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Notes: Syria Panel – First Universalist Church, Hampden and Colorado Blvd. Denver. November 1, 2015

November 2, 2015
As far as the eye can see: Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

As far as the eye can see: Syrian refugee camp in Jordan


Yesterday (Sunday, November 1, 2015) I participated in a panel at the First Universalist Church, Hampden and Colorado Blvd. Denver, November 1, 2015 on the Syrian Crisis. Also participating were Charles Carlson of “We Hold These Truths,” Ron Forthofer of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Boulder, CO, and Obeid Kaifo, a local representative of the “Free Syria Movement.” In preparation for such events I pretty much always put together an outline of what it is I think needs saying. Given the rhythm of events and time allotted, rarely get to make many of the points listed. So it was the case yesterday. So I share them here on line in Section 3 of this piece. First I want to briefly describe the current situation concerning Syria and then yesterday’s event. It turned out to be a lively exchange before a good sized audience (some 50 people).

The day of the forum a number of  new developments were unfolding both in and related to Syria, some of them hopeful, some not.

One event that gives a glimmer of hope that the crisis could finally be seriously addressed and a process for resolving it is taking place in Vienna. In light of the magnitude of the crisis there, combined with the unending flood of refugees to Europe, many from Syria, a new, more serious, round of negotiations concerning the Syrian conflict is underway in Vienna.  My main point in the forum was to emphasize the existence of these negotiations and to call on the audience to support the process and demand that the Obama Administration play a positive role in their completion. Read more…

Musings – Gideon Levy, Arik Ascherman, Haftom Zarhum

October 25, 2015
Gideon Levy in Newburgh, NY - October 19, 2015

Gideon Levy in Newburgh, NY – October 19, 2015

Disconnected images flashing through my mind “by the dawn’s early light” – the news that a rabbi, the head of Rabbis for Human Rights in the West Bank, Arik Ascherman, was stabbed by a masked settler there mingled with the venomous heckling against Gideon Levy in Greenburgh New York that I witnessed a week ago, and the hateful comments of the same shrill quartet against Jewish Voice for Peace. Then the distorted way that current tension – the selective reporting of the current increase in tension, violence between Israelis a Palestinians came to mind, with the deaths of 7 or 8 Israelis either shot or knifed to death Arabs amplified in the news – we see their suffering families – while the more than 50 Palestinians shot or otherwise killed by settlers and the IDF played down, hardly reported – we don’t see, or hardly see, their suffering families, nor many reports of the more than 500 Palestinian youth arrested since October 1. Read more…

Gideon Levy, Haaretz Israeli Journalist, Speaks in White Plains, NY…or Tries To..

October 22, 2015
Gideon Levy in Greenburgh, New York on October 19, 2015

Gideon Levy in Greenburgh, New York on October 19, 2015


Note: The article was also posted at Foreign Policy In Focus


The Mesugghinah Offensive

If you’ve never seen a group of meshugginah pro-Israeli zealots – as self-righteous as they are ignorant, frequently wrong but never in doubt – try to disrupt a peace event that includes two Palestinians and an Israeli opposed to the Occupation – then, you’ve really missed something.

Recently I had a chance to experience just that. A few days ago, on October 19, the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and a local Westchester County peace group, WESPAC, sponsored a program with Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, and Palestinian researcher Suhail Khalilieh. Aleen Masoud, a young Palestinian musician played music and also made some comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some old friends I was visiting, involved with WESPAC, were going and invited me along. The meeting was covered by Jewish blogger Phillip Weiss, of Mondoweiss, who wrote a fine story on it, complete with video footage.(1)

In all probability the global setting added fuel to the October 19th fire. After the Iran deal was finalized, with Congress unable to torpedo the deal, the two U.S. allies adamantly opposed to it were given what might be called generous consolation prizes. As if either country didn’t already have enough, two major arms sales were awarded, one to Saudi Arabia, the other to Israel. Beyond that, as an unofficial appendix to the Iran deal, Washington gave both a kind of green light to do locally what they were prevented from doing regionally: going to war against Iran. It all follows rather logically from what is called the Obama Doctrine, first articulated by the president in a 2014 speech at West Point. The Saudis intensified their unconscionable bombing of Yemen which they consider something of their unofficial West Bank. Unwilling to test the strength of Hizbellah in S. Lebanon for fear of the consequences and likewise not willing to test the will of Russian jet fighters over Syria, the Israelis, in turn, turned their wrath on the Palestinians, their weakest adversary. Read more…

Rouen Chronicles: Robert Merle 5: City of Wisdom and Blood

October 7, 2015
Montpellier circled

Montpellier circled

City of Wisdom and Blood


The second volume of Robert Merle’s thirteen volume historical epoch in fictional form, City of Wisdom and Blood, has been translated from French into English and published last month (September, 2015) by Pushkin Press. It appeared about six months after the first volume, entitled in English The Brethren appeared. The third volume which deals with the St Bartholomew Day Massacre of late August, 1572 is already scheduled to publication in February, 2016. So volume after volume, the entire series, one of France’s most popular historical novel epochs, will soon be out in English. There are few better and more enjoyable ways of learning the twists and turns of 16th and 17th century French history than reading through the series.

Robert Merle came to writing historical novels rather late in his career, when he was already past the age of seventy. Prior to that, he had written on a number contemporary themes along with a few political biographies and a serious academic study of the life and writings of Oscar Wilde. I’ve read several of them (both in French in English) – Weekend à Zuydcoote, La Mort est Mon Metier, Day of the Dolphin, Ahmed Ben Bella among them. They – and the others he wrote – were thoughtful well written works but that attracted only a limited audience despite their social value. Read more…

The Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 – A Prescription for Fueling an Intensified Middle East Arms Race.

October 1, 2015

Iran - Khuzestan


Also published at Foreign Policy In Focus


1. The Iran Deal: What the Obama Administration giveth, Congress (tries to) taketh away?

In the aftermath of Congress’s failure to sabotage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the agreement negotiated between six countries, the EU and Iran to limit the Iranian nuclear energy program in return for lifting sanctions – the Obama Administration, along with its partners in the agreement have pushed ahead to implement it. But is this a case of “What the Obama Administration giveth, the Congress taketh away? At the behest of neo-conservatives, AIPAC, Christians United For Israel, some in Congress, however, including some original Democratic supporters of JCPOA, are actively working to undermine the very same agreement.

Referred to as “AIPAC’s Plan B” by some, there are several threads to political sabotage effort.

• After endorsing the result of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, Colorado’s Democratic Senator, Michael Bennet threw in his little caveat: along with Maryland’s U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland (who came out square against the Iran agreement) he, is sponsoring legislation that The Cardin-Bennet proposal adds weight to this two-tract policy which might be entitled “Talking Peace While Still Planning For War” Still peddling the myth of the Iranian threat Cardin and Bennet called the “Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015,” which Cardin insists is “consistent with the administration’s interpretation of the agreement,” to the contrary, it is meant to throw a major monkey wrench into implementing the Iran deal. In Iran’s eyes it amounts to negotiating for peace with Teheran while simultaneously strengthening Israel’s ability to unilaterally attack Iran. The bill exudes hostility towards both Iran and the Iranian leadership. As it is written, it comes through more as a something threatening war rather than an attempt towards the normalization of relations. As such, it will more than likely draw strong objections from the White House as well as its P5+1 partners and Iran. Read more…

Warsaw 44 – A Reminder

September 25, 2015
Scene from

Scene from “Warsaw 44”

(Last year I took notes on a number of subjects, that because of my work schedule, I failed to develop into articles- and hope to now that I have more time. One of these was a movie I saw during last October’s Denver International Film Festival – “Warsaw 44.”  The film’s main actor, young Józef Pawłowski was present in the downtown Denver theater. He discussed the film and his role after the showing had ended, a rare treat)

“Warsaw 44″

I just came out of watching the film “Warsaw 44″, a film about the Warsaw Uprising of August – October, 1944, a 63 day insurgency that ended in tragedy for the Polish resistance. Warsaw 1944, if you like, in many ways, is Gaza 2014. It took place at a time when Soviet troops, moving from the East where they had, since the Battle of Stalingrad, consistently push back the Nazi war machine towards Germany. Sitting next to me in the theater was a woman who had come down from Wyoming. Originally from Poland, her husband had fought in the uprising, survived, died a few years ago. Tears were streaming down her eyes most of the movie. Read more…

Colorado Refugee Patterns Over The Years – (the first in a Series)

September 24, 2015
Emily Griffith Technical College - a hub for refugee education, training in Colorado

Emily Griffith Technical College in downtown Denver – a hub for refugee education, training in Colorado

1. Colorado and the European Refugee Crisis

Recent news reports from the Obama Administration have announced that in part to help ease the European refugee crisis, that over the next few years the United States will increase the number of refugees authorized to enter the country, upping the number accepted annually from the current 70,000 levels to 100,000 by 2017. It is likely to include a national influx of Syrian refugees, as the number of those forced into refugee exile from that country now exceeds 4 million people. The number of Syrian refugees admitted to this country up until now is a paltry 2000, but the Obama Administration has announced that it will accept another 10,000 over the next few years.

Given the enormity of the overall refugee crisis affecting Europe, that besides Syrians, includes refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya – just to name a few of the places of origin – the increase in refugee numbers here in the USA is just a drop in the bucket. As for the great state of Colorado, it’s contribution to absorbing Syrian refugees up until now stands at a whopping fourteen, with all of two granted asylum in our state last year, although the civil war and overall crisis has been well underway for a long time. Read more…


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