this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

for the main blog of poetry, whimsy and maybe beauty, now

Thursday, 28 May 2009

lest we forget it's best to remember

I hold the belief that all cases of ethnic cleansing, genocide, holocaust, massacre and injustice should be remembered, including Australia's genocide of the original owners of the land, the Australian Aborigines, in the hopes that such holocausts will never happen again.

Protest against the "Nakba Law", Tel Aviv university, Israel, 27/5/2009.

Students hold signs during a protest out side the Tel Aviv’s university against the suggested “Nakba law”, a law that will forbid any kind of commemoration of the 1948 Palestinian Nakba.Photo by: Meni Berman/

Monday, 25 May 2009

Tuesday 25 May, those concerned in melbourne

VISITING SCHOLAR PROF YAKOV RABKIN "Jewish Opposition to Zionism"‏

does leonard cohen have a sense of humour?

The following video is from John Barukhov, a very young guy (Israeli) who has a dark sense of humour and a great sense of justice. This is what he has to say for himself:
After reading "The ethnic cleansing of Palestine" by historian Ilan Pappe I decided to compose a song about the settlers whose presence makes a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict very difficult. From a zionists point of view I think it is a clever strategy to occupy the west-bank bit-by-bit. And it seems to work quiet well.
However, it is immoral to expand your territory on the expense of people who try to have a normal life there. Once this period in time will be regarded as a black page in the history of Israel.
By the way, I am not a self-hating-jew. I just dont
[sic] agree with some aspects of Israeli politics.
I came across the video at the Artists Against Apartheid site.

A message for Leonard Cohen, too. He is set to tour Israel in September. The story is reported here.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

do unto others?

From Eva's blog. I came across this via the People become stories blog... though she is also in my blogroll. I'm working again now, not on holidays, so it is difficult to keep up. Also, I have been exploring more creative aspects at the new blog, but it means the humanitarian concerns suffering in more than one meaning of the word. Really sad, the following story. You might want to check out Di's blog too, because the comments are worth it and her photos are beautiful.

Can anyone categorically state that Israel is looking for peace when they burn crops and farmlands of Palestinians, and they maintain a siege which will not even let in baby milk powder to Gaza?

photo by Eva Bartlett
On the morning of 4 May 2009, Israeli troops set fire to Palestinian crops along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that 200,000 square meters of crops were destroyed, including wheat and barley ready for harvest, as well as vegetables, olive and pomegranate trees.

Local farmers report that the blaze carried over a four-kilometer stretch on the Palestinian side of the eastern border land. Ibrahim Hassan Safadi, 49, from one of the farming families whose crops were destroyed by the blaze, said that the fires were smoldering until early evening, despite efforts by the fire brigades to extinguish them.

Safadi says he was present when Israeli soldiers fired small bombs into his field, which soon after caught ablaze. He explained that “The Israeli soldiers fired from their jeeps, causing a fire to break out on the land. They burned the wheat, burned the pomegranate trees … The fire spread across the valley. We called the fire brigades. They came to the area and put out the fire. But in some places the fire started again.” According to Safadi, he lost 30,000 square meters to the blaze, including 300 pomegranate trees, 150 olive trees, and wheat.

In the border areas it has long since become nearly impossible to work on the land due to almost daily shooting from the Israeli soldiers. The crops that were burned on 4 May were dried and ready to harvest, meaning that they were extremely flammable
. Read more.
The unrecognized village of Amra-Tarabin, Israel, 22/5/2009.

The Jewish village of Omer in seen throw a locked Gate that used to connect the unrecognized Bedouin village of Amra-Tarabin to the main road.Photo by: Oren Ziv/
The main mosque of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Amra-Tarabin is seen throw [sic] a barb wire placed to separate the village from the Jewish village of Omer on the 22/5/2009.Photo by: Oren Ziv/
The Jewish village of Omer in seen throw [sic] a locked Gate that used to connect the unrecognized Bedouin village of Amra-Tarabin to the main road.Photo by: Oren Ziv/
I just cannot imagine what it must be like to live like this. Separated from your land and denied access to it, and to services and goods that are readily available to, and controlled by, the neighbouring and occupying area.


The light of day

scary but not uncommon

Scary stuff, and 100% supported by official western powers.
Jewish participants of the “flags march” shut[sic] “kill all the Arabs” while they march throw [sic] the Muslim quarter in the old city of Jerusalem on the 21/5/2009. The march was part of the “celebrations” marking the Israeli occupation of the East part and the old city of Jerusalem on the 1967 war.

Photo by: Oren Ziv/

Saturday, 16 May 2009

the dawning of a new era

Guantanamo, Guantanamo, Guantanamo. Obama, Obama, Obama. The new era, any better than the last?

(That one ushered in Thatcher).

And how can one just walk away? It's impossible. From B'Tselem.

Testimony: Settlers throw rocks at ambulance transporting patient while soldiers stand idly by, Hebron, April '09
Mediha Abu Haikal, 70

Our house lies right next to the Tel Rumeida settlement. For years, I’ve had heart, diabetes, and blood pressure problems. Every day, I take eleven different kinds of medication. Because of my health, I go to medical clinics and hospitals a lot.

Last Wednesday [8 April], I had edema in my legs and they turned blue, because of the diabetes. A Red Crescent ambulance took me from my house to the government clinic. After I was examined there, the ambulance took me to Aliyah Hospital for further examination. The physician who usually treats me, Dr. Ibrahim al-Hur, wasn’t in the hospital, and I was told I could make an appointment to see him at his private clinic in the city. I made an appointment for 11 April. I preferred not to go back home in the meantime, because it’s so difficult to get in and out of the neighborhood and because of my health problems. I stayed at my nephew’s house.

On Saturday [11 April], at around 10:00 A.M., I went to the doctor’s office. He examined me, gave me new medications, and calmed me down. My daughter, Hanaa, went with me. After seeing the doctor, I decided to go home. I called the Red Cross, which called the Civil Administration to coordinate my return home by ambulance. Then my daughter and I went to the Red Crescent Medical Center, in H-1 [the part of Hebron under Palestinian control], to get into the ambulance that would take me home. The medical team was waiting, and Hanaa and I were told to get into the ambulance. The driver was Shaher Mujahed and the paramedic was Ahmad Makhamrah.

When we got to the checkpoint at Gross Square, the soldier at the checkpoint made a telephone call and then let us pass. The ambulance drove along a-Shuhada Street to get to our house. When we passed by the gate of the army base, a soldier stopped us and spoke with the driver. He asked him why he was riding on this road. The driver explained that we had coordinated the trip with the Red Cross, and that the soldier at Gross Square let us pass, but the soldier didn’t let us continue on our way. He looked angry and told the driver to turn around.

The rock that the child threw into the ambulance. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, 12 April ’09.

In the meantime, while the driver was preparing to turn around, I saw a child, who looked about twelve years old, and was dressed in white, was wearing a skullcap and had long, curly hair. He opened the door on the driver’s side and slammed it shut. Then he bent over and picked up a big rock. I was afraid he would throw it at us, and my daughter began to shout and asked the driver to get going quickly, before the child throws the rock at us. The soldier was still standing on the side of the ambulance, and put his hand on the window. Then the child threw the rock at the rear door of the ambulance, breaking the window, and it fell on the bed inside the ambulance. It weighed about three kilograms. Luckily, Hanaa and I were sitting on the seat and were not injured, but small pieces of glass scattered on my clothes. I began to shake in fear and to cry. I shouted and then I was just too overwhelmed to speak. My daughter and the paramedic tried to calm me. As they did that, another rock, a small one, flew into the ambulance, landing near the big rock. This one, too, didn't hit me. The soldier standing next to us did not stop the child from throwing the stones, and let him run away. He didn't do anything.

The driver immediately turned around and drove back to Gross Square. The soldier who had let us cross was still there. The driver told me that he asked why we had returned. While the soldier was speaking with the driver, I saw more than thirty children run toward the ambulance. The children began to throw stones at the ambulance and some of them hit it. My daughter identified, among the children, the child who had attacked us previously. I heard the soldier shout at the children, and the paramedic quickly got out of the ambulance, opened the gate, and we passed.

The ambulance returned to the medical center. I was in shock and didn't stop crying, even when we got there. The paramedics hooked me up to oxygen. Afterwards, my daughter took me to my nephew’s house, where I stayed until today. Because it was holiday, it was impossible to coordinate with the Red Cross to enable me to return home sooner. Today, a Red Crescent ambulance brought me home. A police patrol car and a Civil Administration patrol car accompanied us, and this time, settlers didn't attack us. I arrived home around 12:30 P.M. Just before reaching the house, we were kept waiting for half an hour because a tanker was bringing water to the army.

Since the incident, I haven’t been able to calm down. I am still frightened, and hear the sound of the window shattering. I don’t know if I’ll ever dare again to ride in an ambulance, I’m so afraid.

Mediha A'abeid Hamed Abu Haikal, 70, a widow with five children, is a homemaker and a resident of Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Her testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash at the witness's house on 14 April 2009.

Friday, 15 May 2009

nakba remembered in australia

This deserves a hell of a lot more attention than I am currently giving it, so I will post this email from Sonja Karkar from Australians for Palestine, and Women for Palestine, and apologise for my lack of attention.

Today, when Palestinians remember the Nakba of 1948 and the subsequent
years of catastrophic upheavals in Palestinian society, a number of events are
being held to help people focus not just on the tragedies of the past, but
the monumental tragedies of today, especially in Gaza. Please visit our website to find out all the events that are
being held over the next week. In the meantime, please try and support the
Students of Palestine teach-in at RMIT and then the rally and march
organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign from 3.30pm onwards today
(see posters below).

Next week, we will begin with the much anticipated play “Seven Jewish
Children” starring Miriam Margolyes and Max Gillies on Monday and over the
following two days, Melbourne will be introduced to the newly-elected MK
Haneen Zoabi of the Israeli Knesset – the first Arab woman from an Arab
Party. She will be speaking publicly at various universities and will also
be meeting privately with parliamentarians and trade union secretaries.

With these events, the opportunities are there to acquaint yourselves with
the little-known Palestinian narrative, to show your support for those whose
voices are simply not being heard and to work on a way forward even if it is
only to create a better understanding of each other in a less than
compassionate world.

- SK

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

and the way to go out

Well now,this is the way it goes. I've got a bit tired of this haphazard, post-deleted blog. I'm trying to weave away from the beastly for a while, and to explore its opposite at wordpress here . The blog retains its name (lizardrinking). I'll probably run the two, and maybe keep this one up and running for Palestine, peace and any other serious stuff I might want to explore. Though, apart from receiving emails from a friend, I haven't been too diligent about that of late. You have to admire people like Noam Chomsky, Uri Avnery and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who just keep going on, always standing up for what they think is right in the face of awesome opposition and misrepresentation.

Anyway, the second version of lizardrinking is here, and I think it's pretty. All the art and poems have gone across, and we all know what we think of internationally published poets. Hope you flit over and check it out.

Monday, 11 May 2009


Kyosuke Chinai is from Imabari in Ehime, Shikoku. I lived on Shikoku for almost three years in my early to mid twenties. There is precious little information about him on the Net in English. I bought a book of his paintings, and it is still one of those treasured items that I take with me whenever I move around. I am fairly certain that his daughter used to be, or is the model in his paintings. If you can read Japanese, I think there is some information here, though it might be mostly about the opening of an art museum. Even though the fourth painting above seems to be credited to him, it doesn't really seem to be his style, so apologies if I have misappropriated credit.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

mud bricks mixed with straw and resilience

Photo by Eva Bartlett

Which century do we live in? Why is it that one of the most advanced nations in the world, in terms of education, health, gross national profit, military, the arts and a slew of other ways in which we measure our life is given the support to make sure that another group of people live in third world conditions? This is a deliberate policy. This poverty and lack of quality of life is not due to natural disaster or the misfortune of being born in an area devoid of fertile ground and fishing seas.

Israel is still not allowing concrete into Gaza. As Israel bombed and shelled Gaza during its war on the same, houses and infrastructure, including schools, universities, mosques, United Nations compounds, have been destroyed. The international community (people from everywhere) and the governments of countries pledged aid, delivered aid, but what is the good if the aid cannot be let in?

Well, the Palestinians are very resilient, and they are building their houses from water and mud. With our energy resources rapidly dwindling, maybe the last laugh will ultimately rest with them as they retain the skills needed to live in a world without modern conveniences. I really don't think we should be putting it to the test, though.

The story is here, from In Gaza. The picture is lifted from the blog, too, and there are many more wonderful pictures.
Jihad el-Shaar is pleased with his mud-brick house in the Moraj district of Gaza. The 80-square metre home is a basic one-storey, two-bedroom design, with a small kitchen, bathroom and sitting room, made mostly with mud and straw.

“My wife and our four daughters and I were living with family, but it was overcrowded, impossible. We knew we had to build a home of our own,” Shaar said. “We waited over two years for cement but because of the siege there is none available. What could we do, wait forever?”

So he decided to do it with mud.

Building earthen structures like bread ovens and small animal pens is a technique many Palestinians are familiar with, but extending the method to houses isn’t a notion that has taken hold in Gaza.

Jihad el-Shaar got the idea from his travels in Asia and the Middle East. “I travelled in Bangladesh, India, Yemen, Turkey…they all use some similar technique of building houses from earth. All you need is clay, sand and some straw.” These he mixed with water, and poured into brick moulds that were left in the sun to dry for three days. Good enough to build a fine house with.

While some Gaza residents speak of shame at the way life has ‘gone backwards’ with the siege – using cooking oil in cars, wood fires for cooking, and horse and donkey carts for transportation – Shaar is proud of his clay home.

“In the winter it is warm, and in the summer it will be cool. There’s no problem with leaking, and this type of house will last a lifetime,” he says. “And it was cheap to build. A house this size made of cement would cost around 16,000 dollars at least. This one, because it was made with simple, local materials cost just 3,000 dollars.”

Prior to Israel’s crippling siege on Gaza cement would have cost 20 shekels (about five dollars) a bag. Now, with cement among the many banned items, what does make it into Gaza through tunnels under the Egypt border costs ten times as much.
Read more.
I keep posting the pictures of these non-violent protests in the West Bank. They are against the apartheid wall, and the settlements which keep encroaching on Palestinian land. They're very inventive and deserve far more attention. Even if the wider world may not know very much about this situation, I think it should pique the curiosity as to why so many Israelis and internationals join Palestinians in protest.

A group of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals build a shack on the lands of the Jabari family in protest of the illegal building of settlements, next to a shack that was put by the settlers a few weeks ago, close to the settlement of Kyriat Arba, in Hebron, on 8.05.2009. The settlers tried to destroy the shack and put it on fire but they did not manage. They also repeatedly attacked and provoked the group.The Israeli soldiers and police arrived at the scene and violently pushed the group away while the settlers were allowed to stay. 8 Israelis, 2 Palestinians were detained. Photo by: Anne Paq/
A Palestinian throws away a torch that was sent by some settlers who attempted to set h[sic] [fire to] the protest Palestinian shack on fire during an action against the settlements in Hebron on 8.05.2009...The settlers tried to destroy the shack and put it on fire but they did not manage... Photo by: Anne Paq/
An Israeli activist argues with an Israeli settler during an action against the settlements in Hebron on 8.05.2009... Photo by: Anne Paq/

Saturday, 9 May 2009

oh what fun we'll have...

click to enlarge

You can read the full text here . I came across that at Antony Loewenstein's blog. Also, I blogged on the following before, but it has now gone to the United Nations Committee against Torture in Geneva.
A report issued this week by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel indicates that the Shin Bet security services conduct a policy of forcing patients to provide information as a condition of being allowed to leave the Gaza Strip for medical care.

According to the human rights organisation the number of Palestinian patients who are summoned for interrogation as a precondition to receiving an exit permit from Gaza for treatment has risen. Between January 2008 and March 2009 at least 438 patients were interrogated by the Shin Bet.

The report, which was presented this week to the United Nations Committee against Torture, in Geneva, also shows that the Shin Bet has begun interrogating minors in need of medical care, to photograph patients against their will, and to detain patients for undisclosed periods of time. According to testimonies, patients who do not cooperate are returned to Gaza without receiving a permit to exit
I think the original, or a similar (these types of abuses keep happening year after year) report is on my blog roll, featured here

Australia's official policy is to support all the above, too.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

what's going on? support your president 2 - write to Leonard Cohen 1

It seems that I am doing J-Street's job for them. Well, I guess that is what attempting to spread the word is all about. Joe Biden's words at the AIPAC conference:
You couldn't ask for a starker contrast in visions for America's role in the Middle East than Newt Gingrich and Vice President Joe Biden provided at AIPAC over the past 72 hours.

Gingrich called for military action against Iran and a "wait and see" approach to the two-state solution [1] -- while Biden pressed for tough, principled diplomacy with Iran and argued that a two-state solution is in the essential interests of Israel and the United States. [2]

Biden also spoke from the heart (as he tends to do!) about the politics of this issue during his speech, saying "you're not going to like this" before challenging Israel on the issues of settlements and the two-state solution. He rightly didn't let the Palestinians off the hook either - pressing them to end terror and incitement against Israel.

I don't know about you - but I liked what Vice President Biden said. We need to show the Administration the depth of the political support in our community for their approach on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and that we reject the worn-out Gingrich / Bush / Cheney approach to the Middle East.

Click here to tell President Obama and Joe Biden you like their approach on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We'll deliver your petitions to the White House next week to show them the depth of the support we have in our community for their pro-Israel, pro-peace approach to the Middle East.

"Show me," said Vice President Biden at AIPAC's conference yesterday to the Israeli government, the Palestinians, and the Arab states.

He said that "Israel has to work towards a two-state solution" and that Israel should freeze settlement construction, "dismantle outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement."

To the Palestinians, Biden's call was to "combat terror and incitement against Israel."

On Iran, he repeated the Administration's commitment to "direct, principled diplomacy with Iran with the overriding goal of preventing them from acquiring nuclear weapons."

The "show me" message could well have been addressed to us - asking us to demonstrate for the President, the media, and our community that we stand with him as he pursues a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and tough, direct diplomacy with Iran.

Click here to add your name to tens of thousands of others who are standing up for President Obama's approach to the Middle East.

Thanks so much.


Isaac Luria
Campaigns Director
J Street
May 6, 2009

[1] "Gingrich: remove Iranian regime," by Ron Kampeas. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 3, 2009.

[2] "Biden tells AIPAC: Israel must support two-state solution," by Natasha Mozgovoya and Barak Ravid. Haaretz, May 5, 2009.
And for those who don't visit the blog regularly, or who only read the political posts now and then, J Street is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. Prior letters from them are posted here and here .

Leonard Cohen is set to play Israel. Friends of mine saw him in Scotland and said he was marvellous. I missed him in Perth, and I am sure that tickets would have sold out long before I got there. There is an interesting post at Jews sans Frontieres (the comments section reflects that many don't know the mighty Cohen's works, though. Oh the shame) and there is a letter from "Jews, Palestinians, Israeli citizens, who hold his poetry and music in high esteem", urging him to please reconsider, here. There is an address on the Jews sans Frontieres if you wish to express your concern as well. I am hearby signalling my intention to one day write a post about artists and their contentions. Haruki Murakami, Alice Walker and Adrienne Rich among them.

Here is the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz's reporting on the upcoming Cohen tour and a UK call for Cohen to boycott.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

all worthy of a turn of phrase it's just

I turned the cards

not the covers of

the bed where would have lain familiar constancy

had the world sharpened its blade

on a kinder axis or if I

or they

had been serious



the body

not the

tail end of a


lizardrinking, (c) 2009

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

who's protecting whom and why?

Why is the above photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc burning from napalm, running down a street in Vietnam, one of the few photos we see in Western media nowadays when we talk about the tragedy, or glory, of war? Who decided that we needed to be protected from images such as this? If modern-day images such as Nick Út's classic photo were shown, then wouldn't our outrage go some way towards being able to protect the children that such atrocities are inflicted upon? Or at least to protect the ones who are threatened by such atrocities. Many countries, including my own, inflict harm on others, and the less we see the results of these actions the more likely harm is to occur, and to be regarded as acceptable, or uncontrollable - the collateral damage that goes hand in hand with 'just' and 'good' battles.

By the way, the television media in the United States never made mention of this Pulitzer Award for David Barstow.
Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.
See Glen Greenwald for a thorough examination.

what's going on? support your president.

From J-Street.
To thunderous applause last night, Newt Gingrich attacked President Barack Obama's policies in the Middle East, promoted military action against Iran, and assailed diplomatic engagement as weakness at AIPAC's conference. [1]

Just before he went on stage, Gingrich told The Jerusalem Post that the President's policy with Israel and Iran was a "fantasy" and that Obama was "endangering Israel" by trying to work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [2]

Is this some kind of bad horror movie? Just when we thought the 2008 election had finally discredited the disastrous foreign policy of George Bush and Dick Cheney, Gingrich spouts the same old failed ideas in primetime and thinks it's good politics.

We need to fight back right now -- political pundits and journalists might think that Gingrich and those who applauded his remarks speak for the majority of American friends of Israel, when they certainly don't speak for you and me. Congress may consider supporting Gingrich's recycled Bush-Cheney views, which would be a disaster for Israel and the United States.

We've got to make it crystal clear that the majority of our community stands with President Obama on Israel and Iran - so Congress and the media see how politically toxic and substantively wrong Gingrich's views really are.

Click here to defend President Obama from Newt Gingrich's attacks.

