Saturday, July 31, 2010

what does the occupation do to Israelis?

In 1988, Israeli David Grossman wrote The Yellow Wind, an account of his travels through the occupied territories. In the chapter called Sumud, he talks with Palestinian Raj'a Shehade. The italics are mine.

Grossman: And what does the occupation do to us, the Israelis, in your opinion?

Shehade: I think about that a lot. First you must remember that it is not just an occupation. From a legal point of view it is an occupation, but it is actually much worse than an occupation: after all you do not work among us just to prevent violent attacks upon yourselves. You have taken other, exceptional steps, such as establishing settlements. Nor do the civil administration and military government work for the benefit of the local population, as they like to say they do. The military government itself is confused. The people there will tell you how much they have improved our lives. They won't tell you about the twelve hundred amendments and new laws they promulgated in the West Bank. Those are laws meant to make the current situation permanent, gradually but irrevocably....

What happened to you is what Professor Yeshayahu Liebowitz predicted immediately after the '67 war. He said then that it is impossible to be occupiers and remain moral. Even people with moral intentions are led into an immoral situation. The situation turns into a sort of monster with a life of its own, which can no longer be controlled. An unjust and immoral monster. You have two kinds of people in kind simply disconnect themselves from what is going on. The second kind uses every means to achieve its goal. An honest sensitive man of conscience...should not do the work of the establishment. They want to cut the Arabs off from all the positive forces in Israel. Afterwards, you can't understand why the Arabs are so wild and violent. You see, you can't treat people in a certain way for years and not expect that they will react to it, right?

At the time that was written, the first intifada was about to begin. Since then the second intifada has taken place and Hamas has risen to prominence. In the last 22 years, the occupation has paved the way for a continuous land grab which the United States has done nothing to stop, even as "the right to defend itself" is endlessly repeated in reference to the country that is occupying and aggressively sending settlers to take land beyond its borders. The offense, the powerful, has a right to defense, yet those being pushed out - the powerless, have no right to defense! It's illogical nonsense, a smokescreen of semantics. A dependable acquiescence by the U.S. has allowed the monster that Shehade described, to thrive. It's time for Americans to stand up to the Israel lobby that has allowed it to happen.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

how bad is it for Palestinians?

I'm going to use the covers of publications of the Israeli human rights group, B'tselem, to give you an idea of the awful situation the Palestinians find themselves in, oppressed in a variety of ways by Israel. All of what you will see is made possible by the United States "standing with" Israel through funding and political protection. Each picture is from the cover of a publication that is typically 100 pages in length. You can read each publication in its entirety by clicking on the link. Never lose the thought that all this information is provided by Israelis who do not approve of the conditions they are reporting on. None of this is propaganda produced by Palestinians.

The Hidden Agenda - The establishment and expansion plans of Ma'ale Adummim and their human rights ramifications (December 2009)

This picture shows the stark contrast between the living quarters of the Palestinians (foreground) and the settlers (tile roofs), all on Palestinian land.

Let's look at another illegal settlement below, Ofra, noticing the similarity of modern development placed on land taken from the Palestinians. Remember you are not looking at Israel but at the occupied West Bank and the homes of the occupiers...

The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost (December 2008)

So the land has been stolen. How about the land around the settlements?
That's been taken too. Settlers use modern roads built for them, Palestinians make do. If a settlement sits between a farmer and his land, too bad.

Access Denied - Israeli measures to deny Palestinians access to land around settlements (September 2008)

But surely there are health measures for the Palestinians and they can get clean water? No.

Foul Play - Neglect of Wastewater Treatment in the West Bank (June 2009)

How about justice before the law? From the report below: "Israel...holds hundreds of Palestinians for months and years under administrative orders, without prosecuting them. By doing so, it denies them rights to which ordinary detainees in criminal proceedings are entitled: they do not know why they are detained, when they will go free and what evidence exists against them, and are not given an opportunity to refute this evidence" Guantanamo has been an embarrassment for the United States. In the occupied territories, the same practices are the norm.

Without Trial - Administrative Detention of Palestinians by Israel and the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law (October, 2009)

So the land is taken, the water is bad, there is no justice that Americans would recognize. Can Palestinians simply move around in the West Bank? No. Gaza is known to be an open air prison but the following report is about the West Bank where permission is required from the occupying power for just about everything.

