Archive for Eanáir, 2009

Dear Mr. Dreher, a few notes on Gaza

Eanáir 19, 2009

Dear Mr. Dreher,

I know that sometimes people who write letters to public figures tend only to do so when they have something negative to say, so I first want you to know how much I have appreciated your words, ideas and attitudes in various forums.

Your ideas, together with those of others of the “non-establishment” conservatives in the US (such as those at The American Conservative Magazine) have given me great inspiration and even hope. I come from a decidedly left-wing and Democratic Party background, but have learned to really appreciate and respect thoughts such as yours. I’ve also come to be increasingly fed up with much ultra-liberal political correctness and intolerance for genuine diversity of thought.

I’ve also come to feel great sympathy for many sincere and thoughtful conservatives such as yourself, who have taken a battering under the Bush regime’s reinvention of conservatism – and yet to their credit who have stood up for their ideals, and for their country.

Now that I’ve gotten the good stuff out of the way, unfortunately I’m going to be a bit critical – specifically over your attitude on Gaza.

Recently you basically blamed everything happening there on Hamas – evil over-religious bastards, I think you referred to them as, and in reference to a man who was happy about martyrdom:

“That last paragraph is not the only thing you need to know about why what’s happening in Gaza is happening. But it’s the main thing”

With respect to you, sir, no it isn’t. What’s happening in Gaza is that it is

“probably no more than half the size of Kerry. It is one of the most populated places on earth. There are 1.5 million people in this tiny space. This means there is nowhere to hide. Dropping leaflets to tell people to leave is meaningless. There is nowhere else to go. It is so built up that collateral damage is inevitable from any bomb which is dropped. ”
(address by Address given by Cardinal Seán Brady, 13 January, 2009, Primate of all Ireland to the priests and people of the Diocese of Kerry)

You probably don’t know, but when the Civil Rights movement (substantial leadership of which was protestant) was at its height in the North of Ireland in the late ’60’s, the remnants of the Irish Republican Army left over from partition decades earlier, was sometimes satirised as “I Ran Away” because of their ineffectiveness at protecting Catholics, Irish Republicans & Nationalists or Civil Rights activists. I once heard it directly from a reliable source, that they had about 95 guns between them back then (in a book issued contemporaneously, it was listed at about 75). These were most likely old-fashioned WWI, WWII and farmers rifles and so on. He reckoned they would have needed about 2,000 to maintain an effective defence for the two-week height of the pogroms.

And when the pogroms did reach their heights, and when the Civil Rights marchers were gunned down by the soldiers supposedly sent to bring order, and when British ministers lied about it in parliament, there were queues of young men lining up in housing estates, to join the IRA. The British, through their policy of refusing to grant Irish people the same basic rights as British subjects, and by adopting a tactic of criminalisation, mass internment, and a strategy of physical force conquest, effectively created the IRA and their quarter of a century armed struggle, which led to the loss of lives (by all sides, not just the IRA) of over 3,000 people.

There are over 900 people dead in Gaza so far, 4,000 wounded, and my understanding is that 40% of the casualties are children. How many young men, do you think, are lining up to join peace marches right now?

How many Israelis are even willing to contemplate equal Civil Rights for the people who inhabited the land before they arrived from Europe and America, but who are now forcibly interned in the huge open-air concentration camp that is the Gaza strip? I suppose a two-state solution could have worked for South Africa too, but to say that nowadays tends to brand one a racist.

One of the things which shocked me was how intimidating the roar of a fighter jet can be. I had never heard it before. It is terrifying, especially when you have no idea whether it is going to fire a rocket or what it is targeting. The people of Gaza live with this fear constantly, every day. They are not allowed in or out of this small strip of land, except for a handful of people let out for the most exceptional of reasons. Over 80% of the people are fed each day by International Relief Agencies. Only 15% of people have any kind of full time paid work. It is difficult to exaggerate the sense of isolation and the level of destruction which surrounds you in Gaza. What is happening there is appalling and we should all pray that the current military offensive by Israel as well as the attacks by Hamas on Israelis will stop immediately.

Was this really about the 13 poor unfortunate Israelis (or is it 14 – notice how we count the individuals precisely when they seem more like us) who died in this recent border conflict – 4 of whom died in “friendly fire” – or is this about the classic response of politicians to create crises of violence in periods approaching elections as a way of unifying a population and quelling dissent? The Israeli elections were indeed coming up, and do you think that Hamas’ membership rolls are actually suffering from this?

It is a very sobering thought that in the land of our Lord’s life, death and resurrection, the Christian community has gone from approximately 25% of the population there thirty years ago to less than 2% today.
(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)

Think that this is mainly because of Muslim antagonism or “dhimmitude”? Please consider this:

But the most powerful memory I have is of the day I travelled with the Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah to Gaza city. I was met by there by the Parish Priest, Fr Manuel Musallam. He has worked in Gaza for almost twenty years. Although his elderly mother only lives forty miles away he had not been able to visit her for several years. The very strict visa conditions mean that he couldn’t leave Gaza for fear the Israelis would not allow any priest to return.

His parish is made up of only 200 Catholics but it runs one of the largest schools in Gaza – the Holy Family primary school and high school. Almost all the pupils at the school are Muslim.

On the day I visited they were having the high school graduation. Hundreds of parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters had gathered to celebrate the success of the young graduates. The young people themselves put on a magnificent display of music and dancing. It went on for over an hour. It was one of the most joyful things I have ever seen. They also put on a play based on the story of the prodigal son.

This play was written especially for the occasion by Fr Musallam. It was very moving. People became very emotional at the dramatic scenes of the young son leaving his mother and father for a distant land. I think it touched on their constant fear of losing a loved one as well as their frustration as parents for the dreams of their young sons and daughters. Fr Musallam had written the play to emphasise the need for reconciliation
of brother with brother – a clear reference to the relationship between Hamas and Fatah and between Israeli and Palestinian. I don’t think anyone missed the point he was trying to make.

I tell you all of this because I was very inspired by this courageous, generous and hard working Catholic priest. He brings dignity and hope
to a community in despair. He is a reconciler and a peace maker. He is a builder of community. He is accepted and respected by the Muslim community because of his transparent goodness and his unquestionable commitment to people around him – whatever their religious or political background. His concern is to help the young people in his school to discover their dignity and to reach for their dreams. His work is focused on helping people to build up solidarity and community with one another and to be reconciled with their historic enemy. He is, as every Christian should be, an oasis of hope in a desert of despair.

(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)

This conflict primarily solidifies the hold certain sections of the Israeli political class and their sympathisers abroad, who believe that a young Israeli soldiers life is worth risking on guarding herds of goats of the so-called “settlers”, who are illegally stealing land which is the recognised private property of Palestinians. It benefits the Western World’s – and America’s – equivalent of the French Algerian Ultras, who claim to be upholding the best of Western Civilisation, while practicing the worst of that civilisation’s habits when dealing with the native “outsiders” who have the unforgiveable gall to have always been born there.

Israel, from being a land of idealistic kibbutzim and a light to the nations, is being reduced to an exurb of the West in the Middle East; the national equivalent of a wealthy Latin American fraccionamiento, with its patrolling armed guards and checkpoints, its family members and shopping trips in “the States”, its neighbourhood air-raid siren to warn of armed attacks by thieves and kidnapping gangs. The crumbling and emptying buildings of the advance capital Tel Aviv betray the massive military, economic and political subventions necessary for the exercise in moral, social and economic unsustainability that is the Orwellian-dubbed “settler” hydra of colonial exurbs; dividing and conquering private Palestinian lands and their balkanised communities resulting. Judaism, from being the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit and the beating heart of moral consciousness in the Bride of God, is thus reduced to a bumper-sticker ideology for land-grabbing and physical conquest.

I’m not belittling Jewish suffering and their desire for a land of their own, and freedom in 1948. The Irish in 1848 were fleeing a horrific man-made famine, surviving brutality and the coffin ships, for land and freedom too. A man named O’Sullivan first wrote about “Manifest Destiny”, and a grand narrative justifying the brutal dispossession of the native tribes, and the onward march to the West. That we can empathise, does not remove the right and the duty to be critical.

This is not just about Jews and Muslims. This is about Adam, the eternal man, and his fall. When Cain killed Able, in a sense he too became the first man – the first animal to kill by choice, no longer a mere animal. In every generation on earth, we all live this same shifting moment – the possibility of this same moral choice and its consequences – forever. We should not let our moral compass be reduced to a pinball machine in which our opinions, reactions and emotions are bounced around by other people’s fixed talking points.

Are Christians to be reduced to mere political utility-maximisers and military couch-quarterbacks? Have we no insight to give to the children of the disposessed in the Land of our Lord, those who are forced to relocate and be numbered and allocated; those who are collectively crucified by an advanced, cosmopolitan power – thief, zealot, and innocent alike?

Tragically, one of first people to be killed in the current Israeli action in Gaza was a young girl called Christine. She was fourteen and a member of the Holy Family Parish, one of the few Christian children living in Gaza. In the words of Fr Musallam, she died ‘due to the severe shock she had from the bombing around her house.’ Just think about that for a moment. A fourteen year old girl dying from pure fear and shock! Just think about the images we have seen of Israeli and Palestinian children crouching in fear to shield themselves from missiles and bullets.

(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)

Have we nothing to say to our elder brethren in reproach (Don’t forget, that Hannukah itself celebrates a national liberation story of the native Maccabees against the globalist Greeks and their local apologists.)? Is their grand vision to be reduced to a Walt Disney World rollercoaster ride of American Christian fundamentalists, who want to play cowboys and indians in Jesusland before the rapture?

Is that it? Is that all we have?

Thank you for your time, take care and God Bless…

it is worth remembering that the Gospels tell a story of the closest friends of Jesus who found it practically impossible to open their minds to the possibility that God was present in Jesus. It was more a question of opening their imagination. Imagination is the place where faith blossoms into living truth. As Newman says, “The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason but through the
imagination”. This is worth remembering as we face into the future.

(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)</blockquote

There can be no peace unless people believe in peace. There can be no security unless there is security for all. There can be no justice unless there is justice for everyone in this land. Faith gives us hope that justice, peace and forgiveness are possible

(Communique of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in support of the Church in the Holy Land Bethlehem – Jerusalem)


Irelands Cost of Living vs. the US, vs. the Euro v

Eanáir 19, 2009

Responding to a post by Rob Dreher (Mr. Crunchy Con) about “Europe’s Economic Agony“:

On January 14, Bloxhams – an Irish stockbroking firm – pointed out:
“The weakness of Euro membership for Ireland is highlighted into today’s Lex column.
With the UK doing what is needed to adjust to the new economic reality and devaluing its currency, Ireland is unable to devalue its currency to restore competitiveness. Therefore Lex points out that wages in Ireland will need to fall, something which is exceptionally difficult to achieve. While the Euro zone has provided us with the buffer of a central banking guarantee, the downside pain is in a loss of competitiveness against our nearest neighbour, the UK.”

I would like to point out, however, that at least in places like Ireland universal health care is an accepted part of the national infrastructure (like roads, police etc.) – not a right-wing ooga-booga talking point and socialist plot for world domination.

Consequently, the personal cost of living and financial security – in some respects – is far less than in the US.

James Howard Kunstler: We’re all antisemites now

Eanáir 15, 2009

A brief exchange with James Howard Kunstler, Peak Oil expert and foe of suburbia; following his rather extraordinary recent post in which he basically claims that:

1) Israel – a country with 200 nuclear warheads – is engaging  in existential self-defense by bombing what is essentially a huge concentration camp of its own making (an area half the size of County Kerry, containing 1,500,000 people), destroying its physical infrastructure and civil institutions, killing 900 people, wounding 4,000, 40% of all which casuaties are children, because

a) Some Palestinians believe the state that created the Ghetto they now live in, is illegitimate and ought to be removed by violence if necessary;

b) Approximately 14 Israelis have died, 4 of whom shot each other by mistake, as the result of over-the-fence bazooka attacks from inside the Ghetto;

2) Despite his own writing style being deliberately caustic, provocative, and outrageous – but because he has been verbally and nastily attacked online:

a) Essentially, all critics of Israeli policy are either American crypto-nazis or American Left-wing traitors to western civilisation, in addition to which;

b) Those Gazan kids deserve whatever they get, and it’s all very pragmatic and simple.

Dear Mr. Kunstler,

I sympathise with your response to any anti-Jewish nonsense that you have been subjected to (I don’t actually want to read the garbage, I take your word for it), however you should know that rational critics of Israeli policy get the same sort of hysterical prose – check out the comments Phillip Weiss gets. May I also please remind you that Arabs are a semitic people too, and that the charge of anti-semitism can equally apply to anyone who would so casually and flippantly dismiss the suffering in Gaza as you seem to have done in your recent article.

I’m also a little fed up with otherwise intelligent American-based commentators, assuming that the peculiar cultural manifestations of their parochial left-right pathologies are somehow of universal application to all intellectual discussion on any topic worldwide (I’m not a big fan of HuffingtonPost either). I couldn’t care less about the hang-ups of rightwing fruitloops or the hypocricies of American leftwing academics, for example, when discussing the morality of what is happening in the Gaza strip, because they are and ought to be of no consequence to a rational consideration of presumptive fundamental decency – none. Unless, that is, one’s moral compass is merely some sort of emotional pinball machine that simply bounces around in reaction to other people’s fixed talking points.

The Irish, like the Israeli’s, also gained their (three quarters) independence from Britain by blowing stuff up on the fly. The Zionists even called one of their operations after Michael Collins, since he invented modern urban guerilla warfare. So I’m not innately hostile to the Israeli project (there is also a forestry plantation in northwestern Ireland named after its late sponsor, an Irish American lawyer – who with his Jewish law colleagues, smuggled guns to the early Israelis).

Gosh darn it though, I have this thing about how these other people were also dispossessed of their own homes, much as the Indians were in the US, and the Irish were in their own country – and the Jews were throughout history. This doesn’t make me a hypocrite, it makes me consistent. And I don’t see how the deaths of 13 Israelis (four killed in “friendly fire”) – may God have mercy on them – really justifies the deaths of 900 Palestinians, with 4,000 wounded, and about 40% of all of them children, inside a giant open-air concentration camp.

I have followed your weekly writings eagerly for sometime – often the highlight of my week, intellectually. It doesn’t bother me that you are cantankerous, or bitchy, or over the top. It does bother me however, that an otherwise smart person could so childishly take personal umbrage at what some obvious idiots had written, that you would callously and unthinkingly condemn an entire, unrelated, imprisoned population to such barbaric conditions.

They didn’t ask to get their homeland invaded, and you’d probably be pretty pissed off too if you were confined to a ghetto on the outskirts of your own homeland. I understand that the Jews in 1948 were a desperate people, much like the Irish immigrants in the US circa 1848 – and after the man-made famine, the brutality, and the coffin ships, how could we blame desperate immigrants for signing up to Manifest Destiny (a concept courtesy of one Mr. O’Sullivan) in their new homeland, if it meant land and freedom – even if this meant the brutal dispossession and ghettoisation of the native tribes? I don’t blame desperate Jews for essentially signing up to a Zionist Manifest Destiny either. But we are still faced with the issue of this land’s dispossessed native people, also ghettoised, and barbarised, in the here and now as a result. Irish patriots also fought with the Boers against the British for South African independence in the nineteenth century. This does not mean that we were dishonourable in recognising the immorality of apartheid later.

Israel is essentially a delayed nineteenth century pan-ethnic/religious nationalist european project, much like the other nationalist projects of the time – pan-slavism, Irish nationalism, the Boer war etc. It’s tragedy is that it has had the contradictions of european polity vs. dispossession of non-european natives telescoped into two decades rather than two centuries, right after experiencing the horror of it’s own people’s near annihilation. It is also, now, the French Algeria of the Western World – the West here primarily being its main material sponsor and political fountainhead, the United States. Much like the French Algerian Ultras, it is claiming to be upholding the best of Western Civilisation while engaging in the worst aspects of that civilisation’s practice against outsiders (the so-called outsiders actually being natives); and like the Ultras, also yelling betrayal and infamy at any dissent in the mother country.

You often declaim against exurbs and suburbs and Las Vegas; but doesn’t it occur to you that Israel itself is the ultimate Western exurb in the Middle East? A national counterpart to the wealthy fraccionamientos of Latin America: with their armed guards, shopping trips to – and kids in college in – “the States”; ever higher electrified barbed wire fences against the poverty outside; and the neighbourhood air-raid siren to alert of armed attacks by thieves and kidnappers? Don’t the crumbling, empty buildings of the Tel Aviv advance capital give you pause for concern? If you genuinely care about the fate of the Zionist project, shouldn’t you be concerned about its near total reliance on massive subventions – military, political and economic – from it’s American sponsor and european watershed? The massive influx of ex-Soviet immigrants, unenculturated by Western norms of liberal democracy or even the ideals of the early Zionist project? The proto-fascist fanatics who insist on the continued theft of private Palestinian land, the humiliation and subjugation of it’s people – and the Orwellian use of “settler” as though this private property was empty? The Israeli soldiers who risk their lives to guard goatherds, and exurbs with no economic or social reason for existence other than pure colonisation? How can you condemn the wasteful yet peaceful “Inland Empire” of the US and not see the parallel with the colonial exurbs – by gunpoint – of Israel?

Can you please form and articulate your own, independent and intelligent analysis of Israel – pro or con – that does not simply rely on reacting to what other people say, and without the casual, Stalinist airbrushing of its native population from the pages of history? You can do far, far better than by simply stooping to the childish tone of your most idiotic attackers. Please do.


May I also please remind you that Arabs are a semitic people too, and that the charge of anti-semitism can equally apply to anyone who would so casually and flippantly dismiss the suffering in Gaza as you seem to have done in your recent article.

That’s too fine a distinction.
The Palestinians have declared that the destruction of Israel is their official policy.
They need to change their policy.

James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”

Mr. Kunstler,

I’m sorry you didn’t seem to get past the first paragraph; and the “Palestinians” (and the 40% casualties who are children) are not Hamas, or the rocket firers, just like the Israeli militarists and expansionists are not all Jews. And it is anti-semitic – or how about just inhumane – to assume otherwise.