Monthly Archives: March 2013

Israeli Professor in the 1960s Feared Apartheid in the Future

The handwringing about democracy and demographics in Israel-Palestine is not new. Harvard political scientist Nadav Safran observed 44 years ago in his From War to War: the Arab-Israeli Confrontation, 1948-1967, that the Six Day War created a lot of new opportunities and dangers. “Economically,” Safran wrote, “the occupation has not, on balance, been much of a burden on Israel.” History is bearing out just how naive that sentiment was. But on a military level,

Israel is in a better position to defend the territories now under its control than the territory it controlled before the war… Much nonsense has been written as to how the Israeli occupation of vast territories inhabited by about one million Arabs created conditions favorable for a popular war of liberation in the Algerian, Vietnamese, or Cuban style. Such views forget that Sinai, accounting for some 95 percent of the occupied area, is virtually empty and is climatically forbidding to the movement and survival of guerillas.… [T]he entire Arab population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is relatively small by comparison to Israel’s, that Israel’s economy is totally independent of it, and that therefore Israel holds an ultimate sanction which none of the powers fought by guerillas elsewhere had: driving out the entire population. (Italics mine)

It is obvious by now that a few of what were reasonable assumptions at the time no longer apply because of changed “facts on the ground.” Safran writes that the people who pushed for annexation of the West Bank “includes extreme left-wing idealists harking back to the idea of a binational state, as well as right-wing chauvinists who dream of a ‘Greater Israel’ stretching on both sides of the Jordan; pious Jews and romantic atheists; people who seek a Jewish-Arab symbosis after the Christian-Moslem model of Lebanon, and people who seek lebensraum and incentive for massive immigration; ‘hard-nosed realists’ who mistrust peace treaties with the Arabs, and deliberate ‘levantinizers’ who wish to see Israel become a Middle Eastern state; and so on.”

The historian, writing from the temporal perspective of the late 1960s, worries about what we know call demographic trends and what losing an ethnoreligious majority in The Land will portend for the future of having a Jewish state in the former British mandate of Palestine. Safran writes of the former Jordanian possession of the West Bank that “the great majority of Israelis” have strongly opposed annexation

on the grounds that Israel could not absorb one million Arabs in addition to its 300,000 Arab citizens without losing its identity as a democratic, egalitarian Jewish state. With a total Arab population of 1,300,000 growing naturally at about twice the natural rate of growth of the 2,300,000 Jewish population, it would not be long before the Arabs constituted a majority. … [I]f the Arabs were given full citizenship rights, Israel would cease to be a Jewish state altogether after the Arabs became a majority, and its Jewish character would begin to change drastically even before that time due to the political play of a very large Arab minority.

In other words, Israel would transform into a state of all its citizens, which is a very threatening concept. If the Palestinians in the West Bank remain under Israeli occupation without rights, “Israel would lose its democratic character and enter upon a South African type of career,” he writes. To put it more bluntly, the choice for the future is democracy or apartheid. And the future is now.

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Rand Paul and the New Political Map: Brief Observations

Rand Paul, the firebrand Tea Party senator from Kentucky and the son of the legendary Texas libertarian Ron Paul, handily won the “straw poll” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. A week earlier, Senator Paul electrified the left with a landmark filibuster on the use of domestic drones. The wunderkind has now straddled the spectrum. Or, instead, the range of political opinion in this country is now narrow enough that one junior senator can encompass both ends of it in the space of a week.

On a certain set of issues — surveillance, targeted killings, civil liberties — there is in fact a natural alliance in the making between left and right. Rand Paul, being a consummate politician, knows how to navigate these new waters. While the entire Republican Party seems to be riven by internal divisions over, most crucially, foreign policy, the wing of the party Senator Paul represents is sick and tired of the United States playing the role of global constabulary. What is more, bridging the gaps in the political culture, his crew is in common cause with more progressive types who likewise fear an imperial presidency that acts as judge, jury, and executioner.

What this all amounts to in any Ultimate Endgame is quite unclear, though promising for a number of reasons, chiefly two: (1) for too long American politics has been a polarized game with the “red” and “blue” squares in their columns, and this may be changing; and (2) the fusion of left and right when it comes to the enroaching power of Washington to decide who lives and dies in the name of keeping us all safe, or where next in the world we decide to use our military forces, has the potential to change the nature of the discussion of what “We the People” want from the leaders who wield power in our name and with our tax dollars.

Or, very anticlimatically, this could all fizzle out upon the next contrived crisis or scandal emanating from the nation’s capital.

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Slaughtering Horses in Roswell: Preliminary Notes

It is no longer so early in the year. 2013 is already a quarter of the way over. What do I have to show for it? Not much, I fear. The new project in mind, after figuring out how to pay my damn taxes, is to figure out how to get to Roswell and get in touch with the horse slaughterers, the de la Rosa family. Maybe a good preliminary step for that is to contact Stephanie Strom, the N.Y. Times reporter whose articles inspired me to think about going to New Mexico and watch a legion of horses be marched to their deaths.

Another point in the story would involve getting through to the F.D.A., since their judgement about legal horse meat in the U.S. had been the impetus for the De la Rosas to say they were in the city best known for an alleged alien saucer landing in the late ‘40s and were ready to chop up thoroughbreds for human consumption. Seems like an interesting trip.

“Input” personalities like me find it easier to import a lot of information and more difficult to actually bring it out; unless to themselves, in which case it is very simple. You would be surprised to learn that many sane journalists talk to themselves and this is totally okay, expected even. But if we could get back to the topic… In the last several weeks, the horsemeat freakout has grabbed attention, esp. in Europe, whose denizens are more tolerant of the practice of dismembering appaloosas than we in the States are. Horses to some are pets, and to others beasts of burden. Yet they are held up to a higher level — unlike cows and hogs, which are killed by the millions and no one bats an eyelash. Who cares about the dirty pigs? After all, they are quite intelligent; cows are known to be empathetic. But that is no matter at all: line them up in cages, feed them antibiotics and industrial grain, drop the sharp knives. Delicious.

(A disclaimer should immediately follow here… all of the evidence to the contrary of it being more healthy, I eat meat and have only some moral compunction about it, occasionally.)

They say, after all, that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. No one seems to agree about what this means but they think it sounds good enough for an aphorism. Some historical background on Roswell is in order, which was only obliquely mentioned earlier: 66 years ago, according to popular legend at least, something that was described as an alien craft crashed into the scrub desert. An entire tourism industry mushroomed from that disputed night and that is the first thing people “know” about the place.

Having never been there myself, it was imperative to check it out in person. The only question, aside from where I would sleep, was how to get to the southwest all the way from the east. Flying seemed out of the question, and hopping freight rails is not generally advisable, but that left a few options: Greyhound bus or Amtrak. Given my tight pockets, the former would have to do, unless something else suddenly landed on my lap.

I’ve never seen an animal get killed in person before, I wrote in mid-March, about two months or so before the new “abbatoir” would be open for business. By the way, in a much simpler and more honest time this strange term of art for a house that only exists to slaughter animals was just called a “slaughterhouse.” So anyway, I am writing all of this now with my mind focused on the future, when all of the above will by then become the past instead of the present moment, in which I am mulling my moves and worrying, constantly. That is the biggest problem of all: anxiety. It is the root of everything dysfunctional, but that is neither here nor there in the scheme of things. What matters is that I will have to brace myself for the sight, and experience, of being witness to the deliberate, mechanized killing of sentient creatures; and to tell myself, They are doing their job and so am I.

Also considering what publications or outlets would be interested in a story that, quite simply, would be something like “Slaughtering Horses in Roswell.” Maybe Vice? Will get in touch with Wes soon; he’s their pitch guy.

Stay tuned while I get things in order, won’t you?

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Notes of a Deranged Young Man

Last week, this reporter took a bus headed west of the Hudson and spent a few days living in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in east-central Pennsylvania, swaddled in the warm confines of Schuylkill County, and on the trail of the alleged National Conversation about this thing called the Gun Culture. City slickers like me are almost entirely alienated from firearms, and for most of my “cohort,” as it were, they’re alien to our sensibilities.

We may enjoy them as cinematic props or fear them as instruments of crime, and leave it to the cops to carry heat. Guns are not entirely foreign to this reporter, though, having grown up in a home where the security system was his father’s shotgun, and as a camper not too far away in the Poconos firing .22 rifles at targets with NRA insignia on them (and was a good shot).

My editor lives in a small simple home on a quiet little street in a quiet little hamlet adjacent to another small town and in driving range of other quiet and small villages surrounded by state game lands, rock edifices over which hung frozen waterfalls, cascading sheets of ice, and blue mountains over which the hawks hovered like drones.

The story is as unpretentious as the people who live there: the old traditions of gun-ownership, for protecting hearth and home and for hunting — subsistence and “sport” — got caught up in the national conversation, so to say, about the broader Gun Culture.

And now for some local history: the Molly Maguires and his crew of radical unionist miners fought the coal company and were as famous as Robin Hood and his merry band but were hunted down like dogs by what we’d now call a private security contractor, Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency. There’s a pub nearby called the Wooden Keg Tavern, and down the staircase is a piece of the Maguires’ old tunnels. Cold, slimy mold clung to the roof of the damp stone ceiling. The former state senator who hailed from the area visited another bar one night. He was chrome-domed and ebullient.

Took one of the extant Chinatown buses out of the city late last Friday. The driver looped back to the storefront hole in the wall from where we rolled off twice, for no apparent reason, and then filled up the tank with diesel as soon as we crossed into New Jersey. Since I’d gotten the e-ticket, felt no need to have anything printed. The other passengers carried their paper tickets, so when my turn came I read out the reservation number and a man wearing earbuds tore off a sheaf of white paper, scribbled some pictograms and numbers on it with an assigned seat number, and drew a line next to a small x. Signed my name and that was the ticket: $20 to Harrisburg, the most indebted town in the country, with a few stops at random gas stations to pick up more people.

A timid-sounding gentleman asked for light so he could read, but before he finished asking someone official near the bow barked back, “No lights!” On the way back to the city, after the driver dropped off passengers at Sunset Park and crossed the bridge to Chinatown, while fumbling with my stuff, one of the operators shouted inpatiently, “Okay let’s go.” It was about 2:30 in the morning. He probably had to do it all over again, far too soon.

The mists hung around the hilltops on the first day out, so shooting was out of the question. The foothills of the Appalachians, east-central Pennsylvania, surrounded. Hills sloped toward the “crick” amid bucolic row houses. The land was settled by Irish and German migrants in the 19th century.

My editor handed me the Feb. 22 edition of the Pottsville Republican, and on page four there was a news brief about VP Biden talking gun control in Danbury, Connecticut, not too far from Newtown: “America has changed on this issue,” Uncle Joe said. “There is a moral price to be paid for inaction.” The item added that the vice president “advocated a series of proposals, including universal background checks for gun owners, a ban on many military-style weapons and a limit on the size of magazines.” Above the fold, there was a piece about an al Qa’ida “tipsheet” that was discovered in Mali listing 22 “tips on how to avoid drones.”

Tar black ash fills some of the ridgetops where mines have been “reclaimed.” Fire orange sunset swoops down and around. The cold chill descends. Decided to call the police chief, Mark Kessler, in the morning. Want to ask about his “Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance.” Indeed, gun rights are being curtailed drastically. Just today, swarms of federal agents poured into Cabela’s today and took off with all the guns.

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