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15: Israel--open thread

Prime Minister Netanyahu has returned to Israel and President Obama is headed for Iowa. We can probably anticipate a cooling-off period. Sooooo this is the end of the series.Restive Commonweal commentors who found some posts closed have written to tell me that they have more to say. Rather than opening those comments, here's an open thread. Post what you have to say. Remember: Not too long; not too apocalyptic; go light on the trash.I will not respond, but I will delete. And remember to read Ha'aretz, the Israeli newspaper that allows discussions more far-ranging than almost anything published in the U.S.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Row? What row? who pays? In cash? Not Israel - US of A.In blood? Not Israel. Take your pick - maybe Gaza? West Bank? Lebanon? Iran?Armaments are for killing.

Thanks, Ms. Steinfels - appreciate these threads and the updates.

God forbid the Israelis should trouble the ever-docile nation of Iran!Here's that power's leader in action three weeks ago:"Perhaps concerned that his repeated suggestions that the Holocaust might not have happened have become less shocking over time, Irans president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, upped the ante on Saturday, telling intelligence officials in Tehran that the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, was staged.In remarks reported by IRNA, an official Iranian news agency, and translated by Reuters, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan.

Same old stuff out of Ahmadinejad and not really relevant to the fractious relationship growing between Israel and USA.The essential problem is how much Netanyahu really wants peace (and, correlatively,) how vital Middle East peace is to peace in the region and the world prospects.(Footnote: if we wanted a thread on Ahmadinejad, it should be about his new relationship with Karzai and what that means.)

During the Arafat years, I remember hearing a now ridiculous sounding soundbyte that the Palestinians have "maps that show Palestine stretching all the way to the Mediterranean". This fairly lame horror story was meant to quell any American opposition to actions such as the machine gunning and bulldozing of a refugee camp in Jenin.Even if such maps existed (and I have no reason to deny their existence), they would not have been merely aspirational, but fantastical given the political realities on the ground.However, evictions, bulldozers, and new settlements are not aspirational, but provocatively operational. And the medieval siege of Gaza? Israel usually claims to be employing some kind of "tough love" strategy regarding Palestinians but this last decade looks more like enthusiastic ethnic cleansing.When even Thomas Friedman, the most starry eyed neocon of them all, writes recently that Israel is "driving drunk in Jerusalem", you know they must have had one too many.Any country that worries about a "demographic time bomb" is driving an ideological Toyota. It seems to me that either a nation promotes universal human rights among all its people and builds up an education and welfare system to that end, or that nation will always perceive itself as having to violently fend off the barbarians at the gate.

Every relationship has strengths and weaknesses, Bob, and you can't get a fair assessment if all you want to focus on is the negative. My post was a direct response to Sister Mary's, which suggests that Washington continues to arm Jerusalem for no good reason. Actually, there's no coincidence that the US has three Iranian-backed groups on its list of designated terror organizations: Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. And thanks for bringing up Afghanistan! That's some much needed big-picture thinking and another reason why Washington hasn't dumped our useful - if occasionally fractious - ally in the Middle East:'s more background from the Council on Foreign Relations, all part of the regional political equation that Netanyahu surely gets fresh updates on every day.

CH: that CFR link doesn't seem to work.

Sorry to hear that, Margaret. On the West Coast, it opens directly onto the list of terror organizations sponsored by Iran and specific acts of terror linked to the state. These include Hezbollah's 1988 kidnapping and murder of US Marine Colonel William Higgins in Lebanon, the bombings of Jewish cultural centers in Argentina in 1992 and 1994, and the Khobar Tower bombings as noted in this three week old lawsuit: lawsuits seek damages from Iran for terror acts(AP) Mar 1, 2010NEW YORK Families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and a 1983 bombing of U.S. Marines in Lebanon are seeking to hold Iran accountable in separate legal actions.A lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Manhattan seeks to enforce a $2.6 billion judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran awarded by a federal court in Washington, D.C. That award stemmed from claims Iran was involved in an October 1983 bombing that killed 241 servicemen at a U.S. Marines facility in Beirut.Lawyers for families of victims of the 2001 terror attacks are seeking to force the government of Iran to pay damages for supporting terrorism.No lawyers have represented Iran in the actions.

