Sunday, March 28, 2010

Human Rights Watch - Obsession with Israel

The Sunday Times (London) has just published an article on Human Rights Watch's most controversial ex-employee, Marc Garlasco (whose hobby was collecting Nazi memorabilia). The article also nails HRW on their obsession with Israel/Palestine above other conflict zones in the world.
Every year, Human Rights Watch puts out up to 100 glossy reports — essentially mini books — and 600-700 press releases, according to Daly, a former journalist for The Independent.

Some conflict zones get much more coverage than others. For instance, HRW has published five heavily publicised reports on Israel and the Palestinian territories since the January 2009 war.

In 20 years they have published only four reports on the conflict in Indian-controlled Kashmir, for example, even though the conflict has taken at least 80,000 lives in these two decades, and torture and extrajudicial murder have taken place on a vast scale. Perhaps even more tellingly, HRW has not published any report on the postelection violence and repression in Iran more than six months after the event.

When I asked the Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson if HRW was ever going to release one, she said: “We have a draft, but I’m not sure I want to put one out.” Asked the same question, executive director Kenneth Roth told me that the problem with doing a report on Iran was the difficulty of getting into the country.

I interviewed a human-rights expert at a competing organisation in Washington who did not wish to be named because “we operate in a very small world and t’s not done to criticise other human-rights organisations”. He told me he was “not surprised” that HRW has still not produced a report on the violence in Iran: “They are thinking about how it’s going to be used politically in Washington. And it’s not a priority for them because Iran is just not a bad guy that they are interested in highlighting. Their hearts are not in it. Let’s face it, the thing that really excites them is Israel.”

Noah Pollak, a New York writer who has led some of the criticisms against HRW, points out that it cares about Palestinians when maltreated by Israelis, but is less concerned if perpetrators are fellow Arabs. For instance, in 2007 the Lebanese army shelled the Nahr al Bared refugee camp near Tripoli (then under the control of Fatah al Islam radicals), killing more than 100 civilians and displacing 30,000. HRW put out a press release — but it never produced a report.

Such imbalance was at the heart of a public dressing-down that shook HRW in October. It came from the organisation’s own founder and chairman emeritus, the renowned publisher Robert Bernstein, who took it to task in The New York Times for devoting its resources to open and democratic societies rather than closed ones. (Originally set up as Helsinki Watch, the group’s original brief was to expose abuses of human rights behind the iron curtain.)

“Nowhere is this more evident than its work in the Middle East,” he wrote. “The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human-rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel… than of any other country in the region.”

Bernstein pointed out that Israel has “a population of 7.4m, is home to at least 80 human-rights organisations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government…and probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world… Meanwhile the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350m people and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic”.

Bernstein concluded that if HRW did not “return to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it… its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished”. HRW’s response was ferocious — and disingenuous. In their letters to the paper, Roth and others made it sound as if Bernstein had said that open societies and democracies should not be monitored at all.
It turns out that even Garlasco was not as enthused about the anti-Israel line of HRW as his bosses in New York wanted him to be:
Associates of Garlasco have told me that there had long been tensions between Garlasco and HRW’s Middle East Division in New York — perhaps because he sometimes stuck his neck out and did not follow the HRW line. Garlasco himself apparently resented what he felt was pressure to sex up claims of Israeli violations of laws of war in Gaza and Lebanon, or to stick by initial assessments even when they turned out to be incorrect.

In June 2006, Garlasco had alleged that an explosion on a Gaza beach that killed seven people had been caused by Israeli shelling. However, after seeing the details of an Israeli army investigation that closely examined the relevant ballistics and blast patterns, he subsequently told the Jerusalem Post that he had been wrong and that the deaths were probably caused by an unexploded munition in the sand. But this went down badly at Human Rights Watch HQ in New York, and the admission was retracted by an HRW press release the next day.
Emphasis mine.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Israel - the "faith homeland" of Jews?

A columnist for the Dallas Morning News, Mark Davis, has written an article where he also presumes to tell American Jews what we should think about Israel and the Obama administration - American Jews and the Israel conundrum.

His article reveals a deep misunderstanding about the nature of Israel and what it means to most American Jews.

He writes:
There is something fundamentally wrong when I care more about Israel than the American Jewish community.

As a Christian, I have the most fundamental of differences with my Jewish brothers and sisters. I believe Jesus is the Son of God, and they don't. But when it comes to the precious value of Israel as an ally that needs protection and support, we have another disagreement. I am passionate about it, and they are not.
I mean that collectively. To the Jewish readers who truly care about their faith homeland: I know you exist. And I ask you: Why aren't you in the majority?

