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July 24, 2007

Deathly Hallow – Spoiler

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 2:41 pm

Finished it.
It was good but the epilogue was more than a bit sappy and missed out a lot – I’m assuming that this was the bit she wrote years ago and that it was geared towards her younger readers.
It’s the first time I bought one of the books at launch, but it seemed that if I didn’t read it now I would be spoiled, so it was worth the headache.

July 20, 2007

Comment Post on International Law

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 2:29 pm

I left this comment on Conflict Blotter, a blog by journalist Charles Levinson who writes for the Daily Telegraph and is currently in Israel. I link to it because I think that it provides access to a unique resource – on the spot reporting. I won’t comment on his spin either way, just let people make their own minds up.

His comment section however has already attracted the usual characters – the “Muslim Trashing Israel Defender” and the “Western Activist Quoting Directly from Al Awda Website While Portraying It as Original Thought” among others. I included the link, there are a couple of choice comments there that I won’t repeat here but feel free to see.

I always find discussions of “international law” in these forums to be rather amusing.

Without “international government”, “international police”, a fully capable “international justice system” and an “international penal code”, there is simply no such thing.

All you have is a code of conduct, a gentlemans agreement, which means very little if people choose to make it mean little. No-one except the really tiny insignificant countries wants it any different because they want to control their own borders and maintain their sovereign status.

Name me one country in the world willing to subjugate its personal interests and submit to the “worlds” legal interference. One.

The UN is a group of countries. Period. It has the same power as a neighbourhood community association, the same tendancy to gossip and gang up on the guy with the funny colored door, to get ignored by the rich guy with the big house and the barking dog and to have its by-laws changed by the whiner who wants to build swimming pool.

Link here for post

July 18, 2007

Constitutionally Yours.

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 1:57 pm

Flittering through the blogosphere, well the Israeli blogosphere anyway you come across the same old arguments all the time. And fashions in arguments.

The newest trendy one is the “One State” crowd, who list all of the horrible things about Israel – the State – and that it must be immediately disbanded and one state formed that includes Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians in the OC and anyone around the world who self identifies as a Palestinian refugee, where they will all live together in a perfect state of harmony and justice. Just the act of creating this mega state will fix everything.

I’ll stop myself from ranting endlessly at the unmitigated gall of someone to declare that citizens of another sovereign state MUST do anything. I will restrain from stating that the exact same people will call the US arrogant for interfering in Iraq, or Israel arrogant for interfering in internal Palestinian politics (which I would agree with) but show a complete lack of self awareness when making identical arrogant declarations concerning Israeli internal affairs.
I’ll just gently remind them that Iraqis needed to save themselves from Saddam, that the Palestinians need to work out who exactly they are and that Israel is a work in progress.

Anyhoo one of the things brought up is that Israel does not have a constitution and it struck me that the constitution in this case is seen as some magic document that makes everything OK. Have a constitution and all will be well, people will be equal and peace will reign. Is that so? Does the lack of a constitution automatically mean that a country is decrepit, corrupt and abusive to its people?

Well, firstly Israel does not have a CODIFIED constitution. It does however have an UNCODIFIED constitution, brought about by the gradual evolution of laws (and starting with Israels initial declaration of independance). The United Kingdom and New Zealand are exactly the same, so Israel is not unique in the world and the other two countries are hardly despotic regimes.

Secondly, constitutions are really documents stating what the country is, what it believes in and what it will do for its people. The contents of some constitutions are fascinating.

Saudi Arabias constitution has the following:

Article 1:
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution, Arabic is its language and Riyadh is its capital.

Article 5:
a. The system of government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is that of a monarchy.

Article 8: Government Principles
Government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on the premise of justice, consultation, and equality in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah.

Article 26: Human Rights
The state protects human rights in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah.

Article 45:
The source of the deliverance of fatwa in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger. The law will define the composition of the senior ulema body, the administration of scientific research, deliverance of fatwa and it’s (the body of senior ulema’s) functions.

Article 46:
The judiciary is an independent authority. There is no control over judges in the dispensation of their judgements except in the case of the Islamic Shari’ah.

So Saudi Arabia has a constitution that says that the Royal Family and religious institutions can pretty much do whatever they want.

Ireland puts religion first:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

And in Thailand it is good to be the King:

Chapter II
The King
Section 8
The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.
Section 9
The King is a Buddhist and Upholder of religions.
Section 10
The King holds the position of Head of the Thai Armed Forces.
Section 11
The King has the prerogative to create titles and confer decorations.

Of course, a constitution is of no use without separation of powers – without a government to adhere to the law and an independant judiciary to hold them to it.

China is proud to say:

Article 35

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.

Article 36: Religion

1. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.”

Think Tianamen, the Falun Gong and Christians.

Much like the freedom of press offered in Russia which has been happily murdering journalists for years.

And of course we have systems which just ignore inconvenient bits of their constitutions when it feels like it.

Look at the United States – a wonderful document, all men created equal, happiness for all. This is a country which treated the indigenous population of acquired territory as an inconvenience, didn’t give women the vote until relatively recently and declared people of color to be household property. In fact just recently, habeus corpus, the right to see the evidence against the accused and the right to a trial, a concept enshrined in the Magna Carta in 1215 and in the US constitution, the foundation of democracy were summarily put aside.

Never mind. I saved the best for last. Sudan has a wonderful constitution, beautifully worded. I especially like its section on human rights:

20: Freedom and sanctity of life
Every human being shall have the right to life, freedom, safety of person and dignity of honour save by right in accordance with the law; and he is free of subjection to slavery, forced labour, humiliation or torture.

21: Right to equality
All people are equal before the courts of law. Sudanese are and duties as regards to functions of public life; and there shall be no discrimination only by reason of race, sex or religious creed . They are equal in eligibility for public posts and offices not being discriminated on the basis of wealth.

22: Sanctity of nationality
Every person born to a Sudanese mother or father shall have a non-alienable right to enjoy the country’s nationality and its rights and bear its obligations. Whoever is brought up or is resident; in the Sudan for several years shall have the right to nationality as regulated by law.

23: Freedom and right of movement
Every citizen shall have the right of freedom of movement, residence in, exit from and entry into the country; and his freedom shall not be restricted save under safeguards of the law.

24: Freedom of creed and worship
Every human being shall have the right of freedom of conscience and religious creed and he shall have the right to declare his religion or creed, and manifest the same by way of worship, education, practice or performance of rites or ceremonies ; and no one shall be coerced to adopt such faith, as he does not believe in, nor to practice rites or services he does not voluntarily consent to ; and that is without prejudice to the right of choice of religion, injury to the feelings of others, or to public order, all as may be regulated by law.

25: Freedom of thought and expression
There shall be guaranteed for citizens the freedom of pursuing any science or adopting any doctrine of opinion or thought without coercion by authority; and there shall be guaranteed the freedom of expression, reception of information publication and the press without prejudice security, order, safety and public morals, all as regulated by law.

26: Freedom of association and organization
1. Citizens shall have the right of association-and organization for cultural social, economic, professional or trade union purposes without restriction save in accordance with the law.

2. There shall be guaranteed for citizens the right to organize political association ; and shall not be restricted save by the condition of consultative decision making and democracy in the leadership of the organization , and use of propagation not material force in competition and abiding by the fundamentals of the Constitution, that as regulated by law.

27: Sanctity of cultural communities
There shall be guaranteed for every community or group of citizens the right to preserve their particular culture, language or religion, and rear children freely within the framework of their particularity, and the same shall not by coercion be effaced.

28: Sanctity of earning and property
(1) Every person shall have his right to acquire property and knowledge, and shall enjoy the privacy of his earning and there shall be no expropriation of whatever he has gained of livelihood property, land, invention, or manual scientific, literary or artistic production save by such law as may charge him with the tax of contribution for public need or public interest in consideration of just compensation. No taxes, fees or other fiscal dues .shall be levied save by law.

Don’t you think the people of Darfur are happy to have these kind of protections?

A constitution? A great thing. But without a willing government, without an independant judiciary, absolutely worthless.

Could Israel use a codified constitution? Probably, I’d like to see one, I’d certainly like to be part of the debate to ensure that it offers equality and a solid base of laws. However in the meantime Israel has a solid judiciary, minorities can and have taken the government to court when they feel let down by the law, and they have won, setting precedents that can stand for many years to come. And that is more important than a
codified piece of paper.

So don’t give me that crap about Israel doesn’t have a constitution and therefore is the root of all evil.

Details of each countries constitution can be found here.

Us Anglos Have it Wrong

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 10:25 am

About bourekas I mean.

I get told off constantly. It is not boureka/bourekas. It is one BoureKAS and two BourekaSIM. Or if you want to Anglicize the plural BourekI (Cacti, Hippapotomi, Octopi).

Winging its way

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 10:21 am

The final Harry Potter book should be winging its way to me now from Amazon. I pre ordered it so it will arrive here on the 21st, the only time I have not just bought the book on the fly.
Currently rushing through the last two books (quarter way through the Half Prince) so that I am fresh and up to date when I start on the last one. Just hope I can get enough peace to hunker down to read it.

July 13, 2007

Communication in times of War.

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 1:29 pm

During the war between Israel and Lebanon last year there was a virtual explosion in blog traffic between Israeli and Lebanese bloggers. Real time discussions ensued between civilians of two warring parties, previously strangers, in full view of everyone for maybe the first time ever. Sometimes supportive, sometimes abusive these communications provided a window into the psyche of civilians in war – the anger, the fear, the need for validation and sheer curiousity about what was going on on the other “side”.

This communication had its detractors. One of the more compelling arguments was that war is ugly, if sometimes necessary and that demonization of the other party was an absolute necessity in order to steel the population and the troops to make the sacrifices required for victory. Examples were given of the way in which the Japanese and Germans were portrayed during WWII, and how the Vietnamese were portrayed during that protracted engagement. “Charlie” (Vietnamese), “Japs” or “Nips” (Japanese), “Krauts” (Germans), were all terms utilized to make it easier for troops to kill and the general public to sign off on it. Thinking about how your opponent was just some guy with a wife and kids and a garden at home was something to be done at a later date.

A fair point.

However the argument leaves out several other considerations. For starters, communication is a two way street. Just as “the enemy” is being humanized to us, so we are being humanized to them. Is weakened resolve OK if matched by weakened resolve on behalf of your opponent? Can general communication between the two parties lower tensions and shorten the duration of the war? Can it increase the possibility of a negotiated end? Is a negotiated end a positive or is the military domination of one side leading to capitulation of the other side a better option? These questions have not been examined, never mind answered.
Another important consideration is that a countries leaders are bound to carry out the will of that countries population. Those leaders communicate with their counterparts. They meet with them, look them in the eye. How can a nations leaders and population mesh in will if their experiences are so vastly different? What happened to that old adage “Know thy Enemy?”.
And finally what if the state of war is in fact perpetuated by that lack of communication? What if the war is not an event with beginning, middle and end but a permanent state of mind, brought about by myths, misinformation and manipulation?

I bring this up because Israel and Lebanon have been in a state of semi-war for almost 60 years, since the armistice of 1949. I say semi-war because Israel and Lebanon as a state have not actually gone to war, pitting army against army. Israels actions on Lebanese soil have been against Palestinian paramilitaries and later Hezbollah. However, although the two nations armies have never done battle, they are not at peace. Not surprising as Israel blames Lebanon for harbouring armed groups which threaten and attack it, and Lebanon blames Israel for the destruction wrought every time Israel goes to war with those groups.

Lebanese citizens are prohibited by their government from travelling to Israel and Lebanon does not allow Israelis to visit their country. Outside of the members of the Israel supported South Lebanese Army who crossed the border frequently and some of whom worked in Israel, the only experience the Lebanese have of Israelis is as soldiers. The only experience the Israelis have of the Lebanese is as civilians during conflict. There are no Lebanese reporters in Israel and no Israeli reporters in Lebanon. The countries share a border, but not information. Each countries view of the other is colored by propaganda.

Why the long monologue. Because finally an Israeli reporter made it to Beirut. And not one but two, albeit travelling on foreign passports.
Rinat Travelled as correspondant for the Brazilian news outlet O Globo. Luckily Yediot Achronot commissioned her to tell her story and they translated it in English, with video for Ynet. Rinat travelled not only to Beirut, but to South Lebanon to survey the damage done there after last years war and what the status is now (video). This is a dangerous undertaking.

The word Israel must not be mentioned in Lebanon. I even cut the labels off my clothes, to make sure that not even one letter in Hebrew will accidentally be seen. In order to visit the villages in the south an approval from Hizbullah must be obtained.

“Where are you from?” I was asked by an organization member, and I, who made aliyah to Israel several years ago, was praying that he wouldn’t notice how hard my legs were trembling.

She visited Cana and Beit Jbril among other places, Hezbollah strongholds badly hit last year.

At the same time Lisa went to Beirut. Lisa’s blog “On the Face” was one of the first Israeli blogs where communication began between Israelis and Lebanese, and Lisa had met with a couple of Lebanese on surruptitious visits to Tel Aviv, so she had contacts in Beirut. This was the basis for the first of several articles for Pajamas media.

Beirut is a secular, modern and Western-oriented city populated largely by people whose style of dress is indistinguishable from that of the trendy residents of Tel Aviv.
There were beautiful, elegantly dressed people on the streets, the atmosphere was secular, western and modern. All in all, Beirut really reminded me of Tel Aviv – with its fashionable people, cafes and beach culture. I didn’t see any damage caused by last summer’s war, although a very noticeable percentage of the buildings were still heavily scarred by the shrapnel and bullet holes left from the 1975 – 1990 civil war.
It was impossible to ignore the political tension in Beirut, though. There were army checkpoints everywhere, even in the quietest neighborhoods, and soldiers often stopped people who looked suspicious, checked their ID cards and the contents of their bags. On several occasions I was asked to stop taking photographs, even though I was using a simple digital camera to photograph innocuous street life scenes in residential areas.

On her return to Tel Aviv, Channel 10 news got wind of her travels and promptly sent her back in order to send a report from Beirut to Tel Aviv, garnering huge interest, not least from Hezollah which promptly accused her of being a spy.

Anyway, one hour after my report was broadcast on Channel 10, Al Manar, the Hezbollah television station in Lebanon, broadcast its own interpretation of my trip to Beirut on its 9 p.m. news broadcast. And man, were they angry. Apparently, a Zionist agent penetrated security at Rafic Hariri Airport! God knows what I really did in Beirut, because there’s no way I just went to do an innocent human-interest story about the mood on the streets of Beirut, one year after the war. Imagine! A possible Mossad agent walked around Beirut with a camera in her hands and no-one stopped her! (for heaven’s sake).

Her account also includes a link to a round up of Lebanese reactions to her visit, some of them positive. Well worth a read.

Unfortunately, the nature of journalism, that a story is there to tell, means that there is zero chance of either Rinat or Lisa being able to travel back before there is a serious thawing of relations between the two countries.

However, hopefully, the idea might start to sink in that getting to know something about the other side might not be a bad idea. It might be a window of opportunity to convince major news outlets on either side to pressure their governments to allow journalists to travel “over there”.

I certainly hope so.

July 10, 2007

DOJ Critic

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 2:05 pm

The Denver Post is running an opinion piece written by an attorney with the Department of Justice who it seems is not well pleased with his employers performance over the past 6 years. The article goes on to rail against the government handling of Iraq, Katrina and much more so his politics are pretty much out there, but still, it must take a lot of frustration to put your job on the line like that. It seems that the Scooter Libby commutation was the straw that broke the camels back. And no, the Marc Rich pardon does not excuse the Bush administrations shoddy handling of this affair. Sorry, you want to claim that the “adults” are running the show, then they had better behave like adults and take responsibility for their own behaviour.

“Bush justice is a national disgrace
By John S. Koppel
Article Last Updated: 07/05/2007 11:48:30 PM MDT

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.
The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

….This is neither normal government conduct nor “politics as usual,” but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate – which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.”

“John S. Koppel has been a civil appellate attorney with the Department of Justice since 1981.”

“Happy Feet” sucks.

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 1:54 pm

Just sucks. It’s a hot day, the kids are bored and I rented something to keep them occupied indoors and this movie sucks. Who gave this thing the Oscar over Cars?

Palestinian Bubble

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 12:12 am

Tel Aviv is regularly described by Israelis as “the bubble”. It is a town of restaurants, theaters, the beach. It is a town that celebrates its diversity and its ability to thrive no matter what the political situation. Accused of paying no attention to the rest of the country as they go their own merry way, it is a common complaint that in Tel Aviv they are enjoying lattes while Sderot is being bombed. It can appear almost schizophrenic that so many people can get on with enjoying life while Israel the country constantly appears to be in crisis.

So it was fascinating to read an article clearly highlighting the fact that the Palestinians also have their ownbubble. It makes things feel a little more balanced. And for those of us who live where it is normal to drive 50 miles to go out for dinner, unbelievable to think that all of these worlds are less than an hour apart.

“RAMALLAH, West Bank – Mohammed Kilani, a computer technician, hits the gym every other day to swim laps and lift weights. Umm Hussein, whose husband sells BMWs, takes her kids to the mall to shop, eat in the food court and play video games.

Despite the crippling poverty and frequent violence in the Palestinian territories, the city of Ramallah, the unofficial capital of the West Bank, holds out as an island of middle class existence.

While armed militias rule the streets of Nablus, and Gazans largely survive on U.N. food handouts, residents of Ramallah take yoga and Salsa dance classes or sip cappuccinos and beer in mixed groups — behavior that could get them killed 10 miles away.”

“We’re under occupation,” said Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah. “It’s just a five-star occupation.””

July 9, 2007

Al Aqsa and the High School finals

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 11:57 pm

If you dig through the files of AP or Reuters, it seems that lots of stories are out there that don’t make it to the traditional Main Street Media. It is a shame, because there is so much information out there that provides a much richer picture of life in Israel and the Territories, both the good and the bad.

This story about high school finals in Nablus was interesting, a rather unique way to gain an advantage in a test.

“NABLUS, West Bank – Two dozen gunmen shooting in the air disrupted high school final exams in this West Bank city on Saturday after education officials rejected their demand to be allowed to take the tests in a separate room.

The gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent offshoot of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, insisted on taking the test in a separate room, citing security concerns. Many of the armed men are wanted by Israel.

Education officials had refused to grant them special treatment, apparently fearing widespread cheating if the gunmen were allowed to take the exams separately. The gunmen forced some 550 students in two rooms to delay their tests for several hours.

In the end, the gunmen agreed to take the finals along with the other students. However, there appeared to be cheating; some used cell phones and books in the tests which are usually strictly monitored.”

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