Sunday, March 30, 2008

    READING FOR A SUMMER BEACH HOUSE

    The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
    Joe Trippi, advisor to John Edwards & former
    advisor to John Dean

    Gardens of Water
    Alan Drew, about an earthquake in Turkey
    and a Kurdish family trying to survive


    LET ME STAND ALONE
    The Journals of Rachel Corrie

    Edited and Introduced by The Corrie Family.

    "I must walk with care
    as I wander in the wood
    that I may crush no flower below my shoes."
    Rachel Corrie, 1989-1990

    "Maybe my world swirls around me
    but one thing is stationary.
    Friendship is a pillar of clarity
    in my bizarre land."
    Rachel Corrie, 1990-1991

    "I am a good, strong word giver
    I am a jealous guard of my own secrets
    Freedom is the rule
    I am hungry for one good thing I can do"
    Rachel Corrie, 1992-1993


    A Thousand Splendid Suns
    A novel by the author of The Kite Runner
    Khaled Hosseini


    The Red Queen--Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
    By Matt Ridley, author of the National Bestseller,Genome

Saturday, March 29, 2008

John Hauptman carries on the conversation about US Funding of Israel's Crimes Against Humanity

_____________________________________________________________________________
HOW THE OTHER SIDE RESPONDS
One-sided hate
By Joseph P. Mancuso
4/02/2008

To the Editor

I am tired of reading about the one-sided hate for Israel and Jews that people submit in letters to the editor of The Tribune. These so-called arguments of "facts" are nothing but the same old anti-Semitic hate mongering of the past.It frightens me to think that kind of blind hatred still exists in Ames. Apparently some of this virulent disease thrives in Ames. Be careful, it's contagious. What group is next?

Joseph P. Mancuso
______________________________________________________________________________
U.S. aid to Israel pays for crimes, by John Hauptman Ames Tribune 03/30/2008
To the Editor:

"There are lies, damned lies, and statistics" wrote Mark Twain, and every statistician knows you can get more-or-less any number you want by a careful selection of samples. This is the case in the discussion of the fraction of all U.S. foreign aid going to Israel, Mayfield (March 12) claiming 30 percent and Eaves-Johnson (March 20) claiming 10 percent.

Recent direct average annual aid-to-Israel is $1.2 billion economic and $1.8 billion military, for $3 billion out of $20.4 billion total U.S. foreign aid, or 14.7 percent. But, Israel also receives about $2 billion in loans, which by implication must be repaid with interest, but these loans never have been repaid and routinely are converted to "grants" thereby becoming direct aid. Adding these loans increases the aid to 24.5 percent. These numbers are from the State Department.

In addition, Israel collects all the funds at the beginning of the year, unlike all other countries receiving U.S. aid, with the consequent benefit of interest, raising total aid to $5.4 billion, or 26.5 percent. Finally, Israel has negotiated that the U.S. is required to supply Israel with all its oil needs, regardless of price or availability, and that the U.S. DoD must buy a certain fraction of Israeli military equipment. These are also aid. I believe the effective total is actually more than 30 percent. In fact, we Americans who pay taxes may never know how much goes to Israel.

As a consequence, Israel is now a major arms exporter, and it was recently found out that Israel has sold sensitive U.S. weapons systems to China in violation of U.S. law.

The core problem is much worse. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe recently published "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" (2007, amazon.com, ISBN 1851684670) based on newly acquired military and political archives in Tel Aviv, including the personal diaries and personal letters of the early Zionists who bragged about the destruction of 530 Palestinian villages.

Relentlessly, from 1947 through the beginning of 1949, Israeli commandos would enter a village at night, bomb a few homes, round up men and boys over 12, execute a few in the public square, take the rest out for summary execution, and tell the women and old men to walk to Lebanon, Jordan or the desert.

The Palestinians call this the "Nakba," or "The Catastrophe." Ben Gurion publicly proclaimed an "existential threat", but privately was worried because the Palestinians put up no resistance, providing no excuse for their massacre. The killing continues even today; the Palestinian dead and wounded in the West Bank number about 100 per week.

These are full-fledged crimes against humanity, and that is why the aid numbers matter: we Americans are paying for these crimes, by the tens of billions over many years.
____________________________________________________________________________________

03/20/2008

To the Editor

Betsy Mayfield's rhetoric (Shall we abandon hope? 3/12/08) really deserves no response. However, the editors of The Tribune found it fit to print, and so a reply appears to be required.

Mayfield's borderline anti-Semitism should ward people away from her views. If not, they can easily verify, with original sources, that she is willing to use false facts in support of her assertions. Mayfield says, "The United States gives 30 percent of its foreign aid to Israel." Wrong. USAID publishes its statistics at http://qesdb.usaid.gov/gbk/index.html. Israel receives substantial aid - principally out of comparable obligations to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. But, in the last three years on record, Israel's aid has not exceeded 10 percent of total U.S. foreign aid.

People can criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic. But, if one is going to malign Jews and Israel as aggressively as Mayfield does, she should at least check the facts.

James Eaves-Johnson
____________________________________________________________________
Leader of courage, strength needed
03/19/2008

To the Editor

Betsy Mayfield's anti-Israel diatribe begins with selected "facts" and concludes that if Israel were left to the fate desired by Hamas and Hezbollah, that justice and morality would be served.

Mayfield, apparently, would like to see the "imbalance of deaths" corrected, apparently by increasing the number of deaths on the Israeli side to match or exceed those on the Palestinian side. Of course, that is exactly what would happen if Israel's military and public resolve were less strong, just as would happen in the U.S. if our military and public resolve were less strong in defending us against enemies, past and present.

War is hell. We all recognize and accept that. Peace is certainly preferable.

As to the accusation of Israel being a "religious" state, Israel is no more a religious state than is England, which has the Church of England as its national religion and certainly much less so that Saudi Arabia and some of the other Arab and predominantly Islamic countries. Israel is, in fact, a muti-ethnic democracy with more than 1 million Arab citizens, and a population that originally came from throughout the Middle East, eastern and western Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

Yes, it gives those of Jewish ethnic background (religious or not) the "right of return" to the area of origin of the Jewish people, but that influx from the diaspora included Jews from Arab, Persian (Iranian), Indian, Chinese, African and virtually all European countries.

In considering the source of the conflict that continues there, consideration of the facts, left out of Ms. Mayfield's commentary, requires acknowledging that it was the Arab nations that declared war on Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973 with no peace in between those specific conflicts. Gaza was occupied by Egypt, which did not grant citizenship to that population, and the West Bank was occupied by Jordan in the first of those wars.

And it was only late in the history of more than 50 years of attacks by Arab entities on Israel and the Jewish population of first Ottoman and then British mandate Palestine that a particularly brave Arab statesman, Anwar Sadat said, "enough killing," and agreed to a formal peace settlement with Israel. This was followed by a similar agreement to the formal end of hostilities with Jordan.

Sadat literally gave his life for that settlement, having been murdered by a countryman representing the same radical element of Arab citizenry that cheered in the street at the recent murder of the Israeli students and missile strikes on Israel sent by Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf war.

There will be peace and justice in Israel and Palestine when another leader of the courage and strength of Anwar Sadat arises among the Palestinians who, in a similar manner to Sadat's bravery and vision, says "enough, no more killing" and agrees to a peaceful settlement that will benefit all of the peoples of that troubled region.

Miles Weinberger
____________________________________________________________________
Shall we Abandon Hope?
Betsy Mayfield
Ames Tribune
03/12/08

Here are the facts: Eight yeshiva students have been slaughtered by one angry Palestinian in a manner much like America’s school boy shootings; in Gaza, more than 100 Palestinians have just been assassinated or murdered by Israeli Defense Forces penetrating a slice of land for which Israel takes no responsibility, except to imprison and torment the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there, not by choice, but because they have no where else to go and they can’t go home. Since the beginning of 2008, Israel caused the deaths of, at least, 238 Palestinians, 37 of them children. Palestinians caused the deaths of 14 Israelis, 4 of them minors. In 2007, Israelis killed 384 Palestinians and Palestinians killed 13 Israelis. This imbalance of deaths shows the result of the 20-of-ours-to-one-of-yours mentality which the government of Israel uses to maintain their “religious” state. The Israeli government, a magnificently armed military occupying power, has no trouble winning a war given that the people under siege have nothing but ineffective home made rockets and possibly, now, given a week long exodus from Gaza a couple real rockets with which to defend themselves. Neither the Gazans nor the West Bankers have any military might at all. Given America’s long-term involvement in support of Israel, (See Vanity Fair, April 2008) I am tired of paying for this. The United States gives 30 percent of its foreign aid to Israel to the tune of up to $3 billion a year or, if you prefer, more than $100 billion over multiple years. This comes from our US tax dollars. (http://www.miftah.org/)

No one in the world doubts that Israel exists regardless of nasty rhetoric and war after war has been won to make it so, but now, other issues arise as old eras move into new eras. By building “the wall”, Israel has implied that they have the borders they want, although, if you ask, some may say, “well, we still want more and we’re scared and not safe.” My Jewish acquaintances, some sheer Zionist apologists; others, willing to concede the fatigue we all feel with the endlessness of this game, say that what’s happening now, the restructuring of Gaza into the worst refugee camp in the world, is part of the “war.” Sound familiar? Israel’s siege mentality, back by our own government’s complicity, not only cordons off the indigenous Palestinians, but also locks in the Israelis themselves. What a way to live! Knowing these things make it pretty easy to see what McCain means when he says that we’re in for 100-years of war. Again, who’s going to pay for all this, not only in terms of money, but of lives?

Finally, I’ve been told that while “individuals are moral, governments are not.” Governments, however, are made up of individuals. The people in governments have choices just like the rest of us. What’s the point of turning to religion to teach our children that its not good to lie, steal or kill if our kids are going to grow up and live or die under the thumb of immoral nationalism? Shouldn’t we just sell out the concepts of love and altruism if survival under immoral governments is all we have ahead? Yes, I am angry that Israel, with the complicity of the American government, insists that a winner can just go on occupying others, treating them with contempt and hatred and focusing the lives of generations on fear and hatred and war? I agree that we may be hard pressed to find historical examples of moral national strategies. Given that, maybe we should just stop looking for forgiveness in ourselves and others and just live to kill another day. The rationale that we can't expect governments to be moral crushes the concept of nurturing justice and peace. It promises a future of survival, but not the joy of living. Is it possible for us to consider the consequences of violence not only on our perceived enemies, but also on ourselves? What do you say: shall we abandon hope all together?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's All About Money

Does Washington care as much for American citizens as it does for Israeli citizens? If American's Knew, a Washington, D.C. based research organization, explains in an old article by former U.S. foreign service officer, Richard Curtiss, "America's $84.8 billion in aid to Israel from fiscal years 1949 to 1998 along with the interest the U.S. paid to 'borrow' this money, has cost U.S. tax payers, $134.8 billion, 'not' adjusted for inflation." While USAID may give similar approximations of gifts to Israel to other countries, as well, there are several difference. USAID is one source of money for Israel, but there is also military aid to Israel (For FY2009, our President is asking for a 9% increase requesting $2.55 billion in military aid alone. This is based on a ten-year agreement which will eventually total $30 billion, just in military aid, by FY2018.) While the U.S. gives an equivalent amount to Egypt (with strings attached that do not apply when we fund Israel) our gift must serve 65 million Egyptian citizens while our allotment to Israel serves only 5.8 million people. That's the discrepancy! Furthermore, if the war between Israel and its neighbors were not ongoing, we would not have to finance (bribe) Egypt as we do to keep them from upsetting their neighbor, Israel. Do we ask the same of Israel? What’s more, the money we give to Israel alone is more foreign aid than we give to all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, all of the countries of Latin America and all of the countries of the Caribbean combined - a total population of 1,054,000,000 people vs. 5.8 million people in the tiny state of Israel, not counting the money we could very use here at home for our own people.

Then, there is the matter of loan guarantees. This is another source of revenue Israel collects from the United States. These "loans" given, with under the table toe tapping, are often forgiven before Israel is required to repay them. Israel brags that they never default on a loan payment; if you don't have to give the money back, what does default have to do with it? Curtiss explains, "By disguising grants as loans, our Congress exempts Israel from oversight that normally accompany grants (So what if Israelis starve the Gazans or make war on Lebanon, while America takes the blame). For those of us who live in America, this arrogance of power is not good, but worse, perhaps, is that fact that Israel never returns to the U.S. Treasury, money owed us.

Why does this matter? For me, who believes in the goodness of the Jewish people as much as anyone, but not in the Zionist power plan for themselves and my own country, it's the money exchanges described above that makes war in the Middle East inevitable. This is not good for America, let alone for Israel or the Arab World, and it certainly won't stop war now or ever. It's time for Israel to get along with her neighbors and to put America first. You cannot get along and have peace without justice. You just cannot. If my taxes are making it possible for the killing, the occupations and the plans for more and more war suggested by the need to construct the largest US embassy in the world-in Iraq-I (we) ought to be able to criticize Israel and ourselves as we would any issue that does not score with America's philosophical commitment to justice, democracy and life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all citizens regardless of faith, creed or race. The information about America's support of Israel is all over the Internet, most of it straightforward; some not; if you read more than one article on the subject, you’ll be able to decipher what's true and what isn't. Those of us who do not want our children to live in a world at war, it's time to account for the use of our resources and our principles.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

People I Love Are Dying

From my friend, Kathy Walsh, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, 03 March 08

People I know and love are dying. They are under a siege that prevents them from getting adequate food, medicine and potable water. Children I held and played with are being targeted by the world's fourth largest military power. They are in danger if they leave their homes, and equally in danger if they stay put. Their crime - being born in a part of the world that was sacrificed to atone for horrible crimes committed elsewhere by other people - being born to parents who refuse to lie down and let the world quietly take from them what little remains of who they are and what the Western world has left to them - being born Palestinian in the Gaza Strip.

Every night I go to bed terrified of what may happen while I sleep, if I sleep. When I get up, I check the news to see what was lost overnight. Yesterday I got news that a blast near a friend's apartment had blown out their windows. No one was hurt - physically - but the children's symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or more accurately Chronic Traumatic Stress Disorder have worsened. Same with the parents who must deal with their own anxieties while trying to protect and heal their children. These are children who shared their toys with me when I visited Gaza three years ago. One tried to teach me a few words in Arabic. My pronunciation was apparently unacceptable and quite funny. But we persisted until we all dissolved in laughter. I in turn showed them how to fold peace cranes with wings that flapped. And we flapped these cranes all around the apartment. We provided crane noises.

February 29. I read that Matan Vilnai, the Israeli deputy defense minister has threatened a "shoah" or "holocaust" on the people of the Gaza Strip. Now this "shoah" is reality - not so deadly as the Nazi "holocaust" that murdered 6 million Jews along with various other "undesirables". But A "shoah" nonetheless. A "nakba" or catastrophe for the people of Gaza.

Now, missiles are flying around and landing, some landing near or in other apartments. The noise they make is much louder and scarier than noises made by paper cranes. The cranes have probably long since been lost or worn out. The trauma from the missiles will last a lifetime.

I spent an afternoon in Rafah in the home of a family expecting twins. I ate food prepared especially for me. I played with five young nephews - the toys, paper cranes again. I spent the night with them. My host was a fieldworker for the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

The following morning my host took me on a tour of Rafah. We were interrupted by reports that a young girl was killed by sniper fire from an Israeli tower while waiting in her schoolyard for school to start. I saw her mother surrounded by friends trying to console her. I saw the body at the morgue. I saw her wounds. I visited a child in the hospital that was injured in the same "incident." Barely a blip in the US news. A few days later I visited the newborn twins.

Al Mezan carefully documents human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip. Israeli abuses of Palestinians, Palestinian abuses of Israelis, and Palestinian abuses of other Palestinians. Human Rights Watch also documents these human rights violations. Their reports can be found on-line. And all types occur, but the overwhelming majority of human rights violations that occur here are of the first kind. Palestinian civilians have been killed at an alarming but hardly noticed rate. Homes, greenhouses, gardens have been routinely destroyed. This killing and destroying has gone on at times when Palestinians resisted peacefully and at times when the resistance was not so peaceful. Yet Israel, the US and the US news media frames the violence as Palestinian provocation and Israeli retaliation.

This latest escalation of violence is framed as Israeli retaliation for rocket fire from Gaza that injured a teen-aged girl in Ashkelon. But nobody asks if maybe that rocket fired from Gaza was retaliation for ongoing Israeli violence in Gaza. And the immediate Israeli retaliation: four young boys killed playing soccer in Gaza.

Death by siege, death by the IOF, death (rarely) by Palestinian rockets. Why is the latter deplored while the former are largely ignored? Who decides what is provocation and what is retaliation? Who decides who can retaliate? Who decides who is allowed to react to what in "self-defense" and who must quietly accept an intolerable situation?

The Israel siege of Gaza is deadly violence. There is not enough food, not enough water, the water there is is unsafe, there is no more hypochlorite to disinfect it. There is not enough fuel to pump the wells, boil water, drive ambulances, run hospital machinery. Critically ill and injured Gazans are often prevented from leaving Gaza to obtain life-saving treatment.

Targeted assassinations occur routinely, often killing innocent family member and random nearby people. The target is not always killed. Buildings that "might" house "extremists" are blown up, possibly killing the targets, and usually killing others. Random acts of deadly violence also occur routinely. Nowhere is safe. There is nowhere to go.

I am worried about the physical and mental health of my host, the twins, the nephews. Will they survive?Intact? How will the current trauma effect the rest of their lives? What kind of adults will they become?

My mission in Rafah was to help Playgrounds for Palestine build a playground in a park, previously bulldozed by the Israeli army during "Operation Rainbow" . Playgrounds are not safe places to be in Gaza. Neither are schools, or the streets, or homes. Might as well have playgrounds.

Last night I got news of a family from Rafah I met here in Madison. They were on tour raising money for The Rebuilding Alliance to rebuild homes for people whose homes had been bulldozed by Israel. They brought along an infant. Last night a missile exploded a kilometer from their home, but it was loud enough that the children thought it hit very nearby. More traumatized children.

Some children are not traumatized. They are dead. My latest information is that since February 27, 101 Palestinians have been killed; 49 were unarmed civilians, 25 of these, children. The Israeli toll: three deaths, of which two were soldiers.

We must stop pretending that this situation is the Palestinians fault. We must admit that they are the ultimate victims of an attempt to remedy the crimes of a European nation on the backs of innocent Asian victims. We must admit that they are currently victims of the worlds fourth largest military power, backed by the world's only superpower. They are the victims of racism by former victims of racism and their allies. And the only way to end racism is to end all racism. Everywhere. By everyone. Forever.

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