Saturday, January 25, 2003

I have some personal matter that I am preoccupied with. It makes it difficult for me to focus on anything else, especially blogging. It does not mean that I will not blog, just not regularly. It will be this way for about two weeks, by which time we will probably be in war anyway, and it will be interesting to see what the blogosphere will look like then.

So, I hope you keep checking in at least once a day.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Three Israelis are shot to death on a highway south of Hebron. (IBA radio)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

If you still bother reading Haaretz, go read this.
Liora Glat-Berkovitch, a prosecutor who handled the investigation into Sharon's dealings with a South-African businessman, admitted to political motives behind her leaking the information on the investigation. She said that her son is about to begin his military service, and she did not want Sharon to remain a PM. She is likely to stand trial. She has been a prosecutor for close to 30 years.
Haaretz reporter to whom the info was leaked is being investigated. An attorney interviewed on the radio said the leak is a very serious offense, but completely exonerates the reporter, saying that he was doing his job the way he is supposed to. I absolutely agree, but I don't think it is a coincidence that Haaretz was chosen for the leak. (IBA radio).
Update:She says her motives were purely moral.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

When I first raised the idea of transfer (I mean first on my blog, of course), the first thing I expected to hear was: "This is immoral, and you are a fascist for even thinking about it". Instead, the first thing I heard, and, in fact, almost the only thing I keep hearing (with few exceptions) is: "Where will you transfer them to?" The short answer is "I don't know". The somewhat longer one is: "I don't know, not because I don't have any ideas on the subject, but because I have no idea how the war in Iraq will play out. More importantly, I have no idea what the Middle East will look like after that war".

I may have not made it clear in my posts on transfer, so I'll clear things now: I think that right now there is absolutely nothing Israel can, or should do about the Palestinian problem, other than it is already doing, i.e. catching as many terrorists as it can, before they manage to kill Israelis. No walls, no negotiations, no major offensives, no withdrawals (except for dismantling illegal outposts) - nothing. We have to wait until after Iraq. I am sure that is what Bush asked Sharon to do. But I am also sure that Sharon's major reason for obliging is not avoiding pissing off America. The major reason is that he knows that after the war circumstances will be much more favorable to Israel than they are now. The big question is, of course, what then?

Many on the right in Israel and the American Jewish community are weary of the fact that Sharon has in principal agreed to a Palestinian state. In a way he did, but only to the extent that Bush did in his June speech. But what Bush did in that speech, is to set the bar as a condition to such a state so high, that anyone familiar with the Arab world knows it is way too high, at least in a foreseeable future. The Arabs, Palestinians included, would have to completely change their entire culture and mentality to reach that standard. I have no idea whether Bush or his advisors see it that way. But I am sure Sharon does, and I would venture as far as to say that the majority of Israelis feel that way as well, although many would hate to admit it (not for PC reasons, but because it is just too depressing to admit).

My motive for opposing to a Palestinian state in the Territories is not religious, or historical (although I do use history to justify such opposition morally). It is practical. I simply do not believe it is going to work. Farthermore, I believe it will constitute a real threat to the very existence of the state of Israel. I see absolutely no evidence to show otherwise. I do not hate Arabs, or their culture. In fact, I would hate to see an Israel where there are no Arabs and other minorities. One of the reasons I am afraid of having a Palestinian state where it is usually proposed, is because it surely will lead to at least as many dead Arabs, as dead Jews. It could also lead to a forced and ill-conceived transfer of the Palestinians, something I would like to avoid.

So every time I say, “transfer”, people say “where?” And I some times say Jordan, and maybe other Arab countries, and part will stay, and they say, “Right, dream on”. So then I ask: “What is your solution?” I do not get much. Nothing, really.
To be sure, they do have a point. It is a fantasy in today’s world.
No Arab country existing today will take them (not all Arabs are suicidal, you know…), least of all Jordan, which had quite an experience of its own with the Palestinians. Lebanon did, too. But the Middle East is bound to change. It has no other choice. Neither Jordan, nor Lebanon, nor Syria, and of course Iraq, and maybe even Saudi Arabia will stay the same. Regimes will fall, and rise, and fall again. People will be moving across borders more than they did in a long time. And even borders themselves may change.

