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
- Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.
- Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and
- 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
- 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,
- Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman
- 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
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