Archive for the ‘Letters’ Category
Many thanks to the Editorial Board at the International Herald Tribune for publishing a letter of mine on the Jan 9, 2009 printed paper, under the headline “When governments fail” (a modified version of yesterday’s blog “Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?“):
David Brooks’s analysis (“The confidence war,” Views, Dec. 7) is missing the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian Authority and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.
This has been true especially in the last decade or so. One side casually bombs crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical apologetic press releases afterward. The other side sends youths on suicide missions or unleashes them armed with stones to throw at armored tanks – while proclaiming that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists.”
As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local governments are clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that with the way things are going, we can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.
I’ll expand briefly upon that to argue why Israel is not the actual problem for the Palestinians, at the moment.
True, most of the actions undertaken during the latest conflict situation by the Jerusalem Government are at the edge or beyond the very limits of International Law and War Law. It also does look especially fishy how the Gaza invasion coincides with upcoming Israeli elections…one of the luckily few occasions where a democracy makes liberal use of somebody else’s blood for a few votes more.
But that’s less important to Palestinians than the gigantic failure of their leadership(s) to do anything positive on their behalf.
Like it or not, when there is a war one side usually shows little interest in protecting the other side’s civilian lives (it depends on the war, and on the propaganda, but the overall trend is alas towards more civilian deaths). However deplorable, if Azerbaijan declares war against Armenia (just an example) it goes without saying that Azerbaijanis will rather kill Armenians, and Armenians Azerbaijanis.
Usually, that is accompanied by each side trying as much as possible to protect its own: therefore Azerbaijan will do its best to defend Azerbaijanis, and Armenia Armenians. Sometimes that doesn’t actually work out as proclaimed (see Russian botched kidnap rescue attempts) but one can assume that at least the intention is always there.
That is not what happens for Palestinians. They must be the only people on Earth deliberately put in harm’s way by their own leaders. I am sure that even the incredibly locked-up Burmese junta, and the paranoid hermit North Korean state-wide prison, would try to lower casualties among their own citizens in case of war much, much better than Hamas (or Fatah for that matters) have ever managed even to imagine, let alone do.
In fact, just like in Communist states of old (USSR famine in the 1930’s, China famine in the 1950’s), in the world as seen by Hamas people are not people, but pawns to use for a higher ideological purpose (namely, the destruction of Israel). Horribly, a dead Palestinian child becomes more useful to them than a live Palestinian child, as it does make Israel look an abominable entity that doesn’t deserve to seat among Nations.
Whatever Israel has done or is doing, things don’t have to be the way they are. Resistance is a natural reaction to occupation, but suicide (or worse: making sure some of yours get killed for your political advantage) is not.
As suggested in the blog and the letter to the IHT, we would go a long way towards improving the Palestinians’ situation if only we could protect the people from Hamas (and from Fatah).
Now of course one would have to understand what brought Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to a situation that is perhaps worse than Somalia’s and definitely makes Haiti looks like Heaven on Earth. One would not do wrong by considering the issue of politicide by Israel, but that is as relevant to today’s situation as reconsidering the opportunity of wearing warm clothes in a snowstorm is to somebody that has already caught pneumonia.
(letter sent to the IHT)
Zoe Bray and Andrea Calderaro of the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy, describe the Italian Government’s planned funding cuts as an “assault on an already fragile education system“ (Letters, IHT, Dec 12).
Perhaps so. But one wonders why “people [brought] together from all walks of Italian life” protesting against those cuts, have been (and still are!) so acquiescent to the one issue that hobbles every single University in Italy: namely, the incredible and totally unrestrained domination by the “Professori Ordinari”, the tenured professors that literally hold the power of academic life and death (and more).
For decades now, there have been plenty of Professori Ordinari in the Italian Parliament, and in successive Governments from all sides. Still, as Bray and Calderaro correctly point out, the education system has been based “in large part [on] the voluntary work of researchers“. Furthermore, nepotism abounds.
Funding cuts or not, the status quo is evidently untenable. Rather than sterile protests against a Government that is more or less obliged to restructure the infamous Italian public accounts, one would hope those working and studying in Universities could take advantage of the current crisis, and force the tenured professors to give an account of their flawed stewardship.
The London Review of Books has kindly allocated some space in the Letters section of the latest issue to my letter on the (mis)treatment of Turkey by Perry Anderson, Professor at UCLA.
One important addendum, as my original text has been energetically and mercilessly shortened: at the end of the letter, when it says
“the left, the Kurds and the Alevis are precisely the factors impeding Turkey’s ‘accession process’”
it should actually read as
“according to Anderson, the left, the Kurds and the Alevis are precisely the factors impeding Turkey’s ‘accession process’”
and these Anderson’s articles I am referring to in my letter:
It may be good news to see that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives preoccupies himself with human rights nowadays, just as global warming threatens the islands he has governed for 30 years (“With millions under threat, inaction is unethical“, IHT, Sep 9).
Some people will call his new worry a tad unethical and hypocritical, with him having won six elections as sole Presidential candidate and now trying to get re-elected for a seventh time.
But who knows? Perhaps President Gayoom will reconsider his priorities, and devote himself full time on solving the global warming issue: finally freeing up his people to choose their new, democratic leader. Ah, and to express their opinions unafraid of the State’s repressive policing.
Dear Editors of the IHT
It is commendable for William Falk to take upon himself the task of updating the wide world of what has been happening whilst Democrats and Republicans cavorted at their respective national political conventions (”The two weeks you missed”, IHT, Sep 8). However, it would have been even more commendable had Mr Falk checked all his “facts”: otherwise, rather than a news update, his effort will be just another act of disinformation.
1- “Hezbollah…has a new base of operations in the Americas: Venezuela” – really? This has been an ongoing accusation for years, with little evidence ever provided. Shouldn’t one be a little bit more skeptical about it then, when the only source of the information are unnamed “Western intelligence officials”? This is a Presidential Election year in the USA, after all, and we all know which candidate stands to benefit if any international crisis explodes (or is concocted)
2- “Some [polar bears] were headed toward the edge of the ice shelf, 400 miles away – far beyond their endurance” – really? All we know is that by chance, a helicopter surveying the Arctic for oil-exploration has spotted nine polar bears swimming. The “400 miles away” detail has been reported not by those on the helicopter, and not even by the WWF that published the original story, but by a journalist at London-based “Daily Mail”, a newspaper that has retracted the story (=deleted from their website) since.
All in all, it looks like Mr Falk himself has been too busy watching Barack Obama, John McCain and assorted “dorky delegates bopping to the Beach Boys and Stevie Wonder”…
Cornelia Dean is right in pondering the risks inherent in experimenting with scientific fixes meant to save the planet from global warming but with “environmental effects impossible to predict and impossible to undo” (“Experts ponder the hazards of using technology to save the planet“, IHT, Aug 12, 2008).
Actually, that is not just an issue for the future. There are several examples from the past of enviromental cures that have turned out to be worse than the original problem. One of the biggest, and perhaps the best known, is the story of the introduction of Cane Toads to Australia.
Originary of South America, and imported to Australia in 1935 as a scientific way to control beetles that were destroying sugarcane crops, cane toads are still spreading to this day. They are harming native wildlife, poison household pets, and are unstoppably expanding their range at up to 50 kilometers (30mi) per year.
And of course the cane toads have failed to do anything to the beetles.
There is no need to repeat such a mistake on an even larger scale, by depositing sulphur in the upper atmosphere or dumping iron in the open oceans. It is high time we admit that natural systems are way beyond our control and our best bet is adaptation and the use of simple, clear technology.
Letter to the International Herald Tribune
Dear Editors, dear Ms. Dempsey
Can anybody seriously describe the ongoing Kosovo crisis as a good-guys vs. bad-guys conflict, as attempted in Ms. Dempsey’s “Letter from Europe“, June 11, 2008, published on the IHT as “Deadlock in Kosovo risks Balkan instability“?
The articles is a relentless attack on everything Russia and Serbia have to say about Kosovo, with the EU depicted as the poor victim of a machination intending to deprive Kosovo of true independence, by keeping the UN around.
We are even treated to the classic “It is not for lack of trying by the Europeans or the United States to reach an agreement with Russia over Kosovo“, about the aborted Ahtisaari Plan.
Well, Ms Dempsey is well aware and even describes in the article the situation in Northern Mitrovica: could she please then try to explain on what basis would the Ahtisaari Plan free Albanian Kosovars from Belgrade’s rule, while effectively imprisoning the Mitrovican Serbs under Pristina’s?
Neither the EU nor the USA have shown much interest in upholding the rights of the minority Serbs in Kosovo, all too focused in promoting the rights of the minority Albanians in Serbia. This is no recipe for a lasting and peaceful settlement, with or without Russia: and in fact to this day there is no lasting peaceful settlement in sight.
It is also too easy for Ms Dempsey to push aside the legality question. It is not just a matter of Vladimir Putin “claiming that Kosovo’s independence had no international legal basis“. In fact, like Ms Dempsey, also the EU, the USA and legions of international legal experts still have not found any legal basis for Kosovo’s independence.
The best they could come up with, it’s a “sui generis” clause, hoping that all problems will evaporate if everybody agrees that Kosovo’s is a case unique in history, never to be repeated again.
That’s no legal explanation for bypassing the United Nations in order to create a new State in Europe.
Does anybody believe the situation is better today than before “independence” came to Kosovo, with the EU’s “undermined security ambitions” also thanks to its deep divisions on the topic, as correctly pointed out by Ms. Dempsey?
Are we any better down the path of Balkan stability, a “region where the slightest misunderstanding or provocation can lead to violence“? I for one am not sure about that. But if we want to be serious at dealing with this problem, that’s not just a question for Russia to answer.