Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…
Friday, November 02, 2001 ↓
THE BALFOUR DECLARATION
During the course of World War I, the British government moved towards the view that a Jewish homeland should be established in Palestine. On this day in 1917, Arthur James Lord Balfour (former British Prime Minister but then Foreign Secretary) after discussions with the British Cabinet and Zionist leaders, wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild containing what came to be known as the Balfour Declaration:
“His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
Of course, it was thirty years and another World War before it happened. But look at those words, “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
Something went wrong there, clearly.
Did none of the parties involved in the institution of the state of Israel foresee the obvious? That whatever the past history of the region, if you tell a people (the Palestinians) that they are going to have to share a land that in living memory they have always known as their own with another people (the Jews), and that you are going to give their land (Palestine) a new name (Israel), then they might be just a little upset?
And the Palestinians might be just a little bit more upset when the Jews, in less than a year from having been granted a new homeland, squeeze the Palestinians into two restrictive areas: the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And conceivably they might get even more upset when around twenty years later, they Jews try to kick them out of the West Bank and Gaza, along with the Jordanians and Egyptians who had taken control of those territories in the meantime.
Now, the response of the Palestinians down the years — the terrorist actions of the PLO — was certainly wrong. But the Jewish retaliation has been no more mature. Half a century on, and the situation in the region is as far from being resolved as it ever was. The two sides are like gangs of children engaged in a territorial dispute, except that they are armed with weapons more deadly than the sticks and stones of the playground.
Nothing can be done about the lack of foresight that helped precipitate the current position. But the Palestinians and the Jews (with assistance or pressure from certain other nations) can straighten things out if they just muster up the will.
Don't you just want to knock their heads together?
Thursday, November 01, 2001 ↓
SO YOU THINK WE SHOULDN'T BOMB THEM?
Wednesday, October 31, 2001 ↓
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
On this day in 1992, Pope John Paul II closed the work of the commission he had instituted in 1981 to “coordinate the research of theologians, scientists and historians which would help to further clarify the events which occurred between Galileo and the Church and, more generally, the Ptolemaic – Copernican controversy of the 16th and 17th centuries in which the Galileo affair is situated.”
In so doing, he effectively acknowledged the error — albeit nearly four centuries late — that the Church had made in condemning the astronomer Galileo Galilei for maintaining the Copernican view (based on his own pretty solid astronomical observation, of course) that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and not the other way around.
Not that the Church would ever do anything so honest and direct as simply to admit that Galileo was right and they were wrong, as is evident from John Paul's words:
“From the Galileo case we can draw a lesson which is applicable today in analogous cases which arise in our times and which may arise in the future. … It often happens that, beyond two partial points of view which are in contrast, there exists a wider view of things which embraces both and integrates them.”
The entry about Galileo in the Catholic Encyclopedia goes to great lengths and a lot of wordplay to explain how Galileo being right does not weaken the concept of papal infallibility, since neither Pope Paul V nor Pope Urban VIII
- imposed the geocentric view of the Universe as an article of faith
- made any formal decree against the Copernican view
- signed either of the orders of the Inquisition that initially attempted to silence Galileo, and finally condemned him to house arrest for the rest of his life.
All rather moot points, since the two popes were clearly anti-Copernican, and if they disagreed with the findings of the Inquisition, they would surely have done something about it. Funny how even today, elements in the Church still feel the need to defend old errors and injustices.
JUST FOR LAUGHS
Check out Aussie Windows on Ben Hammersley's site. And a link courtesy of Ben: find out what your co-workers call you behind your back, with the Work Nickname Generator. Entering my name returns Fat Fuck, while my buddies Kenny and Ronnie are Tosser and Cheap respectively. The worrying thing is how strikingly accurate it is…
While not wishing to labour a point already made (oh, go on then): catching up on last week's reading I found an article by Diana West in the Washington Times, in which she asks how ordinary folks should reconcile the notion that “Islam is peace” with extreme terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of Islam. She quotes the Iranian author Amir Taheri as saying “to claim the attacks had nothing to do with Islam amounts to a whitewash” and that to do so is a “disservice to Muslims, who need to cast a critical glance at the way their faith is taught, lived and practiced.”
I used very similar words myself just a few days ago.
And again, this time quoting historian Paul Johnson, the article goes on to say that some of the more extreme verses of the Koran
“‘cannot be explained away or softened by modern theological exegesis, because there is no such science in Islam.’ Mr. Johnson goes on to explain that contrary to the evolving natures of both Christianity and Judaism, Islam has never undergone any update, reformation or enlightenment since its inception in the seventh century. ‘Islam,’ he wrote, ‘remains a religion of the Dark Ages. The seventh century Koran is still taught as the immutable word of God, any teaching of which is literally true. In other words, mainstream Islam is essentially akin to the most extreme form of Biblical fundamentalism.’”
And in the west, particularly in America, we know how bad that is.
ENDURING FREEDOM NEEDS ENDURING RESOLVE
Recently Prime Minister Tony Blair has been making speeches to rekindle popular support for the “war on terrorism” in the face of opinion polls suggesting that as civilian casualties in Afghanistan rise, support in the UK for the bombing campaign declines.
The loss of civilian life in Afghanistan is tragic, of course — but frankly it pales somewhat compared to the thousands who died in the World Trade Centre in just one day. And they were civilians too.
The deaths of ordinary Afghans are not the West's revenge for the September 11 attacks. They are a sad but unavoidable consequence of the action that must be taken to eliminate the perpetrators. If the Taliban cared sufficiently about their own people to avoid any possibility of accidental injury or death resulting from coalition action, all they had to do was hand over bin Laden and his al Qaeda cronies. But the Taliban do not care. Indeed we know that the only way life can improve for the people of Afghanistan (and women in particular) is for the Taliban to be removed — and since they won't go, they'll have to be pushed. Unfortunately for the Afghans, this means that things will get worse before they get better.
It seems that already, memories in the UK of the events of September 11 are beginning to fade. Not for me. It will be a long time before I forget seeing (again and again, thanks to 24 hour news channels) planes flying into towers and buildings collapsing into rubble. If the resolve of any of my countrymen is weakening, perhaps they should simply think on this: while it was the WTC and the Pentagon that were the targets on September 11, it might just as easily have been the Houses of Parliament or Canary Wharf. And next time — if we do nothing to prevent a “next time” — it might be.
Tuesday, October 30, 2001 ↓
"Crap" being, as they say, the operative word. Clearly I ate something yesterday that didn't agree with me, and you really don't want to know the effect it's had on me. No, really, you don't.
Despite having a pile of work to do, I haven't been able to bring myself to do anything productive at all today. I managed to make two blog entries and book flights for a short holiday in Portugal in December. And that's it. Total.
A little while ago I took a risk and nipped along to the local shops to get some essential provisions and fresh air. I feel a little better. But not good enough to eat, as it were.
Shortly before leaving for Sweden last week, a courier delivered the modem connectivity kit for my Palm m505. That's the modem connectivity kit that I ordered at the same time as the m505. That's the order that I placed nearly three months ago. That's the order which was part-fulfilled within a few days with receipt of the m505. Now, the thing that would have made the m505 really useful was the modem connectivity kit. But nobody told me I was going to have to wait nearly three months for that. During the wait, the vendor rang me twice to ask if I still wanted it (duh!) and said it would be with me "in a few days".
I elected to buy a "normal" modem rather than one that connects to your mobile phone, because
- they're only available for certain types of mobile phones
- my phone isn't one of the chosen few
- I wasn't about to buy a new mobile phone.
Anyway, I figured I'm never far from a phone point. When the wayward device finally arrived, I checked it out and found everything works a treat — so I can now send and receive e-mail with my m505. Except…
Plugs for phone points are different all around the world. Thoughtfully, Palm provides a range of adaptors with the modem, including those for France, Germany, the USA, Spain… but not Sweden. So I couldn't make full use of the Palm on the last trip. And I didn't get an opportunity to borrow an internet-connected PC at any time. When I got back, I found that a colleague unused to me not answering e-mail within the same day, had sent an e-mail message to every one of the addresses he knew I used. Not that the message was terribly important (well, not to me, anyway!) but it just underlines how e-mail has taught us to seek instant gratification. If he'd had to send me a letter, then I'd had to reply…
Monday, October 29, 2001 ↓
Shortly after posting yesterday's entry, I got a telephone call from the son of a good friend and former work colleague to tell me that while I was in Sweden, his father had suffered a brain haemorrhage and died.
It's a while since I last saw Derek because I've been so busy in recent months, and in the strange way that these things often happen, just a few days ago I had been thinking about ringing him to arrange for us to meet up.
All the little tasks I had planned for today will be set aside while I go out of town to Derek's funeral.
Sunday, October 28, 2001 ↓
Got home last night after a few long and mentally exhausting days at work in Sweden's second city.
Anyway, I've recovered by
- sleeping right through Sunday morning
- idling away Sunday afternoon in a prolonged bout of web surfing.
I still have a report to write, but that's for tomorrow: Sunday Night Is Beer Night.
Older material is stashed away under Replays.