January 2009


Reading the BBC’s article about a coalition of prominent English Jews who are calling for Israel to suspend it’s military actions in the Gaza Strip and seek a diplomatic solution to end the Hamas offensive, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been here before, reading as similar well-meaning Jewish groups attempt to rein in the Israeli military during a very serious strategic operation. It all seems just a tad bit futile.

Based upon my understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict, I have no confidence that there will ever be a lasting peace so long as two very pronounced features change. The first is clearly the awful, bitterness-inducing conditions in which Palestinians–the majority of whom are Muslim–live under in the refugee camps set up in Gaza and loosely monitored by the United Nations. The rate of poverty, unemployment and overall health of these Arab peoples is enough for concern. That they are essentially penned in between Israel and Egypt and with little ability to travel or work outside of their camps adds to a sense of bitterness and hopelessness that can only drive a young man into radicalism such as supporting the Hamas movement–particularly its military wing. In recent weeks, that militia has launched rocket attacks at communities in Southern Israel in the hopes of provoking the Jewish nation into a ground offensive. It could be that they would like the world–particularly the Arab world–to see through newspapers and satellite TV the death and destruction Israeli war planes, tanks and rockets have brought to women and children.

The second feature that will have to change in order that there be a lasting peace is the idea among Palestinians that somehow, some way, strategic rocket strikes or any type of terrorism campaign is ever going to bring back the land that was lost decades ago. It hasn’t worked and never will, so long as the Israeli mindset is that they too live on sacred land and are willing to sacrifice their own soldiers and the lives of innocent Palestinians in order to stop the attacks upon them.

I don’t have much faith that things can be better. Not when all over the world rallies are held in support of Israel or the Palestinian people and yet no real true “road map” is advanced and the idea of a Palestinian state evaporates.

Several years ago, I read a book called Righteous Victims, about the history of (more…)

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When I woke up this morning–or rather forced myself out of the bed I was sleeping on–the sun to the east was putting a really invigorating burst of light right across the room I was in. An old off-white radiator at my friend’s house turned a golden shade. It was the perfect thing to step out on to on new day in a new year.

Outside, few people were out and about. The city is frozen and covered with powdery snow that is picked up now and again and deposited where your coat or scarf don’t cover, the neck and the ears. I’d estimate it is 10-f degrees before the wind blows.

When I got back to my place, I took my dog out for a walk. I made sure the Albany Police officer in his Dodge Durango passed us by before I let my dog feel comfortable to relieve himself on the snow-covered sidewalk. He was looking right at me, perhaps waiting for that moment to write a ticket. On the other hand, he could have just been feeling sorry for the lone schmuck out on the street with his dog in frigid weather. Normally, I bring a bag, but recently when I got to the supermarket, I bring my reusables for the discount and I couldn’t find any newspaper to wrap it in. The walk was painful. My sinuses really hurt from it.

When all was said and done, 2008 was certainly a good year for me. I lost nearly 20 pounds–on top of nearly 20 in 2007–and took thousands of photographs.

Although I want to say that I don’t have resolutions that begin on January 1, I suppose I do. They’re in my head though. I don’t want to let anyone know. But they’re reasonable goals, I think. Anyway, I’m off to the gym, which will doubtless be filled with people working off last night’s booze and snacks. Gyms are always tough this time of years.
Happy New Year.