winterbadger: (pooh tao)
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter (26) Carter has always struck me as the best president in my lifetime. Not the "nicest" president or the "best person"--the best *president*. While I think he is a very *good* person, and a true Christian (as I was brought up to understand Christ's message), those are usually ways people diminish him, damning him with faint praise. "Oh, he was too honest to be president" or "oh, he was so much better as an ex-president". But, by implication, "he was an awful *president*." Nonsense. Far too many people have bought into the mythology of the Reagan era and the GOP fiction spinners who have run the White House for more than half the time I've been alive. This book (the recorded version of which, to my delight, is read by the President himself) chronicles one of his greatest achievements--the Camp David Peace Accords--but also the failure of subsequent US presidents to put the sort of pressure on all parties that Carter did, and the subsequent growth of unilateral, imperialist policy in Israel, scuttling the peace process because it can simply take whatever it wants, with the supine acceptance of the United States and the rest of the western powers. Carter is unsparing of his own naivete and ignorance, his optimism in hoping that Israeli and Arab leaders could be convinced of the benefits to be gained by working together to achieve stability. His conclusion is that, as much as Israel thinks it can simply create stability with guns and bulldozers, concrete and barbed wire, it will only continue to stoke the frustration and determination of Palestinians to resist occupation and tyranny. Both sides need to come together with honest intent before peace can be achieved; Carter is much more hopeful than I am that this will eventually happen.

Berlin Diary by William Shirer (27) Literally, Shirer's diaries of his time as foreign correspondent in Berlin from 1933 to 1940. Shirer concealed some names of persons and places to protect friends, peers, and sources in case his journals were seized by the Nazi government, but the names that remain include Edward R. Murrow (his co-worker and boss at ABC) and Joseph Harsch (an alumnus of Williams College I met briefly, who like Murrow and Shirer is one of the legends of wartime reporting from World War Two) as well as all the famous figures of European politics of the 1930s and 40s, large and small, whose deeds and words Shirer reports with unflinching candor and much insight and humour. Having read so much of went on in these days as dry history, I found it fascinating to hear the perspective of a reporter working in the middle of the events, recording day by day his perceptions of the events unfolding around him. Equally interesting, in a geeky way, were the insights one gets from his adventures about the technical side of radio broadcasting and the often remarkable lengths to which reporters had to go to get their stories on air (and the lengths that the German government would go to to control what news went out, both sly tricks--like using studio microphones that reduced background noise, so listeners couldn't hear the sounds of an air raid going on during the broadcast--to heavy-handed censorship.) Shirer saw daily life in Germany and neighboring countries before and during the war, from political riots in Paris to head of state visits in Italy, covering the Nazi seizure of Austria, traveling to Poland to see the fighting firsthand and to to France and the Low Countries to see the aftermath of the 1940 blitzkrieg. For much of the war, Shirer's wife and daughter lived in nearby, neutral Switzerland, and the contrast he observed in his visits to them between wartime Germany (literally darkened and under sever rationing) and the bright, bustling nightlife of Berne and Zurich was quite remarkable. I was glad that I had recently read Lynne Olson's Those Angry Days, as a number of personalities of the time get mentions here which I would not have understood as well if I hadn't been introduced to them already.

Dragonsong and Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey (28 and 29) Re-reading some YA books I enjoyed in S. Still enjoyable light reading.

Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White (30) An old family favourite, this was one of Melissa's picks when we were scavenging an awesome used bookstore in Sidney, BC. I re-read it after she was done, and found it agreeable, but a little tiresome in its heavy-handed humour. Taking some ideas and situations from classic literature and re-applying them to a YA adventure: A+. Attempted satire: C-.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan (31) A fascinating story of the first great forest fire after the creation of the national forest system in the United States. This revisits several characters whom I met in Edmund Morris's three-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt, like Roosevelt himself and his successor in the presidency, the hapless and feeble William Howard Taft. It even mentions William Allen White, who I'm sure was mentioned in Morris but who served as a central character in (again) Lynne Olson's Those Angry Days, given his role in pushing America out of isolation and towards participation in World War Two. But most of all, this book gives gives me a broader picture of Gifford Pinchot, advisor to TR and FDR and sometime governor of Pennsylvania, but first and foremost the architect of the National Forest system and the first head of the US Forest Service. This tale conveys his passion for forestry and conservation, stoked by his ealry mentor, John Muir. Much of the story deals with Pinchot's battles with the timber and railroad barons who wanted to exploit public lands for their resources and turn them into a vast patchwork of mines, factories, towns, and cities. Pinchot (under TR and, for a while, Taft) fought a losing battle against these predatory corporate trusts and their congressional allies, trying to preserve the wild beauty of the West for future generations. While the great fire of 1910 was a disaster of epic proportions for the western forests and the homesteaders and towns that lay in its path, Pinchot used the heroic deeds of the outmatched forest rangers who tried to fight it. With an astute sense of politics and public relations, Pinchot turned the tide of public opinion and forced through reforms that allowed the Forest Service to grow and assume a more powerful role. Ironically, however, the men who went on to lead the service worked hand in glove with the timber barons in a way that horrified Pinchot. And the lessons that the Forest Service chose to learn from the fire, that all fires, no matter how small, had to be fought to extinction, actually worked against the health of the forests, as it brought to a halt the cycle of cleaning and revitalizing burns that had kept the forest ecosystems healthy.

