Tina K. Russell

September 14, 2009

You First. No, You First.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:28 am

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel. However, for all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to higher standards of justice and law. It must therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Land First, Then Peace – NYTimes.com.

This is a very strange argument when Israel’s excuse for holding up the peace process is that they’re saving diplomatic negotiation as a sort of reward for good behavior, even when their citizens are dying in rocket attacks. Israel and the United States will not engage with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognize Israel, while Hamas is only willing to give Israel a grudging acceptance, and then only if they return the Occupied Territories. If Saudi Arabia joins in this game, it will ensure a kind of reverse Mexican standoff that will ensure nothing gets done, and that Israelis and Palestinians will keep dying in endless conflict merely for dreaming of a homeland of their own.

January 13, 2009

Moyers on Middle East violence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:57 pm

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Please watch.

August 30, 2008

Respects to Abie Nathan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:46 am

The problem with The New York Times‘s wonderful obituaries is that often it’s the first place I find out about remarkable people, right when they’ve passed away. Take this man, Israel’s Abie Nathan.

Abie Nathan, Israeli Peace Champion, Dies at 81 – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com
Abie Nathan, a maverick Israeli peace pioneer, an entrepreneur and a one-man humanitarian-aid organization, who went from playboy to intrepid “peace pilot,” died Wednesday in Tel Aviv. He was 81.

A Royal Air Force-trained pilot, he crashed into the national consciousness and the quagmire of the Middle East conflict with a dramatic solo flight from Israel to Egypt in an old rented biplane in 1966. A self-appointed ambassador, he wanted to talk to President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt about making peace.

At first Mr. Nathan was seen as “a curiosity” in Israel, said Eitan Haber, a veteran Israeli journalist and former senior aide of the late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. “But then it turned out he was ahead of his time,” he said.

Rest easy, my friend. You’ve done your country–and the world–proud.

An epicure, he was always ready to pay a personal price for his principles, embarking on numerous hunger strikes; he also served two terms in jail, in 1989 and 1991, for breaking a law against meeting with Yasir Arafat and other officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization, then banned in Israel as a terrorist group.

After receiving his six-month sentence in 1989, he issued a typical explanation of his person-to-person mission: “Violence will only increase and it will be impossible to heal the wounds, whether among the Arabs or the Jews, unless we decide to sit with each other. Our bullets alone cannot solve the problem.”

June 24, 2008

Israel and Palestine: The Reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:35 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – The Two Israels – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
To travel through the West Bank and Gaza these days feels like traveling through Israeli colonies.

You whiz around the West Bank on new highways that in some cases are reserved for Israeli vehicles, catching glimpses of Palestinian vehicles lined up at checkpoints.

The security system that Israel is steadily establishing is nowhere more stifling than here in Hebron, the largest city in the southern part of the West Bank. In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people. To protect them, the Israeli military has established a massive system of guard posts, checkpoints and road closures since 2001.

More than 1,800 Palestinian shops have closed, in some cases the doors welded shut, and several thousand people have been driven from their homes. The once flourishing gold market is now blocked with barbed wire and choked with weeds and garbage.

“For years, Israel has severely oppressed Palestinians living in the center of the city,” notes B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, in a recent report. The authorities, it adds, “have expropriated the city center from its Palestinian residents and destroyed it economically.”

Please read this. Kristof goes on to speak of how thorough, choking, cruel, and ubiquitous the occupation is in Palestine, how Hamas terrorism is hurting Palestine’s chances of ever having a legitimate state, and how ordinary Israelis are reaching across the border to help the victims of the brutal occupation regime.

I want to be clear that non-violent means are the only legitimate means to fight the occupation. But fight we must, as the Israeli government will find out soon enough what its people have known for a long time: the theoretical advantage of a “greater Israel” will never match the horror, the death and destruction, being waged across the border, and that having a failed state next door creates a haven for terrorists and terrorist sentiment that puts every Israeli citizen in unacceptable danger.

June 19, 2008

Extremism, in Israel and Palestine

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:04 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – Strengthening Extremists – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
When Hamas won democratic elections in Gaza and then seized full power a year ago, there were no good choices for Israel and America. Hamas includes terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists and ideologues, and it has cultivated ties with Iran. It has decent governance by the region’s devalued standards — it is not particularly corrupt; it delivers social services efficiently, and the streets are safe — but it runs a police state and alarms all its neighbors.

Of all the bad choices, Israel chose perhaps the worst. Punishing everyone in Gaza radicalized the population, cast Hamas as a victim, gave its officials an excuse for economic failures and undermined the moderates who are the best hope of both Israel and the Arab world.

If the U.S. and Israel had formed a Joint Commission to Support Hamas Extremists and Bolster Iranian Influence, they could hardly have done a better job.

I like this column because it talks about the good and bad both in Palestine and Israel, and it does away with the fairy tale that isolating Hamas has weakened it. We’ve strengthened Hamas, I’m sad to say, by making them sympathetic figures and the only game in town. Moreover, Kristof discusses–rightly–how Hamas won the respect of voters: on domestic, bread-and-butter issues like fighting corruption and delivering public goods and services. These are, of course, only a government’s most basic responsibilities, but it shows how the turmoil in Palestine has weakened local standards: by beating the corrupt and inefficient Fatah at the basic give-and-take of governing, Hamas has won the authority to create a bellicose police state posing a grave threat to its neighbors. If we want to create a truly lasting democracy, as Bush often says is his aim just about anywhere, we both have to accept that foreigners may elect people we don’t like, and that when they do so, we should allow their countries to cultivate peaceful alternatives on their own that the voters will quickly realize are better than having a destructive military order.

In any democracy, you’ll find that bitterness and desperation breed extremism. If you look at a graph of party affiliation in prewar Germany, you’ll see that moderate parties in the political center had dwindled to nothing, while extremist parties on the far right and left suddenly became the major players. While we should not (barring extreme circumstances) meddle in other countries’ internal affairs, it’s clear that if we want other countries to have democracy (and I happen to think it’s the best system in the world), the best way we can help democracy fluorish and keep extremists out of power is to improve living conditions and help temper nationalist resentment and fury. By “isolating” Hamas, not only did we give them a political monopoly in the Gaza Strip, but we improverished its citizens (more than they already were), crippled their economy, and drained all hope from the young population, turning its citizens into ripe fruit for the picking by violent, dehumanizing causes. Obviously, a murder-by-rocket is the sole responsibility of the people who carried it out. But, it is in our best interest–and it is Israel’s most important interest–to keep the Israeli people safe, and that means diffusing the resentment and rage that fuels radical violence.

Rockets fired into Sderot only galvanize the radicals in Israel, and their American allies, to continue a ghastly campaign of collective punishment that goes against all international legal and ethical standards. Crackdowns and blockades against the Gaza Strip only radicalize the population and create sympathy for Hamas, so that they can continue campaigns of violence, authoritarianism, and geopolitical destabilization that threaten the peace of the entire region. Extremism feeds on itself, and taking a one-size-fits-all approach to Palestinian politics marginalizes only the moderates in Israel and Palestine who are our last, best hope for Middle East peace.

March 29, 2008

Shed a tear… or two

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:43 am

Palestinians Fear Two-Tier Road System – New York Times

BEIT SIRA, West Bank — Ali Abu Safia, mayor of this Palestinian village, steers his car up one potholed road, then another, finding each exit blocked by huge concrete chunks placed there by the Israeli Army. On a sleek highway 100 yards away, Israeli cars whiz by.

“They took our land to build this road, and now we can’t even use it,” Mr. Abu Safia says bitterly, pointing to the highway with one hand as he drives with the other. “Israel says it is because of security. But it’s politics.”

That is just gross. As much as I can sympathize with the plight of the Israeli people, attacked with guns and rockets by ruthless terrorists, that’s merely a convenient excuse for the government to build a highway on Palestinian land and then restrict it to Israeli nationals and kick Palestinian citizens to the curb. Apparently, the Israeli government is okay with keeping Palestine in the kind of economic hole that breeds terrorism and prevents peace. It’s an entirely unstable situation that this two-tier highway is exacerbating.

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March 5, 2008

Gazan Effect

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:19 am

For Israel and Gaza, a Perilous Time – New York Times

To the Editor:

Criticism that Israel’s response in Gaza is disproportionate effectively denies Israel’s sovereign duty to provide security for its citizens. What would a “proportionate” response be — randomly firing rockets into Gaza classrooms?

Israel’s military and economic pressure on Gaza is a result of, not the cause of, the almost daily rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. The United States would not stand for such attacks, and we should not expect Israel to stand for them either.

Steve Sheffey

Highland Park, Ill., March 3, 2008

(My response is after the jump.)

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