We'll use the tens of thousands of signatures we collect to talk to the media about how out of the mainstream Gingrich and his views are - so make sure you add your signature.

On the politics, Newt's got it wrong.

78% of American Jews voted for Barack Obama and over 70% of American Jews support President Obama's policies toward Israel and the Middle East. [3] Gingrich's views represent a small, though politically outspoken, minority of the Jewish community.

On substance, Newt's also dead wrong.

Pursuing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the single most pro-Israel thing President Obama could do right now. It's the only way to secure Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland, as well as a building block of regional peace efforts that would normalize relations between all Arab countries and Israel.

On Iran, the President is promoting tough, direct diplomacy to address concerns over their nuclear program, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and threats against Israel. The President has made clear that the diplomatic road ahead will be tough and that we will not be bound by any illusions. This is the right approach for the time being - and a welcome change after the last President's Axis-of-Evil approach that got us nowhere.

The politics of this moment are incredibly important - imagine if we can collect tens of thousands of signatures from our community rejecting Newt Gingrich's attacks on Obama. Next time someone wants to attack President Obama on Israel and the Middle East, they'll think twice.

Click here to stand up for President Obama's Middle East agenda.

After you've taken action, be sure to spread the word to your friends and family. We'll need to expand our reach if we're going to send a loud enough message that Newt doesn't speak for us.

Thanks so much.

- Isaac

Isaac Luria
Campaigns Director
J Street
May 4, 2009

[1] "Gingrich: remove Iranian regime," by Ron Kampeas. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 3, 2009.

[2] "Gingrich: 'Obama endangering Israel'," by Hilary Leila Krieger. The Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2009.

[3] "J Street Releases New Poll of American Jewish Community." March 2009.
J Street is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.

the inner without thou

There is this thing about writing: it is easy to hide behind the dusty layered petticoats of fiction. In fact, many of us think we do. In fact, because it is fiction, we think it is not about us, or we tell others it is not. But everything, one way or the other must be about us, particularly if we are all connected, even if we aren't all psychopathic shoplifters, or brilliant and autistic, or shipwreck survivors sharing life-rafts with tigers, or walking around with lightening scars on our foreheads.

Image can be found here

When I read back on something that my younger self wrote I'm often surprised at the insight. Not writing like this. I'm sure I will read back and feel the opposite. But fiction. Because when I used to write I used to believe I could say it was from another place, not from me, not real - I could embrace any voice, any idea, any point of view. And my surprise is that I often explored ideas I was yet to grow into or understand. And because it was fiction, I just put that finished product aside, like a newly baked cake, for others to consume as they wished, without really further analysing the contents except from the point of view of whether it worked or not.

That is not to say that you know where the ideas are coming from, even if they come from within. Friends of mine who are musicians, say, singers, rather than your run of the mill writer, have noticed the same thing; the song they wrote and loved at 17, loathed at 21, and reclaimed at 26 - their 26 year old self looking at the 17 year old self in wonder: How in the name of the Gods and the various intellects did I know that at that age and stage? and if I did know that at that age and stage, then why in the hell didn't I apply it? I could have saved myself a whole lot of misery. But then they would have had nothing to write about to look back on in future times. Capiche?

The thing is, most creative people are creative people because they thrive on their own insecurity. They don't necessarily know where that insecurity stems from, or how to express the feelings it invokes, so they channel it through their art. The hairs of my paintbrush are thick and I am coating everyone with the same gunky hue, but why are so many of the artistic bent and fucked up? Because they are bent and fucked up, and the arts gives them a voice, maybe the only means of expressing themselves. However, that too is a cliche. I know a million and one (well, not quite, I don't know half the population of Oman just yet) of those in some form of the arts, and they lead perfectly happy lives. That's not to say they were happy when they first delighted in and explored their fields. Do I know anguished accountants? Not so much, though I am sure they exist. I wonder if they entered accountancy as a way to deal with that anguish. Maybe. Numbers can be reassuring in their seeming wholeness. The non-anguished, from whichever walk of life, are a much easier lot to deal with.

Even though my contention is that any creative work produced is autobiographical, if anyone has ever written anything of length, it remains that you often do not know where it is going to go. A friend of mine was so disappointed that one of her characters had to have a stalker, but that is the way the story ended up writing itself, and she had to follow. Still, she wrote it. It came from her, whether she knew where it was going, or not. I saw Richard Flanagan, the author of Death of a River Guide and the Sound of One Hand Clapping, speak at an event put on at a bookshop where I used to work, many years ago. He had just released Gould's book of Fish, a beautiful book in different coloured print with coloured plates, I think. Also, here . I acquired (given or bought? sometimes my boss was generous) a hand cut, hardback, I suppose first and maybe limited edition. I'm not sure if the paperback had the different coloured text. It wouldn't have had hand cut pages.

A male friend of mine (Ozymandias) had read the Sound of One Hand Clapping, which was also made into a movie with the wonderful New Zealand actress, Kerry Fox (Flanagan directing), and he was surprised that it was a male who had written it as he found the woman's voice (the main character) so convincing. I am never surprised by this. The idea seems to be expressed in the words of the unimaginative who say we cannot write or draw in the guise of others. Yet, maybe that is my white corporate male oppression (thanks Kool thing) shining through. Was Elizabeth Durack wrong to paint in an Aboriginal style under a pseudonym? Given where she grew up and her connection to the land, I am not sure. Given that belonging is oftentimes a matter of identification, I'm again, not so sure. But then, is Helen Darville another matter? Considering she made up a whole persona to go with her Miles Franklin award winning book and it greatly affected the authenticity and topic of that book, and others, I'm not certain that her actions were not without harm.

At his talk, Richard said that Flannery O'Connor had said that everything she wrote she'd learnt by the age of eight. Now, I might have the quote wrong, or the age. The Internet says anyone who survived childhood, which is a different creature. However, I (politely) challenged Richard on this. My students, in their early twenties or late teens, were producing great stuff with all kinds of points of view. Yet their characters were often old, but my students were not. Their characters had all kinds of jobs, yet many of my students didn't yet work. And they oftentimes wrote tight, sharp, sordid tales, but for the most part, their lives were not debauched. Richard could write in a female voice, yet he was male. He probably had not consciously experienced being female at any point of his life, though I think gender is a lot more fluid than we allow it to be. Flannery O'Connor's opinions of those who teach creative writing are well known, or easily googled, so I won't dwell. Yet, I think my point remains. And what was my point? That you don't actually know all that you can know by the age of eight. How is it possible? There must be some other form of connection, because the writing is often believable.

Richard Flanagan liked the question in the way that enquiring minds might (how I flatter myself). He was one of those Oxford scholars, a Rhodes Scholar. A brilliant and interesting life before he had even turned the corner of his mid-twenties. He claimed that fiction could be universal - some observer I am, I can only remember the gist of what he said. That it could tell universal truth, perhaps? Encapsulate the essence of life? Perhaps. I do allude to that in the Astrid Lindgren post, or the Astrid Lindgren memorial people do. Maybe the truth is the Buddhist one that we are everyone, and that we have been here many a time before. Therefore we could know everything at 8, 18, and 28. We could have been all types of people and all types of things. Neurologically, maybe there are many pathways that are totally unexplored, ego permeability not being easily induced or studied. There are, however, points when words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs merge with the page, fully formed. I still tend to think they come from within, but that is not to say that my within is not connected to the without.

Some friends of mine have beliefs in ephemeral things, spirits guiding and directing. Funny, the same friends have trouble with concepts such as higher selves. (Higher shelves are okay, however, as long as they have a ladder, a frog, a mouse, and a summer's day). Higher self, which I don't necessarily think is the opposite of base self, makes sense to me. Maybe it is just the super-ego, but with a bit more id mixed in, and a little less repression. I never really give credit for what I do to someone else, yet, that is not to say that I totally understand what I do, when I do it, if I do it; nor exactly where it stems from within me, nor if the within me is responding to something, tangible, or otherwise, from without, or outside of me.

Later we lined up and Richard Flanagan patiently signed Gould's Book of Fish (I wonder what other adjectives could be used there? Hurriedly. Bad Tempered-ly. Dexterously). I had bought it for my father's birthday (I must have bought it referring back to my musing far above. What cheapskate would give him a copy received?). To Matthew*, father of questioning, quixotic Rose*, he wrote, and something else that this maybe chemically spirited mind has forgotten (diet coke will do that to you). I have trouble with historical fiction, though it seems to be an area Australian authors, such as Peter Carey, have excelled in, not that they have lived in the era. Really, it is just that there is so little tangible struggle for most people in day to day life in Australia. History is one of the few places that still contains hardship and conflict. I'm waving that thick paintbrush around again. Still, even though the books are historical, it is still about the writers. It has to be. Not overtly so. But it came from you, it must be a part of you. Or you a part of it. And anyone who says otherwise isn't spinning fiction from fact.

*Names have been changed to protect and exalt the ordinary. And I have no problem with the ordinary. Unlike Mena Suvari in American Beauty. Though I think that might have been the point.

Monday, 4 May 2009

airing the clean laundry

Detail of my Astro boy handbag. I don't actually use this handbag, because it's too impractical. And I didn't trip over it, because it's hanging up in my bedroom. But once I go home, I'll be the coolest chick on the block, or mutton dressed up as lamb. Either way, I might get Nick Cave to look at me if it's balancing in the crook of my arm.

I'm sorry for the quantity over quality, or maybe a mixture of the two. Those who sometimes drop by know how I get when I'm on holidays. Plus, there is housework to be done. I almost tripped over a bag today. In fact, I did trip over a bag, but I didn't go sprawling. The bag was looped around the handle of a chair. At least I thought it was. It might have been another bag which was spread flat on the floor like a spider unfortunately caught between the pages of a book. Have you ever opened a library book and experienced that? What was the spider doing that the reader didn't notice, and that it got so flattened? Maybe it was flattened in fright, the borrower slamming the hardback binding together the minute the spider crawled out of, where? Actually, I'm going to put a shout out to my sister in case she comes meandering by. In your job as a librarian, how many squashed spiders, as opposed to pressed flowers, do you find? And what is your reaction? To hastily close the book again and put it back on the shelf for some unsuspecting user to find? Or to gently prise the spider, leg by leg, off the page and discard it in the rubbish, leaving a tell-tale faded brown stain right across the last words of "Gone with the Wind"?

And old men die, I am sure of it, because they don't take the time to clean their houses or apartments, because they think, like Quentin Crisp, after 4 years the dirt gets no worse. That is, old men without family or a cleaner. But there are the mice and the roaches and the plastic bags waiting in lurk to think about. Waiting to twist themselves around the knobbly legs of hapless old men, who then tumble and hit their heads on hard surfaces and never get up.

My father has now retired. My mother always worked as well, but my father is younger than my mother by four years, so he retired later. Also, though it has now changed, my mother fit into that "women retire at 60 and men at 65 age bracket". His idea of putting sheets into the linen closet is to just stuff them in. Now, my skills in folding are minimal. Every time I'm invited to an origami class I flee in terror (same goes for ikebana), but I do try. Folding does make sense. If you just scrunch all the sheets up and shove them into the linen closet then there will be no space, and they will be wrinkled when you try to put them on your bed. Now, wrinkle is not winkle, and unlike Rip, you might not be able to sleep at all.

Anyway, take control, take control, said a friend of mine who was the son of an alcoholic father. Now, I know quite a few of those out there, so to all the friends whose fathers were or are alcoholics, don't think that I'm spilling your secrets. Actually, it's on my potential friend checklist. Did your father drink in excess and make your life a misery? Yes? Okay, step right up, you're in! I don't want to make light of said misery, even though I am. Rest assured, this friend doesn't read this blog or know of its existentence (to the best of my knowledge) and we are no longer in touch. But he was right. The control to be taken is mine. It is up to me to realise this ship has a rudder and to steer it in the direction I wish, hoping for good winds to prevail. I wish I loved housework and could find the intrinsic joy and peace in it. I like to wash my clothes. It's easily done. You can do other things while the washing machine goes through its cycles. But that's about it. Even when I clean, nothing ever looks clean, though I prefer it to when I don't clean, and everything looks messy, because it is. Geometry was never my strong point, but I wasn't too bad at algebra. I have a feeling that the former may be of more use on the high seas than the latter.

the new witch hunts

Jewish voice for Peace, MuzzleWatch has a great article on the new witch hunts in the United States. The journalist is talking about an email that went out comparing the siege on Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. A professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara currently has the ADL breathing hot down his collar for having distributed it at the time:
I remember a version of that viral email well from January-it did not originate with Robinson, but traveled around the net during the height of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. While inflammatory, and not something I would forward myself, the strikingly parallel images were enough to give anyone pause. I also remember telling my father at the time that the emails I was getting from a friend in Gaza during the bombing were nauseatingly reminiscent of the letters I keep from my great grandmother sent from inside the Warsaw Ghetto. I said I had no idea if my friend would be alive the next day. Even my 82-year-old father, who is mentioned in one of those letters signed “mama”, acknowledged with a sigh, “I see what you mean.”

I recently finished reading the book, “Who will write our history? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes archives.” While the Warsaw Ghetto, with 400,000 packed into a tiny little area at one point, ended with the murder of all of its inhabitants in extermination camps-including members of my own family- the nearly 1.5 million people packed into a walled-off Gaza will never face such an unspeakable fate.

Nonetheless, it is impossible to read about day to day life in the Warsaw Ghetto and not be haunted by Gaza- people forcibly crowded into a small space and unable to leave; rampant health problems and slow starvation/malnourishment; a massive black market for goods and food; rampant corruption and collaboration; routine dehumanization by the occupying army; the desperate sense that if only the world knew they would come and save them. For any Jew who is aware of what’s happening in Gaza, this or any book about the Ghetto makes for very, very, very hard reading. It forces one to pause in self-reflection about how the unspeakable horror of what was done to us changed us, at least some of us, and became a kind of sickness.
Read more.

Sunday, 3 May 2009


The world may not be a good place but it can be very pretty. Sakura and spring.

I wonder about the beads I bought in Borneo. Were they worth the booty I pushed over the counter? Money kind of booty. I can assure you that I did not pay for my beads in any other way. Maybe they were not worth it. At the Perth writers' festival in March a woman asked me if they were Navajo, and once I said no, but from Malaysia, she all but turned her back on me. I should have said they were from the indigenous Iban tribe in Sarawak, which they were, and that I bought them in a long house after going down a river in a wooden canoe, and that the long house had dried out human skulls caught up in nets outside of rooms to ward off evil. The Iban used to be head hunters, and I believe some still practiced this until the sixties. Most of them are Christian nowadays, of the evangelical variety, perhaps, and most of the skulls have disappeared from their role as house decorations. Maybe the woman thought that Malaysians manufactured Navajo beads in the way that China manufactures Australian Bonds t-shirts and underwear. Or maybe Malaysia wasn't exotic enough for her. Could be that my breath stank.

