The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Friedman on campus protests

Columnist Thomas Friedman, who identifies himself as "a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, [and] cares about people on all sides," finds American campus protests troubling because they're missing the larger context and workable goals:

In short: I find the whole thing very troubling, because the dominant messages from the loudest voices and many placards reject important truths about how this latest Gaza war started and what will be required to bring it to a fair and sustainable conclusion.

My problem is not that the protests in general are “antisemitic” — I would not use that word to describe them, and indeed, I am deeply uncomfortable as a Jew with how the charge of antisemitism is thrown about on the Israel-Palestine issue. My problem is that I am a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, cares about people on all sides and knows one thing above all from my decades in the region: The only just and workable solution to this issue is two nation-states for two indigenous peoples.

If you are for that, whatever your religion, nationality or politics, you’re part of the solution. If you are not for that, you’re part of the problem.

I am intensely both anti-Hamas and anti-Netanyahu. And if you oppose just one and not also the other, you should reflect a little more on what you are shouting at your protest or your anti-protest. Because no one has done more to harm the prospects of a two-state solution than the codependent Hamas and Netanyahu factions.

The whole column encapsulates a lot of my own struggles with this particular moment.

Israel's growing isolation

The UN Security Council, with the US abstaining, voted to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza for the month of Ramadan just a few minutes ago:

The breakthrough resolution, which is legally binding and was put forth by the 10 nonpermanent members of the Council, was being negotiated intensely until the last minute.

The U.S. asked for a change in the text that removed “permanent cease-fire” and replaced it with a “lasting cease-fire,” according to diplomats, and called for both sides to create conditions where the halt in fighting could be sustained.

The U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the adopted resolution fell in line with diplomatic efforts by the United States, Qatar and Egypt to broker a cease-fire in exchange for hostage release. She said the U.S. abstained because it did not agree with everything in the resolution, including a decision not to condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks to the text.

The Economist says Israel's mission to destroy the terrorist Hamas organization has largely failed:

A temporary ceasefire and hostage release could cause a change of Israel’s government; the rump of Hamas fighters in south Gaza could be contained or fade away; and from the rubble, talks on a two-state solution could begin, underwritten by America and its Gulf allies. It is just as likely, however, that ceasefire talks will fail. That could leave Israel locked in the bleakest trajectory of its 75-year existence, featuring endless occupation, hard-right politics and isolation. Today many Israelis are in denial about this, but a political reckoning will come eventually. It will determine not only the fate of Palestinians, but also whether Israel thrives in the next 75 years.

If you are a friend of Israel this is a deeply uncomfortable moment. In October it launched a justified war of self-defence against Hamas, whose terrorists had committed atrocities that threaten the idea of Israel as a land where Jews are safe. Today Israel has destroyed perhaps half of Hamas’s forces. But in important ways its mission has failed.

It is a bleak picture that is not always acknowledged in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Mr Netanyahu talks of invading Rafah, Hamas’s last redoubt, while the hard right fantasises about resettling Gaza. Many mainstream Israelis are deluding themselves, too. They believe the unique threats to Israel justify its ruthlessness and that the war has helped restore deterrence. Gaza shows that if you murder Israelis, destruction beckons. Many see no partner for peace—the pa is rotten and polls say 93% of Palestinians deny Hamas’s atrocities even took place. Occupation is the least-bad option, they conclude. Israelis would prefer to be popular abroad, but condemnation and antisemitism are a small price to pay for security. As for America, it has been angry before. The relationship is not about to rupture. If Donald Trump returns he may once again give Israel a free pass.

This seductive story is a manifesto for disaster.

Having studied the war and Israel's security situation, David Brooks similarly concludes that Israel has no good options at this point:

[I]n this war, Hamas is often underground, the Israelis are often aboveground, and Hamas seeks to position civilians directly between them. As Barry Posen, a professor at the security studies program at M.I.T., has written, Hamas’s strategy could be “described as ‘human camouflage’ and more ruthlessly as ‘human ammunition.’” Hamas’s goal is to maximize the number of Palestinians who die and in that way build international pressure until Israel is forced to end the war before Hamas is wiped out. Hamas’s survival depends on support in the court of international opinion and on making this war as bloody as possible for civilians, until Israel relents.

Israel has done far more to protect civilians than the United States did in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has sent out millions of pamphlets, texts and recorded calls warning civilians of coming operations. It has conducted four-hour daily pauses to allow civilians to leave combat areas. It has dropped speakers that blast out instructions about when to leave and where to go. These measures...have telegraphed where the I.D.F. is going to move next.

Hamas’s strategy is pure evil, but it is based on an understanding of how the events on the ground will play out in the political world. The key weakness of the Israeli strategy has always been that it is aimed at defeating Hamas militarily without addressing Palestinian grievances and without paying enough attention to the wider consequences. As the leaders of Hamas watch Washington grow more critical of Jerusalem, they must know their strategy is working.

Remember, Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map, at any cost. Israel mostly wants its neighbors, like Hamas, to stop attacking it, but their political leadership and internal myopia, helped along by nearly-unlimited resources from the US, have blinded Israelis to the larger strategy of its enemies.

Hamas timed its attack on October 7th perfectly, striking a weak and craven Israeli prime minister whose political survival depends on listening to the most deranged people in his coalition. Of course Israel was going to over-react; that was part of the Hamas strategy. But maybe with the US and the UN putting pressure on both sides, we can pause for a moment and figure out how to end the war.

Long day and long week

For Reasons, we have the dress rehearsal for our Saturday performance on Saturday. That means poor Cassie will likely go ten hours crossing her paws between the time I have to leave and when I'm likely to get back. Fortunately, she should be exhausted by then. Tonight's dress rehearsal for our Sunday performance won't put her out as much, thanks to Dog Delivery from my doggy day care. Still, I'd rather have a quiet evening at home than a 3-hour rehearsal and an hour-long car trip home...

Meanwhile, in the world of things that appear to matter more but actually will matter less in a year...

Finally, perhaps the reason the Chicago Transit Authority has so many problems is that its governing board has only one member who actually understands public transit? (Welcome to Chicago: where the head of the CTA has a chauffeured car, and the head of the Chicago Teacher's Union sends her kids to private school.)

Sinn Féin takes premiership in Northern Ireland

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. When I first visited London in 1992, a bobby at Victoria Station explained that they didn't have bins there because "they tend to explode." I supported President Clinton in brokering the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and I was in a pub in Killarney in July 2005 watching the telly with the silent crowd there as Sinn Féin put down their guns for good.

So while today's news would have shocked me in 1992, I'm merely surprised in 2024:

Northern Ireland’s devolved government has reconvened and appointed Michelle O’Neill as first minister in a historic moment for Sinn Féin and Irish nationalism.

The Stormont assembly nominated the County Tyrone republican as the region’s first nationalist first minister, ending a century of unionist first ministers.

The appointment of a republican first minister represented “a new dawn” unimaginable to previous generations that grew up with discrimination against Catholics, said O’Neill. “That state is now gone.”

The devolved government reconvened after the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) walked out of Stormont on 3 February 2022 in protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements that it said undermined the region’s place in the UK. The party agreed to end the boycott this week after its leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, wrung concessions from the UK government that smoothed the so-called Irish Sea border.

Welcome to the 21st Century, when both republicans and unionists can find common ground in their disgust with the Conservative government in Westminster.

Not the long post I hope to write soon

I'm still thinking about propaganda in the Gaza war, but I'm not done thinking yet. Or, at least, not at a stopping point where a Daily Parker post would make sense. That said, Julia Ioffe sent this in the introduction to her semi-weekly column; unfortunately I can't link to it:

The absolutely poisonous discourse around this war, though, has taken all of that to a whole other level. The rage, the screaming, and the disinformation, ahistoricity, the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the propaganda—all of it has felt overwhelming at times. The way that reasonable people I otherwise respect have shown themselves to be hard-hearted zealots—clinging to what they want to believe, starting not with the facts but rather their ideology and working backwards from there—has led me to stop talking to people on both sides of the divide. The facts of what’s happening in Israel and Gaza are hard enough to absorb as it is.

As usual, Ioffe wrote what I was thinking. Again, I'll have more, but that's a very good take.

  • The column Ioffe introduced in that email, an interview with international lawyer David Scheffer, is a must-read.
  • A jury found the National Association of Realtors liable for restraint of trade and anti-competitive practices, awarding the plaintiffs $1.87 billion in damages. (Where's my refund from my last house purchase?)
  • Strong Towns points out that contrary to the wishes of many on the left, rent control works as an anti-displacement policy, but not as an affordability policy.
  • Chicago Tribune sports writer Paul Sullivan laments that this year's World Series, between the 5th and 6th seeds, for which three 100-win teams lost in the playoffs, has the smallest audience of any World Series in television history. Can't think why.
  • It turns out, AI image generation can only be as good as the images it learns on, which means AIs have even more bias than humans do.
  • Somehow I wrote a 20-page paper for 11th grade on Mark Twain and never read the account of him meeting Winston Churchill in 1900.

Finally, Michelin just announced its Bib Gourmand list for Chicago, with its US stars all coming out next Tuesday. The Bib list has five new restaurants that I must now visit. We'll see who gets new stars in a few days.

Gaza war thoughts

Between the destruction of Twitter as a platform of consequence and my good fortune that most of my Facebook contacts are sane (and I can mute the others for 30 days at a time), I haven't seen much of the disinformation and propaganda about the Hamas pogrom and Israeli response that others have reported on. But I have read some good commentary that recognizes the context of the current conflict, particularly that its outlines haven't changed one bit in at least 3,000 years.

