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Killing the Jordan

19 Oct

How people and pollution are killing the Jordan River. My latest attempt at video journalism…

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Of Marines and Sunbeams

28 Sep

Photo via Flickr

It’s going to be (almost) all sunshine for a US Marine company currently gearing up to deploy in Afghanistan. In a historic first, they’ll be powering much of their gear with solar energy, which could cut their fuel consumption in half, reports Wired’s Danger Room. Seems the brass was pleased with the results of a test this summer where the unit ran much of a mock Forward Operating Base on sunbeams.

It’s not that the Pentagon has gone all tree-huggy. Their very practical motivation is cutting costs and saving lives. Each soldier in Afghanistan uses 22 gallons of fuel a day, and delivering each gallon to the war zone costs between $300 and $400. And those convoys make great target practice for the Taliban. Plus, it’ll help the Pentagon beat Pepsi and Intel in the race to America’s top user of renewable energy.

Suicide Bomber City Revisited

22 Sep

Jenin's Homegrown Heroes

I reported a while back on how the West Bank city of Jenin, once a  hotbed of Palestinian radicalism, is now being touted as a model of Israel-Palestinian cooperation – but that the progress there could easily collapse if Palestinians don’t start seeing some tangible benefits. The world’s greatest news magazine, The Economist, has a more recent dispatch from Jenin in their current issue, which reports some encouraging updates.

To wit: “Israel now lets cars as well as people go through the Jalameh terminal, the gateway between Jenin and the Galilee district of northern Israel …  Hundreds of Israeli Arabs drive across every day, ending Israel’s economic boycott. Around Jenin Israel has lightened its footprint; many checkpoints are unmanned. On a good day you can drive from Jenin to Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative capital, without a single Israeli soldier demanding papers.” There’s even a new outdoor movie theater.

But things are still might dicey. The economy is still feeble, and a promised joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial park unbuilt. There’s still plenty of loathing for Israel, too: Locals cheered when Hamas terrorists killed four Israelis at the start of the latest peace talks. And I can’t say I hold out much hope that those talks are going to produce any real results – make that ANY results. But at least they’re talking instead of shooting.

The Real Problem with the Gaza Blockade

9 Jun

Much more important than the back-and-forth about Israel’s (lethally bungled) raid on a boatload of (deliberately provocative) protesters trying to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip is the bigger question it raises: what to do about the blockade? Without a doubt, its critics are right to say it inflicts terrible human suffering on civilian Palestinians. But it’s also a fact that without it, Hamas would smuggle in even more rockets to lob at Israeli civilians, not to mention whatever other weapons they could get their hands on to help further their goal of wiping Israel off the map.

But here’s another fact about the Gaza blockade: as a tactic, it just doesn’t work. This kind of attempt to pressure another nation into doing your will by squeezing them materially almost never does. It pretty much only ends up hurting innocent civilians. The economic sanctions imposed on  Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war didn’t make Belgrade stop supporting Bosnia’s genocidal Serbs. They just made life incredibly difficult for ordinary people, without changing the behavior of their leaders at all. Ditto the sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Ditto, for that matter, the bombing of civilian centers in World War Two. (There might be a case to make about sanctions having helped end  apartheid in South Africa, but to me that looks more like they at best hastened something that was inevitable anyway. Very different from these other situations.)

If anything, this kind of collective punishment tends to make the locals rally around their leaders, not seek their overthrow. There’s nothing to suggest Hamas is losing popular support in Gaza because of the blockade – probably the opposite. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s pretty obvious the status quo just isn’t working, and never will.

One of the Gaza flotilla ships, impounded in Ashdod. Thanks, Guardian.co.uk.

Qadhafi Jr. and the Hollywood Jew

25 May

One’s a suburban American Jew, the other’s the son of an Arab tyrant, but hey – everyone loves movies! As the Wrap reports, Saadi Gadhafi, middle son of the famously wacko Libyan dictator, is putting $100 million in financing into a film company run by one Matt Beckerman, a New Jersey-born Jew.

“He loves movies,” explained Beckerman. “He’s seen ‘Lost’ 30 times. He has stacks of DVDs of American films.” OK, but will he come for Shabbat dinner at Matty’s mom’s house?

Matty and Saadi. Courtesy of The Wrap.