Archive for December, 2008

And That…

Let’s have a look at how I got on with last year’s resolutions.

  1. FAIL: Change the site name. Actually, I can reveal here that I do have a new name, though I shall not reveal what it is yet. Suffice to say that there will not be a dry underpant in the house when I finally do reveal it. Or not. We will find out next week.
  2. FAIL: Plan posts. To be fair, I did plan some posts. I just didn’t actually publish the posts that I planned.
  3. FAIL: Use charts ‘n’ graphs ‘n’ stuff, regularly. Or not at all, as the case was.
  4. PASS: Have a couple of regular features. I did do this. The intervals are regular; it’s just that they are longer than a year.

Happy New Year everyone.

Myths, Complicity

More Mustafa Barghouti here. Read the whole thing, here’s the conclusion.

In closing, there is another reason – beyond the internal politics of Israel – why this attack has been allowed to occur: the complicity and silence of the international community.

Israel cannot and would not act against the will of its economic allies in Europe or its military allies in the US. Israel may be pulling the trigger ending hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives this week, but it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance of Palestinian suffering which allows this to occur.

‘The evil only exists because the good remain silent’

“a war crime, a bloodbath”

Mustafa Barghouti, via Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined in Ramallah by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, independent Palestinian lawmaker, democracy activist. Your response from the West Bank right now, which isn’t under siege, to say the least, in the same way as Gaza, Dr. Barghouti?

We are not under siege, but we are under Israeli attack, as well. The Israeli army attacked civilian nonviolent demonstrators yesterday in Nil’in and killed one person and injured three very seriously. Another young boy was killed in another village in [inaudible]. Three people have been killed already in the West Bank, and the number is rising.

But let me say that what Israel is doing in Gaza is not an act of self-defense, as it is claiming. It’s not an attack on Hamas. It is an attack on the whole Palestinian population. What we see is a war crime, a bloodbath, unprecedented since 1967. What we have had so far is 318 people killed, including thirty children, and at least 1,400 people injured, including 150 children and forty women. I was shocked deeply today over the fact that yesterday the Israeli planes destroyed a house in Jabaliya camp and killed five girls, five sisters from one family, and injured their mother seriously and critically. This is a bloodbath that should stop immediately.

Israel is claiming that it is attacking Hamas, but in fact it is attacking all the Palestinians. It is attacking the whole infrastructure. They have destroyed a university. They have destroyed five mosques. They have attacked the hospital. They are shooting and destroying everywhere. And it seems imminent that there will be even a land invasion which could destroy and kill and take away thousands of lives. This is very dangerous. And Israel would not have gone so far if it wasn’t for the compliance and the silence of the international community.

One very important point here, I must clarify that it was not the Palestinians or Hamas that broke the ceasefire; Israel was the one that broke the ceasefire since two months. They started operations and attacks here and there, trying to provoke a reaction, ’til there was a reaction, and then they claim that it was the Palestinians who broke the ceasefire.

Also, I want to clarify that Gaza Strip is the highest densely populated area in the world, with almost 4,150 people in each square kilometer. When you start bombing the place with bombs that are one to two tons heavy, then you’re determined to kill people and kill civilians and innocent people. I’ve just heard Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister of Israel, saying that Palestinians should go away from Hamas and Gaza. Where should they go away? In which place? Where? Which place they can go to, when Israel is putting Gaza for two years under total blockade, by sea, by air, by land. Israel has been claiming that it has withdrawn from Gaza. Israel never ended its occupation of Gaza. It maintains the occupying of the airspace, the sea around Gaza and the land around Gaza. And it was preventing people from getting medical aid and equipment and fuel and electricity. I was just talking to our people in Gaza and asked them, “What is your situation?” They told me they don’t have bread. Even bread is unavailable in Gaza. And now Israel is bombarding it in this horrible and unacceptable way.

I think the world community must see the reality. This is an unprecedented bloodbath that the Israeli generals are using—and politicians are using for their political campaigning in their elections. For one more time, they’re using Palestinian blood for their election campaigns. I’m so sorry that even some left parties in Israel are supporting such an aggression. They all claim that this is about missiles. But let me ask a very simple question: How many Israelis were killed during the last six months by missiles? Almost none. The only two Israelis that were killed so far were killed after this operation.

