Friday, January 30, 2009

The Davos Debates: Getting Emotional

Peres' argument for Israel's operation in Gaza and Erdogan's response.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The light side of things

A man on a beach sees a shark near a child in the shallows. Ignoring personal safety, he dives in the water and, with his bare hands, kills the shark. He brings the tot to shore and is met with tumultuous applause from spectators. "Geez, mate" says a BBC reporter "You should get a medal. What part of Britian are you from?" Modestly our hero says: "Actually I'm from Israel" 

Next day on BBC's breaking news: "Israeli reservist kills child's pet"

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Blame Game in Gaza

In the Gaza Strip people are returning home -- or to the rubble that was once their home. Many are blaming Hamas for the destruction because the militants hid among civilians and attracted Israeli fire. Yet no one dares to speak out openly.

"I used to support Hamas because they fought for our country, for Palestine," says Sadala. Hamas stood for a new start, for an end of corruption, which had spread like cancer under the moderate Fatah. In the 2006 elections Hamas won the majority with their message of change, said Sadala, who earned a living in the building business. Gesticulating wildly, the 52-year-old surveyed the ruins of the bedroom: "That is the change that they brought about. We were blasted back 2,000 years."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Goodbye George: From the Diary of Former Liberal

I didn’t always like George.

There was a time I thought of him as a stupid stooge, a man undeserving of power. There was a time I thought he had shattered America’s greatest asset – its democracy.

I had followed every twist and turn in that infamous ballot count, read all the relevant legal proceedings and felt personally wronged when on 12 December 2000 the US Supreme Court ruled against the man I voted for. I was so incensed by what I saw as an appointment against the will of the people that I inquired about rescinding my US citizenship. Thankfully, I never followed through.

It was nine months later, I felt American again, and a proud one at that.

As I watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Centre, I realised the world had changed forever; that a dark new reality has set in; that the world my children will grow in will not be the world of my childhood.

I understood this in seconds and so did George, my old foe. Some have still to grasp this.

On that day, George grew into his role as leader of the free world. Hanging chads no longer mattered when smoke filled the skies of Manhattan. A man not known for his words was saying exactly what I needed to hear. He spoke on that fateful day:

Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.

America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.

It was comforting to hear of good and bad, of right and wrong. It was great to hear some answers when all around me were questions. I now know that this strength of George led ultimately to his demise and I am sure that he understood this as well, but by the then the course was set and history is unwavering.

As a former liberal, I had to get used to living with George’s moral clarity, a world of black and white, good and evil, Cowboys and Indians. But then I realised, even black and white has its place on a full colour spectrum. There is a time and place for monochrome. I also realised that the alternate view, proposed by the liberal camp, was even more limiting in its spectrum. Unlike George, their world was painted a single shade of murky grey, a world where perpetrator and victim were morally equalled. This alternate view suggested that America had brought September 11 upon itself and should see itself as its own aggressor and its aggressor as its victim. In this topsy-turvy weltanschauung, old allies and long held values should be abandoned for the sake of expediency. It is the same logic that blames the rape victim for her ordeal: she should have never worn that mini skirt in the first place.

George recognised that the problem was more fundamental than America’s mini skirt; that Osama and the 9/11 crew had little grievance about US policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict but were rather fiercely opposed to the spread of secular thought in the Middle East; that the best way of beating them was to do just that, spread democracy in the region, by whatever means necessary. A government by the people for the people has no interest in perpetuating ongoing conflict. George was not the first American to hold such a universalist view of freedom and democracy. Some years ago, his predecessors wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government... to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The world has changed a lot since these words were written, and America has changed too – with men and women of all races allowed to vote and run for office - but mankind has not changed much. We all still strive for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. George believed this was true of everyone, even the Arabs.

The Iraqi elections proved that the unspoken notion of non-interventionalists that Arabs are (a) incapable or (b) undeserving of democracy was indeed a fallacy. It took a man of black and white to rid the world of this grey notion. The premise of basic human rights is set on universal principals that apply to all people at all times at all places – an absolutist notion. The relativist approach that opposes the imposition of democracy has pushed human rights championship away from their camp to the political right.

An so I too found myself on the other side of politics. I had become a neocon and have loved George ever since.

I believe history is likely to prove George right. We may not know the full impact of his actions for some decades to come and by then I know he is unlikely to get the credit for the wheels he set in motion. Meanwhile, we have witnessed democratic elections in Iraq and Palestine; the institution of parliaments in Qatar and Bahrain; Municipal elections in Saudi Arabia; Shura (Consultation) Council elections in Oman; Increased allowances for opposition parties in Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia; a royal decree granting women rights in Morocco; and the renunciation of terrorism by Lybia – to name but a few developments. As George said back in March 2005, “the trend is clear. In the Middle East and throughout the world, freedom is on the march”. His ally John Howard backed this view up when he stated that “these things wouldn't have been thought remotely possible a year ago and I have no doubt that ... one of the reasons ... was the overthrow of Saddam Hussein”. Even old foes like Walid Jumblatt, the leftist Lebanese Druze leader shared the view:

I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen.

The Berlin Wall has fallen once again while your news reporters were looking the other way, counting body bags in Iraq and actively embroiling themselves in partisan politics.

And so I bid farewell to the man who sacrificed his legacy to protect America’s greatest asset, freedom and democracy. Ironically, he had become the defender of the asset I had once accused him of robbing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some news you may have missed...

While the conflict between Israel and Hamas unfolded in Gaza over the past few weeks, many innocent Gazan civilians stuck in the middle have no doubt suffered much. Meanwhile, another group of civilians further south has been going through a nightmare of no lesser proportion. You may be forgiven if you haven’t heard about the dire situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where over 1,000 civilians have been killed by a Ugandan rebel group since Christmas (Source: ResolveUganda). After all, the papers were so filled with coverage of the situation in Gaza, they had left little space to report this story; the late-night news devoted half its time to scenes of death and destruction in Gaza, running out of time before they had the chance to update you on the massacres in the DRC


Confronted with two crises of a similar scale evolving over the same timeframe, the media chose to devote its full attention to one while blankly ignoring the other. Looking at these statistics, the mainstream media has little right to preach the doctrine of proportionality.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A time for war and a time for peace

It was the wisest of men who said there comes “a time for war,and a time for peace.” The doctrine of a just war was later formulated by Aristotle, Cicero, and Augustine and finally incorporated in Article 51 of the UN Charter, which states that “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense.”

Much has been said about the current military operation Israel is conducting against Hamas and doubt has been raised over its moral and legal legitimacy. So, is the war on Hamas immoral? Is any war indeed just?

To find out more, read my article at: