Thursday, January 22, 2009

Best Songs of Whatever Year Just Was

Perhaps it’s not revelatory to suggest that the medium can significantly affect the relationship with the underlying content, but it’s at least noteworthy that the mp3 has nearly extinguished my ability to recall or even recognize the names of the songs I like. It’s not so much as the mp3 itself – all compressed with the harrowing cries of audiophiles in the distance, “that high-hat just doesn’t have the clarity!” – as it is the absence of the CD booklet; whereas years before I would eagerly devour those little doggies, special attention paid primarily to the lyrics, secondarily to nuggets of publishing registrations and studio locations, as I listened along, I now find myself surfing aimlessly, or rather continuing to, as the iTunes rolls on, blissfully unaware of what’s being sung or even what these ditties are called (or where they were recorded for christ’s sake). As prelude to the forthcoming Best Albums of the Year post (hopefully sometime before the current year’s summer rolls around), and in celebration of the songs that won’t appear on that list (aka these albums didn’t make the cut), and as an assault against this recent anti-song trend of mine, I present the loyal reader with these, the best songs of last year (from the non-best albums). If a song you like is not on here, well, there’s no accounting for taste, and it may not be too late for you to acquire some. (Yes, it is.)

10. Young Hunting / Everything Shatters! – Start if off right with a potential homer pick as this is old friend and former Via Violenta-talking guy Hari Rex’s latest band, but I think I’ve always been nothing if not unflinchingly fair and objective. Actually, these guys would have been far higher on the list had they not butchered the brilliant and should-be-forceful Engine Driver while recording/mixing their EP. Nonetheless, Everything Shatters! is a nice little song that packs a punch before turning all slow and sad at the end. Homeboy’s voice sounds as good as it ever has here (which is kinda saying something) and these guys all know exactly what they’re doing. You can hear this one and a bunch of other cool songiola’s on their myspace.

9. Dungen / Maleras Finest/Det Tar Tid – Breaking the rules a bit by including this two-song sequence, but the first one is a short, instrumental piece and provides a nice intro for the smooth and relaxed Det Tar Tid, which translates to “It takes time.” Aww. What a return to form for these guys, though one other than the fuzzed-out guitar shredding, mind-melting psychedelic glory of songs like Panda and Ta Det Laungt, but rather some vaguely recognizable, piano-infused and mellowed-out but wholly awesome form nonetheless. These short, sweet songs reminds one of a distant and non-so-well known corner of Amsterdam, far, spiritually at least, from the depraved, llama-filled, filth-encrusted underbelly I historically have been unable to escape, tucked away in a quietly hidden, acid-fueled jazz club at the end of a small canal, barely an audible nod from the too-cool crowd of home-sick Moroccans and hipster Dutch pot heads, concurrently serious and breezily self-indulgent, where I imagine Dungen has a residency on every other Tuesday nights. Hyper drumming, as always, and beautiful piano and guitar create a somber and thoughtful mood without taking away any of the fun.

8. Born Ruffians / Hummingbird – I love these guys. Really good-time and well-crafted and performed guitar-driven pop songs. No more, no less, no fuss, no muss. What is there to say about being a teenager from outside Toronto, playing gushingly-sung solos, singing shriekingly-yelped harmonies with your best friends in a different beer-soaked club every night, having to beat away the girls with your guitar case? Clearly, I made some poor life choices. Enjoy it, lads. Fly away li’l hummingbird!

7. Deerhoof / Snoopy Waves – If you’re into beautiful and silly guitar play that usually rocks out over and in between incomprehensible Japanese-accented, if not Japanese outright, squawks and squeals, in what I imagine are complicated discussions involving cartoon characters marrying flowers and living in mushroom-shaped houses, then this is the band for you. Actually, this inclusion is a bit of a sign of respect to their very brilliant previous album, Friend Opportunity, but the new one’s good too and this song particularly kicks a jam.

