The Head Heeb : Knocking Down 4000 Years of Icons

Musings about politics, religion, law, art and marriage - what else is there?

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Friday, July 11, 2003
Short absence

Naomi and I will be in Florida this weekend for a friend's wedding; blogging will resume on Monday.

Up from the ashes?

Gideon Levy describes the return of tourists - and Palestinian rule - to Bethlehem.

Thursday, July 10, 2003
Chronicle time

This week's installment discusses the academic freedom crisis that erupted when the Egyptian government demoted the influential Dean Taha Hussein in 1932. Unfortunately, the government won.

Hudna watch

Israeli Guy is back from hiatus with, among other things, his thoughts on why the road map is the only real way forward. Fortunately, it seems to be moving in that direction again after a shaky interval, with Palestinian Authority intelligence agents working with Israel to arrest an Islamic Jihad member in Jenin and Israeli intelligence sources indicating that the PA is "making efforts to thwart terror attacks." The truce may also be taking hold among the Palestinian public, at least in Gaza; Israeli sources reported that "a brawl took place several days ago between residents of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, in southern Gaza, and a terror cell that refused to comply with the residents’ demand to halt terror attacks."

Israel, for its part, has promised to allow the Dahaniya Airport in Gaza to reopen, which will have little impact on Israeli security but will go a considerable distance toward ending Gaza's isolation. Israel has also evacuated another outpost and hinted at further prisoner releases, and today's Mofaz-Dahlan meeting appears to have gone smoothly. In addition, the Egyptians seem to have strong-armed Fatah into backing Abu Mazen, at least for the time being, and Egyptian intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman will visit Gaza personally tomorrow.

The PA's apparent seriousness in enforcing the truce, however, didn't prevent two attempted infiltrations in Gaza, although fortunately there do not appear to have been any deaths or serious injuries. (What was earlier reported as a shooting incident in the West Bank now appears to have involved rock-throwing only.) Although the number of terror alerts received by the IDF has declined sharply since the beginning of the truce, it remains above 20 per day. In addition, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are continuing to engage in brinksmanship as well as rejecting an Egyptian request to extend the truce to six months. In a more disturbing development, Israeli sources also indicate that rejectionist groups are using the respite to recruit suicide bombers and manufacture Qassam rockets in Gaza.

This is something that cannot be solved by American or Egyptian intervention; even if the leadership of Hamas and IJ is ultimately co-opted, rejectionist groups and cells will remain and continue to pose a danger. With the transfer of security control in Gaza and Bethlehem, it is the PA's responsibility to prevent rejectionists in those areas - who are the common enemy of Israelis and Palestinians - from rearming. The less opportunity they have to carry out attacks, the more likely it is that Israel will complete its troop withdrawals and the parties will be able to pick up where they left off in September 2000.

Sidebar notes

Via Ikram Saeed, I've added Mahmood's Den, an interesting (if somewhat atypical) Bahraini blog. Those who have been following the Sultana Freeman case may be interested in his take on a new law allowing women to drive while veiled - and mandating that all traffic accidents involving female drivers be investigated by female police officers. The trouble is that only seven Bahraini cops are women.

I've also added Lady Sun from Iran and Right Wing Arab, by Syrian-American student Oubai Shahbandar. I don't agree with Shahbandar on much (among other things, he praises Ann Coulter), but I link to plenty of left-wing Jews, so why not a right-wing Arab?

This one's for you, ladies

Seen (by Naomi) in the New York Magazine personals section:

THE FACTS ARE ... 95-year-old man seeks relationship with a much younger woman. He's got a sumptuous, large apartment in Manhattan and a million-dollar home on Fire Island. He's charming, energetic, intelligent and witty. You must be under 35 AND very pretty (being crazy would help).

What he doesn't tell you is that he's still living with his mother.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Israel Europeanization watch

The powerful European Commission has announced that it intends to include Israel in its Wider Europe Initiative, which will give Israel "a status similar to that of European Union states, especially on commercial and economic issues:"

Over the past few weeks, Israel has created an inter-ministerial task force to formulate its stance on the Wider Europe scheme. Adopting this scheme would mean a new model of relations with the EU, similar to the one the European bloc currently has with Switzerland and Norway.

