United Airlines mag in contortions over Palestinian food…

I’m in Paris. I brought Laila el-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s fabulous book The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey here, to the Paris International Cookbook Fair. So what do I discover in the seatback pocket on my flight over from Washington? A multi-page series in the United Airlines seatback mag that’s about the “wonderful” food scene in Jerusalem.

Hilariously (or not, depending on your POV), it says this

what’s long been considered Israeli food– hummus, falafel, mixed grilled meats, fresh chopped salads– is in fact cuisine borrowed from the local Levantines.

These dishes have “long” been considered Israeli food… By whom? And for how long? Longer than, say, 65 years?

And then are those mysterious “local Levantines”. There are a number of references to these strange creatures throughout the article, which was written by someone called Wendell Steavenson. But zero references to Palestinians or even “Arabs”… just denatured, completely de-cultured “Levantines”.

I could understand, maybe, an Israeli magazine publishing something parochial and silly like this. But the seatback mag of a major American airline? And one that flies to large numbers of destinations around the world– including, more than a dozen in Arab countries? Really, United Airlines, this is pathetic.

What I’ve been doing (the short version)

I realize I haven’t blogged since December 30. I believe January 2013 was the first month in the TEN YEARS that I’ve now been blogging in which I didn’t post anything at all.

Meantime, as many readers helpfully informed me, various nefarious forces (would that include you, Google, I wonder?) decided to either post malware on JWN, or to flag the blog so that readers would get scared there was malware there and would thus avoid it.

So, the CTO helped me move the blog over to another server– and also, toput it onto a WordPress platform. Potentially, that means it could end up looking better. But for me, the content will always be more important than the appearance, so I’m not going to spend too much time on redesigns, etc.

The MAIN thing I’ve been doing over these past seven weeks is work-work-work at the book-publishing business. I love the work! My company, Just World Books, has now published 14 titles! Almost none of them would even have existed– and certainly, none would have existed in anything like its present form– if I hadn’t founded the company and worked with this amazing bunch of authors.

I also made JWB’s first hire: the amazing Ms. Kim MacVaugh moved to Charlottesville to join JWB as Associate Publisher in early January. Just in time! the biggest thing we’ve been working on is the whole series of events to launch the ‘Gaza Kitchen’ cookbook…. events that, taken as a whole, I decided to dub the Gaza Cuisine Discovery Tour 2013. This tour will take/bring the book’s authors, Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt, to multiple gigs in New York, Washington DC, Boston, and London between March 10 and May 10.

At the same time, JWB author Miko Peled is doing huge numbers of speaking engagements around his great ‘General’s Son’ memoir, on a number of different continents… we’ll be launching Amb. Chas Freeman’s second JWB title– ‘Interesting Times’, a very timely examination of China’s increasing role in the world– with an event in DC at the end of March… other JWB authors like Matt Zeller and Brant Rosen are continuing to do author events.. and we’re keeping in good touch with a whole range of other signed authors as they bring their work to completion…

We’ve put a unified event calendar onto the JWB website so you can keep up with all these happenings. If you look at it now, you’ll see that on Friday I’ll be in Paris– taking The Gaza Kitchen to the Paris International Cookbook Fair. So that’s pretty exciting…

Well, I feel really bummed that the actual tenth blogiversary of JWN (Feb.3) passed  at a time when i was really up to my eyeballs in these other things, so I didn’t even blog anything about it. I’d been meaning to write a big ‘ten-year anniversary retrospective’ on what blogging has meant to me– and also, I venture, to the whole global information environment– over the past ten years. That opportunity passed… But here we are, coming up to the tenth anniversary of George W. Bush’s launching of the disastrous war against Iraq.

Oh, so much to blog about. And so little time.

But the book publishing is a complete blast, too. This year could truly be a breakout year for Just World Books! We have a whole range of amazing titles scheduled to come out… Plus, I’ve learned a whole lot about all aspects of 21st-century book publishing over the past three years… So I’m feeling good about where the company’s heading. And I think it is already starting to make a bit of a difference. So I no longer feel as “guilty” as I used to, about not having enough time to blog.

