Max from Canada
Thursday, December 18, 2003
  As the security conference in Tel Aviv illustrated, Sharon intends to take unilateral steps to separate Israel and the West Bank, using the separation fence as a provisional border.

I think that this is a big I told you so for all of those who were willing to give Sharon the benefit of the doubt over the issue of the security fence. Clearly he intends to use it as a final border, and thereby create a situation in which Israel will never have truly secure and recognized borders.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
  Keynes will be proven right over and over again. Others of his ilk also - the only way to achieve peace is through economics. The European Coal and Steel commission was the start - lets hope the rebuilding of the Afghan Highway is another 
  Listen, I have nothing against al-Jazeera, in fact, I really like them sometimes. They are continuing a proud tradition of yellow journalism that stretches back to Guttenberg and right up to CNN. In fact, CNN is almost the exact same as al-Jazeera. Both are a popular source for news that spread around the dirt, and cater to that lowest of human needs to know who is sleeping with whom, and what is the latest (and often craziest) rumour abour Ariel Sharon, Assad, Mubarak, etc.

But, the one thing that always gets me is the comic - al-Jazeera always has these stupid animated cartoons that aren't even funny. They moralize, criticize, joke - and do all of that stuff that a comic is supposed to do, but they just aren't funny. I realize that great biting comedy is hard to come by, and also that jokes often don't translate well, but come on. Hire someone else, fire the guy, whatever, but do something.

That reminds me, CNN could use a comic or two.

Thursday, December 11, 2003
  The sad life of people in the West (ie read preceding blog) we worry about cars other people worry about food - death - rape - etc. Pitiful.

  Buying a car for someone else is a real pain in the ass. My old man wants to buy a vehicle but doesn't have the time. I am brought in. I find the vehicle - but, he already has a price in mind that he got from some sleezy guy down the road. I bring him back my best price, 4k lower than list - and he doesn't like it. Grumble, Grumble - now the dealer I found is pissed because he thinks I went behind his back - and after much humming and hawing he finally agrees to go with the one I found. Real pain in the ass. 
  Perhaps the most balanced and realistic report on anti-semetism in the West. This is an issue that has worried me for some time. As a critic of Israeli policies, do I risk being called anti-semetic? I think that my thoughts fall well within the boundaries of free thought that is neither rascist, nor hateful. Anyway, I do not believe that criticism of Israel and anti-semetism are the same and furthermore, such an argument is often used by the extreme right to justify any and all action.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003
  Another sad article against the Geneva Accord.

The author makes many points - none truly worth addressing in detail. I'm too tired. Surfice to say, a peace plan does not require a clause about security - that is because you are trying to create peace dummy. Why are peace and security two different things in the Arab-Israeli conflict?

I'm really getting down about the whole reception to the Geneva Accord. It seems that it will die the same horrible death of all other innitiatives. The sad thing is that this is the good one - the one that really hits the core issues, and in doing so, solves the rest.

Monday, December 08, 2003
  I just finished reading David Grossman's book "Death As A Way Of Life". I always find authors such as Grossman and Amos Oz have the most interesting perspective on the entire conflict, and one that is normally lost. They represent the human voice that is often lost. They are not the extremists, nor are they prone to moody rants or inflamitory remarks. Rather, these are people who slave over their own thoughts - and each opinion is formed after having been honed by a raging inner debate. What I love about Grossman is his humanism. Humanists are rare animals these days.

I personally have always aspired to be something of a secular humanist but always seem to get bogged down. My thoughts are too easily distracted, and I must always be wary of sinking into the pit of realism, conscervatism, or even liberalism. I guess the only thing that will ever be important is people. Sometimes in the battle of governments, institutions, organizations and the like - people seem to be lost.

  Diana at Letters from Gotham made an interesting remark about how the real long term problem in the Arab Israeli conflict was the refugees. I would lend to disagree and say that its about borders, settlements, and religious sites like the Temple Mount. I would encourage anyone interested in the refugee problem to look at the following survey conducted by a Palestinian organization - most unexpected. 
Friday, December 05, 2003
  Talking about suicide bombers can't help but leave a bad taste in ones mouth - as such, I wanted to begin the discussion of authenticity.

This discussion is based on a series of observations made during a university course on the material culture of north America over the last 150 years.

For those non-material historians, material culture is the study of history through objects - a sort of Sherlock Holmes/modern day archeology. Anyway, the theory goes that since everything is produced within a specific historical context, then those objects must reflect the time in which they are produced.

With me so far?

Anyway, the theory is all well and good until the intrepid historian is confronted by an object that has been reintroduced from another historical moment. Think about it - grandma's fake Chippendale - laminate and particle board. Anyway, what do these objects mean within their new context. They cannot simply be considered carry-overs from a previous time like other antiques because they were made in the present. So what then? This problem of authenticity is exemplified by the post-modern era in which simulacra and fakery have run amok. Think about all those people you know who have the Moroccan interior in one room with the Victorian poster-bed in another. That is postmodernism - the joyful ecclecticism that defines out everyday lives. We borrow freely from the past, deriding the present as some insignificant moment or failure.

Indeed the very nature of post-modern ideology is such that it defines itself against modernity. It is avowedly linked to modernity, ridiculing its pretentions of universality and progress as culture based illusions that have only cemented the status quo. Post-modernity defines itself by the very existence of modernity. The disillusionment of modernism is postmodernity. As such, we attempt to fill the void left by modernity by looking to other times. Modern man/woman went wrong - their life lacked any sense of purpose or meaning. Post modernity identifies the problem, and attempts to solve it by looking to an imagined past where peoples lives were meaningful - where the colours were brighter and the furniture wasn't the sort of soul sucking, hard pieces found in bank towers and the offices of faceless corporations. We regress, like adults looking back to a fonder-than-real childhood. Post-modernity is defined by an incredible sense of nostalgia for anything but the modern.

Yet, this is changing. Recently the design firm Hermann Miller began to 'reissue' its lines of long discontinued furniture from the 1940s and 50s. People are snapping up mid-century modern furniture and architecture. What is this? Some have already termed it the 'new modernism'. I think they are right - but with a caveat. Derrida called modernism an unfinished project and I think we are coming to realize that more and more. The problem with modernism was in its execution. Yet modernism created ghettos, but it also did some amazing things. We are starting to re-examine the ambitions and are attempting to modify them in order to make a better society. Post modernity saw the writing on the wall and decided to flee to the suburbs when major cities began to buckle under crime and debt. Yet, these things can't be abandoned, and they are now beginning to be revitalized.

As ironic as it might seem, post modernity has become nostalgic for modernism. In this way, it is rehashing the icons of modernity in a typically post modern fashion. Yet the observation is not simply ironic - it is ultimately the death blow for post modernity. How can the ethos of post modernity survive when the enemy it defined itself against is now turning into a close bedfellow. Post modernism is dead - we will look back to the icons of modernism in order to steady our feet, but ultimately we will begin to see some of the first truly 'new' things emerge. It is like the apprentice who copies the master, only later to surpass him completely. 
  Few people actually talk about suicide bombers. I mean, lots of people talk - "how could they..." "what makes them do it..." but most of this discussion does not attempt to analyse and chart the practice.

While certainly horrible, certain identifiable patterns of suicide bombing can be identified. Prior to september 11th, the only suicide bombers were Palestinians. These Palestinians were all Shia Muslims. Why is that? (The following is based off of a conversation with a Dr. Maclean, a professor of Religious Studies) According to some, (Dr. Maclean included) Shia muslims look to the prototypical martyr in Hussein, the Prophet's son in law. In this way, Shias have an example to emulate, which provides the moral/spiritual groundwork for suicide bombings. It is worthwhile to note that the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan in the 1980's did not use suicide bombers against the Russians. Rather they drove the Russians out using surprise attacks with blistering small arms fire - then the disappeared into the mountains. These Mujahedeen were all Sunni muslims, recruited primarily from Saudi Arabia.

So, within the context of the Arab Israeli conflict, what is a suicide bomber? Clearly, a Shia muslim. But that isn't all. Why the particular rituals around the suicide bomber. Indeed the suicide bomber goes through various processes before undertaking their horrible act. All make videos, they shave their bodies, and spent time praying. The bomb itself is strapped to the chest. All of this makes up a specific set of rituals that relate clearly to the body - physical, corporial. Why? Some have argued that this sort of body ritual relates to the specific context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Specifically, humiliation, checkpoints, searches, etc. The physical denegration of palestinian bodies is an integral process within the Arab-Israeli conflict. You may remeber that it is often a tactic used in war, whereby the victor will strip the victim as a means of pacifying and humiliating them - it makes them easy to handle (the nazis did this with Jews). As such, the suicide bombers use of their own body to mark a moment - a single utteration of protest, redemption and destruction. In this way, the physical body is rehabilitated through its destruction.

What then is the relationship between Palestinian suicide bombers and the expanded usage of suicide bombings by sunni muslims. Indeed, the attacks on september 11th were the first ever suicide bombing by sunni muslims. What is the typology of sunni suicide bombers? I don't know? What theological developments have occured to 'allow' suicide bombing within Sunni theology/orthodoxy? I, also, don't know? What is the relationship between Sunni suicide bombers and the body? I also don't know.

These are questions I have, but most of all I want to know what has happened within Sunni Islam in the past 3-4 years that has made room for suicide bombing. Why not simply emulate the mujahedeen of the 1980's? What is the theology behind sunni suicide bombers? What has forced these developments within Sunni Islam?

Some things to consider.

Complicate your understanding

Thursday, December 04, 2003
  Geneva Accord: Powell is on board, so it seems is Bush - an unlikely move given the criticism of many American Jews of the Geneva Accord. Traditional wisdom says don't rock the boat near elections - but hey, when the boat has tipped over - whats to lose?

Sharon and his advisors appear to be suffering from some bad optics. Who knows - maybe Palestinians will start using that old Israeli line: "Mr. President their is no one to talk to on the other side."

Ironic - Yes. Bad optics for Sharon - Yes.

Good stuff for the Geneva Accord - even Bush recognizes something with potential and the ring of truth.

  Post Modernity and notions of histoical and cultural authenticity. This will be the subject of the next few blogs. Think knock-off Chippendale and the social productions of taste/pedigree. Sounds arcane/esoteric? Should be fun.

{This is in part a reminder to myself to actually get these thoughts written down before they float away.}

  The following appeared in today's copy of Haaretz, and attempts to blame the Israeli Left, and the makers of the Geneva Accord for the rise in anti-Semetism in Europe and elsewhere.

It is some of the worst kind of reverse logic used to justify the status quo in Israel. It condemns critical Israelis as traitors and ignorant fools who incite anti-semetism.

May I state that these people on the 'Left' are perhaps one of Israel's few saving graces because they show the world that Israel has not lost the virtue of self criticism. Silence, unconditional loyalty and the willingness to condone even the most inhuman acts are halmarks of fascist states and a fascist ideological system which centres solely on the possesion and use of state power. Self criticism proves to the world that Israel is still capable of being a great democratic state.

Here is the article:

The left fans the flames

By Uzi Landau

Israel's haters no longer need to make the effort
to turn the wheels of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Israeli leftists, led by the initiators of the
Geneva "Accord," do it better and their good
intentions are paving the road to hell for all of
us. Here are three stories about how the Israeli
left contributes to the Jew-hatred sweeping all of
Europe: The Dutch Channel 3 television station ran
a film called "The Fence" by Israeli filmmaker
Benny Bruner. The movie, made by Israelis, was
mostly made in the "West Bank," with the
participation of senior journalists. In it,
photographer Miki Kratzman tells of an Israeli
tank that for fun shot at a Palestinian family
working in a field. The tank killed a woman and a
child was decapitated by the concussion. According
to the father of the family, said Kratzman, the
soldiers ordered him to undress and stand naked
next to the bodies of his dead wife and son. Haim
Hanegbi takes the film crew to an Arab house near
Har Homa. He explains to the audience that the
Zionist movement is racist, like South Africa, and
steals the land and property of a weak nation.
Amira Hass criticizes the separation fence policy.
There's no spokesman for the other side to explain
the construction of the fence and the closure

Under the headline
"Contemporary Zionism" - and
in English, "A Failed Israeli
Society Collapses While its
Leaders Remain Silent,"
former Knesset speaker MK
Avraham Burg publishes an
article that describes Israel
as a country of nationalistic
discrimination that keeps the

Palestinians under the boot of storm troopers.
It is one of the most damaging indictments ever
of the Zionist state. In his article, Burg even
expresses understanding of suicide terrorists.
"Israel, having ceased to care about the
children of the Palestinians, should not be
surprised when they come washed in hatred and
blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli
escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in
our places of recreation because their own
lives are torture. They spill their own blood
in our restaurants in order to ruin our
appetites because they have children and
parents at home who are hungry and humiliated."
Is he bothered by the use that Israel haters
make of his statements? That argument, he told
Ari Shavit in Haaretz on November 14, doesn't
interest him.

The Geneva "Accord" delegation went on its way
while Israel is subject to an unceasing terror
attack, and all Jews are exposed to a
world-embracing anti-Semitic assault meant to
undermine the right of Israel's existence. Ever
since the negotiations between the Barak
government and Arafat blew up, Israeli
governments have presented a consistent policy:
Israel has no partner. Arafat and his terror
organizations are doing our public relations
work for us and making clear they won't disarm
Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In other words, the
terror will continue.

The Palestinians are the victim and Israel the
storm trooper - that's the picture shown around
the world by Israeli journalists and other
representatives of the Israeli left. Arafat and
his government are partners for peace, while
Israel is warmongering. "The most terrible
thing is that the Europeans always find Jews
and Israelis who openly criticize the Jews and
Israel, which the Europeans want to hear," says
the head of the Berlin Jewish community,
Alexander Brenner, in an interview with Eldad
Bek in Yedioth Ahronoth on November 28. No
wonder the Europeans support Geneva, said Prof.
Shlomo Avineri on Israel TV - their policies
are unequivocally pro-Palestinian and

Indeed, all our bitter rivals - France, Belgium,
and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose
goal is to ruin Israel's foreign policy - give
the Geneva people a king's welcome, raise lots
of money for them and encourage them to
continue their activities. After being exposed
to "Israeli public relations" of the kind
presented here (and this is just the tip of the
iceberg), no wonder the Europeans, and not
necessarily the anti-Semites among them, regard
Israel as the most dangerous country in the
world to world peace, before Iraq, Iran and
North Korea.

When the festival trumpets fall silent, the
self-righteous leftists - starting with Beilin
and Burg - should ask themselves what they
contributed to the new anti-Semitism and the
call that comes from those anti-Semites: Jews
out of Palestine!

Dr. Landau is a minister in the Prime Minister's
Office, responsible for oversight of the secret
services and the strategic dialogue with the
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
  I have a moral dillemma. A few days ago in Vancouver their was a terrible car accident on Hwy. #1, the main route through the city. At around three o'clock in the afternoon a large truck (aox cube van sized - maybe larger) merged onto the highway and clipped the front of a Nissan Pathfinder. The pathfinder has a high centre of gravity (I know I drive one), and was almost instantly flipped over. Maintaining its forward momentum, the vehicle flipped down the highway several times, landed upside down and caught on fire. The man inside was burnt to death, and another man was sent to hospital with severe burns on his hands and face from having tried to pull the victim out of the burning wreckage.

The next day, the front page of one Vancouver newspaper proclaimed the would-be good samaritan a hero for suffer such injuries. As a was listening to the morning news it was disclosed that the man who had suffered the injuries trying to save the other man was infact the one who had caused the accident.

The newspapers were noticably silent after that - they had proclaimed the killed to be the hero.

What can we make of such a situation. It almost reads like a classical tragedy, or a scenario out of an ethics manual. Is the man a hero and a killer at the same time.

To me the answer is yes on both accounts.

He did something that I do probably once a day - turn without proper shoulder checking. The only difference is that he happened to kill someone. After that - he did something amazing. He probably wasn't driven by anything more than pure human decency - it all happened too quick for things like guilt to come into play. The man did something that I don't think many would have done - he tried to save someone even though it was him who caused the situation.

Anyway, sadly

  Although this is a little bit late - Over the weekend me and my younger brother (an International Relations Major) were arguing about Bush's recent trip to Baghdad.

Like many, including RiverBend, Ben (brother) thought that Bush's trip was a shameless PR stunt, of which, the positive publicity would be spun to support the mandate for Bush's larger, destructive policies in Iraq.

I completely agree - it was PR - it will be used. But, the key difference is that all of those qualifiers don't take away from its brilliance. Face it, it was a good move. And - to complicate matters, I think that Bush actually wanted to do it - and that he has been the first president in a long time to be able to do it.

Face facts - if Nixon went to Vietnam (did he - he did in 'Good Morning Vietname' but I don't know about reality?) half the troops would have been protecting him and the other half would have been protesting. Bush Sr. was too elitist and would never have appealed to the soldiers. I remember those pictures from 1991 when Bush visited his troops - him - grey suit and glasses - troop - at attention. He was too much of a respected authority figure for whom you dressed up nice, saluted properly, and waved when he left.

Bush Jr. on the other hand is a different kettle of fish. Personally he commands little respect as the godlike authority figure of his father - on the other hand, his respect is derived from a link with every common man.

I believe that Bush is a folksy kind of guy whom we would all like to have as a neighbor. Remember that episode of the simpsons when Bush Sr. moves in next door and Homer and Bart go to war against him because he spanks Bart. Well after that Gerald Ford moves in - some of the dialogue I remember:

Ford: Homer do you like football and beer?
Homer: Do I ever!
Ford: Do you like NA-chos?

Anyway you get the idea - Bush has that similar folksy - neighborlike quality that Gerald Ford had. Look at the polls - Bush's job performance rating is sinking on a daily basis, yet strangely enough his personal approval rating is remaining high and solid. People like Bush - Bush likes the people. He only gets in trouble when he tries to do something.

As such, the trip to Iraq was simply Bush doing what he does best - meeting people, butching syntax, and carving up a turkey. Hats off to the guy, he did the human thing to do - and many presidents would have given their left nut for that same ability to relate to the common man.

Now - no matter how good a move it was, it doesn't give him any added legitimacy to push forward his political agenda. Bush is an amateur statesmen and always will be - but - like they say in Canada - he's one hell of a nice guy.

  Well, apparently Canadians are synonymous with penguins,

Salam Pax writes,

I mean .. it's just like me having an image in my mind about canadians and penguin .. Hey! are you really Canadian? Cool! Do you have a penguin in your bedroom? Do you eat them?

Thanks Salam - I keep at least 8-12 penguins - some to eat, the rest for their comedic value.


For those reading at work with the boss fast approaching - click here - the boring yet innocuous Canadian Government will help you get out of that jam. Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Armchair Historian

Email Max Way Up in Canada

News To Read

  • Haaretz
  • Maariv
  • Israeli Radio International - English
  • Al-Ahram Weekly
  • Al-Jazeera in English
  • Dar Al-Hayat
  • The Independent Voice of Iraq
  • Le Monde in French
  • The Onion
  • The Globe and Mail
  • The New York Times

  • A word of warning about Dar al-Hayat. I have included it mainly for its rather different perspective rather that its less than stellar content. Some of those op-ed pieces - man...?!

    For those of the International persuasion might I suggest a read through Canada's much loved newspaper The Globe and Mail. Whether burning it to keep warm in the -30 C. weather, or if you are simply interested in useful Canadian facts like the mating habits of polar bears, or ways to make an igloo in only 15 minutes, the Globe and Mail has it all.


  • Harvard Design Magazine
  • Adbusters
  • Where is Raed
  • Riverbend
  • Letter From Gotham
  • Head Heeb

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