Thursday, April 30, 2009

"60 years of occupation"?

When people talk about "60 years of occupation," what do they mean? Occupation of what? Israel has occupied the West Bank and the Golan Heights since the 1967 war. Gaza is not now occupied by Israeli troops, nor are there any Israeli settlers living there - although I think one could fairly argue that Israel still controls Gaza because of how it limits entry in and out. The occupation of Gaza thus lasted from 1967 to 2005.

The only piece of territory that Israel has "occupied" for 60 years is the land within the armistice lines of 1949. A quote from a local "anti-occupation" organization says "This art installation [a fake checkpoint] aims to provide a glimpse into the daily lives of Palestinian civilians who have been living under a violent military occupation for the past 60 years."

Does this statement mean that the Palestinian citizens of Israel have been living under a violent military occupation for that period of time? It is true that until 1966 Arabs in Israel lived under military rule - but not since then. And while there is discrimination against Arab Israelis, and there have been some violent clashes between Israeli Arabs and the police, it is not true to say that they are living under a "violent military occupation." In fact, some Arab Israelis serve in the Israeli army - especially those from the Druse, Bedouin, and Circassian communities.

Thus, while the quoted statement is factually incorrect, it seems to me that it implies something else too - that the state of Israel itself, within the Green line (the armistice lines of 1949) is merely an illegitimate military occupation, with all that implies legally. Those who "occupy" land are supposed to leave it at some point and hand it back to its legitimate occupants. Thus a reference to "60 years of occupation" is actually a statement that the existence of the state of Israel is in itself illegitimate, and that those who live in Israel by virtue of the establishment of the state are also there illegitimately. The Jews who arrived in Israel in the wake of statehood therefore have no legitimate status - they are merely "settlers" who have illegally settled in an occupied territory. And, simply, they must now leave and return to their homes - which of course, do not exist any more... (at least, those Jews who came from Poland or Iraq or Tunisia or Ukraine).

Such is the possible meaning of a little phrase....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hamas, once again, doesn't recognize Israel

As against those who have argued that Hamas has actually recognized Israel and wishes to negotiate with it, see these comments from Mahmoud al-Zahar, who along with Ismail Haniyah has just emerged from four months underground in Gaza.

"We cannot, we will not, and we will never recognize the enemy in any way, shape or form," Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the two leaders, said in a mosque sermon broadcast on the Islamist movement's radio station, referring to Israel.

So how can anyone parse that as meaning that Hamas does recognize Israel?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

If Iran is so great, Roger Cohen, why is Roxana Saberi in Evin Prison?

Update Roxana Saberi was released from Evin prison in Teheran and permitted to leave Iran with her parents.

Roger Cohen's brown-nosing for the Iranian regime doesn't seem to deal very satisfactorily with events like this:, April 18, 2009· An Iranian court has convicted U.S. Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi of spying and sentenced her to eight years in prison. Saberi, who has reported for NPR, only recently learned of the espionage charge.

Saberi's lawyer was not allowed to ask the court about bail. She has been jailed at Evin Prison in Iran since Jan. 31.

The deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Robert Mahoney, says her sentence is too harsh.

"We believe that Roxana Saberi's trial was not transparent," he said. "And it does not seem that she has been treated fairly. We would call on the Iranian authorities to release her on bail pending appeal because we believe she should not be confined in Evin prison.

NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller says Saberi has already been held in for three months. Schiller has appealed to the Iranian government to show compassion and allow Saberi to return immediately to the United States

I'm starting to think that Cohen is like those left-wing idiots who shill for the Cuban regime, like the "Pastors for Peace" I wrote about a few years ago. I just went to the "Tompkins County Against War and Occupation" website and found out that the local "Pastors for Peace" group is going to Cuba again soon to bring aid to people. Make no mistake - I have no argument with bringing the aid. I also believe the U.S. should life the embargo on Cuba - I see no point to it, it certainly hasn't toppled the Castro regime, and it's cruel to the people of Cuba. But don't mistake my opposition to the embargo with any kind of support for the Castro regime.

Here's a statement from the latest posting at the TCAWR website that indicates why I think these people are idiots -

If the ban on travel to Cuba actually is lifted in the Congress as it appears it may be, my guess is Americans will flock to Cuba to see for themselves what life in a state that puts people before profit looks like. If enough Americans go perhaps the Congress will think that that flood of “freedom loving Americans” will benignly topple the socialist regime. My guess and fervent hope is that the reverse will happen. Americans will return home and demand socialized medicine, education and the elimination of homelessness that Cubans currently enjoy and have for many decades.

No, I think that if Americans start to visit Cuba, they will see ancient American cars and crumbling buildings and think how lucky they are not to have to live in Cuba! And if these same Americans actually know something about how the Cuban regime works, they might even protest the oppressive regime and those people who have been imprisoned for years for working for true democracy there (not "democratic centralism")!

Here's a recent Human Rights Watch press release about Cuba:

For almost five decades, Cuba has restricted nearly all avenues of political dissent. Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, short-term detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment.

Cuba’s legal and institutional structures have been at the root of its rights violations. The rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press are strictly limited under Cuban law. By criminalizing enemy propaganda, the spreading of “unauthorized news,” and insult to patriotic symbols, the government curbs freedom of speech under the guise of protecting state security. The courts are not independent; they undermine the right to fair trial by restricting the right to a defense, and frequently fail to observe the few due process rights available to defendants under domestic law.

Now that I think about it a bit more, Roger Cohen is exactly like the Pastors for Peace - calling for the right policy (engagement, not embargo) for absolutely the wrong reasons, and in the process, presenting a regime that oppresses its own people and has done so for decades in an unrealistically rosy light.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This is my country

This is my country?!

Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Tactics by the C.I.A.

methods included:

keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days,
placing them in a dark, cramped box
putting insects into the box to exploit their fears.
waterboarding - "The United States prosecuted some Japanese interrogators at war crimes trials after World War II for waterboarding and other methods detailed in the memos."
forced nudity
the slamming of detainees into walls
prolonged sleep deprivation
the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees.

Why aren't we prosecuting the lawyers who wrote the memos that tortured legal reasoning to permit torture?
Why aren't we prosecuting the interrogators who inflicted these tortures? And the medical personnel who supervised the inmates to make sure they wouldn't die under these conditions?

Because we're afraid of hurting the feelings of some CIA agents?

Because they were "only following orders"?

the Nuremberg principles declare:

Principle II

The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Our President taught constitutional law - isn't he aware of these principles? If we do not punish our own people who commit war crimes, then any other court in the world would be justified in arresting these people and putting them on trial.

We are still in the "low dishonest decade" if we don't hold those people accountable who made this torture possible and who actually tortured.