Work, and a long weekend

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much here recently, but I’ve been writing up two or three storms. “Real” writing, that is… working on this humungous great redrafting project I’m working on, plus a Hayat column on Saturday, plus a CSM column yesterday.
Longtime readers of JWN may see some familiar arguments– more elegantly stated– in the CSM column which will come out Thursday. You can check their website for it then.
I did have a bit of time for some fun stuff over the long weekend, however. On July 4th, we went to a great evening party at our friends Chip and Betsy Tucker’s place. Here’s me going down the Slip ‘n’ Slide. (I’ve never been on one before. What a blast!)
Just to prove that I do occasionally act with decorum, here’s a picture of me a little later, upright, and with our friends Lynette and Otto Friesen:
On Sunday evening, we got to go to a fabulous concert given here by John McCutcheon. John played many of his beautiful traditional instruments, sang some Woody Guthrie songs, and many, many of his own. He’s a really engaging performer.
The new(-ish) song of his that I liked the best was “Ashcroft’s Army”. Here’s the main gist of it:

    I wanna be in Ashcroft

Heavy work zone ahead

I spent much of Thursday and Friday doing family stuff, what with Lorna’s graduation, etc. Today after seeing Joe and Tarek off, I pulled out an essay I needed to finish today: a contribution that World Scientific Publishing and Dr. Irwin Abrams solicited from me, to go into a big book on “Impacts and Consequences of the Iraq War”.
Well, that’s the tentative title of the book. WSP has some special deal with the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm to publish the Nobel Prize acceptance speeches of all the Laureates, and they and Abrams are soliciting contributions to this volume from Nobel Peace Laureates and “eminent scholars”.
Guess that makes me an “eminent scholar”?
So I worked on that for much of the day. It’s near completion. Tomorrow I need to start sketching out my CSM column for my regular slot upcoming Thursday. Monday, I need to plunge back into the work of redrafting the report of the International Quaker Working Party on Israeli-Palestinian Peace– the group that gathered back together a fortnight ago in Philly. I’ve set myself a tight schedule for this redraft.
Here’s the thing, though. In my CSM column this week, can I bring myself to write in favor of W for the moves he’s been making on Israeli-Palestinian peace?
Yes, I reckon I need to. Just as well I have internalized a lot of that Christian teaching about separating the sinner from the sin, and the Buddhist/Christian teaching about giving everyone a chance of future redemption. Because otherwise I would still be pretty angry at Bush about the war on Iraq, and unable to give him the credit that I think he is due for his most recent activism on Palestinian-Israeli peace.
Sure, I know it’s not everything I’d like for him to do. But the fact he’s even gone this far is, frankly, a welcome surprise for me.
Earlier in the week–or was it last week?– I wrote a column for Al-Hayat in which I laid out the arguments why engaged activism on Israeli-Palestinian activism might actually be politically beneficial for Bush at this point in the electoral cycle. And what with Iraq rapidly going down the tubes (from the US perspective), and whatever.
But I wrote that stuff– this was quite a few days before the Sharm or Aqaba summits– almost as an intellectual exercize. That was, intellectually I could see the arguments I was making, but I still didn’t really believe some of it might happen.
And then, it seemed to start doing so.
So, we’ll have to continue with a “watchful waiting” routine as we monitor W’s moves on this score from here on out. But meanwhile, I really do want to continue to give him encouragement to proceed.
I know, too, that there are threats to the “Roadmap” process from a number of directions. The Israeli settlers are hugely upset at what they see as Sharon’s defection. (Check out this revealing interview from Friday’s Haaretz with dyed-in-the-wool Likudnik Ruby Rivlin.) Hamas is upset that Abu Mazen seems to have been giving ways too much away already. (If anyone can resolve the current Hamas-Abu Mazen problem it’s probably my old buddy the Palestinian Culture Minister Ziad Abu Amr, who’s their main go-between these days. Good luck, Ziad!)
… And then, there are all the intrinsic problems of the Roadmap itself, which replicates many of the weaknesses of the old Oslo process. Particularly the rampant indeterminacy of the outcome.
But who knows? In the interview with Ruby Rivlin, RR warns eloquently that once Sharon gets tied into the negotiations, the process may go further than even he, that sly old war-horse (my words, re Sharon), is able to control.
I’m not totally convinced of that. And yet, and yet… Things like that actually do end up happening in negotiations. One thing I heard in South Africa was that the National Party there had entered the negotiations with the ANC still fairly confident it could win a settlement that would involve only minor concessions– but they ended up granting full enfranchisement to an electorate that then rejected them roundly at the polls…
So how can we empower the many people–in Israel as well as the Palestinian community– who in any fair process of popular consultation would end up, as repeated polls have told us is the current balance of attitudes, voting for a decent, viable two-state outcome??
How do we get to that process of popular consultation? How do we start promulgating the definition and the vision of that outcome?
Good questions. Maybe I can use that in the column. Read Thursday’s CSM to find out!


HAYAT COLUMN DEADLINE COMING UP: Oh my goodness, it’s nearly the end of the month. Which means I need to get my head around doing my next column for Al-Hayat. There is so much going on in the Middle East. But probably people don’t need me, from Africa, to tell them about it.
My old nemesis Martin Indyk being quoted as saying that given the failure of Iraqis to come out and greet the US forces as liberators (duh!), then “There is nothing for it but the use of classic imperialist policies of divide and rule” — or something very similar to that.
So Martin, like, it worked for the imperialists did it? Kept their empires safe forever? Made them loved by all who knew them?
But I don’t feel any of my readers in Hayat really need me to point to the silliness of Martin, Ari Fleischer, or the rest of the US neo-imperialists flailing around in the mire of their own retrograde rhetoric.
Have to think of something else to write about.


CSM COLUMN OUT TODAY; AL-HAYAT COLUMN YESTERDAY: Busy times we live in.  The Christian Science Monitor column was titled “Military occupations – the good, bad, and ugly”, which makes me think the copy editor who composed it must have read my earlier lengthy post here by that title…

I wrote the piece Tuesday, and then had a good, productive time working with my editor on it.  I do note, though, that in the layout phase the powers-that-be in Boston sliced up some of the middle grafs into single-sentence chunks.They say they sometimes need to do that to fill white space on the page. I say that it makes me look a little, well, staccato.

Not much reaction to that yet yet.  Talking of “reaction”, though, I just signed up on something called Tag-board: once I get it installed into my template here will give me (give us all, y’all and me) a way to do short comments etc.  Fun!

And then yesterday, the latest of my twice-monthly columns came out in al-Hayat, the leading pan-Arab daily out of London.  They don’t have an English-language version for me to link you to.  If you read Arabic, you can read it here.

That column, I actually wrote on Wednesday of last week.  A terrible day,because everyone knew that Bush’s 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam would expire that evening.  And I knew, since I write my columns for them in English and they subsequently have to translate them, that it would almost certainly not appear until after the U.S. had already launched its threatened assault against Iraq.

That piece was titled (in English), “The anti-war movement moves to the next phase”.  It attempted to make a sober assessment of the state of the anti-war movement here in the USA. Maybe after a couple of days, once Al-Hayat has milked it of every penny they can in syndication re-sells, I’ll put a link to it up here.

(I have this rich fantasy life in which the publications that pay me their mere pittances to produce my wonderful columns for them are then turning around and making vast amounts of money by syndicating the same texts elsewhere.  Who knows, it might even be true?)


BLOGGING AS FIVE-FINGER EXERCISES: For some reason, two of my sisters have both expressed a concern that my blogging “might be taking too much of my time”. (All three of my sisters live on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean, in England. Sometimes I wonder how much they talk about me behind my [very distant] back, as it were. I don’t spend much time speculating about it though, because– well, you know– I have a life.)
So anyway, my general response to that is that, for me, blogging is like doing warm-up exercizes for my formal writing. (Sorry about the atlantically indeterminate spellings around here.)
Case in point: my lengthy thinking-out-loud post last Friday on the subject of comparative military occupations.
Today, I needed to consult w/ my editor at the CSM about the topic I would be writing a column on, for a probable spot in this Thursday’s paper. “Comparative military occupations” was my main suggestion– and the one she leaped at. (Leapt at?)
Of course, cramming my main points on this into 800 words, while translating the text from blog-ese into CSM-ese, will still be quite a task. But writing the column will be a darn’ sight easier because I really have done a lot of thinking-it-through while– and since– writing about the subject here.
And now to bed. Lots going on around here that I don’t have time to write about. But when I go to bed, I start thinking about– all the poor benighted souls in the hell-zone that the warhawks have turned Iraq into; my Syrian journalist friend Ibrahim Hamidi who got arrested back in December, shortly after I talked with him in Damascus; all political prisoners everywhere– what is “going to bed” like for them, every night? — and the tortured souls in Palestine and Israel who seem so incapable of escaping from their ever-turning treadmill of fear and violence.
So I just give blessings after blessings that I can have a great home and family in such a calm place as here. We had a wonderful Meeting for (Quaker) Worship this morning. Luminous! And we have daffodils now– finally– blooming around the blue peace signs in our front yard…
And another blessing: my dear old friend and erstwhile colleague in the Middle East peace-and-justice movement Saad Ibrahim was acquitted last week, by the Egyptian courts, of all remaining charges against him. Hallelujah! (It’s over a year now since I wrote a column in Al-Hayat that gently mocked the Egyptian government for continuing to pursue its case against him. I don’t know whether that column had much good effect. Let’s hope so. Last month, when my husabnd was in Cairo, he got a little bit of time to catch up with our old friend Ahmed Maher, the Egyptian Foreign Minister. AM told Bill that he often reads my Al-Hayat columns with some enjoyment– but he thinks I’m still “ways too idealistic”. That makes me so happy! I would just hate it if some event– turning 50, say– had caused me to lose that idealism. Actually, I’m working pretty hard on becoming a Raging Older Woman for Peace, or something.)
Whoa. Didn’t I say it was time for bed?