Sunday (not so) brief: Q/A with my commenting peeps!

I don’t usually post on Sundays, but as I keep noting: Last week saw a whole bunch of new readers arrive! And I feel I should reiterate something that I reiterate from time to time, to wit: I don’t comment (reply to comments) in my own commenting section. I’m just following the rules, I swear! Rule #6, to be precise:

The blogger will not participate in the commenting. I have decided that in terms of my own need for structure and sanity, the comments section is for commenters, the posts are for me….

But, as the rules are of my own making, there is also Caveat #6.1:

In the interests of fairness, the blogger will occasionally answer questions and/or respond to commenters’ expressed needs/desires/ requests in the body of a post.

And as a few questions have been asked in the comments over the past week, the time has come for a brand-spanking new edition of Questions/Answers!

1) What are your criteria for acceptable comments? Actually, this question was asked (in a rather ruder fashion) as part of a comment that never saw the light of day, but it bears addressing.

In my About Commenting page, you’ll see that rule #1 for this site is: Be a person. Be polite. Treat others as you would have them treat you. And so on. The corollary, rule #7, is: If I determine that you are not being sufficiently polite and respectful, I will cut you off at the knees. Hey-oh!

Bottom line, what that means is: Feel free to disagree — with me, or with each other — but those who come in guns/insults blazing will not be allowed airtime.This is my home, and I don’t let strangers burst into my home and insult me, or my guests. Since I started this blog a little less than a year ago, I’ve only had to ban one person, but then, my readership is not all that enormous. Who knows what this brave new future will bring! The first comment a new commenter makes is vetted by me, and in this past week, I’ve rejected four or five for sheer rudeness, all told — but those represent an absolute minority of all the new commenters (thank you!).

2) What constitutes “rude”? Well, mostly, I think people know that all by themselves. If it’s not something you would say to someone you know, if it’s not something you would say to my face, if the tone you’re using is one for which you mother would say “you watch your tone with me!” — well, don’t type it.

3) What if it’s all a big misunderstanding? If you’re a new commenter and your comment hasn’t appeared, or you’re a veteran commenter and your comment has been removed (and replaced with a note explaining why), and you think I didn’t understand what you were driving at, please feel free to submit another comment, or shoot me an email at elhauser [at] hotmail [dot] com. I try not to be overly tetchy, but hey, I might very well misunderstand your intent in the heat of the moment — if I have, I’ll make it right, I promise.

4) What would you have Israel do in the short and medium term? Ok, this is (finally!) an actual, factual question, posed by jerry in Ok, now I’m pissed. And my answer is going to read as too easy to some, and too unrealistic to others, but what I, personally, would have the Israeli government do is pretty straight-forward.

In the short term, I would have them immediately cease all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, open direct negotiations with the Palestinian government headed by Salam Fayyad, and ask the United States and Arab governments to do all they can to encourage a Hamas-Fatah unity government. If I remember correctly, roughly two-thirds of Israelis have said that they would support negotiations with such a Palestinian entity (I’ll find the source for that number and come back with an update), and no matter what I, personally, may think of Hamas (they’ve tried to blow me up on more than one occasion, so I’m not what you might call a fan), I believe it would be foolish to try to go forward with Fatah exclusively, given the support that Hamas has among the Palestinian population. People tend to forget that one doesn’t make peace with one’s friends — one makes peace with one’s enemies. Hence the need for peace.

In the medium term, I would have official Israel do everything it can to prepare its people for the costs and compromises of peace. The government will have to be honest about its end-goal (a two-state solution) and what that will require: a return of the occupied territories to Palestinian hands, with small and mutually agreeable territorial swaps, a shared Jerusalem, and an arrangement that satisfies the Palestinians but doesn’t threaten Israel on the question of the Palestinian refugees (see the Clinton Parameters, Geneva Accord, and Ayalon-Nusseibeh Plan). Mostly, the Israeli government will have to start acting like war is the scary thing, not peace negotiations.

I would ask the same of the Palestinians and the Arab governments, btw. Throughout the region, all the governments have played a central role in the continuing demonization of each other, and honestly, any peace accord will not be worth the paper it’s printed on if the people themselves feel they’ve been sold out — and to the devil, no less.

5) I disagree with you entirely. Would you please justify your opinions to me? This wasn’t asked literally, but that’s what a lengthy comment from new commenter Michelle boils down to, more or less. And Michelle, I don’t think I can explain myself in any way that you would find acceptable, given your opinions on such matters as the Israeli treatment of the people of Gaza and the nature of Islam. I appreciate your careful manner in stating your disagreement, but it’s clear to me that we have very little chance of reaching an understanding (a thing that I think that you know, too).

Moreover, I’ve already been pretty clear about these issues, right here on the blog. Re: Israel’s treatment of the people of Gaza, I would point you especially to Israel/Palestine: the basics, but also to “We convinced ourselves that we’re moral and everyone wants us dead”, titled after a column written last week by an Israeli journalist which I quote at great length in the post. I would also suggest you read How many dead to arrive back at square one.

Re: Islam, I would say start at Anti-terrorism fatwa, which discusses an absolutely scathing fatwa issued against terrorism by a leading Pakistani theologian, and then move onto Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, followed by Lesley Hazleton’s excellent After the Prophet (a list of books I recommend for learning more about Islam can be found here). I will certainly not try to argue that there are no violent extremists within Islam — but I do not believe that they represent most Muslims. And there is much that makes me uncomfortable or frustrated about gender relations within the Muslim world, but I think that Muslim women are better suited than I am to approach those issues honestly and respectfully — to learn about many who do just that, I highly recommend the book Paradise Beneath Her Feet, by Isobel Coleman.

6) Well then I guess we’ll just have to read more of your blog, won’t we? Yes, new commenter Wrye, yes you will! And I will be so pleased if you do.

7) Should I tell everyone I know and many with whom I am not in the least acquainted to read your blog? Ah, commenter-who-lives-in-my-imagination, you have struck an important nail right on the head!

Every fresh set of eyeballs on this blog makes me very, very happy indeed, and I would be deeply grateful to any and all who want to spread the word. (And that Twitter button up there to the right is probably a good tool for just those purposes. I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’).

It doesn’t happen often… (+ Q/A)

… but on occasion, I write and write and write — and then trash what I’ve just written.

Today was one of those days.

There have been a couple of questions lately so I’ll quickly answer those, and hope for greater inspiration next week.

  1. Commenter dmf asked if I will be returning to the MLK blogging, and I absolutely will. I’ve been so busy with other things that I keep putting it off, but sometime next week, I’ll be back on it. (He also asked “is that black radishes I smell?” and posted a YouTube from the movie version of Hair featuring a song that still, after all these years, breaks my heart so thoroughly that I couldn’t even watch it. So I will not attempt to answer the black radishes question! Sometimes the nose smells what it smells).
  2. Commenter/Sister-Friend in Real Life Karin asked: “Where did you find that sign?” and the honest answer is: Every damn where! A more helpful answer would be: here (via BoingBoing, though I can’t find that original post. I found these, though: “Breathe Deep and Let Go of Things” and “Get Excited and Make Things” ) and here, and here, and here. (I, myself, am holding out for the rug, but like yesterday’s Doc Martens, I fear I shall have to go without).
  3. Commenter sueswartz wrote: “You can write about me – and I’ll write about you. Won’t that be fabulously interesting?” To which I can only answer: Yes, yes it would! Please go see the sweet thing she wrote about me, and then tool around and check out the rest of her place — you’re sure to find something pretty cool that hadn’t yet crossed your mind!
  4. All the cool kids are wondering if they should spread the news about my blog and Twitter feed, and really, all I can do is blush modestly and say: Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!

Peace out, my peeps. Have a great weekend!

Q/A – Jerusalem “settlements.”

In the comments to “There’s something happening here,” Pearl of the World asked, quite reasonably:

Can you clarify on the significance of American officials referring to the housing communities as ’settlements’? Is this good or bad?

To me, it’s a good thing, because it says that American officials have begun to see past the Israeli attempt to essentially re-write history, international law, and geography.

The Israeli attitude about Jerusalem can be summed up as: When we conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, it all became ours, regardless of where the international boundary was drawn, regardless of the fact that no one on earth recognizes it as all ours, and furthermore, wherever we decide the boundaries are, that’s Jerusalem. The eternal, undivided capital of Israel. Period.

Yet the facts are that much of what is today contained within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries a) goes far beyond the green line and b) was never Jerusalem (not even Palestinian/East Jerusalem) in the past, but is rather a series of small Palestinian villages that have been annexed to the city. (A lot more information about Jerusalem can be found at Ir Amim, including this excellent map, which also shows the massive expansion that will take place if the wall Israel is building goes forward as planned).

If American officials are not saying “communities” or “housing complexes,” or what-have-you, but actually saying “settlements,” they are in essence saying: Look, the building in East Jerusalem is just as illegal as anywhere else on the West Bank, and there should be a reckoning. And they are also saying: Jerusalem is shared. Which American officials have been very careful not to say before.

To my mind, this is a very good development. Will it (any of it) be enough? I have no idea, and I don’t hold out very much hope. But I have a little bit more today than I did last week.

Q/A – lightning round!

Ah questions. I love questions! My Queenie used to say that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. And she was a teacher, so she would know.

In the hope that my answers will be good ones:

  1. Do you respond to comments in your own comment section? No, I don’t, for reasons of my own sanity. My big sister speaks the truth! See: About Commenting, rule # 6.
  2. But hey, in answering questions, you’re kind of responding! (Ok, technically that’s not a question, but as I’m posing it to myself, we’ll just let that slide, won’t we?) While I may be on the look-out for my own sanity, I want also to be a friendly and inviting host! So, when direct questions appear in the comments, I gather them into a little Q/A post. There haven’t been a lot of these, but then, there haven’t been a lot of questions! (Yet…?). See: About Commenting, caveat  # 6.1.
  3. Were you planning on answering the question to the seagull attack post in such a Q/A post, but your big sister stole your thunder? Why yes, yes I was!
  4. And yet, does your big sister rock — nay, does she rock HARD? Why yes, yes she does! Thank you for asking! She is a lovely big sister by all accounts. Just, you know, occasionally thunder-stealing. Which, given that I ruined that sleep-over that she and our brother had planned for the night that I happened to be born, she might also say of me.
  5. Should I make a point of reading your commenters? Yes indeedy! They are a smart and articulate lot and I would love it if a wee little commenting community should someday develop between y’all.
  6. Should I be forwarding a link to your blog to everyone I know, friend and/or foe? Yes you should! I think our democracy might, in fact, depend on it.
  7. Will you be using this poor excuse for a post to get you off the posting hook today, you poor writer’s block-addled fool? Mayyybe….

Q/A + Good stuff: The Swell Season, ctd.

Occasionally, I get actual questions in the comments, and given Rule #6, I feel that I must answer these questions in post form!

1) “Applesauce or latkes?” absurdbeats asks — to which I can only reply: Why would you force me to choose? I thought we were friends!

2) “How can I contact you?” To any and all who want to get in touch more directly, you’ll find my email contact on the About page. Please write early and often! (And slumdogmamabear, I’ve already sent you a note!).

3) “Should I tell everyone I know — particularly those who are rich and famous — about your fabulous blog?” You know, I am beginning to suspect that this question is but a figment of my fertile (and fabulous!) imagination, but I hear it so often from within the confines of my head, that I feel I must answer! And the answer is: Yes, yes, you most certainly should!

And since that’s a really poor excuse for a post, and I’m not likely to have a chance to do any thing more impressive today, I’ll leave you with this, too: A really nice interview with The Swell Season (check out the hole in his guitar! It’s bigger than I thought!), from Boing Boing video. Enjoy!


Letters! We get lots and lots of letters!

No, not really. We lie. No one gets letters anymore. Remember letters? Ah, those were nice.

BUT, we do get comments, and some of them have questions, direct or implied. And so, as I have done occasionally in the past, I will now take this opportunity to answer some questions! In looking through the comments, I discovered that a couple of questions have been waiting quite some time for a response…. I am very sorry about that, and will try to respond with greater alacrity in the future! Maybe I’ll make this a fortnightly feature (and if there aren’t any real questions in a particular two-week period, I’ll just make some up). But hey, enough of my yakkin’!

  1. Will there be ponies at the end of the commenting process? No, sadly, no ponies! At least not from me. But I have heard that our newly socialist government will be giving away sex-change operations and abortions, so you may want to check with your local Soviet.
  2. Should I tell everyone I know, especially the rich and powerful, about your blog? You know, it’s funny how often this question comes up! And the answer is: Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes!
  3. Have you read Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East? No, I haven’t, but I have heard only good things about it. I’m in this enviable/annoying situation right now wherein I do so much reading in my field for book reviews and any speaking/teaching that I may be doing, that I tend to not get around to those books that aren’t required for my daily bread. But I repeat: I have heard wonderful things about The Lemon Tree, and I know that many people have found it a great place to get into the rather difficult subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  4. Who listens? Will it do any good?Re: Calling elected reps on issues of hunger advocacy, Michele asked rhetorical questions that she answered in the affirmative herself, but I wanted to back her up. Our elected representatives, at all levels, do indeed listen and respond to input from their constituents. Consider, for instance, the change in rhetoric coming out of Washington surrounding Israel/Palestine since the serious upswing in Jewish peace advocacy after about 2002. Aside from anything else, a movement is nothing but a bunch of people, moving (phoning, writing, collecting funds/clothes/food, talking, walking, building, sewing) — as Margarget Mead may have said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (It’s true, even if she didn’t say it!) And this, too: “You aren’t required to complete the task, but neither are you free to leave it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21 – a slightly different translation can be found here).
  5. “I’d really be interested in your take about the different factions of thought among the general Israeli populace on what they see as their desired path versus what path they’re willing to concede to in order to resolve the conflict” – This is a tough question for me to answer, if only because I haven’t lived in Israel for 11 years, and a lot has happened in those years. My impression, from this distance, is that there is a real mixed bag of feelings, sometimes in one and the same person.Surely there remain those who continue to believe that Israel deserves, and will eventually have control over, all of Greater Israel (all the lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea) — it’s my impression that these people are of a Messianic bent, and thus believe that divine intervention will make it so. But my sense is that the majority of Israeli Jews have come to understand that some concessions have to be made, and honestly, all they want is peace and quiet. I don’t believe that most of these people are thinking in terms of justice for the Palestinians, or even necessarily in strict two-states-for-two-peoples terms, but that their thinking is more along the lines of wanting the fear and the tension to go away, and if getting that means Israel has to hand the Arabs some of what they want, so be it. Having said that, it also seems that there remains a 25-30% minority of Israeli Jews who are firmly supportive of a true two-state solution, with the understanding that this is both best for Israel and would serve the demands of justice for the Palestinian people.

    A great place to learn more about Israeli Jewish attitudes on these issues is the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research – click on “English,”  then click on “War and Peace Index.” The July index and August index address somewhat different questions, and in the latter, you’ll see that “a large majority (72%) believes that from Israel’s standpoint today, the need to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very urgent or moderately urgent” — but it’s important to remember that the content of that “solution” will vary widely from person to person.

All righty then! From the sublime to the ridiculous. Ponies to peace — I am the full-service blogger, I am!

And as always, thanks so much for being here, whether you comment or not! My head is a messy place — it’s nice to have some company in here.

Q/A – Jez edition.

Ok, not so much an entire “edition,” per se, as an answer to a single question asked by many people!

How do I get on that Jez board that I’ve heard so much about? – Anyone interested in the Jezebel message board known affectionately as “The Basement,” can email dissolver: dissolver (at) gmail (dot) com. She will set you up!

And may I add that they are lovely people over there? And smart and funny, too (especially that ellaesther – what a hoot!) — which, you know, in my opinion, if you combine lovely + smart + funny, you are on top of the world!


When I decided to undertake this whole weblogging dealio, I realized an important thing. I write about stuff that makes people mad.

Sometimes, that is — when the people doing the reading do not (as a I suspect is currently the case) so closely share my own worldview. (Believe me. Back when I wrote in newspapers? There were letters. Etc.)

If, however, I one day draw greater attention to myself and reach people who don’t closely share my worldview, well then, some will get mad! Or, at the very least, disagree vehemently with me. And this being the internet, they’ll do so to my virtual face, in the comments.

So, though I frequent and admire the blogs of some folks who occasionally interact in their own comment sections, I decided that for me — this might result in an ulcer. Thus: The comment section will belong to the commenters, to express themselves as they see fit. If anything really egregious should wind up on the boards, well, I’m still the boss, and I’ll just take it down.

However! I did not consider the fact that people might occasionally ask me actual questions! And that if I do not answer them, I will be a very rude blog mistress indeed. And so, today, I institute Q/A. Every so often, when and if a few questions have popped up, I’ll answer them, in a post such as this.

  1. RSS feeds – To my stupification, given my relative tech ineptitude, I can answer this! But first: Thank you. If anyone likes this place enough to set up an RSS feed, well, that is a very nice thing! The answer is: Look to the right. Beneath the blogroll and search function, you’ll notice a bunch of links under “Meta” — you’ll find the RSS feed option there. Click on it, sign up, and we’re off!
  2. PMs on Jezebel – I will still be checking and replying to these. I figure that they will stop at some point, and then after awhile, I’ll stop checking! But for the time being, I’ll be going over once a day or so to see if anyone has stopped by to say hi.
  3. Can my brain Rickroll me? This wasn’t a direct question, but was (I felt) implied, and I feel duty bound to answer. Yes. Yes, it can.
  4. Would it be ok if I send a link to this blog to all my friends, loved ones, and powerfully connected professional contacts? Why, thank you so much for asking! Yes, it would be just lovely, imaginary commenter who never actually asked any such thing!

Ok, those are the questions (real or imagined) for now! I’ll do this every now and then, as/if the need arises! Cheers, and thanks for being here!

%d bloggers like this: