Cutting through the bullshit.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

A safe haven

When I heard Milton Friedman had died, I rejoiced. And then I read that he was 94 and died in the bosom of his loving family. Surely he, if anyone, deserved an earlier and more uncomfortable death? The father of the Chicago Boys and godfather of Pinochet?

And now Robert Altman is dead, at 81. Why couldn’t he have lived to 94? Then maybe we could have been spared 13 years of Friedman, quite apart from the obvious benefits of Altman sticking around until 2019?

I’m a big fan of Altman’s, although I confess I’ve never seen some of his films, like McCabe and Mrs Miller, and barely remember others, like Popeye and Gosford Park. When I use the term Altmanesque, it means more than one thing. There are the big movies with lots of characters and interlocking plots, if they’re plots, like MASH, Nashville, Short Cuts, Kansas City, Cookie’s fortune, and my personal favourites, which got pretty short shrift in the NYT obit, A wedding and Pret a porter. But then there are those amazing films with five characters and one set – Streamers and Come back to the five and dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. Of course the dude also made what I think of as conventional films like The player.

According to the Times’s obituarist, Rick Lyman, Altman is responsible for these immortal words, “What is a cult?...It just means not enough people to make a minority.”

This morning I found this appeal from American Friends of Magen David Edom (Red Star of David – the Israeli Red Cross) in my intray:

“In light of the increasing missile attacks on Sderot, we call for immediate support from MDA and its supporters to help us build out emergency facilities. We need help more than ever.”

Eli Moyal, Mayor, Sderot, Israel

MDA paramedics race t the scene to care for the wounded every time a rocket strikes.

American Friends of Magen David Adom is building a new, reinforced, state-of-the-art MDA station in Sderot.

In any case, where do they get off with this amazing level of cynicism? One or two precious Israelis injured a year and pull out all the stops, state of the art facilities, paramedics rush to the scene. But a few hundred metres away, dozens are slaughtered weekly and the most they can hope for is that the beneficent occupiers’ 155mm shells miss the ambulance and the paramedics who rush to their aid. Maybe they will even condescend to open the border crossing to allow some medical supplies in for a few hours.

There used to be an old saying. They taught it to us in school. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Nowadays, you might prefer to say, ‘28.35g of prevention is worth 435g of cure’, or perhaps more euphoniously, ‘a gram of prevention is worth a kilo of cure.’

In this light it would benefit the poor North African immigrants cynically sent off to live in the desert adjacent to Gaza more if Magen David Adom’s American benefactors saved the money they were sending to MDA and the money they were spending for the 155mm shells, as well. Then they could not only save precious Jewish lives in Sderot, but worthless Palestinian lives in Beit Hanoun, to boot.

Monday’s NY Times is scandalised over the new UN Human Rights Council. This is the result of the touted UN ‘reform’ that was supposed to fix the discredited Human Rights Commission. Now, all of a sudden, it’s ‘a weak-kneed compromise from which the United States stood honorably apart’. Among its crimes,

The council is new, but its deliberations have already fallen into a shameful pattern. When it comes to the world’s worst and most consistent human rights violators, like China, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar and Sudan, there has been a tendency to muffle words and conclusions and shift the focus from individual and political rights to broader economic and social questions.

So, notwithstanding the expressed opinion of all those ‘members of the international community’ who have ratified the basic human rights Covenants and pay lip service to the Universal Declaration, the Times’s editorialists, in their wisdom, have decided that the UN body purported charged with enforcing those instruments has been remiss in focusing on ‘economic and social questions’, as if these were not at least as important in international human rights ‘law’, and indeed, in reality, as ‘individual and political rights’.

I squandered a significant portion of my life writing letters to governments pointing out where their actions departed from their commitments under these treaties they had signed. So I am not about to repeat the litany of individual and political rights denied the long suffering people of the US. I will, however, note in passing that when it comes to the rights that are universally regarded as most fundamental, even, presumably by the Times, the right ‘to life, liberty and security of person [that is, not to be wounded]’ (UDHR Article 3), the US is far and away the preeminent violator. We now know that just in the last three years, the US has, on demonstrably and demonstratedly false pretexts, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, perhaps as many as a million, who would otherwise be alive and kicking today. They have displaced hundreds of thousands more and nobody has even tried to estimate the number wounded, maimed, crippled, blinded, etc. The numbers imprisoned and tortured are probably well known to their captors, but they’re not saying. It makes Darfur and Western Congo look like child’s play, which of course those tragedies are not.

But when it comes to criticizing Israel for violations committed in a wartime context that includes armed attacks against its citizens and soldiers, the council seems to change personality, turning harshly critical and uninterested in broader contexts.

And, now, in case you hadn’t noticed, it turns out that Israel is at war! And here’s me thinking Israel had occupied territory by force, in clear and undeniable violation of ‘international law’, and were holding the population in siegelike conditions, also in violation of international law, while their captives lash out as best they can in a vain attempt to end the occupation, as they are entitled to under international law. Or at least that’s how I read the preamble of the UDHR, ‘…it is essential, if man [sic] is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law’.

‘Armed attacks against its citizens and soldiers’ [my emphasis]! If Israel is indeed at war, as the Times avers, then since when is an attack on a military target grounds for retaliation and collective punishment? There’s really only one explanation that will account for the Times’s, and MDA’s, concern about Israeli civilians and soldiers to the exclusion of Palestinian children, and that is racism.

To add insult to injury, quite literally, it turns out that the humanitarians who run the Zionist state are not just racist against the Palestinian Arabs whose land they covet. In the 1950s, they believed that the inferior Arab Jews who were ‘making aliyah’ in large numbers at the time were carrying parasites, specifically, the Microsporum canis and Tricophyton verrucosum fungi that cause scalp tinea. Clearly these Untermenschen made exemplary experimental subjects and were ‘treated’ not with topical fungicides, but radiation. Under the 1994 Tinea capitis law, the victims are entitled to compensation. But when they undergo questioning to determine whether they are eligible, if they should fail to remember the experience they had at the age of three or four fifty years ago accurately in every detail, they are denied compensation. In fact, even if they misinterpret their correctly remembered experience by, for example, reporting that the radiation was painful, when in reality what hurt them was having their hair torn out by the roots, that is sufficient to disqualify a claim. A safe haven indeed.

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