the neverending palestine/israel show continues! (addendum)

Saturday 27 March 2010

OK, last one:

The New York Times posted a great, concise editorial on all that’s been happening around this issue the past few weeks.  You should read it here:

Mr. Obama and Israel

It concludes:

“Many Israelis find Mr. Obama’s willingness to challenge Israel unsettling. We find it refreshing that he has forced public debate on issues that must be debated publicly for a peace deal to happen. He must also press Palestinians and Arab leaders just as forcefully.

“Questions from Israeli hard-liners and others about his commitment to Israel’s security are misplaced. The question is whether Mr. Netanyahu is able or willing to lead his country to a peace deal. He grudgingly endorsed the two-state solution. Does he intend to get there?”

(You can read up a bit more on the two sides Netanyahu is trying to balance: Conflicting Demands Test Netanyahu)

Advertisements

Obama gets Nobel: really?

Friday 9 October 2009

As I came downstairs this morning, I was given the remote control and said I maybe wanted to check out the news: Obama getting the Nobel prize, NASA blowing up the moon, the Red Sox losing.  “Lots to catch up on,” I was told.

The NASA moon thing was weird enough, but did I hear correctly that Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize?  “For what?” I asked myself.  And from watching a few minutes of CNN and then reading a few articles and facebook comments online, I wasn’t the only one asking, “Really?”  Even Obama said he wasn’t sure he’d done enough to earn the award yet.
(NY Times article and AP article)

In an answer to my “For what?“ question, the Nobel committee gives this reason: “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

“Extraordinary efforts?”  The guy has been in office less than a year.  While it’s thought the prize is meant to act as an encouragement for Obama to keep doing what he’s doing, does Mr. Obama really need encouragement?  His political career has continued to show he’s a pragmatist who likes to talk and involve everyone, and he’s not likely to do a 180 any time soon.  However, with decisions on Afghanistan still on the table, maybe this comes at a time that will compel him to think about how more troops might hinder peace (though I doubt it).

A quick reading of Wikipedia‘s entries on the Nobel Peace Prize and past Peace Prize laureates shows controversy has surrounded the award for years.  There is not only a long list of names who never received the prize, such as someone named Gandhi, but also those who, like Mr. Obama, who received the prize maybe a bit before it was due.  As I thought about the talk of Mr. Obama receiving this award somewhat prematurely, the case of 1994’s winners came immediately to my mind.  That year, the winners were Yasser Arafat of Palestine and Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, both of Israel, “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.” As I heard someone say in a news report this morning, it’s basically “an A for effort.”  Few would argue there is current peace in the Middle East, and many might say that the situation is no better (and maybe even worse) than it was before the 1994 trio got involved.

So while it may be in some ways nice of the Nobel committee to recognize “efforts” (in fact, the 2008 and 2007 winners citations use that word as well), maybe just a little in the area of results would have been nice.  There were over 200 nominated this year alone: was this really the best choice?  And there have been past years where no award was given: should this have been one of those years as well?

But as they say, “We’ll let history be the judge of that.”

Update: The critiques just keep on coming.  “Most Valuable President”


let’s (actually) talk politics

Thursday 20 August 2009

Written last week, but I think still very timely:

It was an innocuous breakfast table comment to start the day: my grandfather simply mentioned that, as is happening across the country, people were out in full force at a local town hall meeting to declare their views on the current health care reform situation.  But then he took a breath and showed sympathy for one side, saying he, too, disagreed with a plan that called for euthanasia.

I spoke up, a little too quickly and rashly, and said simply, “That’s not true.”

A few more sentences were exchanged between the two of us before he declared, “That’s it.  I’ve always made a point to not talk religion and politics.”

And that was that.  No more opportunity to share thoughts and ideas.  No time to see what beliefs we shared in common and how we differed.  No chance to try and separate truth from fiction.  We left the table carrying the same beliefs, opinions, and likely some falsehoods, that we had held minutes before.  Did he understand that I, too, have issues with euthanasia, but it was his facts I was questioning?  We never got far enough for me to find out.

