The Nation, 9 March 2009

nation-9-march-2009Robert Dreyfuss looks at the regional elections held in Iraq on 31 January and finds good news.  A new alliance of Shi’a and Sunni groups is beginning to operate in Iraqi politics.  Soon, Dreyfuss hopes, this alliance will be strong enough to present itself as a genuinely nationalist bloc and to insist on an end to the US occupation. 

No such development is in sight in Afghanistan.  An editorial expresses the fear that the Obama plan to send more US troops to that country will make “Bush’s War” into Mr O’s very own. 

Katha Pollitt speaks up for free speech.   On the twentieth anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwah against Salman Rushdie, she finds fault with fellow leftists whose only response to violent behavior by Muslims who have taken offense at speech labeled anti-Islamic is to “see these incidents as gratuitous provocations by insensitive Westerners” and to support restrictions on speech that amount to blasphemy laws.  She grants that many of the incidents that have generated violent responses in the Muslim world have indeed been gratuitous provocations by insensitive Westerners, and is happy to list extremists from other religious groups whose conduct has been every bit as deplorable as the worst we have seen from Khomeini and his coreligionists.  But:

Appeals to the hurt feelings of religious people are just a dodge to protect the antidemocratic and retrograde policies of religious states and organizations. We’re all adults; we have to live with unwelcome expression every day. What’s so special about religion that it should be uniquely cocooned? After all, nobody at the UN is suggesting that atheists should be protected from offense–let alone women, gays, leftists or other targets popular with the faithful. What about our feelings? How can it be logical to say that women can’t point out sexism in the Bible or the Koran but clerics can use those texts to declare women inferior, unclean and in need of male control? And what about all the abuses religions heap on one another as an integral part of their “faith”?

An essay about Israeli novelist David Grossman of course concerns itself chiefly with Grossman’s insights into the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict.  What sticks with me from the essay is this quote from Grossman about writing:

[Y]ears ago, reflecting on a story he was writing that featured a bitter, emotionally unstable protagonist, he described his desire to have the tale surprise him. “More than that, I want it to actually betray me,” he wrote.

To drag me by the hair, absolutely against my will, into the places that are most dangerous and most frightening for me. I want it to destabilize and dissolve all the comfortable defenses of my life. It must deconstruct me, my relations with my children, my wife, and my parents; with my country, with the society I live in, with my language.

Ukuleles for Peace


Al Wood of the mighty ukulelehunt has been doing his bit to promote Ukuleles for Peace.  Ukuleles for Peace is one of many groups that aim to bring Israeli and Palestinian children together in a fun and peaceful environment.  Sometimes I suspect half the population of the West Bank is there to set up such groups, but this is the best one, since it’s with ukuleles.