Friday, January 23, 2009

Scrabble Oddities

Veva and I have been playing Scrabble nightly for a while, and tonite I was quite amazed at the pattern of my tiles. Of course, every game is unique and it is not uncommon for some strange coincidence to happen (for example, two night ago to choose who goes first, Veva chose a Q. "Wouldn't it be funny if you picked a U?" she said. I shook the bag, stuck in my hand, grabbed a tile, and announced without looking at the tile "A U!" and it was). But this was one remarkable game.

Here are my letters through all but the last few turns (? is a blank):


Out of all the consonants with more than one point, Veva had:


And I had


What an unbalanced game!

Oh and four nights ago, she picked an X to choose who goes first...and I chose a Y!

What are the odds of any of this happening? I find that actually to be a silly question. There are no odds. It's just stuff that happens.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ah the blatant cynicism of Israeli leadership

Check out this article (text at end of this post in case the article disappears):

I find it somewhat's what struck me:

** One of the main justifications that Hamas used to resume its rocket attacks is that Israel violated the truce the whole way through by not relaxing the blockade and allowing Gazans economic freedom and growth so they could live normal lives.

** One of the main aims of the latest awful attack on Gaza was to decimate Hamas leadership.

** Then Israel unilaterally calls an end to its hostilities, clearly driven by the desire to not have an active war going on as Obama is inaugurated. Plus its attacks on civilians, civilian infrastructure and THE UNITED NATIONS became so blatant and revolting that even Israel could not withstand the international condemnation.

** Now they refuse to relax the blockade for anything but minimal flow of humanitarian aid (all agencies complain that they cannot get what is needed into the strip) until Shalit is released!

** And it looks like they are agreeing to release 450 "senior militants" of Hamas, previously they had balked at this.

So...they find yet other ways to continue to collectively punish all Palestinians in Gaza, which strengthens Hamas and weakens Abbas. And they will now send back into Gaza a previous generation of leadership of Hamas, that will now step forth and become the NEW generation of leaders.

Isn't this just insane? Is there any reason to really honestly believe that the Israeli government and military is interested in anything but keeping this conflict going?

After spending years (from 2001 to 2007) working obsessively on this issue (Not In My Name, Junity, Refuser Solidarity Network), I have come to the following conclusion:

If you want to try to predict what will happen next in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, then just imagine the worst possible scenario. That is almost certainly what will unfold. So here is my prediction:

Israel wants to make life so horrible for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (effective imprisonment through military blockade and deprivation of 1.5 million people) and West Bank (effective imprisonment through the "Security Wall" and endless stealing of their land through "settlement" expansion) that some small, but growing number of Israeli Palestinian citizens will choose (feel driven to) violence (suicide bombings) to protest.

Then Israeli Jews can claim that they tried everything, but even their own fellow citizens who are Arabs will not let them live in peace. And then the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from within the current boundaries of Israel may commence - thereby ensuring the "Jewish democratic majority" (ah, the oxymoronsn!) of Israel.

Well, I sure am ranting today, so I will finish it off with this:

I believe that the greatest existential threat to the State of Israel comes from the Ameerican Jewish community, whose leaders and organized constituents treat Israel as a kind of Golden Calf, idolizing it and serving as apologists for it, no matter how awful its actions.

And this blind support for Israel will allow it to dig itself into a deeper and deeper hole, until it becomes a true pariah state. Hey, but at least it will be "Jewish."


After Gaza war, Israel sees Hamas prisoner swap

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) After battering Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israel now hopes to push through a prisoner swap to retrieve a soldier held by the Palestinians since 2006, Israeli officials said Thursday.

They said Israel was conditioning any lifting of its Gaza blockade on immediate progress in Egyptian efforts to free Gilad Shalit, and would be willing to relax its objections to a list of Palestinian prisoners which Hamas wants released in exchange.

The Islamists demand amnesty for 1,400 inmates, including 450 senior militants. Israel long balked over the latter group, saying their release would sap Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's peace strategies by bolstering rival hardliners.

But after its 22-day offensive against the Hamas administration in Gaza, Israel appears to be more flexible.

"There is a sense that we can afford to relax our criteria on the prisoner release, as any benefit to Hamas would be more than offset by the damage it sustained in Gaza," said one Israeli security official.

The official said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wanted to clinch a deal before he is replaced in a February 10 election, though it was not clear whether the Israeli security cabinet could approve all of the names on the Hamas release roster.

Addressing reporters Thursday, Olmert said: "I believe that the military operation in Gaza created levers that can help in speeding the return of Gilad Shalit ... I will not elaborate."

Security cabinet minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel's Army Radio that new discussions on a possible prisoner swap had not yet taken place. He added: "I am among those who would be willing to pay the highest price for Gilad's return."


A top Israeli defense official, Amos Gilad, travelled to Cairo Thursday to discuss ways of consolidating a January 18 truce which ended the Gaza offensive. Security sources said Gilad would raise Shalit in his talks with the Egyptians.

The Gaza offensive killed 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and wrecked the impoverished strip's infrastructure.

Western powers have since called for Gaza's borders with Israel and Egypt to be more open, while supporting Israel's demand that Palestinian cross-border rocket salvoes cease and that Hamas arms-smuggling from the Egyptian Sinai be choked off.

Israel stepped up the crippling Gaza embargo after Hamas, which won a 2006 Palestinian election, seized control of the territory in a brief war with Abbas's forces the following year.

The Israelis rule out restoring normal operations at Gaza's border crossings unless there is a deal on Shalit, an army conscript seized by Hamas-led gunmen in a June 2006 border raid.

"I'll tell you this here, in plain Hebrew: apart from (the passage of) humanitarian goods, there will be no crossings (opened) without Gilad Shalit," Ben-Eliezer said.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; editing by Andrew Roche)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Entering the new year with a bang

First, happy new year to all my readers (no matter how few you may be). I hope the holidays were good to you.

As you no doubt are aware, Israel has once again attacked with missiles, bombs, artillery, tanks and ground troops one of the most densely populated areas in the world: the Gaza Strip.

Ostensibly, this was done to stop the rocket attacks from Gaza. Only the most apologistic of Israel's supporters really believe this. These attacks have been going on sporadically for years, with very few casualties (though every single death is awful and anyone authorizing the firing of those rockets against civilian targets should be considered a war criminal and brought to the Hague for a trial).

Now with Israel's latest application of the fifth most powerful military force in the world, not only have over 100 Palestinian women and children been killed, but more Israels have been killed in the last ten days than in the several years previous.

And does anyone really think this will stop the rocket attacks? I don't think there is a chance of that happening as long as Israel continues to treat Gaza as the world's largest open air prison, controlling (and greatly restricting) access to food, medical supplies, energy, etc.

Anyway, most seasoned observers think this invasion has more to do with upcoming Israeli elections, and the need for Labor (whose head is now the Minister of Defense - Ehud Barak, who is in my mind another war criminal who should be sent to the Hague) to show that it can be as tough on the Palestinians as the most right-wing Likudnik.

I am sure that is at least partly true. I believe, however, that the invasion and destruction of Gaza is first and foremost intended as a message for incoming President Obama. Israel (its civilian and military leaders, in any case) is showing that it controls events when it comes its own sphere of dominance. It is saying to Obama "We decide what happens around here, not you."

It is, really, quite a big and obnoxious "f#%k you" from Israel to Obama.

Think about it. With this invasion, Israel has forced a change in the agenda for the incoming President. Obama must (and intended to) focus on the economy and spend political capital immediately to get a recovery plan in place (one that helps more than financiers).

Yet now he must address the violence in Gaza, and what will he do? Is he going to do or say anything that is critical of Israel, thereby risking a firestorm of criticism in his first days in office? The Israel apologists will go ballistic: "See, we told you! He is no friend of Israel." No way. He is going to eat it, all of it. He is going to acquiesce to Israel's terrible and terrifying destruction and killing of innocents. He will join the chorus blaming Hamas entirely. And in doing so, he will send a clear message to the Arab world: expect nothing different from me when it comes to Israel.

Leaving Israel (its screwed-up, "kill now and kill later" leadership, in any case) to go further down the path to stoking flames of hatred, ensuring war, and diminishing its chances of survival as a Jewish state.

Poor Israel. Just when it most needs a real friend, it will force that potential friend to become merely another servant to the cause of Jewish extremists.