The basis for my observation is the whopping 77 percent of the Jewish vote garnered by Barack Obama in 2008. This is roughly the same percentage won by Democratic presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore
I have no problem absorbing the apparent fact that America's Jewish population leans sharply liberal. Fine. So do America's black community and its Hispanic community. But in siding with Democrats– and this president in particular – Jewish voters placed a leftist agenda above the interests of the nation that is their faith homeland.
Mr. Davis appears to be unaware that the Democratic Party has, historically, been just as supportive of Israel as the Republican Party. President Harry Truman recognized the state of Israel minutes after its founding in 1948. It was President Dwight Eisenhower (Republican) who in 1956 told the Israelis that they had to leave the Sinai Peninsula (after they seized it in collusion with the British and the French). Richard Nixon, who seems to have been an anti-semite, airlifted arms to Israel after the Yom Kippur War broke out. President George H.W. Bush threatened to withhold loan guarantees from Israel in order to get Prime Minister Shamir to the negotiating table. President Bill Clinton tried to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians at the end of his term in 2000. President George W. Bush supported almost everything the Israeli government wanted, but refused Israel permission to fly over Iraq on the way to bomb the Iranian nuclear installations. But all of these presidents, and the U.S. Congress, have for many decades supported Israel, regardless of their party affiliations.

Barack Obama may be more liberal than the current crop of hard-right Republicans, but that doesn't make him any less supportive of Israel. And unlike them, he recognizes that the settlements are an obstacle to peace negotiations with the Palestinians. (On their side, the Palestinians also have many obstacles to peace negotiations with Israel, including the fact that they are split into Hamas and Fatah).

The second problem with his essay is his reference to Israel as the "faith homeland" of American Jews. I must admit this is the first time I have heard this curious phrase. In all of my reading about Zionism, Israel is referred to as, among other things, the national homeland of the Jewish people, or as the state of the Jewish people. That is, all the Jewish people, regardless of whether they are religious or not. Being Jewish does not mean that one belongs to a particular "faith." There are Jewish atheists and agnostics who are Zionists. Being Jewish may mean that one practices the Jewish religion - but unlike Christianity, Judaism as a religion is not centered around faith. From the Protestant standpoint, in fact, Judaism is centered around works, which classic Protestant theology has a lot of problems with.

By calling Israel the "faith homeland" of the American Jewish community, Mr. Davis is denying the way that many Jews define themselves - as members of a worldwide people, as members of the Jewish nation. He is trying to force Jewish identity into a Protestant model. There are some Jews who probably would agree with him - this was certainly the model of the classic Reform movement in the United States - but I suspect that most Jews would find this term as strange as I do.

Obama not an insult to all Jews

Zionist Organization of America: Obama's Israel stance 'an insult' to all Jews.

Well, no. Maybe an insult to very right wing Jews who don't want to compromise at all to make peace, but not an insult to all Jews.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm going to Tartu!

I just made my plane reservations for my summer journeys this year. I'm going to Israel for a little over a month, and then I'll be heading north - very far north - to Latvia, Estonia, and Denmark. The reason I'm traveling there is because the international Society of Biblical Literature conference is in Tartu, Estonia, in the last week of July. My paper proposal was accepted and I decided to go. I haven't been to the international SBL yet and thought it would be interesting.

When I called my travel agent yesterday, she had quite a job on her hands, trying to figure out a reasonable itinerary for me that wouldn't break the bank. When I leave Israel on July 21, I'll be flying on Air Baltic to Riga (there's a direct flight from Tel Aviv, who knew), staying there for a couple of days, and then flying to Tartu, where I'll be spending about a week. After the conference, I'll be taking another Air Baltic flight to Copenhagen, where I'll spend another couple of days, and then back to Ithaca, New York.

I was looking online for some interesting photo of Tartu to include in this post, and stumbled across an amusing blog about Estonia written by Justin Petrone, an American who lives there and is married to an Estonian - Itching for Eestimaa. He's also written a book about his experiences in Estonia - My Estonia: Passport forgery, meat jelly eaters, and other stories.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Malkin Award Nominees - Hagai Ben-Artzi and Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan gives Netanyahu's brother-in-law the Malkin Award nomination, which he richly deserves for his idiotic statement that Obama is an anti-semite. But Sullivan himself equally deserves it for his own idiotic statement about the fact that Hagai Ben Artzi's interview was on Army Radio. He says: "Army Radio? Not good. But it's only a matter of time, I have learned, between anyone actually criticizing the policies of Israel and being deemed a you-know-what."

