Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Devil in the details

Special envoy George Mitchell recently held high level talks in the holy land with Benyamin Netanyau. I don't want to spend too much time on "what it all means," these meetings are by now standard, perfunctory events for each successive American administration. Instead, let's look at a couple ok key points.

Mitchell suggested that in exchange for Israel halting settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, America would increase pressure on Iran and it's nuclear proram. This should give pause. Our government should not be offering Israel any incentive to stop settlements. Rather, settlements should viewed and treated for what they are, illegal, inhumane and a major obstacle to any lasting peace. We should not be offering incentive, but demanding a halt to settlements, on moral, and legal grounds. If anything, we should be telling Israel that unless settlement activity stops, we will stop supporting Israel. We should not be encouraging the right behavior, we should demand it.

-- Post From Gulistan

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Hindu and a Jew walk into a bar . . .

I was recently alerted to a news item which reports the sale of surface to air missile systems from an Israeli Defense Contractor to the Government of India. The deal is the most recent in a growing line of Israeli/Indian defense contracts, further solidifying ties between the world's largest democracy, and the garrison state of Israel.

Rafael, the defense contractor in question, is owned by the state of Israel, thus the profits will land directly in the coffers of the government. Clearly, the government of India has no compunction concerning the possibility of these funds being used to further destroy the rights of the Palestinian people. Solidarity from the Indian government is absent. Rather, what we see is a furthering of the agenda of New Delhi, to align itself with the dominant Western powers and use the phantasms of terror as the common narrative thread. While Israelis and Indians have perhaps suffered from terrorist actions in greater proportion than any other states (save open war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan) this level of weaponry is evidence not of anti-terrorist action, but of the projection of military power and regional hegemonic ambitions.

Furthermore, it is no surprise that the Indian government should engage in such activity that blatantly rejects the plight of the Palestinian people. One simply need look at the history of the centre government's reaction to minority struggles within India's own borders. The Sikh struggle in Punjab is but one example. And despite India's own struggle against the British Raj, one gets the distinct notion that the Elites in New Delhi feel that they have been "let into the house" in recent decades, having thrived on globalized trade and information technology. They do not intent to go back, and will align themselves and the fate of the Indian people a regime bent on the elimination of an indigenous people.

Hope lies in the numerous minority groups in India, and creating further solidarity and recognition of struggle between all oppressed people. Sikhs, Palestinians, Assamese, Christians in Orissa and Muslims throughout India, and oppressed peoples across the globe. Time to get free . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cut it

Sometimes James brown is perfect. Does not need a dj treatment. Was meant to dance to in the first place

-- Post From Gulistan

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Young Guard

Is the Fatah movement ready for a change? The recent elections and new central committee membership seems to at least suggest the possibility. Only four of nine "old guard" members were re-elected to the central committee, while all remaining members constitute the emerging "Young Guard." In my mind, three major questions emerge:

1. Barghouti versus Dahlan?: The election of Marwan Barghouti provides perhaps the biggest glimmer of hope in my mind. If anyone on the contemporary scene may be regarded as a Palestinian "Mandela" figure, its Barghouti. The likely successor to Mahmood Abbas, Barghouti currently holds court in an Israeli prison. His work in prison proves he has the ability to unite the next generation of both Hamas and Fatah activists, and many believe that he will be able to carry on that unifying spirit once beyond the prison walls. Barghouti is not simply charismatic and widely admired, he represents a way forward, and has proven that partisanship needn't lead to schism.

Dahlan, on the other hand, is cited by Hamas as a primary motivation for the Gaza coup. Hamas believes that Dahlan's security apparatus threatened Hamas' strength in Gaza and Dahlan would not have stopped until Fatah regained a foothold in the strip, at any cost. Dahlan was supposed to be the wunderkind, the rising star in Fatah. Hamas seizing power in Gaza marks a major failure on Dahlan's part, but he still holds a vital place in the party, and likely will for some time. While he may have had deep personal ties to Hamas through his relationship with the family of al-Rantissi, Dahlan stands as a polarizing and aggressively ambitious figure. Internal unity will be vital for any Fatah success, and I think that will largely be defined by the dynamic between these two men.

Next major question tomorrow . . .

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I just finished watching an old PBS which examined the Kitzmiller vs. Dover decision. I know this is old news to many. When Kitzmiller came to national prominence, I willfully ignored the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate on the grounds that even the trivial and cursory information I had gleaned on the matter of Intelligent Design proved it to be specious science at best, and thinly veiled Fundamentalist machination at worst. For me, the very existence of the deabte screamed of a kind of madness, the madness of irrational belief.

Consider this the first secular confession of a born-again atheist. Perhaps I have missed the boat a bit, but it has become galringly apparent to me, that we live in a new age of belief. We currently live in a time and place (the post-industrial West) where the availability of knowledge, information, scholarship cultural understadning is greater than ever. The internet and the democritization of technology (while flawed and incomplete) has allowed for the prolifieration of easilty accessible knowledge in a vast number of fields of science, politics and the humanities. In some ways, one could well argue that this should be the most enlightened age in human history.

What we find however, is that these very same tools of technological progress have created a crisis of authority. thoroughly researched, reviewed, contested and revised scientific theory has suddenly been thrust into apparently equal footing with spurious, inherently biased and ideologically motivated pseudo-science. As a result, I dare say, we are becoming a generally less enlightened and continually poorly educated populace.

We are told on an almost daily basis that the "terrorist" pose an existential threat to the physically safety of the United States, as well as a threat to the American way of life. While I do not want to dismiss the danger posed by terrorist organizations, barring the possibility that any such group acquires a nuclear weapon, and the capability to deliver and detonate such a weapoin on U.S. soil, the "existential" threat posed by terrorist group tends to be marginal at best.

Let's not forget, that these terrorists are often described as having some kind of fundamentalist view of the world and religion that justifies their violence and vitriol. Religion can be a dangerous thing. I would argue that one of the greatest threats faced by American civilization is not, in point of fact, Islamic Fundamentalism, but rather Christian Fundamentalists here at home. While countries such as China and India now boast universities that are quickly reaching parity with the West in terms of technical and research sophistication, the heartland of America is being besieged by an ideological virus that would replace critical thinking and intellectual rigor with blind belief in Bronze Age mythology and a world-view that flies completely in the face of hundreds of years of well understood scientific evidence.

Let us be on guard in this new age of belief. Think for yourself, question truths, all truths. It is in this way that human knowledge expands, and that life is advanced. The urge to believe is strong, and faith is a great comfort in a confusing and often cruel world. However, only the open and critically active mind can hope to bring us from the dark to light. It is, in fact, the only thing that ever has.

More later