6. Perspex Icon / Wire – This was one was a tough call; it was originally going to be the song Water Curses from Animal Collective’s EP of the same name. But I figure since their 2009 Merriweather Post Pavillion will, rightfully so, assume the positions of 1-10 on the Album List here next year, and its songs will also sweep the Song List as well, I’d spread the wealth around and include this treat from old school post-punkers Wire. You can almost hear the wisdom and experience wrought from 30 years of living/doing it, buttressed against the enthusiasm of still loving/doing it. A great track.

5. Bodies of Water / Under the Pines – After I graduated from college, I took the first of my so-far-two sabbaticals (what’s the over/under on my lifetime number there? Let’s see some bets), that particular maiden voyage involving plans of a cavernous rehabilitation from the rigors of past and future life and love, romantic thoughts of attempting to write and learning to exist, all essentially devolved in short time into sleeping away the days and drinking away the nights, learning to play the guitar in between, and generally living off my parents’ largesse. The self-imposed solitary confinement was broken only rarely, usually in furtherance of visiting the aforementioned Hari en route to either the Troubador or another venue and ensuing raid-inhaling bacchanalia. Once it was to a party at the Hollywood hills house of some rock-star (that’s right, I was pretty fucking cool once) where I found myself sitting alone talking to a gorgeous blonde (she rolled up on me) who had just moved to the area as a model (duh) with her husband (gasp!) and they were looking for cool people to hang out with and play board games (beautiful girls with porcelain skin can say stuff like that and it’s cool, if I tried it, I would be laughed off the reservation). After eventually picking my heart up off the floor, and several drinks later, Hari and I sneaked down to the basement where the instruments were kept and almost immediately kicked into, what I still believe, was a rousing version of the White Stripes’ Fell in Love with a Girl with Hari punishing the drums and with me playing guitar outside of my bedroom for the first time and what I think may have been the only song I knew how to play. As we stood in puddles of water (or bodies of water if you will, foreshadowing) that had leaked in from somewhere, joking about the impending electrocution we would die of, some other dude eventually wandered in and found a guitar and joined in, except the fact that neither him nor I really knew how to play at all (in fact, I would argue based mostly on a terrible memory and whatever pride I have left that I was better at that point) prevented us from making anything other than jarbled, mashed-up nonsense mostly (though I recall a Smashing Pumpkins cover he attempted that I butchered). Long story short (too late!), it turned out that he was the husband of the model that was jonesing for some board game action. It also turned out that years later they formed a band that started getting some good press. I never really gave it much thought as the painful memories and dreams of what-could-have-been were too much to overcome, as well as their reputation as some kind of Christian Mamas and the Papas with full-on 4-part harmonies, etc. However, they roughed up their sound for the second album, and I must admit, nostalgia or not, it’s pretty damn good. Under the Pines starts with a cool drum shuffle thing going on and then one of the tightest little guitar lines I heard all year jumps in. A little bit haunting, a little bit rocking, there’s some good stuff going on here. The girl’s got a pretty voice, and the dude made himself a player. Congrats and good luck (call me).

4. Fucked Up / Black Albino Bones – Old school hardcore with a message, widely attempted but rarely done well. These guys do it well. Pummeling pace, monster riffage, sing-along screams, and just enough musicianship, it’s fun music to listen to, to get pumped to, and there are probably even some interesting lyrics that make you think, but I can’t understand most of what the dude’s yelling about. The album was close to my Best of, but a couple clunkers and they missed the cut. Great line from the band’s wiki about one of the members: “Zucker is a transient who was chosen as the original frontman for Fucked Up due to his confrontational manner. Zucker was replaced as frontman after missing several crucial shows while in jail for punching a Toronto police officer who had stolen a ham sandwich from him.” Our greatest strengths are faults as well.

