I went to the Jeff Pulver Breakfast in Tel Aviv yesterday - thought it was a good time to start blogging again as I’m coming out of hibernation
Here’s an awesome video that was made by @idangazit - much props!
There is a cat at my window
I am still
ragdoll in its flooded mouth
arsonist in one sulfur eye
night in a silhouette
shadow without philosophy
syllable of jungle chill
be it alms seeker
or smoke as a pirouette
all icicle and satin
black iris I see
blood beating its binary
hanging from its ley line
like the lamp of an angler
when the sun is furthermost
and all gods are unbeknown
I am still
the cat sits at my window sill
The doctor is in a white coat
leaning over me, intrigued
white teeth gleaming
white skin shining
white light blinding
white needle priming
white eyes widening
white scalpel sliding
in white stomach lining
white gloves prying
open white siding
and I’m still lying
open and writhing.
The doctor is in a white coat
leaning over me
on this rack
he blocks the light
now he’s all black.
I’ll scale these branches over time
in rain or shine I’ll never stop
it doesn’t matter how high I climb
I know I’ll never reach the top
During hard times such as these, we tend to relinquish our individual opinions to those of our respective hiveminds. I am posting this short essay to remind each of us to remember to think for ourselves. I also want to emphasize that this post is in no way meant to provide a rationale for what is going on in Israel and the Gaza Strip right now - think of it as more of a…lament.
We can convince ourselves of anything. Let me explain. Humans think by analogy. In more logical thinkers, the analogies become less ambiguous, but in all human thinkers, the emotions and the concepts our minds employ are generalizations; abstractions that ignore particulars. Analogies are false to pure fact; they are comparative matters of judgment. Thus, we are able to apply our thinking inconsistently. For example, we may have one standard related to scientific theories, and another for religious theories; one standard for ourselves, and another for the rest of the world. This system of thought allows us to ignore errors in chains of logic. We can make ourselves unaware of the implications of our thoughts, or ignore the true meaning, context, and consequences of our actions. Our ability to formulate rationalizations to justify and obscure the true causes and conclusions of our cognition from ourselves can be a blessing and a curse.
What is the true nature of human evil? Is it the complete disregard for empathetic compassion – a twisted psyche predisposed for performing malice without semblance of emotional attachment – or is it illustrated by people like David Lewis Rice, who, believing he was a patriot engaged in a secret war against covert communists, murdered an innocent family of four in 1985? Is the true nature of human evil demonstrated by people who are willing to do anything and everything for whatever cause they may champion? All people of such fervent conviction are not dangerous. However, people that deem it necessary to impress their views upon others at all costs are.
People kill other people for two reasons: survival of self, or survival of ideology. More people have been killed and persecuted in the name of a higher ideal than for any other reason in human history. Racial purity, religious intolerance, and fanatical jingoism come to mind immediately when examining genocidal motivation throughout history. Mass violence has existed since the dawn of man. The Torah chronicles the Jewish massacre of the Amelekites and Midianites. Before that, the Assyrians and Egyptians derooted entire civilizations for enslavement, their version of deterrence. The Greeks of Athens annihilated the nations for their own self-interests. The Punic Wars ended with Rome wiping Carthage and its citizens from history. Genghis Khan left half the world burning in his turbulent wake. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the colonization of the Americas, the Salem Witch Trials, the inevitable collapse and displacement of the American Indian tribes, the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges, the Stolen Generation of Australia, the Hutus and Tutsis, Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan - the list could go on and on - are some of our most grievous examples. Outlying reasons may have varied, but the rationale at the heart of each matter has remained remarkably single-minded, even as the human mind supposedly evolves and betters itself. Cynicism would dictate that only the methods with which we use for killing, and the methods with which we use to justify killing have evolved over the ages. Every shred of information we receive is tainted by a generational loss, each source polluted by an inherent human bias or deliberate rhetoric designed to sway us this way or that.
Why do we kill each other? Human psychology seems as if it depends upon the existence, whether real or fabrication, of an evil enemy to reaffirm its own goodness and sanity. It is as if we are resigned to the perceived reality that separate entities must have conflicting ideals and motives, thrusting each side into competition. The ultimate goal in competition is elimination of the opposition. Since recognizance of humanity evokes human compassion, elimination is facilitated by regarding the opposing entity as an abstraction. In our attempts to create this disjointed feeling of distant hatred, we demonize and dehumanize our enemies, using the media to perpetuate these perceptions. Such dehumanization is aided by the simple fact that people from different parts of the world look and act different from one another. It’s absolutely shocking to me that many political cartoonists oftentimes depict people of different races stripped to their most stereotypical characteristics and later rationalize that stereotyping is necessary for mass recognition. We latch on to a pronoun mentality of “they want to kill us,” appealing to our most primal instincts, and compelling “us” to believe that “we” fight for “our” very survival. As a result, entire societies come together as one to fight the perceived enemy. There are no ambiguities in war – it is simple. We unite in a single cause and work to achieve our goals. We benefit socially from newfound camaraderie. Health increases and suicide rates decrease. New technologies emerge from rapid industrial development. Privateering provides employment and boosts the economy.
Does human progress depend largely on human suffering? One of the principle debates concerning civilization’s origins asks if humans were first driven together by war. Recent archaeological finds in Peru have uncovered relics of a 3,000 year old military civilization composed of several nomadic tribes forced to unite in order to survive then overcome neighboring competition. Such logical reasoning still appeals to our sensitivities today. Alliances are made, broken, re-formed, and revised in accordance with a society’s priorities. What is the true nature of human evil? The human faculty for the rationalization of the irrational is an integral component of humanity. Perhaps then, the true nature of human evil is being human. Thomas Hobbes stated in Leviathan that “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Sometimes it can be difficult to disagree with him.
So I really thought it was a joke. No, no no, it’s for real. Joe the plumber, that infamous anti-hero of the 2008 campaign who appealed to the idiocy of middle America on behalf of John Mccain, is coming to Israel for 10 days to report on the Gaza conflict/war. He’s coming on behalf of PJTV - a conservative video blog.
Now some of you may question his expertise in foreign affairs, but I assure you his record is very clear–>
Well, the only thing that could have made this story that much better if he was coming on behalf of Fox News.
Here’s more from Haaretz/AP:
The Ohio man, who became famous during the U.S. presidential campaign after asking Barack Obama about his tax plan, is heading to Israel as a war correspondent for a conservative Web site called pjtv.com.
Dubbed Joe the Plumber by McCain’s campaign, Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher was held up as an example of an American worker who would be hurt economically by Obama’s election.
Wurzelbacher says he’ll spend 10 days covering the fighting and explaining why Israeli forces are mounting attacks against Hamas.
He tells WNWO-TV in Toledo that he wants go over there and let their ‘Average Joes’ share their story.
Doesn’t he mean the average Shmulik?
I know we haven’t commented on the whole Gaza situation or posted in a while. Not only has life been crazy, but so has the situation here. While Tel Aviv is relatively quiet, the country is obviously very tense and glued to the TVs, newspapers, and radio. Here is one articlce written by Alan Dershowitz which I think everyone who hears quick soundbytes, video clips, or raw numbers will need for some good perspective. In today’s “information age”, I’ve never felt as if so many people were misinformed.
Israel’s military actions in Gaza are entirely justified under international law, and Israel should be commended for its act of self-defense against international terrorism. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves to every nation the right to engage in self-defense against armed attacks. The only limitation international law places on a democracy is that its actions must satisfy the principle of proportionality. Israel’s actions certainly satisfy that principles.
When Barack Obama visited the city of Sderot this summer, he saw the same things that I had seen during my visit on March 20 of this year. Over the last four years, Palestinian terrorists—in particular, Hamas and Islamic Jihad—have fired more than two thousand rockets at this civilian area, which is home to mostly poor and working-class people. The rockets are designed exclusively to maximize civilian deaths, and some have barely missed schoolyards, kindergartens, hospitals, and school buses. But others hit their targets, killing more than a dozen civilians since 2001, including in February 2008 a father of four who had been studying at the local university. These anticivilian rockets have also injured and traumatized countless children.
The residents of Sderot have fifteen seconds from the launch of the rocket to run into a shelter. The rule is that everyone must always bee within fifteen seconds of a shelter, regardless of what they are doing. Shelters are everywhere, but the aged and the physically challenged often have difficulty making it to safety. On the night I was in Sderot, a rocket landed nearby, but there had been no “red alert.” The warning system is far from foolproof.
In most parts of the world, the first words learned by toddlers are “mommy” and “daddy.” In Sderot, they are “red alert.” The police chief of Sderot showed me hundreds of rocket fragments that had been recovered. Many bore the name of the terrorist group that had fired the deadly missiles. Although firing deliberately to kill civilians is a war crime, the terrorists who fired at the civilians of Sderot were proud enough of their crimes to “sign” their murderous weapons. They know that in the real world in which we live, they will never be prosecuted for their murders and attempted murders.
Barack Obama reacted to what he had seen in Sderot by saying that if his two daughters were exposed to rocket attacks in their own homes, he would do everything in his power to stop such attacks. I hope and believe that President Obama will take the same position he did as candidate Obama.
The residents of Sderot were demanding that their nation take action to protect them. Most seem to agree with the Israeli decision to end its occupation of the Gaza Strip, to withdraw its soldiers and settlers despite the reality that during the occupation, rocket attacks increased against the residents of Sderot. But Israel’s post-occupation military options were limited, since Hamas deliberately fires its deadly rockets toward densely populated urban areas, and the Israeli Army has a strict policy of trying to avoid civilian casualties.
The firing of rockets at civilians from densely populated civilian areas is the newest tactic in the war between terrorists who love death and democracies that love life. The terrorists have learned how to exploit the morality of democracies against those who do not want to kill civilians, even enemy civilians. In one recent incident, Israeli intelligence learned that a particular house was being used to manufacture and store rockets. It was a clear military target since their rockets were being fired at Israeli civilians. But the house was also being lived in by a family. So the Israeli military phoned the house, informed the owner that it was a military target, and gave him thirty minutes to leave with his family before the house was attacked. The owner called Hamas, which immediately sent dozens of mothers carrying babies to stand on the roof of the house. Hamas knew that Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if, by some fluke, the Israeli authorities did not learn that there were civilians in the house, and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead civilians to the media. In this case, Israel did learn of the civilians and withheld its fire. The rockets that were spared destruction by the human shields were then used against Israeli civilians.
This, in a nutshell, is the dilemma faced by democracies with a high level of morality. The Hamas tactic would not have worked against the Russians in Chechnya. When the Russians were fired upon, they fired against civilians without hesitation. Nor would it work in Darfur, where janjaweed militias have killed thousands of civilians and displaced 2.5 million in order to get the rebels who were hiding among them. Certain tactics work only against moral enemies who care deeply about minimizing civilian casualties.
Over the past months, a shaky cease-fire, organized by Egypt was in effect. Hamas agreed to stop the rockets and Israel agreed to stop taking military action against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire itself was morally dubious and legally asymmetrical.
Israel, in effect, was saying to Hamas: if you stop engaging in the war crime of targeting our innocent civilians, we will stop engaging in the entirely lawful military acts of targeting your terrorists. Under the cease-fire, Israel reserved the right to engage in self-defense actions such as attacking terrorists who were in the course of firing rockets at its civilians.
Just before the hostilities began, Israel offered Hamas both a carrot and a stick. Israel reopened checkpoints to allow humanitarian aid to reenter Gaza. It had closed these point of entry after they had been targeted by Gaza rockets. Israel’s prime minister also issued a stern, final warning to Hamas that unless it stopped the rockets, there would be a full scale military response. This is the way Reuters reported it:
“Israel reopened border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Friday, a day after Prime Minister warned militants there to stop firing rockets or they would pay a heavy price. Despite the movement of relief supplies, militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortar shafts from Gaza at Israel on Friday. One accidentally struck a house in Gaza, killing two Palestinian sisters, ages 5 and 13…the deliveries could ease the tensions that might have led to a military action to end the rocket attacks. Palestinian workers at the crossings said fuel had arrived for Gaza’s main power plant and about a hundred trucks loaded with grain, humanitarian aid and other goods were expected during the day.”
The Hamas rockets continued and Israel kept its word, implementing a carefully prepared targeted air attack against Hamas targets.
On Sunday, I spoke to the air force general, now retired, who worked on the planning of the attack. He told me of the intelligence and planning that had gone into preparing for the contingency that the military option might become necessary. The Israeli Air Force had pinpointed with precision the exact locations of Hamas structures, in an effort to minimize civilian casualties. One of the few reporters who witnessed the air attack—BBC’s Rushdi Aboualouf, who is certainly not pro-Israel—inadvertently confirmed the accuracy of the bombing when he reported witnessing “one of the [Hamas security compounds]—which is 20 m[eters] away from my house—I was standing on the balcony and I have seen the Israeli airplanes hitting the place”—while at the same time leaving his own residence and balcony intact. Even Hamas sources acknowledged that the vast majority of those killed have been Hamas terrorists.
There have been three types of international response to the Israeli military actions against the Hamas rockets. Not surprisingly, Iran, Hamas and other knee-jerk Israeli-bashers have argued that the Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are entirely legitimate, and that the Israeli counterattacks are war crimes. Equally unsurprising is the response of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and others who see a moral and legal equivalence between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting the terrorists. And finally, there is the United States, France and a few other nations that place the blame squarely on Hamas for its unlawful and immoral policy of using its own civilians as human shields, behind whom they fire rockets at Israeli civilians.
The most dangerous of the three responses is not the Iranian-Hamas absurdity, which is largely ignored by thinking and moral people, but the United Nations and European Union response which equate the willful murder of civilians with legitimate self-defense pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This false moral equivalence only encourages terrorists to persist in their unlawful actions against civilians. The United States has it exactly right by placing the blame on Hamas, while urging Israel to do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.
There are some who claim that Israel has violated the principle of proportionality by killing so many more Hamas terrorists than the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets. That is an absurd misapplication of the concept of proportionality for at least two reasons. First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk of civilian death and the intentions of those targeting civilians. Hamas seeks to kill as many civilians as it can. It aims its rockets in the general direction of schools, hospitals, playgrounds and other entirely civilian targets. The fact that it has not killed as many civilians as it would have liked to is a tribute to Israel’s enormous devotion of resources to the building of shelters and to the construction of early warning systems. Hamas, on the other hand, refuses to build shelters, precisely because it wants to maximize the number of Palestinian civilians inadvertently killed by Israel’s military actions. It knows, from experience, that when it forces Israel to take military actions that result in the deaths of even a small number of innocent Palestinian civilians, many in the international community will condemn Israel. Israel understands this sad reality as well, and goes to enormous lengths to reduce the number of civilian casualties, even to the point of foregoing legitimate targets that are too close to civilian areas. Accordingly, Israel’s actions satisfy the principle of proportionality as well as the principle of self-defense against armed attack.
I think you’ll be
disappointed when I whisper
in your ear.
This episode was very off the cuff– We’ve been getting lazy. We knew we had to get an episode up on here after a crazy two weeks (including an amazing roof party here at the Tel AvivRE rooftop which we’ll post about later).
Needless to say it turned out to be a really fun show! Here’s the audio clip, followed by a download link so you can rock it on your ipods or whatever else, and finally some live video clips from the simulcast on blogtv.com
Click the play button to stream the episode!
To download the whole podcast mp3 to your computer, right click the link below and hit save target as (save link as for a mac).
Setlist coming soon…
Video Clip from the simulcast:
0:00-1:00: Loki aka raphael de la ghetto doing redic dances
1:45-2:45: DJ Element making some nasty cuts on the wheels of steel
6:00: DJ Element’s own track (recently created) called Oopah! debuted. Its just the beat/instrumental right now but let us know what you think. Loki’s gonna write some versus for it soon… check out the hilarity that ensues about throwing plates…
6:55: Ari and Ari start doing the ‘do it all by yourself’ step and snap move. Its pretty funny…
8:00: Thats it.. we came up with a chorus!!! Everybody in the middle east claiming two states, but all we wanna do is THROW DEM PLATES! OOOPAAAH!
More video clips here: http://www.blogtv.com/people/DJElement