phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer builds websites, makes art, and teaches in NYC

How to look at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiativemedium.com

Anil Dash wrote a very coherent critique of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s initiative to use their wealth for good.

I do believe that Mark and Priscilla want to have a meaningful positive impact on the world, and I am unapologetically enthusiastic about the fact they’re articulating that vision in a way that will lead others. I am also grievously concerned about the greatest threat to those intentions: The culture of Silicon Valley. Many of the loudest, most prominent voices within the tech industry, people who have Zuckerberg’s ear, are already thoughtlessly describing smart critique of the Initiative as “hating”, absurdly dismissing legitimate concerns as jealousy.

Here’s the truth: No matter how good their intentions, the net result of most such efforts has typically been neutral at best, and can sometimes be deeply destructive. The most valuable path may well be to simply invest this enormous pool of resources in the people and institutions that are already doing this work (including, yes, public institutions funded by tax dollars) and trust that they know their domains better than someone who’s already got a pretty demanding day job.

As Anil said on Twitter, “the best thing they could do is listen to critics.”

See also: Zuckerberg: give your stocks to Facebook users, and from NY Times Dealbook, How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself

Link

The invented people

Recently there’s been some discussion about Newt Gingrich’s views on Palestinians, that they are an invented people:

Remember, there was no Palestine as a state, it was part of the Ottoman Empire, and I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community.

An American talking about “invention” in the context of a people’s right to statehood is so mind-bendingly ironic. Anil Dash sums it up in 129 characters:

This position gets even weirder as Thomas Friedman (yeah, really!) points out where this line of reasoning takes us:

If the 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians are not a real people entitled to their own state, that must mean Israel is entitled to permanently occupy the West Bank and that must mean — as far as Newt is concerned — that Israel’s choices are: 1) to permanently deprive the West Bank Palestinians of Israeli citizenship and put Israel on the road to apartheid; 2) to evict the West Bank Palestinians through ethnic cleansing and put Israel on the road to the International Criminal Court in the Hague; or 3) to treat the Palestinians in the West Bank as citizens, just like Israeli Arabs, and lay the foundation for Israel to become a binational state. And this is called being “pro-Israel”?

It’s surprising that a right wing politician might be, in essence, arguing for a One State Solution. Aside from Friedman’s use of quotes around the word illegal — as in, “illegal” settlements — I think it’s a solid op-ed. But this notion of a group of people having their identity called into question is better explained by Laila El-Haddad:

After booking a flight online with British Airways out of Cairo (the nearest accessible airport for Palestinians here, eight hours and a border crossing away from Gaza), I attempted to enter my “passenger details”, including country of citizenship and residence.

Most people wouldn’t give this a second thought. But being the owner of a Palestinian Authority passport (which one can acquire only on the basis of an Israeli-issued ID card), I have become accustomed to dealing with Kafkaesque complications in routine matters.

And sure enough, in the drop-down menu of countries, I found the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Isle of Man and even Tuvalu – but no Palestine.

I collaborated with Laila on You Are Not Here and she told harrowing airport stories, of being detained and questioned on account of her “invented” status. I remember following one such adventure as she tweeted about being denied entry into Palestine by Egyptian authorities:

Imagine traveling from Copenhagen to New York, with a stopover in Montreal. Imagine being held by Canadian authorities because they don’t like your “American” passport. They send you back to Denmark because, you know, the United States doesn’t even have a legitimate monarchy! Who can trust these “invented” people?

The kicker is the lack of recourse, no Palestinian embassy can hold those Egyptian authorities to account. Gingrich’s position inadvertently calls attention to the estimated 12 million stateless people in the world. Their rights are not adequately protected in large part because they’re not considered legitimate people.