideals they believe their children should pursue. A child is a cocktail of its parent's desires. Being a child at all involves resolving, or synthesising, at least two different worlds, outlooks and positions.


Like the racist, the fundamentalist works only with fantasy. For instance, there are those who like to consider the west to be only materialistic and the east only religious. The fundamentalist's idea of the west, like the racist's idea of his victim, is immune to argument or contact with reality. (Every self-confessed fundamentalist I have met was anti-Semitic.) This fantasy of the Other is always sexual, too. The west is recreated as a godless orgiastic stew of immoral copulation. If the black person has been demonised by the white, in turn the white is now being demonised by the militant Muslim. These fighting couples can't leave one another alone.

- Hanif Qureshi, "My uncle the Muslim atheist".

Thursday, March 20, 2008

5 years on crime remains unpunished

A letter in today's The Age:

Let me get this straight: Iraq has a million dead (give or take), countless more severely injured and several million displaced, all out of a population of roughly 26 million. Add to that a hollowed out professional sector, heavily damaged infrastructure, intermittent to non-existent supply of basic amenities (electricity, running water, medical care) and an ethnically cleansed society with deep sectarian divides — a situation exacerbated by insurgent fanatics who are now being armed by the occupying force in the name of keeping the peace. And Western powers are concerned that if they leave, something bad might happen?

China, the police state

The Chinese government has cracked down on  international and local coverage
of the recent Tibet protests. "People in China outside of the affected areas are
largely unaware of the severity of the situation." reports the Wall Street Journal.

Latest ICG report on Gaza

Gaza/Jerusalem/Brussels, 19 March 2008: The policy of squeezing Gaza and isolating Hamas has not worked. A new approach is needed if violence is to end and a viable peace process is to be promoted.

Ruling Palestine I: Gaza Under Hamas,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the situation in the Strip today and explores the options facing Israel, the Palestinians and the international community. Though difficult, a different way forward is imaginable: a mutual ceasefire in Gaza; a credible international effort to prevent arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza; and an opening of Gaza’s border crossings to alleviate Palestinian suffering. At the same time, efforts toward intra-Palestinian reconciliation are needed.

“The policy of isolating Hamas and Gaza is bankrupt and, by all conceivable measures, has backfired”, says Nicolas Pelham, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst in Jerusalem. “The population’s suffering has only increased its dependence on its rulers”.

Since Hamas assumed full control of Gaza in June 2007, the already tight sanctions imposed following its January 2006 electoral victory have been tightened further. Israel curtailed cross-border traffic. The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has done its part to cut off Gaza and prevent the normal functioning of government. The international community – the Arab world included – has been at best passive.

If trends continue, the worst is imaginable: increased firing of rockets against Israeli towns and cities as well as the resumption of bombings and attacks inside Israel; intensified Israeli military incursions, targeted assassinations and attacks on key installations; the collapse of the peace process; the discrediting of pragmatic Palestinian leaders; and, potentially, the conflict’s spread to the West Bank or Lebanon.

“The worst is not yet inevitable”, says Robert Malley, Director of Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program. “But avoiding it depends on Fatah and Hamas beginning the process of reconciliation; a ceasefire agreement that allows Gazans and Israelis near the border to pursue normal lives; and the international community at last playing a constructive part in encouraging the parties to achieve these goals”.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Facebook enters the Israel/Palestine conflict

IMEMC reports:

Due to complaints from Israeli settlers over the selection of geographical location, the American based Facebook website will now allow a choice between stating one's home in either Israel or Palestine.

Israelis living in settlements inside the West Bank complained this week that the Facebook social network site listed them as living in 'Palestine', and not in 'Israel'.

The settlers formed a group on Facebook named "its Israel not Palestine", which rapidly grew to include some 13,000 members accusing the American service of having a political agenda. In response, Facebook administrators have allowed then to choose between Palestine or Israel as their location.

Communications manager at Facebook, Brandi Barker, stated that settlers living in settlement blocks in the West Bank can now choose their country as Palestine or Israel, as they prefer.

Palestinian subscribers of Facebook formed a group, named 'its Palestine not Israel', which also attracted considerable attention, gaining some 4300 members. They collectively threatened that if Facebook remove Palestine from the country selection, they would close their accounts.

