Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gideon Levy: Righteous Fury 

It seems like "Waltz with Bashir" is at the real center of Israeli war-making ideology. The ideology is not in the ghoulish and garish and ostentatiously ridiculous things said by the right-wingers -- who always say what they say with a defiance that enacts a bit of repression, bespeaks a bit of shame. The ideology is not in the words of the settlers but in the words of Oz, Yehoshua, Grossman, and everyone who claims to be "thoughtful" and yet at the same time is at ease with themselves. How can you be thoughtful and at ease with yourself? By lying to yourself.

And the same goes for us. The American ideology is not in the flaming dementia of Bush, not in the image of Palin abusing her children in public. They are too lurid, too exhibitionistic, too obviously filled with hate and self-hate, desire for the deaths of the other and of themselves.

It was always clear during the U.S. election that the avowed racists were better than the typical Bushites. But maybe the typical Bushites are better than those who vote for Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer and then go about their business on the assumption that nothing else is to be done?

Perhaps I'm playing devil's advocate. Anyway, as Levy says in his attack on "Waltz" in today's Haaretz, it is certainly better to scream "Death to Arabs" than it is to celebrate "Waltz" or to pretend that Ehud Barak might have been a better president than Netanyahu. Levy's column is really good, and it is amazing that he continues to be published in Haaretz. Probably when he goes, there will be no replacement:

....The film is infuriating, disturbing, outrageous and deceptive. It deserves an Oscar for the illustrations and animation - but a badge of shame for its message. It was not by accident that when he won the Golden Globe, Folman didn't even mention the war in Gaza, which was raging as he accepted the prestigious award. The images coming out of Gaza that day looked remarkably like those in Folman's film. But he was silent. So before we sing Folman's praises, which will of course be praise for us all, we would do well to remember that this is not an antiwar film, nor even a critical work about Israel as militarist and occupier. It is an act of fraud and deceit, intended to allow us to pat ourselves on the back, to tell us and the world how lovely we are.

Hollywood will be enraptured, Europe will cheer and the Israeli Foreign Ministry will send the movie and its makers around the world to show off the country's good side. But the truth is that it is propaganda. Stylish, sophisticated, gifted and tasteful - but propaganda. A new ambassador of culture will now join Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, and he too will be considered fabulously enlightened - so different from the bloodthirsty soldiers at the checkpoints, the pilots who bomb residential neighborhoods, the artillerymen who shell women and children, and the combat engineers who rip up streets. Here, instead, is the opposite picture. Animated, too. Of enlightened, beautiful Israel, anguished and self-righteous, dancing a waltz, with and without Bashir. Why do we need propagandists, officers, commentators and spokespersons who will convey "information"? We have this waltz....

Folman took part in the Lebanon war of 1982, and two dozen years later remembered to make a movie about it. He is tormented. He goes back to his comrades-in-arms, gulps down shots of whiskey at a bar with one, smokes joints in Holland with another, wakes his therapist pal at first light and goes for another session to his shrink - all to free himself at long last from the nightmare that haunts him. And the nightmare is always ours, ours alone....

Even way back, after the huge protest against the massacre perpetrated in those camps, there was always the declaration that, despite everything - including the green light given to our lackey, the Phalange, to execute the slaughter, and the fact that it all took place in Israeli-occupied territory - the cruel and brutal hands that shed blood are not our hands. Let us lift our voices in protest against all the savage Bashir-types we have known. And yes, a little against ourselves, too, for shutting our eyes, perhaps even showing encouragement. But no: That blood, that's not us. It's them, not us.

We have not yet made a movie about the other blood, which we have spilled and continue to allow to flow, from Jenin to Rafah - certainly not a movie that will get to the Oscars. And not by chance....

Nice, right? What other army has a song like this, and in the middle of a war, yet? Afterward they go on to sing that Lebanon is the "love of my life, the short life." And then the tank, from inside of which this lofty and enlightened singing emanates, crushes a car for starters, turning it into a smashed tin can, then pounds a residential building, threatening to topple it. That's how we are. Singing and wrecking. Where else will you find sensitive soldiers like these? It would really be preferable for them to shout with hoarse voices: Death to the Arabs!...