I know my grandfather isn’t the only one to avoid the topics of politics and religion.  Every Thanksgiving, we are reminded that a civil gathering will include no mention of the recent election, the new Supreme Court justice, and whether God ordained marriage to be only between a man and a woman (just to name a few taboo topics).  Everyone knows that it never ends well when people “talk politics.”

And that’s just the problem.  We don’t talk politics; we scream them.  The recent congressional forums are just the latest example of groups staking out their ground and shouting their beliefs to anyone who will listen, or at least so that no one else can be heard.  Everyone is talking, but no one seems to be listening.

When I moved in with my grandparents this Spring, I decided to attend a discussion at their church that connected current events to the Bible.  Religion and politics, all in one place!  The first week I attended, I quickly discovered that many participants held political convictions contrary to my own.  As I listened to them talk, I thought to myself how easy it would be to simply not show up next week and find some people who felt like I did, who “understood me.”

But as I thought about it, I realized just how much we needed each other.

In our current society, we insulate ourselves with people who think just like us and believe exactly what we do.  We watch talking heads or listen to radio commentators who reinforce our beliefs,  who reassure us that it’s not we who are crazy, but it’s “those people.”  Religious figures either avoid anything that could be called political, so as not to alienate any of their followers, or preach loud and long a particular ideology to tap into one group or another.  And because we cannot choose our family, we simply avoid hot button issues with relatives altogether.

Should we really wonder why the political divide continues to widen and people become more entrenched in their views and ideologies?

I decided to stick with the current events discussion group, and it became the one place where I can have civil discussions with people I disagree with politically and still leave with no hard feelings.  We talk and we listen.  We make no commitments that we’ll agree with one another or change our minds about topics, and that’s OK.  We respect one another, recognizing that while we might not hold a similar view or opinion, that doesn’t make it any less valid for that person to hold their particular beliefs if they have the facts straight.

If there is hope for this country (I personally remain unconvinced), it’s not going to be found in one “side” taking power over another and imposing their will upon the minority.  Instead, it’s to be found in people sitting down with those they disagree with and openly listening to what others have to say.  Nonviolent communication is a practice where you engage with others, recognizing that you each hold some piece of the truth, listening for what exactly that might be, and moving forward with newfound insights toward a positive outcome.  If our communication continues to be the violent yelling of fundamentalists unwilling to listen to those who believe differently, we are doomed to fail.

We face many intricate and difficult challenges as a country, but they have still not reached insurmountable status.  Instead, we find ourselves at a turning point, all the more reason to put down our sandwich boards and get off our soap boxes right away and engage in some constructive conversation.

The fate of the country depends on it.


the message moves forth slowly…

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Moving (again) to a large city/metropolitan area, I’m now dealing with larger news outlets than the small circulation regional newspapers like The Crescent News I left behind in NW Ohio.  But even so, after reading this op/ed piece by Ariel Cohen in Monday’s The Baltimore Sun, I felt compelled to respond, hoping that my response might actually be printed.  Opening the paper today, I was hopeful but not too optimistic — and then surprised to see my name under a letter to the editor titled “U.S. must recognize suffering of Palestinians.”  (Click the links to see the two different pieces.)

I was happy to see it there, and not really wanting to read it since I had written it, after all.  But then I did read it, and I was again a bit disappointed at a few of the edits the paper had made, likely in consideration for “length.”  Those getting the print edition might notice, like myself, there is room enough in the letters column for at least another sentence or two, which would have been easily enough for at least one of the other main points I made.

First, I was most disappointed to see that The Sun cut off my writing just before what I’d call the thesis of my letter — certainly the main, concise zinger: “Until citizens of Israel and the U.S. begin to recognize the institutional terror and oppression carried out on Palestinians by our two countries, the hostilities held by Arabs throughout the world are likely to continue.”