According to international law and UN resolutions, the Israeli settlements built in the West Bank, as part of the occupied Palestinian territories, are illegal.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rudd Government's Israel bias

The truth is there is no real debate in this country about the travesty of what is happening in the Middle East, and there are those in the community who, with their money and influence, do all they can to ensure no such open debate occurs, either in the national Parliament, in the media or anywhere else.

Alan Ramsey on the Rudd Government's gratutious celebration of Israel.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Something I read recently

'The people for whom you are there', said my own teacher, 'are not the brilliant students like yourself. They are the average students with boring minds who get uninteresting degrees in the lower range of the second class, and whose examination scripts all sound the same. The first-class people will look after themselves, though you will enjoy teaching them. The others are the ones who need you.'

That applies not only to the university but to the world. Governments, the economy, schools, everything in society, is not for the benefit of the privileged minorities. We can look after ourselves. It is for the benefit of the ordinary run of people, who are not particularly clever or interesting (unless, of course, we fall in love with one of them), not highly educated, not successful or destined for success - in fact, are nothing very special. It is for the people who, throughout history, have entered history outside their neighbourhoods as individuals only in the records of their births, marriages and deaths. Any society worth living in is one designed for them, not for the rich, the clever, the exceptional, although any society worth living in must provide room and scope for such minorities. But the world is not made for our personal benefit, nor are we in the world for our personal benefi. A world that claims that this is its purpose is not a good, and ought not to be a lasting, world.

Eric Hobsbawm "On History" p. 12 (2002 ed.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Israel's crimes in Gaza, our crimes

I've been too angry and numb to write about Israel's current murderous campaign in Gaza. Thankfully there are journalists like Seumas Milne to set the record straight:

The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week's carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence - or at best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two somehow equivalent sides - has reached Alice-in-Wonderland proportions. Since Israel's deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, issued his chilling warning last week that Palestinians faced a "holocaust" if they continued to fire home-made rockets into Israel, the balance sheet of suffering has become ever clearer. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were soldiers taking part in the attacks.

If you read only one thing on the current situation, read this.

Australian Jews condemn Israel's attacks in Gaza

Open Letter to The Honourable Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

AJDS, Australia ’s oldest and largest Jewish peace organisation, deplores the terrible loss of life in the latest escalation of violence in the Middle East , and reiterates that all parties must be held accountable to international law. However, Israel 's refusal to negotiate, despite repeated offers from Hamas, and their use of overwhelming force against a civilian population, have escalated the situation to the point of war.

Israel , like any other country, has the right and obligation to defend itself, and Palestinian militant rocket attacks on Sderot and Ashkelon are a clear violation of international law. Now Israel has chosen to punish the entire civilian population of Gaza with a 4-month blockade of food, medical supplies and fuel, and more recently, to rain missiles down on the heads of an already desperately poor and malnourished population. Two Israeli soldiers and one civilian and over 100 Gazans, one
quarter of them children, have died in the last week alone.

AJDS support the conclusion
of one of the US’s most influential Jewish newspapers, The Jewish Daily Forward, which last week said in an editorial, "a new consensus is emerging that Israel must talk to Hamas." Indeed, it is clear there is no military solution. A lasting peace will only be reached through a negotiated settlement. A recent poll shows that 64 per cent of Israelis want Israel to talk to Hamas.

We call on the Australian government to urge Israel to negotiate with Hamas, and to facilitate an immediate mutual ceasefire and an end to the siege on Gaza . Further, we reiterate that lasting peace in the region will not be possible until Israel ends its 40-year occupation of Palestinian people and land.

About the Australian Jewish Democratic Society
The AJDS was formed in 1984 to promote free discussion on Jewish and general social and political issues. Specifically, it grew out of a profound concern at the continuing Israeli-Arab conflict.

In addition to expressing views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the AJDS also promotes cooperation with broader social groups on a range of issues. We in AJDS believe that in a genuinely multicultural society like Australia , Jews should be concerned with Indigenous rights and the rights of other minorities. Two of its founders Evelyn and Norman Rothfield have received many national and international awards including OAM's for their contribution to Peace.

Saturday, March 01, 2008