Why the Israeli offensive was doomed to fail

Very interesting and, when you think about it, very logical. Hezbollah stays as far away from civilians as it can, most of the time, for their own good. See The "hiding among civilians" myth | Salon News

This does not mean that Hezbollah is particularly concerned about avoiding civilian casualties, however, as blogger USS Neverdock points out, with evidence. Rather, Hezbollah stays away from civilians for their own safety.

Actually, this is only one among several reasons that the Israeli offensive had to fail, world opinion -- slow to move but finally under way -- being another. But the military mind can only think of military solutions to every problem, and the political minds in Israel were too inexperienced and too awed by the helmeted ones to see the flaws.


New link: "Caracas Connect"

Since some people come to this blog for information on Venezuela, I've added the link (in the listing at right) to Caracas Connect, a blog dedicated exclusively to locating and linking to new stories about events there. Occasional "Commentary" is generally pro-Hugo Chávez, but the site links to anybody -- mostly U.S. & British mainstream outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, etc. -- so it's a useful, well-rounded service.

Karaoke for freedom: A hymn to the FCC

Lovely voices, beautiful sentiments. And you can sing along! YouTube - FCCFU

A triple loss for Israel?

By failing so ostentatiously to meet its objectives (destroying Hezbollah or at least reducing the rocket attacks), Israel has already lost this war by its own military estimates (which doesn't mean the other side has "won"; Hezbollah's goals are equally unrealizable, but they are at least surviving this battle). Israel has also lost world-wide support in its public relations campaign, sustained now for over half a century at enormous cost, depicting the country as the victim rather than victimizer; outside of the U.S. (where the current administration seems to think it needs Israel, no matter what the cost, and where the pro-Israel lobby is strongest), hardly anybody still buys into that argument (well, except Blair, to the disgust of most of his constituents).

This article by Oren Ben-Dor seems to argue that there is another loss: Israel's "soul," if you will permit the metaphor, the state's whole reason and justification for being.

"What exactly is being defended by the violence in Gaza and Lebanon?" he asks in London's Independent.
Is it the citizens of Israel or the nature of the Israeli state? I suggest the latter. Israel's statehood is based on an unjust ideology which causes indignity and suffering for those who are classified as non-Jewish by either a religious or ethnic test. To hide this primordial immorality, Israel fosters an image of victimhood. Provoking violence, consciously or unconsciously, against which one must defend oneself is a key feature of the victim-mentality. By perpetuating such a tragic cycle, Israel is a terrorist state like no other. (...)

In Hebrew, the word elem (a stunned silence resulting from oppression or shock) is etymologically linked to the word almut (violence). Silence about the immoral core of Israeli statehood makes us all complicit in breeding the terrorism that threatens a catastrophe which could tear the world apart.
Independent Online Edition > Commentators: "Oren Ben-Dor"

And who is Oren Ben-Dor, who speaks so authoritatively of Israeli history and Hebrew etymology? He has been in the news before, for attempting to organize a UK boycott of Israeli scholars. (See Counterpunch.) He describes himself as an "ex-Israeli" (he grew up in Israel), and currently teaches law at the University of Southampton. For more info and a photo, see his U. of Southampton web page.

Latin America: protests against Israeli attacks

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, which "covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990." Write to wnu@igc.org for a free one-month subscription.

We sometimes forget how many people of Lebanese and Palestinian descent live in Latin America, including the current president Elias Antonio Saca of El Salvador -- who has sent troops to Iraq and is being condemned by his compatriots "for not condemning the aggression." And the Lebanese-Colombian Shakira (left), who is condemning it -- though that's probably not what she was doing in this photo.

Thousands of people demonstrated across Latin America the week of July 17 to protest Israel's air and ground attacks in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip starting the week before.

About 500 protesters rallied on July 17 outside the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in a demonstration organized by Argentine Arab associations, leftist groups and activist organizations, including the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Anibal Veron piquetero ("picketer") organization of the poor and unemployed. "Today the state of Israel is applying state terrorism and a plan for extermination the way the [1976-1983] Argentine dictatorship did," Confederation of Arab Entities of Argentina vice president Roberto Ahuad told the French news service AFP.

The protest came the day before the anniversary of the still unsolved July 18, 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA), in which at least 85 people were killed and 300 were injured; this was the worst antisemitic terror attack anywhere since World War 2. Asked if the protesters would attend the ceremonies commemorating the victims, Ahuad said: "Yes, as we do every year. We have always been with the relatives of the victims. We don't have an anti-Jewish feeling. On the contrary, there are Jews who defend our position of condemning the government of Israel." There are about 300,000 people in Argentina's Jewish community and 700,000 to one million in its Arab community. [AFP

Some 2,000 Lebanese living the Triple Border region, where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, rallied in the Plaza of Nations in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, on July 19 to call for peace and solidarity with the people of Lebanon and Palestine. Brazilian Arab Commission in Support of the People of Lebanon president Aly Osman, whose wife and daughter managed to leave Lebanon for Syria, said the current attack on Lebanon
was the worst ever. "Not even the 1982 invasion [by Israel] was this cruel," he said.

"They say there are terrorists in the Triple Border," Manuel Rocha, Catholic bishop of Foz do Iguacu, told the protesters while a Paraguayan police agent in plain clothes filmed the demonstration. "We are the terrorists of peace, of hope," the bishop said. The Triple Border region has one of the highest concentrations of Lebanese and other Arabs in the world. Some 500 Triple Border residents are currently trapped in Lebanon, and two adults and three children from Foz do Iguacu have been
killed by Israeli bombardments in southern Lebanon. [La Nacion (Paraguay) 7/20/06]

In Mexico, supporters of The Other Campaign of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) held a rally at the US embassy in Mexico City on July 19 in solidarity with the people of Lebanon and Palestine. The protest followed a rally at the federal Attorney General's Office (PGR), also on the Reforma avenue, to protest the mistreatment and illegal detention of activists in San Salvador Atenco and Texcoco on May 3-4 [see Updates #849, 853]. Speakers noted the importance of
international solidarity protests, saying that rallies outside Mexico in May had helped get word out about the repression at Atenco. One speaker charged that Israel trains elite groups in Mexico's Federal Preventive Police (PFP) and the Federal Investigation Agency. The protesters announced plans for another demonstration at the US embassy on July 29. [Chiapas Indymedia 7/19/06]

On July 20 members of Mexico's Lebanese community rallied outside the UN's Mexico City offices to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon. They then went to the Lebanese embassy, where they placed roses in an urn and held a minute of silence. Francisco Jammal, former president of the Lebanese Center, said Mexico's effort to evacuate Mexicans from Lebanon was "enormous." [La Opinion (Los Angeles) 7/21/06 from AP] Mexico organized a convoy to evacuate 121 Mexicans and one Guatemalan from Beirut to
Istambul, Turkey. [La Nacion (Paraguay) 7/19/06]

In Venezuela some 2,000-3,000 people marched to the Israeli embassy in eastern Caracas on July 20 to deliver a document protesting Israel's actions. Carrying Lebanese and Palestinian flags and photographs of children killed or injured in the attacks, marchers chanted "Murderers!" and slogans against the US and burned an Israeli flag. Many protesters were of Lebanese or Palestinian origin. About 400,000 Venezuelans are Lebanese or of Lebanese origin. The Foreign Ministry is trying to
evacuate 400 Venezuelans from the Middle East. President Hugo Chavez Frias has harshly criticized Israel and the US for the attacks. [El Universal (Caracas) 7/20/06 from AFP]

Representatives of Salvadoran social, political and religious organizations demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in San Salvador on July 20 to protest what they called the "terrorist escalation against the people of Palestine" and to criticize Salvadoran president Elias Antonio Saca, who is of Palestinian origin, "for not condemning the aggression." Jhon Nasser, from the Friends of Palestine
Association, also condemned the United Nations (UN), "which is showing total indifference to these massacres." Legislative deputy Carlos Castaneda of the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN) announced that he was going to ask the Legislative Assembly to issue a public condemnation of "the policy of extermination." [La Opinion 7/21/06 from AP]

Castaneda was also trying to engineer a vote against Saca's plan to send another rotation of 380 Salvadoran soldiers to participate in the US-led occupation of Iraq. This would be the seventh six-month rotation since El Salvador's participation began in August 2003. Saca announced his decision to send the troops on July 19, at the same time that he announced the death of Sgt. Jose Miguel Sanchez Perdomo on July 18 in Al Kut, Wasit province, in Iraq. Sanchez Perdomo was killed by an explosive
device. He is the third soldier from the Salvadoran forces killed inIraq. One was killed by insurgents in April 2004 [see Update #741], and another died in a highway accident in June 2005. El Salvador is the only Latin American country with troops in Iraq. [La Nacion (Costa Rica) 7/19, 7/20/06 from ACAN-EFE, La Prensa Grafica (El Salvador) 7/20/06]

About 1,000 people demonstrated in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, on July 21 to protest the attacks in Lebanon. The protesters--many carrying Lebanese flags and photographs of relatives in Lebanon or of victims of the violence--chanted "Israel out!" and called for Mercosur, a trade bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, to end commercial ties with Israel. "We need for Brazil to help Palestine and Lebanon to end this war," Sheikh Kamal Yahya of the local Santo Amaro mosque told the government news agency Agencia Brasil. According to the Foreign Ministry, at least seven Brazilians have been killed in the attacks in Lebanon; an estimated 70,000-200,000 Brazilians live there, most of them Lebanese who lived in Brazil and became citizens but later returned to Lebanon. The government has sent at least two of the Air Force's Boeing 707s to start evacuating 1,000 Brazilians from
Beirut, Damascus and Amman. [Europa Press via Yahoo Argentina 7/21/06]

A dozen people demonstrated at the Plaza Israel in Guatemala City on July 22 to protest the bombing of Lebanon. According to Associated Press, no members of the Arab community participated. [El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 7/22/06 from AP]

About 600 Lebanese and Colombians of Lebanese origin marched in Bogota on July 23 from the Club Colombo-Libanes to a UN office, where they handed over a communique. The document condemned Israel's "unilateral and disproportionate attack" and warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe," according to a spokesperson for the march, Mario Helo. [La Cronica de Hoy (Mexico) 7/23/06 from EFE]

On July 21 the popular Colombian rock singer Shakira Mebarak Ripoll, on tour in Europe, called on "the leaders of the US and of the world's great powers to stop this war, since we all know they could stop it. We want something better for our children, for the children of Colombia, the children of Israel, the children of Palestine, the children of Lebanon, the children of the world." Shakira is of Lebanese origin on her father's side. [AFP 7/22/06]

Charles I: A Political Life

This is a bit off my usual topics, but I mention it to contextualize the review I wrote the other day of Sexing the Cherry. Dog-Woman's views of the unfortunate king who lost his head seem to have been pretty accurate. H-Net Review: Pauline Croft on Charles I: A Political Life

Charles I of England. Painted by Sir Anthony van Dyke c. 1635; Oil on canvas, 266 x 207 cm; Musée du Louvre, Paris. WebMuseum, Paris Click to enlarge.


From Rasha in Beirut

My friends in Ramallah just forwarded to me the latest letter from Rasha, dated July 26 (yesterday). Her letters are very, very moving and reveal a sensitive appreciation of Arab politics. She describes herself in the July 26 letter as "a secular egalitarian democrat," but she understands the appeal of the Islamic radicals and especially Nasrallah, who (from everybody's point of view except Israel's) appears to be winning simply by successfully surviving and continuing to attack.

She apparently does not have her own website, and I've had trouble finding all her letters, which you will want to read. Here are those from July 20 & 21. NO QUARTER: From Rasha in Beirut. I don't know her surname; Rasha is a common name in Lebanon, and if you Google "Rasha Lebanon" as I did you will find a journalist named Rasha Saad, a computer science major named Rasha Ockaili, and an un-surnamed Lesbian activist interviewed by the BBC. I don't think she is any of these (well, possibly the last, but I kind of doubt it -- that Rasha doesn't express anything political). Rasha Salti sounds more likely, from the style and content of this year-old by-lined report: Beirut Diary: April 2005.

Turkey's Red Crescent does good

Sometimes something, maybe some small thing, goes right even in the midst of a disaster. In this case, the disaster is the post-tsunami reconstruction effort in Aceh, Indonesia, a monument to corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency. The not-so-small thing:
Not all the news is bad. Work on a highway down the devastated west coast of the province, financed by the United States government, is under way, and a new port has opened in Meulaboh, the seaside town that was smashed to smithereens.

Of the lucky ones with a roof over their heads, those with houses built by the Turkish Red Crescent Society are the most pleased.

“They’ve given us good quality,” said Khairuman, 45, a building laborer, and his wife, Suginah, 43, as they showed off their blue-tiled bathroom replete with bath and shower in the beachside community of Lampuuk. Like many Indonesians, they use one name.

The Red Crescent Society paid $10,000 for each brick house, about double the cost of houses built by other agencies. And it sent a team of engineers with experience from the 1999 earthquake in Turkey.

“The people of Aceh suffered; they need to stay in good houses,” said an engineer, Ali Pekoz. From the sunproof window glass to imported hinges on the doors, the Turks chose the best fittings, he said.
Aid Groups Are Criticized Over Tsunami Reconstruction - New York Times. By Jane Perlez.

Global Voices Online

I just discovered this great site, with links to news from a hundred or more countries. Just click on the name of a country, and some item will come up, along with items from other countries in its region. Do you have any idea what's going on in Central Asia right now? Click on "Mongolia" (or "Kyrgyzstan" or any other country in the region) to find out. Global Voices Online


On the Face :: Another Israeli point of view

On the Face :: Another Israeli point of view

Hezbollah: an empire worth millions - Haaretz - Israel News

If reporter Zvi Bar'el of Ha'aretz is right, then it looks like the Israeli bombing campaign is not only murderous, it is futile. Hezbollah is also murderous, but on the evidence of this article, hardly futile:
According to Hezbollah spokesmen interviewed in the Arab media in recent years, at least 14,000 children are enrolled in the movement's school system, which employs several thousand teachers. For these children, Hezbollah is not only a system of studies, teachers and buildings, but also summer camps, youth movements, excursions and parties such as the celebration mentioned above of Victory Day.

The numerous services granted by Hezbollah, such as the water system it built in the southern neighborhood of Beirut, which supplies water to about one-half of its residents, have essentially supplanted the Lebanese government, which is not present along the border with Israel and does not come close to matching Hezbollah in providing services to residents along the southern border. Hezbollah is believd to be currently providing services to more than 200,000 people. But according to another estimate, it provides services to about 10 percent of all of Lebanon's citizens - about 350,000 people.

Even if Hezbollah is miraculously disarmed, it will continue to dominate Lebanon's public life, and not only in the south, and that the government's declared ambition of controlling the border area would at best be translated into partial control, unless it takes full responsibility for providing services to the villagers.
Hezbollah: an empire worth millions - Haaretz - Israel News

Lebanon: Winners and Losers- by Justin Raimondo

Lebanon: Winners and Losers- by Justin Raimondo


Contradictions of the Israeli campaign

My friends in Ramallah, Lois and Khalil Nakhleh, just sent me the latest article by Jonathan Cook, Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes. A useful recap in case you get into an argument with anyone who is defending the Israeli attacks. More stuff here: Jonathan Cook's News Archive - Israel Palestine.