I mean really, there are enough things in life to feel guilty about, without that, as well. So I’ll just tell anyone who’s reading this what I plan to do with JWN over the months ahead: I plan to blog when I darn well feel like it. And who knows how often that will be?

So anyway, folks. Welcome  to JWN 2.0 here. Stick around. Maybe we can make it fun again.

Four important reads on Syria

The first two are excellent, on-the-ground reporting from Aleppo, by the seasoned, native Arabic speaker Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: Dec 27 and Dec 28.
The second two are from the Carnegie Endowment: This thoughtful Dec 24 piece by Yezid Sayegh: Can the National Coalition Lead Syria?; and this very well-informed Dec 4 piece by Aron Lund: Aleppo and the Battle for the Syrian Revolution’s Soul.
I have been arguing for more than 18 months now that the Syrian “opposition” (more accurately, “oppositions”) is/are incapable of entering into any meaningful negotiations under their own steam– even should they want to do so; since unlike the Algerian FLN, the ANC in South Africa or all other successful national liberation movements they lack internal unity, political clarity, and internal discipline.
The developments of the past 18 months have surely shown this to be the case.
Of course the Syrian government has made many mistakes– at the strategic, tactical, and moral levels. But so has the opposition. It is past time for all the Western and other international groupies and enablers of the opposition to stop indulging it and to work in a concerted way with the rest of the international community to bring an end to the carnage, fitna, and intense human suffering the conflict has already imposed on Syria’s people, in the only way possible: That is, through the negotiations that UN/AL Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as been working tirelessly to convene.

Crunch time for funding G. Porter’s book on Iran!

Hi, everyone! We have just six days to go in our online fundraiser for Gareth Porter’s very important planned book Manufactured Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare. We’ve just topped getting pledges for 2/3 of the $10,000 we need for this.
Can you do anything to help us get the remaining (as of now) $3,303?
As I explained on the main Kickstarter fundraising page there, we need the money because Gareth needs to take 4-5 months out from his (excellent!) daily journalism in order to write the book– and yes, he has bills he needs to continue paying during that time. My publishing house, Just World Books, is run on a shoestring. We simply can’t afford to pay the kind of “advance” that big publishers dole out (or, used to– not so much these days, anyway.) And we don’t have the time it would take to get foundation funding… even if there were any foundations prepared to invest in this hard-hitting, myth-smashing work of Gareth’s.
Our BIG thanks to all JWN readers who’ve contributed so far! (Including those of you who’ve recently increased your pledges at the site, which was very much appreciated.)
If any of you have been sitting on the fence, or saying– “Oh, that looks worthwhile. I must get around to sending them a pledge sometime… “– Well, the time is now. Please do it!
If we don’t reach our $10,000 goal by 8 am EST on December 12, then according to the rules that Kickstarter uses, we don’t get ANYTHING at all. That is, we don’t get any of the $6,697 pledged so far– and we don’t even get the contact details for the 103 fabulous people who’ve made those pledges. So we’d be starting, essentially, back at Square One in our quest for funding for this project, which would set it back by many months.
Our current plan is to have Gareth start his work on the book about now and spend 4-5 months writing it. (He HAS so much material that he’s amassed for it. Now, he just needs to pull it all together into book chapters.) Then, JWB will do our usual excellent and speedy edit and layout on the manuscript… and we’d hope to have the final PDF’s ready by next September; printed copies by October.
We are so ready to get this project rolling.
Please do everything you can to urge your friends and colleagues to chip in, too. Here is a short URL you can use for the fundraising page on Twitter, Facebook, listservs, etc: http://bit.ly/ManufCrisis. And here is the PDF of a flier (leaflet) that you can print out at home and hand out to family, friends, or colleagues.
You can tell them about the super rewards that are offered there at various levels of support. (Hey, no-one has yet signed up for the “Dinner for you and three friends with Gareth, where he’ll talk about his book” option yet!) But in a very real sense, the biggest reward is knowing that by getting this vitally needed project on the road, you’ll be helping to prevent the warmongers and disinformation experts from jerking us all into yet another catastrophic– but oh, so easily avoidable– war.
Thanks for all the help you can give us in getting this fundraiser successfully over the finish line.

Palestine and the Arab Spring

Plenty of western commentators have asserted that the attention that participants in the Arab Spring have been paying to governance issues in their own countries means that somehow they no longer really care about Palestine. (A few people, most notably As’ad Abou-Khalil, have challenged that assertion. Over the past 22 months As’ad has repeatedly highlighted news items from the Arab Spring countries that clearly indicate a deep concern for Palestine.)
Right now, downtown Cairo is the scene of extremely serious discussions and clashes over Egyptian governance/constitutional issues. The fact that, at such a time, more than 500 Egyptian social activists– including several of the leaders of last year’s revolution– have taken time out to make the lengthy and very dangerous trip to Gaza to express solidarity with its people in the present crisis is very significant.
You can read a good (English-language) account of the group’s visit to Shifa Hospital, here.
Note the important evaluation voiced there by Ragia Omran, a prominent Egyptian women’s rights activist and leader in the anti-Mubarak/anti-SCAF movement last year– and today, and one of organizers of the convoy to Gaza:

    “Thank you Gaza, thank you for finally making the fragmented political public speak in one voice. Thank you for uniting us once again.
    “The pro-Palestine protests and movements in Egypt following the Second Intifada were the building blocks for the January 25 Revolution.”

Indeed they were.
Perhaps all those people in the Obama administration– which is, at this point, just about all of them–who take seriously only the views, interests, and politics of that tiny portion of Middle Easterners who are Jewish Israelis, could come up with more effective and humane policies for the region if they based their analyses instead on these few simple ideas:

  • the idea that ALL the 300 million people of the region are equally human and thus equally deserving of rights;
  • the idea that ALL the region’s countries have complex internal political dynamics that need to be understood; and
  • the idea that you can’t for long maintain a policy in the region that is based only on the (sometimes rather fanatic) preferences of just the 6.5 million Jewish-Israeli residents of Fortress Israel.

Obama admin wilfully blind on Gaza crisis?

Quick! Someone help free Pres. Obama from the kidnappers who are holding him hostage! The kidnappers in question are, of course, our old friends from the Israel Lobby, who have succeeded so thoroughly in their decades-long campaign to stuff the whole of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment with their acolytes and toadies that it seems that the President of the USA is currently unable to get any even halfway accurate information about the true situation in the Middle East.
Consider this statement that “Deputy National Security Adviser” (actually, a jumped-up speechwriter) Ben Rhodes made to reporters in Phonm Penh today: “the reason there is a conflict in Gaza is because of the rocket fire that’s been launched at Israeli civilians indiscriminately for many months now. And any solution to this challenge has to include an end to that rocket fire.”
That was it. Nothing about the many steps Israel has taken in the past ten days deliberately to escalate the tensions with Gaza (the killing of Ahmed Jabari, etc). Nothing about Israel’s maintenance of a crippling siege around Gaza for the past seven years. Nothing about Israel’s maintenance of a military occupation regime over and around Gaza for 45 years now… No, the only reason there’s a conflict in Gaza is “because of the rocket fire that’s been launched at Israeli civilians indiscriminately for many months now.”
And thus, the only step that Mr. Rhodes and his boss the president see as necessary in order to end the conflict is that Hamas should cease its launching of rockets. Nothing about Israel taking any steps whatsoever to halt its massive, sustained use of lethal violence against Gaza.
Mind-boggling. And outrageous.
There is no public recognition at all from Obama or his officials that both sides should be a party to any ceasefire if it is to have any chance of taking hold. (Preferably, too, some neutral monitoring mechanism should be put in place so that future infringements or accusations of the same can be speedily reviewed and resolved.)
Still today, one week into the current very lethal and tragic flare-up, Obama is giving a flashing green light to Israel: “Yes, Israel, go, go, go! Use all your lethal firepower against Gaza, as much as you want; and we will certainly replenish your military supplies if you need that!”
When Obama spoke with Egyptian Pres. Morsi on the phone yesterday, this is what, according to the White House, transpired during the call:

    The two leaders discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza, and President Obama underscored the necessity of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel.

