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"we will have no representative there, so long as they pick on Israel"
August 28, 2001 12:54 AM   Subscribe

"we will have no representative there, so long as they pick on Israel" (exact Bush quote) Is it better to just not show up, or to go there and talk? Then we may be skipping another U.N. conference because they mention "children's rights & abortion". This seems more like the kid taking his ball and going home as opposed to the most powerful country on earth...
posted by owillis (63 comments total)

 
"There are indications from Washington that if they do not get the language they want, they may not participate."

This scenario is played out in preschools around the country every day. Pouting in the corner accomplishes nothing and makes others think less of you. What George doesn't seem to understand is that the U.S. refusing to participate doesn't hold the same weight as it once did.
posted by fleener at 1:13 AM on August 28, 2001


I say let's pull out of the UN altogether. But there are more important reasons for doing so than Israel...
posted by dagny at 1:19 AM on August 28, 2001


The UN has its flaws, I'll admit; unfortunately, conferences on racism are probably one of them. What purpose could it serve? While race does help to muddy the relationships between industrialized and developing nations, it's only one factor among many; racism by itself is more commonly a domestic issue.

Which probably means delegates from other countries pointing fingers at the US and equating the racism still present and evident in our society with whatever human rights violations are perpetrated in theirs; and the ever-popular attacks on Israel.

Peter Beinart puts that doomed-hopeful TNR spin on it, though; he wishes he were going.
posted by dreamless at 1:50 AM on August 28, 2001


"...getting America involved in anything of a multilateral nature is like naming The Rock to an Olympic rowing team and giving the other oars to David Spade and Calista Flockhart" - from this WSJ opinion piece. I assume you have to register. OH, yes I know they are hardly an unbiasaed lot.
posted by revbrian at 2:19 AM on August 28, 2001


Folks, why do we not just get down to the "heart" of this matter? The UN began as a "good" thing. The whole effort was suppose to be a good world thing. However, the whole truth of this dirty matter is that UN has taken (I use that word seriously) again, TAKEN over! I think the first thing people need to do, is become educated with the UN itself before making any sentences about the UN! It is very important that each of us understands just what the UN is and what it's functions are suppose to be! I think upon further research one can begin to understand the scope of what the UN is doing and why Bush is doing what he is doing! We have helped to create a monster here! It reminds me of a baby! They can begin so cute and then....well you get the idea....
posted by Pristine at 2:40 AM on August 28, 2001


Actually, fun though it may be to find fault with President Bush, not attending is consistent with the longstanding policy of the USA. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution in 1975 at the behest of the Arab bloc equating Zionism with racism. Then-UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the vote "obscene."

The USA boycotted two subsequent UN conferences on race over the Zionism=racism issue - one in 1978 (while Jimmy Carter was President) and again in 1983 (President Reagan's watch).

This current conference will see the Organization of Islamic States press for language in the conference report referring to the "racist practices of the occupying power" in Israel. If we attend, even if only to "talk," the imprimatur of the United States will be placed upon that report, even if we vote against it.

Israel is our ally and we owe it to them and ourselves to not participate in fomenting anything resembling an international agreement that they are ipso facto racists. This has been the policy of the USA for 26 years, under three Presidents. Bush is correct to maintain the course.
posted by MuadDib at 2:42 AM on August 28, 2001


In passing, might be noted that because of Arab pressures (21 states) Israel is not allowed a seat on rotation for secutiy council. Democracy in action.
posted by Postroad at 4:02 AM on August 28, 2001


Shouldn't we be there to speak out against it? How is non action going to achieve anything?
posted by Mazelle at 4:25 AM on August 28, 2001


Mazelle: Allow me to quote David Holcberg:

The US presence in the UN serves only to legitimize these tyrannies’ existence and their continuous abuse of human rights. To sanction evil is as impractical as it is immoral. The US cannot hope to protect human rights by associating itself with human rights violators.

Of course, the US should continue to pursue a foreign policy that supports human rights, but should do so on its own, or in alliance with other nations that actually share its values.


In other words, supporting US withdrawal from the UN does not (necessarily) equal supporting "non action".
posted by dagny at 4:30 AM on August 28, 2001


I just hate the fact that our president talks at the level of "pick on", while this group attempts to hold discourse at a higher level. It's like a bunch of chess players discussing a checkers game.
posted by kcmoryan at 5:10 AM on August 28, 2001


You really have to work hard to overlook all the good the United Nations has accomplished and call for the U.S. to leave the group.

UNICEF distributes $500 million a year in supplies like vaccines, immunization equipment, nutrient supplements, and medicine to help children in poverty.

The UN's World Health Organization was instrumental in eradicating smallpox -- 10 to 15 million people had it in 31 countries in 1967; the last known case was in 1977, saving an estimated 20 million lives. Through child immunization programs, it has also helped reduce child infant mortality worldwide by 37 percent since 1970.

