Posted on December 04, 2012 in Countdown

Believe your eyes, Countdown is back! With the mid-term elections only 700 days away… Ok, this really isn’t about how close the mid-term elections are; we’re back by popular demand. You and Countdown haven’t seen each other in a few weeks, and we can’t bear to keep you apart another minute longer, so let’s get right to it:

Palestine Recognized

When the Palestinians decided to bring their bid for non-member (observer) state recognition to the UN General Assembly, Washington panicked. But all the denunciations and threats didn’t keep 138 countries from voting to admit Palestine as an observer state, including several major European countries. The United States and Israel were joined by only 7 countries in voting against Palestine, including such major global players as Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and the Marshall Islands (whose combined populations are outnumbered by Countdown readers). Israel is now trying to retaliate against the successful Palestinian bid by building new illegal settlements in the critical E1 zone to the north-east of Jerusalem. But European countries (including the Germans, British, and French) aren’t taking Israel’s destructive measures lightly, and are threatening to withdraw support from Israel over the settlements announcement. Our government wasn’t happy either, but it predictably skipped the meaningful pressure part and settled for rhetorical opposition.

Say Hello to the New Congress

Looks like Congress is finally changing to better reflect the demographics of the country; instead of being run almost exclusively by old white men, the 113rd Congress will have a surprisingly high number of young white men! In fact, POLITICO reports that for the first time, more members of the House were born in the 1980's than the 1920's. Included among the young 'uns is Arab American Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI), who, at 32, is one of the youngest members of Congress. We hope that the fresh blood will give the government a fresh take on some long-standing issues, but more importantly, we're excited for pop culture references from the House floor. Next time they discuss prescription drug benefits, look out for a “Saved by the Bell” reference to Jessie Spano's "drug"-induced meltdown. On an even more exciting note, with Allen West and Joe Walsh defeated, Michele Bachmann will have far fewer anti-Muslim friends in Congress in the coming term. Stay tuned for a more comprehensive AAI report on the 113th Congress.  

No More King Hearings

Congressman Peter King, the gadfly protagonist behind the controversial hearings on the so called “radicalization of the Muslim American community,” is no longer the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. But before you fully exhale that sigh of relief, you may want to take a look at his replacement, Texas Republican Mike McCaul. Salon political reporter Alex-Seitz Wald reminds us that McCaul, in many ways, isn’t too different from Rep. King. McCaul was a strong proponent for Peter King’s anti-Muslim show trials, praising King for his “political courage” to move forward with the hearings despite a mainly quizzical response from the media. Seitz-Wald’s article also directs our attention to McCaul’s appearance on Frank Gaffney’s radio program “Secure Freedom Radio.” If you’ve been reading Countdown, we don’t need to explain why the Gaffney connection is disturbing. But if you haven’t, know that Gaffney is the inspirer of Michele Bachmann’s silly accusations that Hilary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin, might be a Muslim Brotherhood spy. The madness might not be fully behind us yet.

Amash Pays Price for Independence

Standing up to one’s party and voting on principle instead of running along with the herd is indeed admirable, but it comes with a cost. Arab American Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) paid the price for his independence and principled leadership this week, when it was announced that he would no longer serve on the House Budget Committee. According to the National Journal, Amash is not alone, but is one of 4 Republicans who “clashed with party leadership in recent years” and are being punished for it. Another is Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ), whose spokeswoman yesterday said “This morning Congressman Schweikert learned that there was a price to be paid for voting based on principle. That price was the removal from the House Financial Services Committee.” The National Journal said that Republican leaders have been “hamstrung by their relative lack of leverage over their own members.” Will punitive measures lead independent members to fall in line in the future?

Gaza: One Media Outlet Got It Right

When Israel launched a devastating assault on Gaza a few weeks ago, mainstream U.S. coverage suffered a critical but predictable flaw: it portrayed rocket fire from Gaza as the starting point of the crisis, ignoring the lethal Israeli military incursions that preceded the rocket fire, as well as the pre-existing blockade that is suffocating Gaza’s economy. In spite of this flaw, there was a notable improvement in how the media treated Palestinians: they did not obscure their humanity. In one episode, the Washington Post came under fire for posting a photo of a grieving Palestinian father holding his 11-month-old son’s body after he was killed by an Israeli strike, which critics alleged was evidence of anti-Israel bias. But instead of issuing an apology, the Washington Post’s Ombudsman, Patrick B. Pexton, stood up for the paper’s decision to run the photo, and wrote a strong rebuttal (really worth reading) to the critics. He said a photo of a grieving Israeli parent wasn’t printed to “balance” the story because “The Post cannot publish photographs that don’t exist. No Israeli civilian had been killed [at the time] by Gaza rocket fire since Oct. 29, 2011, more than a year earlier.” More importantly, Pexton noted the massive power disparity between Israel and Gaza, and insisted that the photo chosen for the story was appropriate because it told an “important part of the truth.” Since we’re sure Pexton received a lot of criticism, we encourage you to let him hear from those who approved of his courageous decision: ombudsman@washpost.com.

Lowering the Bar

As this latest round of violence in Gaza proved yet again, there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Luckily, Israeli leaders have a good alternative to crushing all dissent with the use of overwhelming force: mutual respect and recognition with the people of Palestine, and a return to serious and fair negotiations. Just kidding, the plan is just to extra-judicially assassinate more people. And the Israeli logic is impeccable: “If the U.S. can do it in Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan, why can’t we do it in Palestine?” You know, there was a time when the U.S. set a pretty high moral standard for how to behave in the world, and in recent years, we’ve really lowered the bar. If we keep this up, we might revert to a “free for all,” law of the jungle-type world, which will be terrific with all the advanced weaponry we’ve developed since. Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Yonah Jeremy Bob argues that targeted assassinations are fully legal, and “until and if the war on terror dies down globally…targeting [sic] killings of terror leaders even off the battlefield” would be acceptable to the international community, as long as Israel is in something akin to a “state of war” with Gaza. Luckily for Israel, that will always be the case, since every time they assassinate a political leader, that “state of war” starts all over again.

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