I am not saying that transfer will be the only possible solution. It might become only a part of some other plan. Or an entirely different possibility that no one ever thought about might emerge. I don’t know. All I am trying to do is to try and think ahead, so that when an opportunity to solve this problem with the least possible casualties on all sides, or at least to start working towards a solution, presents itself, we can be open-minded enough to recognize it.
I am listening live to Sharon speaking live to Ilan Ramon on the phone. He is asking him "What do you see from there, that we cannot see here?" Answer: "The Earth is beautiful. The amazing thing is how thin the atmosphere is...". Sharon mentions the fact that part of Ramon's research is dust storms so common in the Middle East, and that right now Israel is getting an unprecedented amount of rain.

Monday, January 20, 2003

It's funny: just after I finished replying to a comment on the post below, I read this. It gives me a chance to clarify my position on the death penalty a bit more. It is interesting how some times, after you argue with a person for a while, you discover that you agree on essentially every argument, but you still disagree on the larger issue. And there is no way you can convince each other in a lifetime.

This probably would have been the case with Lynn and I, if we got to arguing about the death penalty. I agree on most of the points she makes. Those are precisely the arguments that make me think this form of punishment should be used very sparingly, and only when guilt is beyond any doubt, not just a "reasonable" one. Where I really differ with Lynn, is when she says: But taking a man who's been stripped of all possible weapons, confined behind bars and surrounded by armed guards, strapping him to a chair or a gurney and electrocuting him or poisoning him is, in my opinion, very rarely justified. Such actions, conducted as we "watch" by the amorphous, faceless “person” of the State, tend to reflect a side of our nature that I believe we should try to resist.

I think the state, or the justice system represents the victims/their loved ones, as well as the rest of the population. Obviously, it represents the public at large by making sure that the offender does not commit the same kind of crime again, by putting him in jail, or killing him. In this context, Lynn's arguments are valid: if we can make sure that he does not pose danger to society while in jail, we do not need to kill him. But what about the victims, and their loved ones?

What is obviously at play here is the need for retribution. Lynn may be ignoring it, but it is more likely that she resents it. In fact, I resent it myself. The problem is, I was never (thank god) in a position where I would have to consider retribution – I do hope it stays that way. So I don’t know what it is like. I also hope that if (again, god forbid…I am not religious, but it does not mean I am not superstitious!) it comes to that, I would still not feel a need for retribution. But I do know that many decent, good people do.

It is a natural emotion. Not all natural emotions are pretty, or even admirable, but it is a mistake to ignore them.
If we take away from the people the means to have retribution by proxy of the state, they might take “justice” into their own hands. In general, this is one of the reasons there is a justice system in the first place, another being protection of the citizens.
This seems to further prove what I have been arguing for a while now: it is not Islam, it is the Arabs.
Update: There is more here. The key sentence so far (long article): "It [Islamism] offered solace, seduced the young, and provided the means and the language of resentment and refusal." (Emphasis mine)

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Israeli company Tulgal will supply concrete cutting equipment to American military, which will use it in urban combat, if it is to take place in Iraq. (IBA radio)
WTF?!!! What....what...what the hell is wrong with these people?!!! I am getting tired. And sick. Shit.
When I first came to the US, I knew nothing about this country and its people, all the movies and TV shows I’ve seen notwithstanding. When you live in a country since childhood through adulthood, you learn its culture, customs, and manners. You also learn one important skill: categorizing people. (Hopefully, you also learn not overvalue this skill). What it means is that when you meet a stranger, you can tell things about him/her without even the need for that person to say a word. You can tell even more after having a relatively short conversation.

When I came to Missouri, I lived with my future husband. At some point I ran out of my birth control pills, and for some reason or other had a problem getting a prescription. My future husband’s business partner was a former Israeli, and his wife is from a small rural town in the heart of Missouri. She told me that she happened to have a couple of month’s supply of pills that she did not use, and I could have it, until I organized my medical issues. The pills were different from the ones I used, and I asked her if she ever used them, meaning to ask if she had any adverse reactions. The woman looked at me as if I asked her about her favorite lovemaking position, or the balance on her bank account. I apologized, but was very surprised: she looked just the kind of a woman that in Israel would think nothing of such a question. For some time I decided to be on the safe side, and assume that all American, or at least Mid-Western women are like her. Later, of course, I have met quite a few Mid-Western women who not only readily discussed their birth control methods, but also their lovemaking positions (although never their bank accounts).

I remember this incident because a blogger I like to read, and who is very right wing on foreign policy, has some time ago hinted that he did not always hold these views. It got me very curious, especially since I myself voted for Gore (although always Likud or farther right in Israel). I often correspond with this guy, and he is usually as helpful as can be. So I wrote to ask him about the history of his political views, and he wrote back saying, “sorry, don’t think so”. So I wrote “why not?” Big mistake. He was strongly offended, telling me that I was nosey, and asking me how would I have felt if a complete stranger asked me such a question. Oh, boy…what could I do? Apologize as best I could, of course.

BTW, my answer to his question was that I would not think twice before I answered that question in full, despite the fact the the result is not always pleasant.
The guy wrote things about his personal life on his blog that I doubt I would have written on mine. Oh, well, one never knows. The truth is, there are very few people I know here that are even slightly interested in politics. (And those few who are are generally very open about their views). Sex and money seem to be of much more concern to the majority of the population.

Diana from Gotham has some thoughts on transfer.

Transfer is a fantasy. Transfer would be bad for me. Here is why it is a fantasy, and here is why it would be bad for me.

It is a fantasy because even if it could be done (which it can't, but let it pass) moving three million Arabs beyond the borders of Israel would only be moving the problem, and not taking care of it. So three million Palestinian Arabs are transferred to a place somewhere beyond Israel's new, improved border. So what? They'll only take up residence there, even more aggrieved, even angrier, to plan and work for the day that they can finally take care of this intrusion into the Arab Middle East. Transfer will turn all of the Arab Middle East irremediably against the United States, Israel's proxy. It isn't now, but just give the Alisa's time, they will be.

It seems to me that the scenario Diana is describing is already taking place. Even more aggrieved? Even angrier? Really?

Who will they turn to? There's no one on the horizon now, but I could think of two possibilities for the future: Russia, and China. (China, with its rapidly growing economy, insatiable thirst for oil, amoral policies and huge population. Not a bad candidate. Not to mention a trade surplus with the US.)

So let me see: we should not upset Arabs, lest they unleash China on us. OK...
Why is transfer bad for me?

For those of you who don’t live in a mental ghetto, for those of you who aren’t isolated in the back of a limousine, Israel has marketed itself as a liberal democracy, the only one in the Middle East. Now, anti-Zionists have published reams of stuff “proving” that that’s not true; and I’ll get to all that at some point; it’s a subject that I really should deal with, but not now. The point is, the image has been created, and if three million Arabs get expelled from their homes in a great big Kosovo redux, that image will be destroyed forever, or, as the anti-Zionists would put it, the truth about Israel would finally be on display, for all the world to see. Even Instapundit and James Lileks would disapprove.
That would be very bad for me, because it would then lead to a furious anti-Semitic backlash in the US. The majority of Americans are neither born-agains nor Jewish. They are reasonably neutral, nice nominal white Christians who have satisfying private lives and a certain amount of equity. Detonate a Middle Eastern Armageddon and watch all of that go up in smoke. Then, well, I don’t really care to speculate what would happen, because it’s not going to happen.

What, you were expecting some invocation of ethics, morality and universal human rights? Go read David Hume, or the Shorter Edmund Burke. Go read Isaiah. Others may call themselves warbloggers, pundits, cranks-without-portfolio (thank you, Jim Henley), I call myself a schmuck without a trust-fund. That's why I am so important to myself.

Fair enough.

Alisa looks at the map and has decided that separation isn’t quite to her liking. Well, too fucking bad, missie, it’s about the best you can do. Your problems with the fact that the place is full of Arabs aren’t my problems. You’ll have to find a way to get along with them.

Not fair. If it's Diana's ass or mine (because I want to move back to Israel), guess who's ass is more important to me?

Oh, but Alisa says that there won't be an Armageddon, she's talking about transfer, not expulsion. To which I say: bullshit, she is either a flat-out liar, or living in a fantasy world.

I prefer to think that her idea of transfer is a self-deluding fantasy. Of course, Alisa doesn’t think, or say out loud, that Arabs would be violently expelled, or spoliated in any way, perish the thought. They’d be, well, transferred, a much nicer, more sanitary word. Apparently their singular lack of enthusiasm for this option up until now is just a clever negotiating tactic; the purpose of which is to raise their price. That’s why I say that Alisa in Wonderland is the right name for her. I guess all these suicide bombings are a form of government-subsidized performance art, too.

This is the only valid point that I hear so far, not only from Diana. Maybe I do live in a fantasy world, but I do think it can be achieved relatively peacefully. However, if it cannot, I see no other option, but a forced transfer. Like I wrote in my original post on the subject, transfer is the only solution except genocide (on either side). And it is the only way to separation.