These are just two examples among many. Now that conservatives are compassionate, I would expect more recognition of the group's significant humanitarian accomplishments, rather than increased calls for the U.S. to quit because the U.N. doesn't always rubberstamp the policies of the U.S.
posted by rcade at 5:23 AM on August 28, 2001


[I just hate the fact that our president talks at the level of "pick on", while this group attempts to hold discourse at a higher level. ]

Who cares about the quality of the discourse? The UN has NO results worth mentioning in this area so why bother talking to them at all?
posted by revbrian at 5:23 AM on August 28, 2001


What bothers me is that America isn't going because Israel is getting "picked on" - and yet Israel is currently behaving in a highly highly aggresive manner towards Palestinians.

Okay, so Israel has been aggravated, but you would think they, as one of the leading countries in that part of the world might look to peace, instead of looking to a war.

And I'm pretty damned certain that Israel has used racist practises against Palestinians - when you have one culture versus another culture, that sort of shit tends to occur.
posted by tomcosgrave at 5:28 AM on August 28, 2001


Zionism: Among the Jews, a theory, plan, or movement for colonizing their own race in Palestine, the land of Zion, or, if that is impractical, elsewhere, either for religious or nationalizing purposes.
-- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 [Emphasis added]

Given this definition - a definition that's difficult to dispute - how can Israel's ultimate policy toward the Palestinians be considered anything less than racist? Clearly, the US is in the wrong here. Our support of Zionism is akin to supporting apartheid in South Africa.

Similarly, the PLO, while fighting what they perceive as a foreign occupation, are certainly driven by ultimately racist motives - they wish to expel all Jews from within their borders.

Stating this does not mean that I am an anti-Semite, nor does it mean that I support contunued acts of violence on the part of Palistine. Let's just be clear here; at the root of the mid-east conflict are the most basic of differences - race, and religion. Denying that is terribly naive.
posted by aladfar at 5:44 AM on August 28, 2001


" What purpose could it serve?"

Wellllll.....for a country that is being viewed as more and more isolationist since Shrub took office it might help if we actually participated in decisions instead of making them unilaterally.
And a bit of real intellectual honesty, not just serving our own country's interests, would be useful. As aladfar has shown, Zionism IS racist. Not that I consider all Israelis to be Zionists but the charges are accurate in regards to the stated goals of Zionism.
posted by nofundy at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2001


Shouldn't we be there to speak out against it? How is non action going to achieve anything?

I say, BRAVO! The polemic over whether to attend or not has created more publicity than simply attending and raising a "protest" there. Moreover, I doubt there would be much real opportunity to raise the issue at the conference. The UN is rigged against Israel and democratic societies...definitely better to stay home.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:09 AM on August 28, 2001


I dont think it is fair to equate the situation in Israel to aparthied in South Africa. Extermination has never been the object of the Jews, I think that the Clinton Peace talks showed just how willing the Israelis are to sit down and try and work out an amicable settlement.

Remember, this latest and most intense period of conflict occurred after unbelievable concessions were made to the Palestinians.

I think the US should be aplauded in taking a position that is not the easy one, especially in an organization that has historically been anti-Israeli.

There is nothing the American public likes better than a plucky winner.
posted by Grok09 at 6:09 AM on August 28, 2001


Certainly the Oslo and Sharm-Al-Sheikh "peace" accords were designed to create a South Africa-like solution to the Palestinian problem. Create distinct "homelands" for the Palestinians, then surround them with military and give them identity cards.

However, it seems to me that the whole Zionism thing is a smokescreen to hide the US real reason for not wanting to attend -- the issue of reparations for slavery.

Of course, it could be the US altruism towards Israel, but it is not really altruism since Israel is so beholden to its benfactor that it dare not step out of line -- witness the 170 - 2 vote condemning US sanctions against Cuba, and try to guess who the 2 votes belong to. Israel maintains its power by using helicopter gunships and F16 fighters bought and paid for by US taxpayers.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 6:36 AM on August 28, 2001


Voting against Cuba is a badge of honor. WAKE UP.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:41 AM on August 28, 2001


Thanks for the definition, Aladfar.

I don't mean to argue semantics, but it seems to me that as that philosophy does not seem to discriminate against other groups, it's not racist. Zionism is about colonizing Jews in a certain area, but not about excluding others. The fact that this racism is occurring in Israel right now is not due to the Zionism itself, but due to racists and maniacs who are dictating policy.

As for those who might argue that even with this concession, Zionism remains racist, let me try to make some substitutions into the Webster's definition:

ApplePieism: Among Americans, a theory, plan, or movement for colonizing their own race in the United States, the land of Apple Pie, or, if that is impractical, elsewhere, either for religious or nationalizing purposes.

Do you think this would be racist?
posted by Marquis at 6:47 AM on August 28, 2001


[Do you think this would be racist?]

If it involved slaughtering, subjugating and herding into reservations the native population, then yes, I would say that was racist.

The fact is that when the state of Israel was created the native population were given the choice: like it or leave. Inevitably many left, and many of those who stayed behind saw their rights eroded in favour of the immigrant population.

The invasion of neighbouring territories meant that even those who had fled were back under the control of the Zionists where they have remained ever since, as a succession of politically inept and militarily belligerent Israeli leaders have failed to sort the problem out.
posted by ksLimbs at 6:58 AM on August 28, 2001


Of course, the US should continue to pursue a foreign policy that supports human rights...