Anyway, spring. There are your students kicking a soccer ball or ten around on the left, the oval lined by another row of flowering cherry trees, and on the right the eightfold petals of the cluster cherry blossoms have fallen whole to the ground, lying there like scrunched up tissues. The casualties of last night's fierce winds. The branches are still a swathe of pink, though. You pedal through. Some of the girls kick the ball with the boys. Your students. The sky is blue above, after the rain.

Spring. When all else fails, the garden gives pleasure. Japanese spring is gentle. Flowers that die in the ground within a day or two in Perth prosper and glow. You try to take a picture of the cosmos that has half flowered, the rest of its make-up leaf. It's slightly bizarre. You can't capture it, though, but the sun shines on another flower and shadows it on your hand. The garden doesn't fail. A small spider web, no larger than the span of your palm, and you have a small palm, is perfectly woven and linked, and too delicate for a camera, between the stems of two of your plants.

I know I've shown this one before. I'm just a little in love with it. My fascination will wear off!

The moon is orange these days. Thicker than a fingernail clipping, thinner than a lunula.

At the park where the last of the cherry blossoms are putting on a show an obaasan and her two grandchildren wander the Iris fields, nowhere near flowering, with nets. They are looking for paddy snails, mud snails, water snails, tanishi which can be boiled and seasoned. Aya-kun, Aya-kun she cries out, urges the child to be careful, to not teeter on the edge of the muddy ditch. Kun is a suffix used for boys, but it can be used for young girls as well. Her chastising has as much effect as the birds above, as the pink petals falling, floating, softly, regularly to the ground. Aya runs screaming from her brother in a game of chasey.

A young boy cycles by, stops at the junction of paths. His father calls from behind. Naze? Naze? (nah-ze, nah-ze) the boy questions. Why? Why stop here? Why stop now?

Tsubaki have fallen whole into the trickle of water passing beneath. As if made from crepe paper, the fuchsia runs to a light purple, then blanches brown. At times, prettier off the tree than on.

Overhead, mountain hawk-eagles span the lake. One, then two, then three, four, five, six. Some swooping low, skimming the reeds that harbour ducks and heron, the smallest staying way high in the sky. A heron glides across the water and spears, a quick flash of silver, the blossoms looking on. The hawk-eagles chase each other out into the air above the surrounding trees. Sugoi, sugoi, say passers-by. Wonderful, wonderful, amazing,sugoi.

A tractor plows the newly flooded field in preparation for planting rice, the mountains still white with smatterings of snow. And now the bats are out, flittering like big, black butterflies, catching insects, like the palm-sized web on my balcony.

In the ofuro on Sunday mornings, the women, maybe heady with the good weather and the thought of sake under the blossoms, laugh and chat and are raucous and easy with their nakedness and age. An obaa tells a joke and all cackle and roar around her. I cannot get it, but smile at their fun.

Not my photo

A friend asks me if you can make hope, if the two words go together. I think I tell her you can make a wish and have hope. That is the downside of getting all your foreign language input in the ofuro. There is no surface to write it on, and no implement to use. Her name is Mikiko. Three hopes, she tells me. The ko, would mean child in the same way the French diminutive -ette, or -ine is often used. She teaches singing and piano. She says she has a friend, Minoru. Minoru is also a musician, and she says that the kanji of his name means to create. So between them they composed a piece called either make a hope or make three hopes. I am not sure if the mi of Minoru's name also has the kanji for the numeral 3 or not. I think the better translation would be create hope and ditch the three. The merging was quite beautiful, and the naming, or clarification of the idea, mumbled its way across the tiled floor of the baths where I sat on my plastic stool, washing down while she soaked up the warmth of the ofuro. Why don't we have this openness in the west? Women are ashamed of their bodies and have no sense of ease with the bodies of other women. Japanese women don't feel this. In fact, there used to be mixed bathing (naked) before the missionaries came. No wonder the Japanese hung, drew and quartered them. Actually, I think that was the Spanish. There was a second wave of missionaries after Commodore Matthew Perry forced the opening of the Japanese port at Yokohama. If you regularly go to baths, you get to see all bodies, and it seems that they are all beautiful. It seems that you get to see beyond the facade that clothes and make-up so often seem to project.

Today a student I have failed previously rushed up and enthusiastically greeted me. Luckily the students usually don't hold grudges. She and her father and some other people were outside my local supermarket, handing out pamphlets, urging Article 9 to be kept in the Japanese constitution. The flier was in Japanese, but their orange t-shirts were printed in English. Sumie and a friend stood side by side and I read them.

She introduced me to her father, and as she'd been speaking to me in English, I spoke to her father in the same. I should have switched to Japanese. Not to worry. I wonder if she had wanted to spend her Sunday standing outside the supermarket handing out political leaflets, or if her father had roped her into the cause in the same way that my siblings and I traipsed around the neighbourhood with our father back in the day, dropping off how to vote cards for the Labor party, or something similar, into the mailboxes of the punters. I think she was serious. She was wearing a swinging sixties Beatle style cap. Her father was grey but young looking, probably the same age as me, though I automatically put ten years on him, because I am after all, in my mind, only a few years older than Sumie. In my mind. Riding my bicycle home over the bridge, the ducks below peck hopefully and frantically at the cherry blossom petals as if they were breadcrumbs floating past.

understanding the occupier

Musa [the Palestinian curator of the exhibition] says Palestinians feel sorrow for the Holocaust, but question why they are being punished

Pictures of Jewish victims of the Holocaust are on the museum's walls

There are also pictures depicting the Nakba in 1948 and the violence since

I wonder when the Israeli al Nakba museum will be built, and when the western world will recognise its immense tragedy?

in a way i'm yearning to be done with all this measuring of truth

I had a dream once. Nick Cave was in it. We were at a party, and he chose me. Now, over at PAN we've been having discussions of how you feel when people get the wrong idea about you. My particular hang-up, more so when I was younger than now, is when I'm wearing something really, really, really straight. Maybe as an experiment, maybe for work, and someone like Nick Cave sees me and thinks, Wow, that chick's really straight. I'm never going to talk to her. Whilst my (silent but rapidly beating) heart of hearts is crying out, but I'm just like you! I'm a goth on the inside! I'm tortured and angsty! This Amish cover is all a clever ruse! Then I sob into my scrunched up tissue, ensuring that, not only does Nick not give me a second glance, he looks away in pity and disgust. Or sneers. He's got quite the sneer on him.

It was more of an issue when I was insecure and in my twenties. Now that I'm insecure and in my forties I know for sure that no-one is going to mistake me for hip. Still, I don't want to be mistaken for a school marm just yet, even though I am one, except for the marm bit (guess that just makes me a school).

So, the important part about this dream is that it also featured a guy I was seeing a lot of at the time. In fact I was smitten. It's a shame that the feeling was not officially reciprocated. As our relationship progressed, I ended up having a dream where, like Ozymandias, he was this rather vitriolic talking torso, his arms cut off at the triceps, no lower body to speak of, but still spouting wisdoms - he was the very model of a very modern major talking head, or John Bobbit at the least. Vitriolic but no longer virile. Oh, and I know Ozymandias didn't talk, well his statue didn't, but I'm sure he was very eloquent when he ordered the artisans to sculpt his likeness.

Oh my, the Specials are on the radio, but that is an aside (just to show you that really, I am still hip by referencing bands from my teens that are maybe still influential. I like ska but not reggae - I don't like cricket, oh no...).

Anyway, before the talking torso dream came about, well, talking torso with head, we were at a party (in the first dream) and the one with whom (?) I was smitten had to go meet a Dr. Zhivago kind of train, such as the Orient Express, to meet his ex, who had basically kicked him in the head when she'd broken up with him. He met her because he rode a high horse of propriety (unlike me) and felt he had an obligation to do so (to meet her), and because of course, she was the very major model of some form of perfection (unlike me - not that I'm bitter. No, no, no. Special Agent Dana Scully was his perfect woman, and I cannot think of someone more unlike her than me. He wasn't going to meet Scully on the Orient Express, by the way. Remember, it was all a dream. Except for the Scully being his perfect woman bit).

I think Nick then picked me up, twirled me in the air. Hah! Dana Scully lover, that'll show you (he was a Nick Cave fan, too). And we talked about our favourite Abba songs. I am sure I was even wearing an old, and not really liked, but much worn, bright green jumper, pilled and unravelling. Daggy in the Australian parlance. I was back to being awkward and fourteen, at least in my dress sense. Nick was alluring and strangely down to earth (the radio is playing reggae Beatles now [not bad], just to spite me). Considering Nick the Stripper, Mercy Seat and so on, the wild heroin use, and the dark, dark psyche, Nick Cave is probably the same as you and me. Actually, my sister used to write these wickedly dark plays, but I knew she wasn't a wickedly dark person. Maybe they were just wickedly dark because I knew the background. Family maybe shouldn't read family's work (hi sis!). Not that there were any stretching racks or cat o' nine tails or stocks lurking around our suburban home. As I recall, her plays, like our house, were permeated with the smell of the spaghetti bolognese that our father often cooked. Anyway, back to the nefarious Nick. It could be that the arts is what saves many a wicked thought from being a wicked actuality.

Which is why more people should pick up paint brushes instead of guns.

And should allow women to give birth in hospitals rather than out in the open at checkpoints, surrounded by men.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

your grandmother, your tax dollars, 7 million a day

Protest against the apartheid wall, al Masara. Palestine, 1/5/2009.
Photo by: Anne Paq/

Protest against the apartheid wall, al Masara. Palestine, 1/5/2009.
Photo by: Anne Paq/

U.S. aid to Israel.
What you can do about it

Read this report: Stephen Zunes via Norman Finkelstein: Pelosi the Hawk (My emphasis).
Reports by international human rights groups and from within Israel in recent weeks have revealed the massive scale of war-crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law, committed by Israeli forces during their three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Despite this, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has steadfastly stood by her insistence that the U.S.-backed Israeli government has no legal or moral responsibility for the tragic consequence of the war.

This is just one episode in a long history of efforts by Pelosi to undermine international humanitarian law, in regards to actions by a country she has repeatedly referred to as America’s most important ally in the Middle East. It’s also part of her overall right-wing agenda in the Middle East. As the powerful Speaker of the House, Pelosi could very well undermine efforts by President Barack Obama in the coming years to moderate U.S. policy toward that volatile region.


Pelosi has supported strict economic sanctions and even threats of military force against Middle Eastern governments targeted by the Bush administration — such as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran, or Syria — that were slow in complying with UN Security Council resolutions. Yet she has never publicly called on Israel to abide by any of the dozens of Security Council resolutions on international humanitarian law, illegal annexation of militarily-occupied territory, or nuclear proliferation with which that government remains in material breech. In Pelosi’s worldview, a country’s obligations to comply with the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions depend not on objective international legal standards but on their relations with the United States.

Unfortunately, few Democrats
are even aware of how far to the right Pelosi is when it comes to the Middle East. Not only has the mainstream media failed to call attention to her Middle East agenda, but progressive publications have failed do so as well. In These Times praised Pelosi for her "solid record" on human rights issues, while Ms. Magazine lauded her for having a "voting record strong on…human rights," failing to even mention her defense of Israeli war crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

Obama was
initially able to withstand attacks by right-wing Republicans over the Chas Freeman appointment and tentative plans to participate in the UN Anti-Racism Conference, but he capitulated once prominent Democrats began pressuring him as well. Unless, then, rank-and-file Democrats are willing to challenge Pelosi on the Middle East, there is little hope that Congressional Democrats will allow the Obama administration to take human rights or international law seriously — not just in terms of Israel and its neighbors — but anywhere else. Read more.
I wrote about Pelosi and some of her cronies in this post, too The undemocratic stance of the democrats

Friday, 1 May 2009

here's what you can do

2nd May: Note, I'm keeping this at the top of my blog for a while. New entries are below.
I received this from J Street last night, a group that defines itself as the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.
J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own - two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, and the region as a whole.
They are by no means as powerful as AIPAC (who is?), but they have some influence. They are not as liberal as Mondoweiss, Silverstein, or Jewish Voice for Peace. However, the following is definitely worth reading and acting upon, particularly for those who would like to see a little less war in the Middle East rather than more.
The battle lines are emerging clearly around President Barack Obama's Middle East agenda - and we need your help.

The President intends to achieve a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his first term and to address the challenges Iran poses through diplomacy.

His opponents, meanwhile, are trying to rally Congress to thwart his agenda. With one hand they're opposing the President's proposed approach to working with a possible Palestinian unity government; with the other, they are proposing aggressive new sanctions on Iran just as diplomatic outreach begins.

If you're one of President Obama's supporters on the Middle East, Congress needs to hear from you right now.

Click here to your representatives in Congress that you support President Obama's policy in the Middle East - both on the Arab-Israeli conflict and on Iran.

Some in Congress may consider opposing the President under the false impression that that's what Jewish Americans and other friends of Israel want.

They're wrong.

In fact, over 70% of Jewish Americans support President Obama's handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East. [1]

Here's what's happening with the President's agenda in Congress right now:

On Iran, the President is promoting tough, direct diplomacy to address concerns over their nuclear program, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and threats against Israel. The President has made clear that the diplomatic road ahead will be tough - but the chances of success won't be helped by Congress imposing tight timelines or a new round of sanctions at this moment.

Yet, just this week, the Orwellian-named "Iran Diplomacy Enhancement Act" was introduced in the House - a bill that in reality does nothing to "enhance diplomacy" but instead imposes further sanctions on Iran, directly undercutting the President's diplomatic message. [2]

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the President is moving clearly to promote a two-state solution - including support for Palestinian institution-building and for urgent humanitarian needs - all part of the proposal first made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to provide $900 million in aid to the Palestinians.

Not only will this assistance help alleviate human suffering in Gaza, rebuild its infrastructure, and revive its stalled economy, but it is also structured in a way that could enable the U.S. to work with a Palestinian unity government that meets relevant criteria, an important building block for advancing Israeli-Arab peace.

The opposition is going to be intense. Just last week, for instance, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) attacked the President's request as allowing support for Palestinian "Nazis." [3]

Yet, according to recent polls, 69% of Israelis and American Jews would support dealing with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. [4]

We oppose and condemn Hamas' use of terror and violence to achieve political ends.

Along with the majority of American Jews and Israelis, we also recognize that resolving this conflict may require bringing those who have used violence into a political process, one aim of which is to end their armed resistance.

This strategy has been met with some success in Lebanon, where America works with a government that now includes Hezbollah, in Iraq where we work with the Sunni Awakening, and of course in Northern Ireland.

President Obama intends to reverse years of diplomatic neglect in the Middle East, aiming for nothing less than historic progress to finally resolve historic conflicts.

But President Obama needs our political support to put his agenda into action. That's why - on both issues - we're asking you to step to the plate now to support President Obama's vision for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Our success will depend on our ability to generate thousands of messages to Congress in a matter of hours - so, after you've taken action, make sure to forward this message to your friends and family that might be interested.

Thanks so much for all you do.

- Isaac

Isaac Luria
Campaigns Director
J Street
April 30, 2009

[1] "J Street's Polling on American Jews' Views on US Role in Middle East." Accessed April 30, 2009.
[2] "Kirk, Sherman want more sanctions," by Eric Fingerhut. JTA News Service. April 22, 2009.
[3] "Obama move alarms Israel supporters," by Paul Richter. Los Angeles Times. April 27, 2009.
[4] "Poll: American Jews Strongly Support Obama, Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement," by Dan Gilgoff. God and Country. March 23, 2009.
To counter J-Street's letter here is this article in the JTA urging people to:
constructively express their deep concern about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran[.]

Write and call the White House, the State Department and congressional offices, not just once but again and again; publish letters to the editor and op-ed pieces; encourage the convening of forums on Iran in synagogues and communal organizations; ask stock brokers whether they have terror-free investment options and support appropriate divestment initiatives; discuss with and send e-mails to your friends, neighbors and business associates; sign the petition on the Web site of United Against a Nuclear Iran and join its Facebook group; and contact your local community relations committee to learn what other steps can be taken.
Read the whole thing. Do you really want to be dragged into another war? There is also this from American, Stephen Walt on this approach to foreign policy (my emphasis).

I was reminded of Iklé’s insights when I read about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ideas for resuming the peace process with the Palestinians. Netanyahu clearly wants to avoid an open rift with the Obama administration, which has forcefully reiterated its commitment to negotiating a two-state solution. To do that, he has to pay lip service to the peace process. But because Netanyahu has long opposed the creation of a viable Palestinian state and instead wants to extend Israel's control of the West Bank, he has to lay out a set of demands that will endlessly delay the process and make it hard for Obama to put meaningful pressure on him.

According to Ha'aretz, Netanyahu will insist that the Palestinians go beyond their prior recognition of Israel's right to exist (as expressed in the 1993 Oslo Accord) and explicitly recognize Israel as a "Jewish state." Furthermore, he wants the United States to agree that a future Palestinian state be barred from possessing its own army and forbidden from making alliances with other countries, while Israel is permitted to monitor its borders, its airspace, and its use of the electromagnetic spectrum, presumably in perpetuity. In the meantime, the expansion of Israeli settlements will surely continue, and in ways that will soon preclude any possibility of a territorially contiguous state on the West Bank. Lastly, Netanyahu wants to link progress toward a two-state solution with an end to Iran's nuclear program. As I've noted before, this condition would allow Tehran -- purposely or inadvertently -- to derail a two-state solution by stonewalling on the nuclear issue. Ironically, this outcome might suit Iran and Netanyahu alike: Israel could keep expanding settlements and the Islamic Republic could continue to play the Palestine card against its Arab rivals.

My question is this: What is Netanyahu thinking? Doesn't he realize that time has nearly run out for the two-state solution, and that failure to achieve it is by far the most serious threat facing Israel? The prime minister and his allies keep harping about an "existential" threat from Iran, but this bogeyman is mostly nonsense. Iran has zero -- repeat, zero -- nuclear weapons today, and even if it were to acquire a few at some point in the future, it could not use them against nuclear-armed Israel without committing national suicide. Let me say that again: national suicide.

And could someone please explain to Netanyahu that a group of devout Muslim clerics aren't likely to fire warheads at a land that contains the third holiest site in Islam? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said some remarkably foolish things about the Holocaust and repeatedly questioned Israel's legitimacy (as in his oft-mistranslated statement about Israel "vanishing from the page of time"), but he's never threatened to murder millions of Israelis (and Palestinians) with nuclear weapons. Just last weekend, he even told ABC's George Stephanopolous that if the Palestinians reached an agreement with Israel, then Iran would support it. Moreover, as Roger Cohen has noted, there is no evidence that Ahmadinejad has any particular animus toward Iran's own Jewish community. Despite his many offensive statements, in short, Ahmadinejad is not Adolf Hitler and we are not living in the 1930s.

The real threat to Israel's future is the occupation, and the conflict with the Palestinians that it perpetuates. To see that, all you have to do is look at current demographic trends and poll results and then ponder the consequences for Israel. There are presently about 5.6 million Jews in "Greater Israel," (i.e., the 1967 borders plus the West Bank) and about 5.2 million Arabs (of whom nearly 1.5 million are citizens of Israel). Palestinian birth rates are substantially higher, however, which means they will be a majority of the population in "Greater Israel" in the not-too-distant future. To put it bluntly, it is Palestinian wombs and not Iranian bombs that pose the real threat
read more.

An update on this picture from a previous post:

Remember this? I posted it on the 15th of April. A group in New Mexico, including some Jewish members, paid to put up posters urging Americans to stop supporting human rights abuses in the occupied territories with their tax dollars.

Maybe three weeks was enough time for the message to etched into people's minds, or for parties who don't mind their tax dollars going towards this, protesting and having them pulled down:

Each little step forward is a thousand steps back. From Muzzlewatch who got the information from Mondoweiss (my computer doesn't like Mondoweiss when I use IE, so excuse me for not linking there directly) (my emphasis):
Mondoweiss reports:

A few week ago we posted about ten billboards going up around Albuquerque, NM calling for congress to cut off aid to Israel. They were put up by The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious coalition working to “end to the ten year commitment of $30 billion in U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid pledged to Israel in 2007 by the Bush administration.” Today, the coalition sent out a press release saying that although Lamar Outdoor Advertising had signed a contract to run the billboards for eight weeks, they care coming down after three. From the press release:

On April 8th, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel erected the billboards throughout the Albuquerque area in order to inform the public about the misuse of their tax dollars, denominated in human lives. The group was motivated by concern for the Palestinian people who had recently been subjected to a massive invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. Over 1,400 Palestinians – mostly civilian, including three hundred children – were killed and over 5,000 were injured. In 2007 the Bush administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel over a ten year period beginning in 2008. The majority of these dollars will be used to purchase American-made weapons.

The design of the billboard had been approved by Lamar and the billboards’ wording and final image were suggested by Lamar’s graphics designer.

According to information from Lamar, it appears groups claiming to be pro-Israel have conducted a campaign to pressure Lamar to remove the billboards. The Coalition believes this is a deliberate attempt to silence its right to free speech because the humanitarian message of the billboards supports equal rights for the Palestinian people, thereby necessitating criticism of Israel.
this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr