Wednesday, December 29, 2010

who cares if a Palestinian civilian is killed by Israel?

Of all the Israeli human rights organizations, B'tselem stands tall in doggedly following the plight of the Palestinians, documenting it and pushing the facts in the face of Israel.

The latest publication, Void of Responsibility, I have just received in the mail. It deals with the policy of the Israeli military not to investigate the killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers.

I want to reproduce some brief excerpts so you can understand how Palestinians not only have no meaningful rights in the eyes of Israel, but that they are not even considered worthy of attention beyond coercion and the application of force.

First, Israel slacks off investigations -
From the beginning of the first intifada, in December 1987, to the outbreak of the second intifada, in September 2000, the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) investigated almost every case in which Palestinians not taking part in hostilities were killed. At the beginning of the second intifada, the Judge Advocate General's Office announced that it was defining the situation in the Occupied Territories an “armed conflict,” and that investigations would be opened only in exceptional cases...and treated every act carried out by soldiers as a combat action, even in cases when these acts bear the clear hallmarks of a policing action.
Then B'tselem challenges this, the Palestinians having no hope of successfully doing so -
In November 2005, in the framework of a hearing on a petition filed by B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel objecting to the policy of not opening MPIU (Military Police Investigation Unit) investigations, the army instituted a procedure calling for preliminary investigation, within a limited period of time, of cases in which Palestinians not taking part in hostilities were killed. However, the procedure did not set a time framework for making decisions whether to order an MPIU investigation or to prosecute alleged offenders.
Israel makes motions to deal with it, but doesn't
The establishment, in 2007, of the Office of the Judge Advocate for Operational Matters, which was intended to improve the efficiency in handling complaints and reduce the handling time, did not bring about significant change.

During the period covered by the report (2006-2009), B'Tselem made a demand for an MPIU investigation in 148 cases. The Judge Advocate General's Office ordered an MPIU investigation in only 22 cases. In 36.3 percent of the cases in which an MPIU investigation was opened, the investigation did not begin until a year or more after the incident occurred. Where an MPIU investigation was carried out, two ended with the Judge Advocate General's Office's decision to close the file without prosecution; the others await decision. In 95 cases, 16 of which date from 2006, preliminary handling by the Judge Advocate General's Office has not been completed, and B'Tselem has not been informed whether an MPIU investigation will be ordered.

But B'tselem, like a dog with a bone, is persisting by issuing the report mentioned above
To explore the considerations, the report analyzes a number of instances in which the decision was made not to open an MPIU investigation and finds that MPIU investigations were not opened also in cases in which there was a serious suspicion of clear breach of international humanitarian law.
Should you wonder, like I do, about what organization to support over any others, B'tselem is a good choice. They are in the trenches, pull no punches and publicize what they do. Giving videocams to Palestinians to document what happens to them is another brilliant idea of theirs.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

ethnic cleansing for a theme park and settlement in East Jerusalem

The Silwan Protest Tent


The picture above shows the tent erected by Palestinians in their neighborhood of Al-Bustan in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem. It was set up in 2008 to bring attention to the evictions taking place in the area to make way for Jewish settlers (East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank, the occupied territories) and a biblical theme park for tourists. This is a project to be expected of a country intent on turning biblical mythology into fact while erasing the people who live there. Jimmy Carter has visited the tent in support of the human rights effort it represents.

the vision: a theme park and settlement to replace Palestinians
(biblical theme park for tourists at left, City of David settlement at right)


Needless to say, the tent is a serious threat to Israel's project because it strips away the clean urban planning theme to show the ugly truth. Adnan Gheith is a central character in this account because he was one of those who planned the tent and is a leader in the weekly protests that occur there. He is a marked man, just like Adib abu Rahma, and for exactly the same reason - he is a leader of effective non-violent resistence for which Israel's weaponry is useless.

To illustrate the uselessness of law for the protection of individual rights, consider this list of arrests for Adnan Gheith:
  1. Israeli security force arrives at Gheith's home at 3AM, takes Gheith away for questioning. He is told that stone throwing and the tent must go. After a few hours he is released.

  2. Israeli security force in ski masks arrives at 3AM, takes Gheith away for questioning. This time there is shouting by the interrogator with a death threat. Gheith is in custody for 6 days, the last 4 in solitary confinement.

  3. Israeli security calls Gheith in and more threats are made, but he is free to go.

  4. A hearing is held about demolishing the protest tent. At 5AM the next day police come looking for Gheith at home, don't find him and call him in. More shouting and threats, this time including hints that his family will be harmed. The police want 20 days of house arrest but the court allows "only" three.

  5. Police call Gheith in to again shout at and threaten him over the protest tent and stone throwing but he is allowed to leave.

  6. Police call Gheith in to serve him notice that he will be expelled from East Jerusalem
That last item was on November 28, 2010. Now, a man who has done nothing wrong awaits eviction from not just his home but his home town. Where is the law in all this? There isn't any when one is subject to military justice. Americans, comfortable in our homes, support this injustice with every dollar we send to Israel and with every pro-Israel resolution passed by our Congress.

There are too many Americans who are under the mistaken belief that in the Middle East there are two sides equally to blame for an unsolvable mess. Nothing could be further from the truth but such a view allows people to do nothing while injustice occurs. Israel is grateful for this view held by many Americans because it permits that state to continue to force a native people off their land.

Let Adnan Gheith speak for himself (starts 1:20 in). He needs our help, will we give it? Jewish Voice for Peace provides a way you can protest.

UPDATE: Adnan Gheith must leave East Jerusalem for four months. According to the article in Haaretz, "Jith (Gheith) was never issued with an indictment, nor did the authorities produce any evidence against him." He has two weeks to appeal.


Monday, December 20, 2010

hypocrisy, U.S. government style

In a previous blog post, I covered the case of Abdallah Abu Rahmah. Here is a YouTube video that captures completely the total hypocrisy of the United States government when it comes to anything concerning Israel, in this case the imprisonment of Abu Rahmah.



A follow-up...March 2011, from the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee

Jailed Bil’in Protest Organizer, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Released One Day Behind Schedule

Abu Rahmah was released this evening, after having served the 16 months sentence imposed on him by the Israeli Military Court of Appeals for organizing demonstrations. Abu Rahmah was received by his family, friends and supporters at the prison’s gate and vowed to continue the struggle.

After much delay, Abu Rahmah who was supposed to have already been released yesterday, was finally released from the Ofer Military Prison this evening. He was received by hundreds who waited for him at the prison’s gate.

Abu Rahmah, who during his trial was declared a human rights defender by the EU and a prisoner of conscious by Amnesty International, vowed to continue struggling against the Occupation, despite his unjust imprisonment and the six-months suspended sentence still imposed on him. He said, “On my release, I have no intention to go back home and sit there idly. In fact, by imprisoning me they have silenced me long enough. Our cause is just, it is one striving for freedom and equality, and I intend to continue fighting for it just as I have before”.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010: a good year

Though I have only been blogging for the past few months of the year, overall, 2010 leaves me optimistic about the situation for the Palestinians. Though the chances of breaking the bond between the U.S. Congress and Israel is still daunting, the rest of the world is acting to right a terrible wrong without America.

Some good things:

Jewish Voice for Peace is becoming a real force in standing against the Israeli land grab. I still cannot tell if JVP is anti-Zionist, but I don't sense they refuse help from those who are.

The mainstream U.S. pro-Israel groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League are more transparent than ever in their attempts to equate opposition to Israeli policies with anti-Semitism. I'm going to watch the movie Defamation soon, a documentary on Abe Foxman's organization.

The Jewish National Fund (tree-planting) and the Jewish Assembly in New Orleans were both invaded and disrupted by anti-occupation, if not anti-Israel agitators with the resulting media attention.

The complete failure of President Obama to stop settlements, even after offering a ridiculous collection of gifts to Netanyahu's administration only makes perfectly clear the farce that is the United States position regarding Israel. Eyes were opened by this.

Palestinian student groups in the U.S. are finding their voice. I've attended several events in the Chicago area, one of which was the initial public event (with a good turnout) for the North Eastern Illinois University Palestinian student group. I look forward to more from them.

The FBI raids on the homes of people charged with nothing have illustrated how weak are the laws that protect Americans from their government, something we supposedly pride ourselves on. Could there be any better reason to support the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)?

The Israeli Knesset continues to shoot itself in the foot by bringing forth legislation that is clearly undemocratic. Israeli clerics spout hatred and nonsense, allowing Americans to see how valuable is the separation between church and state.

Best of all, outstanding video keeps coming out of the occupied territories, revealing to the world the dire situation of the Palestinians and the need for sanctions against Israel for the blatant and illegal land grab under the protection of the Israeli army, the IDF. Palestinian non-violent protests can now be followed as can the heavy-handed treatment of the leaders of these protests by Israel.

I believe the tide is turning and I look forward to 2011

Thursday, December 16, 2010

master's thesis creates a fuss in Canada

A remarkable master's thesis has been written by a Canadian who is a Jew, Jenny Peto. The title is The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education

You can get a PDF of the thesis. I read it and I recommend it to you.

Here's the abstract - boldface is mine...
This paper focuses on issues of Jewish identity, whiteness and victimhood within hegemonic Holocaust education. I argue that today, Jewish people of European descent enjoy white privilege and are among the most socio-economically advantaged groups in the West. Despite this privilege, the organized Jewish community makes claims about Jewish victimhood that are widely accepted within that community and within popular discourse in the West. I propose that these claims to victimhood are no longer based in a reality of oppression, but continue to be propagated because a victimized Jewish identity can produce certain effects that are beneficial to the organized Jewish community and the Israeli nation-state. I focus on two related Holocaust education projects – the March of the Living and the March of Remembrance and Hope – to show how Jewish victimhood is instrumentalized in ways that obscure Jewish privilege, deny Jewish racism and promote the interests of the Israeli nation-state.
The March of Remembrance and Hope (for anyone) and the March of the Living (for Jews), take teenagers to a former concentration camp in Poland and then on to Israel. It will come as no surprise that the organizers are the same folks who provide the Birthright tours of Israel (occupied territories not included) that hope to make American Jewish kids believe they are entitled to claim another people's land as their own, or at least indoctrinate them to support those who do.

Peto's analysis of the psychology involved in the tours is persuasive. Zionism has always been an activist program - whether driving Palestinians from Palestine or recruiting Jews to move to Israel, Zionists have a single goal in mind and have been successful to date. Yet the exposure of the program for what it is rather than what Zionists claim it to be is eroding support rapidly.

As you might guess, Peto's work has been denounced as anti-Semitic, a charge that becomes more like that of the boy who cried wolf every day.

That the U.S. Congress is a Zionist captive is clear from news today of the unanimous House of Representatives resolution to block any recognition of a Palestinian state even as Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay do so with others likely to follow. It's as if a blizzard is forecast and the United States puts on a bathing suit while others bundle up.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The JNF - from white to black

There is a term for pro-Israel propaganda, hasbara, that is being used more and more as "the story of Israel" is coming out from the kind of storytelling known in the movie "Exodus" to the truth of a relentless quest for land regardless of those living on it.

With the truth of the story of Israel becoming more generally known, it's interesting to see the truth about the Jewish National Fund (JNF) come to light. What could be more benign than a group with the intention of planting trees in an arid place? Surely beautification and the creation of forests cannot be bad. If you look on their website they are highlighting the recent Carmel forest fires, that forest is an interesting case.

The Carmel forest didn't exist early in the 20th century, but Palestinian villages in that area did. With the coming of Israel these villages were erased and the JNF planted the trees in order to completely obliterate any trace of them, making it impossible for the evicted residents to return. Max Blumenthal has written an account of it, The Carmel Fires are Burning All Illusions in Israel.

The JNF has an annual meeting in the U.S. and this last summer it was disrupted for the first time, I believe, by protesters one of whom has written an account and explanation for the demonstration.

The tree-planting effort by the JNF in order to extinguish the past continues to this very moment in the Negev desert where Bedouin Israelis have had their town, Al-Araqib, demolished by their own government six times (and counting). In this case, the JNF has teamed up with another fervid group, GOD-TV to create the GOD-TV Forest complete with a sign announcing the fact.


Notice the sign says nothing about anyone or anything that was present before the creation of the forest. That would be an inconvenient detail, just as it would be for the other projects of the JNF.

UPDATE: January 1, 2012 - the following video gives a short overview of how the JNF operates, starting with mention of El-Araqib, where Palestinian citizens of Israel have been evicted 30 times to date.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

FBI questions U.S. citizen on travel to Israel/Palestine

Americans are proud of their freedoms. We'd like to think we can travel freely and visit any country we wish, but if you want to see Israel and the occupied territories, the FBI may be calling you. Here is a letter from an American, Sarah Smith (so American a name it sounds fake!) telling what happened to her:

I Am Being Subpoenaed By the FBI
by Sarah Midge Smith on Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On Friday morning, December 3rd, I received a phone call from an FBI agent. He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit down and speak with him so he could ask me some questions. I asked about what and he said he “was not at liberty to discuss it.” I then asked if I needed a lawyer present and he said it was up to me but that I was not in any trouble and that they just had a few questions. I felt something suspicious about him telling me he wanted to ask me some questions, but he would not tell me what these questions were. So I said that I had to consult a lawyer and check my schedule and that I would get back to him. I reiterated that it would be easier for me to meet him if I knew why an FBI agent wanted to sit down with me. He then said that it had to deal with the trip I took this summer. He then emphasized, “I think you know which one I’m talking about.”

The trip I took last summer was to Israel and Palestine. I am Jewish and wanted to see first hand what life is like for Israelis and Palestinians. If I went on the standard tour to Israel, I would not be shown how Palestinians live. So I went on a tour that showed me both worlds, Israel, and the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank. I went with 2 Palestinian-American friends. You would think Jews and Palestinians going together to visit Israel and Palestine is something the U.S. government would encourage. Instead, we are now being ordered by the FBI to go before a Grand Jury for going on that trip.

The US government says it supports peace between Israel and Palestine. It says it supports separate Israeli and Palestinian states. So why does the FBI investigate us because we went to see the Palestinian land? Top US government leaders meet with Palestinian leaders, so why does the FBI investigate us because we talked to average Palestinians on the street? I went there so I could make up my own mind and talk about what I saw. It seems to me our government wants to hide what Israel is doing to Palestinians.

I would like to thank the Committee Against Political Repression for the support they have given me and I encourage everyone to check out www.stopfbi.net to learn more and to sign the petition against this witch hunt.

You can help by donating to my legal defense by sending a tax-deductible check to NLG Foundation. In the memo write: FBI Raids. You can mail it to Sarah Smith at 2961 S. Bonaparte, Chicago, Il 60608.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

to see if I am smiling

My niece is in the armed forces. For her it has been all positive - gung ho, team spirit, flags snapping in the wind and jets flying in formation overhead. I have never served because I was lucky enough to get a high number in the Vietnam draft lottery. The number for my birthday was 262. The number for the day before my birthday was 8.

Life is like that.

I don't think I have ever felt such sorrow as when I visited the Vietnam war memorial in Washington, DC. It is the perfect object for its purpose, a dark wedge of marble, starting small, growing tall and deep, then becoming small again, just as did the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. I can't stand before it without tears because I know the 55,000 who died were my brothers who got the short straw. But I cannot forget that over two million Vietnamese died in that war under the assault of a nation from the other side of the world.

So my heart doesn't pound when bands play, troops march in parade and crowds cheer. Defense is necessary, glorification is not.

To see the truth, I ask you to watch a whopping 60 minutes of video, made by Israelis about young Israeli women drafted into the IDF. The title is mysterious but comes through powerfully late in the show. Please watch To See if I am Smiling.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

settlements will continue, the truth is now clear

In the news, the Obama administration admits defeat in its attempt to get Israel to stop building settlements.

It should be noted that at no time was the possibility of withholding the huge annual payment of over $3 billion to Israel from the United States even mentioned. If there was any doubt anywhere about the strength of the Israel lobby in the United States, it should now be gone. The President of the world's only superpower has no power whatsoever over a tiny country of 7 million on the other side of the world as it proceeds in a project that is as alien to the principles of human rights, liberty and justice supposedly valued by America is can be.

This is certainly a wake up call for all Americans, because it shows that the United States is bound to a rogue state that feels free to do as it wishes regardless not only of world opinion but of the policy of its one and only supporter.

Israel continues to move to more extreme positions that contradict the separation of religion and state in the U.S. There's no better example than the effort of a group of rabbis to deny housing to non-Jews by calling for property owners to refuse to rent to them in the Israeli city of Safed, claiming this is called for in the Torah. With this, the support for Israel by world Jewry will be further reduced, further clarifying the distinction between Judaism and Zionism.

At the same time, the blindness of the Israeli government to what it is doing to the Palestinians in the occupied territories is shown in Benjamin Netanyahu's condemnation of the rabbis' effort. Netanyahu claims the refusal to rent to non-Jews is unbecoming of a democracy, even as his government continues to support the settlers who take land from the Palestinians with no regard to the right of the owners to defend themselves in law. The Palestinians are under the complete control of Israel, that daily exerts its power to do with them as it pleases. Yet, refusing to rent to non-Jews is an affront to democracy!

Israel fails to recognize that it has no future on its present course. Either the Palestinians get a state of their own, now very unlikely, or Israel becomes a true democracy with equal rights for both Jews and Palestinians. There is a feeling among Palestinians that the best thing to do now is nothing and let the settlements continue until the Palestinians are thoroughly distributed within "greater Israel". Their plight as non-entities will be so egregious that Israel will sink to the bottom of nations (not much further to go), justly reviled and isolated, unable even to keep the support of the United States, whose citizens will be repulsed by blatant apartheid.

The rabbis intent on discrimination are paving the way. Expect much more such arrogance to come.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

covering (up) the news

With the release of information from Wikileaks, the world sees how what goes on at high levels is kept from the public. As important, if not more so, is how countries try to limit or spin the news being reported. What would you think of the objectivity of the New York Times reporting from the area if you knew all the reporters are Jewish, one is married to an Israeli, another has a son in the IDF. Does anyone speak Arabic? This is a primary reason you should be checking sources directly if you want to know what is happening.

Jonathan Cook is a reporter who has worked for several newspapers, reporting about the Middle East. On his blog he recently posted a lengthy but fascinating account of his history trying to get the news out in the face of suppression. For a sample, read the following excerpt then go to his site for the full story.

The basic principles of media management were developed early on by Israel, as Donald Neff, the Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine in the late 1970s, has described. In an article for The Link 15 years ago, he wrote about what he called his “epiphany” during three years covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, rather than a single revelation, his epiphany came as a series of insights that cumulatively undermined his belief in the Zionist narrative he had grown up accepting. His increasingly critical reporting set him in opposition to other foreign correspondents in Jerusalem and incurred the wrath of Israeli officials and lobbyists in the US. His Link essay is fascinating not least because of the continuing relevance of many of his experiences more than 30 years later.

One observation Neff makes, however, no longer applies to the current crop of foreign correspondents. He notes the difficulty he faced at the time of his posting in the 1970s in learning about the essentials of the conflict. In part, Neff suggests, he struggled to make sense of what he was witnessing because of a dearth of reliable information in English on Israel’s history and even more so on its then less than 10-year-old occupation. Without a proper context for understanding the conflict, he found himself vulnerable to the misinformation campaigns of Israeli officials, who claimed that the occupations of the West Bank and Gaza were entirely benevolent.

Neff admits he failed to heed the reports of the the United Nations, the one body regularly investigating and publicising the realities of the occupation. Like other foreign correspondents of the time, and those of today, Neff regarded the UN as a discredited organisation, chiefly because of successful smear campaigns by Israel. Neff paints a disconcerting picture that few Western readers could have appreciated at the time: of a press corps that, far from mastering the news agenda on Israel, largely abided by a part self-imposed, part Israeli-dictated news blackout.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Budrus

I saw the movie Budrus yesterday. It is a documentary covering the non-violent protests in the West Bank village of Budrus that succeeded in altering the course of the separation wall.

While the movie is upbeat, it leaves unsaid that Israel learned from the experience and now imprisons non-violent protest leaders in order to decapitate the efforts in other Palestinian villages such as Bi'lin and Nil'in, to re-route the wall.

The movie has an interesting cast of characters, real people doing what they think is right. We have an IDF captain who tells us in perfect American English that it's too bad about the situation but Israelis need to sleep at night. He doesn't address the fact that it isn't the separation wall that is being disputed, but the route it takes through Palestinian lands.

We also see an Israeli border policewoman who sympathizes with the plight of the Palestinian women she forces away from their lands but, of course, does what she is told, later retiring from the force to enjoy a family and comfort in Israel, helped in its endless expansion at the expense of the helpless by her efforts.

A HAMAS member sees the value of non-violence, people from Israel and other countries participate in opposing the destruction of olive groves, some getting arrested briefly for their efforts.

The young men of Budrus cannot be prevented from throwing rocks and eventually there is live fire from the Israeli troops who are frustrated in their efforts to sweep aside the people from their land so the bulldozers can work unimpeded.

Will this movie someday be in the category of "The Battle of Algiers" for the window it provides on oppression and resistance? It might be. Time will eventually force Israel to face a world and a world of Jews that repudiate it. As the move to the right becomes ever more extreme, even those who support Israel in the United States will be repulsed by what they see happening with their funding. The old generation that could dismiss one wrong (Zionism) because of another (the Holocaust) is passing from the scene. Young people see the oppression by Israel for what it is. For all the military might Israel possesses, Zionism is an extremist proposition that rejects humanity at large in favor of a few. This movie shows how the Palestinians have learned to use their strength, their humanity, and the moral high ground they undoubtedly possess in a way that makes the possession of weapons a liability for their oppressors.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AIPAC is tax exempt. Why?

What is a non-profit corporation? Here's a simple answer I found.
"A nonprofit corporation is not formed with the intent to realize a profit, but is established for a religious, charitable, educational, literary or scientific purpose. Qualifying nonprofit corporations will be granted tax-exempt status by both federal and state authorities. "
Does AIPAC qualify? They would like you and the IRS to think so, but there is good reason to believe they don't. The evidence comes from information revealed in legal actions in which AIPAC has been involved over the years.

Hence, this story in the news...
IRS Asked to Revoke AIPAC's Tax Exemption

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today the Internal Revenue Service received a 1,389 page filing demanding that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC's) tax exempt status be retroactively revoked. The filing, submitted by the IRmep Center for Policy and Law Enforcement, spans nearly 60 years, from the moment AIPAC's founder left the employment of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the present.
If you'd like to read a 67 page PDF of the filing, you can get all the details, but here are a few interesting excerpts that do make one wonder about tax exemption for AIPAC (italics mine).
AIPAC’s founder left the Israeli government after agreeing with its representatives to lobby for aid and support in the United States...Little inside knowledge and few declassified documents are needed to understand that AIPAC’s purpose is to represent and secure concessions for the Israeli government in the United States. AIPAC’s activities have inevitably led to many costly law enforcement actions as different regulators attempted to limit its harmful impact on society. AIPAC’s earliest “educational” activities helped spur nuclear proliferation in the Middle East in direct opposition to official US policy while its foreign funded propaganda campaigns undermined the US news media, academia and freedom of speech. Documented AIPAC propaganda campaigns funded and conducted on behalf of Israel confirm that it is not an “educational” association either by the IRS definition or section of DC Code under which it was organized.

AIPAC’s actual activities also reveal it serves few discernable social welfare functions in the United States—a requirement for 501(c)(4) status. The Department of Justice, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the FBI, the US Trade Representative and the federal judiciary system have all undertaken costly monitoring and enforcement actions in response to the harmful AIPAC activities documented here. Declassified, organized and analyzed, these enforcement files provide a documentary record of violations the IRS must now review against AIPAC’s claimed charitable purposes.
It turns out there is so much questionable behavior going on regarding Israel and charitable giving that the IRS has a "Israel Special Policy" group created in 2010 to examine groups seeking non-profit status. I've already mentioned tax deductions for private contributions to Israel in most-favored-nation - part 1 and how poorly that is monitored. Read this short history of giving where Israel is involved (also from the PDF)...
In the 1940s nonprofit Israeli fronts were used to steal, divert and smuggle arms and equipment that was otherwise destined for scrap by the War Assets Administration to the Middle East in violation of US Arms Export Controls (see the appendix Arming David: The Haganah’s Illegal Arms Procurement Network in the United States and the appendix Declassified US Justice Department Memo on Arms Smuggling). In the 1950s and 1960s US charitable tax exempt donations were used to fund or enable Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, in direct challenge to US nonproliferation policies. In the 1980s and 1990s nonprofit (and for profit) organizations facilitated commercial espionage against US industries to further the trade interests of Israeli industries. In the years 2000‐2005 AIPAC was at the center of an intense FBI investigation focusing on the diversion of classified National Defense Information to persons not entitled to receive it, including Israeli diplomats in the interest of touching off US military action against Iran.
Remember that any group that escapes taxes means more taxes for you and I to pay. I'd say the IRS has some investigating to do, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AIPAC - Israel's foreign agent

Should AIPAC, which represents the interests of Israel in America, be registered as a foreign agent? I think that's a good idea.

I'm sending my request to these 3 people
  • President Obama
  • Eric Holder (Attorney General)
  • Heather Hunt (chief of the DoJ Foreign Agent Registration Unit)
Here is background information - as provided by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. The text of my request follows it.
On Nov. 11, 1962 the Department of Justice ordered the American Zionist Council (AZC) to register as an Israeli Foreign Agent. The AZC's lobbying division is now called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It continues to act as Israel's foreign agent. The 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires people and organizations who act in a political capacity for foreign principals to make periodic public disclosures. It embodies George Washington's farewell address warning not to succumb to foreign "passionate attachments" that subvert governance at home.

In the mid-1980's, the FBI investigated AIPAC's coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to steal American industrial secrets. Later that decade AIPAC thwarted the electoral system by coordinating political action committees (PACs) to elect candidates favorable to Israel. In the 1990's AIPAC coordinated with Binyamin Netanyahu to thwart the Oslo peace process. In 2005 AIPAC lobbyists were indicted and a Defense Department official pled guilty to espionage. They obtained and circulated classified National Defense Information to support a U.S.-Iran war for Israel.
In regard to that last sentence - readers might be interested to know that Iran was the preferred enemy for the U.S. to attack in the eyes of Israel. When the frenzied push for war with Iraq was underway, Israel was disappointed, but nevertheless encouraging as Iraq was the second most wanted country that Israel wanted taken down.

Here is the text of my request. Feel free to copy it

Dear ________

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) acts as the government of Israel's foreign agent in the United States. The Department of Justice's 1962 Foreign Agents Registration Act order (kept secret from the American people until 2008) applies to AIPAC.

The FBI and the Department of Justice have continually found AIPAC to be coordinating and passing American secrets to its foreign principal. As a foreign agent, AIPAC should be disclosing all relevant activities - including sources of income and expenditures - with its foreign principal, yet the Department of Justice allows the American people to be kept in the dark.

I urge you to uphold the rule of law in America and order AIPAC to register as a foreign agent now.
Need addresses? Here they are...

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Eric Holder, Attorney General
U.S. Dept. of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Heather Hunt, Chief
U.S. Dept. of Justice
Foreign Agents Registration Unit
1400 New York Ave., NW
1st Floor, Public Office Suite 100
Washington, DC 20005

Monday, November 22, 2010

Israel - valuable ally or liability?

When the World Trade Center came down on 9/11, Americans started to hear about the U.S. facing the same terror as Israel and that henceforth the two countries would be partners in a "War on Terror" that President G.W. Bush announced. Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and, before 9/11, Menachem Begin all spoke about this alliance, that we faced the same enemies and that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land had nothing to do with it. For a guy who leads a country that was founded with the help of terror, Netanyuhu had the chutzpah to say when addressing the Senate in 2002, ""no grievance, real or imagined, can justify terror". The U.S. has certainly employed terror when it felt it necessary to do so.

President Obama has wisely declared this strange war on a technique at an end, but the question needs to be asked: Is Israel a valuable partner to the U.S. or a liability?

The basis for terror attacks on the United States was said by President Bush to be that "they hate our freedoms", but what do those who have attacked us give as their motivation?

Is Israel/the Palestinian issue a significant source of Arab anger?

Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian whose writing inspires many Islamic fundamentalists, was angered by it.

Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the first WTC attack (1996), wanted to stop the killing of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers and believed attacking the U.S. would achieve this.

Osama bin Laden was deeply concerned about the issue since he was a young man, angry and frustrated with the U.S. for supporting Israel. His first public statement (1994) directly addressed the Palestinian issue. He condemned the U.S. for support of Israel and called for jihad against the U.S. several times before 9/11 including in his 1996 fatwa - "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places". Payback for injustice against the Palestinians is a recurrent theme in his speeches.

bin Laden tried to accelerate the 9/11 attack after Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000. The 9/11 Commission confirmed his motivation was due to Palestinian injustice and US support for Israel. This commission also found Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (architect of 9/11) primarily motivated by the Palestinian issue.

In 2006, Sheik Naim Qassem (deputy leader of Hezbollah) told a Lebanese crowd, "There is no longer a political place for America in Lebanon. Do you not recall that the weapons fired on Lebanon were American weapons?"

Ussama Makdisi (professor of Middle East history at Rice University) says, "on no issue is Arab anger at the United States more widely and acutely felt that that of Palestine...For it is over Palestine that otherwise antithetical Arab secularist and Islamist interpretations of history converge in their common perception of an immense gulf separating official American avowals of support for freedom from actual American policies."

A Zogby poll of Arabs in six countries asked, "what is the first thing you think about when you think of America?". The most common answer: unfair foreign policy. Another question was,
"what could America do to change this?". The answer: change Middle East policy/stop supporting Israel.

In 2004 Hosni Mubarak said, "there exists a hatred of America never equaled in the region (in part because Arabs) see Sharon act as he wants, without the Americans saying anything"

In 2007 King Abdullah of Jordan said to a joint session of Congress: "The denial of justice and peace in Palestine...is the core issue."

Mearsheimer and Walt in The Israel Lobby write,

"... the U.S. pays a substantial price for supporting Israel so consistently. This posture fuels hostility toward the U.S. in the Middle East, motivates anti-American extremists and aids their recruiting, gives authoritarian governments in the region an all-too-convenient scapegoat for their own failings, and makes it harder for Washington to convince potential supporters to confront extremists in their own countries....backing Israel against the Palestinians makes winning the war on terror harder, not easier..."

I'm reminded of Pete Seeger's lyric from the Vietnam War era - "knee deep in the big muddy and the big fool says to push on". There couldn't be more powerful evidence showing the source of anger against the United States and we see the results. Yet, on we go regardless.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Two views on Zionism

There is a blog I read from time to time called The Magnes Zionist. As one might expect, the discussions center on the definition of Zionism. Recently, I contributed a comment there and in the process read several others. Two of them stood out so much that I want to reproduce them here. They need no more of an introduction than to say they address whether or not Zionism is racism.

The first is from Joachim Martillo...
Some discussions of Zionism really require the participation of people with a background in German or Slavic studies.

I am fluent in German.

Before the 1950s (more correctly probably the 1990s) "völkisch" means "racist" or "racial."

How would you translate "Der völkische Beobachter"?

I translate it as The Racial/Racist Observer.

The völkisch state is a racist state or at least a racial state.

More to the point, what did Judenstaat really mean to German Jews?

It did not mean Jewish state. That would be juedischer Staat.

Judenstaat should be compared and contrasted with Rechtsaat.

A Judenstaat is a state where Jews rule or are privileged. It is hard to be more explicitly racist in German than Herzl was as much as he tried to cloak himself in liberal nationalism.

All Central and Eastern European formulations of Zionism denied the right of democratic self-determination to Palestinians on racist or racial grounds -- no if, ans, or buts.

Because Zionism crystallized in late 19th and early 20th century Central and Eastern Europe, Zionist ideology incorporates both

1. German völkisch nationalist concepts of Volk (race), Gegenvolk (anti-race), Nichtvolk (non-race), or Bevölkerung (population), and also

2. Slavic extremist organic nationalist concepts of народ (naród, nation) and народность (narodność, nationality).

Zionist Hebrew vocabulary exhibits the full range of völkisch and extremist organic nationalist concepts in am (race), leom (nation), neged-am (anti-race), i-am (non-race), leumanut (nationality), and ukhlasiyah (population).

From the standpoint of Zionist ideology Palestinians stand in more or less the same position as Jews do in German Nazi ideology. Hence it has been common for Zionists to argue that Palestinians only define themselves negatively in opposition to Zionism (i.e., as an anti-race) while other Zionists like Golda Meir would deny that Palestinians constituted a genuine people (i.e., they represented a non-race) but are rather a piece of the Arab nation, to wit, a nationality (narodność), that should be absorbed into the Arab nation (naród) outside of Israel. The approach is similar to that of some Serb politicians, who wanted Albanian Kosovars to leave Kosovo in order to live in Albania.

In addition, just as there were occasionally liberal Nazis, who did view Jewry as a real Volk, there are now and then liberal Zionists, who accept the concept of a Palestinian people but would use some sort of binational subterfuge in order to avoid granting Palestinians full citizenship rights in the Israeli state. Binyamin Netanyahu does not belong to this Zionist subset. He is probably closest to the German Nazis, who viewed conquered Poles as members of a Bevölkerung (population) with no rights within the German Reich except existence as long as they groveled sufficiently. In Netanyahu's conceptualization the Palestinian "state" serves as a formal structure of control for the Palestinian Bevölkerung.

The points above notwithstanding, there is a more serious issue.

The logic of supporting a Zionist territorial claim based on the etymological connection of the word Jew with the word Judea would give Irish Roman Catholics the right to steal and ethnically cleanse Rome because the word Roman is morphologically derived from the word Rome. In other words, Zionism is so extreme that it is psychotic, and the failure of Americans to show any awareness of inherent Zionist extremism strips the term extreme of any meaning in US political discourse.

[Note that I exempt Judah Magnes from the above discussion because he was American and was willing -- as far as I can tell -- to concede the right of democratic self-determination to the native Palestinian population because he recognized the right of Palestinians to limit the immigration of ethnic Ashkenazim and Jews of other ethnicities to Palestine.]
The second comment is from "Danaa", who begins by quoting from the original posting to which these comments are responses...
" Israeli Jews don't discriminate against Israeli Arabs because they feel themselves ethnically or racially superior to them. They do so because the structures of Israeli society favor the Jewish sector of the state. There is a feeling of dividing the pie to help your own kind. This is tribalist but it is not racist."

I honestly don't see how you can say this about Israelis - unless you live in a special bubble (which you may, being an academic, orthodox and all). Surely you can't have missed how utterly superior Israelis feel relative to palestinians, arabs in general, and actually to any non-Jew. I grew up in Israel and from day one "choseness" and "superiority" were drummed into us by the educational sytem. You should take a look sometime at the textbooks that proliferated in Israel in the 60' through 70'. When it come to history, they are basically ethnocentric manifestos of superiority to all others, unjustly persecuted for being better people and smarter to boot too. That's how we, who were secular, learnt the bible too - the jews were always right (except when they fought among thermselves, which was plenty often), and they absolutely had the prerogative of lording over others, courtesy of a god in which we, the secular, didn't even believe in the slightests. But we liked the message and who care if "choseness" had a few built-in contradictions? I mean Jews are smarter, right? and Arab are stupider, no? And non-jew, christians included, are unfortunate in being born who they were. And that's what you hear on the streets of Israel from regular, everyday people, and even some highly educated ones. And that is the majority of the people, including every one of the few hundred people I still know there, and my family members with whom I can barely speak any longer.

You can quibble about whether zionism was inherently racist or not. That kind of thing only seems to matter to people who are either outside Israel or who moved there as relative adults. The reality is that zionism is, and has been for decades, deeply, disturbingly racist, as well as ethno-centric as well as tribal. Personally, I see little need to separate these trends. They are all disturbing and contemptible in equal measures.

Please Jerry, do get out of the ivory tower now and then and talk to the taxi drivers, the secretaries, the sales people, the insurance agents, the health care workers, the people on the buses. Talk to them and ask how they feel about blacks, about arabs, about non-Jews, and yes, about christians. And Obama. Let's not forget to ask how they feel about Obama. The kind of deeply-embedded, ideologically implanted contempt for others, is not "merely" tribal. It is tinged, to its core with the sense of superiority you seem to deny. And that, according to later' definition make it racist, no?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

not even "separate but equal"

There's a high-speed train route being built to link Tel Aviv with Jerusalem. Most of the route is within Israel but a section of it is to cross occupied territory. Construction has been going on for several years and continues today.

Americans who know their history, know of the Supreme Court decision of 1896 called "Plessy v Ferguson" in which it was decided 7-1 that "separate but equal" services were legal. In this case, African-Americans and whites could travel on the same train with different cars assigned to each. In other words segregation was legal.

But this train that is to run in Israel and across part of the occupied territories will be for Israelis only. Palestinians, part of whose land is being taken for the route, will not be allowed to ride. Here's a map.


In 1948, there were two Palestinian towns in this area but they were erased by Israel long ago, so no need to hold things up on that account. Those towns are truly gone, yet the Palestinians themselves are invisible to the Israeli government.

For example, the train route has been altered more or less to minimize objections from Israelis living along it. Palestinian objections have been entirely ignored. This isn't surprising given that Israeli settlers take Palestinian land on an almost daily basis without government objection.

A group of activists, both Palestinian and Israeli called Coalition of Women for Peace has produced a full report that isn't long and has many illustrations (like the map I used above). I recommend you look it over. The construction is moving right along.

Americans are rightly ashamed of Plessy v Ferguson for the terrible example it set, denying rights to one group of Americans. But at least that segregated group could still ride the train. For Palestinians, used to being denied the use of roads in their land, this train being exclusively for Israelis will be nothing new.

But why, fellow Americans, are we pouring money into a country that does this? As I've said before, have we no shame?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Palestinian crossing point tutorial

You know I am a fan of the series of videos called Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem. There are eighty-nine 25 minute episodes that I know of and I am working my way through them one at a time finding it like a personal visit to the occupied territories. When I discover an exceptional episode, I present it to you. One follows below.

Episode 36 is simple - Ashira, a Palestinian and a regular host of "Sleepless", goes to see how a checkpoint works at the seam zone. The seam zone was created when the Wall was erected because the Wall is built on Palestinian land. The area caught between the border of Israel and the Wall is called the seam zone and it's a tragedy for many Palestinians because it puts the Wall between them and their property. In some cases, as at the town of Bi'lin, the wall runs right through the town...hence the demonstrations opposing it there.

Take a look at where this video takes place so you will understand a bit about what you are viewing. I've placed a red rectangle on this map of the entire West Bank to highlight the area that I zoom to in the next picture.


In the detail below, the white oval centers on the locale of the video - RED is the separation wall, GREEN is Israel's border. Note how the wall snakes around far into Palestinian territory. That territory is the seam zone. The video takes place on the road that connects Ras A-tira to Ras 'Atiya, both Palestinian towns but with the wall in between. Notice the short purple section of wall - a proposed change to get rid of the problem this video shows. Nice idea but it has never been implemented as the map was made in 2008 and the video was made earlier this year (2010).



Thus prepared, you are ready to watch. I apologize for the distorted (though understandable) audio, that's the way it was recorded. The two Israeli women that accompany Ashira on her adventure are from the praiseworthy Israeli group Machsom Watch.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Palestinians are Jews?

This video concludes that at least some Palestinians are descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Palestine who were Jewish. This is backed up with genetic research done in Israel. One wealthy Jewish entrepreneur is touring Palestine distributing leaflets explaining the findings in the hope that the two sides can be brought together.

This reinforces the views of Shlomo Sand, whose book, The Invention of the Jewish People, I have reviewed in another post.

Though this might provide irony to the takeover of Palestine, I doubt that it will change things a bit. The fact is that each of us is equally human, brothers and sisters to begin with, yet we fight. So sharing more inconsequential things, more recent lineages, will hardly create a breakthrough. Just ask the Europeans whose tribes fought for centuries while sharing a religion.

I think it would be fair to say that human beings look for ways to distinguish themselves from others such that even a uniform group will, before long, find ways to define "us" and "them".

The issue for the United States is the way it supports one side in Palestine while hardly recognizing the other.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

most favored nation: part 2

In most favored nation: part 1, I highlighted the economic benefits that Israel enjoys from the United States. In this second part, I want to describe the military benefits with which Israel is showered by the U.S. Again, most of the information is taken from the book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by Mearsheimer and Walt. Where quotes appear, it is from this book.

Keep in mind that in return for the largess described, the United States receives essentially nothing in return except the enmity of the world.

Israel, the exceptional country:

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) handles almost all the purchasing and monitors U.S. aid for all other military aid recipients, but Israel deals directly with military contractors for virtually all of its purchases and then gets reimbursed from its aid account.

Israel is the only country where contracts for less than $500,000 are exempt from prior U.S. review

$3 billion was provided by the U.S. for Israel to develop the Lavi aircraft, the Merkava tank and the Arrow missile. This was funded through the U.S. Dept. of Defense and was "often portrayed as joint research and development efforts, but the U.S. did not need these weapons and never intended to purchase them for its own use"

Lavi was cancelled and the U.S. ate the cancellation costs. In FY2004 $136 million went for the Arrow missile, $66 million for improvements to Arrow and $70 million for additional production of the Arrow. In 2010, $400 million was spent by the U.S. for the Iron Dome missile defense system for Israel that uses the Arrow missile.

Prepositioning of U.S. weapons in Israel began in 1989. In 2006 Congress voted to increase the stockpile from $100 million to $400 million. It has been tripled since (see below) This is for the stated purpose of deploying weapons that the U.S. military can use in an emergency, but the Pentagon has never been enthusiastic about it and the weapons are only of the kind immediately useful to Israel. The U.S. can never be certain the material would be available for U.S. use. Ynet reported that a great deal of the material was used for the 2006 Lebanon War by Israel. Just this last week it was revealed that a $400 million hike will bring the value of American military equipment stockpiled in Israel to $1.2 billion by 2012.

"The U.S. has turned a blind eye to Israel's development of nuclear weapons, while pressing many other nations to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)." Though U.S. inspectors were allowed eventually to visit the Dimona nuclear site, the visits were always announced well in advance and Israel set up a phony control room (per Seymour Hersh) to fool the inspectors and keep them away from the real installation. On some visits, inspectors were not allowed to bring in instruments for measurement or to take samples. Initially set for twice a year, inspections were reduced to once a year.

As Mearsheimer and Walt state "such obfuscatory tactics are part of the standard playbook for all clandestine proliferators" but Israel's tactics worked because no U.S President was willing to withhold U.S. support of Israel was not forthcoming.

"The irony is hard to miss: The United States has pressured many other countries to join the NPT, imposed sanctions on countries that have defied U.S. wishes and acquired nuclear weapons, gone to war in 2003 to prevent Iraq from pursuing WMD, and contemplated attacking Iran and North Korea for the same reason. Yet Washington has long subsidized an ally whose clandestine WMD activities are well-known and whose nuclear arsenal has given several of its neighbors a powerful incentive to seek WMD themselves."

"The most singular feature of U.S. support for Israel is its increasingly unconditional nature" that keeps the goodies coming
  • despite Israel's refusal to sign the NPT
  • despite Israel's refusal to stop settlement building
  • despite Israel's annexation of territory (Jerusalem and the Golan Heights)
  • despite Israel selling U.S. technology to potential U.S. enemies (China)
  • despite Israel conducting intelligence operations on U.S. soil
  • despite Israel using U.S. weapons in ways that violate U.S. laws (cluster munitions used on civilians)

"When dealing with Israel, U.S. leaders can usually elict cooperation only by offering additional carrots (additional assistance) rather than employing sticks (withholding aid) ." One need only read the news to see examples of this to this very day.

Friday, November 12, 2010

making a fuss in New Orleans

The general assembly of American Jewish organizations in New Orleans is essentially a congregation of the Israel lobby. It happened just a week ago and what better place for those who oppose the Israel lobby to make a stand.

Five young people did so, having the courage to disrupt the presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Take a look



Now, meet four of them...




They have started a website at Young Jewish Proud. where you can read statements from each of them. One that impressed me was by Emily Ratner. I'm very proud of these "kids" who give me hope for the future and pride in America. They are saying what we all should support.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christians seeking the end times

There is no stranger support for Israel among Americans than fundamentalist Christians who hope to see Armageddon occur, triggered in the Middle East. They hope that Israel and Iran will get things going soon and the result will be the second coming of Christ and "the Rapture" of Judgment Day when the quick are separated from the dead, they being among the saved and, as such, able to witness the tortures and destruction of the damned.

It's not a pretty picture and not the kind of thing that I think should stimulate people to write to their Congressman urging support of Israel. It is the exact opposite of rationality and a throw-back to the worst days of religious thought.

Nevertheless, these folks are active and vocal and represented by John Hagee of CUFI - Christians United for Israel. You really should listen to Hagee speak as it is with the kind of pomposity and certainty that could easily lead uninformed people to anything.

Who better to debunk him than Jews, who are in a position to negate his many authoritative statements about them. Ed Anser narrates a video doing just this.

For a very thorough look at CUFI, including an analysis of how it presents support for Israel in euphemisms, Jews on First (because if Jews don't speak out...they'll think we don't mind) has a complete report on the latest annual CUFI convention.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

most favored nation: part 1

How much do Americans know about the special place Israel holds among nations when it comes to United States aid?

Consider the following facts, from 2007, taken from The Israel Lobby, chapter 1: "The Great Benefactor".

Israel gets $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year (1/6th of the US direct foreign assistance budget, it is equal to 2% of Israel's GDP)

75% of this is military aid

this aid amounts to $500/year per Israeli (Egypt gets $20 per person, Pakistan get $5 and Haiti gets $27)

Congress adds more from time to time in one-off assistance bills

The conditions under which the aid is granted are exceptional. The entire amount is given in a lump sum within 30 days of the beginning of each FY - no other country gets this deal. As a result, the US must borrow the money up front and Israel gets to invest it until it is spent.

Israel gets US surplus military gear for free or heavily discounted - up to $250 million worth per year in equipment for which the US taxpayer has paid in full.

Military aid is officially given as loans, at Israel's request because grants require U.S. oversight. But then the repayments are waived so the loans effectively become grants, but with no oversight. This is called having your cake and eating it too. Americans would object to this even on money spent in the U.S. for the benefit of Americans.

In 2009 Israel received $7 million per day in military aid

With foreign military financing, unlike for other countries, Israel doesn't have to spend it in the US. Up to 25% can be spent in Israel, subsidizing the Israeli arms industry - which in 2004, was the world's 8th largest.

Israel is the ONLY recipient of US aid that doesn't have to account for how aid money is spent, making it impossible for the US to prevent it being used for purposes it opposes, i.e. the settlements.

The US gives loan guarantees for Israel so that it can borrow at lower interest rates.

An estimated $2 billion in private donations is received annually by Israel from American citizens, roughly half in cash and half in State of Israel bonds. Many private donations are tax deductible in the US. Because there is no US monitoring of how the money is used in Israel, mis-appropriation is easily accomplished.

Egypt and Jordan are #2 and #3 recipients of US aid - being paid to lay off Israel, so it would be reasonable to attribute this money as aid to Israel as well.

ALL THIS to a country that is 28th in the world in per capita income (2009 per the IMF)

This has gone on for years and continues to take place. It goes on regardless of economic conditions in the U.S. or Israel. Why do we Americans allow it? It is because we aren't paying attention so the lobby gets it's way.

Monday, November 8, 2010

redefining anti-Semitism

I've written about the uses of anti-Semitism before in Shields Up! and how it must be rejected in anti-Semitism and Who is a Jew. A broadening of the term is underway by those who want to gag free speech.

Right now, the Israeli parliament - the Knesset, is a beehive of activity looking to pass legislation to de-legitimize criticism of Israel and non-Jews. Maybe I should have termed it "Right - NOW" in Israel.

You can find an excellent summary of these efforts at the London Review of Books blog in a piece written by Neve Gordon, titled Thoughtcrimes.

A leader of the rightward march in the Knesset is Avigdor Lieberman who Bradley Burston, a writer for Haaretz has called another Kahane. This refers to Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned by the Knesset as racist...but that was the old Knesset, back when it had a sense of shame and of limits beyond which it would not go.

What goes hand in glove with this effort in the Knesset is an attempt to turn every criticism of Israel into "the new anti-Semitism". How quickly people forget that Zionism, an extremist movement and tiny minority within Judaism that started at the end of the 19th century, has grown to such an extent that it now feels entitled to define what is Jewish and who is to be called anti-Semitic.

The most powerful evidence of this is in the gathering of a closed meeting in Canada of legislators to decide about outlawing criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.

Now it's one thing for zealots to take control of the Knesset. One could say this is the logical course of events for a country that was founded by zealots. But to have such mental illness capture groups within the Canadian Parliament and the U.S. Congress - how can this be?

I'm waiting for you, fellow Americans, to stand up with me and say enough is enough. If a foreign country decides to lose its head, that's its business. Must we follow along like sheep?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dear American Jews

Gideon Levy has an excellent opinion piece in Haaretz today, on the occasion of the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America meeting in New Orleans. I encourage you to read it all. Some excerpts:

Your beloved Israel is addicted. It is addicted to occupation and aggression, and someone has to wean it from these addictions. Like any other junkie, it is incapable of helping itself. Thus the job falls to you.

You live in a black-and-white country. But Israel is neither black nor white. It's not as terrible as it is often painted abroad, but neither is it as righteous as it will be presented to you. Above all, it is a country whose arrogant behavior is making it despised.

You, dear brothers and sisters, have enormous political power. Sometimes, I think it is too enormous: One day, it will blow up in your faces. But it is possible to use this power for something more than a despicable witch-hunt after every congressman who dares to criticize Israel.

The town is burning, Jews. Israeli democracy is being torn apart; soon, it will no longer be possible to talk about "the only democracy in the Middle East," as you so love to do. The occupation is also growing both more entrenched and more crushing; already, it is almost impossible to talk abut a two-state solution.

And Yossi Sarid, in another Haaretz opinion piece, has a few words for conference delegates as well:

If you really care about Israel, delegates, you should remember when you stand and cheer that Netanyahu freely chose an extreme, nationalist, xenophobic, clerical coalition. He could have an alternative coalition at any time, but he rejects it for reasons of convenience and political survival.

His coalition also ignores you. Most of you belong to the Conservative or Reform movements, and his natural partners despise you. As long as you are there, sending money and applauding, fine. But if you want to become more involved, or send your children or grandchildren, be warned, they will be thoroughly investigated.

Israel today, as expressed by the Netanyahu-Yishai-Lieberman coalition, recognizes only support for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, only people who fund their provocations have the right to speak.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why? Because we say so!

Take a look at a map of Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in the 1890's. This is a microcosm of the American version of Israel's occupied territories. America was able to pull off the act with little trouble because of the huge difference in numbers between the native-Americans and the white settlers. Just as with modern Israel, the word from the white man to the Indian was "Why? Because we say so!"

This map shows how the tribes, from the vast lands they had once inhabited, were crowded into sections of the Indian Territory, quite reduced in size from the original "Indian territory" - what is now the continental United States. Israel would love to pull this trick off too. There are Knesset members who have mentioned booting Israeli Palestinians out of Israel and into the West Bank.

As American history shows, that expulsion is only the first step. See the second map.


Below you can see Oklahoma as the state it is today (it became one in 1907). Some way or another the law made it legal for white people to move into and take the land in the territory that was supposedly for the Indians. Just as in the territories that Israel occupies, Native-Americans had only the white man's law for appeal. That didn't work out well for them.

There was a big land rush on the day the law came into effect in 1889. As you can see from this current map, there's nothing to distinguish Oklahoma from the surrounding states. "Settler roads", just as in the West Bank, now weave throughout. There are quite a few native-American place names but otherwise the land has been largely cleansed of the people who were there before the white man. No doubt, just like Israelis, Americans didn't think Native-Americans were making good use of the land.

Israel would love to have the same thing happen today with the Palestinians, only Israel would definitely not keep any Arabic place names. Full erasure, as in Israel proper, is their style of land management.

Finally, a map of the West Bank as it is today (provided by B'Tselem). Please compare to the Indian Territory map at top.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Money from the Israel Lobby (list)

Thanks to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs for the following information. WRMEA is a 9 issues/year magazine packed with information I wish every American could read. All but their most recent issue is available at their website and this list comes from their pre-election issue.

Please note Mark Kirk, at the top of the list in the house, is now an Illinois senator. Also note the presence of Eric Cantor, who will now be House Majority Leader and Ileana Ros-Letinen who is on the house committee on foreign affairs (she often introduces pro-Israel resolutions and letters and uses her position to block legislation Israel doesn't like from reaching the house floor). On the list also is Steny Hoyer who is/was House Majority Leader under Nancy Pelosi. Don't overlook Harry Reid, who is/was Senate Majority Leader. Clearly, the Israel Lobby chooses wisely when influencing Congress with their money.

TOP TEN 2010 and CAREER RECIPIENTS
OF PRO-ISRAEL PAC FUNDS
compiled by Hugh Galford for WRMEA


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Righteousness for all time

I often draw good reasoning from other blogs, as I hope their authors do from mine.

Once in a while, I come across something expressed so well that I simply can't improve upon it.

Such a case I found today at the blog Hybrid States by Yaniv Reich. The title of the post is
Haaretz op-ed (in reverse): Peace requires that Jews realize the Holocaust was a self-inflicted tragedy
Please read it!

My comment in response to it is this -

Your posting nails down the central issue of Israel perfectly. Consider the statements of people who claim to know the will of God. In their minds, what they say is simply what is, there can be no questioning of it. For Israel, it is unquestionable that the foundation of the state is right, that Jews are the people ordained to be in Palestine and all else is simply irrelevant detail. Under this view, the plight of the Palestinians is a messy minor issue that has no bearing on the simple fact that they have no business being there. Human rights? What does that have to do with it? The Rocky Mountains are in Colorado and so also is Palestine for the Jews. How can there be debate?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mark Kirk - the senator from Israel?

Get a cup of coffee - this is long. I composed it on hearing of Mark Kirk(R) being elected to the U.S. Senate for Illinois. There are some local politicians and places referred to, but this message is a heartfelt address to every American.

* * * *

We have a new senator, Mark Kirk. If he is a typical senator, he is in office for life. Because of this, it is imperative that Evanstonians be aware of the great danger this presents to our country. Mr. Kirk was more heavily supported by the Israel lobby than any other candidate for either the House or the Senate. The lobby can now count on him to continue the humiliation of U.S. presidents that dare to take actions not acceptable to the Israeli government, George W. Bush and Barack Obama being only the most recent examples. In this capacity to disable the executive branch in one critical area, he joins Jan Schakowsky, an otherwise worthy U.S. Representative, who answers the call to sign letters or pass resolutions in favor of the policy of whatever Israeli administration is in power.

This capture of U.S. policy on Israel by Israel is the single greatest threat to the national security of our country because it ties us to a project of ethnic cleansing that has been underway for over 60 years and continues to this very day as the Knesset considers a bill that would allow towns in Israel to reject Israelis they don't like (that means the Palestinian Israeli minority) as residents.

Older readers will remember the disgrace of Cicero's treatment of African-Americans who wished to live there and the march of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in response to it. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of U.S. history knows the shame of the sweeping of Native-Americans (Indians) from their lands. Such is the nature of what is happening in Israel. It is neither in the interest of the U.S. or Israel for this to continue. It has absolutely nothing to do with "liberty and justice for all" that is the foundation of our country, nor the great moral precepts that underlie Judaism, and everything to do with the odious apartheid that isolated South Africa from the community of nations not so long ago. Israel is headed for a disaster that has nothing to do with warfare.

Palestinians who dare to peacefully demonstrate against the loss of their land are routinely imprisoned without recourse to anything but Israeli military law - where you are tried by the same soldiery that imprison you - it is the law of Guantanamo applied to millions who live in the occupied territories. Have we Americans no shame, who claim to value the freedom of speech, yet mindlessly pour billions of dollars and the latest weaponry to a country that flouts what we stand for, acts unilaterally against its neighbors and deploys American weaponry on civilians with hardly a slap on the wrist? Yes, the United Nations speaks out but the United States acts immediately to gag it.

Israel pushes on to ever more extreme right-wing positions, some are now using the word fascist to describe them, thumbing its nose at world opinion because it knows the United States will reliably cover for it due to the effectiveness of the Israel lobby.

This hypocrisy by America has resulted in our own country being reviled, hated even, as our power is seen on the side of relentless oppression covered with empty talk about peace and being an "honest broker". We loudly talk of the sanctity of private property, Republicans in particular, while Palestinians are dispossessed daily. No one is fooled but the American people.

What can you as in individual citizen do to change this?

First of all, wake up to the reality of modern Israel. Read the Israeli press. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is free, in English, online 24/7. I promise you that you will not believe the things that the Knesset is doing, not to mention the actions of the settlers who daily take more land from the Palestinians, yet claim full Israeli citizenship with all its rights and privileges among the indigenous folks who are helpless to resist. Incredibly, an American Jew can go to Israel and within one week be an Israeli citizen, taking land from a Palestinian whose people have been there for centuries. Surely I lie? No, it is a fact.

Once you begin to understand the apartheid that is progressing under cover of American political power, you may then want to support the many courageous and active Israeli Jews opposing it. Jeff Halper, Yonatan Shapira, Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, Uri Avnery and many more. Google these names! Join the efforts of the Corries who, 7 years later, are still in Israel attempting to get justice for their daughter killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003. Join local activist groups. Jewish Voice for Peace and the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions are only two of many. Start working with a Palestinian campus group. There are such at DePaul, NEIU and the U of C. Evanston's very own JRC rabbi Brant Rosen is a prominent figure in opposition to what Israel is doing. Google his name to see some of the many things he has written. Check out my own blog "Daylight between America and Israel" where, to the best of my ability, I cover all the topics mentioned and many more.

Above all, don't be deterred by those who will use the term anti-Semitic on anyone who opposes Israeli policies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Check out or buy the excellent book, "The Israel Lobby" by Mearsheimer and Walt. It will open your eyes and astound you at how pliant and readily worked is our Congress. AARP and the NRA don't hold a candle to the Israel lobby. Why? Because individuals, you and I, don't oppose it.

Once informed, get in touch with Jan Schakowsky and Mark Kirk and Richard Durban and let them know what you have found out and of your displeasure at having your national legislature in thrall to a foreign country. Don't fall for the worn out "right to protect itself" argument for a country that is armed to the teeth and oppressing the unarmed and helpless who live under its might.

Over 40 years of arming Israel with state of the art U.S. ordinance has not advanced a peaceful solution one foot, instead it has assured the relentless progress of ethnic cleansing and thousands of people have died. There is no time to waste.

Perhaps you voted for Mark Kirk without the slightest thought of Israel, but be aware of what takes place in your name - Israel and the U.S. are separate countries with separate interests. America, here at home, repudiated years ago, I'm very proud to say, the practices Israel actively pursues today. Kirk's election is an alarm bell. Will you hear it?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

the remarkable UNRWA

UNRWA (UN-ruh), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, is an agency dedicated to helping the millions of Palestinians who have been displaced by the coming of Israel. UNRWA maintains 53 refugee camps for 4.7 million people scattered across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza) as seen on this map.


As Israel continues to oppress, attack and displace Palestinians, UNRWA continues the decades long effort to provide basic humanitarian services such as education, medical care and even recreation for children. It isn't an easy job and the camps are not nice places, crowded as they are with the descendants of those forced from their homes in 1948. These are the people that Israel absolutely refuses to allow to return. They are a living reminder to the world of human cost of the foundation of Israel.

Though rarely making headlines, UNRWA occasionally breaks into the news. Such was the case during Operation Cast Lead, the 2008/09 Israeli attack on Gaza that included the bombardment of the UNRWA school in the Jabalya camp with white phosphorous that killed 42 people (14 children), the attack pictured here.

Just last month, Israel refused the entry of construction materials for five new UNRWA schools in Gaza. It's reported that 40,000 children in Gaza are not attending school as a result of the lack of facilities. Overall, UNRWA operates 691 schools with 483,000 pupils (50% female) under a comprehensive educational program

Money is always a problem. Some countries give generously and you can too.

In the United States, there are some people who revile the UN and insist that the US should not be a part of it. Yet, it is one of the few places that America can in a very small way compensate for the huge gifts of money and weapons we give to Israel. Throughout the world, the agencies of the United Nations operate to provide a last refuge for people who have lost everything to conflict. Though the UNRWA is dedicated to the Palestinians, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Fund for Population Assistance (UNFPA) operate worldwide to ease the very difficult lives so many face and about which too many Americans are unaware.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

they're dancing in Philly, for BDS

Creative folks in Philly put together a dance with BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanction) movement lyrics then dropped into a local store to do their thing. This kind of enthusiastic demonstration could be catching. It's remarkable to me that it took place in Philadelphia and not in California.

Even the store employee who is supposed to be ejecting them is smiling. You just might too!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hanin Zoabi speaks to Americans


Hanin Zoabi, seen above, is a Palestinian female member of the Israeli Knesset. Yesterday, she spoke at the University of Chicago to the public and I attended.

Having been on the Gaza Flotilla that was attacked by Israeli forces, she is reviled in the Knesset and, not surprisingly, has received death threats. Speaking of her membership in the Israeli parliament, she said it was difficult to appear before a group of people that hate her. They refuse to refer to her as either a Palestinian or an Arab, only as a "non-Jew". She says the Knesset should be a deliberative body, with any member free to bring up an issue for discussion, but there is no debate when she brings up an issue, only condemnation and verbal abuse.

A member of the audience asked if she is optimistic. She responded that she is neither optimistic or pessimistic. She keeps at her work because it is necessary work and she reminded listeners of the Arabic word samud (steadfastness). She feels that the chances for a two-state solution are now negligible but that the Palestinian people must continue to assert the facts - that they are indigenous people and that Zionism has, from the start, worked to take their land from them.

Asked if there might be any support from the Israeli left, she was dismissive, commenting that the representation of the leftist Meretz party had fallen to only three seats in the Knesset.

A feminist, she has no time for the views of Hamas and wishes to see a full democracy where all have equal rights regardless of ethnicity, religion or sex. One would think this stand would appeal to Americans more than the views of the Israeli government that is boarding on fascism in its denial of the rights of half of the people living in Palestine, but you can be sure there will be no mention of her appearance or what she said in either the Chicago news media, or national news sources in the U.S.

The audience appeared to me to be mostly favorable to her views, though there were a couple of questions challenging her position. One questioner asked how she could defend the violent attacks by the passengers on the Gaza Flotilla. Zoabi was almost incredulous that such a view could be held, seeing the Israeli forces as unjustifiably attacking a peaceful group in international waters. She is proud of the fact that she was aboard and believes her presence was necessary because of her position as a representative of the Palestinian people, her constituency. For this participation on the flotilla, the Knesset has acted against her. Another member of the Knesset, Anastasia Michaeli, had to be physically restrained from attacking Zoabi as she addressed the assembly. Former Knesset member Uri Avnery writes...

One could not imagine a greater contrast than that between the two MKs. While Haneen Zoabi belongs to a family whose roots in the Nazareth area go back centuries, perhaps to the time of Jesus, Anastasia Michaeli was born in (then) Leningrad. She was elected “Miss St. Petersburg” and then became a fashion model, married an Israeli, converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel at age 24 but sticks to her very Russian first name. She has given birth to eight children. She may be a candidate for the Israeli Sarahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifh Palin, who, after all, was also once a beauty queen..

As far as I could make out, not a single Jewish member raised a finger to defend Zoabi during the tumult. Nothing but some half-hearted protest from the Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, and a Meretz member, Chaim Oron.

In all the 61 years of its existence, the Knesset had not seen such a sight. Within a minute the sovereign assembly turned into a parliamentary lynch mob.

Passionately devoted to the cause of justice, she could have spoken for more time than was allowed. She had what appeared to me to be a couphttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifle of bodyguards, who looked Palestinian. I doubt the Knesset would provide her with any protection.

You may find this interview with Hanin Zoabi interesting, conducted right before I heard her speak.

Americans: how much longer will you remain indifferent to the contrast between the reality of Israel and the presentation of Israel carefully crafted for you of a "democracy just like the United States"?