Is the Two-State Solution in Palestine Still Alive?

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Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1970’s

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Benajamin Netanyahu Today

What does Netanyahu’s big election win mean for the future of Arab-Israeli coexistence? It is a right-wing success, a challenge to liberals and a victory of fear over hope. There is fear of Hamas militants in Gaza, fear of Iran’s nuclear potential, and fear of Obama’s utopian objectives and his lack of understanding of Middle East realities.

Netanyahu is convinced that Mahmoud Abbas is not capable of heading a viable Palestinian state. So is the two-state solution dead and buried? It certainly seems to be, even as Netanyahu is now soft-pedaling his earlier pessimistic statements. This has been a masterful performance on his part, a skillful tap dance while juggling many balls in the air. This fancy footwork means that he has had to convince the Israeli people that he alone could provide security while at the same time trying not to alienate the rest of the world by adopting a hard line stance.

How can there be a Palestinian state when Jewish settlers are occupying much of the land that was to be part of that state? How can there be a Palestinian state as long as Israel will not consent to the division of Jerusalem? How can there be a Palestinian state when the Palestinian Authority is threatened by Hamas militants? How can there be a Palestinian state when Iran-supported Hezbollah continues to fire missiles at Israel or when ISIS (which calls itself DAESH) is only waiting for an opportunity to march into Jerusalem?

The disintegration of the Middle East as a whole is posing a threat to Jordan, Egypt and Israel and certainly to any future emerging state. A Palestinian state would end up being governed by groups who have sworn enmity to Israel. This common threat has brought Israel closer to Jordan and to Egypt.

At the same time, the risk of Israel finding itself isolated from the European Community and at the mercy of sanctions adopted by the U.N. Security Council is very real.

That is why Netanyahu has had to tread carefully to appease the United States. It alone can veto any anti-Israel resolutions. It is also the United States that contributes to Israel’s safety by helping finance the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Now Netanyahu needs to make things easier for both the Arabs in the occupied territories and Israel’s own Arab minority population (about 20%) which is suffering from discrimination, marginalization and restrictions. They need more work opportunities, easier check-point crossings, help in rebuilding Gaza after the recent war and in general a softening of the harshness of their daily existence. Will he do that?

Where Have All The Daughters Gone?

Where have all the daughters gone
Long time missing
Where have all the daughters gone
Long time ago
Where have all the daughters gone
People killed them one by one
Oh when will they ever learn
Oh when will they ever learn

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In Hunan Province an elderly woman placed the following ad:

Wanted: Kind-hearted daughter under 40 to take care of me in my old age, if satisfactory will inherit my fortune.
What exquisite poetic justice! China introduced the one-child policy about 30 years ago. It was a population control measure and it worked so well that China now has a nightmarish gender imbalance. That is because girl infanticide was a long established custom in China for centuries. Killing baby girls or allowing them to starve to death was commonplace. Drowning was another favorite method. Girls were expendable. Girls were more expensive to raise than boys and eventually left the family. It is hard to imagine such callousness but it was universally accepted.

In 2003 the one child policy was relaxed and families were allowed to apply for the right to have 2 children if one of the parents was an only child. It is too early to tell how effective this will prove to be.
In many early civilizations the same male bias existed. In Greece of 2000 BC the murder of female infants was so common that no more than 1% of families had two daughters. In India the custom of getting rid of girls is also embedded in the culture, especially in poor families who cannot afford dowries and lavish weddings. Sons on the other hand, are insurance. I read that in Karachi, Pakistan, nine out of ten newborns thrown on the dump are girls. Aborting female fetuses occurs regularly in India.

A few years ago I saw a film by Deepa Mehta called Water. It tells the story of young Indian widows rejected by both the husband’s families and their own who live in an ashram in Benares are made to shave their hair and are forced into prostitution to provide money for the temple. One of the widows was seven years old.

I have read that we should not force our own moral values on other cultures. I think this is called cultural relativism. I believe this is wrong. Some concepts are universal and if some societies have cruel traditions that cause suffering and death this should not be excused on the grounds that we should show tolerance toward cultures that are different from ours.

The Persistence of Pseudoscience

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For a long time, from the days of the ancient Greeks to the advent of modern medicine in the early 19th century, physicians believed in the four humors that governed the human body: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. Medical cures, so mocked by Moliere in his comedies, consisted mostly in purging and bloodletting. This was not based on any evidence and we know now that it did more harm than good. With advances in chemistry, alchemy disappeared completely. In other areas we have not moved ahead at the same rate. Astronomy has made great strides with the perfection of the telescope and remarkably sensitive electronic image sensors and yet astrology is flourishing also. People read their horoscopes which rely on the position of the sun and stars in the Zodiac and many believe in them. (Ronald Reagan was a devotee during his Presidency)

Psychology has emerged as a distinct experiment-based discipline divorced from philosophy. Yet parapsychology persists. It concerns itself with clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy and near-death experiences. To return to medicine, homeopathy is the belief that the substance that causes the symptoms can be used to cure the symptoms. But then it argues that diluting that substance reinforces its potency.

Often pseudoscience hides behind scientific sounding names. Deepak Chopra’s “quantum healing” relies on the body’s self-correcting and self-healing capacities. It sounds impressive but also a little arcane. The explanation is vague like that of the Delphic Oracles that can apply to many situations, depending on personal interpretation.

The most recent manifestation of the anti-scientific attitude is the mobilization against the vaccination of children. Some parents suddenly decided that vaccination was harmful and are putting their children at risk of illnesses that were thought to have been conquered. At the same time they are endangering the health of other children. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey affirms that parents’ rights allow them to do this. And now Rand Paul has jumped into the fray announcing that he “has heard of children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” Are they vying for the know-nothings’ vote or could it be that they sincerely adhere to these notions?

Some people believe in numerology or creatures like the Yeti or Loch Ness monster. It all depends on your suggestibility. Rational reasons are mixed with superstition and they are often hard to disentangle. I know many persons who believe in Qi, the Chinese concept that says that vital energy circulates around the body. Jeopardy contestants often bring lucky charms to the contest. It probably boosts their confidence and allows them to perform better. Auto-suggestion and self-hypnosis may be at work here and may account for any benefits derived from belief.

Science however, relies on experiments that can be replicated and verified and on peer evaluation. It starts with a hypothesis and if that hypothesis cannot be independently confirmed, then no matter how alluring and beguiling it appears it needs to be modified or discarded.

To Me, This Is Total Evil

Female Palestinian suicide bombers attend a news conference in Gaza

On our television screens we have recently seen ordinary looking individuals matter-of- factly informing us that they will behead persons they do not even know. Their faces are covered in black. Their eyes are vacant. But these are not deformed monsters or extraterrestrials. Such persons live among us. Most recently, these messengers of Allah plunged us several centuries down into the Middle Ages when heretics were burned at the stake.

This is not killing out of fear or necessity or for profit. To me this is total evil. Fanatics are ruthlessly enforcing religious doctrines like blasphemy and apostasy. This is behavior that intelligent human beings abandoned and left behind long ago. This heinous ideology is spreading and metastasizing like an epidemic, infecting more and more people and we do not seem to know how to counter it.

I believe we were wrong in not more widely publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons for which journalists have died. We should have published these cartoons en masse to present a united front against this creeping ideology but we seem to have lost our moorings when it comes to what should be tolerated and what should not. In the name of tolerance we accept behavior that should be condemned.

We are retreating from asserting our beliefs and convictions just as Galileo was forced to retreat from his scientific observations because the Church ordered him to do so.

Some people like Sam Harris go even further in defending freedom of speech. He believes that Germany should not have enacted laws against holocaust denial because such statements should be answered by discourse not by legislation.

Some disenchanted Western recruits to Jihadism have started to preach a message of integration and are trying to dissuade young people who feel rejected and marginalized from falling prey to brainwashing and alluring promises of a noble martyrdom It is a good beginning. We should find more ways to persuade these young people that there are better goals to achieve. For an interesting example of this, take a look at Average Mohamed.

Your comments are encouraged and greatly appreciated.

Recycling for Artists, Musicians and Cooks

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Recycling is not a new phenomenon. Throughout the ages, artists have borrowed ideas, tunes and pictures and have incorporated them into their own art, building something original in the process. Musicians thought nothing of using a famous melody like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (also known as “Ah vous dirai-je maman”) or hymns like “God Save the King” and creating endless variations on them. There is an aria called “La Folia” which appears to have no known origin but was used in many countries by baroque composers to improvise and embroider upon. In his 1812 Overture, Tchaikovsky used two national anthems and a cannon.

The most beautiful quilts incorporate remnants skillfully stitched together into original patterns and transform the materials beyond recognition.

Cooks cleverly use leftovers and repackage them in novel ways. Think of wontons, blintzes, crepes and various soups and casseroles.

We have all seen “installations” in museums which consist of “objets trouves” (found bits and pieces) rearranged and camouflaged into new structures and sculptures.
In costume making you can use leftover material from older creations and you have a new outfit on your hands. Maybe that is the meaning of the saying: There is nothing new under the sun.

The artist Matisse found himself in a wheelchair after undergoing surgery in 1941. As a result he invented a new art form with his cutouts. He would cut out strips of paper, paint them in various hues and shape them into vast arrangements suggesting swimming figures, birds flying or a spray of flowers. He called it: Painting with scissors. He said, “This work constitutes my real self.”

David Hockney mixed digital photographic collages, film and paintings and created a totally original art form. Some of his works include multiple viewpoints so a figure can be seen from various angles. He also used his iPad to edit and rearrange various shots.

I have seen people sitting on a bench in a museum facing his creations totally transfixed by the constantly evolving images which vanish and come back in a different shape. Hockney does not consider himself avant-garde. He says, “In a world without rules it is impossible to be on the cutting edge. Every picture is an account of me looking at something.”

I like the idea of the fluidity of objects reshaping themselves in a kaleidoscopic dance.