That was it.
My first question is, why this blindness? Well, I guess that’s easy. Time was, back in the old days, when there were people in the White House and in positions of influence in the State Department who understood the broad dynamics of Middle Eastern politics and who had a well-grounded sense of what, broadly speaking, the American people’s interests in the region were. Back in the day, “even-handed” used to be a term of praise for U.S. officials involved in the sometimes complex work of negotiating issues between Arabs and Israelis.
Oh boy, how that has changed. With the rise of AIPAC’s influence over all relevant branches of the U.S. administration (except for some remaining small pockets of resistance in some portions of the Defense Department), kowtowing to Israel became the order of the day. “Even-handed” even came to be understood as a slur expressed against those who were insufficiently zealous in the cause. Too deep and granular an understanding of the dynamics of a region that is host to some 300 million Muslims and just 6.5 million Jewish Israelis came to be seen by everyone in the self-referential bubble that is Washington as a clear career-ender. (Exhibit A: Amb. Chas Freeman, and the humiliation meted out to him in March 2009. But there are numerous other examples, too..)
A self-imposed blindness became the order of the day in Washington.
And today, that blindness matters.
The Middle East of late 2012 is not, it turns out, the same as the Middle East of 2006 (the days of George W. Bush, Condi Rice, and the “birth-pangs of democracy” criminality over Lebanon.) It is not even the same as the Middle East of 2008-09 when– as in 2006– an apparently strongly seated Pres. Mubarak was still in power in geopolitically massive Egypt, able to extend his support over other, more fragile U.S. allies in the region like the PA’s Abu Mazen and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Hullo! Perhaps someone should tell Pres. Obama and his minions that, um, something rather serious has changed in Egypt over the past 22 months?
Just one small sign of this change is the fact that Egyptian solidarity activists have been able to go to Gaza this time. Back in 2008-09, Mubarak declared it “high treason” for any unauthorized Egyptian to even get as close to Gaza as crossing the Suez Canal (which is still a good three hours’ drive from Gaza.)
I don’t think we’ve seen Egyptian solidarity activists able to get into a zone under Israeli attack since 1982, when a number of leading Egyptian cultural figures went to Beirut at the time it was being pounded senseless by the Israeli military. (And the effect they had there was, by all accounts, quite pronounced, in terms of raising the morale of the city’s defenders and assuring them that they had not been forgotten by the world.)
Don’t under-estimate the effects of such sojourns, and of the reporting thereon, dear Mr. Ben Rhodes.
Do you think that Mr. Ben Rhodes has even heard of Mosa’ab Elshamy, an Egyptian social activist whose Twitter profile reads, quite straightforwardly, “I revolted and overthrew a dictator.” Well, perhaps there is just a tad of exaggeration there– Elshamy didn’t do it ALL by himself back in February of last year… But during those amazing days of January-February 2011 in Cairo, he certainly was one of the key activists…
So today, Elshamy is in Gaza. Today, he posted this slideshow onto the U.S. website Foreignpolicy.com. U.S. officials don’t even have to know Arabic to be able to appreciate the impact of his photos and their (English-language) captions. But imagine how much more they might understand about the geopolitical dynamics of the whole region today, if regional knowledge had not been systematically besmirched and derided by the past 30-plus years of campaigns by AIPAC and its allies?
Actually, it doesn’t even require a Ph.D. in area studies, or anything close to it, to understand such things. All that’s required is a recognition that you can’t carry on privileging the claims, interests, and assertions of 6.5 million Jewish Israelis over those of their 300 million neighbors forever and expect that situation to be stable and sustainable.
To imagine that that might be possible requires a certain, very extreme kind of colonial (and essentially racist) blindness!
If there is to be a ceasefire that works for Gaza– as I so sorely hope– then evidently, it has to be reciprocal. It is strongly preferable, in addition, that some neutral monitoring mechanism be in place. And it is absolutely necessary– for the sake of the 1.7 million Palestinians of Gaza, and for all Israelis and Palestinians everywhere– that a decent and sustainable end to the longstanding conflict between the two peoples be attained in the shortest possible time.
For 39 years now, ever since the Geneva Conference of December 1973, Washington has successfully maintained its monopoly over all Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy. The record of this tenure has been especially poor regarding the crucial Palestinian strand of the effort. Over the past 39 years, the Israelis have implanted 500,000 settlers into the occupied Palestinian territories. They have maintained total control over all of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. They have killed several tens of thousands of Palestinians– between Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank– and have displaced hundreds of thousands more from their ancestral homeland. They have completely transformed the human geography of Jerusalem. They have refused any attempts by the eight million or so Palestinians living in exile to return to their homeland. Palestinian acts of violence over that period have killed some hundreds of Israelis.
Every so often throughout the past 39 years– and especially in the aftermath of a flare-up of tensions– Washington would trot out some version or another of a new “peace initiative”, or even (heaven forbid!) a peace “process”, involving the Palestinians. All of it was flim-flam, smoke and mirrors whose main effect (and in some cases, also the intention) was to give the Israelis more time to continue their colonial taking of the Palestinians’ land and resources.
It is time to end that charade. Time for the grown-ups in the world system to take the reins away from Washington and work to speedily find and implement a solution to the Palestine-Israel question that is based on international law and a respect for the basic equality of all human persons.
… But first, we need that two-sided ceasefire in Gaza. Two-sided. How blind must this U.S. president be if he can’t understand that?

