'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

Israel Settlements: Freeze them or put democracy on ice

Bush, centre, discusses the Middle East peace ...

Saner day: Bush with Sharon and Abbas. (Image via Wikipedia)

New Yorker editor David Remnick offers a cold assessment of the question of new settlements in East Jerusalem. Basically, he says, Netanyahu must figure out how to reboot himself as a more reasonable actor in this drama, or risk ever again being able to talk to his Arab partners.

The essential question for Israel is not whether it has the friendship of the White House—it does—but whether Netanyahu remains the arrogant rejectionist that he was in the nineteen-nineties, the loyal son of a radical believer in Greater Israel, forever settling scores with the old Labor élites and making minimal concessions to ward off criticism from Washington and retain the affections of his far-right coalition partners. Is he capable of engaging with the moderate and constructive West Bank leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, and making history? Does there exist a Netanyahu 2.0, a Nixon Goes to China figure who will act with an awareness that demographic realities—the growth not only of the Palestinian population in the territories but also of the Arab and right-wing Jewish populations in Israel proper—make the status quo untenable as well as unjust?

via Obama and Israel : The New Yorker.

There really aren’t many reasons for optimism. Especially if Obama — who has deeply felt, proven sympathies for Israel — is portrayed there as a member of the P.L.O.

Then again, who would have believed health care reform was going to pass…

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Filed under: Barack Obama, East Jerusalem, Israel, Middle East, The New Yorker, World, , , , ,

The best Haiti reporting yet

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - JANUARY 13:  A man hol...

On the streets in Port-au-Prince. (Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

As I wrote earlier this week, beware the first reports from a disaster scene. Often it’s in these hectic first days that some of the wildly inaccurate work gets slammed down. We’re at day six now. And Jon Lee Anderson just arrived.

For those who don’t know his work, Anderson is one of The New Yorker‘s most impressive staff writers. All his stories are must reads: His reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq was surprising, tender, and never typical and a recent piece from Brazil just as the Olympics were announced there was almost enough of a national black eye to start some kind of riot. And Che, the definitive biography Anderson spent ten years writing, is a masterpiece.

Some time in the last hours Anderson passed through the unmanned gates of the DR/Haiti border and is sending text messages to his editor Amy Davidson.

Check out the whole dispatch. No surprise: He’s already coined one of what will likely be the most succinct distillations of the situation: “Haiti has been out of sight and of of mind for far too long; it is like a Lower Ninth Ward of almost 10 million people.”

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Filed under: Haiti, Journalism, Media, The New Yorker, World, , , ,

Does sarcasm belong on the editorial page?

Dave Eggers at the 2007 Brooklyn Book Festival.

Dave Eggers cares about you and me and everyone else too. (Image via Wikipedia)

Many years ago, in a hot, crowded classroom in St. Petersburg, Russia, I had the chance to ask Dave Eggers a question. I was young, perilously close to being kinda nuts, and relatively fresh off the boat from a spell as a cub journalist in Cambodia.

As a result, I was more strident than I was informed. And The New Yorker had (finally, I thought, knowing nothing) run a story about Cambodia. But it was a feature about a chef! It was light and inconsequential and had nothing to say about genocide, the legless, land grabs, and corrupt generals — all stuff I was pretty passionate about and suspected that anyone who was not passionate thereabout must be corrected.

So with a chance to make an important correction, my blood boiled with excitement and urgency.

Standing up, clearing my throat, I said this: “Why can’t you do anything serious? Is being funny enough for you? You’re this voice of a generation and it’s all jokes — why not take up the good work of The New Yorker but do it even better?”

Eggers looked at me like I was an asshole. And I was, believe me.

This is what he said in response: “You know The New Yorker is a humor magazine, right?”

I didn’t — and I guess I’m still in denial.

So it was with a similar set of queasily held assumptions and principles that I read Colson Whitehead’s op-ed in The New York Times this morning. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Death, Entertainment, Journalism, Media, New York Times, The New Yorker, Writing, , , , , , ,

The two best pieces you'll read about Afghanistan and Pakistan

In this image released by the New York Times, ...

David Rohde in Afghanistan in September 2007. (Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife)

If Iraq is increasingly the forgotten war, I fear too that memory and foresight could soon fails us in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Given news that NATO ministers have endorsed General McChrystal’s plans for more American troops, clear-eyed vigilance is even more urgent. Here are two sources to sharpen your knowledge.

The first is New Yorker writer Jane Mayer’s devastating assessment of the growing U.S. “drone” program. The twin military and CIA programs use a convoluted web of contractors, official authorizations, and shady Bush-era kill commandments to seek out and assassinate key Al Qaeda operatives. The thing is, scores of civilians have been killed or injured in Afghanistan and worse, in Pakistan, with whom we are not at war. And earlier this year, one of the drones, called a Predator and armed with Hellfire missiles, went astray and had to be shot down. Even with important enemies taken out, is this program worth the collateral damage?

Helping answer that question is David Rohde’s stunning five-part account of his capture, seven-month detention, and ultimate escape attempt from the Taliban. The drama of his personal ordeal is riveting enough. Better still is his almost revolutionary access to Taliban in their natural habitat. Moved by his kidnappers from southern Afghanistan into the Talib microstate in northern Pakistan, this New York Times reporter has first-hand intelligence on the cold-blooded leaders, fanatic underlings, and tragic malevolence of a little-understood movement. Guess what? His captors are terrified of being vaporized by a drone. But when one strikes nearby, more recruits join the Taliban fold.

This is Obama’s war. It’s confusing; it’s heartbreaking; it’s not going away. The least we can do is our homework. And Mayer and Rohde are essential sources.

Bonus: My friend Adam B. Ellick makes video documentaries for The New York Times. This is his harrowing, heartbreaking story from Swat.

Filed under: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Media, New York Times, Pakistan, Taliban, The New Yorker, , , , , , , ,