America, Palestine and Israel: is there hope?

This is nothing to do with Irish politics, but I thought it was interesting anyway.

I'm in America at the moment, and I spent a couple days this week in NYC. I lived there for a year and a half in the early 90s, and in upstate New York for a couple years after that, so my reflections in the following paragraph are based entirely upon experience.

As most people will be aware, there is a huge Jewish population in New York - such that Rosh Hashanah is a state holiday. This population is, by and large, fiercely Zionist, and its political influence is strong enough to have effectively cut off any debate on the subject - at least that was the case when I was living there. Outside of the (extremely marginalised) far left, and the unfortunately slightly less marginalised Nation of Islam, there was simply nobody arguing the Palestinian cause; to do so was to be labelled an 'anti-Semite' and, most likely, a sympathiser of those towelheads that had bombed the World Trade Centre shortly after my move to the city (merely a coincidence, I assure you).

So I was pleasantly stunned at a couple things I saw there this week. Things like Palestinian scarves on display for sale by the city's ubiquitous street vendors, and young, distinctively non-Arab people wearing them; and at every bookstore I visited, former President Jimmy Carter's extraordinary new book about the conflict, Peace not Apartheid (extraordinary in the fact that it exists, I mean; I haven't read it yet), was in the 'best sellers' section. These may seem fairly minor, and maybe they are, but they would have been absolutely unheard of a decade or so ago. Let's hope they're an indication of a loosening of the stranglehold the Israel lobby has had on American politics for decades - because as long as it persists, there can never be hope for peace in the Middle East and, increasingly, the world.

On the Nally verdict

I remember waking up one morning in 1992 to the news that an all-white jury in suburban Los Angeles had acquitted four white police officers who were caught on videotape beating the living daylights out of a black man. I remember feeling completely disgusted, sickened and appalled that such a clearly racist verdict could have been handed down. I remember sympathising completely with the anger and outrage expressed by the black community and, finally, I remember profound depression sinking in that things like this could still happen in today's world.

And Rodney King had only been beaten, not killed.

There's no justification for this decision. None. Shooting a retreating, already-wounded man in the back and then beating him with a stick as he lies dying does not fall under any conceivable definition of "defending one's property", nor is it reasonable to believe that such a completely OTT reaction was motivated entirely by fear. It was an act of revenge, it was criminal and it should have been held as such.

And I see once again that Fine Gael, the "law and order" party, have come out in support of Padraig Nally. This of course is the same bunch of hypocrites who never miss an opportunity to accuse republicans of carrying out "vigilante justice". Only this week Enda Kenny was parroting some fantasy, no doubt fed to him by Paul Williams, about "IRA involvement" in the recent shooting of a Finglas drug dealer (who, you'd have to admit, was almost certainly responsible for bringing much more misery into this world than John Ward ever did).

My condolences to the Ward family and the Travelling community as a whole.

Budget 2007 - What's wrong with this picture?

The image below is taken from the new budget document. Have a close look at the figures.

The average industrial wage is just over €30,000. Why is a worker on that wage benefitting least from the budget measures?

And no, I'm not just annoyed about this because I'm on the AIW myself - I genuinely don't understand the reasoning.

By the way, I noticed that during the budget debate today, the full compliment of Fine Gael TDs was in the Dáil chamber to listen to Enda Kenny's speech. Within 90 seconds of Pat Rabbitte standing up, however, all but two or three of them were gone. I don't think even they are taking this 'coalition' seriously anymore.
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