Notes on Israeli threats of launching a ‘Dahiyeh’ attack on Gaza

1. Some prominent Israelis are calling for a ‘Dahiyeh’ operation against Gaza.
I just watched this clip from a news/discussion program on Israel’s Channel 2. In it, “military analyst” Roni Daniel openly calls for the implementation of a “Dahiyeh” operation (“like in Beirut”), against Gaza. Dahiyeh is the simply the Arabic word for “suburb or neighborhood”. In this context it refers to the extensive and very highly populated southern suburbs of Beirut where, during the Israeli war against Lebanon of summer 2006, the Israeli military flattened an entire, more than kilometer-square area of 7- and 8-story buildings, the vast majority of them civilian apartments.
The topography and population density of the Beirut Dahiyeh (which has since been extensively rebuilt) is very similar to that of most parts of Gaza City and the six other cities that run down the long-besieged Gaza Strip.
When the Israeli military struck against the Dahiyeh in July 2006, the 450,000 or so residents of the area were able to flee. They fled en masse, ending up gaining a degree of refuge in mosques, schools, churches, and monasteries all over Lebanon. That mass relocation under fire was accomplished in a somewhat organized way by Hizbullah and its supporters because they had gained so much experience undertaking similar mass relocations-under-fire during Israel’s many previous assaults against both South Lebanon and other areas of the country. Relief supplies poured in to help the large groups of displaced families– who meanwhile lost all their worldly possessions as their homes were pulverized by the Israeli air force.
Israel’s authorities could threaten or even implement a “Dahiyeh Doctrine” assault against Gaza if they wanted. But where would the civilian residents of the targeted areas flee to?( And how could the supplies so necessary to their immediate relief after their dislocation be gotten into them?) The Gaza Strip is closed off from the outside world by the lengthy Israeli siege; and no part of the area inside it is immune from Israeli attack.
Already, many thousands of Gazans have received leaflets, phone calls, and text messages from the Israeli military telling them to flee their home areas. They regard those messages as a sick joke or an insidious form of psychological warfare. Where should they flee to?
2. Even the ‘Dahiyeh Doctrine’ DID NOT SUCCEED, strategically, during its seminal implementation, against the Beirut Dahiyeh in 2006.
The strategic goals of that war that PM Olmert and his generals launched against Lebanon in July 2006 were two-fold. Primarily, they were trying (as they openly stated) to inflict such pain on the population of Lebanon that the population would turn against Hizbullah and force it to give up the arsenal that it still retained under its control despite the fact that it had also, since 1992, been an active participant in Lebanon’s parliamentary system. In a secondary and broader way, the war was launched to “re-establish the credibility of Israel’s deterrent power” which, the generals thought, had been badly damaged by the unilateral withdrawal that Israel had made from South Lebanon in May 2000, bringing to an end a military occupation of the southern portion of Lebanon that had continued since 1982.
During 33 days of extremely damaging fighting, during which the Israeli military destroyed large portions of Lebanon’s national infrastructure, killed many hundreds of civilians, and dislocated more than a million people from their homes, the people of Lebanon rallied ever closer and closer around Hizbullah. Most certainly they did not “turn against it” or repudiate and seek to punish it, as Olmert and the generals had hoped.
Pres. George W. Bush gave Olmert a complete green light to continue his assault as long as he wanted, and provided some much-needed resupply for Israeli munitions as they started to run low. But still, Israel was unable to force Hizbullah and the Lebanese people to bow to their demands. After 33 days, the conflict was also becoming disruptive, to a small degree damaging, and definitely embarrassing to Israel. (A ground attack against South Lebanon that was a last-minute way the military sought to impose its will on the Lebanese turned out to be an extremely poorly planned fiasco.) So Olmert himself became increasingly eager for a ceasefire; and with the help of the Americans one was organized on August 13, 2006. The ceasefire terms notably did not include any mechanism for the disarming of Hizbullah.
This was also not great in terms of re-establishing the credibility of the Israeli deterrent. So in 2008, Olmert felt he had to try again to achieve this… which he did in late December 2008, against Gaza. Once again, there, he and his generals were unable to force their terms of capitulation on their target (Hamas), which was able to prevent the Israeli ground forces from taking control of any of the Strip except a small portion; and which survived with its leadership structures and its political positions unbroken… And so it goes.
It is, however, important to note that though it might feel “good” to some portion of Israelis if their government implements a “Dahiyeh Doctrine”, actually, even that is extremely unlikely to bring to the Israeli government the politico-strategic goals that its seeks. It is more likely, indeed, to be extremely counter-productive at the politico-strategic level.
3. Some good resources on the “original” Dahiyeh assaults:
To understand what it was like for one Lebanese civilian social activist to live in Beirut under the onslaught of the Dahiyeh Doctrine, read Rami Zurayk’s amazing and poignant, 60-page-long War Diary: Lebanon 2006, which my company published last year. You can get it as a paperback, or an e-book.
You can read the fairly detailed analysis of the 2006 war that I published in Boston Review in Nov/Dec 2006, here.

Fundraiser for key new book on Iran– please help!

As some JWN readers know, twelve days ago I launched an online fundraising campaign to support the writing and publication of one of my company’s most important books for 2013, a book by award-winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter that exposes how the U.S. and Israel have “manufactured” the whole scare about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
(Big thanks to Mr. Netanyahu for providing us with such a fabulous book cover image, by the way.)
The book will be called Manufactured Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare. Gareth, who in June traveled to London to receive the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, is uniquely qualified to write this book. You can see more details about his qualifications over at the fundraising page. But he needs some financial support if he is to take time out from his continuing duties as a cutting-edge investigative reporter, and pull together the huge amount of material that he has amassed, into the form of this very sorely needed book.
We want, obviously, to get the book out as early in 2013 as we can… But it still all needs to be written!
My company, Just World Books, has given Gareth a small advance. But he needs quite a lot more support, if he is to be able to devote the time that this project needs– and to do so, starting in early December! We don’t have access (as the vast majority of the warmongers and scaremongers do) to huge gobs of funding from foundations or think-tanks. So this has had to be a “people’s” fundraising campaign; and in a way I’m very glad about that.
The fundraising platform that we’re working with, Kickstarter, has a generally good format. But it has an important feature that we all need to know about: Anyone launching a Kickstarter campaign has to designate both an end-date, and a target amount of money that she or he wants to raise before that end-date… And if the pledges made to the campaign as of that date don’t meet the target, then none of the money gets collected!
From the point of view of a project’s backers, that is probably a good thing. It means that you don’t end up pouring money into a project that never gets fully funded and that may therefore never get completed. From our viewpoint as the project’s authors, however, it means we absolutely need to meet the $10,000 fundraising target we set, before December 12, which was the cut-off date that I designated.
If we don’t reach the goal by then, not only we don’t get any of the money pledged, but also, I think we don’t even get access to the contact details of the pledgers, to ask them if they could find a way to support us, anyway.
Right, I agree that that latter aspect of the Kickstarter system seems really horrible.
But the Kickstarter folks are quite right to stress, as they do in some of their literature, that running a successful fundraising campaign takes time and energy; and that people who are planning creative projects should try to be strategic about minimizing the amount of time they have to spend fundraising.
So let me ask all of you readers of JWN to help us meet our goal.
This is not a “charitable” endeavor. It is a serious pitch for backing for an important publishing project… and we’re offering a graduated series of worthwhile “rewards” to everyone who contributes $10 or more. You can check them out on the right sidebar of the Kickstarter page there.
When I was planning this fundraising campaign, I decided it should run for 42 days. We launched it on October 24. We knew it would be hard to get much attention for it during the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the U.S. election. But now, the election has finished and all the dust that it raised has settled. The fact that Pres. Obama won re-election does not mean at all that the threat of continued tensions and future, perhaps sudden, escalations between the U.S. and Iran–or, between Israel and Iran– has gone away.
Far from it!
Today, according to the Kickstarter page, we have 29 days left for our campaign. (I would have pegged it at 30 days, but never mind…) And we are already 22.6% of the way towards our goal.
My huge thanks to everyone who has expressed their support of this project– and their confidence in Gareth and me– by pledging, so far!
But we still need to raise the remaining $7,740 by December 12.
Can you help us, please?
Kickstarter will accept pledges in any amount from $1 up. We offer good rewards, at pledge levels from $10 right through $1,000. If you haven’t pledged yet, could you consider doing so? Pledging can be done quickly and simply through the Kickstarter page.
In addition, we’d appreciate anything you can do to help us spread the word about this fundraising campaign. There must be many ways in which, for example, you could tell your friends about it, and urge them to make a pledge, too?
If you’re a fellow blogger, could you blog something quick and simple about it? (I’d be happy to help you by giving you some “talking points” you could use in your blog post… Or, just take down some of the key points that Gareth makes about the project in the great little video that we put onto the KS page.)
If you’re on Twitter and want to tweet about the campaign, we’ve created this handy short URL you can copy and use: http://bit.ly/ManufCrisis… Actually, anyone can use that short URL, which is a whole lot easier to remember or copy than the long version.
And let’s not forget physical-media ways of doing outreach, either. I’m just about to make some print flyers about the campaign, to start handing out, including at the annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, which runs in Denver, Colorado, this weekend. Let me know if you’d like me to send you the PDF of the print flyers, so you can distribute some, too.
…So please, give us all the help you can. We need this fundraising campaign to succeed. That way, Gareth can get started very soon on the deep, sustained work that is needed to pull together all the materials he has collected, into this important book… And we can then know that this book can make a real contribution to setting the record straight on the lies, manipulations, and actual DIS-information on this issue that too many in the “west” have been subjected to, for far too long.
Thanks, everyone!

Yes, I was right on Syria. (And what now?)

I realize it is unseemly, in the world of international-affairs analysis, for someone to say quite bluntly “I told you so”. I realize, far more importantly, that the situation in which Syria’s 25 million (or so) people find themselves is one of deep and very hard-to-escape crisis– one that, whether Pres. Asad stays or goes, will (as I noted here in early August of this year) continue to plague them for many, many years to come… and any contention among non-Syrian analysts as to who was “right” and who was “wrong” pales in importance to that deeply tragic fact.
But still, looking back, I think I have been fundamentally correct in my evaluations of the situation in Syria– from March 2011 until today. And that, at a time when a large majority of people in the U.S. (and ‘western’) political class had a very different analytical bottom line than my own. Their bottom line was, basically, that the Asad regime was weak, hollow, deeply unpopular, and would crumble “any day now.” And since people holding to this belief– which was nearly always, much more of a belief than an analysis– have been extremely strong inside the Obama administration as well as in the western chattering classes (including among many self-professed “progressives” or liberals), their belief in the imminent collapse of the Asad regime has driven Washington’s policy all along.
Of greatest concern to me has been those people’s rigid adherence to the policy of not negotiating or supporting the idea of anyone else negotiating with the Asad regime. Instead of any idea of negotiations, the overthrow of the regime was their overwhelming and primary goal. Negotiations about the future of Syria could, they said, be held only after the President’s removal.

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News from the negotiated transition in Burma/Myanmar

I’ve recently been devouring Evan Osnos’s brilliant piece of reporting in The New Yorker, on the exciting, now-underway, negotiated transition to much greater democracy in Myanmar/Burma.
Huge kudos to Osnos for doing this great research and reporting, and to The New Yorker for, presumably, funding his lengthy reporting trip to the country, and then publishing the lengthy article. (Sadly, only an abstract is available free at the link above. I hope you can find the whole, long paper version in your local library.)
Osnos’s report is full of fascinating details– about the calculations that Aung San Suu Kyi and her allies in the NLD were making as they decided to give the democratic opening process a chance; and about the deliberations and discussions that occurred deep inside the ruling junta that led to its participation. U.S. diplomacy, in the person of Secretary Clinton and some of her key aides, also played a role.
This is a major story of our time! It affects the future of all of the country’s 60 million people– and, of course, their neighbors. So why do the U.S. and ‘western’ media in general give it so little play and so little prominence, compared with the story of the tragic and violent continuing events in (much smaller) Syria?
It is, sadly, the violent aspects of the events in Syria that have been garnering by far the most attention in the western MSM over recent months. That is, both the violence of the regime, and its tragic effects– which are often waved in front of the western public like a bloody shirt, with the intention being to whip up western opinion against the regime– and the violence of the opposition, which is far too often romanticized and condoned, with the inevitable effects of opposition violence almost never being shown.
I believe there are two factors which explain the difference between the coverage of Syria and the coverage (or lack thereof) of Burma. Firstly, the sometimes almost pornographic fascination with violence and its representations in the western media, in general– as opposed to the much more visually ‘boring’ events that make up the day-to-day grind of diplomacy in a place like Burma/Myanmar; and secondly, the fact that there is huge buy-in from the vast majority of corporate owners and journos in the western MSM to the goal of violent regime change in Syria– but almost complete indifference to the fate of the 60 million people in Burma.
Not all is roses and honey in Burma yet, I know. But I find the story of the democratic opening there really engaging. I wrote a whole chapter about Aung San Suu Kyi in my 2000 book ‘The Moral Architecture of World Peace’. She is an amazing woman, and by all accounts the NLD, that she heads, is a sturdy, resilient, and visionary organization.
In addition, the careful, nonviolent, and negotiated way the transition there is being pursued by the local participants, and supported by external actors, like the United States, is an exemplary way for transitions from authoritarian and/or minority rule to democracy to be undertaken. As in South Africa, 1990-1994. This is exactly what we should be advocating for regarding Syria! If Sec. Clinton can be pursuing these policies of careful diplomacy with respect to the junta in Myanmar that has committed atrocities on a truly massive scale– some of which, truth be told, continue to this day– then why on earth has the Obama administration and so much of the rest of the U.S. political elite adopted such a belligerent and escalatory policy toward the regime in Damascus?
By far the best explanation for this contrast is, I think, the role played by the unremitting campaign of anti-Damascus agitation undertaken by pro-Israeli forces in American and other western societies for several decades now. There has been nothing like that agitation maintained against the junta in Burma. And this year is, remember, an election year in America…
It is not too late for the Obama administration to turn away from the path of escalation regarding Syria. Up until now– and especially with Sec. Clinton’s most recent visit to Turkey– there is no sign that they are doing so. But if they continue along this path, the fallout from any large-scale explosion of hostilities in Syria could well be massive.
Lessons from South Africa and Burma, please!