Why Israel is bad for jews pt.3

This must be the most imaginative conspiracy theory since the ‘North Korea supplies Syria with nuclear technology’-hype: ‘The book describes the alleged visit of Hezbollah officials to Auschwitz, led by the Vatican: “We came to the camps. We saw the trains, the platforms, the piles of eyeglasses and clothes … We came to learn … Our escort spoke as he was taught. We quickly explained to him: Every real Arab, deep inside, is kind of a fan of the Nazis.”‘ Sounds like a real-life conversation to you? ‘Our escort spoke as he was taught’? Excuse me? And there’s us thinking the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was the most ridiculously ‘how to make up a conspiracy in 12 easy lessons’-thing you could possibly come up with… Take a lesson from the masters of paranoia: ‘The booklet was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in cooperation with the chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, and has been distributed for the past few months. The booklet, titled “On Either Side of the Border,” purports to be the testimony of “a Hezbollah officer who spied for Israel.”  “The book is distributed regularly [in the IDF] and everyone reads it and believes it,” said one soldier. “It’s filled with made-up details but is presented as a true story. A whole company of soldiers, adults, told me: ‘Read this and you’ll understand who the Arabs are.'” Bets on the survival of a colonising power that places its trust in this kind of crap, anyone? No one? Yeah well…


Cabinet negotiations and arms cache explosions

The eminently relevant and deliciously ironic Elias Mutannah (known in the blogosphere as Qifa Nabki) has a comprehensive overview of the complications involved in the formation of Lebanon’s new government: ‘Consider the various matrices that Hariri is operating with. In most parliamentary democracies, the goal of the ruling party is typically to form a government with the smallest possible coalition that can gain the confidence of the legislative chamber. In Lebanon’s case, the goal is to form a government with the largest possible coalition without completely crippling the executive branch through perpetual veto-enforced gridlock. It’s not pretty, but this is the solution that everyone is committed to this time around. Add to this opening principle a variety of other distributional conventions and you have  a recipe for a very complicated process indeed. For example, the cabinet is typically supposed to be split equally between Christians and Muslims. Furthermore, Maronites, Sunnis, and Shiites are usually given the same share each. In a thirty-member cabinet, this would mean that there would have to be 15 Christians (e.g., 6 Maronites and 9 non-Maronites) and 15 Muslims (e.g., 6 Sunnis, 6 Shiites, and 3 Druzes). Before you can go about parceling out seats, however, you need to know how many each coalition is going to get. Here we run into the old veto issue. Hariri is negotiating different opposition demands, ranging from Aoun and Frangieh’s request for full proportional representation (which would amount to 45% of the cabinet or 13 ministers), to a simple veto share (11 seats), to Hizbullah and Amal’s constructive ambiguity (which is presumably open to a 10 seat share along with certain “guarantees” in the cabinet declaration.) Finally, there is the issue of foreign interests. Syria would like its allies to have a veto share and would like it even better if Hariri came to Damascus before announcing the cabinet (highly unlikely indeed). The Saudis would like to reserve as much power for M14, but there have been rumblings about a possible opening to Damascus as a means of drawing it back into the Arab fold. Given the number of square pegs awaiting insertion into round holes, where does a novice PM-designate even begin?  The formula most talked about is the so-called 15-10-5 split (for M14, M8, and the President, respectively), which has a certain elegance about it. For legislation on ordinary issues, M14 would not be able to push through its agenda without help from the President’s ministers, a fact that would seem to strengthen the President’s role as a true consensual figure, and not just a symbolic one. At the same time, the opposition would not be able to block legislation on the “issues of national importance” that require a cabinet supermajority, without the help of the president as well. His ministers would represent the crucial swing vote.’

In other news, the Israeli government gives us yet another proof of its astonishing hypocrisy – if not sheer mental confusion – in claiming that the purported explosion yesterday of ‘a ‘Hizbullah weapons cache’ in Khirbet Silim is proof that ‘iran and Syria’ are not abiding by UNSC resolution 1701. Uhm, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t UNSC resolution 1701 (or at least the part of it that Israel selectively likes to focus on) call for the disarming of Hizbullah? And what is the explosion of a weapons cache if not the destruction of arms, i.e. a step on the road to disarmament? So shouldn’t the zionist occupation government be applauding this new tendency? Really, there’s just no pleasing these shlomos…