What does Ben-Artzi's interview being on Army Radio have to do with anything? Sullivan is revealing his abysmal ignorance of Israeli society with this remark. Army Radio (Galei Zahal) is staffed by young draftees who are often challenging to authority and by no means always follows the government "line" on an issue. It is not a rigidly government-run radio station that interviews people like Ben-Artzi in order to covertly express government policies or opinions, which seems to be what Sullivan is implying.

I wouldn't accuse Sullivan of being anti-semitic, but I do hold him responsible for his headlong run into the right-wing/left-wing convergence that believes that Israel can do no right. I wonder when he'll start blogging about the U.S.S. Liberty - when he does, we'll know he's disappeared into the black hole of reflexive anti-Israelism.

He is increasingly revealing his real ignorance of Israel, Israeli society, and the complex history of Palestine/Israel in the 20th century. Before he shoots off his mouth more, he needs to sit down and do some serious reading for a few months. He should take a hint from his fellow Atlantic blogger, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who when he wants to write about something serious, like the Civil War, sits down, reads a lot, visits Civil War sites, talks to people who know a lot, and then writes very insightful and thoughtful posts about contentious topics.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day of Rage over the Hurva?

Apparently there's something truly offensive about Israel rebuilding a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter: Jerusalem on high alert after Hamas announces 'day of rage.'
Warnings of widespread violence in Jerusalem on Monday proved to be unneeded, but police say the real test will be Tuesday.

Hamas announced a "day of rage" in response to the dedication of the restored Hurva synagogue in the Old City's Jewish Quarter, police said. Large forces will continue to be deployed throughout the city, with 3,000 police and border police officers stationed in East Jerusalem and neighboring villages.

Police on Monday attributed the relative quiet to the limitations placed on entry to Temple Mount and to the extensive police work. Palestinian commentators said Monday the general Palestinian public seems to disapprove of the leadership's attempts to fan the flames.

The quiet does not appear to have been affected by attempts of senior Hamas and Fatah officials to ratchet up the violence. On Sunday, Fatah's Mahmoud Dahlan and Hatem Abdelkader called on residents of East Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs to arrive and defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee chairman Yasser Abed Rabo called on Israel to refrain from dedicating the Hurva synagogue. Hamas, too, warned of bloodshed if the synagogue is dedicated, and similar warnings have been made by Egyptian and Jordanian diplomats.
So let me get this - Hamas, Fatah, Egypt, and Jordan all say that if a synagogue is dedicated, it will lead to bloodshed. Why? Nobody pretends that the Hurva was anything but a synagogue, and that it was destroyed in the fighting in 1948. Why should its rebuilding and rededication cause anyone a problem? It's nowhere near Al-Aqsa, it's in the middle of the Jewish Quarter. Any final status agreement, regardless of what else it says, will give the Jewish Quarter to Israel. It won't be under Palestinian sovereignty.

I think that Jeffrey Goldberg is right:
The fact that Hamas -- and even some in Fatah -- are protesting this rededication means that we might still be at square one, which is to say, where Arafat was in 2000, when he denied the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem. This is not about building apartments for Jews near Arab villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem. I think Arab East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine, and if the price of peace is turning over those apartment buildings to the Palestinian Authority, then so be it. But this is about denying the right of Judaism to exist in its holiest city.

Rededication of Hurva Synagogue

One of the striking architectural elements of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem for many years was the remnant of the curving arch of the Hurva Synagogue, which was destroyed in 1948. The synagogue has now been rebuilt and it was rededicated today. The Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Movement in Israel have, as is their wont when it comes to the Jewish presence in the Old City, claimed that this is a threat to Al-Aqsa mosque. The Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger (whom I otherwise do not particularly like) did his best at today's ceremony to soothe anxieties.



Chief Rabbi: Talk about new temple a lie
Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger sent a calming message to the Muslim world Monday, amid tensions over the inauguration of the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem.

Metzger and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz both set the mezuzah at the synagogue jambs earlier in the afternoon.

"Pay no attention to malicious slander. All we are doing is resurrecting the 'Hurva,' which was destroyed 60 years ago. We have no intention of rebuilding the temple, not this week – unless the Almighty God descends it from the heavens," said the chief rabbi during the inauguration ceremony.

"All the rumors that suggest we will later march on Temple Mount are just that – rumors. A media spin by anti-Semites that wish us harm."
Torah scrolls were brought to the building yesterday in preparation for today's rededication, and the Palestinian Authority seized the opportunity to raise tensions.