Secondly, The Sun failed to publish an important, and I think little known, fact about the Obama administration’s peace vs. military ambitions: “The White House’s request to send $2.775 billion to Israel in support of their oppressive military in the upcoming fiscal year hardly seems to be in line with an administration truly working for peace in the region.”

And really, the things the paper didn’t publish are the most contentious and things the public doesn’t hear much about — so why should I be so surprised that was what The Sun decided not to publish?  (Maybe I should have reversed the order of content in my letter — maybe I’ll try that next time. c:)  And did you notice the lengths of the two pieces?  If number of words are any indication of the point of view a newspaper supports, there would be a clear signal displayed in these examples.

Overall, though, I am glad that something made it in to the paper, and maybe even some who read my letter in the paper might find this post and get to read my full letter.  I hope this is another small part in getting the world to understand what is going on in Palestine and the creation of pressure for Israel and the U.S. to make changes to their policy and actions.

Here, get the opportunity to read my unedited and complete letter below:

On Monday, The Sun decided to print the slanted, pro-Israel message of Ariel Cohen just as new Israeli PM Netanyahu and new U.S. President Obama were meeting in Washington to discuss each country’s role in the Middle East.  Sun readers would be slighted if this were the only point of commentary they were to receive in relation to this meeting, so let me supply some thoughts from a differing perspective.

Ms. Cohen mentioned three mistakes she felt the current administration is making, skewing the situation for her own agenda in the process.  First, she felt the administration is ignoring hostility by Arabs and radical Muslims.  While I agree such hostility exists, I think the administration’s efforts to seek peace squarely attack that issue, for actions by both Israel and the U.S. are significant reasons (if not the reason) for such hostility.  A large part of the hostility held by the Arab world has to deal with Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank – including settlement expansion and the construction of the Wall, which in reality annexes much land to Israel – along with the continued blockade on the Gaza Strip, where Israel controls all that can enter or leave and virtually nothing does.  As for the U.S., the continued war in Iraq and a seemingly unconditional support of Israel in the past make it a major target for hostility in the Arab world.

The second mistake mentioned was a perceived “arm-twisting”of Israel to gain favor with Iran.  This, however, again seems to only be the administration’s effort to curb the hostility mentioned earlier.  Why would Iran accept any of President Obama’s gestures as sincere of U.S. continued to unquestioningly back Israel, a country with longstanding hostilities with Iran?

The third mistake Ms. Cohen mentions in the administration’s path to peace is that it rewards terrorism.  There is a cruel irony that Ms. Cohen chooses to mention “terror attacks, which killed nearly 1,200 Israelis since 2000” – a number that is still less than the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza during Israel’s bombardment the month leading up to President Obama taking office.  Until citizens of Israel and the U.S. begin to recognize the institutional terror and oppression carried out on Palestinians by our two countries, the hostilities held by Arabs throughout the world are likely to continue.

Like Ms. Cohen, I, too, am critical of some of the administration’s tactics.  The White House’s request to send $2.775 billion to Israel in support of their oppressive military in the upcoming fiscal year hardly seems to be in line with an administration truly working for peace in the region.

I will concede to Ms. Cohen that there are certainly no “instant solutions.”  However, until Israel begins to allow for Palestinian self-rule and self determination by ending settlement expansion, withdrawing Israeli settlers and occupation forces currently in the West Bank, ending annexation of lands through the construction of the Wall, and removing border restrictions to Gaza, the United States needs to make clear, in word and deed, that the current oppression is not acceptable and will not be tolerated of a country wishing to remain a democratic ally in good standing with the administration – and the people – of the United States.


the purple (ticket) line

Thursday 22 January 2009

If you didn’t know already, I was one of the multiple millions who was in DC for Barack Obama’s inauguration on 20 January 2009.  I hope to share a few stories but lets get started here.  It almost seems a bit redundant after reading and hearing many similar stories already (see links below), but I feel a bit of need to share my experience, too.

I was initially uncommitted to venturing to DC for the festivities, but I had put in a request with my congressman Bob Latta (OH-5), the morning following the election, and when it was confirmed that I would be receiving two “tickets” to the inauguration ceremonies, I committed to go, bringing with me my brother Adam to use the other ticket.  We didn’t know exactly where the tickets would get us until picking them up Monday morning at Latta’s (after a half hour wait outside a congressional office building).  Then we got our programs (great memento, notwithstanding) and learned we’d be in the purple section.  (See this map for ticket holder sections.)

Adam and I debated arrival times based on where in the section we wanted to stand (about 1/2 of it seemed to be obstructed by trees) and gueses on ambitiousness of others with tickets, and we arrived near the purple ticket gate around 7AM, with security scheduled to begin at 8AM and actual section opening at 9AM.  When we took a look at the entrance and found the apparent “line” we were to get into, which extended down the block, turned, and then turned again to enter the tunnel which goes under the mall area between 2nd and 3rd streets.  A police officer asked to see our tickets to get into the tunnel.  (See here an interesting map of the situation.)  After walking for about 15 mintues (to put is now at 7:15), we reached what was then the end of a line (I don’t want to say “the line” because I’m guessing there were more, based on future occurrences), about 80% or 90% of the way down through the tunnel.

And we waited.  Sitting there for an hour without moving was expected, and we slowing moved up in small surges, trying to estimate if we actually were moving fast enough to make the assumed 11:30 cutoff we anticipated for entrance.  We chatted with people around us to pass the time, Adam and I read a bit as well, and we moved ahead.  About 10:30, getting close to the exit of the tunnel but losing hope, the mother of a girl standing near us returned after doing some investigating, with the girl leaving and us learning of the apparent shutting of the gates and no one getting in at this point.  Adam and I decided to stay in line, actually able to move out of the tunnel a bit before 11 as the people were really surging forth to get out of the tunnel and near the entrance.

A bit after 11, Adam and I decided it was most prudent to ditch the line and seek viewing/listening elsewhere — and it seems like that was a good choice based on videos and reports of the non-successes of those who stuck around.  In a bit of luck and irony, after an epic journey walking/jogging for 30 minutes (which I may speak of later), we found what I can only assume to be a breach of security at the 3rd Street entrance to the mall (which means, yes, we did walk all the way around the capital) to allowed us entrance to the mall, with no security to clear, to view the ceremony (post-Biden swearing in) almost directly above the tunnel we had spent about 4 hours in.

In reality, the tunnel experience wasn’t that bad, but the outcome was indeed horrible.  Adam and I were extremely lucky and fortunate to end up with the view we finally held for this historical event, but thousands, likely tens of thousands, who had received tickets they believed (with no reason not to) would grant them access to history.  Instead, many were left to watch it on tape or find a TV to watch it on instead.  I intend to share my disgust with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies at feedback@jccic.senate.gov and invite all others who had similar experiences to do the same!

Did I mention there were no police or security in the tunnel with us either?  That could have been disastrous.

Here are some of the MANY pieces I’ve found online relating to this fiasco:
An NPR story (similar to on Adam and I heard on our drive out of DC): A Frustrating Inaugural for Many
Two Washington Post articles: fiasco and subsequent apology and statement by Sen. Diane Feinstein (head of inaugural committee)
A bit from the NY Times: Guided Into Tunnel, Ticket Holders Missed Swearing-In
Politico article: Inaugural woes have members ticked
Two other bloggers: the purple tunnel of doom and Cursed Purple Tickets

YouTube has been a great place for some great video evidence (hundreds more than this if you keep looking):
My favorite: The Purple Ticket of DOOM! (An experience very similar to mine, except for the exact time stamps.)
A close second, a funny, amazing song!: Purple Tunnel of Doom — a Song
One man’s rant: Long Live the Purple Ticket Holders
Near the Purple Gate, probably close to 11:30: People With Purple Tickets Chanting and Useless PURPLE Tickets

And of course, the Facebook group for all of us who were left out in the cold (literally!): Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom