United Church, Boycott, and the Palestinian-Israeli Products

The United Church has been roundly criticized for its boycott of Israeli products produced in the occupied settlements in the West Bank of Palestine. The criticism has been manifold: how dare you criticize the victims of the holocaust, how dare you criticize this instance of malfeasance when others in the world are not criticized, et cetera.

Let me suggest some reasons for supporting this boycott.

Gaza ‘will not be livable by 2020’ – UN report.

Gaza tunnel trade squeezed by Egypt ‘crackdown’. Gaza depends on the smuggling of goods from Egypt to provide basics, like batteries.Israel blockades many goods, like cement and rebar.

Egypt troops step up campaign against Sinai militants. Question: why does this bother the Israelis?

Rachel Corrie: Court rules Israel not at fault for death
Rachel Corrie stands between an Israeli bulldozer and a Palestinian house on 16 March 2003 in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Corrie was involved in a campaign to stop Palestinian homes in Gaza being demolished.
An Israeli court has ruled that the state of Israel was not at fault for the death of US activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003.

Wikipedia: notice the bulldozer was about to demolish a Palestinian house, not clear brush and bombs as in today’s news.

A video taken at the time of Rachel Corrie’s death (plus quite a bit of narration).

So, while Israel is taking this action in Gaza, we are supposed to not-allow Israeli goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza to be identified and thus potentially discriminated against.

The United Church has, at least for now, decided differently. To quote,

The resolutions also single out Israeli settlements as a principal obstacle to peace in the region, call on Israel to suspend settlement expansion, and express regret for previously asking Palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.

In (Partial) Defence of Marineland

There have been news reports on abuse of animals at Marineland, mostly bad water conditions, and at least one case of bad judgement in not separating weak animals from aggressive ones.

That said, the calls for Marineland to stop all its animal acts is, imho, a bit over the top. It takes a great deal of patience to teach an animal a new behaviour. Nobody has complained that this is animal cruelty. I am not sure that it is. The animals are generally taught with “operant conditioning“, where successive approximations to the desired behaviour are rewarded.

(I note that, with this technique, a chicken can eventually be trained to peck out a sentence on a keyboard. First, reward approaching the keys. Then reward pecking any key. Then reward getting closer to T. and so on. It takes a lot of time but it does work. The psychiatrist (?) who worked this out had it done to him by his own students: when he moved toward one corner, they looked up attentively; when he moved elsewhere they chatted and dropped pencils. He found himself cornered without realizing why. I suspect it is done to us all, all the time, especially in commercials featuring attractive members of the opposite sex.)

I think Marineland should be coerced, by law or by demonstrations, to clean up its act with regard to the living conditions of its animals. Water quality is a huge problem; large public aquaria have far more water “in the back” than you can see, by factors of forty or a hundred. I suspect marine mammals are just as likely, pound for pound, to foul their own water, as fish are, given the higher metabolic rate associated with homeothermy. If Marineland did not figure this out when designing the animal enclosures, shame on them, and they should be coerced to fix it now.

And, I don’t think they should be expected to simply close all the animal acts. It is a source of revenue, and represents an investment. They are entitled to a return on an investment that they legally made.

That’s a partial defence of the animal acts.

Failure to clean up the animal’s living conditions would be indefensible.

Tooting one’s Horn

I was surprised to see criticism in the Star’s Wheels column of people who blip their horns. I think most of us don’t use our car horns nearly often enough. I also think those who do use their horns are often people who should hold their tempers instead.

Skid School, years ago. 40 kmph speed zone, kids playing on the street, lots of irregularly parked cars. I’m driving a Dodge Caravan in a ‘test of how we actually drive in the real world’ evaluation.

I slow down, and as I approach the playing kids, I beep the horn – just a tap – not to scare the kids or startle them, but to make sure they realize there is a vehicle coming behind them.

Later at evaluation the instructor says, this was a very good thing to do. The other student drivers looked a bit sheepish, as I guess they never give a gentle warning hoot.

Driving on a street, car backing up from a driveway. Will it stop in time? Does the driver see me? A gentle beep saying, I’m here, is imho a good defensive manoeuver. Driving on the highway, car veers out of its lane toward us. Asleep? On cell phone? Deliberate lane change? A gentle beep, I’m here, is what I recommend.

Honking in annoyance doesn’t accomplish much. Making another driver aware of a potential mistake is useful.

So, toot your own horn. Appropriately.