Hundreds of people took part in a ceremony bringing a new Torah scroll into the restored Hurva Synagogue in the Old City's Jewish Quarter on Sunday. The ceremony in east Jerusalem was held under heavy security after the Palestinian Authority joined the Islamic Movement in its calls for Muslims to flock to the al-Aqsa Mosque in response to extremist Jews' plans to lay a cornerstone at the Temple Mount.

Extreme rightists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel were also on hand for the ceremony, during which a Torah scroll was placed in the restored synagogue.

Earlier Sunday, Hatem Abdel Kader, the Fatah official in charge of the Jerusalem portfolio, urged Palestinians in Jerusalem and Israel to declare their plans to travel to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City and barricade themselves there starting Monday.

Meanwhile, police have declared they will not allow the Israeli rightists to go through with their plans to lay a cornerstone at the site.

Right-wingers were apparently planning a march around the Old City tomorrow, but the police have now banned the march.
In order to minimize friction between the two religions on the Temple Mount, the police decided to cancel a right-wing marched "around the gates of the Temple Mount" planned for Tuesday. Thousands of people were slated to partake in the march. Rightist officials were outraged by the cancellation. Similar marches, during which participants sing and dance around the complex and stop to pray at each gate, have been held on the first of the Hebrew month for nine years running.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trolling the racist right

Steve Sailer of VDare.com gives us his words of wisdom: Thoughts On America’s Jewish Ruling Class And Noblesse Oblige

Mr. Sailer is also the movie critic for the American Conservative, Pat Buchanan's paleoconservative rag which looks fondly back on Lindburgh and the America Firsters.

For more on him, see a SPLC Hatewatch article on on how he became a source for CNN's "Black in America" series.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Correction: Netanyahu did not know about announcement of new housing

I guess Sullivan was right: PM demanded no surprises from Yishai during Biden visit.
US Vice President Joe Biden left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "hanging" for no less than an hour and a half, as the latter, along with his wife Sara, were waiting for him at the dinner table. The sole explanation for such extreme tardiness in American diplomacy is that it was an expression of discontent over the Ministry of Interior's approval of 1,600 new housing units in disputed east Jerusalem earlier Tuesday – and the harsh condemnation that followed.

The embarrassment proved even bigger, as the prime minister was not informed of the decision. Ynet learned Tuesday evening that although Interior Minister Eli Yishai's claimed the decision's timing was coincidental, Netanyahu requested to be informed about construction permits in Jerusalem and the West Bank on several occasions in the past.

Despite Netanyahu's repeated requests, he was not updated vis-à-vis the latest plan, and the government was unable to avoid a last minute rift with the Palestinian Authority, just before renewing negotiations.

After several past incidents relating to construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the prime minister instructed the ministers supervising construction in "sensitive areas" to remain alert and avoid political embarrassments that could severely damage future relations with the US and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu asked Yishai and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias to be involved in decision making, in order to prevent "surprises".

The prime minister assured the US vice president that the timing was coincidental, and was not meant to impede the political process with the Palestinians. "The prime minister is not ashamed of the construction in Jerusalem," said a source close to Netanyahu,

"However, he certainly is not interested in creating a political debacle. It is important to create a good atmosphere, and avoid disagreements with Washington – especially during the vice president's important visit."

Senior cabinet ministers said on Tuesday that they were uncertain whether the step was a mistake on the part of the Interior Ministry or an intentional move. "If it was intentional, this is very serious," said one Labor minister.

Minister Isaac Herzog said, "This is a serious failure. Netanyahu must make sure it is not repeated. It is not clear who is responsible for this, but what is certain is that this will cause harm to anyone seeking the peace process."

Elements in the political establishment criticized Netanyahu's conduct and one source said, "If Netanyahu and his ministers don't know about their ministries, this is a joke. Time after time scandals occur that harm the State. This should raise questions as to Netanyahu's conduct and his ability to control the ministers and the government."

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said, "It seems the Netanyahu government has its sights set on getting Israel in trouble with one of our biggest friends in the world. Humiliating the vice president of the US, Joe Bidden, is far worse than the humiliation of the Turkish ambassador by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

"They humiliated the Turkish ambassador with a low chair, but the US vice president they humiliated with 1,600 housing units. Netanyahu runs the government amateurishly, in a way that is reminiscent of the way a Likud branch is run in some godforsaken town."

