Data Visualizations Of The Gaza Conflict

I am just collecting some interesting links here:

Israel, Gaza, War & Data: social networks and the art of personalizing propaganda.” Gilad Lotan, i ❤ data, medium.com (2014/08/04) – The filter bubble of social media is illustrated very well in this article.

Watch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfold online.” Al Jazeera English, n.d. – Visualization of various hashtags that emerged since June 2014, when the three Israeli youths were kidnapped and killed.

Space Invaders Against Antisemitism

Space Invaders Against Antisemitism
Space Invaders Against Antisemitism

Play retro games. Fight Antisemitism. Especially right now.

The recent round of escalation in the Middle East conflict in Israel/Palestine has unleashed a horrible outburst of antisemitic agitation and violent attacks against Jews in Europe and Germany.

I find this intolerable.

How to criticize Israel

If you want to criticize certain actions of the Israeli government and/or military, that is entirely possible without being antisemitic. I recommend this article on the subject matter. And just for the record, I would like to note that Hamas, which is not a rival sports club but a terrorist organization with the stated goal of destroying the state of Israel and Jews, which continues to shoot rockets against Israeli civilians, perhaps also deserves a tiny bit of criticism for that.

Free Gaza from Hamas

I truly hope that one day all people in Israel/Palestine can live in peace. Unlike insane people, I do not enjoy reading about dead civilians. In the long term, a project to ‘free the Palestinians’ that results in a peaceful coexistence with Israel should perhaps think about freeing Gaza from Hamas first.

Jew-Hatred at European Protests

Back to the protests in Europe. To my great horror, reasonable criticism is not what many of the ‘anti-Israel’ protesters in the past weeks have been up to. Here in Germany, an unholy alliance of right-wing extremists, Islamists, and the ‘anti-imperialist’ segment of the radical left has found common ground in their unabashed promotion of hatred of Jews. The slogans that have been yelled during those demonstrations and the violent attacks that followed them in some instances barely leave any room for a different interpretation.

This game is played out

So what can we do as individuals? First of all, speak out against all forms of Antisemitism. I am just a guy with a computer, and besides ranting about politics I like some retro games. But, straight outta Nerdistan, I am telling you that the 2014 remake of Antisemitism sucks just as much as all previous versions. It is never going to be cool. At least not in my corner of the universe.

 

 

Argumentum Ad Hitlerum: Erdogan On Israel

The Nazi comparisons seem to increase in the past couple of days. One of the latest perpetrators who cannot help himself: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Argumentum ad Hitlerum
Argumentum ad Hitlerum

Commenting on Israel’s recent military offensive in Gaza, Erdogan said the following:

“They curse Hitler morning and night [. . .] however, now their barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s.”

I cannot help but think that the ‘they’ used here implies not just the Israeli military but ‘the Jews’ in general, as is commonplace in the language of antisemitic Islamists everywhere. That sounds very ugly.

And when he claims that Israel’s military actions surpass the cruelties of Nazi Germany, we are clearly in the territory of Holocaust relativism.

I would like to emphasize that in my view, the civilian casualties on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides are a tragedy that I would rather not see happen. And yes, I, too, found the report about a few Israelis watching the spectacle of war from their garden chairs like in a movie theatre—aka ‘Sderot cinema’—somewhat disturbing. To be fair, in the article it says that similar things happened among Palestinians. Then again, Hamas’ rocket attacks aimed at random Israeli citizens are no joking matter either. One must also see these actions in light of the eliminatory antisemitic ideology in Hamas’ charter.

I think there is room for a sober critique of certain aspects of the current Israeli military offensive. This is also the position, for example, of the former head of the Israeli interior security service Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin.

But what Turkish PM Erdogan does here with his likening of the Israeli military to the Nazis betrays no interest in such a nuanced, rational discussion. To claim that the Israeli military acts not only like the Nazis, but worse than the Nazis—how could that be possible?—just reeks of pure antisemitism. Such outlandish hyperbole is unworthy of a head of state.

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Bend Over Backwards To Please Donor Sheldon Adelson

GOP Elephant  - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ ## If you can, hire DonkeyHotey for caricature work! ##
GOP Elephant – Caricature by DonkeyHotey, flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ ## If you can, hire DonkeyHotey for caricature work! ##

It is no secret that as part of every American presidential election campaign in recent times, presidential hopefuls seek to court the Jewish vote as part of their coalition. Speeches given by candidates at the usual lobby organizations, such as AIPAC, can typically be summed up like this: “I am the super best friend of Israel, support me!” So far, so good. Support of Israel has been a long-term position of the U.S. which I am generally in favor of. Of course it is a matter of dispute what exactly ‘friendship’ and ‘support’ mean in specific contexts.

This brings us to the long run-up to the 2016 presidential elections

Sin City brings huge GOP campaign donations

Last week, GOP presidential hopefuls traveled to Las Vegas to meet with GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, at the Republican Jewish Coalition—an event inofficially dubbed “the Sheldon primary”.

Among them were Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Adelson, who is Jewish, has spent “$90 million to political candidates and super PACs in the last election cycle” and is known for his extreme right-wing positions on Israel (more on those below).

