Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'


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Sarah Schulman is somewhat nonplussed by the willingness of the gay and lesbian community – having newly earned their civil rights – to allow themselves to be co-opted by conservatives as a hammer by which to beat Muslims. Indeed, Israel is trying to fight its PR war against Palestine by pointing out that they are more tolerant of gays (conflating this to mean that the injustices they regularly inflict on Palestinians is glossed over by showing how socially liberal Israelis are, because liberals don’t do such things, et cetera) and Germany and the Netherlands found new allies in their fight against Muslim immigrant communities.

I’ve seen something like this before.

Back where I used to work in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, the building (or as they call it now, the “campus,” ever since the large school was closed) houses four schools. All of these schools are divided by racial lines. Three of them are Black/Latino – in that there are literally no white students – and the last one is an “international” school with mostly Asian/Middle Eastern first- and second-generation students.

The Black kids didn’t like the Chinese kids. The Chinese kids didn’t like the Black kids. We couldn’t house them in the same place at the same time. Even during regular schedules, there were altercations on a daily basis where the Chinese kids (cutting classes by wandering through the Black schools) would treat the Black kids like potential criminals, and the Black kids (cutting classes by wandering through the International school) would taunt the Chinese kids with “ching chong” jokes. Punches got thrown.

So the teachers got together and decided they would have to give these students a primer on racism (and yes, the all white teaching staff did note the irony and the awkwardness of having to teach Black students about racism) but here’s where it got interesting: When asked in Social Studies class about the subject, it turns out that a lot of the Black students more or less defined racism as “bad things that happen to Black people.” As such, what they were doing to the Chinese students was categorically not racist because Black people, being victims, are perennially incapable of racism.

And the Chinese students? While they acknowledged the difficulties they faced with difficulty of language barriers and social exclusion, they were taught that Black people were untrustworthy, and that was the end of that argument.

So it came as no surprise to me that some gays didn’t mind being used to further ostracize immigrant communities in Europe or that, for that matter, some Jews didn’t see anything wrong with treating people like second-class citizens in Israel due to their ethnicity and faith. As it turns out, there are a fair number of people of any background that view prejudice only within the frame of their background, no matter how much lip service they give to the greater good of universal civil rights and social justice.

Abstraction – empathy – is a hard thing to teach.

Foreign Policy

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Foreign Policy magazine is coming down on Obama for failing to create much positive headway in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel. “Zero for Four.”

To which I ask, who has made headway with them in the last 30 years? Stephen Walt says he’ll be blamed for “losing” our two wars. We knew they would be lost in 2003. There is no other possible outcome. I suppose Obama could have said “damn the consequences,” fallen on the grenade, gotten us out of the wars post-haste, watched the region go to shit and had a world of bad press kill the Democratic party’s mandate as the Republicans mocked him for being a second Carter while secretly thankful that we were out of that mess, but… seriously now.

That said, what I got out of the article – the indictment – was that, by so much as having that byline, he has insinuated that Obama could use an executive mandate to fundamentally alter America’s antagonistic stance towards Iran and chummy relationship with Israel. Arguably, Obama does have more official power as the executive than anybody in this or the last century thanks to Bush’s policies and party, aside from, perhaps, the mandates of FDR. Whether that translates to real power, however, is up for debate.

The anemic ministrations of this current administration can only mean two things:

a) The Democratic party was unwilling to use the mandate it got in 2009

b) The Democratic party was unable to use the mandate it got in 2009

Just so I don’t go mad, I’m going to assume the latter. At which point we have our most damning indictment of democracy – its utter inability to turn the ship around in any time-line remotely necessary to stave off disaster.

She’s Right, You Know

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Helen Thomas may have made a tactical error by pointing out the 800-lb gorilla in the room, but it was her right as a respected elder and a respected journalist – indeed, perhaps the only one worthy of the title amidst the White House correspondents.

She said that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” to a Long Island rabbi at a Jewish heritage event. “Where should they go?” “Home.” “Where’s that?” “Poland. Germany. America.” The rabbi is aghast and offended. Immediately the left acts like they didn’t know her and the GOP attack her as if she mailed a noose to the NAACP. Her backers drop her and she’s forced into retirement.

But seriously, now. Let’s go back to that 800-lb gorilla. Israel is building illegal settlements, in direct violation of UN and US stipulations, in disputed territory as per the 1967 agreement, usurping and undermining all peace talks with Palestinian authorities. Israel’s right-wing Likud party, further, refuses to recognize the state of Palestine – their rationale for the settlements – until the Palestinian authorities recognize Israel. Hamas recognizes Israel on the stipulation that it keeps to the 1967 borders, which it is clearly not, because Israel hopes to move the borders by dint of filling the region with Jewish immigrants – itself a form of ethnic cleansing not unlike China’s contemporaneous efforts at filling Lhasa, Tibet AR and Urumqi, Uyghur AR, with Han Chinese, and not terribly dissimilar either to America’s and Germany’s respective lebensraums – on the assumption that, once built, those settlements would be especially difficult to uproot and the population balance will alter politics in their favor. Those immigrants filling the new settlements in Palestine come from Eastern Europe and America, taking advantage of Israel’s diaspora/dual-citizenship policy.

Or, to put it succinctly, Jewish immigrants from Poland, Germany and America are illegally settling in Palestine and they should get the hell out if we’re ever going to get anywhere with Israel. That wasn’t so hard, now, was it?


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has yet again done the indefensible and the United States are the only ones defending them, rogue nation that they are.

If you ask me, Turkey has the right idea: In response to the killing of two Turkish aid workers, Ankara has replied that “further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, escorted by the Turkish Navy.”

Damn straight.

What the Fuck?

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“They are demanding that Jews not be allowed to build in East Jerusalem,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Israel Radio. “We cannot bar only Jews from building in a certain section of the city. Can you imagine if they told Jews in New York they could not build or buy in Queens?”

Yeah, sure. If Queens were another country that Manhattan had occupied by force, and the ever-present NADF’s* tanks were rolling down Northern Boulevard to make sure Chinese immigrants – and only Chinese immigrants – could build in Bayside…

*New Amsterdam Defense Force

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