Tried it in two different browsers; probably being filtered by the Iranians!--or who knows, maybe the Chinese.

FWIW: Brian's link worked for me.( )

Oops, sorry, that's Criag's link.

Batya Gur was an Israeli detective novel writer and a literary critic for Ha'aretz. That paper no longer honours the link, but I can recall reading it when it was published in 2003. Gur died in 2005. This incident is non-sensational in that no one dies, but it is still sadly typical, and the question about the society these events are forming, and have formed, is still relevant.+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++The Glittering Edge of the BootBy Batya Gur - Ha'aretz, September 12, 2003The three women soldiers who detained an old Palestinian on the main street of the German Colony in West Jerusalem didn't hit him; they didn't spit at him or kick him or shove him against a wall with the butt of a rifle, but there was something in the behavior of these three girls, border policewomen in uniform, detaining an old Palestinian on a narrow stretch of a main street in Jerusalem that made me pause, look at them for a moment, go on walking, then retrace my steps. There was something I couldn't overlook and then go about my business. What was it that drew me back there? It was something undefined and awful; an evil, whose ripples forced me to return and take a second, more focused look at what was happening: The old man, a tall Arab of about 70, wearing a traditional white keffiyeh and with an expression of disorientation and meek acceptance on his face, was standing on the narrow part of the sidewalk, his back to the stone wall of the old German cemetery, whose iron gates are always locked, and the three Border Police soldiers were leaning on the banister separating the sidewalk from the road. One of them was holding the documents the Palestinian had handed them - he came from Hebron and had no permit to be within the Green Line (1967 border) - and was talking on her mobile phone about personal matters, while the two others chatted and laughed, going on with their personal affairs. This went on for a long while. I had seen them standing with him about half an hour earlier, on my way to the neighbourhood grocery store. The soldiers were having a good time. And the old man stood there helpless, his face expressing the knowledge that he would have to wait until they finally decided to pay attention to him. I spoke to them about respect and civility; I told them he could have been their grandfather. I asked them to identify themselves. They refused. This was not one of the greater and more visible evils that take place around us daily, nor was it a disaster, only an insidious and consuming evil, one that is hard to pinpoint and define in words. I do not see the horrors that take place at the checkpoints every day. I know very well that such an act by a woman like me, someone who avoids any political activity or any consistent struggle for human rights, is actually a sentimental act. Such a trivial act of protest is a bit like sweeping the path to my own private garden, but what the words and eyes of this soldier with a blond ponytail and a pierced tongue reflected was not easy to sweep away; it was the glittering, sharp tip of a force of nature: the destructive power that has been penned up in the all-powerful authority of 18- and 19-year-old men and women. This power which we, the Jewish citizens of the state of Israel, have put in the hands of our children, the second and third generation of a very long occupation. From the moment the soldiers opened their mouths at me ("Why? Who the hell are you?" said the one with the pierced tongue, who wasn't wearing a badge, as required by law, in answer to my request for identification) the hidden plot of our lives, a plot that is engraved in us, was exposed suddenly in its full banality and in its truth: I found myself saying that I refuse to feel like a German walking past an abused Jew in Nazi Germany and turn away indifferently or fearfully. "You're calling us Nazis!" shrieked the soldiers, and within a minute this word became a precious possession upon their lips. They rejoiced in their justice and I could already imagine all the self-righteous people gloating over the use of this word. At the same time I could not but see the incident with the old Palestinian through this prism. This is the prism through which I saw a young woman, who could have been my daughter - in looks and in age - acting with the total conviction of being right. From where she stands there is no crack through which she can see that the person she had detained is a helpless, 70-year-old man who could be her father, her uncle or her grandfather. She could not even see that I could have been her mother. From that moment on I was arrested for disturbing a policewoman in the line of duty: "Move it lady, get in the car," yelled the pierced-tongued girl with victorious glee. That tiny stud, that shining metal bead, which in any other context would have been mischievous coquetry, became the glittering tip of total corruption. Because what this young woman has not grasped is that this uniform symbolizes a society and a nation, a responsibility and a duty. The glittering bead at the tip of her tongue, combined with the uniform, attest to the complete opposite: For her the uniform was a permit to do whatever she wanted. The glittering tip of her assaulting tongue is the tip of what we have become. Time and again, every day and every hour, we see how we have turned our children into soldiers in hobnailed boots. It is not political stances we're talking about here; and not Peace Now or peace talks; but about the image of man and his dignity.

Sister Mary:72 hours before the three female soldiers asked the Palestinian man to show them his paoers, a terror bombing killed 2 young Israelis and wounded 40 more in the exact same part of Jerusalem. If you read this CNN transcript, I think you'll see why their superiors ordered them to tighten up on security in the German colony that day. EXPLOSION ROCKS WEST JERUSALEMAired September 9, 2003 - 16:40 ETJUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring everybody up to date on that bombing, terrorist bombing, in Jerusalem. It happened just moments ago. With us on the phone is CNN's Samson Desta. He's a producer.Samson, you are at the site in west Jerusalem. Tell us what you are seeing.SAMSON DESTA, CNN PRODUCER: Extremely loud noise here.The police are pushing us away from the scene. There appears to have been an explosion at a cafe. This is cafe Hillel. It's at the German Colony in a Jewish neighborhood. I'm just arriving. And I have seen a number of people that have been pulled out of this cafe on a stretcher. I have seen one person that appears to be dead, a person that seems covered from head to toe now. And it appears that that person is dead. But I have seen a number of injured people, a number of people with blood on their clothes. And, also, there are a number of people that are walking around dazed. They are crying. And some of them are screaming hysterically. And, again, this appears to have happened just some 15, 20 minutes ago. And I can tell you, there are a number of medical services here, a number of police here. And they're trying to clear the scene at this point, but it is a chaotic scene -- Judy. WOODRUFF: Samson, the neighborhood is where there are small cafes. This is late at night, an area that Jerrold Kessel told us is frequented by young people. DESTA: I'm sorry, Judy. I cannot hear you. It's extremely loud here. Can you please repeat that? WOODRUFF: We're told that this is an area where many young people would come together late in the evening.Understandably, we're having a little trouble with the audio there. We're talking with CNN producer Samson Desta on the site of this large explosion, terrorist bombing in Jerusalem, west Jerusalem. Again, at least two are dead, at least 40 wounded.

Craig,Where is the date in Batya Gur's comment that indicates any relevance time-wise to the explosion you detail?If you have travelled with Palestinians in the West Bank in recent years you know full well that such administrative harassment is not uncommon. "Internationals" are checked - Palestinians are often refused, even with the fully correct documentation for their journey.

Let's watch Mr. Hanley go into orbit!Here is a July 2009 interview with Charles Freeman in SURSIS, a Saudi-American Information publication. Freeman, as you may recall, was deep-sixed for a position in the Obama Administration because of his critical and reasonable views of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Here he is reflecting on the role of the Arab world in that process. Among other posts, he was U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (yes, Mr. Hanley we have diplomatic relations with those people)."Israel has certainly not recently been prepared to do anything to end that lack of acceptance by its neighbors. But Israel absolutely requires such acceptance to guarantee its existence as a state in the Middle East over the long term. So this is a major problem. It is pretty clear that the present government of Israel believes it doesn't need political acceptance from its Arab neighbors because it has the drop on them -- military superiority -- and a continuing blank check from the United States. So, in its view, it doesnt really have to compromise on the issue of a Palestinian state."I would say the Netanyahu government has not just zero credibility on this in the region and more broadly in the international community, but it has actually less than zero credibility. Thats because almost everybody believes it is acting insincerely and in a deceptive fashion. So in this context to ask the Arabs to do something for Israel just seems quite unrealistic."The interview has other prescient observations by Ambassador Freeman:

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