As far as reports go, all potential candidates voiced their unconditional support for Israel. So far, so predictable. But then something went wrong. In one of those statements, Chris Christie used the phrase “occupied territories.”

I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.

That phrase has been frequently used by the United Nations Security Council, George W. Bush, by the U.S. government, then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Supreme Court —not a bunch of anti-semitic Israel haters in particular. So what is the big deal?

Stuff Sheldon Adelson says

Adelson is part of a tiny ultra-right Zionist fringe (as opposed to less extreme supporters of Israel) that sees any sort of compromise in the Middle East as betrayal. And from time to time, he does and says some truly ignorant and hateful things.

Some examples: In a 2013 speech at Yeshiva University Adelson

  • argued for a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike on unpopulated areas of Iran as a negotiating tactic: “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business.’”
  • admitted that he is ignorant of Muslims: “I don’t know the difference between the Shia and the Sunnis.”
  • argued that Palestinians as a group do not exist: “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian. Do you know what they are? They call themselves southern Syrians.”

According to the New Republic, Adelson also bankrolled some propaganda movies that sought to cause paranoia about Muslims in general, not just religious extremists, and funded a lobby group that attempted to stop a Muslim Indian American nominee for Superior Court judgeship that had been selected by Chris Christie—supposedly because if that happened, Shariah law would take over New Jersey.

Here is a 2008 portrait of Adelson, and here is a 2012 Op-Ed from the New York Times.

Chris Christie kisses the ring

Because New Jersey Governor Christie (and the others, too) wants Adelson’s campaign dollars, he apologized for the use of the common term occupied territories in connection to Israel a boot-licking, subservient manner that can only be called a disgrace for American democracy. What matters, apparently, is not any diplomatic consensus, any long-standing U.S. foreign policy position, but the will of just one uber-rich donor who happens to be a bigoted hawkish nutjob. Here we see a politician lying prostrate, saying “Buy me, I will do whatever you please!”

Support for Israel can manifest itself in various forms apart from supporting the ultra-right fringe positions that not even the majority of people in Israel endorse. But the 2014 edition of the GOP thinks otherwise.

My two cents

Since unlike the aforementioned politicians I am not dependent on Mr. Adelson’s campaign donations, I am free to tell him what I think of his antics (although I doubt he reads this or would care). Here are a few suggestions: read more books to educate yourself about the Middle East and its inhabitants, stop funding asinine propaganda demonizing all Muslims, and quit your annihilationist fantasies.

Dreaming about mass murder is no better coming from you than when it is coming from djihadists, Nazis, or other unruly figures.

Read more:

The Line to Kiss Sheldon Adelson’s Boots.” (David Firestone, NYTimes.com, 2014/03/31)

Wikipedia in Israel

Wikipedia in Israel

Auch in Israel basteln sie fleißig weiter an der Wikipedia. Ein interessantes Projekt, dass ich noch nicht kannte, ist WikiAir. In Zusammenarbeit mit dem israelischen Zusammenschluss der Flugzeugbesitzer und Piloten werden dort Luftfotos geschossen, die dann zur Bebilderung der Wikipedia genutzt werden

via Christina Burger, Wikimedia Commons Blog

 

John C. Hulsman on the Upcoming 2012 U.S. Presidential Election and U.S. Foreign Policy

This Tuesday [March 27, 2012] I attended a talk on “The Upcoming U.S. Presidential Elections and U.S. Foreign Policy” by Dr. John C. Hulsman, who is a Senior Research Fellow at the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS). The talk was held at the Bibliotheca Albertina, the main university library in Leipzig, and presented by the AmCham Forum of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany.

Hulsman, who described himself as a left-leaning Republican, has worked for a number of think tanks, among them the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, the conservative Heritage Foundation, and the German Council on Foreign Relations.

In his talk, Hulsman argued that five issues were crucial to current developments in US foreign policy:

  • the decline of the US economy
  • the decline of the European economies
  • the Arab Spring
  • rising powers such as India and China
  • the question of an Iranian nuclear program

Elections and Political Views in the US

Concerning the elections, Hulsman said that polls show that more more Americans consider themselves conservatives [He was probably talking about this Gallup poll].

Independent Voters in the US

Presidential elections in the US, Hulsman mentioned, are won by courting independent voters, who are neither attached to Democrats or Republicans.

These independents are disaffected and are most concerned about the economy.

In 2008, independents were largely for Barack Obama. Before the crash of investment bank Lehman Brothers, however, John McCain was ahead of Obama in the polls with independents.

In 2010, independents swung back to Republicans, mainly because of opposition to the Obama administration’s health care reform bill.

To independents, Hulsman explained, the health care reform was another ‘entitlement,’ which they dislike, and they felt that their main concern—the economy—was neglected.

[Here is a Pew poll from April 2012 on general election preferences.]

Economic Troubles Illustrated

To illustrate the severity of economic troubles in the US, Hulsman gave these examples:

One third of Americans have no retirement savings. When the Social Security system was initiated, life expectancy was much lower than today. During the 1990s, many who owned real estate, such as a house, felt this was securing their retirement.