Elections, democracy et al

Noam Chomsky sums up the various (non-)electoral and (un)democratic events of the past month (June 2009) in Lebanon, Iran and Honduras, painting the broader picture and drawing the obvious comparisons with Palestine 2006 and the US 2008: ‘One can argue that Iranian “guided democracy” has structural analogues in the US, where elections are largely bought, and candidates and programs are effectively “vetted” by concentrations of capital. A striking illustration is being played out right now. It is hardly controversial that the disastrous US health system is a high priority for the public, which, for a long time, has favored national health care, an option that has been kept off the agenda by private power. In a limited shift towards the public will, Congress is now debating whether to allow a public option to compete with insurers, a proposal with overwhelming popular support. The opposition, who regard themselves as free market advocates, charge that the proposal would be unfair to the private sector, which will be unable to compete with a more efficient public system. Though a bit odd, the argument is plausible. As economist Dean Baker points out, “We know that private insurers can’t compete because we already had this experiment with the Medicare program. When private insurers had to compete on a level playing field with the traditional government-run plan they were almost driven from the market.” Savings from a government program would be even greater if, as in other countries, the government were permitted to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical corporations, an option supported by 85% of the population but also not on the agenda. “Unless Congress creates a serious public plan,” Baker writes, Americans “can expect to be hit with the largest tax increase in the history of the world — all of it going into the pockets of the health care industry.” That is a likely outcome, once again, in the American form of “guided democracy.” And it is hardly the only example.’

Why Israel is bad for jews pt.2

“I believed that if we crave life in this Mideast arena, we have to sometimes just ‘go crazy’. The government’s decision to launch the campaign was right and expressed an understanding of reality.” Dan Halutz, a wanted war criminal, talks about the July 2006 war of aggression he led on Lebanon. Translation of this childish attempt at doublespeak: “For us Israelis to live in the Middle East, we have to continually aggress, terrorise and massacre the people who have lived here for millennia before we came and stole their lands and started to ethnically cleanse them.”

And now for the duh-moment: this counts as informed opinion and sharp insight in the apartheid country:The sad Israeli experience teaches us that this is in fact one long war, which started in 1948 (and there are those who say it started even earlier) and which merely keeps on changing its name.’ Well, yes, dude, that’s what colonies are. That’s what they were and always will be – one long continuous war of occupation. Don’t like it? Go back home. You will be forced to in the end anyway, so why not go now and save yourselves and all of us the misery and violence and wars that are yet to come? Nobody will miss you around here…

Of hashish and potatoes – and illiteracy

Mitch Prothero in the National, here: ‘Mr Jafaar repeats a refrain commonly heard during more than a dozen meetings The National held with current and former drug traffickers in the Beqaa Valley and Beirut. “I assure you that government officials bring in the cocaine and take out the hashish. The growers are the poorest people involved.” With a series of successful legitimate businesses, Mr Jafaar said he no longer needs to grow and sell drugs. However, the obstacles to making an honest living for farmers in north Beqaa, he said, are insurmountable for most and so drugs remained the only viable option.“I am a potato grower, but I only grow them because I can afford to grow them. It takes almost a million dollars to prepare 1,000 dunums [one dunum is equal to about 1,000 square metres] of land for potatoes. It costs less than US$1,000 (Dh3,670) to prepare the same amount for hashish and the dealers will lend the farmer the money. What does the government do but steal the aid money meant for farmers and allow Syrian farmers to enter our market with cheaper products. It’s impossible,” Mr Jafaar said.’

Illustrating the claim of the government structurally neglecting the Beqaa valley (as well as the south of Lebanon) for as long as anyone cares to remember is the UN’s newly released national human development report for Lebanon, which states among other things that: adult literacy (measured among those above 15 years of age) is highest in Beirut, where only 6.1 percent of the population cannot read by adulthood. In Nabetieh, by contrast, the illiteracy rate reaches 16.7 percent. The rate rises even higher in the Bekaa, reaching 16.8 percent.’ (This links to he Daily Star – for the full NHDR see  – well, nowhere really, because although the UNDP has taken the time and effort to report on the festive launch of the report in the prestigious Phoenicia hotel in Beirut  – in the presence of many of the politicians who are responsible for this systematic neglect of half of the country in the first place – it apparently hasn’t taken the time and effort yet to actually put the report itself online… which says a whole lot about the UN and its priorities).