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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan
Archives

:: Saturday, December 21, 2002 ::

The Palestinian peace camp: from 1 to 0?
Sari Nusseibeh, the PLO representative in East Jerusalem, appears to be out of a job:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has taken over responsibility for the Jerusalem portfolio by deposing prominent Palestinian peace activist Prof. Sari Nusseibeh.

Nussibeh, president of Al Quds University, hammered out a peace plan with former Shin Bet chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Ami Ayalon earlier this year.

Sources in Nusseibeh's office last night said Arafat proposed that the official serve as one of nine people on an executive council that would handle the daily management of East Jerusalem. Arafat named himself as head of that committee as well as chairman of a broader committee of more than 30 members that will serve as a quasi-city council.

Nusseibeh has yet to decide whether he will accept Arafat's offer. His aides said he is considering leaving politics altogether.
Nusseibeh is the only Palestinian with any public stature to explicitly call for the renunciation of the right of return for the refugees. When he was appointed to the post in 2001, some Arafat apologists made the ludicrous claim that since he had appointed Nusseibeh, surely this must reflect something about Arafat's "moderation" on the issue of the right of return.

There's more revealing stuff in the article:
Yesterday... Nusseibeh issued a statement saying that in protest of the arrest of Musa Balawneh, a former militant-turned-peace activist in Nusseibeh's "People's Peace Campaign," which hopes to get one million signatures on the Nusseibeh-Ayalon plan, Nusseibeh is ceasing his peace activist work in the Palestinian community, his dialogue with Israel, and his efforts to transform the armed intifada into a non-violent civil disobedience campaign - until Balawneh is released.

Balawneh was arrested Wednesday night at a checkpoint near Nablus while on his way to a meeting of peace activists in Ramallah. According to Nusseibeh, Balawneh has not been accused of anything nor informed of the reason for the arrest. Balawneh's travel permit, according to the Nusseibeh statement, was issued by Israel at Nusseibeh's request and with Israeli understanding that he would not be intercepted or arrested.

"Therefore, Nusseibeh declares the cessation of all his peace efforts in the Palestinian community and dialogue activities until this matter is resolved properly and without further delay," the statement said.
Nusseibeh is sometimes referred to as a potential Palestinian Martin Luther King or Ghandi by people who vastly overrate his influence. I think he deserves credit for many of the things he's done, but when various Southern segregationists cracked down on King and his colleagues, sometimes violently, King kept up his activities and even increased them. Same thing for Ghandi when the British went to work on him and his followers. But this latest development seems to indicate that Nusseibeh sees his peace efforts as being a favor to Israel, or a concession that can be withdrawn when he feels that he or his colleagues have been directly wronged by Israel. My respect for him, based largely on the literally life-threatening public stance he's taken on the right of return, just diminished greatly.
1:16 AM
:: Thursday, December 19, 2002 ::
Hans Blix declares war
Not really, but in this story, I noticed that the man whom former CIA director Jim Woolsey called "the Inspector Clouseau of weapons inspectors" said the following about Iraq's weapons declaration:
We are consistent in the view that there has been relatively little given in the declaration by way of evidence concerning the programs of weapons of mass destruction.
I seriously doubt that Blix could ever be convinced to say something stronger than that about Iraqi violations. There's also this from another person who clearly wants to avoid even the slightest hint of being a deciding factor in green-lighting an American-led war:
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said U.N. inspectors were still in the early stages of looking at Iraqi sites.

He said the inspectors were making good progress, but needed "much more cooperation from Iraq in terms of substance, in terms of evidence to exonerate themselves that they are clean from weapons of mass destruction."
I find those two quotes to be just as indicative, if not more, of the increasing likelihood of war than either Powell or UN ambassador Negroponte's use of the phrase "material breach" in respect to the Iraqi declaration.

How about it, Diane? Still think there won't be a war?
6:21 PM
:: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 ::
Not particularly related to anything, but funny
I was recently thumbing through one of my favorite books, David Halberstam's The Fifties, when I came across this entertaining passage about a televised debate in 1952 between the eventual Republican Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, and Averell Harriman, a prominent Democrat. Walter Cronkite was the moderator:
Dulles began by talking about switching American foreign policy under Ike "from a purely defensive policy to a psychological offensive, a liberation policy which will try and give hope and a resistance mood within the Soviet Empire..." "Those are very fine words," Harriman answered, "but I don't understand the meaning of them." At that point Dulles mentioned that he had written "quite a little piece" on the subject for Life. "I read it twice," Harriman said, "but I couldn't understand what you meant." "You should have read it a third time," Dulles said. "I did," Harriman said. "I still didn't understand it." At that point Cronkite noted, "Mr. Harriman, being impartial, we don't know whether Mr. Dulles can't write or you can't read."

11:30 PM
:: Tuesday, December 17, 2002 ::
It takes a nation of millions to hold him back
Check out this priceless Photoshop-aided interpretation of Trent Lott's appearance on BET last night, with Lott decked out as Flavor Flav and speaking in Ebonics.
7:56 PM
A waste of money
The administration announced concrete plans today on missile defense deployment. Yeah, that's what the terrorists are up to: collecting billions of dollars to build and deploy ICBMs.
David Sirota, spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, questioned Bush's priorities.

"If George Bush thinks we are so flush with cash that we can afford billions to deploy a technology that might not even work, then why has he repeatedly rejected funding for basic security like border patrol, Coast Guard and immigration services that we know is desperately needed to prevent another September 11th?"
What he said. If ICBMs were a major threat facing us, and if we had enough money to burn on missile defense, I'd be in favor of it. But they're not, and we don't.
5:42 PM
A lone comedic voice?
In the midst of all the Trent Lott madness, can it really be that Diane is the only one who's used this joke?
5:05 PM
:: Monday, December 16, 2002 ::
Good advice
Ehud Ya'ari cuts to the chase in his assessment of Amram Mitzna's election campaign thus far:
Isn’t there a problematic double assumption at the core of the program that Mitzna has presented? He assumes that a military knockout is neither possible nor desirable, therefore he is committing himself to some "shortcuts" such as unilaterally dismantling the settlements of the Gaza Strip, and as a second phase, if negotiations with the Palestinians don’t yield an agreement within a year, unilaterally withdrawing from settlements in the West Bank. He also implicitly assumes that a political solution is not within reach. So he is ready to reduce the military pressure on the terror organizations and effectively leave them in control in the areas from which Israel will withdraw. That effectively amounts to handing Arafat independence without any commitment on his part to peace.

It must be said, to Mitzna’s credit, that he is several times more thoughtful and certainly more realistic in private conversations. But in his speeches, he comes across differently. There is a significant gap between the soundtrack of his elections campaign so far, and the scenario he actually envisages. This dissonance must be corrected, and quickly, otherwise Mitzna will be trapped by his own amateurism.
Ya'ari makes another point which I think is less clear:
[Mitzna] must clarify whether he is prepared to make concessions to the Palestinians beyond the Clinton (and Barak) parameters of December 2000. And if so, where will the additional concessions come? On the issue of refugees? Temple Mount? The settlement blocs? Or perhaps all of the above? Up until now, Mitzna has given the public to suspect that he could lead Israel into making far-reaching concessions -- while failing to get a Palestinian signature on the dotted line again. The electorate doesn’t believe in such a naive policy.
Realistically, I don't think Israel has much of a chance of gaining more security through a reformed Palestinian leadership unless it does commit itself up front to far-reaching concessions, but without actually withdrawing its military presence that will remain necessary to fight terror so long as the Palestinians lack that responsible leadership. That's the basic idea of my own "plan." It does seem paradoxical--instead of the seemingly sensible idea of withholding a commitment to concessions until there's someone to negotiate with, I think that Israel should show the world that's it's serious about making those concessions precisely in order to bring about a credible partner via the only pressure on the Palestinians that ever really causes a change in their behavior, international diplomatic pressure.
3:58 PM
Better for everyone this way
Al Gore declines a re-match of the 2000 election, which is probably the best thing both for him and for the Democratic Party, which can re-focus on the issues with someone new in '04. He's young enough (54) to run again in '08 or even '12, when he'll be the same age George H. W. Bush was when he won the '88 election.
12:52 AM
:: Sunday, December 15, 2002 ::
Role reversal
The recent HBO documentary "Journeys With George" about Bush's 2000 campaign was made by NBC news producer Alexandra Pelosi. In this cartoon, Jake Tapper imagines what a similar documentary about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Democrat and mother of Alexandra, might be like if filmed by the Bush daughters. I particularly like the sign "Bay Area Transgender Vegans Against The War," and Barbara Bush concluding that "though we had little in common politically, I really liked that powerless pinko" while her sister Jenna just hiccups, too drunk to contribute anything else.
12:41 PM

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