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11 August 2007

Henry Rollins Interviews Gore Vidal, 8/10/07

Part 1

Part 2

How the Democrats Blew It in Only 8 Months, Alexander Cockburn

Excellent commentary. I disagree with the anti-impeachment argument, but all else is right on the money. This war will not end without impeachment, especially since the Democrats handed all necessary funds to the Bush administration. Had they simply cut off funding for all but a safe retreat...well, the Bush admin would have forced the constitutional crisis. Essentially, impeachment is where this was all tending from 9/12/01, no matter what anyone would like to think. Impeachment is the tool provided for to combat "Caesarism," in 18th-century terms; "fascism" in (perhaps) 20th-century terms. Pick your label; the reality remains the same. Yes, it should have happened sooner; no, that doesn't mean you stop now. Cockburn's just wrong on this; nothing will stop the Bush admin. What's terrifying is that Cockburn may be correct: the Democrats (at least its leadership) don't want to stop the Bush regime; they merely want to take the reins from them.

Question: If neither the Bush admin nor the Democrats change their behavior based on public desire, election results, and so forth, to whom do they owe their allegiance? From whom are they deriving their power? Do we live in a representative democracy? On what evidence?

08/10/07 - -- [from the August 27, 2007 issue of The
Nation magazine] --- Led by Democrats since the start of this year, Congress now has a "confidence" rating of 14 percent, the lowest since Gallup started asking the question in 1973 and five points lower than Republicans scored last year.

The voters put the Democrats in to end the war, and it's escalating. The Democrats voted the money for the surge and the money for the next $459.6 billion military budget. Their latest achievement was to provide enough votes in support of Bush to legalize warrantless wiretapping for "foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States." Enough Democrats joined Republicans to make this a 227-183 victory for Bush. The Democrats control the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have stopped the bill in its tracks if she'd wanted to. But she didn't. The Democrats' game is to go along with the White House agenda while stirring up dust storms to blind the base to their failure to bring the troops home or restore constitutional government.

The row over the US Attorneys and the conduct of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has always been something of a typhoon in a teaspoon. The Democrats love it, since they imagine it portrays them to the public as resolute guardians of the impartial administration of justice, a concept whose credibility most Americans sensibly deride. The Democrats now plan to track Gonzales's firing of the US Attorneys back to that comic opera villain of the Bush era, Karl Rove, another great provoker of dust storms.

The one Democrat acting on principle in the Gonzales affair has been Senator Russ Feingold. He at least tried to dig into the visit of chief White House counsel Gonzales, as he then was, to the bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft, to get him to sign off on the illegal wiretaps. And how did the Democrat-controlled Congress deal with Feingold's efforts to nail Gonzales for his efforts to undermine the Constitution and for his prevarications under oath? It promptly legalized the eavesdropping.

Just as the Democrats work tirelessly to demonstrate to the voters that it makes zero difference which party controls Congress, the political establishment forces all candidates for the presidential nomination to sever any compromising ties to sanity and common sense.

Right now they're hosing down Barack Obama because he said in the YouTube debate in South Carolina that he would be prepared to meet with Kim Jong Il, Hugo Chávez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Fidel Castro to hash over problems face to face. The pundits whacked him for demonstrating "inexperience." Experienced leaders order the CIA to murder such men.

Then Obama drew even fiercer fire by saying he would take nukes off the table in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," Obama told the AP on August 2, adding, after a pause, "involving civilians." Then he quickly said, "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."

I'm beginning to respect this man. He displays sagacity well beyond the norm for candidates seeking the Oval Office. He comprehends, if only in mid-sentence, that when you drop a nuclear bomb, it will kill civilians. He also realizes that strafing Waziristan with thermonuclear devices in the hopes of nailing Osama bin Laden is a foolish way to proceed.

So Obama is being flayed for his "inexperience," first and foremost by Hillary Clinton, who permits no table setting that does not include a couple of nuclear weapons next to the sugar bowl. To recoup, Obama has declared his readiness as Commander in Chief to order US forces to hotly pursue Osama into Pakistan, whatever the government of Pakistan might think of this onslaught on its sovereignty.

Has the left the capacity to influence the conduct of the Democrats? In terms of substantive achievement the answer thus far has been no. People didn't like it when I wrote here a month ago that the antiwar movement was at a low ebb. They invoke the polls showing that 70 percent of Americans want the troops to come home. This is presumptuous, like a barking dog claiming it made the moon go down. It didn't take an antiwar movement to make the people antiwar. People looked at the casualty figures and the newspaper headlines and drew the obvious conclusion that the war is a bust. Their attention is already shifting to the economic crisis: housing meltdown, car sales meltdown, credit crisis, threats from the Chinese to destroy the dollar. What war?

The left is as easily distracted, currently by the phantasm of impeachment. Why all this clamor to launch a proceeding surely destined to fail, aimed at a duo who will be out of the White House in sixteen months? Pursue them for war crimes after they've stepped down. Mount an international campaign of the sort that has Henry Kissinger worrying at airports that there might be a lawyer with a writ standing next to the man with the limo sign. Right now the impeachment campaign is a distraction from the war and the paramount importance of ending it.

For sure, there are actions around the country: Quakers and Unitarians picketing outside shopping centers, campus vigils, resolutions by city councils and so forth. It's all pretty quiet, in a conflict that has now -- as my brother Patrick recently pointed out -- gone on longer than the First World War. At the liberal blogger convention, Yearly Kos, held the first weekend in August, the organizers nixed any serious strategy session on the war. John Stauber of PR Watch had to force an impromptu (and very successful) session with leaders of the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

A war people hate, Gitmo, Bush's police-state executive orders of July 17 -- the Democrats have signed the White House dance card on all of them. And guess what? Just as their poll numbers are going down, Bush's are going up, by five points in Gallup from early July. People are beginning to think the surge is working, courtesy of the New York Times. So are we better or worse off since the Democrats won back Congress?

10 August 2007

Anarchists under Fire, Neve Gordon, Guardian

Anarchists. Another typical canary in a political coal mine. When the government starts going after anarchists -- no, they're not all bomb-throwing antisocial maniacs; you must be thinking of the folks at the Pentagon -- look out. You're next.

A battle is being waged in the Israeli courts against anarchists who help Palestinian villagers.

July 30, 2007 9:00 AM | Printable version

Over the past five years the Israeli peace camp has dwindled. Last month marked the occupation's 40th anniversary, and no more than 4,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv to protest against Israel's longstanding military rule. Of the demonstrators who did show up, only a few hundred are what one could call ardent activists - people who have dedicated their life to peace and justice

Among the most committed of these are Israel's anarchists. Yet, over the past two years they have been under attack, and it is becoming more and more difficult for them to continue their struggle.

Established in 2003, the anarchists are made up of young Israelis, mostly in their twenties, who work closely with the Palestinian popular village committees in order to resist Israel's occupation. They have no official leaders, no office, and no paid staff, and yet they have managed to accomplish more than many well-oiled NGOs and social movements. They are perhaps best known for their efforts in the small village of Bil'in, where for more than two years weekly demonstrations have been staged against the wall that Israel is building on Palestinian land.

The anarchists are active in numerous other villages and towns as well. Day in and day out, they travel in small groups through the West Bank, supporting non-violent direct action that helps Palestinian farmers gain access to their fields and crops, while opposing the construction of the separation barrier and the confiscation of occupied land.

One of the most remarkable qualities of these young Israelis is their subversive use of their own privilege, employing it not for self-interested social, economic or political gain - as most people do - but rather in order to stand up to power. The anarchists, in other words, exploit the privilege that comes with their Jewish identity and use it as a strategic asset against the brutal policies of the Jewish state.

