Sunday, July 27, 2014

The War on Children #gazaunderattack #bds

The average age of a human being in Gaza is seventeen.

Of the 1.7 million people who live there, roughly 250,000 are children under the age of ten. (Source: Jon Snow.)

Make no mistake. This is a war on kids.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


A movie near and dear to my heart. One of the reasons I kept pushing with JIHADI: A LOVE STORY was the hope that Terry Gilliam, the director of this film, would read the novel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Israel and Palestine: An Animated Introduction

In just a few minutes, this little cartoon from Jewish Voice for Peace lays out the facts of the matter. 

A second superpower has now emerged in the region. Watch the animation to identify it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Toni Morrison on #rapeculture

This quote kept rattling around my brain as I worked on my novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY. The book (finished now, and making the editorial rounds via my agent) concerns itself with, among other things, the culture of rape that has emerged in the US military.

Friday, July 11, 2014

About Those Rockets | #Gaza

Here is a familiar-sounding reply to this week's complaints about the carnage in Gaza: "Well, if people wouldn't fire ROCKETS at Israel, none of those strikes would have been carried out, and people would not have died. And hey, what would YOU do if the people who lived across the border were firing rockets at YOU?" 

I call this "The Response." You hear it a lot it in the US from supporters of Israel. It has many variations, but the variations always hit the main points: "They started it; that's what happens when you start something; what the hell would you do in our situation?" The Response seems powerful. It tends to end discussions, which is, I think, why it's been popular for a long time.

For years, I bought it. Now I don't, and I wrote this article to tell you why. Once you look at The Response closely enough, you realize that there are at least three points at which it collapses under its own weight. 

The first level at which The Response fails is moral. Civilized governments don't bomb densely populated civilian centers. Period. Kids die when you do that. And make no mistake, that's what Israel is doing now: killing kids

What is happening in Gaza is, first and foremost, a moral failure.
If we in the USA object when a bunch of trigger-happy Chicago gang members kill kids (and we do object to that), perhaps we should also object when a country that receives $3 billion in aid from us, every single year, kills kids in far greater numbers. 

Of course, those gang members in Chicago might insist, with the tone of righteousness favored by thugs the world over, that they have various important scores to settle. 

No matter how intense their emotions become, though, nothing will justify them killing kids. There's no way to do that in a morally right manner.

By the same token, the pursuit of a military policy imposing collective punishment on 1.7 million civilians -- for failed rocket attacks, for kidnappings, for unsolved murder cases, or for anything else the PR experts choose to promote as a justification -- places Israel beyond any known realm of civilized behavior. You cannot target civilian populations in a morally acceptable manner.

The second level at which The Response fails is logical. Before I get into this one, let me be quite clear: I don't like rockets being launched at Israeli targets. Clearly the Israelis don't like it, either. 

I didn't preside over the circumstances that gave birth to Hamas, however, and Israel did. 

So. Asking me how I would feel if South Carolinians were firing rockets at me would only be relevant if I had ejected a million and a half North Carolinians from their homes ... and then established the world's largest open-air prison for them across the border in South Carolina. Which I didn't. The two situations aren't remotely equivalent, and we shouldn't compare them. 

Stop asking me that question, please. 

The third level at which The Response fails is causal. The Response assumes a world in which the causal chain always begins with someone firing a rocket, or otherwise acting aggressively toward, Israel. 

This is not the world in which any of us live. 

Consider: If you happened to live in the United States during the period when a major race riot was underway -- Detroit in 1967, say -- and you were asked by a newscaster what you thought about the chaos that had descended in the city, what would you say? Well, you might choose to declare solemnly that the black rioters who burned buildings and looted stores during those riots were breaking the law. 

"Burning buildings and looting stores is illegal," you might intone. "Burning buildings and looting stores is illegal. Burning buildings and looting stores is illegal." Your little mantra would be correct, but you would have accomplished nothing by repeating it. 

The reality of Detroit in 1967 was such that important things happened before people started burning buildings and looting stores. A deeper conversation than the one you offered by saying "Burning buildings and looting stores is illegal" would be in order. 

In fact, that deeper conversation would be important to everyone's survival, including yours. If you were to attempt to fast-forward over that conversation indefinitely, if you were to pretend for years or even decades that the whole problem began with people burning buildings and looting stores, you would eventually find yourself on the wrong side of history. And things would probably get ugly for you.

The bottom line. The dominant assumption in my country, as long as I've been alive, has always been that we would support Israel, financially, diplomatically, and militarily, no matter what. I believe The Response had a lot to do with that assumption. It stopped everyone cold for a long time. 

At some point, though, and perhaps sooner than leaders in Israel believe, Americans are going to begin questioning The Response, just as I have. 

Inevitably, some of them are going to lend their support to the rapidly accelerating campaign to boycott, divest from, and place sanctions upon, anything and everything having to do with Israel -- at least until Israel cleans up its act.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I changed the URL of the blog ...

... to on account of because Yusuf is what people call me and what I like to be called. I do realize this will mess up ("negatively impact," according to Blogger) many if not all of the current comments on the posts. 

I can only pray that I won't, as a result of this fateful step, be banned from forthcoming international curling competitions.

American #Muslims -- Your Tax Dollars at Work

Salaam. Among the tidbits uncovered by Edward Snowden, this little news item: The FBI's casual, and apparently pervasive, Islamophobia, as exemplified in Exhibit A, below. Yes, we paid for this.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Harry S. Truman

About five years ago, I put a lot of work into the Wikipedia article on Harry S. Truman, my favorite US president. The article has been substantially expanded and referenced since then by others, and it now stands as a featured article on the site. (That's what the gold star in the upper-right-hand corner means.)

The current article is, I think, both a valuable resource for anyone interested in Truman's legacy, and a testimony to the enduring value and relevance of the collaborative Wikipedia project.

I made reference to Truman in my novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, now making an international tour of elite slush piles.

 Wikipedia article on Harry S. Truman

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy birthday to the greatest nation on earth! 

This is a good day to remember the heavy price our nation's forefathers paid for signing that sheet of parchment. (Text below via; video below from the fine miniseries JOHN ADAMS, based on David McCullough's superb book.)

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

For the record, here's a portrait of the men who pledged "our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" for liberty many years ago.

Fifty-six men from each of the original 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Nine of the signers were immigrants, two were brothers and two were cousins. One was an orphan. The average age of a signer was 45. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate at 70. The youngest was Thomas Lynch Jr. of South Carolina at 27.

Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Twenty-two were lawyers -- although William Hooper of North Carolina was "disbarred" when he spoke out against the king -- and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been governor of Rhode Island. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures.

John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend. (Indeed, he wore his pontificals to the sessions.) Almost all were Protestants. Charles Carroll of Maryland was the lone Roman Catholic.

Seven of the signers were educated at Harvard, four at Yale, four at William & Mary, and three at Princeton. Witherspoon was the president of Princeton, and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary. His students included Declaration scribe Thomas Jefferson.

Seventeen signers fought in the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was a commanding officer in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a major general in the Delaware militia; John Hancock held the same rank in the Massachusetts militia.

The British captured five signers during the war. Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton were captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780. George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists. He died in 1781.

Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy - compelled to remove my family five times in a few months." Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war.

Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis's New York home was razed and his wife taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Nelson, both of Virginia, lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort but were never repaid.

Fifteen of the signers participated in their states' constitutional conventions, and six - Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Franklin, George Clymer, James Wilson, and George Reed - signed the U.S. Constitution.

After the Revolution, 13 signers went on to become governors. Eighteen served in their state legislatures. Sixteen became state and federal judges. Seven became members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Six became U.S. senators. James Wilson and Samuel Chase became Supreme Court justices. Jefferson, Adams, and Elbridge Gerry each became vice president. Adams and Jefferson later became president.

Five signers played major roles in the establishment of colleges and universities: Franklin and the University of Pennsylvania; Jefferson and the University of Virginia; Benjamin Rush and Dickinson College; Lewis Morris and New York University; and George Walton and the University of Georgia.

Adams, Jefferson, and Carroll were the longest surviving signers. Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Carroll was the last signer to die in 1832 at the age of 95.

Sources: Robert Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Brattleboro Typographical Company, 1839); John and Katherine Bakeless, Signers of the Declaration (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Two things to bear in mind about #Gaza | #Palestine

1. Gaza is now under assault on the dubious pretext that its entire imprisoned population is collectively responsible for the deaths of three kids living illegally in the West Bank.

2. On average, one Palestinian child has been killed by the IDF every three days for the past thirteen years. (Source.)