Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

AMLO gaining in Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is gaining fast in polls in Mexico. The poll currently shows AMLO at 35%, with his main rival, Felipe Calderón, at 32%. Given that the margin of error is 3.1%, this puts the two virutally neck-in-neck. The election is scheduled fo July 2nd.

AMLO is no Chavez, but his election will further unsettle Latin America watchers in DC. Recently, AMLO took a pretty strong anti-NAFTA stance. That especially will worry the US administration. It would worry a Democratic administration too...

Update: excellent analysis here.

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Roger Waters: "Tear Down The Wall!"

Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame) spray-painted 'Tear Down The Wall' on the Apartheid Wall in Palestine today. Good, I suppose...

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Let's Murder Some Pregnant Women...

Two more civilians dead in Gaza after yet another botched airstrike.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Now it's swimming for Jews only

Kibbutz Kabry in the Western Galilee has closed the gates of its swimming pool to Arab visitors:
'"This is a very restricted, community-oriented model... we want to hold community activities that are funded by the kibbutz and to create a homier atmosphere."'

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Israel seems intent on killing kids...

3 more today in Gaza.


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Monday, June 19, 2006

Annexation over Security


"The moment the separation fence annexes to Israel locales inhabited by about a quarter of a million Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel, it can be stated clearly that the consideration is a political consideration of annexing territory, even at the price of abandoning security."
Danny Rubenstein is definitely not among the most left-wing commentators in Ha'aretz. In today's op-ed, he points out that the route of the wall in the Jerusalem area is not secure at all and has been built for the benefit of business and Palestinian collaborators. It cuts neighbourhoods in half, leaving children unable to get to school and adults unable to get to work. For the benefit of the few, the wall has destroyed the lives of many.


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Oil Pollution in Iraq

According to the New York Times, an oil-refinement byproduct, black oil, is being dumped in large quantities in Northern Iraq. Until very recently, it was on fire:
"An environmental disaster is brewing in the heartland of Iraq's northern Sunni-led insurgency, where Iraqi officials say that in a desperate move to dispose of millions of barrels of an oil refinery byproduct called "black oil," the government pumped it into open mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs next to the Tigris River and set it on fire."
Here's the problem: this stuff is produced everywhere and can normally be refined further to make more, say, petrol. However, Iraq's refineries are old and outdated and cannot be upgraded due to insurgent attacks. Nor can the black oil be exported, since there are not enough trucks in the area, and those that are there could be easily attacked on the roads. US officials say:
"...the black oil could be taken out by truck, and that one of the state-owned marketing companies had undertaken to do so."
Uh-huh....

Meanwhile, 36,000 barrels of this nasty crap are being produced every day. As of now, they're no longer on fire. How nice.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Flights for Jews only

"Udi Tamir, one of Tamir Flight's owners, confirmed Tuesday that non-Jews are not permitted on flights, saying he cannot allow all passengers on flights, because there is no scanning machine at the airport in Kiryat Shmona. Tamir added that he is operating according to security forces' instructions."
Na, this isn't Apartheid. Nothing racist about it. Nothing whatsoever. Clear off now, nothing to see here...


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"The biggest new flow of refugees in the world"

Sudan? West Africa?

Nope: Iraq.
"In all, as of the end of 2005, 889,000 Iraqis have moved abroad as refugees since 2003, according to the group's tally, more than double the 366,000 counted at the end of 2004."
That's over 3.4% of the population. So more than 1 in 30 Iraqis are refugees outside Iraq. This does not count internally displaced people, estimated at 1.2 million.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Not responsible - my ass

Israel has just declared that they were not responsible for the explosion that killed seven members of the same Palestinian family last week. Apparently, the family just spontaneously exploded. I'm sure they weren't responsible for the death of seven civilians (including two children) today either:

"The dead were reported to include two brothers, four-year-old Hisham
al-Mugrabi and eight-year-old Shaher, and their father Ashraf."

The Israeli army stated the other day that it is 'the most moral army in the world'. Sure it is.

Can anyone tell me exactly how many Palestinian civilians will have to die before that 'morality' takes hold? How many more villages will be unable to access their fields? How many more people will be forced to rely on UN aid instead of being able to make a living 15 minutes drive away? How many more roadblocks, checkpoints, earth mounds, guard towers, settlements, army bases, fences, walls, ditches, rubber bullets, tear gas, live ammunition, soldiers, officers, Israeli/American excuses and god damn 'morals' will it take?