One fourth of all homes in the US are now ‘underwater,’ meaning that homeowners owe the bank more in mortgage than the house is worth on the market. The house thus loses saving potential and becomes a drag for the owner. Hulsman said that the Hayekian idea (after classical liberal Austrian economist Friedrich August von Hayek) would have been to just leave the keys and get out of the house.

One fifth of all savings were wiped out during the financial crash that started in late 2007. Hulsman stressed that in a federal system such as that of the US, it is important to examine the respective figures for state and local levels to get the full scope of the financial crisis’ impact.

If the US economy would not grow by eight per cent, it would not be able to cushion these problems.

Anger at Washington and the Labor Market

Hulsman explained that part of the general dissatisfaction of voters with the Washington establishment is the great disparity of experiences in the labor market.

Jobs within the Washington political class are generally very secure, and it is hard to get fired. On the other hand, regular employees and workers get fired very easily in the US, compared to Germany.

The economic difficulties of the US, Huntsman noted, might produce a spillover effect with ramifications for foreign policy, due to constraints on the federal budget. The high costs of war and nation-building [see below] come under closer scrutiny in this climate.

The Republican Primaries in Early 2012

In January 2012, Mitt Romney was twenty points ahead with independents in the polls.

This time, more Republican primaries allocate their delegates proportionally.

By doing so, they adopt the Democratic system of primaries, wherein two candidates fight for the nomination.

Splitting the Republican Vote with Culture Wars

A problem for Republicans in their relationship with independent voters is their focus on ‘culture war’ issues such as abortion, contraception, and the separation of church and state. For instance, Rick Santorum has put the issues of contraception and state-church separation front and center in his campaign. This does not fit well with independents, who worry most about the economy.

As of March 2012, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are splitting the conservative vote. This is beneficial to Mitt Romney, who is considered the more socially moderate Republican candidate.

Romney, Hulsman noted, does not like to talk about social issues. He is simultaneously forced to move to the right o social issues in order to appease conservatives, while trying to avoid alienating independents.

Hulsman bets his money on Romney becoming the Republican nominee in the end.

Obama’s campaign narrative to counter Romney will be that he stopped the ‘Great Depression.’

Partisan Differences in Foreign Policy

How would Republicans and Democrats differ on foreign policy?

Hulsman said that Republicans are always to the right of Obama and the Democrats, for instance on the issue of Israel.

Current Challenges in US Foreign Policy

Dealing with a Multipolar World

An ongoing general challenge for the US is how to deal with the new multipolar world, exemplified by the rise of countries such as Brazil, India, China, South Africa, or Malaysia.

The European financial crisis the tensions with Iran are examples of issues that the US cannot control alone. This is a new situation for the US and makes the Obama administration nervous.

The Arab Spring

Hulsman was skeptical about the long-term success of the Arab Spring, saying that he viewed it in Burkeian terms. History shows, he said, that the most well-organized groups prevail in revolutions. In Egypt, this would be the Muslim Brotherhood and the army. While Hulsman was optimistic about the situation in Tunesia, he had a very bleak outlook about developments in Syria.

Obama’s foreign policy style, Hulsman held, is basically one that focuses on limiting losses.

Iran, the US, and Israel

Hulsman noted that the US government realizes its own security interest does not equal Israeli security interest, even if both are close allies.

To illustrate this point, Hulsman explained that the US and Israel have different red lines in considering military action against Iran.

For Israel, an Iranian capability to build a nuclear weapon would be a reason to attack. For the US, the actual possession of nuclear weapons would be that flashpoint.

In Israel, the hawkish faction around Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Avigdor Liebermann want a military strike, but cannot get a majority of the population behind them without US support.

In addition, several former Mossad chiefs have publicly argued against attacking Iran.

In the US, public opinion is such that 75% strongly support Israel, but also do not want a unilateral strike. In Israel, the number concerning a unilateral strike is similar.

If Iran would at some point in the future have a nuclear weapon, nuclear proliferation would spread throughout the Middle East, especially the gulf states.

A bombing of Iran would have terrible results, according to Hulsman. If Israel attacked Iran unilaterally, that would perhaps set back the Iranian nuclear program for a year. But the high price to pay would be that hope for peace in the Middle East would be gone for a generation. Already now, an Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz has caused a spike in oil prices.

Currently, Washington talks to Tel Aviv to convince the Israelis to get more time to let the sanctions on Iran work.

Hulsman told the audience to behold the coming September, because the chance of a military strike at this time would be fifty-fifty.

Afghanistan

Concerning Afghanistan, Hulsman, who is opposed to neoconservatives, held that it was a case of failed nation building, with a cost of $ 1 million per soldier per year. He said that failed nation builders always claim they need more time and money.

The US, the EU, and Global Influence

On the US as a global ordering power via the EU, Hulsman said that if the EU wants to play a greater role, it needs to spend more on defense. He said that the US cross-subsidizes European defense, while European nations spend very few on defense, and more on their social systems.

Here is a video from the US Embassy in Germany featuring John C. Hulsman talking about the 2012 elections: