Saturday, February 19, 2005

Israel Finally Concedes Knocking Down Homes Of Terrorists' Families Only Encourages Terrorism (link)

Since the beginning of the latest Intifada, Israel has practiced a controversial policy which is considered a war crime under The Geneva Convention's prohibition against collective punishment. Under this policy, the homes of the families of suicide bombers are destroyed, leaving family members destitute with no place to live. Putting oneself in the shoes of someone whose sibling has just committed a suicide bombing, it's hard to see how this would discourage further terrorism: If you're deprived of all means of livelihood by Israel, you're that much more likely to strike back at Israel. You'd think this would be intuitive, but Israel has only conceded this now, after the military conducted an internal study of the policy. This is a good sign that the peaceniks are beginning to have some sway over the government's military strategies. It's possible that advocates of the policy have known of it's detrimental effects all along, but had a political interest in keeping the conflict going, just like they accuse Arafat of having done.

On a related note, a lot of pro-Israelis tend to accuse others of anti-semitism on the grounds that they condemn Israel for alleged crimes, but are less willing to condemn many Arab countries that are guilty of similar crimes. However, I don't see many examples of collective punishment like this in the Arab world. On this particular issue of collective punishment, it seems that Israel's stance is unique in its abhorrence.

Update: I should also mention that this New York Times article is a bit dishonest, in that it focuses solely on the issue of home demolitions that come in retaliation to terrorist, pointing out that this policy was ended during the 90's peace accords. While demolitions in retaliation for terrorism did end in 93, demolitions for no reason at all actually increased. Amnesty International has a number of case studies exposing these crimes. By pretending that demolitions in retaliation to terrorism are the only types of demolitions that take place, the New York Times is diverting attention from Israel's most egregious crimes.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Ground Rules

I propose we start by creating a set of ground rules.

This will ensure Justin & I and anbyody we invite will know what we're getting in to, and keep a sense of decorum that will prevent posts from going too far. I've never used blogger before; they may already have these as rules.

I suggest we avoid the following:

  1. Name calling or offensive speech
  2. False or unexplained analogies (if we say somebody is acting like a fascist, it's important to compare their actions to fascists of the past and clearly delineate why we think this person is acting like one with a detailed analysis).
  3. Impatience with timing of responses - none of us are able to spend our whole lives on blogger :-)

Also, in order to avoid confusion, I propose that if a topic becomes complicated that we branch it into multiple threads so individual items will get the detail they deserve.

We should also think carefully about whether we want to allow petitions. I'm not sure whether it's a good idea or not to allow postings of petitions. They could be good and helpful for the petition runners, but we could easily get spammed by too many of them...

Additionally, it might be helpful to include a ranking of some kind for what we think our sources.

Should we include reviews of Middle Eastern restuarants? I know a great one in the West Village... :-)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Welcome to the middle east blog

This blog is designed to publicize debates on middle east issues that normally take place over email. It's strange how insulated our interactions in the real world tend to be. How many people can honestly say that they regularly engage people who hold views that clash with their own on issues that are dear to them? My guess is not many. I fully admit to living in a liberal bubble, through which few other ideas can penetrate. Hopefully, this blog will change that, and we can all get perspectives that we wouldn't encounter everyday.

If you're interested in posting more than comments on this blog, please email me at justin.sarma@gmail.com. I don't want this forum to be dominated by my own personal views, because then I won't get anything out of it, so I'd encourage people to join. All I ask is that people refrain from frivilous postings, and try to include links to back up their factual assertions when possible.

I've tentatively focused this blog on issues related to the Middle East, but I would encourage people to stray from that.

Sincerely,

Justin Sarma