The politics mostly make me sick and i don’t really like to write about it. But sometimes things happen, which are so unbelievably stupid, that i’ve gotta tell something about them.

There are new billboards popping up all over Israel: “Olmert, let us return to Israel! Eighty thousand settlers are living in danger on the other side of the fence.” And in the corner a small sign says – “One Home movement” (Bayit Echad, בית אחד).

For some reason i can’t find their website, but Bayit Echad is a movement of Israelis that claims to be social and non-political and its stated goal is to help the settlers that want to leave their homes in the settlements in Samaria to get a fair compensation. This is a lie, of course: I know that Avshalom Vilan from Meretz is one this movement’s leaders.

Now – of course they are entitled to their opinions. It’s their right to claim that destroying flourishing villages is their idea of “peace”. But this billboard is simply stupid. The first stupid thing is that no-one is making it so hard for those people to move to another home. Of course it might be expensive and complicated, possible more complicated than moving from Jerusalem to Haifa, but it’s not illegal; There is no Soviet-style “propiska” here and Olmert doesn’t have to “let” them do it.

Another problem is the danger. Yes – they are living in danger and if they run away from it, will the danger go away? Taking care of that danger is called “occupation” by the people who put up those billboards.

Another weird thing is saying “return to Israel”. They already are in Israel. This is the reality – the UN may claim otherwise, but in practice the settlements are a part of Israel: They are de-facto in the jurisdiction of Israeli courts, Israeli police has stations there and their mayors report to the Israeli Ministry of Interior. Again, the Bayit Echad are entitled to their opinion, but if they think that this kind of propaganda is a way of convincing the general public that the settlements are not a part of Israel, they are simply wrong. It is similar to Lubavitch Hassidim saying “may he live to see good days” instead of “peace be upon him” about their late Rebbe – it’s a natural part of ideology for them and a sad joke for almost everyone else.

And of course, there’s the matter of the fib: It’s not a settlers’ organization that is putting up those billboards, so they can’t say “we”. There is one guy from Karnei Shomron (nonstandard; see also Wikipedia) that is interviewed every now and then as part of this ridiculous PR campaign, but common sense says that he doesn’t represent any significant group of settlers.

Anyway, i hope that it will turn out to be a “you cannot fool all the people all the time” thing, but unfortunately these people have collaborators in the media, so more ugly and stupid surprises may lie ahead.


Changing my life with a wave of her hand

Lately i’ve been reading the printed version of Richard Stallman’s book Free Software, Free Society.

Reading and thinking to myself – here i am, reading a book, which is revolutionary to a certain degree. Which is naïvely (?) written and edited in a way that is supposed to be understood by people who are not computer geeks. I am sure that it fails. I even think that there’s a slight possibility that someone who doesn’t understand computers will actually read it, misunderstand it, and start some extremist group.

It makes me think – is it revolutionary like The Kapital? No, it is not. The Kapital is rather scientific, with historical and economical research behind it. Stallman is not so good with providing references for his claims. Some company did that, some guy did this, someone sued somebody else – almost without any reference. (It doesn’t mean that the whole Free Software movement sucks at reference – Lawrence Lessig’s excellent book Free Culture is very well referenced.) Yet the tone is convincing. I read it and i like to imagine Stallman speaking. This part is particularly powerful – he is talking about the first time he tried to get the source code for something and was refused:

See, he had promised to refuse to cooperate with us — his colleagues at MIT. He had betrayed us. But he didn’t just do it to us. Chances are he did it to you too. [Pointing at member of audience.] And I think, mostly likely, he did it to you too. [Pointing at another member of audience.] [Laughter] And he probably did it to you as well. [Pointing to third member of audience.] He probably did it to most of the people here in this room — except a few, maybe, who weren’t born yet in 1980. Because he had promised to refuse to cooperate with just about the entire population of the Planet Earth. He had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Now, this was my first, direct encounter with a non-disclosure agreement, and it taught me an important lesson — a lesson that’s important because most programmers never learn it. You see, this was my first encounter with a non-disclosure agreement, and I was the victim. I, and my whole lab, were the victims. And the lesson it taught me was that non-disclosure agreements have victims.

Transcript of Richard M. Stallman’s speech, “Free Software: Freedom and Cooperation”, New York University in New York, New York, on 29 May 2001.

I may not agree with every word, but i deeply respect this kind of universal radicalism – to see society and humanity beyond the dry legal texts.

I like to amuse myself with the idea that this book is revolutionary; that i am a revolutionary; that i read the right revolutionary books of the generation. And then i think that i am not sure that i would be very proud if as a young person a hundred years ago i would read Marx. Well, i am quite sure that had i lived then, i wouldn’t think that Marx is my kind of revolutionary, anyway, although i don’t know who would it be.

But guess what makes Stallman a little like Marx after all, even though it is probably not important to him?

They are both Jews.

I didn’t know it until today. Look at this: R. Poynder interviews R. M. Stallman (PDF).

Gmar khatima tova, everyone.

Oh (edit): H.L.A., thanks for the corrections.

A Visit to Gaza

Boys and Girls in Gaza


This is a picture from a children’s story at a website called Al-Fateh, which, despite its name, is actually operated by Hamas. OK, let’s see – a boy in short pants is riding a rocket painted with Amiga colors. A happy-looking girl is chasing him; she’s not dressed too modestly and could be Swedish for all i care. There are two boys on the ground holding the PA flag, one of them wears religious clothes. In the background there’s a bustling city and the title of the story is “A Visit to Gaza”. And by a total coincidence there’s also a crescent in the sky.

Brotherhood of boys and girls, and religious and secular (and maybe also Christian) Arabs. The picture of a city doesn’t look quite like the usual pictures of Gaza.

I am not making any claims – these are just thoughts.