One fellow comes to the war on the Love Boat, another flees it by swimming away. One sprinkles patchouli on himself, another eats a Spam omelet. The filmmaker-hero of "Waltz" remembers that summer with great sadness: It was exactly then that Yaeli dumped him. Between one thing and the other, they killed and destroyed indiscriminately. The commander watches porn videos in a Beirut villa, and even Ben Yishai has a place in Ba'abda, where one evening he downs half a glass of whiskey and phones Arik Sharon at the ranch and tells him about the massacre. And no one asks who these looted and plundered apartments belong to, damn it, or where their owners are and what our forces are doing in them in the first place. That is not part of the nightmare....

And besides that, it wasn't us at all: How pleasant to see the cruelty of the other. The amputated limbs that the Phalange, may their name be obliterated, stuff into the formaldehyde bottles; the executions they perpetrate; the symbols they slash into the bodies of their victims. Look at them and look at us: We never do things like that....

Friday, February 20, 2009

binge and... 

The purge of anti-Zionists from academia continues:

In January, 1988, I was appointed to the Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies at Bard College. As this was a Presidential appointment outside the tenure system, I have served under a series of contracts. The last of these was half-time (one semester on, one off, with half salary and full benefits year-round), effective from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2009. On February 7 I received a letter from Michèle Dominy, Dean of the College, informing me that my contract would not be renewed this July 1 and that I would be moved to emeritus status as of that day. She wrote that this decision was made by President Botstein, Executive Vice-President Papadimitriou and herself, in consultation with members of the Faculty Senate.

This document argues that this termination of service is prejudicial and motivated neither by intellectual nor pedagogic considerations, but by political values, principally stemming from differences between myself and the Bard administration on the issue of Zionism. There is of course much more to my years at Bard than this, including another controversial subject, my work on ecosocialism (The Enemy of Nature). However, the evidence shows a pattern of conflict over Zionism only too reminiscent of innumerable instances in this country in which critics of Israel have been made to pay, often with their careers, for speaking out. In this instance the process culminated in a deeply flawed evaluation process which was used to justify my termination from the faculty.

There is also a Facebook group in support of Kovel where further updates will presumably be available.

Gaza secondary, Hamas irrelevant, elections a charade 

Just in case anyone was confused by the media focus on the recent Israeli elections, and on the "negotiations" between Israel, Hamas, and Egypt -- it is important to understand that the entire Israeli government and ALL political parties are unified in their commitment to the dispossession and domination of the entire Palestinians people. At this point, it is becoming hard to avoid the conclusion that a large number of Israelis, even a vast majority, is in support of this goal, or at least has been drawn through media misinformation and national ideology and traumatic history and willful ignorance into active complicity with the unified program of state, political class, and IDF.

Ben White in the Guardian:

It is quite likely that you have not heard of the most important developments this week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the West Bank, while it has been "occupation as normal", there have been some events that together should be overshadowing Gaza, Gilad Shalit and Avigdor Lieberman.

First, there have been a large number of Israeli raids on Palestinian villages, with dozens of Palestinians abducted. These kinds of raids are, of course, commonplace for the occupied West Bank, but in recent days it appears the Israeli military has targeted sites of particularly strong Palestinian civil resistance to the separation wall.

For three consecutive days this week, Israeli forces invaded Jayyous, a village battling for survival as their agricultural land is lost to the wall and neighbouring Jewish colony. The soldiers occupied homes, detained residents, blocked off access roads, vandalised property, beat protestors, and raised the Israeli flag at the top of several buildings.

Jayyous is one of the Palestinian villages in the West Bank that has been non-violently resisting the separation wall for several years now. It was clear to the villagers that this latest assault was an attempt to intimidate the protest movement.

Also earlier this week, Israel tightened still further the restrictions on Palestinian movement and residency rights in East Jerusalem, closing the remaining passage in the wall in the Ar-Ram neighbourhood of the city. This means that tens of thousands of Palestinians are now cut off from the city and those with the right permit will now have to enter the city by first heading north and using the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Finally – and this time, there was some modest media coverage – it was revealed that the Efrat settlement near Bethlehem would be expanded by the appropriation of around 420 acres land as "state land". According to Efrat's mayor, the plan is to triple the number of residents in the colony.

Looked at together, these events in the West Bank are of far more significance than issues being afforded a lot of attention currently, such as the truce talks with Hamas, or the discussions about a possible prisoner-exchange deal....

During the coverage of the Israeli elections, while it was clear that Palestinians mostly did not care which of the candidates for PM won, the reason for this apathy was not explained. Labor, Likud and Kadima alike, Israeli governments without fail have continued or intensified the colonisation of the occupied territories, entrenching Israel's separate-and-unequal rule, a reality belied by the false "dove"/"hawk" dichotomy....

The path of the wall, and the number of Palestinians it directly and indirectly affects, continues to make a mockery of any plan for Palestinian statehood. Jayyous is just one example of the way in which the Israeli-planned, fenced-in Palestinian "state-lets" are at odds with the stated intention of the quartet and so many others, of two viable states, "side by side". As the World Bank pointed out (pdf), land colonisation is not conducive to economic prosperity or basic independence.

In occupied East Jerusalem meanwhile, Israel has continued its process of Judaisation, enforced through bureaucracy and bulldozers. The latest tightening of the noose in Ar-Ram is one example of where Palestinian Jerusalemites are at risk of losing their residency status, victims of what is politely known as the "demographic battle".

It is impossible to imagine Palestinians accepting a "state" shaped by the contours of Israel's wall, disconnected not only from East Jerusalem but even from parts of itself. Yet this is the essence of the "solution" being advanced by Israeli leaders across party lines. For a real sense of where the conflict is heading, look to the West Bank, not just Gaza.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

things i'm eager to see, part I 


Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP's image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

The new GOP leader told the Washington Times that the party's defeat in states such as North Carolina and Virginia made it clear they needed a new approach.

"We need messengers to really capture that region — young, Hispanic, black, a cross section…" he said in an interview published Thursday. "We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings."

He added, jokingly, that "we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets."

Steele described the new multi-platform PR offensive as "avant-garde, technically. It will come to [the] table with things that will surprise everyone — off the hook." Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. "I don't do 'cutting-edge,'" he said. "That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge."

Look out, Obana! That one-armed midget vote will bury you in 2012 if you don't get beyond the cutting edge.

Monday, February 16, 2009

utter calamity 

Just kidding!

Amidst all the gloom and doom in das homeland, it is worth noting that following Bolivia's vote to change its constitution, Chavez has also just won a referendum to eliminate his term limits.


In case you're curious as to what this might entail for the future of Venezuelan society...nay! the world! CEPR has a new report cataloguing all of Chavez's poverty-reducing, literacy enhancing atrocities of the last ten years.

For example, did you know that most of Venezuela's 94% economic growth over the last five years has been in the non-oil sector of the economy? Or that the private sector has grown faster than the public sector? Shock horror! Who will stop this descent into madness?

Below is a fancy flowchart designed by Eric Wingerter to help NYT writers figure out what they think about all of these cwazy goings on.


Good analysis of the referendum.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Credit is not a flow" 

Galbraith in a very good short book review at TPM:

...banks are not moneylenders! They do not need money, in order to lend! Banks create money. And they do it, when they want to. They lend, in other words, when there is a reason to lend. And not otherwise. The testimony of the bank chiefs yesterday made this very clear.

Or to put it another way, credit is not a flow. It is a contract. It requires a borrower as well as a lender. And the borrower must be both optimistic and solvent. These are the conditions that are not met today, and that cannot be met by stuffing money into the banks.


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