3. Portishead / Silence – I’m not as bananas for this entire album as some of the chumps (chimps?) out there. But that fairly creepy, fairly inaudible, French/Flemish/Gibberish, I think, spoken-word intro, and after that, tribal, paranoid (android) drumming, bass and harsh guitar (guit-box?) kick in and onto the background. Entrance and trance, séance and dance. Sick. I can’t take homegirl’s voice for an entire album, but for a song or two, this one especially, refusing to stop repeating, “did you know what I lost / do you know what I wanted?” If this song was all you knew about the people making the music, how long before you called the insane asylum for/on them?

2. M83 – Kim and Jessie/Skin of the Night – I just discovered this album recently, but hot damn, this sounds NOTHING like what I remember of them (him?) from years ago. And good god, it is fantastic! Again, I couldn’t choose between these two consecutive songs because they are just so damn good and go so well together. They both kind of sound like My Bloody Valentine plus Tears for Fears plus Spandau Ballet, which is a serious complement around these parts. And I’m guessing that 1) I’m pretty spot on in that assessment, and 2) there’s some self-awareness as I now look and see the album’s cover has various figures from 80’s movies on it. Frankly, this should really be on the Album List instead because the whole thing is so good, but that would leave a big hole here, and I’d prefer to solve this problem now and deal with the fallout later.

1. Fleet Foxes / Tiger Mountain Peasant Song – A somewhat surprising choice in my mind because I resisted this band for much of the year, and because this song is essentially just a lone voice over an acoustic guitar. Perhaps an appreciative nod to them in light of my recent attempts at learning how to finger-pick (I still suck), but this song, and that voice, is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and stirs quite the feelings of grandeur and vulnerability, beauty and pain that our wonderful natural world, and nature itself, creates and is. And it inspired something as awesome as this cover:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a Country, or Chomsky on Gaza

Chomsky weighs in with some wide-ranging thoughts. I've cherry-picked some useful excerpts below, but the whole thing is worth a read for those wishing to understand the events of the world we live in. For those content to assume the fictional but useful narrative of Western propaganda from the media/government-symbiosis, just ignore. Or focus on some other speech given by Clinton II today. Here are some of Noam's thoughts:
On Saturday December 27, the latest US-Israeli attack on helpless Palestinians was launched. The attack had been meticulously planned, for over 6 months according to the Israeli press. The planning had two components: military and propaganda. It was based on the lessons of Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which was considered to be poorly planned and badly advertised. We may, therefore, be fairly confident that most of what has been done and said was pre-planned and intended.
That surely includes the timing of the assault: shortly before noon, when children were returning from school and crowds were milling in the streets of densely populated Gaza City. It took only a few minutes to kill over 225 people and wound 700, an auspicious opening to the mass slaughter of defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage with nowhere to flee.

In his retrospective "Parsing Gains of Gaza War," New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner cited this achievement as one of the most significant of the gains. Israel calculated that it would be advantageous to appear to "go crazy," causing vastly disproportionate terror, a doctrine that traces back to the 1950s. "The Palestinians in Gaza got the message on the first day," Bronner wrote, "when Israeli warplanes struck numerous targets simultaneously in the middle of a Saturday morning. Some 200 were killed instantly, shocking Hamas and indeed all of Gaza." The tactic of "going crazy" appears to have been successful, Bronner concluded: there are "limited indications that the people of Gaza felt such pain from this war that they will seek to rein in Hamas," the elected government. That is another long-standing doctrine of state terror. I don't, incidentally, recall the Times retrospective "Parsing Gains of Chechnya War," though the gains were great.

The meticulous planning also presumably included the termination of the assault, carefully timed to be just before the inauguration, so as to minimize the (remote) threat that Obama might have to say some words critical of these vicious US-supported crimes.
Two weeks after the Sabbath opening of the assault, with much of Gaza already pounded to rubble and the death toll approaching 1000, the UN Agency UNRWA, on which most Gazans depend for survival, announced that the Israeli military refused to allow aid shipments to Gaza, saying that the crossings were closed for the Sabbath. To honor the holy day, Palestinians at the edge of survival must be denied food and medicine, while hundreds can be slaughtered by US jet bombers and helicopters.
The rigorous observance of the Sabbath in this dual fashion attracted little if any notice. That makes sense. In the annals of US-Israeli criminality, such cruelty and cynicism scarcely merit more than a footnote. They are too familiar. To cite one relevant parallel, in June 1982 the US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon opened with the bombing of the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, later to become famous as the site of terrible massacres supervised by the IDF (Israeli "Defense" Forces). The bombing hit the local hospital -- the Gaza hospital -- and killed over 200 people, according to the eyewitness account of an American Middle East academic specialist. The massacre was the opening act in an invasion that slaughtered some 15-20,000 people and destroyed much of southern Lebanon and Beirut, proceeding with crucial US military and diplomatic support.
Like others familiar with the region, Middle East specialist Fawwaz Gerges observes that "What Israeli officials and their American allies do not appreciate is that Hamas is not merely an armed militia but a social movement with a large popular base that is deeply entrenched in society." Hence when they carry out their plans to destroy Hamas's "social wing," they are aiming to destroy Palestinian society.
Hamas is regularly described as "Iranian-backed Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel." One will be hard put to find something like "democratically elected Hamas, which has long been calling for a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus" -- blocked for over 30 years by the US and Israel, which flatly and explicitly reject the right of Palestinians to self-determination. All true, but not a useful contribution to the Party Line, hence dispensable.
As Maoz also reminds his Israeli readers, overflights with sonic booms to terrorize Lebanese are the least of Israeli crimes in Lebanon, even apart from its five invasions since 1978: "On July 28, 1988 Israeli Special Forces abducted Sheikh Obeid, and on May 21, 1994 Israel abducted Mustafa Dirani, who was responsible for capturing the Israeli pilot Ron Arad [when he was bombing Lebanon in 1986]. Israel held these and other 20 Lebanese who were captured under undisclosed circumstances in prison for prolonged periods without trial. They were held as human `bargaining chips.' Apparently, abduction of Israelis for the purpose of prisoners' exchange is morally reprehensible, and militarily punishable when it is the Hezbollah who does the abducting, but not if Israel is doing the very same thing," and on a far grander scale and over many years.
The new crimes that the US and Israel have been committing in Gaza in the past weeks do not fit easily into any standard category -- except for the category of familiarity; I've just given several examples, and will return to others. Literally, the crimes fall under the official US government definition of "terrorism," but that designation does not capture their enormity. They cannot be called "aggression," because they are being conducted in occupied territory, as the US tacitly concedes. In their comprehensive scholarly history of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, Lords of the Land, Idit Zertal and Akiva Eldar point out that after Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in August 2005, the ruined territory was not released "for even a single day from Israel's military grip or from the price of the occupation that the inhabitants pay every day ... Israel left behind scorched earth, devastated services, and people with neither a present nor a future. The settlements were destroyed in an ungenerous move by an unenlightened occupier, which in fact continues to control the territory and kill and harass its inhabitants by means of its formidable military might" -- exercised with extreme savagery, thanks to firm US support and participation.
Also a minor technicality is the fact that on December 31, while terrorized Gazans were desperately seeking shelter from the ruthless assault, Washington hired a German merchant ship to transport from Greece to Israel a huge shipment, 3000 tons, of unidentified "ammunition." The new shipment "follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December from the United States to Israel ahead of air strikes in the Gaza Strip," Reuters reported. All of this is separate from the more than $21 billion in U.S. military aid provided by the Bush administration to Israel, almost all grants. "Israel's intervention in the Gaza Strip has been fueled largely by U.S. supplied weapons paid for with U.S. tax dollars," said a briefing by the New America Foundation, which monitors the arms trade. The new shipment was hampered by the decision of the Greek government to bar the use of any port in Greece "for the supplying of the Israeli army."
There are good reasons why the voting record is consistently unreported and dispatched deep into the memory hole by the media and conformist intellectuals. It would not be wise to reveal to the public what the record implies about their elected representatives. In the present case it would plainly be unhelpful to let the public know that US-Israeli rejectionism, barring the peaceful settlement long advocated by the world, reaches such an extreme as to deny Palestinians even the abstract right to self-determination.
One of the heroic volunteers in Gaza, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, described the scene of horror as an "All out war against the civilian population of Gaza." He estimated that half the casualties are women and children. The men are almost all civilians as well, by civilized standards. Gilbert reports that he had scarcely seen a military casualty among the 100s of bodies. The IDF concurs. Hamas "made a point of fighting at a distance -- or not at all," Ethan Bronner reports while "parsing the gains" of the US-Israeli assault. So Hamas's manpower remains intact, and it was mostly civilians who suffered pain: a positive outcome, according to widely-held doctrine.

Returning from a visit to the Arab world, Fawwaz Gerges strongly affirmed what others on the scene have reported. The effect of the US-Israeli offensive in Gaza has been to infuriate the populations and to arouse bitter hatred of the aggressors and their collaborators. "Suffice it to say that the so-called moderate Arab states [that is, those that take their orders from Washington] are on the defensive, and that the resistance front led by Iran and Syria is the main beneficiary. Once again, Israel and the Bush administration have handed the Iranian leadership a sweet victory." Furthermore, "Hamas will likely emerge as a more powerful political force than before and will likely top Fatah, the ruling apparatus of President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority," Rice's favorites.
Israel abandoned Gaza in September 2005. Rational Israeli hardliners, like Ariel Sharon, the patron saint of the settlers movement, understood that it was senseless to subsidize a few thousand illegal Israeli settlers in the ruins of Gaza, protected by the IDF while they used much of the land and scarce resources. It made more sense to turn Gaza into the world's largest prison and to transfer settlers to the West Bank, much more valuable territory, where Israel is quite explicit about its intentions, in word and more importantly in deed. One goal is to annex the arable land, water supplies, and pleasant suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that lie within the separation wall, irrelevantly declared illegal by the World Court. That includes a vastly expanded Jerusalem, in violation of Security Council orders that go back 40 years, also irrelevant. Israel has also been taking over the Jordan Valley, about one-third of the West Bank. What remains is therefore imprisoned, and, furthermore, broken into fragments by salients of Jewish settlement that trisect the territory: one to the east of Greater Jerusalem through the town of Ma'aleh Adumim, developed through the Clinton years to split the West Bank; and two to the north, through the towns of Ariel and Kedumim. What remains to Palestinians is segregated by hundreds of mostly arbitrary checkpoints.
The checkpoints have no relation to security of Israel, and if some are intended to safeguard settlers, they are flatly illegal, as the World Court ruled. In reality, their major goal is harass the Palestinian population and to fortify what Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper calls the "matrix of control," designed to make life unbearable for the "two-legged beasts" who will be like "drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle" if they seek to remain in their homes and land. All of that is fair enough, because they are "like grasshoppers compared to us" so that their heads can be "smashed against the boulders and walls." The terminology is from the highest Israeli political and military leaders, in this case the revered "princes." And the attitudes shape policies.
Adding a few details, the "facility" was the UN compound in Gaza City, which contained the UNRWA warehouse. The shelling destroyed "hundreds of tons of emergency food and medicines set for distribution today to shelters, hospitals and feeding centres," according to UNRWA director John Ging. Military strikes at the same time destroyed two floors of the al-Quds hospital, setting it ablaze, and also a second warehouse run by the Palestinian Red Crescent society. The hospital in the densely-populated Tal-Hawa neighbourhood was destroyed by Israeli tanks "after hundreds of frightened Gazans had taken shelter inside as Israeli ground forces pushed into the neighbourhood," AP reported.
Israel has a straightforward means to defend itself: put an end to its criminal actions in occupied territories, and accept the long-standing international consensus on a two-state settlement that has been blocked by the US and Israel for over 30 years, since the US first vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a political settlement in these terms in 1976. I will not once again run through the inglorious record, but it is important to be aware that US-Israeli rejectionism today is even more blatant than in the past. The Arab League has gone even beyond the consensus, calling for full normalization of relations with Israel. Hamas has repeatedly called for a two-state settlement in terms of the international consensus. Iran and Hezbollah have made it clear that they will abide by any agreement that Palestinians accept. That leaves the US-Israel in splendid isolation, not only in words.
After rejecting the June 2008 ceasefire it had formally accepted, Israel maintained its siege. We may recall that a siege is an act of war. In fact, Israel has always insisted on an even stronger principle: hampering access to the outside world, even well short of a siege, is an act of war, justifying massive violence in response. Interference with Israel's passage through the Straits of Tiran was part of the pretext for Israel's invasion of Egypt (with France and England) in 1956, and for its launching of the June 1967 war. The siege of Gaza is total, not partial, apart from occasional willingness of the occupiers to relax it slightly. And it is vastly more harmful to Gazans than closing the Straits of Tiran was to Israel. Supporters of Israeli doctrines and actions should therefore have no problem justifying rocket attacks on Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.

Of course, again we run into the nullifying principle: This is us, that is them.
Despite the Israeli siege, rocketing sharply reduced. The ceasefire broke down on November 4 with an Israeli raid into Gaza, leading to the death of 6 Palestinians, and a retaliatory barrage of rockets (with no injuries). The pretext for the raid was that Israel had detected a tunnel in Gaza that might have been intended for use to capture another Israeli soldier. The pretext is transparently absurd, as a number of commentators have noted. If such a tunnel existed, and reached the border, Israel could easily have barred it right there. But as usual, the ludicrous Israeli pretext was deemed credible.
The civil war that left Hamas in control of Gaza is commonly described as a Hamas military coup, demonstrating again their evil nature. The real world is a little different. The civil war was incited by the US and Israel, in a crude attempt at a military coup to overturn the free elections that brought Hamas to power. That has been public knowledge at least since April 2008, when David Rose published in Vanity Fair a detailed and documented account of how Bush, Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams "backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever." The account was recently corroborated once again in the Christian Science Monitor (Jan. 12, 2009) by Norman Olsen, who served for 26 years in the Foreign Service, including four years working in the Gaza Strip and four years at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, and then moved on to become associate coordinator for counterterrorism at the Department of State. Olson and his son detail the State Department shenanigans intended to ensure that their candidate, Abbas, would win in the January 2006 elections -- in which case it would have been hailed as a triumph of democracy. After the election-fixing failed, they turned to punishment of the Palestinians and arming of a militia run by Fatah strong-man Muhammad Dahlan, but "Dahlan's thugs moved too soon" and a Hamas pre-emptive strike undermined the coup attempt, leading to far harsher US-Israeli measures to punish the disobedient people of Gaza. The Party Line is more acceptable.
In a front-page think-piece on the latest Gaza invasion, NYT correspondent Steven Lee Meyers writes that "In some ways, the Gaza attacks were reminiscent of the gamble Israel took, and largely lost, in Lebanon in 1982 [when] it invaded to eliminate the threat of Yasir Arafat's forces." Correct, but not in the sense he has in mind. In 1982, as in 2008, it was necessary to eliminate the threat of political settlement.

The hope of Israeli propagandists has been that Western intellectuals and media would buy the tale that Israel reacted to rockets raining on the Galilee, "intolerable acts of terror." And they have not been disappointed.

It is not that Israel does not want peace: everyone wants peace, even Hitler. The question is: on what terms? From its origins, the Zionist movement has understood that to achieve its goals, the best strategy would be to delay political settlement, meanwhile slowly building facts on the ground. Even the occasional agreements, as in 1947, were recognized by the leadership to be temporary steps towards further expansion. The 1982 Lebanon war was a dramatic example of the desperate fear of diplomacy. It was followed by Israeli support for Hamas so as to undermine the secular PLO and its irritating peace initiatives. Another case that should be familiar is Israeli provocations before the 1967 war designed to elicit a Syrian response that could be used as a pretext for violence and takeover of more land -- at least 80% of the incidents, according to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.
An Amnesty International chronology reports that the June 2008 ceasefire had "brought enormous improvements in the quality of life in Sderot and other Israeli villages near Gaza, where before the ceasefire residents lived in fear of the next Palestinian rocket strike. However, nearby in the Gaza Strip the Israeli blockade remains in place and the population has so far seen few dividends from the ceasefire." But the gains in security for Israel towns near Gaza were evidently outweighed by the felt need to deter diplomatic moves that might impede West Bank expansion, and to crush any remaining resistance within Palestine.
Today, Israel could have security, normalization of relations, and integration into the region. But it very clearly prefers illegal expansion, conflict, and repeated exercise of violence, actions that are not only criminal, murderous and destructive but are also eroding its own long-term security. US military and Middle East specialist Andrew Cordesman writes that while Israel military force can surely crush defenseless Gaza, "neither Israel nor the US can gain from a war that produces [a bitter] reaction from one of the wisest and most moderate voices in the Arab world, Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who said on January 6 that `The Bush administration has left [Obama] a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza...Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza'."

One of the wisest voices in Israel, Uri Avnery, writes that after an Israeli military victory, "What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet. In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel."

There is good reason to believe that he is right. Israel is deliberately turning itself into perhaps the most hated country in the world, and is also losing the allegiance of the population of the West, including younger American Jews, who are unlikely to tolerate its persistent shocking crimes for long. Decades ago, I wrote that those who call themselves "supporters of Israel" are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction. Regrettably, that judgment looks more and more plausible.

Meanwhile we are quietly observing a rare event in history, what the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called "politicide," the murder of a nation -- at our hands.

Enjoy your day of glorious self-congratulatory platitudes and good-feelings, fellow Americans. Know that they are accompanied by the death of a nation and the torture of a people. You are complicit in it all. Clap, clap.

Friday, January 9, 2009

An unbearable sadness of being

Sigh. I haven't posted in a while (even by my standards) as the end of the year brought too much work followed by the too much eating and drinking of the holiday season. But mostly I haven't posted because there's nothing that deserves discussion more than Israel's attack on Gaza, and frankly I didn't have the fortitude or courage (stomach or balls) to deal with the issues and facts head-on. I still don't. But in an attempt at securing just a sliver of piece of mind, I'll throw out some thoughts and useful links.

There is no aspect of Israel's actions that are rooted in or even related to self-defense. Any ideas otherwise are demonstrably false. Israel, not Palestine, broke the ceasefire on November 4, 2008 when it killed 6 Palestinians. That ceasefire, however, was not particularly sustainable as by its terms it continued the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Resources are not allowed to flow in, people are not allowed to flow out. Gaza is essentially a prison. I occasionally listen to uninformed blowhards on the radio ask, "well, what should a country do if it's neighboring country started firing rockets at them?" (and this is on NPR, I shudder to think what's being said elsewhere). Gaza is not a sovereign county, it is not recognized by Israel, it is an Occupied Territory. Israel should, and the US should make Israel (which it has the power to do of course), end the blockade, agree to the 1976 UN Security Council resolution for a two-state settlement, vetoed by the US and supported by the rest of the world (the vote was 150-3 in the General Assembly with only the US, Israel, and El Salvador(!) opposing it), and stop its attacks on and attempts to destabilize Hamas, the democratically elected governing party of Palestine. Bombing the fuck out of 1.5 million people trapped in a box before launching a ground invasion is a far different, far less acceptable course of action.

There's much more to say, but I just don't have the stregth to say it. These people do it better at these links:
To all the supporters of Israel who read this and won't want to talk to me again, I remind you of Chomsky's clarification that "supporters of Israel" should more aptly be called "supporters of the moral degradation and eventual destruction of Israel."