As Jewish activists they are well aware that the Israeli military behaves very differently when Israeli Jews are present during a protest in the West Bank and that the level of violence, while still severe, is much less intense. Indeed, according to Israeli soldiers the military has more stringent open fire regulations for demonstrations in which non-Palestinians participate. So when a village's public committee decides to carry out non-violent protests against the occupying power, the anarchists mingle with the demonstrating villagers, thus becoming a human shield for all of those Palestinians who have chosen to follow the path of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Even though the anarchists are frequently beaten and arrested, they do not desist. To date, about 10 Palestinians have been killed in demonstrations against the separation barrier and thousands have been wounded, a number that would no doubt have been much greater had it not been for the fearless dedication of the anarchists.

These unsung heroes are currently regarded in Israel as a fifth column. And when the Israeli police began to realise that beating and detaining them would not stop their stubborn resistance, a different strategy was adopted. Scores of legal indictments were issued by the state prosecutor.

The anarchists took this as a new challenge. They have launched a legal campaign, whose aim is to defend the basic civil right of all Israelis to resist their government's rights-abusive policies. Leading this battle is Gabi Lasky, an energetic lawyer, who spends many of her weekends releasing anarchists from detention and her weekdays representing them in court.

Unlike the struggle inside the Occupied Territories, the legal battle to protect civil liberties requires financial resources, which the anarchists do not have. The state knows this is the anarchists' Achilles heel and has been trying to undermine their peace-building activities by making them pay hefty legal fees. Although Lasky is working for little more than minimum wage, the anarchists' struggle cannot be sustained without help from concerned individuals around the world.

Related material here:

It's Petition-Your-Government Time...

Take advantage of this "quaint" tradition while you still can. It's a lot harder to do inside a prison -- or a prison-nation.

  1. Petition Congress to hold Bush administration figures in contempt. (The legal kind; if you're not already holding them in moral contempt, seek help.)
  2. Petition Congress to reinstate the Fourth Amendment and repeal the wireless surveillance powers they cravenly handed to the Bush administration -- and to every other administration, if the sun does not truly set on this imperial diktat.
Below are some wise words, often truncated to the point of meaninglessness, from Thomas Jefferson from a letter to William S. Smith, sent from Paris, November 13, 1787 (reproduced in full on pages 910-912 in the Library of America volume of Jefferson's writings).

The subject, as you'll see, is the effect of Shays' rebellion in Western Massachusetts on the composition of the new Constitution. (For comparison with Jefferson's viewpoint: here's a socialist viewpoint; here's Donald Rumsfeld's viewpoint; here's the official U.S. government's viewpoint.)

Note that the American Revolution was, at least to Jefferson, truly a revolution. I bet you'll be surprised to read what Jefferson had to say about revolution, rebellion, and the power of the people in general. This ain't Mount Rushmore history.

I've kept the spelling as is, but I've introduced paragraphing for clarity:
I do not know whether it is to yourself or Mr. Adams I am to give my thanks for the copy of the new constitution. I beg leave through you to place them where due. It will be yet three weeks before I shall receive them from America.

There are very good articles in it: & very bad. I do not know which preponderate. What we have lately read in the history of Holland, in the chapter on the Stadtholder, would have sufficed to set me against a chief magistrate eligible for a long duration, if I had ever been disposed towards one: & what we have always read of the elections of Polish kings should have forever excluded the idea of one continuable for life. Wonderful is the effect of impudent & persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves.

Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quietly under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner to the death of public liberty.

We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.

Our [Constitutional] Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God this article [re-electability of the President; since limited to two terms] will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted.

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser

Documentary on Thelonious Monk -- aka, the twentieth century's Chopin; aka, God. Check it out while it's up!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Nabokov on Kafka's "The Metamorphosis"

Nabokov played by Christopher Plummer; text from the famous lectures given at Cornell. Only the first two parts for now...will post more if and when they show up.

