May 2002 Notebook
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Monday, May 27, 2002

I've read about a third of Tom Segev's One Palestine, Complete. There are many astonishing tidbits here, things that prefigure later disasters. (I should perhaps start to collect them.) But right now all I want to do is to compile a quick list of what I've read since 9/11/2001 (plus a couple of earlier-but-relevant books):

  • Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate.
  • Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.
  • Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity.
  • Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam.
  • Robert D. Kaplan, The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite.
  • Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples.
  • V.S. Naipaul: Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey.
  • Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999.
  • Edward W. Said, The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After.
  • Robert D. Kaplan, Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus.
  • Robert D. Kaplan, Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Robert D. Kaplan, The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy.
  • Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.
  • Robert D. Kaplan, The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War.
  • Misha Glenny, The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers, 1804-1999.
  • Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.
  • David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East.

Of these, I put the Said and Naipaul books aside before finishing them. Said's short, polemical columns tend to wear out their welcome rather quickly, although he is a unique and important critic. I read the first half of Naipaul (Iran, Pakistan), but saved the second half (Malaysia, Indonesia) for another day. I also started Barbara Crossette, The Great Hill Stations of Asia, which I didn't find to be terribly useful. I've read short fragments from two more Tom Segev books, The Seventh Million: Israelis and the Holocaust and Elvis in Jerusalem: Post Zionism and the Americanization of Israel, and intend to read much more. Two other books I have in hand but haven't gotten to yet are The New Intifada: Resisting Israel's Apartheid and Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict. I haven't read anything by Noam Chomsky yet, but he wrote the introduction to The New Intifada, which I expect to be a succinct summary of his views; beyond that, none of the books above provide much in the way of useful history of the current intifada. Klare's book seems less promising -- I'm very wary of arguments (which Ahmed and Kaplan dabble in) that seek to reduce the conflict to oil, but the book has a chapter on Jordan River water politics, which could be useful. Long ago I read Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, which covers the history of middle eastern oil politics quite well. (Another relevant book that I read long ago is Anouar Abdel-Malek, Egypt: Military Society, which is a striking critique of Nasser from the left.) I've also looked quite a bit at Eli Barnavi, ed., A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People: From the Time of the Patriarchs to the Present.

I need to write more about each of these books.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Spent the whole day in the hospital, waiting as Laura had surgery. This isn't really the place to go into details, but we got bit by the cost crunch: she was released prematurely, then returned to the emergency room, which refused to readmit her. The ER people had to reconstruct the case, which they misunderstood. While in the end it's remarkable that it all worked out as well as it did, it goes to show how ridiculous the business system is, even while the level of medical skills is quite good. Or at least would be if common sense didn't get confused by profitmaking.

I can make an analogy here to Microsoft. Many people give Microsoft credit for the astonishing price-value gains of computer systems in the last 20 years, yet it is the hardware which is so much faster and cheaper, while Microsoft itself takes an ever larger and more counterproductive cut of the whole. Same thing with medicine: it is so much better now than 20 years ago because we know so much more, yet the bizarre system we use to finance it causes extraordinary trouble, yet we suffer with it because it seems somehow linked up with the progress.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Worked a little more on an earlier Israel/Palestine piece -- a set of thoughts mostly on the Saudi peace proposal. Again, this feels like a practice draft. I'll quote it here, rather than forget it or force it to stand on its own.

  1. The war between Israel and its Arab subjects and neighbors cannot be won by either side. The Arabs cannot sweep Israel into the sea: beyond its considerable military advantages (including nuclear deterence), Israel's security is backed by the overwhelming U.S. war machine. On the other hand, Israel cannot conquer let alone pacify the much more numerous Arabs; indeed, Israel's ability to control (as opposed to damage and demean) the Palestinian territories that it conquered in 1967 is very suspect. This means that neither side can impose a resolution that is not acceptable to the other.

  2. That neither side can defeat the other does not mean that both sides are equal in respect to their ability to wage war or make peace. Israel has advanced fighter-bombers, helicopter gunships, tanks; a large, disciplined army; a legendary espionage organization; the full power of a modern state, based on a first world economy. There is little doubt that Israel's political authority can direct Israel's actions in a disciplined manner. The same cannot be said for the Palestine Authority, who start with a crippled economy, no effective state aparatus and no military at all, and are severely hamstrung in any efforts to suppress anti-Israel terrorism. (The extent, if any, to which Yasser Arafat is personally involved in anti-Israel terrorism has not been established, but Israel's confinement of Arafat, attacks on the Palestine Authority, and tendency to take the law into their own hands seriously curtails Arafat's ability to suppress terrorism.)

  3. One major problem is that there are individuals on both sides who are implacably opposed to peace. Anwar Sadat, who led Egypt's effort to sign a bilateral peace pact with Israel, was assassinated by Arab militants. Yitzhak Rabin, who led Israel into the Oslo peace process which recognized the PLO, was assassinated by a Jewish fanatic. Beyond the individuals and clandestine groups who have time and again committed provocative acts of violence, there are politicians who chafe at peace and incite war (notably Yasser Arafat in earlier years, and Ariel Sharon to this day). If there ever is to be peace in Israel/Palestine, politicians and their communities will have to rise above their fears and lead their people.

  4. There is much history to the conflict; so much so that both sides treat the interpretation of history as a battlefront. While there is much of interest in this history, it ultimately matters very little. The main thing that can be said is that both sides have done such grave injury to the other that shadings of who-did-what-when no longer matter. The debits of past (and as I write this continuing) atrocities can never be balanced, much less repaid. Both sides need to put history (and religion, perhaps the deepest, murkiest interpretation of history) aside, and start afresh from present-day reality: the land, the people, their rights and how to secure them, the economy.

  5. Most Israel/Arab peace proposals are phrased as "land for peace" deals. This is fundamentally misleading. For one thing, Israel's claim to the disputed land has no legitimacy: a) the land was seized in the 1967 war, which is a practice which has been all-but-universally condemned since WWII; and b) Israel's occupation of the conquered lands has not in any way been accepted by the people who live in those lands. For another, peace is not something which is traded: peace is the state of the world except when it is disrupted by war and injustice. Halt the war, find civil methods for redressing injustice, rebuild, and the result is peace. Yet "land for peace" keeps coming up, because both sides have unreasonable attachments to land, and perhaps because peace isn't so interesting to political leaders groomed by fifty years of war.

  6. Israel's attachment to land springs from the very heart of the Zionist enterprise: the desire to settle land and build a securely Jewish nation, expanding from the first Zionist settlements in the 1880's to something approaching the mythical Greater Israel. From the beginning, each new parcel of land meant that Israel could support more immigrants, thereby building up the demographic power to dominate the economy and the state. By 1948, these tactics (fortified with terrorism and explusion) secured a small but predominantly Jewish nation-state. Israel, of course, wanted more: more land, more Jewish settlers. In the 1967 war, Israel finally seized more land, but with the land came people, Palestinian Arabs, who if accorded citizenship would undermine the Jewish state, who if denied citizenship would eventually revolt. Since 1967, Israel has strived to promote Jewish settlement in the occupied territories ("to create facts on the ground"), yet this policy has failed to secure more demographically Jewish territory and has had been a disaster in Israel's dealing with the Palestinian population.

  7. The Arabs attachment to land takes two forms: a) For neighboring states, like Egypt and Syria, the land that Israel seized in 1967 is an open wound, taunting them with their defeat; b) For the Pallestinians, under occupation and/or scattered in refugee camps, land is the space where they have been denied their rights, in many cases including their right to exist. In both cases, this is land seized, land denied, and the cluster of effects associated with this land (war, terror, denial, indignation, impoverishment) cannot be remedied without return of the land. Whether this position is fully reasonable can be doubted, but the emphasis on restoring pre-1967-war borders (which is acceptable to all neighboring Arab states) is useful for its clarity and precision (we can at least agree as to where those borders were). This also leads us to a two-state division of Israel/Palestine, with one piece overwhelmingly Jewish, and the other piece overwhelmingly Arab (Muslim and Christian).

  8. The Saudi peace proposal -- Israel retreats to pre-1967-war borders, permitting an independent Palestinian state, and the Arab states open up normal peaceable relationships with Israel -- comes at a time when little else offers hope of settlement. The bilateral peace treaties that Egypt and Jordan signed with Israel have not led to more general agreements. (Part of the reason being that after agreeing to peace with Egypt, Israel promptly invaded Lebanon.) The Oslo peace process with Arafat floundered, especially after Rabin was assassinated and his nemesis Binyamin Netanyahu came to power (aided by Arafat's nemeses in Hamas; Shimon Peres midwifed this transition by ordering the assassination of Hamas terrorist Yahya Ayyash). It has been argued (notably by Edward Said) that the peace process was fatally compromised from the beginning: that Arafat had made concessions (especially on settlements, but also on land and water) that would in the long run render Palestine unviable. Yet those concessions were made on the hopeful promise that the peace process itself would lead to mutual respect and moderation on both sides. That hope has been smashed by the intransigence of the successive Netanyahu, Barak, and Sharon governments. The Saudi proposal recontextualizes the search for peace, by expanding it beyond Israel and the Palestinians.

  9. The history of terrorism in this conflict is long and infamous. Israel itself was born in a paroxysm of terrorism: against the British, who ultimately abandoned Palestine to anarchy; against the Palestinians, most of whom were driven into exile or killed. Israel's most famous terrorists went on to prominent political careers, including two Prime Ministers (Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir), while the will to inflict harsh violence on Israel's supposed enemies became permanent policy. This was, of course, not done in isolation. Palestinian Arabs launched a violent revolt against both the British mandate and the Yishuv in 1937, which was brutally suppressed by the British. While Palestinians were victims of Israeli violence from Deir Yassin to Sabra and Shatila (and most recently Jenin), some chose to respond in kind, forming the PLO, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other organizations that have been responsible for numerous bombings, assassinations, and hijackings over thirty-some years. As with my more general point about history, the past (and unfortunately continuing) history of terrorism has nothing to tell us about what should be done to lead to peace.

  10. However, two points need to be made about the current (Sharon-era) increase in anti-Israeli terrorism. 1) Much is said about the growth in suicide bombing -- it is particularly pernicious because it is impossible to deter and especially difficult to defend against -- but few point out that the really significant word is suicide. Nothing so underscores the hopelessness of the Palestinian position as the resignation of its cadres to so little effect. As a military tactic, suicide bombing is pathetic; as a cry for help it might be poignant were it not cluttered with so much debris. I'm reminded more than anything of the Buddhist monks who immolated themselves during the Vietnam war. 2) It certainly seems like Sharon's (and Israel's) policy, especially since the U.S. gave Israel a blank check for the war on terrorism, is not to quiet terrorism (easily accomplished by offering some hope of peace and respect) but to stir up as much terrorism as possible, thereby chewing up as many terrorists as possible. The goal here is to exhaust Palestinian resistance: on the one hand Israel frustrates all peaceful efforts to redress grievances, leaving the Palestinians no option except violent resistance; on the other hand, Israel's tactics to crush terrorism are so crude and sweeping that they only serve to stir up more grievances. To the extent this stirs up more terrorism, this policy effectively discredits the Palestinians and justifies its own brutality.

  11. There are two major problems that any resolution must deal with: the Palestinian refugees and the Israeli settlements. Both problems concern the right of people to live where they want; ideally, they could in turn be solved by letting people live where they want. But in practice they will not be solved so simply. Israel fears return of the Palestinian refugees for both practical and theoretical reasons, including the likelihood that a large influx of Palestinians would push Israel towards becoming a secular rather than a Jewish state. Palestinians oppose the settlements because they function independently of and privileged above Palestinian society, and because they reflect and portend the subjugation of Palestinian society to Israel.

  12. The problem of the settlements is relatively easy to deal with, not least of all because the settlements have failed: they haven't shifted the demographic balance in the occupied territories, nor have they integrated themselves into the Palestinian economy in a way to make them in any way beneficial or appreciated. Rather, they are isolated compounds, attached by umbilical cords to Israel proper. (Of course, the settlements have succeeded in one regard: their existence extorts Israeli politicians to refuse to cede land, and encourages them to more aggressively police the territories, keeping the level of hostility high.) So, while these compounds and corridors damage Palestine, almost all of the settlers could move back to Israel with no more pain than Americans might suffer moving from one gated suburb to another. So the simple solution is for Israel to give up the settlements and to transfer the settlers back to Israel proper.

  13. The Palestinian refugees are a more difficult problem: the numbers are far greater, the time elapsed far longer, their impoverishment in refugee camps extreme. Leaving refugees in the camps only prolongs the problem: the refugees need to be resettled, their normal lives restarted. In this they will need help, which only seems possible with a large international commitment. Some will return to a newly independent Palestine, but Palestine itself will need help. It is unlikely that Israel will accept any significant number of refugees in the foreseeable future. Integrating the refugees into neighboring nations is also problematic, so it will be important to open up more immigration options, including to the U.S.

  14. Sadly, the deepest cause of this heartbreaking war seems the least likely to be redressed. This is the felt need for a Jewish state, which led to the founding of Israel and which continues to drive Israel's hostility to its neighbors and to its non-Jewish subjects. The feeling itself, at least as expressed over a century ago, is not hard to understand: Jews in Eastern Europe had few rights and no power to defend themselves from an increasing tide of antisemitic discrimination and violence. Nor were these fears exaggerated, as proven by Nazi Germany's extermination of six million Jews. But while the fears were justified, the solution (to settle a colony and build a nation) was rotten, especially after nationalism had torn the world asunder in two world wars and imperialism had driven all of its victims into revolt. Since its independence in 1948, Israel has fought heroically to impose a Jewish state against a worldwide trend toward human rights, secularism, equality, peace, and prosperity. In this they have been aided by Arab impulses to match their nationalism and antisecularism, and by the prejudices of the old and new imperialist powers. But just as important, Israel has used the Jews' sense of their historic victimhood to rationalize obvious mistakes and failures into greater conviction of their own righteousness. It may at this stage be possible to negotiate the obvious resolution -- two states roughly divided along the pre-1967 borders, one predominantly Jewish, the other predominantly Arab (regardless of the disposition of the settlements); restore the pre-1967 Syrian border; make a generous offer to resettle the refugees; establish peaceful relationships between Israel and its neighbors -- but what makes this work is that it doesn't require Israel to change its heart or mind: all it requires is that Israel recognize that it would be better off changing its present course.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Wrote a bit more on Israel/Palestine. The idea here is to boil things down to some sort of political position on how to solve the crisis. Don't really have a forum for this, so let's squirrel it away here:

We want to keep this as simple as possible (but, as Einstein said, no simpler than it has to be). As Americans, this position is directed primarily at influencing U.S. policy, and secondly at influencing world opinion. This position is short on blame, and long on hope: we seek to focus attention on doing things that work for all sides, rather than taking sides. If we seem to be less concerned with terrorism, this is because this position appeals to responsible leadership: we feel that when responsible leaders act responsibly, terrorism will have no appeal and nowhere to hide. If we seem overly focused on Israel, this is because Israel is in a unique position to act strongly, for better or worse.

  1. Peace to be achieved requires acts of restraint, respect, and generosity. Restraint is needed to break the cycles of hostility and oppression that has marked the region for more than fifty years. Respect is the recognition that all people should have equal rights to live their lives in peace and freedom. Generosity is the extra effort promote the welfare of all. Israel has repeatedly attempted to use its dominant power to impose peace, yet has utterly failed in all three respects, particularly in its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. But peace cannot be imposed; it is the result of restraint, respect, and generosity.

  2. Restraint can be imposed, and the civilized world needs to make every effort to do so. The first step is disengagement. Israel must withdraw from the territories it seized in the 1967 war; withdrawal must be orderly and restrained, which can be achieved by temporarily replacing Israeli administration with an agreed-upon international peacekeeping force, with the intent of quickly establishing democratic self-government in the territories. (Remembering, of course, that in a democracy minority rights are as important as majority rule.) The U.S. and the rest of the civilized world should make every effort to bring Israel and the Arab parties to comply with this disengagement, to police themselves against terrorists, and to restrain against any further provocations, including inflammatory propaganda. Failure to do so could result in loss of aid, sanctions, possibly even intervention.

  3. Each party must be held fully responsible for their own actions. Parties that prove incapable of policing themselves need to be given help or even replaced by outside forces who are committed to the rights and prosperity of the people involved. For example, if the Palestinian Authority cannot police terrorism they need to be replaced by someone who can (which obviously excludes Israel). Moreover, we need to clearly establish the principle that failure on one side in no way justifies any sort of reprisal from the other side. More generally, we need to put aside the question of who wronged whom in the past.

  4. There needs to be a peaceable forum for appealing disputes. This can be an international court, where all parties can present views as "friends of the court." It need not be able to impose penalties, but it does need to be able to investigate allegations and to set the record straight, and it should ultimately be able to exert considerable moral persuasion over all parties. Investigations would be greatly helped by making public all political decision-making in the area; certainty of exposure might even help restrain the politicians and security forces.

  5. The wars have resulted in a large number of Palestinian refugees, many of whom live under wretched conditions in camps in the occupied territories or neighboring countries. We need to recognize that we cannot roll back the clock and undo what has been done. In particular, we cannot force Israel to allow a significant number of refugees to return. Given this, we need to make extraordinary efforts to settle the refugees into new and secure lives. This will certainly involve compensation, education, and opening up emigration options, including to the U.S. Once Israel withdraws from the occupation, Israel's settlers may also need help -- although we don't know at this time whether the settlers will need to or even want to leave the new Palestinian state (which presumably will be secular, democratic, and respecting of minority rights).

  6. In the long term, the scars of war can only be healed by peace and prosperity. It will be necessary to invest in building up the economies in the region, especially in the occupied territories. Israel itself may benefit considerably from peace, both by reducing its huge military expense and opening up opportunities as its relations with the Arabs are normalized.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

I've collected most of my old rock critic writings here.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

The local Barnes & Noble has a display of Concord Jazz titles for $3.99 each. (I had noticed some Concord titles in the latest Daedelus catalog as well, but nowhere near so cheap.) Concord specializes in retro-swing (Scott Hamilton, Warren Vaché, Howard Alden, Ken Peplowski), a few retreads (Woody Herman, George Shearing, Mel Tormé, Rosemary Clooney), and a lot of piano (the Maybeck Hall series), and has a latin label (Picante) that I've never much explored. Still, there were over 30 titles that matched my shopping list. I didn't nab them all, but I did pig out a bit. We'll see how they work out. (I rather expect a lot of B/B+ from this bunch.)

  • Howard Alden: Your Story -- The Music of Bill Evans (1994, Concord).
  • Joanne Brackeen: Take a Chance (1993, Concord).
  • Ruby Braff: Bravura Eloquence (1988, Concord).
  • Chick Corea: Origin: Live at the Blue Note (1998, Stretch).
  • Stanley Cowell: Back to the Beautiful (1989, Concord).
  • Stanley Cowell: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 5 (1990, Concord).
  • Jesse Davis: From Within (1996, Concord).
  • Hal Galper: Portrait (1989, Concord).
  • The Scott Hamilton Quintet in Concert (1983, Concord).
  • Steve Kuhn: Years Later (1995, Concord).
  • Peter Leitch: Trio/Quartet '91 (1991, Concord).
  • Adam Makowicz: The Music of Jerome Kern (1992, Concord).
  • Adam Makowicz: My Favorite Things: The Music of Richard Rodgers (1993, Concord).
  • Jim McNeely: At Maybeck, Vol. 20 (1992, Concord).
  • Portrait of Marian McPartland (1979, Concord).
  • Walter Norris: Love Every Moment (1992, Concord).
  • Walter Norris/George Mraz: Hues of Blues (1995, Concord).
  • Ken Peplowski: Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool (1990, Concord).
  • Chris Potter: Moving In (1996, Concord).
  • Chris Potter: Unspoken (1997, Concord). B+
  • Randy Sandke: The Chase (1994, Concord).
  • Randy Sandke: Calling All Cats (1995, Concord).
  • Frank Vignola: Let It Happen (1994, Concord). B+
  • Frank Wess/Harry Edison: Dear Mr. Basie (1989, Concord).
  • Frank Wess, et al.: Live at the 1990 Concord Jazz Festival: Second Set (1990, Concord).
  • Rickey Woodard: The Silver Strut (1995, Concord).
  • Phil Woods: Flash (1989, Concord).

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

I worked a little on the "Poor Boy" essay. A fragmentary start before stalling:

The shower of news was inescapable: aircraft hijacked and smashed into buildings, killing thousands; politicians posturing, pundits pundificating; the anthrax scare; the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism; the bombing of Afghanistan; escalating violence in Israel/Palestine; threats of nuclear war in India/Pakistan; the rout of the Taliban; the looming war against Iraq; the growing aggressivess of America's military/police state. It's all rather mind-boggling, but the immediacy of the media lets people far removed from the events feel like they are involved, and the polling and politicians make you feel like your opinion matters. Except, of course, that you opinion doesn't really matter. It's just that the only way you'll notice it not mattering is if you hold the wrong opinion. I learned this lesson long ago: since I started holding more or less informed opinions back in the mid-'60s, I've almost never held an opinion that could even make it to the "op ed" page.

The basic fact is that what we think is a matter of what we experience and our cumulative history of interpreting and understanding those experiences. Which makes each of us unique, different, and inevitably wrong, especially when we confront secondhand experiences mediated through self-proclaimed experts. Or at least that's my opinion, one that I hold because it helps me make sense of much of what I see going on around me.

Monday, May 06, 2002

Another big dinner yesterday. Mostly Turkish: yogurtlu kebap, imam bayildi, pilaf, circassian chicken, muhamara, etc. Maybe I'll backfill a menu some day; don't feel up to it right now. For one thing, I've started to work on the new www.tomhull.com website. One of these days this will result in a recipe database module, which will be a much better implementation of the recipe files that I currently have online.


Apr 2002 Jun 2002