I also found this argument partly persuasive, on the unattainable (and undefined) goals of the Israeli bombing campaign: The IDF Will Become Even More Violent: Why Israel is Losing By ASHRAF ISMA'IL. He may be right in very broad terms, but he doesn't seem to know much in detail about Israeli politics. I thought it prudent to check Ha'aretz, where I found this article: Tory MP: Lebanon raid reminiscent of Nazi atrocity on Warsaw ghetto - Haaretz - Israel News. Wow! If they're losing the Tories, it looks like their public relations campaign is not going brilliantly.

This Israeli view of the contradictions of U.S. policy is also interesting: D.C. argument / Operation time - Haaretz - Israel News

Reason, God and Other Imponderables

As Cornelia Dean sums it up in Faith, Reason, God and Other Imponderables - New York Times,
In “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher and theorist of cognition at Tufts, refers again and again to the “brave” researchers (including himself) who challenge religion. In “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins, a professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford, once again likens religious faith to a disease and sets as his goal convincing his readers that atheism is “a brave” aspiration.
But supposedly on the other side,
In “God’s Universe,” Dr. [Owen] Gingerich, an emeritus professor of astronomy at Harvard, tells how he is “personally persuaded that a superintelligent Creator exists beyond and within the cosmos.”
If that's all they're arguing about, it's not about anything. That is, it's about nothing that makes any difference in the real world. Dawkins and Dennett have no problem acknowledging that there are things about how the universe works that we don't yet understand, they just don't anthropomorphize the Great Unknown. They think of it rather as Terrain to be Explored. Gingerich and the other authors Dean reviews here are happy calling it "a superintelligent Creator." Neither side can disprove the other, because they are talking about nothing -- nothing at all, except which metaphor makes them happy.

The problem with the anthropomorphic vision, that there is a "Creator" with something like what we human beings flatter ourselves by calling "intelligence," is that then people (presumably less sophisticated than Dr. Gingerich) are mighty tempted to attribute intentionality to it, as though it were a person. "Things are the way they are because God made them that way" is a formula for irrational resistance to change. "We are acting on God's will" is even more dangerous, allowing people to grant themselves divine permission to do great harm to other people. That's why I prefer the "terrain to be explored" metaphor; if and when we do meet God in our explorations, He, She or It will no doubt turn out to be nothing less (and nothing more) than a fuller understanding of the universe. Meanwhile, let's leave the hypothetical divine personality out of it.


London burning, spirits dancing, gardeners gathering

Winterson, Jeanette. 1989. Sexing the Cherry. Vintage International, New York.

For all you excitable Mickey Spillane fans, this is not about what you think it is. And it really isn't about botany, either, although John Tradescant's experiment of grafting cherries is mentioned briefly. Rather it is an oneiric, Rabelaisian romp, told by two characters from one of London's seamiest neighborhoods in the 17th century, and then by those same two (or consciousnesses much like theirs) in the late 20th, meant to suggest that all eras are really simultaneous.

All the fun however is in the 17th century, when big things were happening in London, all narrated by the horridly ugly, monstrously powerful, gigantic, illiterate and lovable person who calls herself the Dog-Woman: civil war, regicide, plague and the burning of London (a firm royalist herself, Dog-Woman happily maims any Puritan with the audacity to cross her path, and while not actually igniting did throw oil on the flames that consumed the city). Too huge and ugly to have ever had a boyfriend, she is so ignorant about sex that when she bites off a man's penis (thinking that that was what he was asking her to do), she imagines that it will grow back again. Other men she dismembers (that is, their limbs, not their "members"), and two of her special foes, great Puritan hypocrites, she beheads with an ax in a brothel. But she has her sweet side: she has pulled a baby boy out of the filthy Thames and named him "Jordan" (for a cleaner, holier river). The boy loves her and also loves boats, and grows up to be a sailor who accompanies John Tradescant on his expeditions to gather exotic fruit such as the pineapple. In his rovings, he stumbles into an enchanted city that floats above the planet and espies a dancer there, scampering gracefully across a tightrope high above the nothingness, and he falls in love with her.

In his pursuit of this dancer who (he thinks) may not really exist, he discovers her eleven sisters, also dancers, each with a tale of how she resolved an unhappy marriage. The twelfth was agile enough to escape marriage all together, and now teaches other girls, transformed into spinning lights, to be as agile.

The flow of language and of images, from the crudest farce to the airiest acrobatics, make the reading a delight. And incidentally will remind you of those terrible events in London. What the book is really about, I think, is the great power of a mother's love (Dog-Woman goes to great and violent lengths to protect her adopted son) and the son's inevitable departure, and also (those twelve dancing sisters) about the various ways women must scheme to escape their brutish, or egotistical, or simply stupidly demanding husbands. Male humans are OK as long as they are your sons, or (in the case of Tradescant) your son's tutors, but you wouldn't want one for a partner!

Top: Great Fire of London - 1666; Portrait of John Tradescant the Younger (1608-1662) from Museum of Garden History Portraits

Word magic and dizzying change in Brazil

Andrade, Mário de. 1984 [1928]. Macunaíma. Translated by E. A. Goodland. New York: Random House.

This is an amazing, perplexing book by a poet, folklorist and musicologist, so unlike anything else I've read recently that I didn't know what to make of it. The publisher of the translation calls it a "precursor of magic realism," but Andrade is not interested here in anything like "realism." It is more "real" than that, in another way, the reality of dreams. Most of all it is an endless inventive series of linguistic displays, so it seems pointless to read it in translation -- though I thought the translation (very fluid, very funny) must be brilliant. The story is just a device to get the game going, but there is a story: Macunaíma is a kind of monster or demigod (Andrade calls him a "Hero"), born magically into the Tapanhuma tribe in the Amazon jungle, at a time that is both the beginning of the world and the modern era. He is a trickster who loves to fuck, and does so at every opportunity. He is also a shape-shifter, turning himself into noxious insects or birds, or from a mewling infant to a strapping young man with a powerful sex urge. He is present at the creation -- and sometimes is himself the creator -- of animals, plants, constellations and pasttimes. For example, he introduces (unintentionally) the addiction to coffee, the boll weevil, and football, "three of the main pests in the country today." Stumbling into an enchanted pool, he magically turns from black to white with blond hair and blue eyes, but there is not enough magic water left for his brothers to do the same: one just turns red and the other remains black. Now of the right complexion for the city, he travels to São Paulo and discovers that he has to learn two new languages, formal written Portuguese and popular spoken Brazilian -- and, being a hero with divine powers, he does. To confront a giant, he goes to the orchard where pistols grow on trees and shakes one loose -- but it turns out to be useless against the giant's magic. He is bitten by fire ants, pursued by monsters, and killed at least twice, one time from shock after a monkey tricks him into smashing his own testicles. Along the way, you get a sense of the enormous changes occurring in Brazil in the 1920s. And you also pick up some useful information. Did you ever wonder where the sun goes at night? Why, she goes home! Her name is Vei and she has three daughters -- one of whom marries Macunaíma, but the relationship ends when on that same day she discovers him in bed with another trollop. Anyway, the sun and her daughters live in a house on Avenida Branco in Rio de Janeiro. Just so you know.

Some day I hope to be able to read it in the original. It must be amazingly funny. When I do, I may come back to this page, which has helped me glimpse what I'm missing.


The bombardment: images of horror

From Israel To Lebanon. After looking at these pictures -- too, too gruesome-- , please sign the petition if you are so moved. And how could you not be? I did. Petition