By the way, Nabokov knew his insects, so I think we should defer to his entomological knowledge.

Part 1

Part 2

09 August 2007

Another Cookie-Cutter Hollywood Shot by Antonioni

From The Passenger:

Some Bergman Documentaries

Bergman and the Cinema
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

From Man Alive, 1970
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

This Spanish Earth, 1937

About the anti-fascist resistance during the Spanish Civil War. Narration first done by Orson Welles, but overdubbed by Ernest Hemingway; music by Virgil Thompson; written by a whole mess of people:
Prudencio de Pereda
Spanish adaptation (uncredited)
John Dos Passos
English narration (part one)
Lillian Hellman
story (uncredited)
Ernest Hemingway
English narration (part two)
Joris Ivens
Archibald Macleish
story (uncredited)
More from IMDB:
You know, a bunch of third-raters.

Good Ol' Bill, the liberal hero, John Pilger

Occupation 101

With Ilan Pappe, Amira Hass, and others.

07 August 2007

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

An oldie but a goodie. Just re-reading it now, twenty years after my college ethics class. Some very good stuff in here; much needed in contemporary America, I'd say. Much more to him than just "he's one of those Utilitarian guys."

Vanity Fair (right) considered him "The Feminine Philosopher," and Punch (left) took its punches at him as well, because of Mill's feminist commitments. See The Subjection of Women for more, and check out On Representative Government for all those "quaint" notions we're currently trashing at warp speed.

Yes, he had his weak points, for sure: his defense of the Indian "Mutiny"(PDF) is a low point, as even such an admirer as Noam Chomsky has pointed out. And some of the themes developed in that article derive from On Liberty.

Oh, well. Mill would want you to think for yourself, anyway. That's the sign of a worthwhile thinker, in my book.

While we're speaking of books, a friend directed my attention to Mill's Autobiography, which I'm also reading. More good stuff from an honest man.

Chomsky and Tariq Ali: Talk by Chomsky; Discussion with Ali, 2005

On the real nuclear threat, which is extreme.

B'Tselem Calls Israeli Actions in the West Bank "Collective Punishment"

That's kind of illegal, you know. Also, this is an Israeli human-rights organization, so I guess they must be self-hating? I get confused on which boo-word works for which group.

Oh, this report covers the past seven years. Here's the "Executive Summary" with more detail. I hope the full report will be available here soon; it should be:

Ground to a Halt

Denial of Palestinians' Freedom of Movement in the West Bank

Executive Summary

Since the beginning of the second intifada, in September 2000, Israel has imposed restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank that are unprecedented in scope and duration. As a result, Palestinian freedom of movement, which was limited in any event, has turned from a fundamental human right to a privilege that Israel grants or withholds as it deems fit.

In the seven years that have passed since the outbreak of the second intifada, B'Tselem has published no less than fourteen reports on various aspects of Israel's policy restricting Palestinian movement. The present report provides a comprehensive survey of this policy and its effects on Palestinian human rights from the perspective of the past seven years. It is based on hundreds of testimonies given to B'Tselem during this period and on dozens of tours and field observations made over the past six months in researching this report.

Means of controlling movement in the West Bank

Israel uses a number of means to restrict Palestinian movement in the West Bank. These means, which are part of a single, coordinated control mechanism, include the following:

  • Physical obstructions – dirt mounds, concrete blocks, boulders, fences, trenches, and iron gates, totaling 455 at the present time;
  • Fixed checkpoints – 82 fixed checkpoints, 34 of them controlling the entry of Palestinians into Israel, and the others controlling Palestinian movement inside the West Bank;
  • Flying checkpoints – more than 100 temporary checkpoints are set up weekly between the fixed checkpoints;
  • Separation Barrier – the total length of the barrier, upon completion, is expected to reach 721 kilometers, only 20 percent of which runs along the Green Line, the remainder extending into the West Bank, creating enclaves entry into which is by permit only;
  • Siege – Israel blocks the access roads to certain areas by placing physical obstructions, so that entry and exit from the area is possible only via fixed checkpoints, where the traveler undergoes a security inspection and, in some instances, must have a permit to cross. A siege of this kind is currently imposed, at varying degrees of severity, on the Nablus area and on the Jordan Valley;
  • Prohibition on use of roads – on 312 kilometers of main roads in the West Bank, Israel forbids or restricts vehicles bearing Palestinian license plates;
  • Increased enforcement of the traffic laws – the increased enforcement further deters Palestinians from using roads on which Palestinian vehicles are not forbidden;
  • Building of "fabric of life" roads – these roads enable greater control of Palestinian movement, forcing it further from the main roads in the West Bank, which are intended for Israelis.

Splitting the West Bank

The restrictions on movement that Israel has imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank have split the area into six geographical areas: North, Center, South, the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea, the enclaves resulting from the Separation Barrier, and East Jerusalem. The restrictions have made traveling from one section to another an exceptional occurrence, subject to various conditions and a showing of justification for the journey. Almost every trip in the West Bank entails a great loss of time, much uncertainty, friction with soldiers, and often substantial additional expense.

The division of the West Bank is enforced by an integrated use of the various means of control in a way that channels Palestinian vehicles and pedestrians to a small number of checkpoints, through which they must pass to get from area to area, provided they meet the conditions and restrictions that vary from checkpoint to checkpoint and from one time to another. The main checkpoints are the following:

Za'tara (Tapuach) Checkpoint controls almost completely movement between the North and Central area. It serves as a bottleneck and as the main means of enforcing restrictions on the movement of males age 16-35 traveling from the north to the south;

"Container" Checkpoint controls almost completely movement between the South and Central sections. Until recently, passenger vehicles were forbidden to cross the checkpoint. Long delays of up to an hour are common, especially at peak times;

Tayasir, Hamra, Gittit, and Yitav checkpoints control movement to and from the Jordan Valley. In May 2005, Israel instituted a sweeping prohibition on Palestinian movement into the Jordan Valley, except for persons with a Jordan Valley address in their identity card and persons with special permits. In April 2007, the Defense Ministry announced cancellation of the sweeping prohibition on entry. However, B'Tselem found that the removal of the prohibition related only to pedestrians and persons traveling on public transportation, which itself requires a permit, and that the decision was implemented only at the Tayasir and Hamra checkpoints;

Almog Checkpoint is located at the Beit Ha'arava intersection and controls movement to and from the northern Dead Sea. In recent years, Palestinians have not been allowed to enter this area unless they have permits to work in the nearby settlements or permits to enter Israel. Since May 2007, Palestinians with permits to enter Israel have not been allowed to cross. Testimonies indicate that the reason for setting up the checkpoint is, apparently, the desire to restrict use of the beaches in the area to Israelis;

Gates in the Separation Barrier control movement between the enclaves in the seam zone and the rest of the West Bank, with only residents of the enclave and persons holding special entry permits being permitted to cross. Of the 38 gates designated for Palestinian use, only six are open daily from between twelve to twenty-four hours without interruption. The barrier crossings designated for Israelis traveling to and from the West Bank are operated around the clock;

Movement between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank is channeled through 12 checkpoints set up along the Separation Barrier. Palestinian residents of the West Bank who do not have Israeli identity cards, but have permits to enter Israel, may use only four of the checkpoints: Qalandiya, Gilo, Shu'afat refugee camp, and Olives. The remaining eight checkpoints are intended for use by settlers and residents of Israel, including Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.

In addition to the restrictions on movement from area to area, Israel also severely restricts movement within each area by splitting them up into subsections, and by controlling and limiting movement between them. For example, in the North section, Israel separates the Nablus area, which is under siege, from the nearby villages, and also from the other northern districts – Jenin, Tubas, and Tulkarm.

In the Central section, the restrictions on movement create two principal subsections, around Salfit and Ramallah. Not only do the restrictions separate nearby villages from these towns, they also detach villagers from their farmland.

In addition to the enclaves that have been created between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line, it is expected that there will be 13 internal enclaves, in which almost 240,000 Palestinians, in 10 villages, will live. These enclaves, comprised of villages and farmland, result from the winding route of the Separation Barrier, or from the meeting of the barrier and another physical obstruction, such as a forbidden road. Travel to and from the enclaves is achieved through one or two access points.

The restrictions on the movement of Palestinian vehicles on main roads in the West Bank also contribute to the splitting of the six sections into subsections. The forbidden and restricted roads serve as main access roads to the settlements and from one area to another in Israel, and are thus used regularly by settlers and the general Israeli population. Among these roads are Route 90, in the Jordan Valley, which is used by settlers living in the area and by Israelis traveling between Jerusalem and northern Israel; Route 443, which has been forbidden to Palestinian use since the beginning of the second intifada, and has been used since then only by Israelis, as another rapid thoroughfare linking Jerusalem and the bloc of settlements surrounding it and the Tel-Aviv area; and Route 557, which leads to the Elon Moreh and Itamar settlements, which isolates the 14,000 residents of the Palestinian villages of Beit Furik and Beit Dajan from the rest of the West Bank, Nablus in particular.

Harm to the Palestinian fabric of life

The geographic division of the West Bank into primary and secondary areas, separated and sometimes completely detached from each other, greatly affects every aspect of Palestinian life. It is difficult to quantify the ramifications of the harsh restrictions, which have lasted close to seven years and have been imposed on the entire Palestinian society. However, it is clear that they touch on all aspects of life and are felt every day and every hour. This report discusses some of these effects, concentrating on the central social institutions and systems, which naturally affect the residents' ability to exercise many of their human rights. For example, the restrictions on movement impede many Palestinians in exercising their right to health by denying proper access to medical services: sick persons needing treatment have difficulty getting to the medical centers; the quality of service provided at these facilities suffers because of the absence, or delay in arrival, of physicians and staff; medical emergency teams have trouble getting rapidly to the ill or injured. The restrictions also impair the ability to develop the health system and build medical reserves, a deficiency that is liable to increase the already heavy dependence of Palestinians on health services in Israel and other countries.

The restrictions on movement also have a decisive effect on economy and trade in the West Bank. These restrictions have an immediate and direct effect on the ability of Palestinians to get to work, on trade relations, and on profits, whether the business is large or small. The difficulty in movement from area to area results in the creation of smaller, local markets, and makes trade with other areas in the West Bank expensive, unpredictable, and inefficient. The constant uncertainty and the steadily increasing costs entailed in conducting trade as a result of the restrictions on internal movement are major obstacles to the recovery of the Palestinian economy.

The restrictions on movement also impair the ability to maintain family and social ties. This harm is especially felt by families living in the seam zone, in the Jordan Valley, and in the Nablus area, which are under siege. Other ramifications are felt in the supply of infrastructure services and in law enforcement in areas under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority.

Finally, the "fabric of life" roads that Israel began to build throughout the West Bank to ease, as it were, Palestinian movement also affect their human rights. The infringement of human rights results from the expropriation of private land, from the inefficient use of public lands entailed in building the roads, and from the route selected for these roads. In setting the routes, Israel does not take into account the various interests of the people using the roads or the Palestinians harmed as a result of their construction. In some cases, Israel even forces a new "fabric of life." Rather than linking the communities that the road is intended to serve to their natural center of life, the road imposes an artificial connection to another "center of life." The consequences of these roads extend beyond the individual person and the immediate implications, inasmuch as every road, and certainly an entire network of roads, shapes the spatial environment and the relations between the people living in that space.

The legal perspective

The State of Israel has the right, even the duty, to protect its citizens from threats to their security. Israel justifies the restrictions it imposes on Palestinian movement in the West Bank as necessary to achieve defined security objectives, and claims the measures are imposed for a limited period of time. It may be that this was initially true for some of the restrictions. However, it appears that these means continue to be applied even after the temporary and specific security need has passed, and are now used to achieve other objectives. Chief among these objectives is to control and regulate Palestinians' movement so as to separate them from settlers and other Israelis on West Bank roads. Thus, restrictions on Palestinians enable continuous, swift, and safe travel for settlers who can go about their daily routine with minimal disturbance, including travel between settlements, on their own private road network. In addition, the separation between Palestinian and Israeli travel enables de facto annexation of these roads to Israel.

A substantial number of the restrictions are intended to serve these improper interests, rendering them fundamentally illegal. As such, the military commander is not authorized to impose them. Furthermore, even if all the restrictions were intended to achieve legitimate security interests, many of them still violate the principle of proportionality, and would be illegal for this reason as well.

Israel contends that the restrictions on movement are imposed as part of its ongoing battle against security threats, and are intended to deter and not to punish. However, the vast majority of the victims of the restrictions are not suspected of personally posing any threat to the security of Israel and its residents. Even accepting the argument that there is no better way to selectively restrict the movement of persons who indeed constitute a threat, and that the state does not seek to punish, but only to neutralize existing threats, given the results and the fact that most of the restrictions have continued for seven years, the conclusion is inescapable that the restrictions constitute collective punishment, which is absolutely forbidden by international humanitarian law.


For the above reasons, B'Tselem calls on the government of Israel and the defense authorities to:

  • immediately remove all the permanent and sweeping restrictions on movement inside the West Bank, including those parts of the Separation Barrier that extend into the West Bank. In their place, Israel should concentrate along the Green Line or inside Israel the means used to protect Israelis;
  • act immediately to evacuate all the settlements in the West Bank. Until this is done, Israel must safeguard the lives of the settlers, giving preference to means that restrict their freedom of movement and not that of the Palestinians, who are the protected population of occupied territory;
  • verify, before any temporary restriction inside the West Bank is approved, that the restriction is indeed needed for a legitimate security purpose and that the resultant harm to the Palestinian population will be proportionate. Such a restriction must be incorporated in a written order that specifies the nature of the restriction and the period of time it will remain in force.

The Fourth Amendment, 1791-2007

Remember this quaint little civil right?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Well, it's dead. Yeah, yeah, the new FISA law (sic) sunsets in six months. But any investigations underway will last up to the end of 2008, as recently reported. I see very little chance of this not being made permanent, given the Democrats spinelessness and the upcoming election. Guess those who voted for it didn't read that part. Or maybe they did. Power corrupts, and the opposition in Washington is to the American people, not between Democrats and Republicans. I'm so proud of those courageous Democrats, aren't you?

The ACLU on this here. Rick Perlstein's comments here.

Further, the government can do physical searches without a warrant as well, according to NPR (I heard it on the radio yesterday). And this is only if they follow the law. Which they won't.

So, Based on Your Views on the Issues, Who Should You Support in '08?

05 August 2007

The Times Magazine Does Immigration

With predictable results. A friend had sent this article to me, calling it fascinating. She's fairly lefty, so I assume her fascination was closer to mine than to something else...but that explains the first line of my response to her, which I've hijacked for the blog. Read the article first (click the title of this post above); the response won't make sense unless you do so. Whether it makes sense after you read it...well...

Fascinating like a train wreck, I suppose. The racism is palpable; the reasons for the immigration go unacknowledged (in short: NAFTA); and the general program of using one part of the non-wealthy to attack another is exactly how every empire has ruled over its people: divide and rule.

The ideological limits of the New York Times Magazine are not breached (how could they be?): not a word about capital-based globalization, as opposed to globalized workers' rights, human rights, and environmental standards as well as capital. That might upset flat-worlders who profit from a slanted playing field, and who subscribe to (or advertise in) the Times.

Note the three options given in the article. Not one of them suggests an obvious fourth option (among myriad others, no doubt): a polyglot nation is a cultural boon, especially for a nation known the world over for its near-total ignorance of other cultures, other nations -- let alone geography and history. I would have loved to have been "forced" to learn Spanish. What possible harm is there in that? This nation, like any that isn't explicitly race-based, consists of a snapshot of whatever the dynamic shifting of the populations that live here happens to be when you take the picture. End of story, unless you're a racist.

The only thing anyone needs to "assimilate" to is the Constitution, and we can start that assimilation project with the ruling class, if that's the actual worry here. I don't give a flying fuck whether anyone flies a flag other than the American, or flies the American flag, or flies none. I thought, silly me, that that choice was what defined the idea of this nation, not the flag itself. But I'm "quaint" like that.

Anyway, the term "assimilation" is taken as a given, an understood and unassailable good. Funny, that. Anyway, the definition of what it means to "become American" goes equally unquestioned. (I'll also note that buried at the end of the article is the tiny fact that crime has actually decreased by 50% in this town.) The unquestioned nature of what "being an American" means is typical of totalitarian, or authoritarian-nationalist (pick your label), cultures.

When a country goes fascist, certain groups are canaries in the coal mine: homosexuals, immigrants -- those are two classic ones.

If people were strictly concerned with tax-dollar wastage, they'd be marching on the Pentagon and boycotting major corporations en masse. If they knew, I should say... But it's so much easier -- and more fun -- to hate the Other, especially the brown Other. Who knows, if you kowtow to the ruling class, you might hit the Horatio Alger sweepstakes someday? Meanwhile, sorry, no pension for you (the nigger over there took it for welfare; the spic took it as an illegal; etc.).

Every empire needs its two-minutes hate; Orwell got it exactly right. Sad to watch the Screwed consume each other for the crumbs falling off the table of the Screwers.

I'm so moved by the factory owner dancing away on Cinco de Mayo. That's a cheap party, considering his wage structure. But this is the Times' answer to all problems: just a more sentimental form of capitalism and everything will be just peachy! Just ask Tom Friedman. Spielberg for President!

Anyway, the noblesse oblige that the "good guy" in this article exudes is typical, and, one must presume, the position the Times editors would like to promulgate. He's the "personalized" stand-in for the Bush admin's immigration position (with Democratic support, to its everlasting, and ever-increasing, shame).

Oh, yes, please let's do return to the days of the company town! That was just lovely! In a nation full of people who know almost nothing about their own history, and who are mired in a morass of childish sentimentality, well, this is just the kind of fairy-tale white knight who'll make everything all better. Maybe he can teach those dirty Latinos not to pee on their trees, too. That's just terrible, but buying sweat-shop clothes from Latin America, among other places, that's fine. Nothing immoral there: the lawn still looks nice. That such thoughtless purchasing supports a system that actually encourages immigration of all kinds -- call it "wage-slavery population pressure"; further, that the Demz and Rethugz agree on the "Washington consensus": well, none of that matters. You can tell because it is not mentioned in a long article. Guess that wasn't fit to print.

Just keep the urine off the trees, and create a Gastarbeiter class (works so well for Palestinians in Israel, Turks in Germany, etc.), and all will be well. For the owners, that is.

(Interestingly, "deportation by attrition" is exactly the kind of "softer, gentler" ethnic cleansing the Israelis have practiced ever since 1948, and especially in the OTs since '67. Lovely.)

Anyway, that's my reaction to this article. It reinforces why I don't bother reading the Times. I already know about the ruling-class prejudices -- and those of the managerial class that apes it. I'm more concerned with changing that mindset.

Gore Vidal Interviewed by Michael Silverblatt, 5/9/07

A Lannan Foundation production...check out their amazing archive of interviews.