I love our President. That is all.
No, wait — I’m sorry. That is not all.
Addendum: THIS is how you deal with an asswipe like Donald fucking Trump.
I love our President. That is all.
No, wait — I’m sorry. That is not all.
Addendum: THIS is how you deal with an asswipe like Donald fucking Trump.
Posted by emilylhauser on April 30, 2011
I’ve finally realized that I really should be crossposting the weekly book column I’m writing for Americans for Peace Now! (Me and synergy — we’re not all that well acquainted).
ANYhoo: I post there every Friday, essentially creating a rolling reading list for people who might want to delve a little more deeply into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lives lived in its shadow. Today I’ll start with this week’s post, and then catch you up on the previous five weeks. From here on out, I’ll do a weekly crosspost.
The Palestinian People: A History
It’s an unfortunate truth that when people who have long been at each other’s throats begin to try to find peace, they often know very little about each other.This week’s announcement of a unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah revealed just how true this is for Western, Jewish and/or Israeli observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We deal in headlines and sound-bites, with very little information that goes back more than five years – unless it goes to 1948. The vast expanse of years before Israel’s founding, and between that war and the most recent, often get very short shrift.
Thus, today I’m recommending The Palestinian People: A History, an absolutely remarkable history of the Palestinians stretching from the mid-19th century through the post-Oslo era, by Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal.
A people is always more than its most recent headline, and here, Kimmerling and Migdal delve deeply and compellingly into all that has brought the Palestinian people to 21st century, from a little-known proto-nationalist revolt against Egypt in 1834, through the 1936-1939 general strike against the British (which ultimately weakened the Palestinians far more than anyone else), to 1948 and what the authors call “the shattering of the Palestinian people,” through the new reality of Palestinians living in Israel, and in those lands occupied by Israel in 1967.
The occupation quickly became the defining characteristic of Palestinian life, and Migdal and Kimmerling parse what this meant socially, economically, and politically for millions of people attempting to move ahead with their lives in circumstances almost entirely beyond their control. The first intifada erupted in response to these pressures, powered by a never-defeated sense of peoplehood, growing since the 1834 revolt. (to read the rest of this recommendation, please click through to Americans for Peace Now)
And now, please join me in the way-back machine for…. (more…)
Posted by emilylhauser on April 29, 2011
In a particularly inconvenient turn of events, the Palestinian people decided to make big news today, when I have been far too busy to even really follow the news, much less react to it.
So for now, here’s a quick n’ dirty post, with the assumption that I’ll be writing more as the days go by.
The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, announced Wednesday that they were putting aside years of bitter rivalry to create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year, a surprise move that promised to reshape the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East.
… While the deal, reached after secret Egyptian-brokered talks, promised a potentially historic reconciliation for the Palestinians, Israel warned that a formal agreement would spell the end of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Now, the truth of the matter is that Fatah and Hamas have done this in the past — in 2007, in a deal brokered by who I think are pretty much the same players on both sides of the Palestinian divide — and the result was not so much unity as a civil war which led to Fatah’s leaders fleeing for their lives from Gaza to the West Bank. So, caution is in order.
On the other hand, the US and Israel not only rejected the 2007 government out of hand, but the Bush Administration was actively pushing Fatah toward that civil war, even going the extra mile of arming them for the fight. While it’s clear that today’s Israel has no more interest in working with a Fatah-Hamas government than it did four years ago, and will do all it can to delegitimize it in the eyes of the international community (and, I suspect, will likely attempt to launch a renewed round of hostilities), I somehow can’t see the Obama Administration going the Bush rejectionist route. Nor can I see Obama quietly acquiescing Israel’s rejectionism — not least in light of the Arab Spring/ongoing wave of unrest across the region, in the course of which this Administration has been at pains to place itself on the side of democratic reforms.
Of course, Obama has disappointed me time and again on Israel/Palestine, falling into the decades-old trap of letting Israel lead the US government by its nose, but I think it’s more than just dogged hope that makes me think that this turn of events will be greeted differently. For the first time in decades, there are some genuinely new dynamics playing out both in the Middle East, and in Washington.
So: Keep the history in mind — but don’t assume that history will be destiny this time around.
As to my personal response, in brief, I think Palestinian unity could ultimately be excellent for Israel — if Israel uses the opportunity to genuinely seek a lasting peace. It’s worth remembering that any peace Israel might have achieved with the Fatah-led government in the West Bank (to the extent that we’re willing to accept the conceit that the Netanyahu government was actually looking to achieve peace) would have been doomed to failure, by virtue of the fact that the Fatah-led government is a) unelected and b) represents at best half the people.
Ok, now, for some of the reactions to the announcement:
So far, of course, Israel’s reaction has been entirely predictable:
“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both. Hamas aspires to destroy Israel and fires rockets at our cities … at our children,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“The idea of reconciliation with Hamas demonstrates the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and makes one wonder whether Hamas will seize control of Judea and Samaria the way it seized control of the Gaza Strip,” added the premier, referring to the West Bank.
“We have seen the press reports and are seeking more information. As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace,” the State Department said.
“To play a constructive role, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles by renouncing violence, accepting past agreements, and recognizing Israel’s right to exist…. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.
(The nuance, in case you missed it [!], is that the US didn’t lead with rejection, but rather with “we are seeking more information” and “supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace.”)
Despite [Israel’s] harsh response, the reconciliation may well work to Israel’s advantage. Israel has been struggling internationally, as more than 100 nations prepare to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state in the UN in September. Renewed relations between Hamas and Fatah, however limited, could shed a different light on Abbas’ intentions, and Netanyahu, who is due to speak before both houses of Congress next month, will be able to present the agreement as proof that Abbas doesn’t really want peace.
…However, if Hamas is participating in a unity government, even if through technocrats, this would minimize the group’s desire to renew the conflict on the Gaza front, which could help maintain calm there.
In the most optimistic scenario, the reconciliation may even improve the chances of a deal to return captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
…Both parties appear increasingly interested in implementing a deal, but many of the details remain unclear. One key detail is who the ministers will be, and more important still, who will lead it and what will happen to the incumbent prime ministers – Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and Salam Fayyad of the PA.
As the full details of the reconciliation agreement are not yet known, it’s too early to judge its practical implications. In any case, it does not bode well for Israel, because it enables Hamas to utilize more powerful levers in order to thwart a long-term political agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
For years the U.S. has made the mistake of opposing Palestinian reconciliation rather than encouraging it; it should not compound this mistake by wasting this opportunity to engage a new Palestinian government. It should do so making clear that U.S. relations with this government… will be based solely on the positions and actions of the government. Unfortunately, there are many in Israel and the US… who will try to spin today’s announcement as evidence that the Palestinian Authority is not a partner in peace. Such a reaction is at best mistaken; at worst it is a cynical pretext for not negotiating peace.This reconciliation announcement bolsters the conclusion that now is the time for President Obama to redouble his own commitment to peace. By laying out his own plan for peace — including presenting substantive peace parameters and his plan of action for moving forward — Obama has the opportunity to re-assert credible US leadership, to forestall action at the UN in September, and to take the true measure of both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments’ commitments to peace.
Posted by emilylhauser on April 27, 2011
No, wait. Let me re-phrase.
Once upon a time, I knew a fair amount, more than most people knew, and it was, in fact, fine.
I have long called myself the worst-read well-read person you might ever hope to meet, and there is certainly something to that (Moby Dick? Nope. Sense and Sensibility? Nope. Any number of classics in the field of Middle East Studies that people are certain I must know by heart? Nope.), but there is also something not to that — by which I mean: I actually am very well-read, very well-educated, and probably more to the point, know how to find the information I need at the drop of an Easter bonnet.
I had this skill when all the information was in libraries and one had to get up and go to the library, and I retain the skill, in its Brave New World form, in the age of the internet. I have always followed the news, I have always paid attention to the smaller stories as well as the larger ones, I have always been able to sniff out the lacunae in news reports that often matter more than the actual information on offer.
Well. In my middle years, I have come to learn an Important Truth:
The Information Super Highway is really more of an Information Firehose.
And I confess, dear reader — much as I love my blogs and my fellow commenters and my Twitter — I confess that, oh my good nightshirt, there is just too much to know, now!
Always, always, bloody always I am behind. On something. Something really, really important. Always.
Of course I have felt versions of this overwhelment pretty much since I started reading blogs about three years ago (having felt snooty about the practice beforehand — having forgotten, apparently, that like any tool or medium, a blog is as good as its handler, and if its handler is deft, then the blog is a thing of beauty), with a noticeable bump in said feeling once I got on the Twitter — but none of it compares with how I’ve felt since the revolution in Egypt.
Of course, it should be noted that a lot of the flood of information currently coming at me via Twitter falls, in a rather ahistorical and spectacular fashion, square in my area of professional, academic and personal interest. I actually — honestly, genuinely, and occasionally desperately — want to know every little thing about the rolling revolution under way in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
When it was all going down in Egypt, I was as a woman possessed. I read, watched, tweeted, blogged, commented, stayed up far too late and got up far too early and generally acted like it was my job. At one point, I had two computers on my desk, so that I could have Al Jazeera English on at all times, without having to toggle over from whatever other Egypt-centric internet source I was engaged in at the moment.
But it wasn’t my job (oh lord, how I wish it had been my job!), any more than it’s my job to be up on Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and/or Tunisia now (oh lord, how I wish that were my job!), and when Hosni Mubarak stepped down, I forced myself back to earth — to the actual, paying work, the human beings with whom I live, and the rest-of-my-tangible-world stuff which is forever taking me away from the flood of information.
And so now what Twitter and the handful of blogs I read mostly make me feel is inadequate. And guilty.
There are a lot of people (well – a handful, at any rate) who follow this blog or follow me on Twitter because I was as a woman possessed during the Egypt upheaval. What are they to make of me now? I’m not up on Libya as I should be, nor on Syria or Bahrain or Saudi or — good Lord, I even feel like I’m behind on Israel/Palestine all the time now! — and I’m writing about female body image, cleaning my house, and gay rights! All of which are things about which, it turns out, I should also know more.
Oy and sigh. I suspect I’m going through what will someday be identified as an Information Influx Cycle or something. I recently upped my content-received, so now I’m going through the “too-much-too-much-TOO-MUCH” stage, which is likely to be followed by the “well, I can’t know everything and so I will let it go like the pretty butterfly it is” stage. Or sommat.
But right now, all I know for sure is that there is a Peter Jackson video blog, his first since he started filming The Hobbit (!!) that I’ve been waiting to see all day, and I keep putting it off for more important things.
For which, come to think of it, I have a blog to thank (thank you, Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog! Go! [that’s the blog’s real name. Really. You should read it! It’s awesome!]). OHMYGOD so overwhelming, this internet is, but also dead useful.
Posted by emilylhauser on April 26, 2011
Trying to post something, anything, meaningful when under the looming deadline not just of sunset (and the arrival of the holiday) but the need to get children and one’s self dressed in holiday best, not to mention hair brushed and faces washed, etc — well, this is not a recipe for a good post!
But I love Passover so much, I don’t want to leave it unremarked.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how all of these mitzvot, these commandments, serve to tell us to pay attention. The cleaning, the arranging of my kitchen with my one-week-a-year plates, pots, and flatware, the rush to complete tasks by certain hours of the day — these force me to pay attention, to notice what I’m doing, how I’m living. Who I am.
Of course, the mitzvot exist for their own sake. I don’t think for a minute that when the rule came down to rid our houses of hametz, leavening, the rabbis meant “you know, for the symbolism of it! Think about what it means!” No, I think they meant I had to get rid of the hametz. Like, for real. No matter what I might feel about it.
But this is one of the things I have always liked best about Judaism: No matter where one’s head or spirit might be at any particular moment, the mitzvot are always there. For some, the sheer physicality of the mitzvot — the doing of them, what we call the pshat, the unadorned version of things — is enough, or, some years, is all one can muster. For others, the spirit, the symbolism, the deeper meaning, is what really matters, or what resonates anew one year over others. We find our own way into the meanings, we bring ourselves, and our selves change every day, but the mitzvot are always there, solid and physical, as signposts: Pay attention. There’s something happening. This — this morsel of food, this way of counting hours, this way of looking at the new and the marvelous — means something.
And so, in spite of my pre-holiday exhaustion — the result of lots and lots of physical mitzvah-keeping for its own sake, for the sake of getting all the physical hametz out of my physical home — I’m trying to also be aware. To notice. To think about the hametz in my heart, the crumbs I would sweep from its corners, to remember the imperative to fight for the freedom of all people, because my people’s freedom from slavery means little unless and until all of God’s children are free — truly free, from want, from despair, from hunger, from the remaining horror of actual, 21st century slavery.
As always, I think of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, their freedom of movement even more curtailed than usual today, as Israel celebrates the Jewish holiday of freedom, because we Israelis and Palestinians are still slaves to our fears and our hatred and our blood, and for Israel, the mitzvah to remember that we were once strangers in a strange land — and to thus remember the dignity and humanity of all humans — does not yet apply to the Palestinians with whom Israel actually lives.
And all this as I break away to get those clothes on and wash those faces, and join old friends around a table marked by joy and love. Joy means something, too, and so does love.
Whoever you are, whatever you celebrate, and whenever you do it, I wish you a Happy Passover, a hag sameah, and all best wishes for moments of joy and love, today, tomorrow and always. May we achieve freedom from that which enslaves us, and perhaps more importantly, may we choose to actively seek that freedom, always.
Posted by emilylhauser on April 18, 2011