Israel Humiliates Biden - Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan writes today -
It appears Netanyahu was blindsided by this as well [the announcement of 1600 new housing units in east Jerusalem]. As I have pointed out, Netanyahu is now the Israeli center, but Netanyahu still openly backs new settlements in East Jerusalem for Israeli Jews and Israeli Jews alone. And he would not be prime minister without the support of his religious right. And they believe that the West Bank is God's land - for them alone. And in that, they have the full backing of the Christianist right in the US.
I'm not so sure that Netanyahu was blindsided by this, given what he was doing the night before Biden arrived in Israel - participating in a rally with John Hagee and Christians United for Israel. Sullivan above cites Palin as a representative of the Christian right, but Hagee is a more salient figure here.

The virtual peace process between Israelis and Palestinians

Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to be starting "proximity talks" mediated by the U.S. and Vice President Biden has just arrived in Israel to kick them off.

Do we think these talks will go anywhere? Two indications that the Israelis mean them to be pure window-dressing:

1. On the eve of Biden's visit, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and John Hagee Share Stage as Biden Arrives in Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and John Hagee have again spit in the eye of peace process attempts. There was no doubt about the significance of the timing and the message of the event. The messages were blatant and brazen, including a number of coded references to the eventual Christian supremacy over Israel which were included in both Hagee's speech and more shockingly in the invocation of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. Whether Riskin understands the implications of his words to that particular audience is unclear.
Netanyahu and Hagee did this before, when he was prime minister in 1998:
In 1998 Netanyahu had traveled to the U.S. to meet with President Bill Clinton concerning peace efforts. However, before meeting with Clinton, Netanyahu spoke to hundreds of Christian Zionists assembled by Jerry Falwell and John Hagee at the Mayflower Hotel. In a blatant snub of Clinton and the peace efforts, John Hagee led the crowd in chants of "not one inch," referring to no withdrawal from the West Bank settlements. With little fanfare and almost no press coverage, Netanyahu and Hagee have pulled the same stunt again.
2. The Israeli Interior Ministry's Regional Planning and Building Commission just approved today the building of 1600 more homes in Ramat Shlomo, a haredi neighborhood in East Jerusalem. This is of course on top of other announcements of continued Israeli building in Jerusalem neighborhoods over the Green Line (an announcement of additional housing units in Beitar Illit was made yesterday), and the large-scale entry of Jewish settlers into Sheikh Jarrah and other nearby neighborhoods of Arab east Jerusalem.

In reaction, "Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the move, saying it was destroying trust needed to go forward with the new round of indirect peace talks, which the two sides agreed this week would take place under the mediation of US envoy George Mitchell. 'With such an announcement, how can you build trust? This is destroying our efforts to work with Mr. Mitchell," Erekat said. "It's a really disastrous situation. I hope that this will be an eye-opener for all in the international community about the need to have the Israeli government stop such futile exercises.'"

For a thoroughly depressing report on the recent developments, see today's New York Times article: As Biden visits, Israel unveils plan for new settlements.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Armenian genocide denial

The Southern Poverty Law Center two years ago (summer 2008) reported on the Turkish propaganda campaign in the United States to deny the Armenian genocide. The Turkish government has spent millions of dollars supporting scholars and members of Congress alike to "prove" that the genocide did not occur during WWI.
Early this year [2008], the Toronto District School Board voted to require all public high school students in Canada's largest city to complete a new course titled "Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications." It includes a unit on the Armenian genocide, in which more than a million Armenians perished in a methodical and premeditated scheme of annihilation orchestrated by the rulers of Turkey during and just after World War I.

The school board members each soon received a letter from Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, rebuking them for classifying the Armenian genocide in the same category as the Holocaust. "The tragic fate of the Armenian community during World War I," Lewy wrote, is best understood as "a badly mismanaged war-time security measure," rather than a carefully plotted genocide.

Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide — a network so influential that it was able last fall to defy both historical truth and enormous political pressure to convince America's lawmakers and even its president to reverse long-held policy positions.

And the same thing has just happened this year. The House Foreign Relations Committee just passed a resolution by a 23-22 vote declaring that the killing of Armenians was genocide. This resolution was opposed by the Obama administration even though both Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama supported such a resolution when they were Senators.

In 2007, Clinton was co-sponsor with Senator Harry Reid of a Senate resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. A press release of 4/18/2007 from the Armenian National Committee of America also refers to Obama's position:
Last week, during remarks at a Washington, DC breakfast for Illinois constituents, Senator Barak Obama, fielded a question from ANCA Eastern U.S. Executive Director Karine Birazian about his support for the Armenian Genocide Resolution. In his response, he explained to the audience the basic facts about the Genocide and promised to give careful consideration to cosponsoring the measure.
See Harry's Place for a longer discussion of this issue - Obama's failure to acknowledge Armenian genocide.

See also a good discussion by David Schraub on Jewish American lobbyists who in 2007 lobbied on the Turkish side against the genocide resolution: Genocide Denial. (Guenter Lewy, mentioned above in the SPLC report, is Jewish - he was born in Germany in 1923 and fled with his family to Palestine in 1939).

Sen. Roy Ashburn: 'I'm gay'

This is sad. California Republican state senator Roy Ashburn, was arrested for drunk driving last week when he was leaving a gay bar. He consistently voted against any and all gay rights measures in the California legislature, and rallied with the "Traditional Values Coalition" in 2005 to oppose gay marriage and domestic partnerships. He has now come out as gay.

He said, "I'm gay. Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long." So why has it been so difficult for him? His erstwhile ally from the Traditional Values Coalition provides the reason:
Benjamin Lopez, lobbyist for the Traditional Values Coalition, said, "I don't know why Roy strayed."...

Lopez stood with Ashburn at a rally in Bakersfield in 2005 to support a state proposal to block gay marriage as well as to get rid of domestic partnerships with any benefits of marriage.

"I think it's sad more than hypocritical," Lopez said. "We're not in Roy's head. We don't know what is he thinking. We hope he comes to terms with whatever is making him make a choice to be a gay man."
Making a choice to be a gay man?! Is this guy crazy? Clearly Ashburn would love not to be a gay man. If he had any choice about it, he wouldn't be gay. He is gay, and he's just been outed by his own actions. I think that Ashburn is actually uncommonly courageous. Ted Haggard never was willing to admit that he is gay.

People like Lopez have a lot of responsibility for the suffering of gay people on their heads.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

An Innocent Abroad: Maureen Dowd in Riyadh

Inshallah, Obama

I'm starting to wonder - is Maureen Dowd the new Tom Friedman? Because if she is, I want the old Tom Friedman back.

Did she do anything other than talk to princes?

Isn't there a better use for the Times' travel budget for op-ed columnists?


Jerusalem news - Sheikh Jarrah and Temple Mount

The situation seems to be heating up in Jerusalem again. Leftists who have been protesting Jewish settlers in neighborhoods of Arab east Jerusalem demonstrated today against those settlements, and there was a haredi counter-demonstration as well
Approximately 3,000 people gather in east Jerusalem neighborhood to protest evacuation of Arab families from their homes. Meanwhile, dozens of haredim hold prayer in Tomb of Simon the Just

Ronen Medzini
Published: 03.06.10, 20:43 / Israel News (Ynet)

Some 3,000 Jewish and Arab left-wing activists rallied in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem Saturday in order to protest against the settlement of Jews in the area and the evacuation of Arab families from their homes. The protesters gathered in a soccer field in the neighborhood and waved Israeli and Palestinian flags before marching towards the Tomb of Simon the Just.

"I'm glad to see there are still leftists in the country," left-wing activist Yoram Sorek told Ynet. He noted that "any political agreement will require Jerusalem's division and these settlements are aimed at preventing peace."

The religious site also attracted dozens of ultra-Orthodox worshippers and right-wing activists who came in order to pray and protest the High Court of Justice's ruling enabling the leftist demonstration. Police forces were deployed at the site.

The rightists chanted "Halacha state" and waved signs reading, "Leftists = Traitors".

Leading the right-wing protest National Union chairman MK Yaakov Katz said, "We are very glad the marchers are shouting and coming. Any esoteric protest of Israel-hating Arabs and 'Peace Now' against Jewish heritage plays to our advantage."

Katz added that "10 years ago they protest in Har Homa, now there are 20,000 people there. They demonstrated in Kedumin and Beit-El and there also are thousands of people."

A haredi demonstrator said, "These are a bunch of pathetic Jews who come to defend Arabs who throw people out. They don’t study the Torah, they have no clue, they are the greatest villains."

Knesset Member Arieh Eldad (National Union) who arrived at the scene said, "The audacity of Israeli leftist groups has led them to betrayal in cooperation with Israel's enemies.

"This time they are disregarding the fact that any Jewish settler in the neighborhood is doing so backed by a court order."

The protest was made possible after the High Court granted the motion of Sheikh Jarrah residents who petitioned against the police's decision to ban the demonstration. According to the court ruling, the protest was to be held in a restricted area, while 300 activists were to be allowed to rally in the street for half an hour.
Ha'aretz also reports on the rally in Sheikh Jarrah.

And riots have started again on the Temple Mount, beginning on February 28:
Hebron tension spreads to Jerusalem: Youths barricaded in al-Aqsa Mosque since Saturday evening throw stones at passerby, prompting police forces to enter compound. Stones hurled at police in Old City as well; Four police officers and 18 protestors injured; seven suspects arrested

Efrat Weiss
Published: 02.28.10, 09:05 / Israel News (Ynet)

Morning of clashes in Jerusalem's Old City: Police forces entered the al-Aqsa Mosque plaza at the Temple Mount on Sunday morning after dozens of Arab youths who barricaded themselves in the mosque on Saturday night began hurling stones at passersby entering the Temple Mount compound.

Two policemen and two Border Guard officers were lightly injured by stones hurled in the Old City's alleys. They received medical treatment on site and resumed their activity. At least 18 protestors were injured and seven were arrested.

Sources in the mosque reported that at least eight worshippers were hurt by tear gas. According to the Palestinians, hundreds of policemen encircled the mosque, demanding that the youths evacuate themselves.

The police reported that some 30 Arab youths had barricaded themselves inside the mosques and that efforts made by the Waqf (the council managing Muslim sites) to remove them had failed. Police entered the mount's plaza following the stone throwing and closed its gates, and the youths fled into the mosque.

The police then opened the mount's gates to worshippers, but restricted entrance to the site to male worshippers with Israeli identity cards over the age of 50 and to female worshippers of all ages.

The mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority condemned the police forces' entry to the mosque compound, which he said was aimed at allowing extremists to enter the area. He warned against the serious implications of the police's entry.

Waqf sources said that Jewish worshippers had entered the compound and were protected by the police. A Jerusalem Police official strongly denied the claim, saying that "this is a lie. Some 1,000 visitors have entered the Temple Mount compound since the morning hours, both Jews and non-Jews."

Visits to the site continue as usual, although stones are occasionally being thrown from the mosques towards the police forces stationed at the entrances.

Stones were occasionally thrown at police officers in the alleys of the Old City, including near the Antonia Fortress, which is one of the entrances to the Temple Mount. There were no reports of injuries. Seven suspects were detained for questioning.

Some 100 girls who attempted to launch a protest march in the Sultan Suleiman area in east Jerusalem were stopped by the police.

It is estimated that Sunday's events at the Temple Mount come following the tension that arose over Israel's decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to its list of national heritage sites.

Members of the Waqf and various Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Movement, urged Muslims over the weekend to flock to the Temple Mount, claiming that "radical Jewish organizations have called on their followers to arrive at the mount today and on Tuesday in an attempt to lay the cornerstone for the temple."

The Islamic organizations also called on Muslims to be on high alert around March 16, when they said extreme Jewish organizations were planning to mark the global day for the temple's reconstruction.
There was more trouble on March 5 (yesterday) after Friday prayers. Palestinians threw stones at Israeli police at the Mughrabi gate and at Jews praying at the Western Wall. There were also Palestinian protests elsewhere in the West Bank.

Police forces raid site to stop Muslim worshippers hurling stones at Western Wall, seize control of courtyard using stun grenades. Some 20 officers, 60 Palestinians injured. Five police evacuated to hospital in light condition.

Efrat Weiss
Published: 03.05.10, 13:27 / Israel News (Ynet)

Police forces on Friday raided the Temple Mount to stop youths hurling stones at passersby at the Western Wall after their weekly prayers. Dozens of police officers and worshippers were injured.

According to an initial report, Arab worshippers hurled stones at police forces at the Old City's Mugrabi Gate. Police forces removed the rioters and took over the Temple Mount courtyard using stun grenades.

Twenty police officers were lightly injured from the stones hurled at them. Five officers received initial medical treatment at the scene and were evacuated to Hadassah Medical Center and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the city. Fifteen other officers who sustained light wounds were treated by emergency service crews at the scene.

Source in the Waqf and medical sources reported that at least 60 Palestinians were injured in the clashes. The Palestinians reported that the worshippers were hurt by tear gas, stun grenades and gas inhalation. According to the Palestinian, the forces entered the al-Aqsa Mosque and used force even in areas free of riots.

Following the clashes, dozens of youths fled into the al-Aqsa mosque. The police did not enter the mosque. A number of adult worshippers remained in the Temple Mount courtyard to try and calm the youths.

After making contact with the Waqf, the police retreated from the compound toward Mugrabi Gate to allow the older worshippers to exit the site.

Police generally restrict entrance to the Temple Mount compound to worshipers over the age of 50 when receiving information on planned riots. This week, however, police decided not to restrict entrance to the site.

Last week riots at the Temple Mount escalated, partly due to the cabinet's decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem in Israel's national heritage site plan.

Some 20 Arab youths from east Jerusalem barricaded themselves in the al-Aqsa mosque last week and refused to exit it. Six police officers and two Border Guard officers were lightly injured in clashes that broke out in the Old City. A number of Arab protesters were also injured, and seven rioters were detained.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Syrians blamed the Israelis alone for the clashes on the Temple Mount.
According to a special statement released by the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, "Today's events were aimed at damaging the chances of resuming the peace process and Israel is crossing all the red lines – after the Arab League's monitoring committee recommended that the negotiations between the sides be resumed."

The statement also said that Abbas, who was being updated on the events in Jerusalem, had called on the American administration to "stop the adventure which may ignite a religious war in the region" and demanded that the international community "take responsibility and stop the Israeli recklessness, which may have serious implications on the entire region and on peace and security in the entire world."

Syria said Friday it "condemns the Israeli aggression" at the Temple Mount which showed the Jewish state rejected efforts to relaunch the peace process. "The desecration of Arab and Islamic sanctities comes as the Arab League accepted the launch of indirect negotiations... which is further evidence of the seriousness of Israel's quest for peace," said a foreign ministry statement. "It's also proof that the Israeli policy rejects the peace process and seeks to liquidate the Palestinian cause."

The clashes began as Arab worshippers began hurling stones at the Western Wall plaza and police forces stationed at the Mugrabi Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. The police forces removed the stone throwers and stormed the Temple Mount compound, using stun grenades. Dozens of youths fled into the al-Aqsa Mosque following the clashes. According to the police, the forces did not enter the mosque.
Unless there's something I'm missing here in these reports, the Israeli police did not decide to go arrest people on the Temple Mount - they acted because Arabs on the Temple Mount began throwing stones at police and at Jews at the Western Wall. The police reacted. Why does this mean that Israel is "crossing red lines"? If Abbas were talking about Israeli settlements in Arab east Jerusalem, he would have a good case, but he's not correct about this most recent incident at the Temple Mount.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference backed up Abbas and Syria with even more inflammatory remarks today:
The Organization of the Islamic Conference Saturday accused Israeli police of sacrilege by entering Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque and called for international intervention to "end Israeli aggression."

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Jeddah-based pan-Islamic body, said in a statement that Friday's fighting between Muslims and Israeli police at the Temple Mount compound in east Jerusalem, which injured dozens, was "a sacrilegious act of profanation of the holy Islamic site."

The police action was "a violation of international law and a flagrant attack on the freedom of religion of the nature that could take the region into a war between religions," he said in the statement.

Ihsanoglu called on the international community and the Quartet on Middle East peace -- the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations -- to "pay heed to the gravity of the Israeli violations and the threat they pose to the region now and in the future." He called for "an international intervention effective at every level to end Israeli aggressions and make Israel respect international law."
Of course, Mr. Ihsanoglu didn't mention the desecration of a Jewish holy place by rioters throwing stones at Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall. But that's probably because he doesn't believe that Jews have any rights to pray, much less live or have sovereignty, in Jerusalem.

Monday, March 01, 2010

New York - sleazier than Illinois?

If it is true that Paterson Is Said to Have Ordered Calls in Abuse Case, then Paterson should resign his office.
Gov. David A. Paterson personally directed two state employees to contact the woman who had accused his close aide of assaulting her, according to two people with direct knowledge of the governor’s actions.

Mr. Paterson instructed his press secretary, Marissa Shorenstein, to ask the woman to publicly describe the episode as nonviolent, according to a third person, who was briefed on the matter. That description would contradict the woman’s accounts to the police and in court.

Mr. Paterson also enlisted another state employee, Deneane Brown, a friend of both the governor and the accuser, to make contact with the woman before she was due in court to finalize an order of protection against the aide, David W. Johnson, the two people with direct knowledge said. Ms. Brown, an employee of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, reached out to the woman on more than one occasion over a period of several days and arranged a phone call between the governor and the woman, Mr. Johnson’s companion.

After the calls from Ms. Brown and the conversation with the governor, the woman failed to appear for the court hearing on Feb. 8, and the case was dropped.

These accounts provide the first evidence that Mr. Paterson helped direct an effort to influence the accuser.

At least Harold Ford Jr. won't be running for Senate in New York!