Continue?
posted by Mocata at 7:00 AM on August 28, 2001


The Islamic block is a coalition of dictatorships which allow racial and religious minorities liberties ranging from little (Egypt, Iran) to none (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.).

The notion that the US should have to put up with their hypocritical complaints about us and our democratic ally, Israel, is ridiculous. The notion that we should countenance a chorus of agreement with those brutal dictators sung by a variety of equally savage dictatorships and by European nations whose global economic and security interests are dependent upon our military patronage every second of every day, is surreal.

As soon as I can sit in Mecca and have a beer with the pastor of the local Presbyterian church, and Belgium and the Netherlands send out a carrier task force to spell the 7th Fleet in the South China Sea, then we'll listen. Until then, they should shut up and US diplomats should enjoy their summer vacation.
posted by MattD at 7:03 AM on August 28, 2001


I think Zionism definitely needs to be part of a discussion about what racism is, but not the discussion that would happen in Durban.

One of the biggest problems in the world right now is ethnic identity. Is there any legitimacy to the desire of a particulary racial/ethnic group wanting to maintain its own identity and not have its language, culture, etc. swallowed up by other groups around them? Should the Serbs or Macedonians or Albanians be allowed to have their own state? What about individual tribal groups within Nigeria or Zaire? Can it be done without violence and uprooting other ethnic groups? Or is the whole idea just racist?

The really hard case here is the Jews and Israel. Is it legitimate for Jews to say they want to maintain their separate racial and religious identity and culture, to resist getting lost in the melting pot? Or is that a racist notion? Most people would say its not racist. But what about Zionism. How do you translate that idea into having their own country, without creating a country that discriminates against non-Jews?

I think if we can figure out how the Jews can maintain their own identity, their own culture, their own state without having to oppress Palestinians, that kind of thinking might help in alot of other ethnic and racial conflicts around the world.
posted by straight at 7:09 AM on August 28, 2001


Marquis: you are agruing against people duped into thinking lies are truth, and that primitive cultures are not primitive.

Lots of people apologized for the Soviet Union; lots of people apologize for Cuba, and lots of people apologize for the Palestinian Arabs.

As you will note, the Palestinian's supposed "brothers" in neighboring countries have done nothing for them, save use them to as an means to use Israel as a scapegoat.

The Palestinian Arabs deserve sympathy, but its Israel which has actually helped them more than any other country.

At some point, you just have to give up, be confident in your beliefs and not look for approval elsewhere. The Mideast, save Israel and a few other square meters, is a primitive place of uneducated people. There's poverty and no democracy and guns. Israel is the scapegoat. That sounds simple, but in this case, it is true. One hint that it is true: a few million people being blamed for the misery of hundreds of millions.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:10 AM on August 28, 2001



[ApplePieism: Among Americans, a theory, plan, or movement for colonizing their own race in the United States, the land of Apple Pie, or, if that is impractical, elsewhere, either for religious or nationalizing purposes.

Do you think this would be racist?]

KsLimbs: If it involved slaughtering, subjugating and herding into reservations the native population, then yes, I would say that was racist.

Okay, Ks, please tell me you realize the way that your comment applies to Native Americans. "Reservations" and everything.

The fact is that when the state of Israel was created the native population were given the choice: like it or leave.

And what happened if they didn't "like it"? They were forced to leave? No. They were invited to vote in democratic elections. And then, as some still didn't "like it" (rightfully so, given the racism that certain people, and not Israel as a whole, acted upon), a few started to bomb pizzerias.

Many of Israel's neighbours are enemies. That does not give the fundamentalist-controlled Knesset the right to discriminate against Palestinians. But it does present a valid argument against handing back the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza. For those among you who are more military-oriented, does it sound like a good stragegy to freely hand over such important geography, given that the receivers have a history of official statements in favour of the "eradication of Israel", and that these same receivers are allies of nations that have a repeated history of invading the country?

I am in favour of the cessation of racist practices by the government and settlers. I am also in favour of handing over land to the Palestinians, much as Barak offered to do. (This offer was turned down by Arafat.) However to declare that Israel has no right to exist, or that it must give its enemies the means to destroy Jerusalem, well I can't agree with that.

The Jews needed somewhere to go after WWII. This, to me, is a fact. They were given land by the authority in the area. The extraneous violence and land claimed by settlers (as discussed above) was wrong. Especially, it should not still be happening. But this does not delegitimize Israel's existence in the Middle East.
posted by Marquis at 7:24 AM on August 28, 2001


Err, the zionism thing, Aladfar....

Comes out of a book.

"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"

Much beloved of Adolph Hitler and his minions, this book served to formet hatred of the Jews in prewar Germany and on through the war. It was a supposed "secret document" and minutes of the meeting of the "elders." Written in Russia in 1905, it served as fodder for the slaughter of Jews the world over. The term Zionism and its webster-definition are descendant from this work of FICTION. Very dangerous that people now believe it to be fact.

(c.f.this page for a far better discussion)
posted by swerdloff at 7:31 AM on August 28, 2001


Dictionary.com defines Zionism as follows:

Zi·on·ism
n.
A Jewish movement that arose in the late 19th century in response to growing anti-Semitism and sought to reestablish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Modern Zionism is concerned with the support and development of the state of Israel.
posted by Marquis at 7:36 AM on August 28, 2001


Marquis - of course I realize my comments apply to Native Americans. Who did you think I was talking about? The US, like many other countries, has a dismal human and civil rights record in recent history.

And what happened if they didn't "like it"? They were forced to leave? No. They were invited to vote in democratic elections.

To their chagrin, and that of many moderate Israelis, democracy in Israel is a sham. Most leading politicians are former military men, whose governments are supported by the extreme right. It is these people who dictate the agenda at all times.

Barak, whilst offering many concessions to the Palestinians, broke with the Oslo peace accords to do so. He wanted to jump to the 'final solution' without executing any of the interim confidence-building measures. Meanwhile he allowed settlement building to continue at a greater rate than ever before. Arafat would have been insane (and probably dead) if he had accepted the deal.

While there is blame on both sides for the failure of the peace process, the greater share must fall to the stronger power: Israel.

Of course I believe in the Israel's right to exist and to protect her borders, and I believe that the US (and other western countries) are right to support her. But these countries must work harder to ensure that the peace measures are implemented the way they are agreed and not cherry-picked and forced on the population by the Israeli administration.
posted by ksLimbs at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2001


Then Dictionary.com has just shown itself to be unbelievable naive to have fallen for that con!! They've been duped, plain and simple, and have just lost any credibility whatsoever.

A shame really, I quite liked their definitions, but there are plenty of other dicitonary sites out there.
posted by Option1 at 7:58 AM on August 28, 2001


[The Mideast, save Israel and a few other square meters, is a primitive place of uneducated people.]

All the primative, uneducated Arabs fighting over a few square meters...Haven't they ever heard of RENT CONTROL!
posted by octavius at 8:04 AM on August 28, 2001


Dictionary.com is actually relatively accurate in its definition and swerdloff is completely wrong.

There is a very good background on Zionism written by Benyamin Neuberger at Isreal.org.

http://www.israel.org/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00ng0
posted by ksLimbs at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2001


Regarding Definitions:
It should be noted that the definition I quoted is also listed at dictionary.com - that's where I got it from. I've no knowledge of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and certainly didn't mean to promote an intolerant idelogy.

That said, I am interested in the differences between the two definitions. While the one Marquis brought to our attention seems to be phrased a bit more carefully, it doesn't convey a alternate meaning for the term.

Here's a question that I think gets to the crux of this semantic debate: Is the term "Zionism" a part of Jewish parlance, or is it something that's been attached to them by others?

Regarding ApplePieism
It wasn't long ago that we determined that the separation is not compatible with equality. The establishment of a Jewish homeland (or an ApplePie Land) - if it's at the exclusion of others - is by definition, racist.
posted by aladfar at 8:10 AM on August 28, 2001


ksLimbs: I didn't know that Barak's concessions broke with the Oslo accord. I understand better now why Arafat turned the agreement down. Could he not have made a better statement lauding the effort Barak made? It cost him the election, after all. I really liked Ehud, but I guess the guy was too earnest.

I'm disagree with you about who controls Israeli elections. It's not the military-controlled extreme right (Barak, for instance - a lefty, as israeli prime ministers go - was a military hero). As you probably know, every israeli kid spends time in the military. No, according to my uncle - an Israeli resident - the people who are running israel are a sect of right-wing, ultra-orthodox ashkenazi (and to a certain extent, sephardi jews) who, unlike the secular israelis, all go out and vote. By voting as a bloc, they ensure that their party(ies) get elected. This is a faaairly recent development, but the last handful of prime-ministers relied on support from an alliance with this bloc for their majority.

This is why there were housing developments near the end of Barak's term - he was bulldozed by his "supporters", in exchange for their continued support for him in the face of his land concessions.

(Many of these ultra-orthodox jews who are 'running the show' are the same ones who hurl rocks at talis-wearing women at the Wailing Wall.)
posted by Marquis at 8:12 AM on August 28, 2001


Israel is our ally and we owe it to them...

So you feel an obligation to support our friends, blindly and inevitably, even when they are in the wrong? There is a long list of dictators around the world who have accomplished a lot of heinous things thanks to that way of thinking on the U.S.'s part. Are you also the sort of person who doesn't tell his pal when his fly is down, or when he has parsley on his teeth?
posted by rushmc at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2001


I would expect more recognition of the group's significant humanitarian accomplishments, rather than increased calls for the U.S. to quit

Is the UN threatening to stop performing humanitarian missions if the US leaves? I support a complete withdrawl from UN involvement. I don't mind if Ted Turner transfers the whole of his wealth to the group though. Private citizens can volunteer their money and lives to the group if they want, and there will be no constitutional conflict.
posted by thirteen at 9:08 AM on August 28, 2001


israel=colonialist state.
colonialist state=colonial techniques.
colonial techniques=racism.

fishfcuerk.

sorry for being so simple-minded.
posted by fishfucker at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2001


Barak, while clearly much more enamoured to the peace process than his predecessor Netanyahu, dragged his feet on the planned phased withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. He sought to cover this and the far more serious Oslo breach, that of continuing settlement building, by instigating the final status talks.

Barak's excuse to allow continued construction was that it had been sanctioned by the previous government and he was unable to overturn their decisions. The Palestinians saw this as an attempt by Israel to unilaterally create fait accompli on the ground during negotiations, but continued to negotiate until the Camp David talks foundered over Jerusalem.

As a labor (although somewhat hawkish) leader, Barak at least went some way to re-establishing the peace process. However, his inability to check the settlement building showed the weakness of the Knesset in taking radical political action in the quest for peace.

It is not just that the extreme right are well mobilised to vote, but that the P.R. parliamentary system in Isreal means that a coalition of small right wing parties almost always holds the balance of power. This means that the voice of moderate, secular Israel is seldom dominant in it's own parliament.
posted by ksLimbs at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2001


uhh, while Barak is no Sharon, he's definitely not a "lefty". He is not even on the left side of the labor party. While Labor leans to the left, it's essentially moderate, while parties like Meretz make up the left.
posted by jnthnjng at 9:12 AM on August 28, 2001


The Mideast, save Israel and a few other square meters, is a primitive place of uneducated people.

Perhaps it's time for a Middle East version of "They all look the same to me"?
posted by ceiriog at 9:45 AM on August 28, 2001


The Palestinian Arabs deserve sympathy, but its Israel which has actually helped them more than any other country.


I assume that no one takes these kinds of comments seriously, but man! Some of the people on this board are really primitive and uneducated, don't you think?


Back to the main issue, I do believe that the racism conference would have been tainted by some of the original language proposed by the Arab states. However the current language, which was accepted by most of the body, including non-aligned and non-Islamic states, makes a valid point.

The crux of the issue is where in the world do you have the most oppressive racism? I think that Israel would have to be one of the top offenders, and this has been confirmed by NGO after NGO. The simple fact of the matter is that if you live in Palestine and you are a Jew, the government treats you one way. If you are an Arab, you are treated entirely differently.

This is not to say that the Kurds of Iraq and Turkey, and the Berbers of Algeria (to name a few) are also not important-- all racism should be discussed. But where in the world do you have people being shot by the army virtually every day? Where do you have a virtual war that is primarily based on race?

The fact of the matter is that like so much else in the UN, any mention of Israel would be vetoed by the United States. No matter what the language, if the truth of the illegal and brutal occupation is brought up, you can bet the US will not be there.

Here's an article I found on Signal Vs. Noise written by Francis A. Boyle, Law Professor at U of Illinios. Definitely a must read if you're interested in the legal aspects of the situation, Mr. Boyle is one of the world's experts in International Law.
posted by cell divide at 10:13 AM on August 28, 2001


The Mideast, save Israel and a few other square meters, is a primitive place of uneducated people.

And yet the Jerry Springer show originates from the U.S.A., land of the free and good, the insufferably self-righteous and culturally intolerant. Three cheers for ParisParamus!
posted by lia at 10:21 AM on August 28, 2001


the U.S.A., land of the free and good, the insufferably self-righteous and culturally intolerant. Three cheers for ParisParamus!

Fine. Let's look at objective measures.

Illiteracy rate (a good measure of ignorance)
Egypt - 49 Iraq - 42 Syria - 29 Iran - 28 Kuwait - 21 Lebanon - 14 Jordan - 13 Israel - 5

Now, let's look at the Male/Female difference in literacy, a good indicator of reactionary idiocy.
Syria - 30 Iraq - 26 Egypt - 25 Jordan - 14 Iran - 13 Lebanon - 9 Kuwait - 7 Israel - 4

Finally, freedom ratings from Freedom House. Not objective but at least disinterested. Ratings from 1-7, lower being better. First is political freedom, second is civil liberties.

Syria - 7/7 Iraq - 7/7 Iran - 6/6 Egypt - 6/5 Lebanon - 6/5 Kuwait - 4/5 Jordan - 4/4 Israel - 1/3

So, to recap:
The Mideast, save Israel and a few other square meters, is a place full of ignorant and reactionary people ruled by predominately tyrannical and opressive governments who some misguided people think should be given a public voice.

Q.E.D.
posted by marknau at 11:59 AM on August 28, 2001


Number of children shot by the Israeli Army this year: 95
Number shot in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon: 0
Number of citizens shot during protests inside Israel this year: 15

However you're right that Israel offers by far the most rights and freedoms, as well as education, in the Middle East. However those freedoms and rights, and to a lesser degree eduction, are only extended to Jewish citizens. While Syria, Iraq, etc. are oppressive as hell, this is a conference on racism.

Also, Israel is a country founded by wealthy Europeans, comparing it to its neighbors is like comparing Apartheid South Africa with the rest of Africa. Yes, White South Africans did have much higher levels of education and freedom. Great.
posted by cell divide at 12:20 PM on August 28, 2001


So you feel an obligation to support our friends, blindly and inevitably, even when they are in the wrong?

I find it interesting that this is the one comment in my post to which you felt like responding. Not a word - in almost 40 posts - about longstanding US opposition to the Zionism=racism argument. Not a single notation of the broad bipartisan support (a policy both Carter and Reagan - two Presidents as different as night and day - agreed on must have something going for it, wouldn't you say?) for said policy.

Instead, you pull this introductory clause out of context and try to beat me over the head with Papa Doc et al. Fine. My answer is yes. We cannot force other countries to do as we wish. We may have believed we could in the past - and may fervently wish we could now - but our national mores are opposed to such conduct today and any suggestion that our leadership has used such tactics is roundly excoriated. As such, we can only attempt to persuade.

Arguments that purport to establish moral equivalence between ourselves and Syria or Iraq because we once supported dictators or pushed Indigenous Americans off their land are nonsense. Our country does indeed have a regrettable history of intolerance and racism. What I see when I look at it today is a country that has rejected that intolerance and strives mightily to correct it. Can you find an equivalent in Iraq? Has Libya suddenly granted women the vote when I wasn't looking (for that matter, do the votes of men even mean anything?)?

We tried very, very hard to use persuasion to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians (Bubba really wanted a Nobel Peace Prize). The result was that the PLO and more radical anti-Israeli factions saw weakness and began a campaign of violence that has resulted in scores of deaths. Barak encouraged this by giving away far too much, far too fast. So, regardless of the broader question, Israel deserves our support because they are not wrong - the Israeli leadership tried to make peace and were rewarded with suicide bombers killing citizens in pizza parlors. You cannot reason with a suicide bomber, you can only try to contain his destruction. Until Arafat - a lifelong terrorist, remember - figures out a way to stop the violence, containment is the only possible solution.
posted by MuadDib at 12:33 PM on August 28, 2001


During the era of apartheid, South Africa was rated a 5/6 in freedom. The rating specifically takes equal treatment into account. This is why Israel has a 3 rating in Civil Liberties and not a 1. 3 is still better than 4 or 7.

I absolutely agree with the idea that the issue of institutional racism in Israel should be addressed, but I also believe the evidence shows:

1) A Palestinian living in Israel is more free and better off than an Arab living in any of her neighbors.
2) Israel's neighbors are predominantly controlled by intolerant tyrants who should not be given any kind of world forum.
posted by marknau at 12:42 PM on August 28, 2001


MuadDib, the myth of Barak's concessions is a central point of your argument. I think you ought to read the article by William Malley (one of the members of the peace team at Camp David) published in the New York Times in July. That and other articles related to the "concession myth" can be found here
posted by cell divide at 12:44 PM on August 28, 2001


By the same standard, Marknau, (and this is the same argument David Horowitz makes in regard to reparations for slavery) an African American is better off than an African in terms of freedom and propserity, so slavery actually wasn't that bad.

But we all know that slavery was an evil, as is apartheid, as is brutal occupation. We should look to correct evils, rather than justify racism because it offers economic benefits and theoretical rights.
posted by cell divide at 12:50 PM on August 28, 2001


Cell Divide, the analogy is a little off.

Slavery in the U.S. is a purely *past* condition, whereas the Israel situation is current.

The proper analogy is that "being an Nth-generation descendant of a slave is not currently so bad." Which I agree with entirely. During the time of slavery, we were not a truly free nation. That has been mostly remedied.

And I re-iterate my support for addressing and correcting evils. But it does no good to overstate the Palestinian case. The presence of Israel is a boon to everyone involved, even though it could be improved still.
posted by marknau at 1:03 PM on August 28, 2001


However you're right that Israel offers by far the most rights and freedoms, as well as education, in the Middle East. However those freedoms and rights, and to a lesser degree eduction, are only extended to Jewish citizens. While Syria, Iraq, etc. are oppressive as hell, this is a conference on racism.

And those countries are *less* racist than Israel? You think Jews and Christians in Syria, Iraq, etc. are treated better than Muslims and Christians in Israel?

Israel has serious problems, but compared to its neighbors, it is a bright shining beacon of freedom and tolerance.
posted by straight at 1:47 PM on August 28, 2001


wait a sec, are we talking racism, or are we talking religions? I'm confused.
posted by jnthnjng at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2001


to my knowledge, religious minorities are actually treated pretty well in syria (relatively speaking, provided they don't try to evangelize), because the Assads are actually in the religious minority. They're Alawites.
posted by jnthnjng at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2001


However those freedoms and rights, and to a lesser degree eduction, are only extended to Jewish citizens.

Less? How so?
posted by ParisParamus at 2:00 PM on August 28, 2001


The myth of Barak's concessions is a central point of your argument.

No, it isn't. And I am not convinced it's a myth, one article in the Times notwithstading. Barak ceded more land and more control than even Rabin thought wise, and did so on an impossibly rapid timetable.

The central point of my argument, still not so much as addressed (much less countered) in all of this, is that the policy of abstaining from attendance at UN Conferences that promlugate the notion that the Israelis are racist is longstanding and has been pursued by Presidents of both parties.

Whether the current troubles can be laid entirely at Barak's feet is not my point. He could have done better - and perhaps would have had Bubba not been pressing him so hard to get to an agreement so he could "create Middle East Peace" during his Misadministration - but the fault certainly lies most squarely on Arafat's shoulders. He has managed to distance himself from the violence in the eyes of the world, but not in reality. If he really wanted peaceful co-existence with the Israeli state, he could tamp down the suicide bombers. That he does not do so suggests that his real goal - eradication of Israel - haven't changed since the 60s. The methods he pursues have had to change since the USSR stopped bankrolling him, but the goal hasn't changed.
posted by MuadDib at 4:20 PM on August 28, 2001


No, it isn't. And I am not convinced it's a myth, one article in the Times notwithstading

The page I pointed you towards has quite a few articles, but the Times one has got to be taken as fairly authoritative, as it was written by one of the participants on the U.S. delagation. Anyway, I see that that was not your original point, I was debating one of your later posts.

I would posit that regardless of what Barak offered, whether it was more than Rabin or more than God himself doesn't really matter-- it was not in accordance with international law and would not have created a viable Palestinian state.

The central point of my argument, still not so much as addressed (much less countered) in all of this, is that the policy of abstaining from attendance at UN Conferences that promlugate the notion that the Israelis are racist is longstanding and has been pursued by Presidents of both parties.

You can't find anyone to counter you because your point is a easily verified fact. What's more interesting is that, from my point of view, this shows the United States has never been interested in taking the Israelis to task for their involvement and culpability in the situation. Indeed, successive presidents have been cowed by the Israeli lobby, easily the strongest on Capitol Hill and beyond, into representing Israeli interests over U.S. interests and international law.

That he does not do so suggests that his real goal - eradication of Israel - haven't changed since the 60s. The methods he pursues have had to change since the USSR stopped bankrolling him, but the goal hasn't changed.

You must believe Arafat to be an incredibly delusional, idiotic man. While I'll make no apologies for him, surely you don't think he thinks there is one chance in a billion that a few homemade mortars and a dozen suicide bombs will 'destroy Israel'.

The 'eradication of Israel' simply isn't an option-- even your most die-hard Hamas terrorist, when really questioned, will admit that. Arafat's single goal since 1979 has been to establish an independent state in the Occupied Territories, a goal that virtually all Palestinians used to subscribe to.

I look at it like this: you can blame Arafat for Palestinian violence, and you can blame Sharon/Barak for Israeli violence, but the real issue is obscured: without Israeli adherence to international law, without Palestinians being given their right of self-determination in a viable state, there will never be peace. In my opinion, it will take international mediation and intervention to make that happen-- neither side has a credible strategy or leader.
posted by cell divide at 4:50 PM on August 28, 2001


If Bush (or at least some talking head) went there and banged his shoe on the table while they were discussing Israel's racist policies in the Middle East, that would instantly improve my regard for him by a huge factor.

Oh, and by the way, Israel has my complete support in its actions in the Palestine... in regard to all the people who say that Israel makes no attempt to restore a peace effort: Sharon is right, Israel has no peace partner, it is fighting organized criminals who must be annihilated before any peace process can begin. Just like in Chechnya: they did it in a very unprofessional way, but they did it right.
posted by azazello at 6:16 PM on August 28, 2001


You can't find anyone to counter you because your point is a easily verified fact. What's more interesting is that, from my point of view, this shows the United States has never been interested in taking the Israelis to task for their involvement and culpability in the situation. Indeed, successive presidents have been cowed by the Israeli lobby, easily the strongest on Capitol Hill and beyond, into representing Israeli interests over U.S. interests and international law.

Fair enough - but by "countered" I meant more that the explicit anti-Bush flavour of the original post was misguided.

I have to disagree that the Israeli lobby is that powerful - domestic lobbies such as the AARP, the NRA, labor unions, and Chambers of Commerce are far, far more influential than the Israelis. No, it matters more that Israel has been our ally since its creation. However, that does not stop us from criticizing them - SecState Powell blasted them just the other day, in fact. Sometimes it seems we criticize Israel more than her enemies, quite frankly. In any event, they are far more likely to abide by our wishes as an ally on whose support they can rely.

As to this conference, well, I studied International Law in law school. It's very different from American law. We pass legislation and, sometimes, have that legislation "interpreted" by the courts (which decisions are binding into the future). International Law is far less interested in judicial precendent than in custom and practice. While the decisions of various courts can be persuasive upon an international court, they are not required to maintain consistency. But, if a country has maintained a practice of doing something, it will be very difficult for that country to argue against the practice and win in an international court.

An example of how this works in the real world (which I promise to relate to the topic at hand momentarily): In the mid-80's Libya declared that the entire Gulf of Sidra to be sovereign Libyan waters. The general rule is that national waters extend 12 miles offshore, but the Gulf is considerably larger than that. Countries have two choices in how to react to such a declaration: 1) implicitly acknowledge it's validity and stay out unless allowed in ny Libyan authorities or 2) explicitly deny its validity and enter those waters at will. If enough countries follow the first choice, custom will eventually cause the Gulf to become Libyan waters. If a significant number deny and enter, Libya will never get the international recognition it needs to enforce the claim.

We and our allies have consistently followed the second course - we fly a plane or sail a ship across Qadhafi's "line of death" into the Gulf of Sidra on a regular basis (and have done so for a decade and a half) precisely so that, should Qadhafi press this claim in an international forum, we can establish that recognition of this asserted sovereignty has never reached the requisite level of custom. Contrary-wise, Hudson Bay is considered Canadian territory even though it does not fit the usual requirements precisely because it had been customarily treated as such for hundreds of years before the international treaty that set the standards was drafted and ratifed.

Turning to the Racism Conference, US policy for 26 years has been to abstain from participation. Yes, going and banging a shoe would have some effect, but not going at all has a larger and more beneficial one in the long run. Geopolitically, by completely refusing to give even the illusion of legitimacy to the proceedings by our presence, we do far more than attending, complaining, and voting 'Nay' could do. By maintaining this stance over the long term, and through successive Administrations, we begin the process of establishing a custom of the kind that international law finds so compelling.

If we break with that custom and attend, the conference establishes more legitimacy and its "findings" can then be used with greater clout in the UN and international courts. Understanding how international law gets made makes the choice to stay home more sensible - sometimes going and talking is an excellent choice, but "talking things out" doesn't always work and other methods are needed. This is just such a case.
posted by MuadDib at 2:49 PM on August 29, 2001


Yes, going and banging a shoe would have some effect, but not going at all has a larger and more beneficial one in the long run. Geopolitically, by completely refusing to give even the illusion of legitimacy to the proceedings by our presence, we do far more than attending, complaining, and voting 'Nay' could do.

Well said, except at last I heard, it wasn't a question of attending or not but what level of administration representative to send.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:57 PM on August 29, 2001


Just like in Chechnya: they did it in a very unprofessional way, but they did it right.

Erm, that war is still going on. So jeez, I think that means they did it wrong.

Also, Chechnya wanted to break away from the former USSR, if I recall correctly.

Israel has been making incursions into territories outside their borders for years. When people do that, generally it's not nice - Saddam Hussein in Kuwait being a recent one.

Violence begets violence. I have zero tolerance for terrorism, but in my opinion Israel should attempt to do the honourable thing and cease fire, and show the Palestinians that they are willing to talk. But as long as Sharon is in power, I don't guess that's gonna happen, right?

I honestly think if Israel keeps going the way it is, there's going to be repercussions in The Hague.

But getting back to the start of this post - the war in Chechnya done right? Gimme a break. The Russian military is so demoralised and so damned broke they couldn't do anything right, even if they wanted to.
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:49 PM on August 29, 2001


Erm, that war is still going on. So jeez, I think that means they did it wrong.

The entire territory of Chechnya is under control by Russian forces, Chechen forces are being cornered and scattered day to day, and there's a much clearer resemblance of lawful state than two years ago when Chechnya was "sovereign". Yes, soldiers still die almost every day, but the resistance is nothing compared to warfare that went on at the end of the first war or beginning of the second (when they started penetrating Dagestan).

I honestly think if Israel keeps going the way it is, there's going to be repercussions in The Hague.

There have been repercussions in the Hague for the past 30 years, on and off, and afaik never in Israel's favor. That hasn't changed Israel's stance much.

But getting back to the start of this post - the war in Chechnya done right? Gimme a break. The Russian military is so demoralised and so damned broke they couldn't do anything right, even if they wanted to.

Then how do you explain the ultimate success of the operation? Chechnya is under Russian control, as opposed to two years ago when it was feeding a growing army of mercenaries and starting to make incursions into neighboring states. The first war was horrible and was indeed done wrong. The second war was _mostly_ an adequate job by the army, except of course for the zachistki (cleanings), where they would routinely kill civilians, sometimes dozens at a time.
posted by azazello at 7:07 PM on August 29, 2001


I just wanted to make a note of the fact that we are not alone in abstaining: Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley will also be "boycotting [the] U.N. conference on racism because it was too anti-Israeli."
posted by MuadDib at 4:36 PM on August 30, 2001


I'd like to mention that the point of "walking out" on the conference is not so that we can go cry in the corner. By walking out, Bush, the Canadians, and Israel are making the statement that the conference is not a serious one. Therefore, they object to its results. Staying to give input to a resolution that you don't intend to follow is pointless.
posted by OG at 4:11 PM on September 3, 2001


How is Zionism racism? What's wrong with trying to repopulate a region of land granted to you by The Powers That Were? Remember, Zionism != Populating the West Bank.

On Chechneya: The Chechans tried to leave Russia and establish an Islamic state. The Chechans suceeded. Then, the new Chechan government decided to "liberate" all of the nearby Russian territories. The Russian army counterattacked (when all you've got is a hammer...), and, surprisingly, managed to crush the Chechan war effort and reclaim the Chechan state (...everything turns into a nail?).

Arguably, they lost the first war (they didn't reclaim anything worth keeping... Chechnya is rubble at this point), but won the second (the "liberation" movement is dead, and everyone is pretty much just trying to avoid turning into the next Afganistan).
posted by Ptrin at 7:57 PM on September 3, 2001


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