Palestinian

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

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A Question That Seems Somewhat Obvious

Okay, there must be something I’m missing:

Shadows in Gaza

Seven years into an Israeli blockade and ten months into a crippling Egyptian one, Gaza’s economic growth has evaporated and unemployment soared to almost 40 percent by the end of 2013.

Opposition to the Hamas militant group which runs the Gaza Strip has led its neighbors to quarantine the enclave, shutting residents out of the struggling Mideast peace process and leaving them with plenty of parties to blame.

Living on U.N. handouts of rice, flour, canned meat and sunflower oil, with limited access to proper health care or clean water, families like the Mustafas – seemingly permanent refugees from ancestral lands now part of Israel – have no money, no jobs and no hope.

“We’re drowning … We feel like the whole world is on top of us. I turn on the television and I see the lifestyles on there, and I think, God help me leave this place,” said Tareq, 22.

The Mustafas often must pick up and move when rain floods their low-lying home – even on a sunny day, it’s lined with slick, smelly mildew. They stand in the dark, as 12-hour power cuts are now the norm throughout Gaza due to scant fuel.

“There’s no money for university or to get married. There’s not even enough to spend outside the house so we can escape a little. What kind of life is this?” Tareq asks.

Well over half of Gaza residents receive food from the United Nations, and the number is on the rise.

UNRWA, the U.N. Refugee Works Agency devoted to feeding and housing the refugees, told Reuters it was now feeding some 820,000, up by 40,000 in the last year. The U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) gives food aid to some 180,000 other residents.

(Browning and Al-Mughrabi)

To the one, it seems like an obvious question. To the other, let us set aside the usual rhetoric about who must or is allowed to protect themselves from whom and why. It really does seem like a straightforward question:

What is this supposed to accomplish?

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Required Reading

And the award for Best Supporting Moron In An International Tragedy goes to … Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

5 Broken CamerasI quickly texted him back and told him that help was on the way. He wrote back to say Immigration and Customs was holding him, his wife, Soraya, and their 8-year old son (and “star” of the movie) Gibreel in a detention room at LAX. He said they would not believe him when he told them he was an Oscar-nominated director on his way to this Sunday’s Oscars and to the events in LA leading up to the ceremony. He is also a Palestinian. And an olive farmer. Apparently that was too much for Homeland Security to wrap its head around.

And, you know, when Michael Moore shows up to help resolve the situation, the folks at ICE must know, deep in their hearts, that they just picked the wrong Oscar-nominated Palestinian documentary filmmaker to screw with.