Top-quality AM reads, as determined by yours truly (caveat emptor, etc). Hot links on a platter — after the jump:
Silence from the White House re: Pillar of Defense: Activist Jacqueline Rourke with an open letter to POTUS:
I write to you on behalf of my sons, as a mother of Palestinian children, who are in turn the sons of the son of a Palestinian refugee from El Bass and Rashadiyeh camps in South Lebanon. I write to you as an author who has written about and studied postcolonial relations, culture, and the politics of belonging. I write to you as a teacher and a social activist who believes that a man who wins the Nobel Peace Prize should do something to deserve it.
I just finished watching your first press conference since you were re-elected for a second term as President. I was waiting to hear what you would have to say about the illegal Israeli assassination of Ahmed Al Jabaari and the facts released by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ (PCHR) report on Sunday November 11, 2012. This report indicates that five Palestinian civilians including three children have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the previous 72 hours, in addition to two Palestinian security personnel. Four of the deaths occurred as a result of Israeli military firing artillery shells on youngsters playing soccer. Moreover, 52 civilians had been wounded, of which six are women and 12 were children.[i] As the death toll climbs, Mr. President, why are you silent?
You know what they say about sequels… Hussein Ibish puts Pillar of Defense in context, cautioning Israel to not forget the lessons of Cast Lead:
The people of Israel will not find peace and security through endless wars with an ever-evolving array of Palestinian militants — the inevitable consequence of the lack of a peace agreement. For all its death and destruction, Operation Cast Lead failed to solve any of Israel’s security issues and did nothing to weaken Hamas’s grip on power in Gaza. But it did expose Israel to unprecedented international condemnation regarding its targeting of civilian and non-military targets, alleged war crimes, andexcessive use of force. Those who fire rockets from Gaza, or countenance such attacks must also be held responsible for what they know full well will be the Israeli response — the price of which will, as always, be primarily paid by ordinary, innocent Palestinians.
Make no mistake: Jaabari’s assassination is a major blow to Hamas’s military wing, which lost its long-standing leader. And even if this is the beginning of a “reformatting” of Gaza, Israel could once again end up winning the battle but losing the war: If it is not careful, developments on the Gaza battlefield could end up strengthening rather than weakening Hamas. Worse still, it could empower extreme, new Palestinian jihadist organizations that have begun to crop up in Gaza.
Twice removed: Dina Amer on the plight of previously-displaced Palestinian refugees who have fled Syria to Lebanon — and now face an even greater struggle:
Syrian nationals and Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria escape the same decimating violence, yet as soon as they enter Lebanon’s border they are faced with an entirely different set of regulations. The stateless status of the nearly 7,000 Palestinian refugees that have escaped Syria thus far requires them to pay approximately seventeen dollars for a fifteen-day visa, or thirty-three dollars for a non-renewable one-month visa after which they are expected to leave or face fines for overstaying. They are also subject to the same longstanding discriminatory laws posed against their Palestinian compatriots already resettled there. These include exclusion from access to Lebanese job opportunities at large (limiting them to mostly menial labor positions), schools, healthcare, and other basic civil rights and services. Such a context stands in sharp contrast to that of passport-holding Syrians, whom while experiencing their own set of grim conditions, are granted a six month residency visa which can be extended free of charge. They thus effectively enjoy the right to work without permits (in accordance to a long-established agreement), and self-stabilize in Lebanon without the constraints imposed on Palestinian refugees as a consequence of their stateless status.
Furthermore, aid resources are even more limited for those Palestinian refugees being displaced a second time—and are now crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon—than they are for Syrian refugees. This is primarily because Palestinian refugees residing in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon fall under the specific jurisdiction of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Palestinian refugees in other countries—or refugees of other origins in all countries—fall under the jurisdiction of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided they are able to register with said organization.
Et tu, mosquitos? Thomas PM Barnett on how economic instability and global warming present an intersecting — and urgent — threat:
Malaria still existed throughout much of the US in the 1930s/40s. Since then it has gotten much warmer throughout the US. But malaria is basically gone now. Why? Rising incomes.
So the point on global warming is, it’ll create real problems wherever states and societies don’t have the money to deal with the challenges – such as insect migration.
Now take a look at this chart from the WSJ and realize what happens when incomes fall – and how quickly.
Mind the climate gap: Imara Jones on Hurricane Sandy and why climate justice must be part of the global warming conversation:
President Obama’s trip to New York City today underscores the fact that it’s time for people who care about racial and economic justice to take center stage in the climate change debate. For years climatologists and economists have warned that the consequences of a changing climate would fall first, hardest and fastest on those already staggering under the weight of racial and economic disparities. This “climate gap”—given its name in a 2009 University of California report—was brought into sharp relief by Sandy.
Though the storm’s destructive capacity was spread across 200 miles, the consequences of the damage were uneven. In fact, Sandy revealed that economic inequality has life and death consequences. Nowhere highlights the point more than New York City’s aftermath in the storm’s wake.
(Still) not a spectator sport: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists publisher Kennette Benedict calls on US citizens to stand up and “claim their rightful places in the nuclear discussion”:
Too often…many of us lucky enough to live in democracies view elections as the only responsibility we have as citizens and leave the policy discussions to the elected and to the experts. There are some good reasons for this, of course. People are busy making a living, finding a job, paying bills, sorting out finances, going to school plays, helping out at the local library, going to church, and caring for children and parents. And, if these were not enough in the way of obstacles, some issues — like climate change and nuclear security — seem complicated, contentious, and far removed from our daily lives. Political leaders and policy experts don’t always encourage a lot of participation, either; perhaps they believe that citizens are badly informed about issues and that their participation will result in poor decisions. So, the pressures on time and attention, along with the complexity of the issues and lack of encouragement, lead most people to accept the role that policy elites have assigned them — the ignorant, uninterested public.
Allowing policy leaders and officials to make decisions for us, however, is at odds with the principle of equality, as Robert Dahl notes in his often overlooked essay “Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Democracy versus Guardianship.” While equality allows for a delegation of authority, it also insists that citizens are both qualified to judge which questions require delegation and capable of recapturing that delegated authority when they choose. The principle of guardianship, on the other hand, holds that only a small minority of citizens is sufficiently qualified and therefore capable of making binding decisions for the nation. As Dahl observes, the political system of a modern democratic country is usually a combination of democracy and meritocracy, but, when it comes to nuclear weapons, “We have in fact turned over to a small group of people decisions of incalculable importance to ourselves and mankind, and it is very far from clear how, if at all, we could recapture a control that in fact we have never had.” We are living in a democracy based on guardianship, not equality, when it comes to nuclear weapons.
Now some may argue that it is impossible to expect a majority of citizens to understand the complexity of nuclear strategy, let alone make timely decisions about using nuclear weapons at a moment of high tension and potential aggression against their country. So it follows that only those with special knowledge of weapons capability and strategic thinking should have the power to make policy for all of us in the interests of national security. But if that is the case, then this special class of people is being given sole responsibility for deciding whether or not to kill millions and destroy vast areas of the planet by firing nuclear weapons — without any participation by the people who paid for the weapons with their taxes or by those who voted for the leaders who give the final orders. This is not delegation of authority. As Dahl puts it, this is alienation from authority. Once citizens no longer feel qualified to participate in decisions about their very survival, the connection between the governing and the governed is severed. It is hard to see where the democracy is in this.
Austrian law student takes on the Great Blue Satan: Cyrus Farivar re: the European grassroots push-back against Facebook’s creeping encroachment on digital privacy:
The world’s largest legal battle against Facebook began with a class assignment. Student Max Schrems still hasn’t turned in his university paper on the topic, due well over a year ago, but he has already accomplished something bigger: forcing Facebook to alter its approach to user privacy. Now, Schrems wants cash—hundreds of thousands of euros—to launch the next phase of his campaign, a multi-year legal battle that might significantly redefine how Facebook controls the personal data on over one billion people worldwide.
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