Will this bring peace? It will not bring peace. Will this bring security? On the contrary, it is bringing back the intifada of the West Bank. It is creating terrible feelings all over the occupied and Palestinian territories, and this must be stopped. And if it wasn’t for the compliance of this terrible American administration, Bush administration, who seems to insist to have a very dark reputation before he leaves his office, if it wasn’t for that support and compliance, Israel would not have dared to go so far in punishing innocent victims and in creating this terrible disaster in Gaza Strip.


I don’t have much time to write posts these days, for at least another week. So a few links in relation to recent events:

Safa Joudeh:

Six locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza City. The images are probably not broadcasted on US news channels. There were piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you looked at them you could see that a few of the young men were still alive, someone lifts a hand, and another raises his head. They probably died within moments because their bodies were burned, most had lost limbs, some of their guts were hanging out and they were all lying in pools of blood. Outside my home which is close to the two largest universities in Gaza, a missile fell on a large group of young men, university students. They’d been warned not to stand in groups as it makes them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses to take them home. Seven were killed, four students and three of our neighbors’ kids, young men who were from the Rayes family and were best friends. As I’m writing this I can hear a funeral procession go by outside; I looked out the window a moment ago and it was the three Rayes boys. They spent all their time together when they were alive, they died together and now they are sharing the same funeral together. Nothing could stop my 14-year-old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends laying in the street after they were killed. He hasn’t spoken a word since.

Ali Abunimah

Israel says it is acting in “retaliation” for rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since a six-month truce expired on 19 December. But the bombs dropped on Gaza are only a variation in Israel’s method of killing Palestinians. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food, cancer treatments and other medicines by an Israeli blockade that targeted 1.5 million people – mostly refugees and children – caged into the Gaza Strip. The orders of Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, to hold back medicine were just as lethal and illegal as those to send in the warplanes.

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, pleaded that Israel wanted “quiet” – a continuation of the truce – while Hamas chose “terror”, forcing him to act. But what is Israel’s idea of a truce? It is very simple: Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonise their land.

Gideon Levy

The pictures that flooded television screens around the world yesterday showed a parade of corpses and wounded being loaded into and unloaded from the trunks of private cars that transported them to the only hospital in Gaza worthy of being called a hospital. Perhaps we once again need to remember that we are dealing with a wretched, battered strip of land, most of whose population consists of the children of refugees who have endured inhumane tribulations.

For two and a half years, they have been caged and ostracized by the whole world. The line of thinking that states that through war we will gain new allies in the Strip; that abusing the population and killing its sons will sear this into their consciousness; and that a military operation would suffice in toppling an entrenched regime and thus replace it with another one friendlier to us is no more than lunacy.

Tom Segev:

Israel is striking at the Palestinians to “teach them a lesson.” That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom – via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.


It is admittedly impossible to live with daily missile fire, even if virtually no place in the world today enjoys a situation of zero terror. But Hamas is not a terrorist organization holding Gaza residents hostage: It is a religious nationalist movement, and a majority of Gaza residents believe in its path. One can certainly attack it, and with Knesset elections in the offing, this attack might even produce some kind of cease-fire. But there is another historical truth worth recalling in this context: Since the dawn of the Zionist presence in the Land of Israel, no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.

John Berger:

We are now spectators of the latest — and perhaps penultimate — chapter of the 60 year old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people.  About the complexities of this tragic conflict billions of words have been pronounced, defending one side or the other.

Today, in face of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the essential calculation, which was always covertly there, behind this conflict, has been blatantly revealed.  The death of one Israeli victim justifies the killing of a hundred Palestinians.  One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.

This is what the Israeli State and the world media more or less — with marginal questioning — mindlessly repeat.  And this claim, which has accompanied and justified the longest Occupation of foreign territories in 20th C. European history, is viscerally racist.  That the Jewish people should accept this, that the world should concur, that the Palestinians should submit to it — is one of history’s ironic jokes.  There’s no laughter anywhere.  We can, however, refute it, more and more vocally.

Let’s do so.

A Few Things


PREGUNTARÉIS: Y dónde están las lilas?
Y la metafísica cubierta de amapolas?
Y la lluvia que a menudo golpeaba
sus palabras llenándolas
de agujeros y pájaros?

Os voy a contar todo lo que me pasa.

Yo vivía en un barrio
de Madrid, con campanas,
con relojes, con árboles.

Desde allí se veía
el rostro seco de Castilla
como un océano de cuero.
Mi casa era llamada
la casa de las flores, porque por todas partes
estallaban geranios: era
una bella casa
con perros y chiquillos.
Raúl, te acuerdas?
Te acuerdas, Rafael?
Federico, te acuerdas
debajo de la tierra,
te acuerdas de mi casa con balcones en donde
la luz de junio ahogaba flores en tu boca?
Hermano, hermano!
eran grandes voces, sal de mercaderías,
aglomeraciones de pan palpitante,
mercados de mi barrio de Argüelles con su estatua
como un tintero pálido entre las merluzas:
el aceite llegaba a las cucharas,
un profundo latido
de pies y manos llenaba las calles,
metros, litros, esencia
aguda de la vida,
pescados hacinados,
contextura de techos con sol frío en el cual
la flecha se fatiga,
delirante marfil fino de las patatas,
tomates repetidos hasta el mar.

Y una mañana todo estaba ardiendo
y una mañana las hogueras
salían de la tierra
devorando seres,
y desde entonces fuego,
pólvora desde entonces,
y desde entonces sangre.
Bandidos con aviones y con moros,
bandidos con sortijas y duquesas,
bandidos con frailes negros bendiciendo
venían por el cielo a matar niños,
y por las calles la sangre de los niños
corría simplemente, como sangre de niños.

Chacales que el chacal rechazaría,
piedras que el cardo seco mordería escupiendo,
víboras que las víboras odiaran!

Frente a vosotros he visto la sangre
de España levantarse
para ahogaros en una sola ola
de orgullo y de cuchillos!

mirad mi casa muerta,
mirad España rota:
pero de cada casa muerta sale metal ardiendo
en vez de flores,
pero de cada hueco de España
sale España,
pero de cada niño muerto sale un fusil con ojos,
pero de cada crimen nacen balas
que os hallarán un día el sitio
del corazón.

Preguntaréis por qué su poesía
no nos habla del sueño, de las hojas,
de los grandes volcanes de su país natal?

Venid a ver la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver
la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver la sangre
por las calles!

You can find a partial translation of this here, in Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture.

Neruda recites it here, though the sound is patchy.

Pinter said “nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.” I don’t know of one either.

Smells Like Group Spirit

Greetings from Spain, where I am reading the Guardian.

The ritual of this lottery, which dates back to 1812, the fact that the drawer goes on all day (with umpteen other prizes divvied up) and above all, the emotional hold that the lottery has on Spaniards, is astounding to outsiders.

In my case it´s not so much astounding as mind-blowingly tedious. Yesterday it was on the TV for hours. And it´s not as if Spanish TV was much good to begin with.

Disparate and fragmented though they may seem, as autonomous regions like Catalonia and the Basque country clamor for yet greater independence, when El Gordo comes round, the group spirit of Spaniards is indisputable.

¿Cómo? Not quite sure what liking a bit of a flutter has to do with group spirit. Swathes of Irish and English people alike are fond of the gee-gees, but that doesn´t mean they share some indisputable group spirit. At any rate, even if El Gordo were an indicator of ´group spirit´, there are many other indicators to choose from: suckling pigs on display in the butchers, elaborate nativity cribs, endless TV adverts for perfume.

Another indicator of group spirit might be hatred for the Guardia Civil among certain sections of disaffected youth. This morning I saw a grafitti outside a local primary school that said Guardia (swastika inserted here) Civil Murdering Dogs Controlling Minds By Radio Frequency.

Last Post And Telegraph

So Conor Cruise O’Brien is dead, single-handedly wiping out Ireland’s internationally-known public intellectual population in the process.

Funny enough, I was browsing a collection of his essays last night. I will refrain from reading essays by anyone tonight, just in case. Then again, there’s always The War against Cliché by Martin Amis. I could delve into that.

The first book I read by him was States of Ireland, about a decade ago. I was impressed with it at the time, but at the time I was a moron, so I have no idea now if it is actually any good or not. The collection I was flicking through last night -Passion and Cunning: Essays on Nationalism, Terrorism and Revolution- is pretty much a load of crap, although there is a decent enough piece on Pope John Paul II and another on Nicaragua. Also an entertaining attack on John Podhoretz. The one about him breaking the academic boycott of South Africa hasn’t really aged that well, nor has the one titled Thinking About Terrorism, which should have been titled Not Thinking About Terrorism, or maybe Thinking About Terrorism: In Praise of Binyamin Netanyahu. On the Middle East, he classifies the PLO as a terrorist organization, and in the index under ‘Palestinians’ it says ‘see Arabs‘: a succinct enough summary of his thinking on the matter.

Bye then.

Lost in Commission

Irish Finance Minsiter Charlie McCreevy.
Image via Wikipedia

Commissioner McCreevy’s actions demonstrate a total absence of respect for the European Parliament, and appear to be more appropriate for a paid lobbyist of the finance industry than a European Commissioner. His consultations are in our minds little more than time-wasting exercises embarked upon with the hope that they might provide further excuses for him not to carry out the will of the Parliament.

Me, I never understood why some Irish people opposed to the Lisbon Treaty saw fit to point toward the loss of a commissioner as a reason for voting no. Something to do, I think, with Ireland losing influence at the heart of Europe, or some similarly trite and ignorant formulation.

Well, it looks like losing a commissioner, everything else being equal, might have been a good thing for Ireland, as it could have stopped loads of Europeans from hating our guts so much (that is, of those who give a toss about the European Union and who can actually tell the difference between Ireland and England). That is not an argument I expect the No-Not-Again campaigns to put to good effect, but it is an argument nonetheless. However, the immediate problem is how in Christ the government is going to spew forth a candidate for commissioner who does not act like a paid lobbyist of the finance industry.

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I wouldn’t, but he would

A common reaction among Christians of a certain stripe, when confronted with some public display of disrespect toward the symbols of their faith –a giant chocolate Jesus, a Playboy cover allusion to the virgin Mary– is to say something along the lines of ‘how brave of them to do it to Jesus or Mary. Maybe next time they should do it to Muhammad’.

The implication, on the surface, appears to be that Christians are a tolerant lot, and therefore an easy target for cowards. But I think there’s something else going on: maybe a form of negative projective identification. I am tolerant, but he, the mad Muslim is not. I turn the other cheek; he chops your head off, blows up your family. If it wasn’t for me and those like me, you wouldn’t be able to get away with what you do. Aren’t you lucky that you have people like me to make fun of? Because if you didn’t….

So the ideal forms of punishment -corporal and capital- for offending religious norms are withheld, on account of the goodness of the Christian. But the more you think about the hypothetical scenario offered, the more it becomes clear that what you are told ‘the Muslim’ would do to you is in fact what the Christian would do to you if he could. It just so happens that he can’t. Lucky you.

A comparable situation is when an older teacher harks back to the days of corporal punishment and says to an errant student something like ‘if this were 30 years ago I’d knock lumps out of you’: the desire to knock lumps out of the student is barely concealed.

What put me in mind of all this was an observation made by Toby Harnden on his blog yesterday about the journalist who threw the shoe at George Bush.

But ask yourself this question: How would al-Zaidi have fared if he’d hurled a pair of shoes at Saddam?

The same observation was repeated today by the Irish Independent’s mind-at-work, Ian O’Doherty:

Still, it would have been interesting to see how Saddam Hussein would have reacted if someone had fecked their shoes at him.

Jail would have been the least of their worries; but hey, let’s not focus on that, right?

What emerges in both instances is the implication that the journalist –who by his brother’s account is presently too badly beaten to appear in court– should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t subjected to more vicious punishment for throwing shoes at the man responsible for the destruction of his country through invasion, high altitude bombing and military occupation. In both instances, the writers draft Saddam Hussein in to deliver the ideal punishment for the act of supreme ingratitude. And not only is the journalist to be condemned for what he did, but Bush is, in Harnden’s case, to be revered for his supple reflexes.

News of a sacking

“You’re only allowed one of any particular voice on Today,” claims one insider. “If a favoured new arrival has the same accent as you, they’ll farm you out to other projects. It happened with Carolyn Quinn and Sarah Montague. It also happened with Eddie Mair and Jim Naughtie – there could only be one Scottish accent. Once they wanted Webb, they could only have one posh voice. Stourton had been falling out of favour for a while and they kept lining him up with these big documentaries and huge series to let him down gently. The news got leaked before they’d put everything in place.

So why was Edward Stourton really sacked from the Today programme? I have no idea, and could hardly care less, since I never listen to the programme. However, I think we can eliminate one possible motive from our enquiries: that he was ejected because he was an insufferable asshole, since Justin Webb is his replacement.The upside then – less Justin Webb on TV.

I on Twitter

December 2008