October 2008

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Rabbi Menahem Frohman of Tekoa

Rabbi Menahem Frohman of Tekoa

Orthodox Jewish leader Rabbi Menahem Frohman made an impassioned appeal today for American Jews to embrace Senator Obama as a harbinger of peace in the Middle East. Amidst controversial reports coming out of Israel that most Americans there voted for McCain Rabbi Frohman’s religious prayers stand out as exceptional. Most of those polled are Orthdox, and this dovetails American trends in which Orthodox Jews are mostly voting for McCain. Here is the video from the Kotel, the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish Temple in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Prayers in the Old City of Jerusalem for Obama

We live in an age in which religion as an ideology has been weaponized by at least some people in every culture and civilization. But sometimes one sees exceptions, passionate expressions of piety that are for peace, not war, for love, not hatred. …

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Iraq has rejected the United States’ use of its territory as a base from which to attack Syria. That is interesting because I thought that the justification for the attack was to defend Iraq from foreign fighters. No one has a greater stake in repelling foreign fighters than the Iraqis themselves. Though, wisely, they realize that building a peaceful relationship with their neighbors is far more effective than killing a few people and weakening the sovereignty of neighboring states.

Coverage of the incident is receiving increasing attention and analysis. I have done some of my own digging as to the source of the attack. It seems that most people assume that this attack across an international border could not have been done without the express approval of the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But it is possible that the Vice President authorized it and presented it …

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The timing is amazing from a neoconservative point of view, a few days before the American elections. Right now, after years of scrupulously avoiding crossing into Syrian territory, the American military receives instructions to invade a town in Syria and kill 8 people.

A U.S. military official confirmed late Sunday an American helicopter attack in an area along Syria’s border with Iraq, which left 8 people dead and three people wounded.

Syria condemned the attack, which it called “serious aggression.”

We are closer than ever before to serious conversations between Israel and Syria, Syria has recognized an international border with Lebanon for the first time in modern history, and this is horrifying to neoconservatives who ran Washington for the last decade. They need to use force and force only to conquer Iraq, Iran and Syria. And they need to promote a conception of the American presidency that is focused …

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General Powell on Islam and Repentance

by mgopin on October 25, 2008 · 1 comment

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A very moving article by Maureen Dowd on Powell’s performance on television. It really represents a turning point, in my opinion, in the history of conservative America. Powell has called out the haters in his own Republican political party. He asks the right question, finally, ‘what if Obama were a Muslim’? What difference should it make in democratic America. What does trouble me is that Powell falls into a trip that many conservatives around the world fall into, he bonds based on a sharing of war with other men. I understand that he bonded with this Muslim soldier, but I wish it was not over war and death. Here is the picture that Powell stared at for an hour and that led to his epiphany:

American Soldier

American Soldier

Powell

Powell

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This editorial from the New York Times should be read in conjunction with Gary Wills’ trenchant analysis of Cheney’s aspiration for what conservatives have called ‘the unitary executive’, a doctrine that was responsible for nothing less than the catastrophe in Iraq, the torture, Guantanamo Bay, and scores of violations of the intent of the framers of the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Wills writes:

All these policies were driven by the unitary executive theory of the Constitution, which emanated from David Addington in Vice President Cheney’s office. Charlie Savage has documented that four Supreme Court justices are already enthusiastic supporters of the unitary theory—Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. It takes only a fifth justice to solder that theory into place for the foreseeable future. This would be the most thorough reworking and distortion of the Constitution in all our history.

The stakes are staggering. That is why

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A NEW AKKO, A NEW ISRAEL?

by mgopin on October 19, 2008 · 5 comments

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Akko from the Sea

Akko from the Sea

Wonderful article by Avnery entitled “Is Akko Burning?”, with the usual insight. Only thing I would add to understanding the tragedy in Akko, as well as racial situations in America, is that intentionally or unintentionally, racism is always bred when an underprivileged wing of the dominant race or religious group, like the poor ethnic Jewish groups in Acre, or the poorer ethnic groups in America’s poor sections, always become the ‘front lines’ of the race war of a country, against some group that they can see as beneath even them. I have seen this in the ‘religious’ conflict in Belfast as well. Poor against poor, grievance against grievance. Cynically, the Mayor and others have pitted Jews who are bitter about Gaza, or about their financial condition, against the Arabs in Akko. Cynically, there are indeed Islamists and Arab politicians who have done the same, everyone …

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Joseph Nye reports correctly that Bin Laden skewed the last election in favor of Bush against Kerry by six points due to a strategically released tape right before the election. It is in Bin Laden’s interest to keep a war of civilizations going, which means keeping a Neo-Conservative in the White House. This serves the Civil War he is conducting within Islam. My trouble with this is, what does this say about the American electorate? Why can people be so easily persuaded to become paranoid because one extremist releases a tape? It says that too many of us are manipulated by fear rather than reasoned thinking. We need an electorate in the United States, the most powerful nation on earth, that is up to the challenge of wielding all that global power more wisely.

The Obama campaign should consider apportioning some of those millions of dollars in advertising right now …

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Acre

by mgopin on October 14, 2008 · 14 comments

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The tragic riots in Acre that started on Yom Kippur demand our attention. Middle East coverage of the riots provides all too clear an example of the divide in perspective defined by the very nature of the conflict.…

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Problems & SOLUTIONS in Akko (Acre)

by mgopin on October 14, 2008 · 2 comments

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Riots between Arabs and Jews have plagued the Israeli town of Akko for days now. There has been outrageous behavior and frightening experiences for everyone. The facts of what really happened will be contested, as is expected in this ongoing conflict of Arabs and Jews. But…

John Lennon once said,
“Well I tell them there’s no problem, only solutions.”

With this in mind, here is something going on in Akko that unfortunately, you won’t read about in the newspapers:

“Peace Sukkah in Akko/Sulha Tent
Thursday, October 16, 12:00
Tentative meeting place: Outside Akko Theater
(please contact Orly for a final location 054-210-3139)

Join us in promoting reconciliation among Akko residents. 
If you want to see the crisis as an opportunity for a meeting, getting closer and reform, join us in a conversation, in creating a space which allows sharing of pain and hopes for reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews.

Activity …

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This is a wonderful video about yet another way that people without any training in conflict resolution or diplomacy can become a part of the solution rather than part of the problem when it comes to global conflicts. I call them citizen diplomats, and I think they represent the infinite and creative ways that individuals can choose to move beyond the boundaries of group hatreds and fears.

A Slim Peace

A Slim Peace

Starting after the Muslim Ramadan and the Jewish New Year, group of Palestinian and Israeli women will be meeting face to face in Jerusalem. Not for political reasons, not to cast blame on who’s right or wrong in the Middle East conflict – these women will be focusing on their waistline, and sharing a simple and common desire to lose weight.

“A Slim Peace” is a group founded in 2006 by Yael Luttwak, a 36-year-old American-Israeli filmmaker who grew up

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