Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Olmert: Oh... shit. And: another attempt to say something sensible about Israel-Palestine.

Apparently, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud "Lebanon War" Olmert is not doing so well, politically speaking. According to Slate's Today's Papers (quoting from the NYT Olmert's approval rating is lower than that of VP Dick "I'm a Dick" Cheney, whose rating is somewhere in the 20s, though he has gone as low as 19%.

We here at the J Continuum are mainly suprised that Slate didn't use the doughty time-tested phrase, "...Which gives him an approval rating slightly lower that that of [INSERT DISEASE HERE]." Common inserts are The Plague and The Common Flu.

While I have to admit I still find that phrase funny, it's gotten a bit overused. Though the basic ridiculous idea -- that diseases get approval ratings ("21% of those polled approved of the job the Common Flu has been doing this season, while only 19% approved of Mr. Cheney's performance") is still golden. I think my favorite part is my mental image of a press conference where The Common Flu is trying not to be too smirky about beating VP Cheney's approval, and trying to make clear that it knows it "has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the American people."

Anyway. Olmert, despite the drumming he's taking from this report (establishing, basically, that he effed up the war with Lebanon) is apparently going to appoint people to study the report, rather than resigning. Ah, political theatre. "Yes, yes, you all think I did a horrible job, but let's not jump to the conclusion that I'm doing a horrible job. First, it's important to study the document that says I did a horrible job, then, perhaps, examine the actual effectiveness of me doing my job, and then, perhaps within our lifetimes, I will actually contemplate looking at changing the way I do my job." Oh, er, well, good, keep it up then, I guess.

In a different note, a while back there was a little debate between me and J-Friend Becky on Israel, Palestine, and Apartheid, and though I haven't read Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid", it comes highly recommended by a number of friends and trusted mentors of mine. They think Carter takes a minimalist and highly reasonable tact on the issue; in Carter's comments on the book he emphasizes something I myself got wrong in my debate with Becky and agree with in his formulation; he is not accusing Israel of apartheid within its own (internationally recognized) borders; hence, the book is not called "Israel: Peace not apartheid." However, it is virtually undeniable that Israel is running an apartheid system in Palestine, as apartheid is at least in large part defined by having different sets of rules for different groups of people. Palestinians are not able to exercise their full rights in the terrority they nominally control, and there is indeed, besides the "security fence"-"separation wall"-illegal barrier that cuts many of them off from land they rightfully own, a system of highways and roads where some are for the exclusive use of Israelis. One may argue that Israel's nominal control of Palestine is justifiable for self-protection, but the problem is (as has been stated many times by others before), if they are in control then they are occupiers under international law -- and have a long set of responsibilities to the occupied for law, order, and welfare that they are not completing. If they are NOT or don't wish to be in control, then they cannot, for example, block and guard the Palestinian ports of entry and trade that are not within the internationally recognized borders of Israel, nor withhold aid money from other countries that is owed to Palestine in order to exact concessions -- not unless, of course, rather than independence OR occupation, Israel wishes to declare open war.

To my understanding, those are the 3 internationally defined options (occupation, independent Palestinian control, or open warfare) and the combination of these within Palestine itself seems to me to be unambiguously resulting in apartheid. Carter makes it very clear that within Israel itself, he is impressed, or at least satisfied, that the norms of democracy are upheld as Palestinians and other non-Jews in Israel enjoy full democratic rights and liberty. I'm willing cede to his (and many others, such as Becky's) testimony there; I also agree with his analysis about Palestine proper.

Major states (the US, the UK, France, China, Japan, Israel, etc.) have a long and storied history of ignoring international law, especially in the area of colonial, terroritorial, and occupational rights and obligations. I've heard many times the argument that Israel shouldn't have to cede to the 1967 borders because "never before has a winning state in a war had to return terrority." Whether or not this is a historical accuracy seems to me less important than the implication that might makes right, or even worse, that might makes moral. In Shakespeare's Henry V, a significant theme was whether or not military victory was God's blessing on Henry's family's usurpation of the British throne; he pondered whether such an act (believed to be against God's will) could then be ratified by God through His granting of victory against France. In the end, I recall, he seemed content to think it did -- we sinned by taking down the "rightful" king, but I'm king, and I just won a major battle, so God must be smiling on me and ratifying my thwarting of His Own Will. Which, you know, makes none of the typical kinds of sense. It makes no more sense to me in the context of Israel -- you can transgress against international law if you wish, you'd have, if not good company, lots of it. But that is rather irrelevant to morality, imho, just as the fact that most, if not all, cultures practiced slavery and/or enforced servitude up until the, say, 19th century doesn't mean that is was alright for all of them to do so until the 19th century. The modern era's rules are that land gained through war is not a legitimate path to acquire territory. Should Iran take over Iraq, or Canada the US, or US take over Mexico, I wouldn't think it any more legitimate than Palestine conquering Israel or Israel usurping the '67 borders. So, let us say long live the democratic state of Israel -- and may Israeli apartheid in Palestine exist no longer!