Haggai's Place

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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

:: Friday, March 14, 2003 ::

Maybe that explains their crappy diplomacy
Only three hits for this search, with this site at #1:

Yahoo: cornholio bush's cabinet

MOST OF THE WORLD: "We do not support war with Iraq."

BUSH: "So how do we go about doing this? Suggestions from the Cabinet--yes, Secretary Cornholio?"

CORNHOLIO: "What? Are you threatening me? I am Cornholio! My people have no opposition to any of my policies where I come from!"
3:23 PM
:: Thursday, March 13, 2003 ::
Ralph, Piggy, Eleanor Clift, and Jack Germond are sitting around a table...
Josh Marshall takes on the administration's acolytes with a classic analogy. First, the issue:
The Bush crowd is now pursuing a logic on the international stage which is inherently self-validating. Every bust-up of an alliance, every disaster is proof that this or that alliance or relationship or global norm was worthless in the first place and thus we're even more right than we thought we were in bulldozing through.
Then the coup de grace:
Speaking for myself, and perhaps for some other internationalists who feel as I do, part of our frustrated anger over the current impasse is watching the present administration traduce and plow under the work of half a century and seeing the administration's acolytes greet every new disaster and *&$#-up as a grand confirmation of their beliefs and principles. It's like we've been transported into some alternative reality where the debate about international relations is some awful mix of The McLaughlin Group and Lord of the Flies. As these folks should be starting to realize about now, months of this arrogant mumbo-jumbo eventually draws a response -- at home and abroad.
Amen to that. The France issue is a case in point. Yes, France is lame and duplicitous, but since when is that news? We knew that going into this. They wouldn't be France if they weren't doing what they're doing. The problem is that on this issue, almost the entire rest of the world has become France as well! Are we supposed to believe that that has nothing--zip, zero, zilch--to do with the Bush administration's approach to international relations, and not just on the specific issue of Iraq? Does France have diabolical powers that can activate international groundswells of anti-Americanism whenever they feel like it? Are Captain America's foreign relations always doomed to fail, no matter what everyone thinks of his specific handling of non-war issues, when a security-related diplomatic confrontation arises with the mighty Captain Euro?
11:48 AM
:: Wednesday, March 12, 2003 ::
Don't know much about history...
Tal G came across an Islamic site known as 1924.org. 1924 was when the Islamic caliphate, the central religious institution of the Muslim world for more than 1000 years, was abolished under the secularizing Turkish ruler Ataturk. The owners of that web site know that almost any Muslim who visits their site will understand the significance of its name. Bernard Lewis explains why:
The Muslim peoples, like everyone else in the world, are shaped by their history, but, unlike some others, they are keenly aware of it. In the nineteen-eighties, during the Iran-Iraq war, for instance, both sides waged massive propaganda campaigns that frequently evoked events and personalities dating back as far as the seventh century. These were not detailed narratives but rapid, incomplete allusions, and yet both sides employed them in the secure knowledge that they would be understood by their target audiences—even by the large proportion of that audience that was illiterate. Middle Easterners' perception of history is nourished from the pulpit, by the schools, and by the media, and, although it may be—indeed, often is—slanted and inaccurate, it is nevertheless vivid and powerfully resonant.
Another good example of this (which I can't find a link for) relates to the Palestinians. I remember reading that one of Arafat's associates, Yasser Abed Rabbo, proclaimed the Clinton Peace Plan of Dec. 2000 to be "the biggest fraud since the Sykes-Picot Agreement." He was referring to the secret deal struck between the British and French governments during WWI to control the Middle East. Abed Rabbo could make that statement with full confidence that almost everyone in his intended audience--not just the Palestinians, but the Arabs in general--would completely understand the significance of his reference to the agreement that became the symbol of hated colonial rule throughout the Arab world.
11:41 PM
More foot-in-mouth disease
Donald Rumsfeld went and did it again with his latest remark about potential British military help in Iraq:
To the extent they are able to participate -- in the event that the president decides to use force -- that would obviously be welcomed. To the extent they're not, there are work-arounds.
The British were obviously not too happy with the implication that their help was unnecessary. On the PBS NewsHour this evening, Gerard Baker of the Financial Times said that some British officials had figured their time had finally come--Rumsfeld had already insulted everyone else in Europe at one point or another, so it was only a matter of time before it was Britain's turn.
8:21 PM
:: Tuesday, March 11, 2003 ::
Bigger changes have happened
The recent appointment of PLO #2 Abu Mazen as the Palestinian prime minister surely doesn't mean much, as Arafat will continue calling the shots in any event. Some of Abu Mazen's statements over the years and in recent times, like after Camp David, are obnoxious and anti-thetical to peace, like denying the existence of the Temple Mount and demanding right of return for all refugees. It's undoubtedly offensive that he denied the Holocaust, among other nasty things, in his doctoral dissertation in the early '80s. But on that last point, should statements or actions taken many years in the past serve as automatic disqualification for someone's potential to be a responsible person or leader?

Consider the case of an Arab army officer who actively collaborated with the Axis forces in WWII, serving time in prison after being caught by the British. In 1953, when a rumor that Hitler might still be alive circulated around the world, an Arab newspaper asked some public figures what they would say to Hitler if they could contact him. As quoted in Bernard Lewis' book "Semites and Anti-Semites," this Arab officer responded:
I congratulate you with all my heart, because, though you appear to have been defeated, you were the real victor. You were able to sow dissension between Churchill, the old man, and his allies on the one hand and their ally, the devil, on the other. Germany is victorious because it became necessary for the world balance of power that Germany be created anew, whatever East and West might think. There will be no peace until Germany is restored to what it was, and this is what West and East will bring about in spite of themselves ... As for the past, I think you made some mistakes, such as opening too many fronts or Ribbentrop's short-sightedness in the face of Britain's old man diplomacy. But you are forgiven on account of your faith in your country and people. That you have become immortal in Germany is reason enough for pride. And we should not be surprised to see you again in Germany, or a new Hitler in your place.
24 years later, in 1977, the Nazi collaborator and author of that passage--Anwar Sadat--became the first Arab leader to visit Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. I don't know about Abu Mazen, but people sometimes do change.
10:13 PM
:: Monday, March 10, 2003 ::
Weird searches
Sorry, can't help you with this one.
Yahoo: Condoleeza Rice's sex life

Does someone suspect something?
Google: walter cronkite pinko

WTF?! And I'm number two on the list!
Google: "posh spice" arab slaves
4:18 PM
How do you say "pot," "kettle," and "black" in Russian?
Russia's foreign minister Igor Ivanov on Iraq:
Today Mr. Ivanov warned that a United States strike against Iraq would prove such an unbalanced match of forces that civilian casualties and widespread destruction would be inevitable.
I guess the Russian war in Chechnya is an even match with no civilian casualties or widespread destruction. And since when does a "balanced match of forces" prevent bad things from happening in a war? No civilian casualties or widespread destruction when Germany fought the USSR in WWII, right? Does Ivanov want to turn the clock back to that war?
12:42 PM
Israel Conference
There was a conference today on campus with lots of speakers from here and abroad. The opening talk was by an Israeli consular official, Moshe Ram. He talked in pretty general terms about Israel's fight against terror and the importance of the links between American Jews and Israel. Then I went to a talk by Gideon Doron, a professor who was the chief campaign strategist for Yitzhak Rabin in 1992. He said that although most Israelis like having national unity governments, it's the worst of all possible coalitions because almost nothing major ever gets done, as the differences between the parties in and out of power in normal times are just transferred into the government itself. He predicted that the current coalition government would probably be quite stable, as there's not too much ideological difference between the parties in it. He favors major reforms for the governmental system to bring in checks and balances between the different branches, like in America.

Then there was a panel talk with two professors, Muhammad Muslih from Long Island U. and Todd Endelman of Michigan. Muslih talked about the development of Palestinian nationalism, starting from the fall of Ottoman rule in the Middle East in 1917. From then until 1936, it was largely a local issue that had little focus in the wider region, although it became more important throughout the Arab world in 1936 with the general strike and the Arab Revolt. He accused the Arab states of exploiting the Palestinians by saddling them with all the responsibility for their struggle with Israel with two major developments: the creation of the PLO in '64, and the '74 Arab League resolution declaring the PLO as "the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." Endelman talked about the rise of nationalism and national liberation movements all throughout Europe in the 1800s as being one of the main inspirations for the modern Zionist movement.

After that, I went to a talk by Steven Spiegel of UCLA about US-Israeli relations. He spoke in pretty general terms about how US policy was very uneasy about Zionism in the pre-state period, and then he talked specifically about each American administration's Israel policies since '48. He pointed out an often forgotten fact about Truman: although he went against some of his advisors by recognizing Israel immediately after it declared statehood, he put an arms embargo on it as well, which left the Soviets as Israel's indirect military supplier in the '48 war via Czechosolvakia. In response to a question about the influence of AIPAC, Spiegel pointed out that it was pretty small and dovish when it started out, only later developing into a much stronger group with closer ties to whichever Israeli government is in power. He also emphasized that Presidents don't pay a political price for opposing AIPAC if they do it intelligently (in a political sense). For instance, Clinton's occasional differences with them were smoothed over by his generally warm relationship with Israel and Jews in general, while George H.W. Bush fought very clumsily with AIPAC and ended up with a bitter struggle. He identified three factors behind the increasingly close ties between the Republicans and the Likud: the rising influence of the neo-cons within the GOP, the evangelical Christian factor, and the huge GOP class of '94, which came into power with little knowledge about foreign affairs and was largely influenced by the one Middle East political group that really lobbied with them, which was the Likud under Netanyahu.

The last speaker was Avraham Burg of the Labor Party. He had a funny anecdote related to his previous trip to the university, when some students gave him a Hillel shirt that said "Michigan" on the front in Hebrew letters. He wore it in a recent long-distance run for charity in Israel, where some confused people said, "What's with this Meshuggina shirt?" He talked about the need for more pluralism in Israeli society on cultural and religious issues. He drew a comparison between most Israeli Arabs and American Jews: they live in one country and feel a close kinship with their ethnic/religious brethren in another country or area, and they suffer greatly when they feel torn between the two in times of conflict.
12:16 AM

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