Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kimberly Dozier

I'm now listening to an idiotic CBS "special" on Kimberly Dozier, the CBS reporter who was severely injured last year in Iraq by a roadside bomb, and who is now recovered. She's being interviewed by Katie Couric in a simpering, maudlin style that focuses on this one CBS reporter and ignores the suffering and death of all the American and other coalition soldiers who have become casualties. I listened to many accounts over the weekend about soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan - are they less important than this one reporter? There is sentimental music playing. This so-called special doesn't tell us anything about the Iraq war - instead it's manipulating our emotions so that we "feel" for Dozier and her crew. How much money and time did CBS waste putting this special together? Consider the real reporting they could have done instead.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Baghdad in Gaza

Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post reports that Bearded Gazans on razor's edge between life and death.
Once, Hamas members were afraid to wear beards for fear of being arrested by Israel's security forces. Today, they are once again afraid of appearing in public with beards - this time for fear that they will be killed or kidnapped by Fatah militiamen in the Gaza Strip.

Sources close to Hamas said over the weekend that at least 10 bearded men have been shot and killed in the past week after being stopped in the street by Fatah gunmen.

One case was caught on camera and has since appeared on the Youtube Web site. The film shows several Fatah gunmen shooting a bearded man in the legs. As the man lies in a pool of blood in the street crying for help, a Fatah gunman approaches him and fires at his head from an automatic rifle, killing him instantly.

"This man was just an ordinary citizen who happened to wear a beard," said a Hamas official. "It's become very dangerous to appear with a beard on the streets of the Gaza Strip."

According to the Hamas official, most of the victims were killed execution-style by Fatah militiamen and members of various Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority security forces.

I remember several years ago some people in Israel and some American Jews saying that they just wanted to wall off Gaza and let the Palestinians kill each other there, with the thought that what happened to the Palestinians didn't really matter. I wonder what those people are saying today, when hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in Fatah-Hamas fighting this year. Are we not our brothers' keeper? Should we not care that life for people in Gaza - including innocents - has become a living hell, aided and abetted by the Israeli blockade of Gaza and by the American embargo on aid to the Hamas government? I don't want suicide bombers to be able to enter Israel from Gaza, nor do I want to support Hamas, which still has the declared goal of destroying Israel - but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that this has nothing to do with us and our actions.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More on Gerson Method

A local doctor, Martin A. Ginsburg, has written in to the Ithaca Journal about the Ithaca man who is going to Mexico for cancer treatment:

Having read the May 11 article (Seeking out an alternative: Local man opts for unusual cancer treatment”) about a man seeking alternative methods of treatment for a potentially lethal rectal cancer, I offer the following comments:

I am an internist with subspecialty training in gastroenterology. When I came to Ithaca from Downstate a year ago I was amazed at the massive public interest in alternative medicine.

I agree that every patient should be able to choose his method of treatment — having been fully educated as to the pros and cons of alternative vs. conventional methods. What is lacking here is the dim statistical possibility of cure when going the alternative route as first treatment.

I feel that Bert Scholl should see a competent oncologist locally or at one of the large cancer centers in Buffalo, Rochester or New York City. The bold statistics for both methods should be given to him so he won't go off blindly to Mexico for unproven care that, except for anecdotal vignettes, has been proven most dismal.

It's a relief to read a sensible, informed opinion about this treatment, rather than the credulous account provided by the Ithaca Journal reporter.

'It's dangerous inside and outside'

An AP reporter who lives in Gaza, Ibrahim Barzak, reports on the current horrendous fighting in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas:
With battles raging outside my building, and my windows blown out by bullets, I sit in a dark hallway outside my apartment with my wife and baby. It's dangerous inside and outside.

Today I have seen people shot before my eyes, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who wanted to take over my home.

I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it's been....

There have been clashes between Hamas and Fatah before, but there are dangerous new elements this time. Now they are arresting or even shooting people for the way they look. If you have a beard, you might be arrested by Fatah security for looking Islamic. If you have a chain around your neck or on your arm, Hamas gunmen might shoot you because you look secular....

I saw several people shot right in front of my home today. I'm preparing myself for even worse violence.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

$25,000 for what?!

A local Ithaca man who has been recently diagnosed with rectal cancer is trying to raise money for an "alternative" cancer treatment called the "Gerson Method." The article in the Ithaca Journal about this story is not very well written, so it's hard to tell if he's also planning to use conventional cancer treatment methods like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. (I certainly hope he is!) This alternative method requires him to go to the Baha Nutri Care clinic and pay $25,000 for the privilege, so he and his wife have organized a benefit tonight to help him pay his expenses.

So, what is this "Gerson Method" and does it have any legitimacy in the treatment of cancer? According to the article, it is a nutritional method that uses coffee enemas, "which are said to stimulate immune functioning." The passive voice is a wonderful thing - who is saying that they stimulate immune functioning and is there any evidence to support this assertion? Clearly, the reporter responsible for this article did not do any research to find out what this method was and whether it was reputable, but as I found out quickly, it's not too hard to find out that this is a wholly dubious treatment.

From what I can tell from a rather cursory websearch, this method will not cure rectal cancer, and if it is used instead of the usual methods, it will endanger the man's life by postponing effective treatment. A physician blogger known as Orac tells a sad tale about a patient who came to him with orange skin. It turns out he had been diagnosed with rectal cancer, but rather than having surgery, had begun a nutritional treatment that involved coffee enemas and megadoses of carrot juice (hence, the orange skin). His treatment was based on a program designed by Dr. Max Gerson.

Orac describes this treatment as follows:
The basis of this "therapy," developed first by Max Gerson, MD back in the 1940's and 1950's, then continued by William Kelley, DDS in the 1960's, and still practiced today by Nicholas Gonzalez, MD, is a belief that all cancers come from a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes, which supposedly allows cancer cells to grow. By the "concept" behind this, cancer grows and metastasizes because there is lack of cancer-digesting enzymes in the body. The solution is, supposedly, is to get pancreatic enzymes to the place where cancer is growing, in a concentration high enough to stop growth, but not so high as to cause too rapid production of "toxins" from tumor breakdown. Consequently, the treatment consists of "detoxification" with coffee enemas, which supposedly help flush the waste products of tumor cell breakdown out of the body; dietary manipulations; ingestion of pancreatic enzymes; and megadoses of supplements and vitamins, like carrot juice. The original Gerson diet required more than a gallon a day of juices made from fruits, vegetables, and raw calf's liver, but there are many variants.

This treatment does not do anything for rectal cancer, and because the patient had postponed surgery for over a year, by the time he came back to Orac the tumor had increased greatly in size and the operation required to treat it was much more difficult, and his chance of surviving the cancer was much lower. I hope that the Ithaca man does not postpone an appropriate cancer treatment out of the mistaken hope that the Gerson treatment will actually help him.

An exhaustive debunking of the Gerson diet and its coffee enemas can be found at Unconventional Cancer Treatments: Dietary Treatments. This is taken from Unconventional Cancer Treatments, published in September 1990 by the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, pp. 44-51. A more recent source of information can be found on the website of the American Cancer Society: Gerson Therapy.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Jimmy Carter, again

Jimmy Carter recently met with a group of "rabbis, Christians and Muslims organized by Michael Lerner." While I'm not a fan of Lerner, it sounds like he gave Carter some valuable criticism of his recent books and statements (whether Carter really received it is another questions).
In his e-mail, Rabbi Lerner said he “invited eight rabbis, two nationally respected leaders of the Muslim world, several ministers and activists in the Christian world, several professors, and leaders in the Network of Spiritual Progressives and in Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, as well as Mitchell Plitnick, the national director of Jewish Voices for Peace, and one of the founders of Brit Tzedeck ve’Shalom.” Four Reform rabbis declined the invitation, he wrote, citing political differences.

