Friday, November 27, 2009

Tea Baggers Channel Their Inner Fred Phelps

Now they're heckling grieving families. Maybe next time they'll show up at the funeral:
A group called the Chicago Tea Party Patriots publicly heckled a grieving family and suggested that the couple fabricated their tragic story.

At a town hall held by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) on Nov. 14,, Dan and Midge Hough spoke about how they believed the death of their daughter-in-law and her unborn child were caused, in part, by a lack of health insurance. Twenty-four-year old Jennifer was uninsured. According to her in-laws, she was not receiving regular prenatal care and was not properly treated when she got sick. She ended up in an emergency room with double pneumonia that developed into septic shock, had a heart attack, a brain bleed and a stroke. The baby died and Jennifer died a few weeks later.

Midge Hough was heckled by anti-reform crowd members. "You can laugh at me, that's okay," she said, crying. "But I lost two people, and I know you think that's funny, that's okay."

And I thought yelling "Heil Hitler" at the Israeli would be the nadir.


Tie Fighter!

Never has a MIDI soundtrack sounded so good (seriously: it's done excellently).

I managed to install Tie Fighter on my computer last night. It was a hell of a trick -- requiring me to download a specific program and fiddle with about a dozen settings, with any mistakes requiring me to uninstall and reinstall everything and start anew -- but I got it done. Unfortunately, this likely spells the end of law school for me (not to mention my relationship). But still: Tie Fighter! Tie Fighter!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Seizing Peace

Alas, not in the way you might hope. Norway is reporting that the Iranian government has seized a Nobel Prize awarded to human rights activist Shirin Ebadi.
Norwegian authorities were told that Ebadi's medal was seized "within the last week or so" from a safe-deposit box in Iran along with personal effects including the diploma awarded with the medal, the Foreign Ministry said. Spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund said Norwegian authorities have been "in touch" with Ebadi since the incident.

Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting democracy. She has long faced harassment from Iranian authorities for her activities - including a raid on her office last year in which files were confiscated.

The seizure of the medal is an expression of the Iranian government's increasingly harsh approach to anyone it considers an opponent - particularly since massive street protests that erupted following the disputed June 12 presidential election and shook the government's legitimacy.

According to the Norwegian government, this is the first time that a Nobel has been seized by government forces. Another unceremonious first for Iran's autocratic regime!

Ebadi, for her part, is in an effective state of exile from the country, although her husband is still in Iran (where he has been arrested and beaten by government thugs). Both have seen their assets and bank accounts frozen as Ahmadinejad and his cronies continue to tighten their grip on dissent and independent civil society.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a day (and year!) to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Study Center

Matt Yglesias likes this ad from New Orleans mayor candidate James Perry, but I, debate geek that I am, prefer this one:


What Negotiation Can't Do

Ha'aretz headline: "Barghouti: Shalit abduction achieved what no dialogue could". A ruinous assault on Gaza, leaving the territory in shambles? Well, yes, but something else! The potential release of Marwan Barghouti, currently serving five life sentences for quintuple homicide! And what a shining example of the value of terrorist strikes it is. At the very least, I can understand why Barghouti is excited, as he suffered none of the losses of Cast Lead and already has demonstrated a finely honed contempt for human life. Which makes it unsurprising that he is expected to run for President of Palestine in front of a more hawkish Fatah party, so we can expect more deployment of this outstanding "violence to release killers" approach in the future.

For the record, I suspect that dialogue would, indeed, not have "achieved" Operation Cast Lead. In all likelihood, though, a negotiated final settlement would involve the release of murderers like Barghouti.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Hanania Plan

Ray Hanania is a Palestinian-American journalist (and sometime comedian), married to a Jewish woman, who has announced his candidacy for the presidency of Palestine in the event an election is held. He doesn't expect to win. But he observes that sometimes, long-shot candidates win anyway. And in the mean time, he says, he'd like to use his candidacy as a launch pad for restarting the stalled peace process. Mr. Hanania is seeking to create what he calls the Yalla Salaam/Yalla Peace movement. You can also support his efforts on Facebook.

To wit, here is his peace platform, helpfully numbered by Ha'aretz columnist Bradley Burston:
1. I support two-states, one Israel and one Palestine. As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel's "Jewish" character and Israelis should recognize Palestine's "non-Jewish" character.

2. I oppose violence of any kind from and by anyone. I reject Hamas' participation in any Palestinian government without first agreeing to surrender all arms and to accept two-states as a "final" peace agreement. But I also reject allowing Israeli settlers to carry any weapons and believe Israelis must impose the same restrictions on them.

3. I can support some settlements remaining - given the reality of 42 years of time passing - in a dunam-for-dunam land exchange. If Ariel is 500 dunams with a lifeline from Israel, then Israel gives Palestine 500 dunams in exchange.

4. Jerusalem should be a shared city and Palestinians should have an official presence in East Jerusalem. The Old City should be shared by both permitting open access to the city to all with a joint Palestinian-Israeli police presence.

5. Palestinian refugees would give up their demand to return to pre-1948 homes and lands lost during the conflict with Israel. Instead, some could apply for family reunification through Israel and the remainder would be compensated through a fund created and maintained by the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations.

6. I also think Israelis should find it in their hearts to show compassion and offer their apologies to Palestinians for the conflict.

7. I support creation of a similar fund to compensate those Jews from Arab lands who lost their homes and lands, too, when they fled.

8. I think the Wall should be torn down, or relocated to the new borders. I have no problem separating the two nations for a short duration to help rebuild confidence between our two people.

9. All political parties, Palestinian and Israelis, should eliminate languages denying each other's existence, and all maps should be reprinted so that Israeli maps finally show Palestine and Palestinian maps finally show Israel.

10. A subway system should be built linking the West Bank portion of the Palestine state to the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestine State. Palestine should be permitted to build a seaport access to strengthen its industry, and an airport to permit flights and too and from the Arab and Israeli world.

11. I would urge the Arab World to renew their offer to normalize relations with Israel if Israel agrees to support the creation of a Palestinian State.

12. And I would ask both countries to establish embassies in each other's country to address other problems.

13. While non-Jewish Palestinians would continue to live in Israel as citizens, Jews who wish to live in settlements surrendered by Israel could become Palestinian citizens and they should be recognized and treated equally.

14. If Jews want to live in Hebron, they should be allowed to live in Hebron and should be protected, just as non-Jews. In fact, for every Jewish individual seeking to live in Palestine, a Palestinian should be permitted to live in Israel. In fact, major Palestinian populations in Israel could be annexed into Palestine (like settlements).

15. Another concept is to have non-Jews living in Israel continue to live there but only vote in Palestinian elections, while Jews living in Palestine would only vote in Israeli elections. A special citizenship protection committee could be created to explore how to protect the rights of minorities in each state.

16. Israel and Palestine should create joint-governing and security agencies working with the United States to monitor the peace, and establish an agency to pursue criminal acts of violence.

Do I have quibbles? I always have quibbles -- I wouldn't be a blogger if I didn't. I'd change "non-Jewish" to "Palestinian" in clause 1, I'd modify clause 6 into a more general call for apologies by both Israelis and Palestinians for respective injustices and wrongdoings that occurred over the history of the conflict,* clause 8 is slightly vague in its immediate meaning (though I think I can agree in principle), and my understanding is that the retrocession of Palestinian areas in Israel to a future Palestinian state envisioned in clause 14 is not desired by the (Arab) inhabitants of these areas (though I don't have any personal objection if the locals do give their consent).

But those pale in comparison to the vision of hope expressed in the lines. I unequivocally endorse clauses 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 16, and I don't think relatively minor observations I had regarding clauses 1, 6, and 8 are in conflict with the principle being expressed behind them. And clause 15, for its part, presents a genuinely novel account of citizenship and political community across borders that I think is quite exciting (so the only clause I have a genuine concern with is clause 14). In general, "exciting" is how I would describe the Hanania plan. It is one of those great steps forward, and deserves our promotion and support.

* On the platform listing on the Yalla Peace own website, there is a final clause, omitted both from Mr. Hanania's Huffington Post piece and the Ha'aretz numbered one, which reads:
Both Israel and Palestine apologize to each other and recognize the hardships and pain they each have caused to each other in this conflict.

Though this does not replace clause 6 on the platform, I think the two could effectively be merged.

Monday, November 23, 2009

By Whatever Means

Every once in awhile, I read in places that there is a "right to resist" occupation by any means available to the occupied party. Sometimes, "right" is used rather loosely, to mean (as best as I can tell) "something Franz Fanon would agree with". But other times, it seems to be forwarded as a positive description of contemporary international law. For example, the group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), answering whether Iraqis had the right to resist American occupation, wrote the following:
"We support the right of self-determination in the struggle against imperialist domination, and believe the Iraqi people have the right to resist occupation by any means chosen. The right to resist occupation is a concept enshrined in international law. . . . This is not a matter of political or ideological affinity. Nor is it an issue of the tactics of war --al [sic] of which are ugly. It boils down to this simple equation: On the one side are all the forces fighting a war against colonialism and occupation, and on the other side are the colonialists, neo-colonialists and their Iraqi agents. In that struggle we take an unambiguous position opposing the colonizers. To do otherwise would be to put entirely secondary issues --ideology, war tactics, etc. --at the forefront, while ignoring the core issue of colonialism in Iraq and elsewhere. Moreover, since we are a U.S. antiwar movement, and it is our country that has invaded Iraq, we are obligated to be crystal clear on this issue."

See also here ("The Palestinians, long tormented by this cruel occupation, have every legal and moral right to resist, using whatever means available to them."). Article II of the 1998 Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism is ambiguous, it reads:
All cases of struggle by whatever means, including armed struggle, against foreign occupation and aggression for liberation and self-determination, in accordance with the principles of international law, shall not be regarded as an offence. This provision shall not apply to any act prejudicing the territorial integrity of any Arab State.

Love that last line, by the way. Finally, Laila El-Haddad reportedly stated at a Duke "teach-in" that Palestinians "are a stateless people and international law gives them the right or obligation to resist with whatever means possible."

I'm curious as to what legal doctrine, if any, these speakers are tracing to in support of this "by any means" claim. The 1977 Protocol I amendments to the Geneva Conventions, specifically Article I, Para. 4, do affirm the legitimacy of what might be called a "right to resistance", in that it categorizes such conflicts as equivalent to state/state international conflicts:
The situations referred to in the preceding paragraph [delineating which conflicts are covered under the Protocol, namely, international armed conflicts] include armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

This was important, in that it established that entities fighting "colonial domination and alien occupation and racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination" are not in of themselves enemy combatants. Of course, ambiguities remain -- both in terms of what qualifies as a "colonial domination" or "alien occupation" or "racist regimes" (which are primarily political questions), as well as how much bite to place upon "in the exercise of their right of self-determination."

But even read to its fullest, this clause seems to establish the exact opposite of the "by any means chosen" claim. It does not provide a carte blanche right of resistance, it places such resisters firmly inside the same legal regime that attaches to all other international armed conflicts, with all the duties therein.

Of course, the corpus of international law is large, and I might be missing something. Moreover, the claim that such an indeterminate right of resistance does or does not exist in international law is separate from the claim that it should exist -- I am familiar with the case for the latter, and do not wish to rehash it. I am only interested in hearing whether this "by any means chosen" claim actually reflects the current status of international law.

That's Not How You Jibe

Matt Yglesias has been on this kick, most recently in this post on Hugo Chavez and his weird paeon to Idi Amin (among others), of citing to a Human Rights Watch report on the country in question, then sarcastically dismissing it with something like "but everyone knows that HRW is a non-credible group obsessed with unfair slams on Israel so their criticism of Chavez must somehow be part of their vast conspiracy."

This annoys me. But not for the reason you think! Rather, it's because I think the jibe isn't quite on target. The point of Matt's critique is to make fun of pro-Israel writers who have been busy savaging HRW as an anti-Israel organization due to its various critiques of Israeli policy. But I don't think that this has converged with any desire to discredit HRW reports on other countries. Much the opposite -- a major facet of the critique has been a supposed lack of equitable attention given to these countries.

Meanwhile, the point of Matt's HRW defense is that they suspect that HRW is being attacked not because of any substantive errors in their analysis, but based off the simple syllogism of critiquing Israel = prejudicially anti-Israel. Which means the analogous "joke" with regards to Venezuela or wherever would be to say something like "I guess this is yet another manifestation of HRW's anti-Venezuela bias", or something to that effect. That would more accurately represent the objection, that "bias" here simply means "you criticized the country", rather than stretching to try and tie anti-HRW Israelphiles' attacks into something beyond just HRW and Israel.

German Thugs Shout "Jewish Pigs", Block Jewish Event

Gosh, doesn't this sound familiar.
A group of left anti-Semites on Sunday has violently prevented the showing of a film about Israel. During the blockade of the cinema insults such as “Jewish swine” were to be heard. A Hamburg association of the Left Party published a justification of the action, saying a “Zionist propaganda film” was prevented from being shown.

The film to be shown was the 1972 movie “Why Israel,” by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, who is best known for his nine-hour documentary “Shoah.” According to the cinema in the district of St. Pauli, and the organizer of the planned demonstration which had about 15 people from an anti-imperialist group, the Center internationalist B5, access to the cinema was blocked and the incoming visitors were filmed and photographed.

The blockaders were wearing gloves and wielding a bike lock and a belt prepared for a violent action. In fact, there had been a scuffle, and some visitors were injured by blows to the face. The demonstration was called because of the boycott campaign.

The chairman of the Jewish community Pinneberg, Wolfgang Seibert, condemned the action and called it “the actions of the petit bourgeois running wild” who understood themselves however as on the left, but “in their approach can certainly be described as followers and stooges of neo-Nazis.” With insults like “Jewish pig” and “sissy,” the blockaders have discredited themselves: “Those who use such anti-Semitic and homophobic words, have lost every right to call themselves ‘internationalists’.” That it is determined by force “what is allowed to be seen and what not,” is completely unacceptable, said Seibert: “We are fed up with this kind of censorship.”

German police are now investigating, though persons who had tried to attend the screening complained that the police stayed on the sidelines as they were violently assaulted by the left/fascist thugs. More coverage from the Jerusalem Post. Via Matt, who comments, "When you use violence to prevent Jews from taking an active and robust role in politics within any country other than Israel, then opposition to Israel's existence is the denial to Jews of all political rights."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Debaters Do Well

I already noted that one of my former vanquished debate opponents later went on to become a Rhodes Scholar. With this year's list out, I see at least two more debaters from my own era on the circuit have also attained that illustrious award. Stephanie Bell (Univ. of Chicago '08) competed in LD, so I only knew of her back when I was competing (though I met her post-graduation -- she was very nice). But Eva Lam (Harvard '10) and I were quite close as she came up through the ranks -- indeed, I remember her from her very first Harvard tournament! My, how they grow.

In any event, congratulations to both!