In a meeting described as "surprisingly warm," European representatives "promised to expand cooperation in several fields including economics and the law" and "proposed formalizing contacts to bring an Israeli work group into the European satellite project Galileo." The Europeans also indicated that Israel's status would be much improved if it finished ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. This is one area in which Israel potentially holds the key to achieving a major EU goal, because its ratification would put the Kyoto accords above the threshold necessary for implementation.

On becoming African-American

Lenora Todaro profiles Manthia Diawara, an immigrant from Mali who is director of the New York University Institute for African-American Affairs. His recently published memoir, We Won't Budge: An African Exile in the World, chronicles his journey from Mali, through life as a student in Paris and an illegal immigrant washing dishes in Washington, to an uneasy assimilation into American society:

Despite his achievements, Diawara carries the immigrant's perpetual alienation—he finds privacy in crowded cafés, and observes colleagues (black and white) leaving him out of discussions about Israel or Iraq, "as if because I am African I do not know about these things." The fragility of success haunts him. "I wonder if I have become the cosmopolitan individual of my dreams, or if I am still trapped in a racial or ethnic group," he writes.

Actually, I'm interested in knowing what Diawara thinks of Israel. My ideal in writing is dispassionate analysis, and I sometimes try to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of a Malian - someone who is completely outside the conflict and has no emotional involvement in it. I've never succeeded in doing so, though. I identify too strongly with Israel - both the good and the bad - and I am a citizen of a country that is intimately involved in the conflict, and the dispassionate view escapes me. Maybe a Malian looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the one who can tell us most.

Shut down

The protests scheduled to mark the fourth anniversary of the 1999 Teheran student riots have apparently been canceled. It's dangerous to make predictions, but I'd say that the Iranian government has bought itself at least another six months to a year; it will take the students at least that long to regroup, and without the students as a catalyst and organizing force, massive popular demonstrations seem unlikely. The government is still living on borrowed time, but it has managed to borrow a bit more.

UPDATE: Some street protests appear to be going on anyway, with running battles between students, paramilitaries and police trying to keep them apart. As with last month's demonstrations, the police appear to be neutral, cracking down on the paramilitaries as well as the students.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Polygamy, haoles and the Hawaiian courts

Al-Muhajabah has an interesting discussion on her Niqabi Paralegal blog about American courts' treatment of foreign polygamous marriages. [1, 2]. Among the cases she discusses is Wei See v. Young Sheong, 3 Haw. 489 (Haw. 1873), in which the Supreme Court of Hawaii held that the Hawaiian second wife of a Chinese immigrant laborer was entitled to a share of his estate.

Wei See is in many ways a fascinating cases, but doesn't really belong in a discussion of American decisions. It was decided, not by a state or even a territorial court, but by a court of the Kingdom of Hawaii, almost a quarter-century before its annexation by the United States. One of the remarkable things about it, though, is how closely it resembles a contemporary decision of an American court. The Wei See decision was written in English, contains citations to American precedent, and was decided by Justices Allen, Hartwell and Wideman.

This isn't entirely surprising in light of Hawaii's nineteenth-century history. The first American missionaries didn't land in Hawaii until 1820 - ten years after the islands were unified by King Kamehameha I - but by 1840, their influence was sufficient to persuade Kamehameha III to proclaim the kingdom's first constitution. This charter established a bicameral legislature consisting of a House of Nobles and "Representative Body," and provided that "no law shall be enacted which is at variance with the word of the Lord Jehovah, or at variance with the general spirit of His word."

The subsequent constitution of 1852 established an even more American style of government founded on a bill of rights and separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. By this time, many of the kingdom's citizens were American businessmen or missionaries, and they became influential in their own right as legislators and judges. On occasion, this led to unseemly incidents:

In 1866, a fist fight broke out in the Legislature between White and Hawaiian members. Such an incident was probably long overdue for it was a most peculiar legislature wherein white legislators refused to speak Hawaiian, the kingdom's official language, and native Hawaiian members refused to use English.

Nowhere was the American influence more pronounced than in the law. Not only were the majority of judges American, but lawyers were almost without exception American-trained and much of the litigation involved American or other foreign-owned businesses. Wendie Ellen Schneider, in Contentious Business: Merchants and the Creation of a Westernized Judiciary in Hawaii, 108 Yale L.J. 1389 (1999), states that this process began in the early 1840s, when foreign merchants began turning to the Kingdom's courts for justice rather than arbitrating commercial disputes among themselves:

The shift in disputing patterns and the creation of a westernized legal system were also integral parts of a larger process of growing foreign control over Hawaii. In turning to the Kingdom's courts, [Henry] Skinner [a British merchant who was the first to sue for breach of contract in a Hawaiian court - ed.] was the first in a long line of foreigners to demand the application of international (largely American) commercial law. As a result, during the 1840s a western-style legal system was adopted and largely staffed by whites; the rest of the government followed suit rapidly thereafter. Foreign domination of the Hawaiian government long preceded actual annexation by the United States in 1898.

According to Schneider, the "crucial stages" of the Westernization of Hawaiian law took place soon after the promulgation of the 1840 constitution, when the legislature enacted a Western-style commercial code:

The shift to Kingdom courts in the year or so following the new laws on debt was extensive. In the three months remaining in 1841, four suits were brought in Kingdom courts on commercial matters. In 1842, another eight suits were brought. While in absolute terms, twelve suits may appear trivial, that number must be compared to a previous maximum of five recorded arbitrations in a single year and a history of only two such cases employing the Kingdom courts in the history of Honolulu before that point. Not only were lawsuits now more popular than arbitration, they were also more frequently used than arbitration had ever been.

In 1844, an American lawyer, John Ricord, was retained by the Hawaiian government to codify the country's laws. Three years later, an organic act created the Hawaiian Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Little Lee, resulting in the creation of "a judicial system of the Anglo-American type."

By the end of the 1840s, the language of the legal profession was English, although - as evidenced by the 1856 case of Hardy v. Ruggles, 1 Haw. 255 (Haw. 1856) - this sometimes conflicted with the use of Hawaiian in government:

The English version of the stamp act does require all mortgages to be stamped, but it is said the Hawaiian does not, and that the latter should, prevail. The parties in this suit all acknowledge the English to be their mother tongue, and it is contended that in equity they should be held subject to the laws as they read in English. This is not without weight; but where there is a radical and irreconcilable difference between the English and Hawaiian, the latter must govern, because it is the language of the legislators of the country. This doctrine was first laid down by the Superior Court in 1848, and has been steadily adhered to ever since.

Such concessions, however, became increasingly cosmetic as the nineteenth century drew to a close, particularly after the promulgation of the "Bayonet Constitution" of 1887. By 1892 - a year before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom - Anglo-American common law was explicitly adopted as the law of Hawaii:

The common law of England, as ascertained by English and American decisions, is declared to be the common law of the Kingdom of Hawai'i in all cases, except as otherwise... fixed by Hawaiian judicial precedent, or established by Hawaiian usage

After the incorporation of Hawaii into the United States in 1898, Hawaiian courts continued to cite decisions from the monarchial period and, in fact, continue to do so today. They were, to a great extent, American cases.

The truce explodes

Yesterday was marked by the first suicide bombing since the cease-fire, which destroyed a house in Kfar Yafetz and killed 65-year-old Mazal Afari. Aside from the fact that this was an act of murder, it raises the questions of who is responsible and what effect it will have on the cease-fire as a whole.

The Jenin branch of Islamic Jihad - one of the groups that has formally committed to the hudna - has claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Islamic Jihad leadership has disclaimed knowledge of the attack, but I find this somewhat difficult to believe. While Islamic Jihad is not as tightly controlled as Hamas, it is nevertheless an internally disciplined organization - far more so, certainly, than al-Aqsa or the local popular resistance committees. I am quite prepared to believe that the IJ leadership didn't order the attack, but I find it unlikely that the bombing was carried out without their knowledge. Moreover, while IJ announced that it was still committed to the truce, its announcement did not indicate that any action would be taken against the Jenin branch. Evidently, IJ's commitment to the cease-fire does not yet include the willingness to discipline its own "rogue factions," which highlights the risk that future attacks by individual cells will be used by the organizational leadership for purposes of plausible deniability.

The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, cannot be held responsible for this attack, because it originated from a city where security control has not been ceded to the PA. Israel's response - to resume actions against IJ but continue talks with the PA - appears to be the right course in light of available information. Nevertheless, if operations against Islamic Jihad result in Palestinian civilians being killed, the whole truce is likely to unravel. Moreover, the diplomatic track is also in danger after Abu Mazen postponed a meeting with Sharon under heavy pressure from Arafat, and resigned in protest from the Fatah Central Committee.

The most disturbing news, though, may be the absence of the United States. If Bush is smart, he'll have someone on a plane to Ramallah now before the whole thing unravels. Not only that, but he'll have someone else on a plane to Jerusalem, and others on their way to Brussels and Cairo. The Europeans and Egyptians have better back-channel contacts with Palestinian organizations than the United States does, and they've been able to get results when they put pressure on Arafat or Islamic Jihad. They should be made to understand that the time to use their influence is now, before everything that has been gained in the past month is swept away.

There is no indication, however, that any American diplomats are currently on their way to the Middle East, and this could be a fatal mistake. I've argued before that this is a hands-on truce, and it isn't something that can be maintained over the phone. Given the amount of personal commitment and prestige that Bush has invested in the road map thus far, this is no time to be asleep at the switch.

Countdown to 1789

The Swaziland Youth Congress has reportedly begun a campaign of armed resistance against the monarchy after a constitutional commission failed to deliver any real prospect of democratization.

Monday, July 07, 2003
Ghana's public health crisis

Recent statistics indicate that Ghana is suffering an alarming medical brain drain:

According to the State of Ghanaian Economy Report 2002 a total of 3,157 health professionals left the country between 1993-2002, representing over 31 percent of health personnel trained in Ghana during the same period.

The report said out of 871 medical officers trained between 1993-2002, 604 (96.3 percent) left the country, leaving 267 for entire nation. The situation has put health delivery beyond the reach of the common man, besides widening the doctor-patient ratio to approximately 1-67,416


Currently the University of Ghana Medical School, the School of Medical Sciences of KNUST and the UDS Medical School train approximately 150 medical officers annually. Sadly, a chunk of them leave even before congregation. Prof. Aryeetey disclosed that within the second year of leaving medical school, 50 percent of every graduating class leave the country in search of greener pastures, while 80 percent leave by the fifth year.

The country is also suffering serious losses of pharmacists, medical technicians and nurses, who are welcome as skilled immigrants in many countries and can advance their careers by leaving Ghana. The Ghanaian government has attempted to prevent this by increasing benefits for health-care workers, but even these relatively modest programs ran into opposition from the IMF:

Sensitised by the situation the government set up a $5 million revolving fund for vehicles for health workers, out of which 73 saloon cars were bought for distribution to personnel posted to rural areas.

Besides, special additional duty allowances were extended to all health workers, instead of the old practice where only medical officers enjoyed the facility. While many Ghanaians hailed the government policy, it came to light during discussion on the report that IMF was not amused about that decision and asked the government to reverse it.

Government stood its ground and incurred the wrath of the IMF. The result was IMF's decision to withhold $75 million budgetary support during the last quarter of last year.

It need hardly be said that the loss of medical professionals is counterproductive to both human development and economic growth. Ghana is, fortunately, not one of the African countries hardest- hit by AIDS, but its HIV infection rate is growing. The Ghanaian infection rate is dangerously close to the 5 percent threshold that is widely perceived to be the point at which the epidemic spirals out of control, and is already much higher than that among such vulnerable populations as young urban women. If an effective public health response is not formulated now, it will lead to incalculable social and economic costs in the years to come. The absence of health care professionals will also result in reduced life expectancy, a greater rate of disability from childhood diseases and greater loss of economic productivity due to illness. The IMF's policies seem to be, as they so often are, designed to promote momentary fiscal austerity at the cost of Ghana's future.

Terror bill concerns

Both South African and Kenyan legislators are concerned about the human rights implications of government-proposed anti-terror bills. It is striking that opponents of both bills view them as a return to the past - the South African opposition and civil-society groups have compared the proposed bill to the apartheid-era security laws, and the Kenyans fear a return to the dark days of the Moi police state. Civil-liberties advocates in both countries also point to recent indictments and prosecutions of terrorists as proof that the current legal system is adequate to fight terror without endangering hard-won democratization.

Not the usual comparison

A South African emigrant to Israel describes his trip home.

Another disturbing search request

Will the person who found this site by searching for "explicit Hermione Granger pictures" please explain himself?

Sunday, July 06, 2003
I knew there was a word for that

The word of the day, courtesy of How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons, is morgonpigg. Morgonpigg is Swedish for "those annoying people who are, for some reason, all perky and chipper in the morning." Let's use it in a sentence - "my [boss/spouse/household pet] is a morgonpigg."

Taylor out?

Charles Taylor has reportedly accepted a Nigerian offer of asylum and will step down as president of Liberia. The reports may be premature - Taylor has already gone back on a promise to leave office - and even if true, his departure will not obviate the need for international peacekeeping. On the contrary, the period immediately after Taylor's resignation will be an extremely vulnerable one; the power vacuum could easily be filled by another warlord, or the country could degenerate into anarchy if Taylor's soldiers decide to go freelance. It will be important to have a force of sufficient strength to oversee the disarmament of Liberia's factions and prepare the ground for elections.

The fightin' imams

Prior to the 1980s, there were relatively few Muslims in the American armed forces. As the children of post-1965 South Asian and Arab immigrants came of age, however, an increasing number of Muslims entered the military. By 1983, with the number of serving Muslims over 1000, the Department of Defense began searching for Muslim candidates to join the Chaplains' Corps.

The key difficulty in recruiting Muslim chaplains was that, since Sunni Islam is a non-hierarchical religion, there was no authority that could provide the necessary ecclesiastical endorsement. In 1990, however, the American Muslim Council was established as an umbrella organization for Islamic groups in the United States. Thanks in part to the intervention of Imam Ghaysh Nur Kashif, an Air Force veteran, the AMC was given the status of an endorsing agency for military chaplains.

On December 3, 1993, Imam Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad was appointed the first Muslim chaplain. Muhammad has brought attention to concerns that might otherwise have been overlooked by military commanders, recommending, for instance, that less strenuous physical training be conducted during Ramadan. Following the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, Muhammad obtained a fatwa calling upon Muslim soldiers to fight terrorism.

The establishment of the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in 1996 assisted Muslim candidates in complying with the Defense Department's requirement of a graduate degree in theology, and the number of Muslim military chaplains tripled after the GISS graduated its first class in 1999. There are currently 12 Muslim chaplains on active duty in the American military to serve 4000 to 10,000 Muslim servicemen. There may soon be a thirteenth - Major Shareda Hosein, who is studying to become the first female Muslim chaplain:

While praying in the chapel, she noticed a male Muslim soldier teaching a young female soldier who recently had converted to Islam.

"When it came time for the prayer, he didn't know how to do the ablution," the cleansing of hands, face and mouth, Hosein said. "I realized then that there was a need in the military. I got choked up. I felt God had given me the answer that this was what I needed to do."

There was a Baptist service in the main part of the chapel. As she moved to the back, she met an Air Force officer preparing for the Jewish Seder, the Passover feast. He asked her to join them.

The experience with the young Muslim soldiers and with the Jewish officer "was a sign to me about my future goals and career," she said. "People don't know that much about Islam. As a chaplain, I could share that, because in the military there's a tolerance."

She said she was moved by the different religions under the same roof that day.

Major Hosein appears to have the support of Muslim soldiers:

"It's long overdue," said retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Qaseem Uqdah, executive director of the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council. "The reality of Islam in America is that women are within our armed forces. We have to deal with women. I owe a responsibility to Muslim women as well as men, and I haven't been able to fulfill their needs."

It is unclear, however, whether the endorsing agency will certify her when she completes her studies next year, or whether she will bear the title of imam. Nor is it clear whether, as a member of a non-hierarchical faith, she would even need to bear such a title in order to provide spiritual counseling.

Shi'ite Muslims, however, are still unrepresented in the Chaplains' Corps. Nor are there any Buddhist chaplains, although there may be fightin' lamas in the near future. The American military's search for Buddhist chaplains actually dates to 1943, when it sought a spiritual advisor for the segregated Japanese- American regiments, but this search was unsuccessful. In 1987, the Buddhist Churches of America was accredited as an endorsing agency, and the military has created insignia for Buddhist chaplains, but the approximately 2500 Buddhists in the American military do not yet have a commissioned representative.

In March 1998, the Department of Defense also authorized recruitment of chaplains to serve Hindu soldiers, who number about 1000. Due largely to difficulties in accrediting an endorsing agency, no Hindu chaplains appear to have been recruited thus far. At the moment, the only country outside India that has commissioned Hindu military chaplains is South Africa, which recruited its first one in 1997.