9/11 + 1

It was on September 11th, a year and one day ago, that among my first thoughts after learning of the attacks was that our government, my government, the government of the United States of America would use these attacks as an excuse to obliterate as many of our freedoms as they could possibly get away with.

It seems to be an absolute of all governments that they can not resist seeking to usurp as much power as possible. To strip their citizens, those from whom their very power is sourced, of as many rights as they can possibly get away with.

Messrs Bush and Ashcroft have certainly not disappointed.

Currently a U.S. citizen rots in a jail cell without due process. A U.S. citizen, arrested on U.S. soil has been handed over to the military, stripped of the most fundamental rights of due process, denied the right to an open trial, denied the right to appeal to the civilian courts, denied the rights that this country guarantees to all of its citizens. He is denied these rights because we have a President and an Attorney General who apparently do not believe in the American Constitution, who apparently do not believe in the America judicial system. They seem to fear our courts, they seem to fear our democracy, so they take acts which appear to me to be subversions of both institutions. All in a good cause of course.

It's always a good cause that strips us of our freedoms. Take a look at H.R. 3162, the USA Patriot Act, passed by roughly 83% in the congress and 98% in the senate. After looking at the provisions of this act can one reasonably conclude other than the Senate and House have violated their oaths of office (Congress/Senate)? Can one look at H.R. 3162 and not see a direct attack upon the American Constitution?

Given the provisions of H.R. 3162 I must admit that I am just a tiny bit scared of writing this Blog entry. I realize that the chance that anything will happen to me because of it is vanishingly small but still I know that most likely somewhere deep inside a government web crawler is a little red flag attached to this page. Hopefully the weighting algorithm they use to decide which pages deserve further scrutiny won't mark this one. But still, I am forced to wonder. This is what is called a 'chilling effect'.

Which brings us finally to the point of this entry, Insurance.

As I have previously discussed, one must be vigilant in paying up one's freedom insurance. Might I suggest the ACLU? To get a really good idea of why the ACLU is a great place to send your freedom insurance premium please read their booklet on what they have been doing since 9/11/2001. I don't always agree with everything the ACLU does but I sleep a lot better knowing they are around. Give, give early and give often.

Jewish Democracy

Israel exists as a contradiction – a Jewish Democracy. Inevitably this means one type of life for those who are Jews and another for everyone else. Perhaps this situation could be sustained if Jews were the overwhelming majority in Israel. It is possible, after all, to protect a very small minority (say 2%-5% of the population) from discrimination. But today, within the green line, 22.5% of the population isn't Jewish and their numbers are rising rapidly. No government can protect over 20% of its population from discrimination. Even if the government could the birth rate tells the rest of the story. Unless all American and European Jews get up and move to Israel we can expect the non-Jewish Israeli population to rise well above its current 22.5%. In fact Israel's own numbers estimate (using the medium variant) that by 2020 roughly 26.6% of the Israeli population won't be Jewish. Israel must face the reality that its future must be to find an identity that allows it to be a country of all of its citizens.

Manufacturing Outsiders

For the first time ever Israel has stripped the citizenship of one of its citizens. Nahad Abu Kishaq, an Israeli citizen charged with being a key figure in Hamas as well as being responsible for the deaths of numerous Israelis has had his citizenship stripped. I can't begin to express how illegitimate this action is. Meanwhile, Israel is getting very worried about foreign workers and has convened a government sponsored group to explore how to increase population, the Jewish one that is. How can democracy, which is only supposed to recognize its citizens as individuals, reconcile itself with being Jewish? How can Jews reconcile themselves with a history that leaves no doubt that no form of government, democratic or otherwise can protect them save a government of the Jews for the Jews? How does an ethical person respond to the inability of democracy to deal with the tribal nature of humanity? How do we see the other as ourselves? How do we find a way for us all, first and foremost as people, to live in peace?

False Propaganda

The Christian Science Monitor (one of my favorite websites) has a great article explaining how the 'babies taken from incubators' story during the first gulf war was started and propagated (like most iconic events, it never actually happened). I recognize that the techniques and players are old hat but I thought it would be interesting to read how a main stream paper plays the story. In the general CSM tradition it plays it pretty straight.

Freedom Insurance

How to track civil rights in Israel? Well the Israeli government is trying various things to shut down Adalah, a civil rights group in Israel that specializes in lawsuits over the violation of the civil rights of Israeli Arabs. As near as I can tell these guys are the Israeli equivalent of the ACLU, at least for Arabs. This is the sort of organization that is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy. If they are finally shut down this will speak volumes. That they are still open and able to operate gives me hope.

Talking about defending democracy, tonight I heard a radio program by Greg Palast, an investigate reporter. He is another example of what it takes to defend democracy. I just put in an order for his book.

Of late I realized that my whole attitude towards organizations like the ACLU,EFF and Southern Poverty Law Center are all wrong. I treat them as charities who deal with various nasty issues like the DMCA or the various awful bits of damage Disney inflicts on America. In reality they are really just a form of insurance. You have health insurance? Life insurance? Well now you have freedom insurance. The thing about insurance is that you have to pay your premium every year or your coverage lapses. Freedom insurance isn't any different. Unfortunately there will always be those who for greed or ideology will try and strip us of our freedoms. If freedom is to survive we have to make sure that there are always those who are in a position to oppose them. This is where your freedom insurance premiums come in. By paying up each and every year, year after year, you help to make sure that you get to keep your freedom. So pay your freedom premium today.

Arabs in Israel

Traditionally Israeli Arabs have stayed out of terrorist activities. I can't speak for all the reasons this has been the case but mostly I suspect it's because they are scared of leaving Israel. Israel is a deeply biased society that treats its Arab citizens badly. They are discriminated against on every level. Each year a report from someone or another is released illustrating yet again that Arab citizens receive less government funding per capita than Jewish citizens, they are discriminated against in employment, discriminated against in house, get a worse education, etc. That Israel is party to such discrimination is a deep and lasting mark of shame on Israel. Something Israel needs to answer for to the world.

Yet, Israel provides Palestinians a material quality of life far higher than they can get any where else in the Arab world. More even than that Arab citizens are just that, citizens. They have the right to vote, form parties, etc. Legally speaking (in theory anyway) there is no difference between an Arab and Jewish Israeli. None of this excuses Israel's treatment of its own citizens. But in the middle of a bloody awful war of attrition most Israelis are not willing to overly concern themselves with the details of everyday Arab life in Israel. That all having been said the relationship of Jew to Arab in Israel has been predicated on Israeli Arabs not involving themselves in terror or more generally becoming a fifth column. That relationship now appears to possibly be breaking down.

My main concern is not so much that many Arab Israelis will start becoming part of terrorist attacks as much as many Jewish groups latching onto the growing figures as an excuse to make the lot of Israeli Arab citizens much worse. Collective punishment, in lieu of any other effective mechanism, is Israeli government policy. The threats to strip Israeli Arabs of their citizenship is a potent one and its possible abuses are obvious. Israel is going to have to find a way to be a state of all of its citizens. Discrimination against any of its citizens must stop.

Human Shields

War warps a society. Israel has had a practice of using human shields, local people who it grabs and forces to knock on the doors of houses it wants to enter in order to warn the occupants to leave or face the army. In theory this is a non-combat role, in reality it is threatening the lives of innocents to protect Israeli soldiers. The Israeli supreme court would have likely ruled this behavior illegal had the army not promised to stop it. Which of course makes the death of Nidal Abu Muhsein, a 19 year old human shield, all the more awful as it came long after the army's promise in May of 2002 to stop the practice of using human shields. This is just one example of the rot that sets in when one society occupies another.

Reading about the Holocaust

I don't remember when I was first exposed to the story of the Holocaust. Certainly when I was young, in elementary school, at hebrew school. I have studied it on and off throughout my life. I always though it was a bit sick exposing a child so young to the holocaust but what choice was there? As a Jew, as a human, you have to know what man is capable of. If you don't know, you can't stop it. I just finished the book "rethinking the holocaust" by Yehuda Bauer, the head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem. This book is amazing. It helped to take the ocean of facts, figures, stories, legends, etc. about the Holocaust and tie them together into a coherent narrative that gets as close as I have ever seen to answering two critical questions: Why did the Holocaust happen and why does it matter to the world? For me personally the most powerful sections dealt with the question that I've never had a good answer to until now, "Why didn't they run/fight?"

Red Lights

I suppose the question one has to ask about the lies, violations of civil rights and common sense alleged in this article on red light cameras is: a) the public being victimized in a crass display of lies or b) is the author pumping up a simple story into a 5 part extravaganza? Unfortunately I suspect the answer is yes.