Enough already, damn it!


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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Not Everyone Gets a Birthright

A few days ago, a young woman named Sierra was told that she could not participate in her planned Birthright-Israel (Taglit) program, because she was planning to go on a tour of the West Bank with Birthright Unplugged subsequent to her trip to Israel.

(Hebrew article original here, my translation here)

I have had a number of friends take the free Taglit trip, then go work (or tour) in the West Bank. For the first time, Taglit seems to be cracking down on this. The statement by Gidi Mark, the marketing director for Taglit, seem pretty outrageous:
“we will not take those who are merely looking for funding for a plane ticket to actually got to the OPT. There are enough who just want to come and get to know Israel.”
How about those who want to do both? Personally, I try to take every international I meet in the West Bank to Israel, at least for a short while. I strongly believe that all activists should get a view of Israel as well as a view of Palestinian society.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pro-Palestinian. But that view has come from not only having been born in Israel, but having spent a large amount of time with Israelis, inside Israel. I don't think one can justify calling oneself pro-Palestinian without some experience of Israel. Those who choose to only see one side cannot justify political positions.

What is Taglit scared of? They have brought nearly 100,000 people on their tours. Of those, probably around 100 have gone on various activities in the West Bank or Gaza. Having said that, almost every one those 100 has come back shocked to discover the reality of Palestinian life. Are those 100 people such a threat to the state of Israel? I have not heard of Palestinians who object to international activists traveling to Haifa or Tel-Aviv.

It is clear to me that this is just a further manifestation of Israeli Apartheid. Israel is terrified of letting its population (or, regarding Taglit, its potential population) come into contact with Palestinians, for fear that a touch of reality will sink in.

Every time I'm in Israel, I hear 'how can you talk like you do? You have no idea what it's like to live here. If you did, you'd understand that those people are our enemies.' The reply is simple: 'when was the last time you spent time in a Palestinian city without a gun? Do you have any idea what is really going on the West Bank or in Gaza?'

Peace can only come out of a recognition of the humanity of the 'other side'. Thus building walls between Jews and Palestinians, be they huge physical concrete ones or virtual ones, such as the one Taglit is attempting to put in place, does nothing for peace or for security. Those few bold people who have visited that 'other side' after their trip of Israel have become some of the fiercest messengers of peace. Taglit should be proud of that. Birthright Unplugged sure is.

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Houses for Homeless

Someone in the Bush administration (who no one knows about) seems to be doing some good: homeless get housed.
"Many of the early starters are reporting turnarounds. In Philadelphia, street dwellers have declined 60 percent over five years. In San Francisco, the number of the chronic homeless is down 28 percent in two years, in Dallas 26 percent and in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., 15 percent."
On the other hand:
""Cost-benefit analysis may be the new expression of compassion in our communities," he said at the Denver meeting."
Can these idiots do nothing because getting people off the street is just a good idea? Does it really have to be cheaper?

ARGH.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Conflict within Hamas

Menachem Kline writes today in a Ha'aretz op-ed about the difference between the Hamas political platform and its charter, noting that while the charter is 'theological', the platform is 'operational' (I think 'pragmatic' is a better word).

He also points out interesting contradictions in the internal debate within the organization and comments about the relation between the Hamas platform and the Arab peace plan.

Worth reading...

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Family Reunification and the Expulsion of Hamas MP's - Connected?

Meron Benvenisti, who is usually pretty rational and who I generally consider a good source of analysis, has written a rather conspiratorial op-ed in Ha'aretz today. He argues that both the approval of the family reunification law and the recent decision to expel Hamas MP's from East Jerusalem are both attempts to prepare the Israeli public for similar racist 'legal' actions in the future.

I think this is nonsense, personally. The Israeli public doesn't care about Arab inhabitants of East Jerusalem. In fact, the public is barely aware these people exist, except when they make noise about some or other racist policy. The government will be able to pass the test of (Jewish) public opinion easily. It does not need such preparatory steps. Rather unusually, Benvenisti is well off the mark here.

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"Yo man, now you know what it was like to be a black man in the 60's."

Good NY Times article on Muslims being harassed and intimidated at US airports.

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