Before I highlight some of the commentary I found useful, even if I didn't agree with it completely, I should remind everyone that Israel has a right to exist. After the Romans expelled Jews from what is now Israel, Jews have been persecuted and killed simply for being Jews in every country they've lived in, including the United States. I don't think any other ethnic group has lived with that kind of threat for as long and in as many places, ever. So, after Nazis killed 6 million Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, the United Nations agreed to turn over the historically Jewish lands inside the former British colony of Mandatory Palestine to the administration Jews as the modern Jewish state of Israel—the name the land had before the Roman occupation 2,100 years ago. The million or so non-Jewish people already living there—alongside the million or so Jews who lived there before European refugees started settling post-WWII—had a choice: live inside the democratic state of Israel, with all the rights and privileges of Israeli citizens but under Jewish government, or leave. Many left.

Of course it's not that cut-and-dried, and there is ample evidence that Israeli militias forcibly expelled some of them. But the creation of Israel, and the departure of Palestinians from the new country, gave Israel's neighbors a single goal: the destruction of Israel. Since 1948, governments and militias in the region have openly advocated wiping Israel from the map and killing all the Jews in it. Imagine if every US State south of Canada wanted to destroy New Jersey—and on several occasions have tried—and you can start to consider what living in Israel feels like.

So last week, a group with an explicitly genocidal charter and who have ruled an area the size of Detroit through terror launched a pogrom against unarmed civilians for the purpose of undoing the normalization of relations between Israel and the aforementioned neighbors. The disorganization and incompetence of Israel's government under Netanyahu gave them the opening, and the illegal settlements and armed incursions onto Palestinian land by right-wing religious nutters with the passive acquiescence of Netanyahu's coalition partners gave them the excuse. Of course, they don't need an excuse; they just want to kill all the Jews.

I believe the Israeli government under Netanyahu needs to end, and the next government needs to remove the illegal settlements in the West Bank to allow Palestinians to form a real state with real borders and a real government. But there's no moral equivalent between land theft and killing babies.

I'll have more on this later, along with links to some of the saner commentaries I've read in the past week. Clearly one center-left moderate American won't have the answers to this 3,000-year-old problem, but I hope at least I'm looking for the right questions.

Cough, cough, cough

I could have worked from home today, and probably should have, but I felt well enough to come in (wearing an N95 mask, of course). It turned that I had a very helpful meeting, which would not have worked as well remotely, but given tomorrow's forecast and the likelihood I'll still have this cold, Cassie will just have to miss a day of school.

I have to jam on a presentation for the next three hours, so I'll come back to these later:

Finally, no sooner did it open than the new Guinness brewery in Chicago is for sale. It will stay a Guinness brewery, just under different ownership. The Brews and Choos Project will get there soon.

Tuesday Night Links Club

Just a few:

  • US Representative George Santos (R-NY) faces another 21 felony charges in New York, with prosecutors alleging he stole donors' identities and misappropriated their donations.
  • Isabel Fattal attempts to explain Hamas, the terrorist organization that attacked Israel on Saturday.
  • Alex Shephard is glad the news media have gotten better at reporting on the XPOTUS, but they've still missed the biggest part: he's a "singular threat to American democracy."
  • Jason Pargin pays homage to celebrity worship, and goggles at how weird it's gotten.
  • Molly White explains the evidence presented at Sam Bankman-Fried's trial yesterday that (allegedly) shows how they perpetrated the fraud in code.
  • McSweeney's has a helpful template for right-wingers who are upset with Taylor Swift.

Finally, National Geographic gets cozy with the history of bedbugs and their relationship to humans. Fun evening read, y'all!

Monday, Monday (ba dah, ba dah dah ba)

I woke up this morning feeling like I'm fighting a cold, which usually means I'm fighting a cold. One negative Covid test later, I'm still debating whether to go to rehearsal tonight. Perhaps after a nap. And wearing an N-95.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

  • Kenyan runner Kelvin Kiptum ran the world's fastest marathon yesterday in Chicago, finishing the race in 2:00:35, 36 seconds faster than Eliud Kipchoge's 2:01:09 set last year in Berlin.
  • David Ignatius reflects on the massive intelligence failure that allowed Hamas to attack Israel over the weekend.
  • Matt Ford completely debunks the XPOTUS's argument that being president granted him total immunity from prosecution. Along those lines, David Graham says that anyone who represents the XPOTUS in court has a fool for a client.
  • David French finds "moral outrage" in the insult "OK Boomer."
  • Chicago spent $3.5 million hosting NASCAR over the summer, offset only a bit by the $620,000 in fees the organization paid to the city for the privilege. And we're stuck doing it next year, too.

Finally, pilot and journalist Jim Fallows annotates a 17-minute video of the Air Traffic Control conversations with FedEx 1376, which made a gear-up landing at Chattanooga, Tenn., last week. (No one was injured, but the Boeing 757 will probably be written off.)

Domestic terrorism in Michigan

Charlie Pierce, noting that "[p]eople with firearms forced the civil government of the state of Michigan to shut itself down," wants to know in what sense this isn't terrorism. In other fun weekend stories:

And it's pouring, and will continue to do so for several more hours.