Ground to a Halt - Denial of Palestinians' Freedom of Movement in the West Bank (August 2007)

Do you recognize similarities with what we do in the United States? I sure don't. But if you are an American, your money and mine is supporting what you've seen here. It has to stop. It should have stopped years ago. I am definitely not "standing with Israel". Do you?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Israel a liability for the U.S.?

Only in the United States could the question of whether or not Israel is a liability for the U.S. be asked.

The answer is obviously yes and has been for many years. It comes from the fact that the U.S. covers for everything that Israel does. In the few cases where American presidents have raised objections or the possibility of funding reductions, they have quickly backed down. This routine is on display now with Obama. He made a groundbreaking speech to the Muslim world a year ago and has never followed up on what he said. He has spoken out against further settlements by Israel but has gone silent.

Here is a statement that is interesting because it indicates how extreme the United States position had become:

"Israel became used to unconditional support of the United States during eight years of the Bush administration," said Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

She said Bush's "extreme position" makes even mild criticism appear dramatic to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet.

So only this tiny change is considered significant. See the entire article from Reuters.

Back in January of 2010 there was talk of U.S. sanctions on Israel by withholding U.S. aid. I am writing 7 months later. Heard anything about it lately?

The number one issue before the world is whether Israel will withdraw from the occupied territories. To talk of a Palestinian state before that happens is jumping way ahead of reality. Not only is Israel saying nothing about withdrawing, the talk there is about expanding settlements.

The world sees this for the farce it is - the most powerful country in the world backing down in the face of a policy of one of the tiniest countries. But it is an old story that has been on display for decades. Fellow Americans, when are you going to put pressure on Congress to stop the tail wagging the dog?

Israel defies the world, with the exception of, and only because of, the U.S. There is understandable rage out there for a land being taken for over 40 years from a people already dispossessed before that and, incredibly, we still ask "why do they hate us?"

P.S. I said I would talk about Rep. Ros-Lehtinen but I am going to wait until next month when an article I want to reference will be available for everyone to read online.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Goldstone Report - I read it

The Goldstone Report, the UN fact finding mission on the Gaza conflict, centers on the attack that Israel launched against Gaza in the last month of 2008. Israel refused to cooperate with the report, did not answer any requests for information from the mission, then denounced it when it was published as being biased. The United States House of Representatives quickly came up with a resolution, HR867denouncing the report and asking President Obama (through Hilary Clinton) to disregard it.

The report is 575 pages long, not something I would expect you to read, but I did to find out exactly what was in it. Do you believe that the Representatives in Congress or their aides who rushed to condemn it, read it?

The report is a comprehensive resource covering the period of time from six months prior to the attack on Gaza to six months after it. It presents a thorough background on the foundations for the conflict, examines the evidence given by eyewitnesses and from mission visits to the scenes of events, provides thorough reasoning for what it finds along with the specifics of the international laws that apply. I was very impressed by it.

Far from being a whitewash, both parties to the conflict are held up to examination for what they did and no party comes out clean.

HR867 is, in contrast, a grab-bag of disconnected charges that don't relate to the report as anyone can tell who has read the report. The first name listed as a sponsor for HR867 is Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who should go under the title of "Israel's Representative in Congress". More on her in my next post.

The denunciation of the Goldstone Report is yet another reminder of the power of the Israel lobby. The report sits unread by virtually everyone and yet is loudly denounced with, yet again, the pledge of the United States standing with Israel. It's only the latest example demonstrating the loss of control of the Congress by an American public that scarcely pauses to notice while a dedicated few ram through what they want.

Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) in 2 minutes on YouTube speaks the truth.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the right to exist

Does Israel have the right to exist? History says without hesitation - yes.

Examining the early times of any empire we find a small kingdom rising to power over its neighbors. The neighbors might not like it, but might makes right, they are subjugated, they harbor their grudges and folkways and history moves on.

The United States wrote the book for Israel in sweeping the Native-Americans from the scene. The U.S. today is a product of a whole lot of killing, cheating, lying, elimination of rights, stealing of land and those good old reliable settlers who used sod houses instead of trailers.

Israelis can understandably be upset that the world is raining on their parade. A glorious return after 2000 years only to have everyone call you names.

But things have changed. That humanity has progressed may be arguable, but if there is any truth to it, it lies in the idea of individual human rights and the rise of law to the point where there is a sense of those laws and rights being universal.

The Geneva Conventions are a progression and expansion of rights and laws culminating in the 4th Convention after WW2 where the horrific results of modern mechanized war on the citizenry resulted in new laws about what was right and wrong. Occupying land and then placing the population of the occupier on those lands was now wrong.

Israel's problem is it came too late to the party - just after everyone had decided it wasn't such a good idea and had left for home.

In modern eyes, the whole concept of Israel as a country of newcomers who, though there were a minority in place all along, swept in with foreigners and established a foothold against the wishes of the majority of locals by force, is wrong.

The "right to exist" question is so important because the historical rule of might is no longer satisfactory by itself. Ask yourself if there is any comparison of the power of Israel to that of Hamas. There must be a legal admission by the subjugated that the rulers are legitimate, or, oppress and suppress as they might, their power and authority aren't acceptable even in their own eyes. It's no surprise that Israel endlessly repeats "the right to self defense" because it appears to confer legitimacy for the actions of a country that longs for it. That Israel's legitimacy keeps being questioned even after decades of continuous gains at the expense of the Palestinians is testimony to the modern power of law over the ancient law of might makes right.

The world can jump on Israel with a clear conscience since the work of other empires has already been done and in large part accepted (with notable exceptions on the southern tier of former Soviet states).

Israel, though one of the most recent of states, is an anachronism. It came to be through an incredible confluence of events. The effect of the Holocaust on world opinion put it over the top and gave it a great boost on its way.

But the course of its empire, tiny though it may be geographically, is now clear. The power of the Holocaust fades as those who knew it age and die while human rights and law are always in the spotlight.

History says Israel has the right to exist. The concept of human rights says it cannot expand at the expense of the Palestinians. Before modern communications, isolation from view allowed all manner of horrors in other lands. Now, a member of the IDF can hardly raise a nightstick without it being all over the Internet. Israel is here to stay, but it will always be on the examining table. To its great frustration, it can't get away with what so many others have done in the past.

Or can it? That, my fellow Americans, is up to you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

America is in Israel's pocket per Netanyahu

Watch and listen to what Netanyahu had to say a few years ago. It's in Hebrew but with English subtitling.

Is this really a revelation? How long has talking about peace been going on as Israel grabs additional land from the Palestinians? Only about 43 years while you and I haven't said boo.

It's way past time for a change. Are you calling your Congresspeople about this? Here are the toll-free phone numbers for the U.S. Capitol switchboard. Just ask for the office of your senators and representative.

US, in debt, sends billions to well-off Israel

It's no news that the United States is heavily in debt. Not only does the Treasury owe trillions but citizens are also in near record levels of debt.

Did you know that Israel is doing quite well? In a list of countries by external debt per capita, the US is #14 and Israel is #27 and that was in 2007.

It's no news to Americans that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost hundreds of billions of dollars and are continuing to cost billions. The removal of Saddam Hussein was a tremendous service to Israel. Are they helping to defray U.S. military costs? No.

And what's more, we supply Israel with the means to make things even worse for the United States by exposing our hypocrisy and enabling Israel to use the arms we supply it to oppress the non-Jewish civilians over which it has total control. Since both the Palestinians and the Jews have equal claims to the land, how can it be seen as anything but unjust for the US to uphold only one side politically and financially?

In 2007, the Unites States increased the amount of funding for Israeli military power to a record $30 billion over 10 years. Remember Israel has a population about that of the greater Chicago metropolitan area. This money we send for weapons goes to a country that strikes at civilians with the weapons it buys, that unilaterally strikes at neighbor countries when it thinks they may be building a threat, that keeps its army in occupied territories enforcing unequal rights for Israelis over Palestinians. Bellicose is the word. Now the talk is of a unilateral attack on Iran.

Does Congress debate the wisdom of this tremendous weapons funding? No.

Does Congress ask any questions on how U.S. supplied weapons are used when civilians are attacked? No, instead it speaks of Israel having a "right to defend itself", then accepts without question any action Israel declares as defensive. No other country on the planet is treated this way by the United States.

In the article linked above, it states that Israeli worries must be put to rest by giving it far more military aid than the US gives to any other country in the region.

Does Congress debate this concept? No.

My fellow Americans, this is done in your name with your money. Why do you put up with it? As long as you remain silent, the Israel lobby and the weapons manufacturers lobby will have their way with Congress. As will every lobby, they know exactly what they want - to pick your pocket - and it depends on you and me not caring enough to oppose them.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

anti-Semitism and Who is a Jew? are un-American

The events of the 20th century should put to rest that it's a good idea to take one ethnic group and select it for, or exclude it from, political power.

Eugenics, Lebensraum, the Holocaust, the two world wars of nations, the endless tribal wars of Africa all point to the superiority of having a country that makes no distinctions by race, creed or color...but it only works if the constituents of such a country agree to relate to each other on that basis.

Israel came late to the game of nations, but defined itself as Jewish, another in the long, long line of "we, and not they". Yet, inclusion and exclusion cannot be separated. Hitler choose to exclude, Israel chose to include. Neither of these has a place in the United States, that, through it's own sorry history of racism, appears to have settled the situation in favor of all-in-one with equal rights depending only on citizenship and not any sub-group identification.

This is part of the daylight that needs to exist between the U.S. and Israel. To say that America approves of a system that requires the state to decide who is a Jew is to deny the foundation of individual freedom in the lack of discrimination that we have worked so long to achieve.

Israel is a relatively fresh example of an anachronism. It is an understandable attempt by a minority to establish itself on the model of so many other nations, even as Europeans, who wrote the book on nationalism, are working for unification in various ways after having visited the abyss.

What irony to see blood and soil in Germany return as religion and soil in Israel, made up of a group that suffered enormously from the concept, now dishing out suffering to another group. But what are anti-Semitism and "Who is a Jew" if not two sides of the same coin?

The United States offers Jews, Italians, Amish, Bulgarians, Turks and everyone else who are citizens the freedom to live and worship as they wish, to speak as they wish, to dress as they wish. It allows all to build places of worship. What it doesn't offer is ancient holy sites over which to dispute ownership and holy land over which to argue priority.

Israel, though it dates as a state from 1948, is only the latest incarnation of political power in an area that has seen bloodshed for centuries past as the same sites repeatedly changed hands. It's the latest political grouping of people by religion rather than, as in the United States, by the idea of the human individual as a creature inherently worthy of dignity independent of such grouping. In this sense, the U.S. is based on a very recent concept while Israel is based on an ancient one. The founders of the United States sought to eliminate the kind exclusivity upon which Israel is based. The question of who is a Jew is only a new version of the conflict over identity which the U.S. rejects and we should have nothing to do with the idea that a religious body should sit in judgment of who may be a citizen of any country.

History tells us how this ancient idea has worked.

Because of the above, it is a non-sequitur to say there is no daylight between Israel and America.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why should Americans care what Israel does?

Israel is one of many countries in the world. Why should I pick it out for special attention by Americans?

It is because Israel is treated in a unique way by the United States. As mentioned in my first post, no other country in the world gets a free pass regardless of what it does. No other country gets the funding from the U.S. that Israel receives without any quid pro quo.

Vibrant as it is for those acceptable as citizens, Israel is by no means the kind of country that the U.S. is, claims that both are democracies notwithstanding. We would never tolerate for a moment what is practiced over there. But we pay for it to keep happening and THAT is why all Americans should be outraged.

The United States has no business supporting a country that claims special privileges for one group of people, that flouts the international laws on human rights to which both it and the U.S. are signatories and most important of all, that deliberately oppresses an entire group of people, not only threatening them with loss of property but also injury, loss of life, arbitrary imprisonment, eviction, restraints on movement and location of residence.

The lack of a uniform system of justice for both Israelis and Palestinians is the single most flagrant example of what many are calling apartheid. A civil court system exists for Israelis though they settle outside of Israel, while the Palestinians in the occupied territories are subject to the justice of military courts of the Israeli Defense Forces. How is this the rule of law? How is this equal protection under the law? It's incredible but true and we Americans support it, though we would justifiably take to the streets if it were attempted in the United States.

Older Americans may recall the terrible situation in Little Rock, Arkansas when it was necessary to send in federal troops in order to gain access to all-white schools by African-American children. This was a period in our history of which we are rightly ashamed. So also are we ashamed of the treatment of Native-Americans who were swept from their land in the 19th century. But we have learned from these bad times for minorities that there must be equal treatment under a common law for everyone.

So why do we "stand with" a country that engages in discrimination without apology? Democracy exits in Israel for Jews and a representation of Palestinians (20% of Israelis) who have been granted citizenship - always to be a minority that can be controlled by the majority in a Jewish state. Read about how a Palestinian member of the Knesset (Israel's parliament) was treated recently. This harks back to the beating of Senator Charles Sumner in the pre-Civil War Congress of 1856. How is this something that Americans can bankroll?

Too many Americans are ignorant of the history of their own country, so it's not surprising that they know little of what happens, or has happened in Israel. Don't let yourself be one like I was! Expect, demand an explanation from your government for why your hard-earned money is being shipped to one country in large amounts. That link is from 2007, but nothing has improved as you can find out at If Americans Knew. Check out this interactive map of the United States that will tell you how much money your state is sending to Israel for the period from 2009 to 2018 (wait for the U.S. map to appear then click on your state).

So your money goes to a country that practices what the United States would, were it any other country but Israel, condemn. I'm sick of this situation, and it's been going on like clockwork for decades. How about you?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The author of this blog

I am a 61 year old American male who, as a teenager, cheered on the Israelis in the 1967 war.

What changed my views on Israel? I lost my ignorance of both history and current events in the Middle East.

I decided to educate myself instead of forming my views from received wisdom. Though I knew (and know) many Jews, I did not know one Palestinian. I made it my business to discover the truth of the Palestinian situation for myself as can anyone who has access to the Internet.

There were many peculiarities about America's relationship to Israel. I had noticed that the United States position in the Middle East was one-sided. The uniform portrayal of the Palestinians as terrorists and madmen made me suspicious, because uniform descriptions of a people are a sure sign of bigotry as I knew from the bad old days of race relations in the United States. There was never any debate about Israel in Congress, nor even a hint of a question about anything Israel did, despite billions of dollars and weapons flowing there regularly.

I kept hearing about Israel's right to defend itself, when it was obvious that the country was a regional superpower able to dictate to its neighbors and strike them whenever and wherever it wanted. I wondered how the Palestinians could continue to oppose Israel decade after decade if there were no case to be made for them.

I noticed that there was criticism of Israel everywhere else, especially in Israel, but not in the United States. I noticed that American-made weapons were being used on Palestinians and that Palestinian civilian casualties consisting of men, women and children were several times that of Israel's armed forces, yet this was never questioned.

Americans I talked with knew nothing about the situation beyond Israel = good, all others = bad. This did not make sense and was not in accord with any other situation I knew about anywhere in the world. I noticed that Israel was a fairly rich country whose citizens lived very well while Palestinians were very poor and lived in squalor by comparison - yet Israel was considered the underdog under constant threat of annihilation.

I realized that "the underdog" had either taken or was taking all the land away from people who were largely defenseless. Despite excited cries of another Holocaust, it became clear that it was the countries surrounding Israel that had taken the overwhelming number of casualties since Israel came into existence in 1948. Not just for the Palestinians but for the area as a whole, the coming of Israel had truly been a catastrophe, for which the Arabic word is nakba. I knew that home-made rockets were fired into Israel and this seemed a strange source of outrage when no outrage was expressed over 43 years of land appropriation and attacks with F16's, helicopter gunships and a modern army and navy. With no Palestinian defense against any of this high-tech weaponry and virtually continuous surveillance by drone, it was clearly a turkey-shoot at any time and place of Israel's choosing.

In short - too many things made no sense, in fact seemed upside-down. I have learned quite a bit in my reading and this website is to be a source for other Americans to learn for themselves and act accordingly to change the shameful behavior of the United States in regard to the Palestinians. There will be no rants here. There will be lots of links to excellent sources of information. Click and see for yourself what the evidence shows then take action.

I am ashamed to say an entire people have been suffering for decades while I lived comfortably and in ignorance with my tax money aiding their oppression.