Most of the hour-long meeting between Carter and the group, and a later one-on-one meeting between Carter and Rabbi Lerner, was spent discussing the fallout from Carter’s book. The rabbi said some critics were won over, and some asked Carter how they could help him spread his message.

Rabbi Lerner, who strongly advocates a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, generally supports the book’s thesis — that inequities between Jews and Arabs on the West Bank hamper peace efforts — but said he is not without disagreements, which he expressed in the meeting.

“It’s a mistake to use the term apartheid,” Rabbi Lerner said Tuesday. “It’s incendiary and really has the opposite effect to what he wanted, which is to have a serious discussion about Israel.”

Rabbi Lerner also faulted the book as lacking historical context. “It was a big mistake not to focus on the role that Arab states played before the creation of the state in relation to keeping Jews out of Palestine in the ‘30s and ‘40s when Jews were being murdered in Europe. They played a significant role in convincing Britain to impose a blockade … They had incurred a moral guilt that needed repentance. The failure to discuss that was in my mind a significant failure of the book.”

Further, Rabbi Lerner said Carter should have scrutinized Arab rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan and “didn’t give adequate attention” to the fears of modern Israelis generated by terror attacks.

Another important topic of discussion was the relationship of Christian Zionists (particularly right-wing ones who belong to conservative churches) to Israel and Jews. Apparently Carter, who is a Southern Baptist, is trying to get his denomination to be more open to criticism of Israel while at the same time affirming Judaism as a legitimate path to God, so that Jews need not convert to Christianity in order to be saved. Both of these strike me as a tall orde, especially the latter, since the Southern Baptists support such groups as Jews for Jesus, whose goal is to convert Jews.
“Carter described his efforts to counter the extreme right-wing Christian Zionists, and his efforts to help the Baptists understand that the real way to be allies to the Jews is not by giving unconditional support to the current government of the State of Israel,” Rabbi Lerner announced in an e-mail to supporters after the meeting. He said the comments were on the record, taped and would appear, in part, in Tikkun this summer.

In a phone interview from California, the rabbi said Carter, a devout Southern Baptist, “has been involved and continues to be involved in theological debate within the American Baptists on the issue of how best to serve Jewish interests …

“He pointed out the strong connections between Christian Zionism and the desire to push the Jews eventually toward converting to Christianity or burning in hell. He pointed out that the Christian Zionist view is part of that general theology that essentially views the Jews as an obstacle, not as friends, but temporarily views the Jews as friends in the process of bringing back Jesus and at that point having all of us convert .”

I am also very concerned when evangelicals hold to a theology that leads to their looking forward an end of days scenario where Jews will return to Israel only to be slaughtered on a massive scale by enemies led by Russia, and a remnant will become Christians. This does seem to be the basis for the support that some evangelicals give to Jews and Israel - because we play a crucial role in their end-time plans.

On the other hand, I have also met other evangelicals who seem much less apocalyptic in their thinking, who are curious about Jews, are interested in learning more about Judaism, and support Israel as the state of the Jewish people. (See Liza's account of her recent trip to the U.S. where she encountered an enthusiastic evangelical supporter of Israel). I think it's really a mixed bag, but that it is important for the Jewish community to be careful with whom we ally ourselves. I don't think it should be done on a one-issue basis (only support for Israel), but we should consider carefully a range of issues, including social and political issues here in the United States as well.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ray Hanania on Israel/Palestine

Ray Hanania on the Mideast Youth website has a very interesting posting on the upcoming demonstration in Washington to commemorate the 40th year of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and to call for an end to the occupation.
This June marks the 40th anniversary of the Six-day war when Israel defeated the combined Arab armies and occupied the West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

To commemorate the event, pro-Palestinian supporters including ultra-leftist Israelis and American Jews have organized a rally in Washington June 10 –11.

But, a war of words has erupted between protest organizers and moderate Israelis and pro-peace American Jews that touches on the heart of how pro-Palestinian groups are helping to undermine rather than help the peace movement.

