What does it mean?

April 28, 2006

Michael Totten goes North

Another must-read: Part two of Michael Totten's trip to Israel. Excerpt:

“Do you think they’re watching us?” Lisa said.

“They are watching you right at this second,” the lieutenant said. “You are definitely being photographed. It’s possible you’re being watched through a sniper rifle.”

To say I felt naked and exposed at that moment would be a real understatement. I felt like my skin was invisible, that psychopaths were boring holes with their eyes straight to the core of my being. At the same time, I knew they did not see me as a person. They saw me as a potential massacre target.

I know Hezbollah wouldn’t hurt me in Lebanon, even though they did call me on my cell phone and threaten me with physical violence. All bets are off while standing next to IDF soldiers in Israel, though.
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Trackback from Kesher Talk, More reactions to "United 93":
All entries on Flight 93 here. Jim Geraghty and Bizzyblog are tracking reactions to the trailer. David Boxenhorn transcribed the director's statement from the movie site. (It was part of a graphic that was unlinkable.) Shrinkwrapped places reactions to...

April 27, 2006

An Egyptian's drive to Israel

Josh Scholar posts a great link on Michael Totten's blog. It's a translated except from Ali Salem's A Drive to Israel:

In 1994, after the signing of the Oslo accords, Ali Salem did the unthinkable. He hopped in his 14-year-old Soviet-made car and drove across the Sinai into Israel. He spent over three weeks in the country, touring and meeting Israelis from all walks of life. On his return, he published a book, A Drive to Israel, which sold over 60,000 copies—a runaway bestseller by Egyptian standards.

It is very interesting to read him report on some things that I take for granted:

The most interesting point is that the young boy, in that brief moment after a driver told him he didn’t agree with the slogan, didn’t feel angry or frustrated. Instead he quickly moved on to another car. He didn’t scream: "You creep, why don’t you agree? … You must be an agent of the Syrians and the Arabs."

We must focus on this point in raising our children. It is a person’s right to hold differing views and ideas, as long as he doesn’t espouse violence or aggression. Let ideas do combat with each other, theory against theory, for the benefit of the nation.

Public debates here are not confined to the offices of political parties or newspaper columns. You see them transformed into banners held by groups of young men and women on street corners. Sometimes you find a demonstration of two persons carrying a banner announcing their joint political position. There is a well-known group that stands on a certain street corner in Jerusalem wearing black clothes and holding signs saying: "Leave the West Bank … Leave the Golan … Leave Gaza."

You’ll find another group in the middle of Jerusalem raising signs saying: "The West Bank begins here," meaning that if we vacate the West Bank, we’ll wind up withdrawing even from Jerusalem.

And this fine piece of sarcasm:

My mind turned to the topic of the Israeli cultural invasion of Egypt...

"Oh, what a wretched, helpless victim am I! How can I protect myself from this invasion? What should I do to confront these lethal weapons?"

"Don’t speak with them, listen to them, or read them. Convince yourself that they don’t exist. Imagine that Israel is the temptress of the folk tales, the voice of seduction luring you to desire and destruction, the siren of Greek mythology and of the Thousand and One Nights. She sings a captivating song, she possesses an enchanting voice that will lure you away and drag you to the bottom of the Nile. Plug your ears and become deaf. While you’re at it, blind your eyes too, since a nuclear film or something like it could invade you … "

"Okay, I’ll plug my ears and blind my eyes to protect me from the cultural invasion."

"But this isn’t enough, my friend! They’ll attack with advanced new weapons capable of penetrating your mind without passing through your ears or eyes."

"Oh, what a lost soul am I! How can I possibly protect my mind?"

"Shut it, shut down your mind. That’s the solution."

"Okay, I’ve closed it."

"Now your ears are plugged, your eyes are closed and your mind is shut. Praise the Lord! You’re saved—from the Israeli cultural invasion. Now you are safe and secure in your own heritage, in your national and ethnic culture."

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Michael Totten goes to Israel

If you want to understand what Israel is really like, you must read Michel Totten's latest post:

TEL AVIV - After living in an Arab country for nearly six months, arriving in Israel came like a shock.

It startled me from the air. Whoa, I thought, as I looked out the window of the plane over the suburbs of Tel Aviv. If the border were open I could drive down there in a short couple of hours from my Beirut apartment. But this place looked nothing like Lebanon. My Lebanese friend Hassan calls Israel Disneyland. I thought about that and laughed when I watched it roll by from above.

Trim houses sprawled in Western-style suburban rows like white versions of little green Monopoly board pieces. Red-tiled roofs somehow looked more Southern California than Mediterranean. Swimming pools sparkled in sunlight. I felt that I had been whisked to the other side of the planet in no time.

The airport shocked me as well, although it probably wouldn’t shock you. There were more straight lines and right angles than I was used to. There were more women, children, and families around than I had seen for some time. Obvious tourists from places like suburban Kansas City were everywhere.

Arab countries have a certain feel. They’re masculine, relaxed, worn around the edges, and slightly shady in a Sicilian mobster sort of way. Arabs are wonderfully and disarmingly charming. Israel felt brisk, modern, shiny, and confident. It looked rich, powerful, and explicitly Jewish.

In fact, I think Michael's entire site is a must-read. Even with all the journalists in Israel and the Middle East, I have never seen in the press honest descriptions as to what the countries are really like. He talks to Lisa:

She moved from Canada to Israel years ago when Ehud Barak was prime minister. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians looked imminent. Israel was on the threshold - finally - of becoming an accepted and normal country in the Middle East. It was the perfect time to relocate, a time of optimism and hope. A cruel three weeks later that dream was violently put to its death. The second intifada exploded. Israel was at war.

“It was so traumatizing,” she said. “And everybody blamed us. I don’t think I will ever get over it.”

I wrote about that here.

Lisa voted for Meretz in the last election. That's the farthest-left party that's not explicitly anti-Zionist:

“I have Palestinian friends who say things I don’t like at all,” she said. “They say they want to destroy Israel, that it has no right to exist.”

“How can you be friends with people like that?” I said.

“Because I know the difference between rhetoric and reality,” she said.

“Threats from the West Bank aren’t just rhetoric,” I said. “How many suicide bombings did you say you’ve seen?”

“These people will never hurt me,” she said. “They are my friends. They love me. And when I say love, I do not mean that lightly.”

It's true. I couldn't maintain a friendship with anyone who wants to destroy Israel. But I deal with Arabs on a day-to-day basis, and my interactions with them are very friendly. When you meet a person face-to-face, and that person is nice to you, your instinct is to be nice. Nevertheless, every once in a while there's a story about an Arab who kills his longtime Jewish friend. Perhaps he is accused of treason. Perhaps another member of his family is threatened. On an individual level, I have sympathy for his dilemma.

Back to Michael:

Lisa told me the Bedouin in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula speak Hebrew.

“Why?” I said. “Did they learn it during the occupation?” Israel seized the Sinai from Egypt during the Six Day War in 1967 and gave it back when Anwar Sadat agreed to a peace treaty.

“No,” she said. “They wanted to learn Hebrew so they can talk to us when we go down and visit.”

“When you go down there and visit?” I did not know what she was talking about.

“Last year 200,000 Israelis visited the Bedouin during Passover," she said.

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April 25, 2006

My personality?

Is this me?

You are a Considerate Inventor.

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April 05, 2006

United 93 - Director's statement

I read the director's statement for United 93. It was so powerful that I wanted to link to it, but I couldn't find it anywhere in linkable form, so I have reproduced it below. You can get to the original by going to united93movie.com - click on "ENTER THE SITE", and you'll find "DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT" in the menu (bottom left corner). Director, Paul Greengrass:

UNITED 93 is a film about 9/11

It tells the story of the day through a meticulous re-enactment of events surrounding United 93, the last of the four hijacked aircraft, in the belief that by examining this single event something much larger can be found - the shape of our world today.

By a quirk of fate Flight 93 was delayed on the runway at Newark airport for 45 minutes. By the time it was airborne, the other three planes had reached their intended targets. As a result, the forty passengers and crew on board Flight 93 were the first to inhabit our new and terrifying post 9/11 world.

The terrible dilemma those passengers faced is the same we have been struggling with ever since. Do we sit passively and hope this all turns out okay? Or do we fight back and strike at them before they strike at us? And what will be the consequences if we do?

That is why the story of Flight 93 continues to command our attention. Although we can only dimly understand what must have happened on that ninety minute flight, we can know from the two dozen phone calls and from the 30 minutes of Cockpit Voice recordings that it dramatizes and symbolizes everything that we face today.

Made with the full support of the families of those on board, UNITED 93 will track in real time the dramatic story of what happened inside the aircraft as well as on the ground, as passengers, crew, Civilian Air Traffic Controllers and Military Command Centers struggle to make sense of an unimagined and unimaginable crisis.

The film begins on a normal September morning at Newark airport. Crew members prepare for a routine commuter flight to San Francisco. They make safety checks, assign tasks, fuel the plane. Passengers arrive, check in, make last minute calls to colleagues and families before boarding the plane. As the cabin doors are hermetically sealed they all believe that everything is normal. That they are safe from the dangers of a turbulent world. But sitting in four first class seats right next to them is an Al Qaeda cell.

And so as the hijack unfolds, the film moves between the passengers and crew in the air and civilian and military air traffic controllers on the ground as each tries desperately to avert the flight's progress toward the Capitol Building in the heart of Washington D.C.

UNITED 93 will take us through the events of 9/11 as they happen in real time - all the confusion, violence, courage and endurance of a day that changed our lives forever.

(I think that this is a service to the filmmakers as well as the public, but on the slim chance that they contact me with copyright problems, I'll take it down.)

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Trackback from Solomonia, United 93:
David Boxenhorn has posted the statement made by the director of the film. I'm not in any hurry to see this, though I probably will eventually. Maybe it's age, or the fact that I spend so much time every day...

Trackback from Kesher Talk, More reactions to "United 93":
Previous entries on the Flight 93 movie here and here. Jim Geraghty and Bizzyblog are tracking reactions to the trailer. David Boxenhorn transcribed the director's statement from the movie site. (It was part of a graphic that was unlinkable.) Shrinkwra...

April 02, 2006

You never know where your luck is

He sat beside me
And we got to talking
I told him what I did
Poet odd-jobber with wanderlust
Existential struggle not merely philosophic
And when we parted
He gave me his card: Diamond trader
Specialty: Extra Large Diamonds
I told him
I didn't expect to be needing his services
And he said
You never know where your luck is

-- As told to me by beat-poet blues-guitarist Inkblot Hurricane

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