In Progress

Dark Star by Alan Furst
Wilson by A. Scott Berg
Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by Julian Thompson
Queen Victoria's Book of Spells Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Master and God by Lindsey Davis
1914: The Days of Hope by Lyn MacDonald
Learn Python the Hard Way by Zed A. Shaw
The Somme by Robin Prior and Trevor Williams
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2015: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
Crisis on the Danube: Napoleon’s Austrian Campaign of 1809 by James R. Arnold
McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales edited by Michael Chabon
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy
Boer Commando by Denneys Reitz
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Other New York: The American Revolution Beyond New York City Ed. by Joseph S. Tiedemann and Eugene R. Fingerhut
winterbadger: (books)
Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal (14): This needs an entry of its own, as my reading of it and my reactions to it are tied up in a whole lot of other things. Suffice to say that it demonstrates in detail how Israel has transformed itself into the sort of despotic, racist, hate-filled state that Jews were trying to escape when they fled to Palestine.

The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA by Joby Warrick (15): A bit Time magazine in its breathless prose, but an interesting (and sad) account of the recruitment of a Jordanian, arrested for acting as a jihadi propagandist, as a spy inside al-Qa'ida. As the title indicates, I'm not giving the game away by revealing that the recruitment doesn't exactly go as planned, and the spy turns out never to have been turned.

Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future by Stephen Kinzer (16): A rather fascinating book, part history, part policy proposal. The author (who wrote an excellent book, All the Shah's Men, on the US overthrow of the last democratic Iranian government, which I reviewed in 2009) proposes that the US needs to rebuild its relationships with Turkey and Iran and distance itself from its toxic connections to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs (17): A fun kids' book that JMR had on the shelf. A tale of the classic unpopular grade school boy and his funky female best friend, perhaps not so classically endowed with a wizard uncle and *his* powerful witch lady friend who lives next door. Our hero finds an old charm that may or may not be magical, and adventures ensue. I liked this a great deal, partly because I *was* that chubby kid in school who was too smart, too sensitive, didn't do sports, and liked building model ships. I also like it because the story is detailed and more complex than a lot of stories of its type, with richer characters, lots of backstory, and real connections between the characters and the adventure, instead of

In progress:
Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by MG Julian Thompson
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy
Boer Commando by Denneys Reitz
winterbadger: (APN)
I'm not, generally speaking, a big fan of J Street, but I have to agree with them on this: a one-state solution for pre-1948 Palestine is a non-starter.
winterbadger: (judaism)
Israeli justice minister decrees an end to gender-based segregation

We'll see if it actually happens, and how many alter kockers start throwing stones as a result...
winterbadger: (APN)
Separate but equal?

Perhaps the Israeli government would like to issue Palestinians special badges to show that they are "entitled" to use the special, Palestinian-only buses?

Maybe little green crescent moons they can sew on their clothing?
winterbadger: (APN)
"If a country is occupying and settling land conquered through war, if it's treating a minority population with inhumanity, the US should stand up for Western values."

I agree with Andrew Sullivan.
winterbadger: (APN)
Philip: It's their wedding or the Vexin back. Those are the terms you made with Louis.

Henry: True, but academic, lad. The Vexin's mine.

Philip: By what authority?

Henry: It's got my troops all over it. That makes it mine.


The same thing, with legal mumbo-jumbo added, from the Levy Commission.

It's hard to describe how thoroughly and completely I despise the people currently running Israel.
winterbadger: (bugger!)

from Al Jazeera English

Security forces fire on Cairo 'Nakba' rally

At least 353 people were injured, one of them critically, when Egyptian security forces attacked a pro-Palestine demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Sunday night, according to witnesses and the Health Ministry.

Activists told Al Jazeera that army and internal security troops used tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition to disperse thousands of protesters who had gathered to mark the 63rd anniversary of the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" - the day in 1948 that Israel declared its independence and thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled form their homes.

At least two protesters were shot by live ammunition, while others were hospitalised after inhaling tear gas or being hit by rubber-coated steel bullets, some of which penetrated the skin, witnesses said.

One protester, Atef Yehia, was shot in the head, while another, Ali Khalaf, was shot in the abdomen. Both survived, though Yehia was being kept on a ventilator and would likely suffer brain damage, his friend said on Monday afternoon. 

The crackdown on the protest also marked a setback for activists campaigning to limit the military's judicial power in post-revolutionary Egypt. A senior police officer told Al Jazeera that 137 protesters had been arrested and would be questioned by a military prosecutor. As they awaited questioning, the protesters was being held in Hikestep military prison on the outskirts of Cairo, according to activists and a human-rights lawyer.

winterbadger: (APN)
I have more to say about recent events and some of my recent reading, but I think this blog entry says (or quotes) some very pertinent things.

Part of me admires for the idealism of the statement that

As Remnick says, "The Palestinian question is not an internal matter for Israel; it is an international matter." This is not just an issue for the Arab or even Muslim world to be in agony over, it's an issue that should resonate globally. Injustice and morality should not be relativised.

Of course they should not, but it is an inescapable fact of international relations that they are, every day. But I couldn't agree more with the author's previous statement:

The status quo in the Middle East, in all of the Middle East, is undeniably failing and the United States cannot, for our own security, stand by and watch. The revolutions we have witnessed and are witnessing are not about Israel nor are they about the United States, but it is a mistake to think that the concern felt in the Arab world for the Palestinian people is only a construction or a ploy created by autocratic regimes attempting to bait and switch their people into focusing on Israel-Palestine rather than on injustices within their own countries. This concern will not go away with a change in government.
winterbadger: (judaism)
New Israel Fund article on the recent destruction of a Bedouin village by Israeli authorities, which notes that "In Israel, 93 percent of the land is owned by the Israeli government or quasi-governmental agencies like the Jewish National Fund. Few Israelis own the land they live on; instead, private dwellings are granted 99-year leases by the government. ... Since Israel's founding, almost every new development, town, neighborhood and even city constructed for the growing population has been reserved for Jews. ... Arab Israeli and Bedouin citizens have no other options but to build illegally as they are routinely denied building permits."

also coverage in

Ha'aretz newspaper

BBC news

Another story from Ha'aretz describes how, "Since 1967, Israel has prevented the growth of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley by cutting off their water supply or declaring large areas as live fire zones."

Gosh, I have no idea why Israel is best with hostile enemies that want to destroy it...
winterbadger: (books2)
Eden was personally receptive to an attack on Egypt that would allow Britain to reoccupy the Canal, perhaps the entire country. He had immediately demanded such a plan from his defense chiefs on news of the nationalization, to be greeted with the unwelcome news that it was simply not possible, given the current state of the British military, to successfully attack and occupy the major cities of Egypt. Britain did not have the sealift or the combat power to defeat the Egyptian Army. However, with the Israelis doing the heavy lifting, Britain (and France, which wanted Nasir deposed because of his support for the nationalist forces waging a bloody insurgency against France in Algeria) would be able to seize the Canal itself. And their air forces could provide the aerial bombardment that Israel could not (both Britain and France had carriers in the region, and the UK had a significant long-range bomber force on Cyprus).

But Britain (or perhaps simply Eden, who was becoming more and more detached from reality through overwork, nervous strain, and an addictive dependence on Benzedrine) still had visions of regaining its stature in the Arab world, which it couldn’t so as an ally of Israel, especially an ally in an unprovoked war on an Arab state. The French stepped in with a plan: the Israelis would attack, then the UK and France would announce they were stepping in as peacekeepers (under the 1954 agreement that Eden had negotiated with Nasir), declare an exclusion zone around the canal (which would force the Egyptians either to abandon the canal to the allies or resist a peacekeeping operation by force), occupy it, and “protect” it from the Egyptians. This plan was eventually agreed on by all sides and ratified in a secret agreement, the Protocol of Sèvres. And on 29 October 1956, Israel launched its attack.

Of course, this excuse was as thin as onionskin, an implausible tissue that fooled no one for long. Egypt rejected the Anglo-French call for a ceasefire and withdrawal from the canal. Britain and France vetoed a US move in the UN Security Council for a ceasefire in place, as their troops had not yet arrived—sailing from Cyprus at the 5 mph speed of their antiquated landing craft, it took the intervention force a week to arrive. By that time the world had seen through their ruse. Britain’s economy took a tremendous hit, and Eden received an even worse shock. The US, which had known something was being planned but not what, insisted that the British and French withdraw at once. President Eisenhower felt he had been deeply embarrassed by being shut out of British planning; US diplomats had spent the time between the nationalization and the attack trying to find a diplomatic solution in good faith, only to find that Britain had never intended to honor its commitments in the negotiations. The US, opposing a Soviet invasion of Hungary on the pretense of “defending the Hungarian government from unrest”, could not sanction its allies invading a country under the pretext of “peacekeeping”. Secretary of State Dulles threatened British Chancellor of the Exchequer Macmillan with an immediate US sale of all British sterling holdings, the likely destruction of the pound as a world currency, if Britain did not accede to an immediate ceasefire and the insertion of actual peacekeepers by the UN.

Britain caved instantly without consulting France, leaving the latter with the choice of fighting alone or pulling out without having accomplished any of its goals. France withdrew and began reconsidering its military alliances; once again, Perfidious Alboin had betrayed France (or so the French saw it). If this was going to be the value of NATO membership, perhaps France would be better off on its own. Prime Minister Eden, physically and emotionally wrecked by the strain of the crisis, resigned the following January. The British Secret Intelligence Service, ordered in the aftermath of Suez to formulate a plan to assassinate Nasir as a last, vengeful gesture by Eden, first balked, then devised a plan that was sure to be detected by the Egyptian security services. The attempt failed and Nasir, reading between the lines, did not engage in a wholesale purge of British agent in Egypt. Israel, threatened by the Soviet Union and pressured by the United States, withdrew from Sinai. Israel could not control the canal or the Strait of Tiran, but they received US guarantees of their right to free transit. And with UN peacekeepers in Sinai, Egypt could not reestablish their support for the PLO’s guerrillas. Out of the three aggressors in Suez, the Israelis came closest to achieving their goals.
winterbadger: (books)
I've been fascinated and charmed by the vignettes that my friend [livejournal.com profile] wcg posted last year in his journal and then expanded on this year. I greatly admire his fascination with and learning about aspects of American history that I'd never encountered, and I've been impressed by his ability to turn them into terrific yarns. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so though I don't think I can do nearly as well as he, I decided to try and set myself the same task: write each day of the month a short piece about an interesting incident in history.

I heard David Kilcullen speak today; he's a former Australian infantry officer and sometime advisor to the USG on counterinsurgency (COIN) and counterterrorism. He talked a good deal about COIN theory and the practical aspects of trying to implement it on the ground in Afghanistan, where he's spent a good deal of time. Ironically, the Wikipedia entry on him quotes his observation that "[President Obama] risks a Suez-style debacle in Afghanistan if he fails to deploy enough extra troops and opts instead for a messy compromise." Ironic because I'd decided to write my first piece on the Suez Crisis, which I just finished reading about for a class. Read more... )
winterbadger: (judaism)
According to the Guardian

Danny Rubinstein, Arab affairs editor of Ha'aretz newspaper and a member of its editorial board, has landed himself in hot water with the British Zionist community. He had the temerity to say something outside Israel that can be read in his own newspaper and others quite regularly. At a UN conference on Palestinian human rights he called Israel an "apartheid state"

This goes hand in hand with a replayed episode of On Point that I heard last night on NPR, in which Abe Fox of the ADL compared Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer to Hitler and Stalin because they dared to describe the pro-Israel lobby in the US and point out that its actions don't always add up to good policy for the US...or even for Israel. Now, I've not yet been convinced that Tom Ashbrook is anything like a real journalist, and his handling of this show convinced me that he's not. How anyone can, with a straight face, pretend that Walt and Mearsheimer have said something new, revolutionary, or truly debateable is beyond me. But Ashbrook went even farther than that, by effectively supporting Fox and calling the two antisemitic. Totally irresponsible hatemongering in the guise of 'impartial' journalism. Impartial my arse.

I find it sad that, once again, those who want to defend the indefensible are trying to hide behind charges of racism. Fox's performance was worthy of Marion Barry in his prime, but who was Ashbrook trying to be? Tony Snow?
winterbadger: (black)
Again, I'm sidetracked from writing the post I meant to. By rage.

As we're listening to denunciation after denunciation of terrorists, and explanations of why it's OK to destroy an entire country to root out a terrorist group, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Israel, along with many prominent Israelis such as former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, are celebrating, celebrating the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 that killed nearly 100 people.

We're penalizing the Palestinians for electing Hamas, who are unrepentant terrorists, and we're applauding the attacks on Lebanon that are somehow excused by Hezbollah's attacks on Israel. But we treat Israel as a staunch and beloved ally, despite their having elected to their highest office several unrepentant terrorists, including Menachem Begin, who ordered the King David attack (in retaliation for the *arrest* of Jews in Palestine and the seizure of papers). And this month Israelis are celebrating a terrorist attack that killed British and other servicemembers and civilians. Members of our Congress are trying to block the Iraqi prime minister from making an address to that body because they feel he isn't sufficiently supportive of Israel, but where is their outrage over the IDF using Palestinian civilians as human shields?

But of course, the Israelis are our allies, who share our values and our goals. After all, our leaders tell us so. And our leaders, like Brutus, are all honourable men.

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