The protest is organized by two powerful yet loosely structured networks called “the U.S. Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation” and “United for Peace and Justice” who contend the rally should “only” focus on pressuring Congress to stop supporting Israel’s policies.

They do not want to lose the support of the more extremist pro-Palestinian groups who advocate the “One-State solution,” which is the latest in a long line of creative strategies to destroy Israel and undermine peace based on compromise.

Two Israeli and American Jewish leaders who advocate the “Two State solution,” Uri Avnery and Rabbi Michael Lerner, challenged the protest in the May/June issue of Tikkun Magazine (www.tikkun.org). They argue that the failure of protest organizers refusal to denounce the wrongs of both sides and offer a reasoned political settlement only strengthens the extremist Palestinian and Israeli elements who continue to fuel the occupation and the conflict.

Hanania agrees with Avnery and Lerner and argues that:
Avnery and Lerner argue that in order to be effective and achieve its goals, the peace movement must disassociate itself from extremists who use peace demonstrations as a cover for extremist policies like advocating the “One-State Solution.”

There is a sad truth in the pro-Palestinian movement. It is dominated by a small group of fanatics who use intimidation to silence moderate voices. They exploit Palestinian suffering to augment the hate against Israel and Jews, and advocate Holocaust Revisionism and anti-Semitism. They say they support peace but all they do is bash Israel and close their eyes to Palestinian crimes against Israel.

He says:
The correct and principled strategy is to denounce the Occupation and denounce those who reject compromise based on Two-States. They should denounce Hamas and suicide bombings and the use of violence against Israeli civilians just as strongly they denounce the brutality of the Israeli military occupation against Palestinians.

Don’t just denounce the Wall and the expansion of settlements, denounce the refusal of the current Palestinian government to embrace the fundamental principles of the only solution that will result in both sides winning.

They should speak out when Israelis are killed just as strongly as they speak out when Palestinians are killed.

I agree with everything he says, and have the same discomfort with groups like United for Peace and Justice and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. I certainly want the occupation to end, but I don't want Israel to end - and Israel is not coterminus with the occupation. It is groups like this that increasingly make me feel like there is no room in the middle, between them and the right-wing elements of the American Jewish community who think that our salvation lies with the Christian Zionists (like Pastor John Hagee who spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the most recent AIPAC conference in Washington). (For more information on Hagee and his organization, "Christians United for Israel," see Jews on First).

Progressive/moderate blogs on Israel

I've been wondering if there are any blogs whose main subject (whether written by Israelis or others) that are somewhere in the middle politically on Israel, tending to the left - i.e., center-left. I have quite a few Israeli blogs on my blogroll - most don't touch much on Israeli politics, and the ones that do, tend to be fairly right-wing. The blogs I've seen that are left-wing on Israel are much too left-wing for me. I'd love to receive some suggestions for blogs to read on Israel that are both supportive of Israel and also critical of the occupation, calling for a two-state solution and displaying compassion for people on both sides of the conflict.

Jimmy Carter at Berkeley

Amos of Kishkushim reports on Jimmy Carter at Berkeley. It's an interesting account of his speech, making Carter sound much more moderate (and in some ways ill-informed) than I had previously thought. (Ignore the bitter argument in the comments to the post, however - it's almost entirely irrelevant to the post itself).

On another note, Israeli politics certainly is interesting these days, after the Winograd preliminary report was released on the conduct of the Lebanon war last summer. Amir Peretz, the defense minister, will be stepping down when the Labor party has its primaries in about a month. It's anybody's guess how long Olmert can hang on. I find it hard to get excited about any of his possible replacements. If there are new elections, Bibi Netanyahu has a pretty good chance of winning - and he was a disaster the last time he was prime minister. Barak may run (Labor). He was also not much of a success. I kind of like Tzipi Livni, but perhaps this is because I don't know enough about her. And Peres, who would I'm sure dearly love to be Prime Minister again, would have no chance in an election. It will be an interesting summer in Israel.