John Allen Paulos on Health, Wealth and Happiness

From ABC News:

Screenhunter_01_jan_27_0239First wealth. A recently released study says that the inequality in wealth throughout the world is extreme and growing more so. The report by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University paints an informative picture of the world’s wealth distribution as of 2000, the last year for which figures are available. It states that the top 1% of the world’s population – about 37 million adults – had net assets (note: not income) worth at least $500,000. This constituted approximately 40% of the world’s assets.

In contrast, the top 50% of the world’s people owned a bit less than 99% of the wealth, and this translated into a median wealth (half the world’s population having more, half less) of just over $2,000. To be in the top 10% required net assets worth about $60,000.

More here.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center may be going too far by trying to build a museum on a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem

Daniela Yanai in the Los Angeles Times:

Dome20of20the20rock1Last week, Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center and the municipality of Jerusalem to explain why they should be allowed to construct a new Museum of Tolerance on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery.

On the surface, it’s a straightforward enough question. But it’s really about more than the fate of one cemetery and whether it should be preserved. What is at stake is the nature of both people’s claims, Palestinian and Israeli, to Jerusalem.

The site of the museum is in the heart of downtown Jerusalem, on a parking lot next to the city’s Independence Park. Designed by architect Frank Gehry and kicked off in 2004 with a visit by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the museum (a sister, of sorts, to the one of the same name in Los Angeles) seems, at first glance, like a welcome initiative. In a region wracked by intolerance, what better way to improve the chances for peace than to teach people about different cultures?

But the museum itself became a test case for tolerance when bulldozers digging its foundation unearthed human remains last year, and the project has been mired in legal disputes ever since. Even though archeologists and historians knew that the site was on top of an ancient cemetery — parts of which are visible just adjacent to the site — spokespeople for the Jerusalem municipality claimed that the discovery of remains came as a surprise.

More here.

Mexico in Ruins

My friend and 3QD contributor, J. M. Tyree, has sent the following message:

Joseph Pearson, a great friend and very talented Canadian writer, has a new essay up on the AGNI site about a visit to Mexico City:

Around the doors of the Hotel Gran Ciudad de México, with its wondrous Art-Nouveau dome, are younger men in the casual uniform of Lacoste gold shirts tucked into khaki pants. They sport expensive watches in a city where wearing a plastic one is the only sure method to prevent being mugged. They pile into a taxi, and a tickle of fear rises up my neck. Disparities of wealth exist everywhere, but they are rarely so visible as in a city without a real middle class. I am afraid not because Mexico is unique in its share of misery. It’s not. I am afraid because Mexico is the future.

I highly recommend the rest of the essay, “Mexico in Ruins” (particularly its take on gay bars in Mexico City), as well as AGNI’s very fine online-only journal in general, which offers free subscriptions by email and showcases emerging, often younger writers every month.

Thanks, J. M.

Paul Krugman on Milton Friedman

From the New York Review of Books:

Screenhunter_02_jan_26_1636 Keynesianism was a great reformation of economic thought. It was followed, inevitably, by a counter-reformation. A number of economists played important roles in the great revival of classical economics between 1950 and 2000, but none was as influential as Milton Friedman. If Keynes was Luther, Friedman was Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. And like the Jesuits, Friedman’s followers have acted as a sort of disciplined army of the faithful, spearheading a broad, but incomplete, rollback of Keynesian heresy. By the century’s end, classical economics had regained much though by no means all of its former dominion, and Friedman deserves much of the credit.

I don’t want to push the religious analogy too far. Economic theory at least aspires to be science, not theology; it is concerned with earth, not heaven. Keynesian theory initially prevailed because it did a far better job than classical orthodoxy of making sense of the world around us, and Friedman’s critique of Keynes became so influential largely because he correctly identified Keynesianism’s weak points. And just to be clear: although this essay argues that Friedman was wrong on some issues, and sometimes seemed less than honest with his readers, I regard him as a great economist and a great man.

More here.

The Lies of Ryszard Kapuściński

Jack Shafer in Slate:

Screenhunter_01_jan_26_1627John Updike worshipped him. Gabriel García Márquez tagged him “the true master of journalism.” But there’s one fact about the celebrated war correspondent and idol of New York’s literary class that didn’t get any serious attention this week. It’s widely conceded that Kapuściński routinely made up things in his books. The New York Times obituary, which calls Kapuściński a “globe-trotting journalist,” negotiates its way around the master’s unique relationship with the truth diplomatically, stating that his work was “often tinged with magical realism” and used “allegory and metaphors to convey what was happening.”

Scratch a Kapuściński enthusiast and he’ll insist that everybody who reads the master’s books understands from context that not everything in them is to be taken literally. This is a bold claim, as Kapuściński’s work draws its power from the fantastic and presumably true stories he collects from places few of us will ever visit and few news organization have the resources to re-report and confirm. If Kapuściński regularly mashes up the observed (journalism) with the imagined (fiction), how certain can we be of our abilities to separate the two while reading?

Should we regard Kapuściński’s end product as journalism? Should we give Kapuściński a bye but castigate Stephen Glass, who defrauded the New Republic and other publications by doing a similar thing on a grosser scale? Do we cut Kapuściński slack because he was better at observing, imagining, and writing than Glass, and had the good sense to write from exotic places? Exactly how is Kapuściński different from James Frey in practice if not in execution?

More here.

US military unveils heat-ray gun

From the BBC:

Heat_rayThe prototype weapon was demonstrated at the Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

A beam was fired from a large rectangular dish mounted on a Humvee vehicle.

The beam has a reach of up to 500m (550 yds), much further than existing non-lethal weapons like rubber bullets.

It can penetrate clothes, suddenly heating up the skin of anyone in its path to 50C.

But it penetrates the skin only to a tiny depth – enough to cause discomfort but no lasting harm, according to the military.

A Reuters journalist who volunteered to be shot with the beam described the sensation as similar to a blast from a very hot oven – too painful to bear without diving for cover.

More here.

Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists?

From Sign and Sight:

Pascal Bruckner defends Ayaan Hirsi Ali against Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, condemning their idea of multiculturalism for chaining people to their roots.

“What to say to a man who tells you he prefers to obey God than to obey men, and who is consequently sure of entering the gates of Heaven by slitting your throat?” – Voltaire

“Colonisation and slavery have created a sentiment of culpability in the West that leads people to adulate foreign traditions. This is a lazy, even racist attitude.” – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

There’s no denying that the enemies of freedom come from free societies, from a slice of the enlightened elite who deny the benefits of democratic rights to the rest of humanity, and more specifically to their compatriots, if they’re unfortunate enough to belong to another religion or ethnic group. To be convinced of this one need only glance through two recent texts: “Murder in Amsterdam” by the British-Dutch author Ian Buruma on the murder of Theo Van Gogh (1) and the review of this book by English journalist and academic Timothy Garton Ash in the New York Review of Books (2). Buruma’s reportage, executed in the Anglo-Saxon style, is fascinating in that it gives voice to all of the protagonists of the drama, the murderer as well as his victim, with apparent impartiality. The author, nevertheless, cannot hide his annoyance at the former Dutch member of parliament of Somali origin, HirsialiAyaan Hirsi Ali, a friend of Van Gogh’s and also the subject of death threats. Buruma is embarrassed by her critique of the Koran.

Garton Ash is even harder on her. For him, the apostle of multiculturalism, Hirsi Ali’s attitude is both irresponsible and counter-productive. His verdict is implacable: “Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now a brave, outspoken, slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist.” (3). He backs up his argument with the fact that this outspoken young woman belonged in her youth to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. For Garton Ash, she has merely exchanged one credo for another, fanaticism for the prophet for that of reason.

More here.

Steven Pinker on thought and metaphor

Peter Calamai in the Toronto Star:

Pinker_6“We have to do two things with language. We’ve got to convey a message and we’ve got to negotiate what kind of social relationship we have with someone,” Pinker says in a telephone interview from his home in Cambridge, Mass.

Even something as seemingly straightforward as asking for the salt involves thinking and communicating at two levels, which is why we utter such convoluted requests as, “If you think you could pass the salt, that would be great.”

Says Pinker: “It’s become so common that we don’t even notice that it is a philosophical rumination rather than a direct imperative. It’s a bit of a social dilemma. On the one hand, you do want the salt. On the other hand, you don’t want to boss people around lightly.

“So you split the difference by saying something that literally makes no sense while also conveying the message that you’re not treating them like some kind of flunky.”

The Harvard psychologist classes the salt request as an example of indirect speech, a category that also includes euphemisms and innuendo. Two other key themes for Wednesday’s talk are the ubiquity of metaphor in everyday language and swearing and what it says about human emotion.

More here.

how the left went berserk


The anti-war movement disgraced itself not because it was against the war in Iraq, but because it could not oppose the counter-revolution once the war was over. A principled left that still had life in it and a liberalism that meant what it said might have remained ferociously critical of the American and British governments while offering support to Iraqis who wanted the freedoms they enjoyed.

It is a generalisation to say that everyone refused to commit themselves. The best of the old left in the trade unions and parliamentary Labour party supported an anti-fascist struggle, regardless of whether they were for or against the war, and American Democrats went to fi ght in Iraq and returned to fi ght the Republicans. But again, no one who looked at the liberal left from the outside could pretend that such principled stands were commonplace. The British Liberal Democrats, the continental social democratic parties, the African National Congress and virtually every leftish newspaper and journal on the planet were unable to accept that the struggle of Arabs and Kurds had anything to do with them. Mainstream Muslim organisations were as indifferent to the murder of Muslims by other Muslims in Iraq as in Darfur. For the majority of world opinion, Blair’s hopes of ‘giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty’ counted for nothing.

more from The Observer here.

coetzee on mailer


The lesson that Adolf Eichmann teaches, wrote Hannah Arendt at the conclusion of Eichmann in Jerusalem, is of “the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil” (Arendt’s italics). Since 1963, when she penned it, the formula “the banality of evil” has acquired a life of its own; today it has the kind of clichéd currency that “great criminal” had in Dostoevsky’s day.

Mailer has repeatedly in the past voiced his suspicion of this formula. As a secular liberal, says Mailer, Arendt is blind to the power of evil in the universe. “To assume…that evil itself is banal strikes me as exhibiting a prodigious poverty of imagination.” “If Hannah Arendt is correct and evil is banal, then that is vastly worse than the opposed possibility that evil is satanic”—worse in the sense that there is no struggle between good and evil and therefore no meaning to existence.

It is not too much to say that Mailer’s quarrel with Arendt is a running subtext to The Castle in the Forest. But does he do justice to her? In 1946 Arendt had an exchange of letters with Karl Jaspers sparked by his use of the word “criminal” to characterize Nazi policies. Arendt disagreed. In comparison with mere criminal guilt, she wrote to him, the guilt of Hitler and his associates “oversteps and shatters any and all legal systems.”

more from the NY Review of books here.

We give you the fruit of the palm and the vine from which you derive intoxicants and wholesome food


As Batmanglij notes, Muslims who wished to drink alcohol gave a variety of excuses. Wine was being drunk as a medicine. It was alleged that the Koran only forbade over-indulgence in wine. Wine that was diluted or boiled was acceptable. The ban applied only to wine and not to arak, beer, or fermented mare’s milk. Dick Davis, the eminent translator of classic Persian texts, has contributed an excellent chapter on “Wine and Persian Poetry” in From Persia to Napa in which he points out that the heroes of Firdawsi’s great epic, the Shahnama, drank heroically. He also discusses the metaphorical employment of “wine” in Persian Sufi poetry to signify ecstasy. Though many Sufi poems have survived in which this is indeed the case, Davis is rightly doubtful about the automatic translation of wine as some figurative reference to a spiritual experience. “Sometimes, and perhaps usually, a cigar is just a cigar – and wine just wine” according to Davis, paraphrasing Freud. In particular, Davis is sceptical about the wholesale assimilation of the fourteenth-century poetry of Hafiz of Shiraz into the mystical canon: “My own feeling is that he is almost always writing about what he says he is writing about, wine and carnal love, and that his occasional hankerings for a more secure and spiritual world safe from the vicissitudes of earthly life, are just that – occasional hankerings”. Wine and feasting feature prominently in the Arabian Nights, though the most famous of all the stories’ meals, the Barmecide feast in “The Barber’s Tale of His Sixth Brother”, was a decidedly notional one. The barber’s impoverished brother goes to dine with a member of the wealthy Barmecide clan. However, the wine and food offered by his host are invisible and impalpable. As the barber’s brother rises to leave, he strikes his host on the neck, before apologizing and claiming that he is drunk from having imbibed so much excellent wine. The host, in turn apologetic and amused, now provides him with a real meal. Zirbajah was another dish immortalized by literature, as it features in “The Reeve’s Tale” in the Nights. In this story, which is told by the controller of the King of China’s kitchen, a man turns up at a feast, but when presented with a dish of zirbajah, he vehemently refuses to eat it. On being pressed to reveal why, he shows that his thumbs have been cut off. His story is that he was on the verge of marrying a beautiful handmaiden of the caliph Harun al-Rashid. But while waiting to be admitted to the bedroom, he ate some zirbajah and forgot to wash his hands afterwards. When his bride-to-be discovered this, she was so enraged that she had his thumbs cut off.

more from the TLS here.

Life in Death


From Lens Culture:

Photographs can have magical story-telling quality, especially when they are introduced in an inviting way, and then, when they flow, in conversation with one another, allowing us to fill in the gaps and build a whole personal narrative within our own imaginations. That is the kind of magic that captured me when I picked up “Life in Death”, a photobook by Eva Persson.

“Life in Death” transported me to a very small village (named Death) in Finland, and introduced me, in an intimate way, to the people who live there and have lived there all of their lives. Through the seasons of dark grey winters and bright flower-filled summers, I feel as if I know these people — and this bit of the world — personally.

More here.

Brain Damage Sheds Light on Urge to Smoke

From Science:Brain_28

Cigarette smokers who suffer damage to a particular brain region often lose the urge to smoke, according to a new study. Although brain damage is hardly a recommended treatment for smokers who want to quit, researchers say the findings provide important insight into the biological basis of addictive behaviors.

Previous research on addiction has implicated the insula, a brain region tucked into a deep fold in the cerebral cortex. In brain scans of cocaine addicts, for example, the insula lights up in response to images of drug paraphernalia. Those kinds of images also tend to give addicts an urge to take more drugs. Similarly, videos of people smoking stimulate the insula in smokers’ brains. Such work suggests that the insula helps generate addicts’ drug-related urges. So what would happen if the insula suddenly went offline?

Antoine Bechara, a neuroscientist at the University Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues investigated this question in 19 cigarette smokers who had suffered insula damage as a result of a stroke or other neurological problem. Twelve of these people stopped smoking immediately after their brain injury and reported feeling no urges to smoke and no relapses since they quit. “My body forgot the urge to smoke,” one man told the researchers. Before his stroke he was smoking 40 unfiltered cigarettes a day and had no intention of quitting.

More here.

Ryszard Kapuscinski (1932-2007)


A great writer and a great man… I had the honor of meeting him once and giving him a tour of Los Angeles. I very much hoped I would have the chance to keep his company again. To me, he was one of the heroes of the 20th century and he was one of those few, brave persons who helped to give Poland some of its soul back.

Ryszard Kapuscinski, a globe-trotting journalist from Poland whose writing, often tinged with magical realism, brought him critical acclaim and a wide international readership, died yesterday in Warsaw. He was 74.

His death, at a hospital, was reported by PAP, the Polish news agency for which he had worked. No cause was given, but he was known to have had cancer.

Mr. Kapuscinski (pronounced ka-poos-CHIN-ski) spent some four decades observing and writing about conflict throughout the developing world. He witnessed 27 coups and revolutions. He spent his working days gathering information for the terse dispatches he sent to PAP, often from places like Ougadougou or Zanzibar.

At night, he worked on longer, descriptive essays with phantasmagoric touches that went far beyond the details of the day’s events, using allegory and metaphors to convey what was happening.

more from the NY Times here.

Steven Pinker on The Mystery of Consciousness

From Time Magazine:

Mbpinkerz_0129The young women had survived the car crash, after a fashion. In the five months since parts of her brain had been crushed, she could open her eyes but didn’t respond to sights, sounds or jabs. In the jargon of neurology, she was judged to be in a persistent vegetative state. In crueler everyday language, she was a vegetable.

So picture the astonishment of British and Belgian scientists as they scanned her brain using a kind of MRI that detects blood flow to active parts of the brain. When they recited sentences, the parts involved in language lit up. When they asked her to imagine visiting the rooms of her house, the parts involved in navigating space and recognizing places ramped up. And when they asked her to imagine playing tennis, the regions that trigger motion joined in. Indeed, her scans were barely different from those of healthy volunteers. The woman, it appears, had glimmerings of consciousness.

More here.

Barack to the Drawing Board

With Barack Obama’s presidential campaign underway, his advisors are working overtime to make sure their man appeals to the American public, and the first challenge is the name. Eric Feezell snags a secret memo proposing the Senator’s new monikers.

From The Morning News:

Obama_2Senator Brock O. Alabama

A decidedly more “American” first name, “Brock” could be your corn-fed, record-setting high school quarterback from Indiana. Middle initial may stand for “Opportunity.” As for “Alabama,” well, that sounds better than “Brock O. Bible Belt.”

Senator Barack “Blitzkrieging Barry” Obama

Nicknames: America loves them, and they’re crucial in helping people accept entities foreign and unknown. This strategy worked well for African-American baseball legend Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, who was one-hundred-percent black; considering Obama’s evenly split black and white heritage, could be twice as effective.

Senator “Ba Rock”

With professional wrestling and action movies setting record popularity levels, this may be the easiest way to lock in the 18-to-25 demographic. Would need to hire personal trainer, however.

More here.

Margerye Kempe at MLA

Via Cosma Shalizi, Margerye Kempe channels Chaucer (or herself) in this account of this year’s MLA.

In the seson of Cristemasse, thys pore creatur and caytyf did fynd herself in a straunge launde. For sche had maad passage to Ba’alt-Ymoor, the which citee she thoghte was yn the launde of the Sarazines ner the citee of Jerusalem. And she had gret compuncion and wepynge for the synfulness of her ignorance of geographie, for Ba’alt-Ymoor was in no wyse close to tho placez wher ower Lorde dyed on cross, but was in sted across a gret see and ytself was a place of passinge foulness wher ffolke did etyn only of the crabbes that walked on the floor of the bay Chesupyk and did watch the filmes of Johannes des Eaux (Pink Flamingoes did frighten her gretly). And thys creatur was sore afreyd of the synneres of that place and so sche went forth northewardes on the heighway XCV. Yet the way was long and her feet ached swich that she threw off her manohlo blahnikes and sat by the syde of the heigh way wepynge. And this was on the feest of Seynt John. As thys creatur lay in contemplacyon, sor wepynge for the peyne of her feet sche prayid to ower lorde for deliverance from this launde. And ower lorde seyde to her, “A, dowter, why wepest thou for the peyne of thy feet for thou knowst how soore my owene feet were woundid on mount calvarie? And therfor to bringe the to spiritual helth and contemplacioun I shal sende thee on a desperaat tryal and a terribil oon amonges devils and hir ministeres and necromanceres. For thou shalt fynde a tan volvo that schal be ful of clerkes and thes clerkes shall taak thee to the moost terribil place on al the erthe.” And the creatur seyde, “A, Lord, what ys this place so terribil?” And the lord seyde to her, “It is callid MLA.” And ther cam gret thundirkrakkys – thogh cleer was the daye – in the maner of a film of James Cameron.

And right so it befel in dede that a volvo did pulle up and a voys from it seyd, “You going to Philadelphia?” And thys creatur seyd, “I go to MLA,” and the voys seyde that MLA was part of Philadelphee and thus sche cam with hem. And in the volvo was a cumpany of thre yonge scolers, to wit I woman and II men. And thys creatur spak to them and seyd, “Tell me what maner ffolk ye aren.” And oon the men seyd, “My dissertation addresses the pressing question of the relation of the Owl and the Nightingale to the paradoxes of materiality and to changing ideas of spirituality at the same time that it questions what I would call outmoded models of allegoresis. Essentially, I propose that this heavily mediated text engages with debate poetry not as a generic exemplar but rather vis-a-vis an interstitial combination of truth claims and bestiary passages about cephalopods.” And thys creatur was soore confusid, and sche prayid to ower lord and wepid gret teares for the passioun of the child Jesu who had been born in a maunger to taak awey the synnes of all ffolke and also to deliver her from MLA. And alle the cumpany did wepe with her vntil the ladye who drof the van schouted at the oothirs and seyd, “Could you please be quiet? I’m trying to listen to the sparknotes for ‘Beloved.’” And thys creatur knewe litel of thes wyse clerkes wyth whom sche travilid and she askid what maner ffolk thei weren. Oon the men was named Genderstudyes and the othir man was named Medievaliste and the woman was named Americaniste-but-really-Faulknerstudyes. And thei were from Bigresearchuniversitee.

Can Cyclical Fluctuations in the Sun’s Core Explain Ice Ages?

In New Scientist:

Robert Ehrlich of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, modelled the effect of temperature fluctuations in the sun’s interior. According to the standard view, the temperature of the sun’s core is held constant by the opposing pressures of gravity and nuclear fusion. However, Ehrlich believed that slight variations should be possible.

He took as his starting point the work of Attila Grandpierre of the Konkoly Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 2005, Grandpierre and a collaborator, Gábor Ágoston, calculated that magnetic fields in the sun’s core could produce small instabilities in the solar plasma. These instabilities would induce localised oscillations in temperature.

Ehrlich’s model shows that whilst most of these oscillations cancel each other out, some reinforce one another and become long-lived temperature variations. The favoured frequencies allow the sun’s core temperature to oscillate around its average temperature of 13.6 million kelvin in cycles lasting either 100,000 or 41,000 years. Ehrlich says that random interactions within the sun’s magnetic field could flip the fluctuations from one cycle length to the other.

These two timescales are instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with Earth’s ice ages: for the past million years, ice ages have occurred roughly every 100,000 years. Before that, they occurred roughly every 41,000 years.

The Politics of Identity in Post-Identity Europe and America

In Prospect, Francis Fukuyama on the challenges posed by immigrants with identities for societies that have ostensibly moved past identity and modernity:

In the west, identity politics began in earnest with the Reformation. Martin Luther argued that salvation could be achieved only through an inner state of faith, and attacked the Catholic emphasis on works—that is, exterior conformity to a set of social rules. The Reformation thus identified true religiosity as an individual’s subjective state, dissociating inner identity from outer practice.

The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has written helpfully about the subsequent historical development of identity politics. Rousseau, in the Second Discourse and the Promenades, argued that there was a big disjuncture between our outer selves, which were the accretion of social customs and habits, and our true inner natures. Happiness lay in the recovery of inner authenticity. This idea was developed by Johann Gottfried von Herder, who argued that inner authenticity lay not just in individuals but in peoples, in the recovery of what we today call folk culture. In Taylor’s words, “This is the powerful ideal that has come down to us. It accords moral importance to a kind of contact with myself, with my own inner nature, which it sees as in danger of being lost… through the pressures toward social conformity.”

The disjuncture between one’s inner and outer selves comes not merely out of the realm of ideas, but from the social reality of modern market democracies. After the American and French revolutions, the ideal of la carrière ouverte aux talents was increasingly put into practice as traditional barriers to social mobility were removed. One’s social status was now achieved rather than ascribed; it was the product of one’s talents, work and effort rather than an accident of birth. One’s life story was the search for fulfilment of an inner plan, rather than conformity to the expectations of one’s parents, kin, village or priest.

Taylor points out that modern identity is inherently political, because it demands recognition. The idea that modern politics is based on the principle of universal recognition comes from Hegel. Increasingly, however, it appears that universal recognition based on a shared individual humanity is not enough, particularly on the part of groups that have been discriminated against in the past. Hence modern identity politics revolves around demands for recognition of group identities—that is, public affirmations of the equal dignity of formerly marginalised groups, from the Québécois to African-Americans to women to indigenous peoples to homosexuals.

Jimmy Carter on Palestine

In NPR, Jimmy Carter responds to criticism of his new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Since the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was signed in 1979, much blood has been shed unnecessarily and repeated efforts for a negotiated peace between Israel and her neighbors have failed. Despite its criticism from some Arab sources, this treaty stands as proof that diplomacy can bring lasting peace between ancient adversaries. Although disparities among them are often emphasized, the 1974 Israeli- Syrian withdrawal agreement, the 1978 Camp David Accords, the Reagan statement of 1982, the 1993 Oslo Agreement, the treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994, the Arab peace proposal of 2002, the 2003 Geneva Initiative, and the International Quartet’s Roadmap all contain key common elements that can be consolidated if pursued in good faith. There are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East:

1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians; and

2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories.

In turn, Israel responds with retribution and oppression, and militant Palestinians refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel and vow to destroy the nation. The cycle of distrust and violence is sustained, and efforts for peace are frustrated. Casualties have been high as the occupying forces impose ever tighter controls. From September 2000 until March 2006, 3,982 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis were killed in the second intifada, and these numbers include many children: 708 Palestinians and 123 Israelis. As indicated earlier, there was an ever-rising toll of dead and wounded from the latest outbreak of violence in Gaza and Lebanon.

The only rational response to this continuing tragedy is to revitalize the peace process through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, but the United States has, in effect, abandoned this effort.