Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lani Kass - recusal required

We all should know the word recuse. It's commonly used in the courts where someone who has an interest in the case takes his/herself out of it for the sake of justice being done.

RECUSE: To disqualify or seek to disqualify from participation in a decision on grounds such as prejudice or personal involvement.

I can't think of a better person to recuse herself from what she is doing than Lani Kass, pictured here, the top civilian advisor for the U.S. Air Force.

According to Philip Giraldi, formerly of the CIA and now Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, Lani Kass was born, raised, and educated in Israel. She has a PhD in Russian studies and is fluent in Russian and Hebrew in addition to English. Kass reportedly reached the rank of major in the Israeli air force before moving to the United States and working her way up through the US defense establishment. She is currently the most senior civilian adviser to Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz and is believed to have access to most American defense secrets.

What in the world is this person doing in this position? Is there any country in the world that is more involved with and interested in the U.S. military than Israel? Could there be anyone more likely to have a biased view than a native Israeli in a top position within the U.S. Defense Department? How can this go on? Ms. Kass should not be making calls on U.S. military issues, or advising on those issues, when they have anything remotely to do with Israel. Yet, she does.

See Philip Giraldi's article on her from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, then write your Congresspeople. This situation should not continue.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Where are the Nakba museums?

There is a new Holocaust museum within easy bike riding distance of my home. In downtown Chicago there is the excellent Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.

The State of Illinois, by law, requires study of the Holocaust before students reach high school and also in high school. Here is the motivation for the law:

In November 1987, an outbreak of vandalism directed against Jewish stores and synagogues, prompted Erna I. Gans, Holocaust survivor and President of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, to issue a call for action to combat such violence with education in the form of a state mandate.

Everyone should know about the Holocaust and the Spertus Museum and the Holocaust Museum are excellent places for learning.

But the fact that a catastrophe is going on as we speak, as we visit the Spertus Institute or the Holocaust Museum, and by the very folks who are descendents of those who suffered, who are so well represented in these places - that this current, ongoing, United States funded catastrophe has nothing but silence to represent it, is a hypocrisy that is stunning.

How many times do we hear that two wrongs do not make a right? Are Palestinians any less innocent than were the Jews of Europe? It's quite true that Israel is not executing Palestinians outright, but to push a people out of their own land, to subject them to military justice, to deprive them of water, to prevent them building on their own property, to keep them from using the roads in their own land, to arrest them without warrants, without any reason given, to take them to prisons where their families cannot visit, to demand they have permits to leave and enter their own land - is this any less a catastrophe?

Today I am writing to my state representative and state senator. Here's my letter -

Senator Schoenberg:

In November 1987, an outbreak of vandalism directed against Jewish stores and synagogues, prompted Erna I. Gans, Holocaust survivor and President of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, to issue a call for action to combat such violence with education in the form of a state mandate.

The result was the Illinois Holocaust and Genocide Mandate.

I am writing to you today to ask if you would be willing to help me get started on a similar campaign to educate Illinois youth on the long-term, yet current dispossession of Palestinians in the occupied territories held by Israel. There is only silence on this subject and I am concerned that our children, and even our citizens in general, are not aware that the United States is sending $3 billion yearly to a country that is systematically evicting an entire people from their homeland.

This is far more damaging than the acts of vandalism that spurred Ms. Gans effort, because it is being done by our country as a whole and, though the Holocaust is history, the eviction of the Palestinians, their loss of their land, is ongoing and has been for several decades. Unlike the Holocaust which we shamefully did nothing about, the horrors visited on the Palestinians as the Israeli settlements push them aside can be stopped immediately, if only more people were aware of how the United States supports it by continued yearly funding of Israel. You, as my state senator, are in an excellent position to get the word out.

You may reach me by return email or by telephone. As all the Israeli human rights organizations would agree - there is no time to lose on this issue.

Clif Brown

UPDATE - as of July, 2012 (almost two years since this post) there has been no reply from Mr. Schoenberg.

Friday, August 27, 2010

don't tell me who you came from - tell me who you are

Too many people take too much pride in their ancestors.

You tell me you have free will. So how have you used that free will?

Have you taken responsibility for what you think? Do you base your words on discoveries that you have made for yourself - or do you speak the words of others, of parents, of friends, of authorities?

This video is from a man, Rich Siegel, who takes responsibility for himself, who educated himself.

He says something I would echo, that I hope a growing number of Americans will as well.

"I've come to understand that I've been supporting all my life something that I never would have supported if I had been told anything resembling the truth"
Listen to him sing and speak, remembering that there are many who, though they cannot sing or speak so well, have learned the truth in the same way as Rich - through direct, painful experience. After you hear him sing of the children, may I suggest a worthy way to contribute to the relief of their suffering?

Rich Siegel- "In Palestine" from Richard A Siegel on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

my calling card

I've designed my own calling card.

When I go out to a restaurant or a retail store, I leave behind a little something that another person might discover and read. Sure, it might well get thrown away, but there is a good chance it will be read even if only by the one throwing it away.

Why not make one of your own? Feel free to copy this one as-is or replace my blog address with any anti-occupation website you prefer. You can buy sheets of business cards for ink-jet printers, and inexpensive software to print cards, at any office supply store.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CNI - listen and talk to important voices

My first exposure to the problem of the power of the Israel lobby in the United States was in the early 1980's with a book by a Congressman from my state, Paul Findlay, in his They Dare to Speak Out. This was the first crack in the silence that has now become a flood.

Findlay was instrumental in creating the Council for the National Interest, or CNI. In the decades since, CNI has been conducting pilgrimages to the Middle East and doing its best to "advocate Middle East policies that serve the American national interest".

The leadership has just changed over to younger people and one of them Philip Giraldi, with this impressive CV (boldface is mine).

(Giraldi) an undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Chicago; a PhD from the University of London; speaks five languages; is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain; was Chief of Base in Barcelona from 1989 to 1992 designated as the Agency's senior officer for Olympic Games support; upon retirement was a security consultant for a number of Fortune 500 corporate clients; and has been interviewed widely by such media as "Good Morning America," MSNBC, National Public Radio, BBC and others as a counter-terrorism expert.

Giraldi is the new Executive Director at CNI. This is clearly a man who can speak with some authority on many issues, which brings me to the reason for this post...you can hear Giraldi being interviewed on a wonderful audio resource, an audio streaming program from CNI called Jerusalem Calling. There is a new edition of the program each Thursday, live at 12PM to 1PM Eastern time in the U.S.

Fortunately, an archive is kept and it is a gold mine for those interested in hearing some important voices from both America and the Middle East speaking their minds over the issues. You can hear from John Mearsheimer, Noam Chomsky, Jeffrey Blankfort, Jeff Halper, Laila el-Haddad, Mark Perry and many more.

Before I give you the links, a word of warning. In order to provide Jerusalem Calling, CNI uses a commercial web radio service called WSRadio. Unfortunately but understandably WSRadio inserts intro music and commercial breaks. Each weekly edition of Jerusalem Calling is broken up into four 15 minute segments - so you have to stream these segments one after another to hear an entire show.

Here's what I do to avoid all but the interview - click on each segment and, when it starts to play, move the time slider to the right just a bit to skip the noisy intro music - then listen to the segment. As soon as the host says "we have to take a break" get the next segment and repeat the process. Yes, it's an inconvenience to do this but I find it's worth it.

The interview with Phil Giraldi would be a good place to start, but you can also find John Mearsheimer, Noam Chomsky, Greta Berlin (who organized the Gaza Flotilla), Uri Avnery and Paul Findlay among many others. There is even an interview with a survivor of the Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty.

You can browse through all of the archived programs by clicking on the DATE button under "Listen to the Archives 24/7" and selecting a date from the drop-down list of all show dates. Alternatively, CNI has its own archive page listed by name of person interviewed, but not every program is listed.

Again, the show is live from 12PM to 1PM Eastern time in the U.S. each Thursday and call-ins are invited. To hear it, at air time go to any of the interview links above and click on the flashing ON AIR box at the upper left of the page, NOT the flashing box at upper right - that's for a different program.

Monday, August 23, 2010

protesting a Chicago-Israel link

Today I attended a protest at Chicago's Millennium Park. There is a celebration going on with performances and exhibits from Chicago's sister-cities around the world. One of the cities is Petach Tikva in Israel. Why protest that relationship?

Petach Tikva is the home of a detention center to which Palestinians may be taken who are arrested in the occupied territories. Transportation of detainees to another country from occupied territory is illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention, but the whole practice of administrative detention under which Palestinians can be held by the Israeli military are an object of concern. As B'Tselem reports (boldface mine)...

Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial that is authorized by administrative order rather than by judicial decree. Under international law, it is allowed under certain circumstances. However, because of the serious injury to due-process rights inherent in this measure and the obvious danger of its abuse, international law has placed rigid restrictions on its application. According to international law, administrative detention can be used only in the most exceptional cases, as the last means available for preventing danger that cannot be thwarted by less harmful means.

Israel's use of administrative detention blatantly violates these restrictions. It is carried out under the thick cover of privilege, which denies detainees the possibility of mounting a proper defense. Over the years, Israel has administratively detained thousands of Palestinians for prolonged periods of time, without prosecuting them, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their attorneys to study the evidence, making a mockery of the protections specified in Israeli and international law to protect the right to liberty and due process, the right of defendants to state their case, and the presumption of innocence.

In addition, the sister-cities program promotes economic ties between countries. Strengthening economic ties with Israel shows America's disregard for the plight of the Palestinians by helping the economy of a country that has continually deprived them of their rights and their lands for over 40 years. Israel would like nothing better than business as usual - good business with the outside world and no consequences for their bad business in the occupied territories.

As you can see, it was a beautiful sunny day on which to exercise the American right of free speech. Many fliers were handed out. One person walked up to us and said "Israel is our ally, you can go to hell!" I wish that fellow would read my posting The Ally that only Takes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

To Haim and Gershom

I am a dedicated follower of the blog South Jerusalem, the work of two Israeli writers, Haim Watzman and Gershom Gorenberg, who decry the injustices of the occupation. In a post today, Haim Watzman presented a letter he wrote to his son on the occasion of his enlistment with the Israeli army. It is a very interesting account of his family history regarding the armed forces of both Israel and the United States. You can read it for yourself.

Haim and Gershom are good men. There are many more good men and women in Israel, but I despair of their future or their ability to alter the course the country is on. Here is my comment to Haim's post.

Haim - a moving and very informative letter, as I would expect from you.

As I've mentioned, I now have a blog that is devoted to changing the relationship between Israel and America - to distance the United States from Israel. As a result of research done for the blog, I learn more detail daily on the situation in the West Bank and I am aghast that my money and my country are shielding such gross oppression.

As I become better informed, I think to myself "Haim and Gershom have to get out of there!"

I think this because I support your effort to find justice for the Palestinians in the occupied territories. I am deeply affected by the work of the many Israeli NGOs that tireless strive to make a dent in the awful enterprise that your country drives forward with a will. In fact my blog is dedicated to those NGOs

I look at their efforts and then I look at the government of your country that flouts the opinion of the entire world due to the backing of one fail-safe source of funding - my country. Your government is a rogue. Where will it stop? Would it hesitate to start a nuclear war? That a pre-emptive strike on Iran is seriously considered makes me wonder if you are led by madmen. The surest way to dedicate Iran to the outright pursuit of nuclear weapons with no excuses is to attack it to prevent it. If they want them, they will get them.

Israel has gone from the underdog to the uber-state of the region, bristling with weapons, that feels justified in acting unilaterally. There is a disturbing parallel with the behavior of the United States during the Bush II years. It frightens me to see this because I wonder about the influences of your country on mine.

The result of the Bush policies were rapidly pushing the U.S. into the solitude that Israel has achieved.

I have found American Jews who repudiate what Israel is doing, who deny that Israel is the voice of Jewry worldwide, who resent being lumped with a militarist state bent on riding roughshod over another indigenous people.

These Jews, along with many other Americans are outraged at "standing with" a country that repudiates the liberty and justice that America is supposed to stand for, our sorry history of hypocrisy notwithstanding.

I don't see the Netanyahu supporters, the settlement supporters being restrained. This will only add to the hatred from without. There is no going back to act in a more just manner, nor will the Palestinians disappear.

Just what does Israel stand for, not in 1948 but today? Any sympathy has been lost as we see demolition, military justice, denial of property rights, even of drinking water to people who have every right to say they are native to the land. People object to what they see happening in a country of 7 million yet that country bulls on regardless, acting as if it were the superpower that protects it. Talk about power corrupting? We have the people who have done so much for the dignity of humanity through the ages now dressed in fatigues, loudly and menacingly speaking of the will of God, and bulldozing the helpless off their land. This is the dream of Zion?

I see no reason to hope for the success of the good guys in Israel such as yourself, such as those with B'Tselem, HaMoked, such as Jeff Halper. Your leaders strut with the arrogance of any ruler of ancient Rome and will march you to disaster without hesitation - with the IDF as the instrument to do so, exactly as our previous administration almost gleefully jumped into the abyss of Iraq and Afghanistan - where so many thousands of lives were and are being blown away.

I don't want to see you go down in flames or be sitting in the new South Africa. How you can see a future there in keeping with what you hold dear escapes me.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

the ally that only takes

The September/October issue of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs has a powerful article from former U.S. Ambassador Charles W. Freeman, Jr. titled The Big Lie: That Israel is a Strategic Asset for the United States. It will be available in its entirety on-line next month.

Here is an excerpt from the article that speaks volumes about the one-way nature of the relationship between the United States and Israel...

...It's useful to recall what we generally expect allies and strategic partners to do for us. In Europe, Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East, they provide bases and support the projection of American power beyond their borders. They join us on the battlefield in places like Kuwait and Afghanistan or underwrite the costs of our military operations. They help recruit others to our coalitions. They coordinate their foreign aid with ours. Many defray the costs of our use of their facilities with "host nation support" that reduces the costs of our military operations from and through their territory. They store weapons for our troops, rather than their own troops, use. They pay cash for the weapons we transfer to them.

Israel does none of these things and shows no interest in doing them. Perhaps it can't. It is so estranged from everyone else in the Middle East that no neighboring country will accept flight plans that originate in or transit it. Israel is therefore useless in terms of support for American power projection. It has no allies other than us. It has developed no friends. Israeli participation in our military operations would preclude the cooperation of many others.

Meanwhile, Israel has become accustomed to living on the American military dole. The notion that Israeli taxpayers might help defray the expenses of U.S. military or foreign assistance operations, even those undertaken at Israel's behest, would be greeted with astonishment in Israel and incredulity on Capitol Hill.

Military aid to Israel is sometimes justified by the notion of Israel as a test bed for new weapons systems and operational concepts. But no one can identify a program of military R & D in Israel that was initially proposed by our men and women in uniform. All originated with Israel or members of Congress acting on its behalf. Moreover, what Israel makes it sells not just to the United States but to China, India and other major arms markets. It feels no obligation to take U.S. interests into account when it transfers weapons and technology to third countries and does so only under duress.

Meanwhile, it's been decades since Israel's air force faced another in the air. It has come to specialize in bombing civilian infrastructure and militias with no air defenses. There is not much for the U.S. Air Force to learn from that. Similarly, the Israeli navy confronts no real naval threat. It's experience in interdicting infiltrators, fishermen and humanitarian aid flotillas is not a model for the U.S. to study...

There's much more, but this gives a flavor of the whole. It's enough to make an American feel pretty foolish and it's been going on for decades.

Peace talks - always an Israeli win

Peace talks. Here we go again.

Peace talks are a tired method by which Israel, with it's overwhelming advantages and control over the Palestinians, who are powerless, has it's way while making it appear accommodating to America and eager for peace.

But no-one who has observed the process is fooled. It's said that a year will be allowed for the negotiations to produce results. That simply means a year for settlements to continue expanding and more Palestinian land to be lost.

The idea is to buy time so the bulldozers can continue their work in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But the settlement project is a loser by its success. There isn't enough land left for the Palestinians to have a country of their own and the inevitable result will be destitute Palestinians, in large numbers and under military law, scattered among well-off Israelis with full rights under the law. In other words, the settlements seal a future of apartheid.

Just like apartheid in South Africa, the system will not be sustainable. While Israelis may accept it, the world, including many Jews who live outside of Israel, will not.

While it is my intent with this blog to help speed the way for justice for the Palestinians, I have no doubt that it will come eventually. While appearing to get everything it wants, Israel has been steadily losing prestige, sympathy and backing since 1967. With a right-wing warrior leadership firmly in command, I see no reversal of this decline in the future.

Far from becoming an accepted and integrated member of the community of nations that surround it, Israel has lost the support of more distant nations that could have helped that happen, had it not flouted world opinion with the settlement project.

The end of the settlement project is the first necessity for peace, not something to be dealt with eventually. It is the cause of widespread anger, not to mention hatred, and has made Israel a liability to the United States. The fact that the settlements are not even mentioned in connection with the latest talks is proof of how pointless and unproductive the talks will be.

Instead, keep your eyes on the ever-growing opposition to what Israel is doing that is taking place in the United States. Better yet, join it. Two excellent groups with which to get involved are Jewish Voice for Peace and ICAHD-USA.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

for Palestinians, no refuge even at home

Did you see this story about Lebanon passing a law making it possible for refugee Palestinians to try for better than menial work in that country?

The Palestinians are not in the best of circumstances anywhere.

Did you know that there are about 1.4 million Palestinians living in 58 refugee camps in operation since the founding of Israel?.

Worst of all, even in what remains of their homeland in the West Bank, they are in prison because the Israeli military dictates their situation down to the last detail. Palestinians continue to lose their land to settlements in the pitiful fragments they tenuously live on in 2010.

Look at the sequence of maps below that portray what has happened since 1947 (courtesy of If Americans Knew). Do you recognize any similarity with Indian reservations in the United States? Did you, like me, fall for all the noise about Israel wanting peace for all the years this has been going on? Did you, like me, fall for the Israeli line that every Palestinian is a terrorist?

Seeing these maps, you can understand how the victims of this land grab might consider desperate measures. Don't forget that American Indians were the terrorists of the 19th century, and some of those who would be future leaders of Israel were dedicated terrorists in the middle of the 20th century. We need to get beyond labels and look at the maps that tell the undeniable story of the aggressor and the victim.

We can thank ourselves in America for allowing this to happen. Are you following the story of the settlements? Keep in mind that it has been official U.S. policy for decades to repudiate the settlement project, yet you can see what has happened regardless. What's made it possible is a steady flow of money, military hardware and diplomatic protection from the U.S. to Israel. Words of policy are immaterial.

Right now, President Obama is being just a tad more forceful on the issue than has been the case with most past U.S. presidents. You should make it a point to follow the story closely. Israel has been under a self-imposed moratorium on settlement building for many months. But will they continue it?

You can stay up-to-the-minute by reading the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a far better source of information on Israel than any U.S. newspaper.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shields up! (anti-Semitism)

The Holocaust was antisemitism brought to a nadir after centuries of practice throughout Europe and America.

The revulsion and shame after the Holocaust are rightly felt. Simple bigotry is shameful, let alone an organized slaughter.

But to use the Holocaust, or a charge of antisemitism as a shield for Israel's policies is fantastic. When you consider that what is taking place in the occupied territories is ethic-cleansing and that the Palestinians are Semitic, cries of antisemitism provide no defense, only nonsense.

Yesterday, I attended a meeting of A Jewish Voice for Peace. Several attendees mentioned the intimidation factor provided by irresponsible charges of antisemitism being invaluable in keeping a lid on public comment about the behavior of Israel.

Since I am not Jewish, I could be a target. What to do?

There's no choice but to stand up to the attacks if they come. To cringe and remain silent is a victory for injustice. The frequent and inappropriate use of the term are leading to another case of the boy who cried wolf - the attacks will lose force the more absurd they appear, particularly when the charges against Israel are well established both in fact and in the writings of many Jews.

There are plenty of American and Israeli Jews who side with justice and speak out against Israel's policies. Check out my Israeli NGO honor roll at top right. It's important to remember that the government of Israel is not the spokesman for Jews throughout the world, much as it would like us all to believe it is. It's not even the spokesman for all Israeli Jews. See the blog South Jerusalem, for example.

Yet we have the current incredible situation - a minority, the Israeli settlers, in a country of 7 million is essentially dictating the Middle East foreign policy of the world's superpower, a nation of 300 million, thanks to the power of a lobby. This is leverage that puts the banksters to shame!

The best way to counter charges of antisemitism is to point out the agenda of those who are making the charge - the lobby. If Americans, with all of our freedom, cannot speak out against wrong, then who can? Are we simply a herd of cows to be regularly milked? Over 40 years of history says yes.

It's our obligation to use our freedom to end the hypocrisy that makes our country look foolish before the world and arouses so much anger against us. World public opinion expects us to live up to our high opinion of ourselves through deeds that justify it. It's time to wake up to the obvious. Though some may "hate our freedoms", many more are revolted by our arrogant view, lofty words and contradictory behavior.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jeff Halper speaks the truth

Last winter I was pleased to be able to meet Israeli activist Jeff Halper at a coffee held for him on the occasion of his appearance at a hearing in Chicago on the subject "Does U.S. Policy on Israel and Palestine Uphold Our Values?" You know my answer to the question - absolutely not!

Jeff is the driving force behind the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions where his love of his country prompts his effort to see justice done to the Palestinians. There is no more powerful voice for what I am trying to achieve with this blog - to right a great wrong that has been in progress for over 40 years. I, too, am driven by a love of my country and am outraged at the hypocrisy of American backing of blatant Israeli oppression.

On his Facebook page, Jeff says, "Does the world know that Israel's Constitution decrees that 'Arabs are there by suffrage and not by Right'? How can you have PEACE without Justice?"

You are in luck! A video (embedded below) was made of Jeff's testimony and comments during the hearing. Never have I heard so much valuable information and insight on the subject imparted in just over 30 minutes. I know your time is probably tight, but watch the video if you can. Of particular interest is his answer to the question - "how can it be that Jews are doing this?" Scroll down for the embedded second video that has Jeff's recitation of the history of the land grab and the situation at the moment.

Here are some notable facts cited by Jeff
24,000 Palestinian homes in occupied territories have been demolished since 1967

94% of Palestine was owned by Palestinians in 1948 - the remaining 6% had been bought by the Zionist movement. In 1949, of the land that is modern Israel, 94% was controlled by Israelis, 6% by Palestinians.

Today there are 230,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem and 20,000 demolition orders outstanding for East Jerusalem.

Jeff says, "demolition orders are forever" - for the Palestinians, the Israeli bulldozers may come today, tomorrow, in ten years or maybe never.

"I am not aware of any Palestinian winning a legal case reversing a demolition order"

Israel has zoned the entire West Bank as agricultural land - all of East Jerusalem has been zoned green space (for the purpose of preventing Palestinian building)

I highly recommend that you go to the hearing site and watch the other videos concerning limitations on Palestinian movement and military aid to Israel.

Friday, August 13, 2010

the bulldozer - icon for Israel

Back when I was a 20 something, I remember pictures of Israeli bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes.

In later years, there were images of Palestinian olive groves being leveled by bulldozers and of settlements being built in occupied territory with bulldozers. I was amazed - building new homes on Palestinian land that Palestinians would be forbidden to buy - and using Palestinian labor to build them! According to Wikipedia, in Hebrew, chutzpah is used indignantly to describe someone who has over-stepped the boundaries of accepted behavior with no shame.

But, being a typical American, I didn't bother to find out the facts and assumed that if Israel, country of the good, was doing something then it had to be right. Was I wrong! Watch this video to see the armored Cats in action with a good summary of the situation and even a few words from Jeff Halper - doing the right thing, as always.

As mentioned in the video, Rachel Corrie was crushed by an armored bulldozer. She wasn't the first and won't be the last person to get under those steel treads. Her death received attention, though, because she wasn't Palestinian. It reminds me of some dialog from one of Mark Twain's books. One person is relating to another the details of a steamboat boiler explosion and says, "nobody was hurt, but it killed a couple of niggers."

The armored bulldozer has become an icon for the country more appropriate than the Star of David. The latter represents Judaism, many follows of which want nothing to do with what Israel is doing in the occupied territories.

I've sent the following email to Caterpillar...
I'm considering investing in your company, but I am bothered by the images of your D9 bulldozer being used in the occupied territories by Israel. I cringe every time I see Palestinian farms being destroyed or demonstrators being opposed with the Caterpillar product.

Do you have any plans to get out of that market?

I'll let you know if I get a reply. UPDATE: I received a reply that did not address my question but simply referred me to the different divisions of Caterpillar.

Did you see the movie Gandhi? At one point there is a slaughter of Indians by the British. In the military investigation that follows, one of the judges, in disgust, asks the officer in command at the slaughter how the dead women and children could have voiced an appeal to a British Royal-Enfield rifle.

Israel is not slaughtering people. The government uses far greater finesse with ethnic cleansing, applying laws one way today and another tomorrow, one way for Israelis and another way for Palestinians, but I would ask how does one appeal to a D9 armored bulldozer? I would also ask, where is the Israeli equivalent of those British investigators?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

red herrings for Israel

I have a friend with whom I debate several issues. He is a strong defender of Israel, but I say that meaning a defense in the traditional knee-jerk sense - he defends each and every thing that Israel does without thinking. In other words, he is the kind of American that the Israel lobby treasures.

The best defense of Israel, I believe, is that taken by many protesting Israelis and the Israeli NGO's that oppose the settlement project, demanding Israel adhere to its own laws and withdraw from the illegal settlements.

What I want to illustrate here is the manner in which my friend defends Israel, fishing up a whole host of red herrings that would make AIPAC proud, because it's their method as well. The points he mentions are informative because they indicate the wall of noise that is faced by anyone wishing to make the case against the settlements.

To make my defense, I recommended to my friend a reading of one of the strongest indictments of the settlement project available online, B'Tselem's summary of its 2002 report, Land Grab. This report only speaks of government policies toward settlements and not of the many other aspects of Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians that violate human rights. For the purpose of my argument, that Israel is violating not just international law, but it's own laws, Land Grab couldn't be more pertinent. If you haven't read it - by all means, do so!

Instead of reading it, my friend provided the following points that he considers telling arguments.

  • Israel and Islam, the latter which denies the tight of the former to exist
  • Centuries of occupation
  • Judaism was there before Islam
  • Atrocities by Hamas and Hezbollah countered by force from Israel
  • Arbitrary boundary decisions by British occupiers
  • A fruitless war effort by Egypt that backfired
  • Isolation of Palestinians by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon.
  • Undercover aid by Iraq and Iran(who denies the Holocaust)
  • Corrupt leaders such as Arafat who reneged on treaty promises and embezzled billions
  • Persecution of Christians by Islamic rulers

Do you see any relevance to the settlement project in this list? There isn't any. But, like anti-aircraft fire thrown up to bring down an enemy bomber, the hope is that at least one will score a hit. Confusion of the issue is the goal, so that the clear wrong of the settlements will be lost in a jungle of emotion-laden confusion.

If you are an American making a case against the settlements, as I am, be prepared for the flak. The United States Congress has fallen for it, don't you fall for it too.

Monday, August 9, 2010

HAMAS helping Israel?

The formation of HAMAS was aided by Israel. As it says at Wikipedia -

“Thanks to Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad (Israel’s Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks), the Islamists were allowed to reinforce their presence in the occupied territories. Meanwhile, the members of Fatah (Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine) and the Palestinian Left were subjected to the most brutal form of repression”, according to L'Humanit√©.[1] Indeed Israel supported and encouraged Hamas' early growth in an effort to undermine the secular Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat.

These days, HAMAS, and/or those that HAMAS doesn't stop, are launching unguided home-made rockets into Israel causing occasional injuries and damage to property. Operation Cast Lead, that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 Palestinians and widespread destruction in late 2008 and early 2009, was launched in an attempt to stop the rockets.

One would be tempted to say that Israel's early support of what was to become HAMAS backfired, resulting in the most fierce opposition to Israel to date.

So how could HAMAS possibly be helping Israel?

Consider two parties arguing over land. One party is warlike, threatening the other with destruction. The second party speaks only of peace and the need to defend itself. For the ordinary person not a party to the dispute, where would sympathy lie? Quite naturally it would be with the peace seeking party.

But suppose that the party of peace was just as determined to seize land as the party of war and that it had found a method to do so, not by fighting, but through illegal settlement of its citizens on the land of others over a period of years?

Still further, suppose that in order to carry out this settlement project, the party of peace needed financial support from an outside source that could be depended upon year in and year out.

How could these two projects - the settlements and the funding - be kept going reliably, especially when the entire world with the exception of the United States was denouncing the settlements?

Enter HAMAS to the rescue! By pin-pricking Israel with home-made rockets, HAMAS allows Israel to continually sound the alarm of self-defense, turning the eyes of the world to rockets while taking those same eyes off of the settlement project. "We're under attack!" brings in the funds from the United States and the settlements continue.

Now, having rockets come into Israel is no party and plenty of folks living in the Sderot (sdare-OAT) area are living with high anxiety. There is no doubt that the rocket launches are wrong and should be stopped.

But so are the settlements wrong, even as they have, from the settler perspective, become a huge success. They have proceeded without meaningful restraint for decades with the full support of each Israeli government and generous subsidies from those governments as detailed (in 2002 but still accurate today) by B'Tselem.

As Ariel Sharon knew, Gaza was a hopeless cause for a land grab - too many Palestinians in too small a space. The small number of Israelis heavily guarded by soldiers in Gaza looked bad. So it was goodbye and good riddance. But the West Bank is a different story, with Palestinians more spread out and relatively empty land to grab...ideal for expansion. Things have gone so well that even urban Palestinian areas are being pressured by settlements now - the pincers are closing on East Jerusalem as exemplified at Sheikh Jarrah.

Of course the world objects, but as long as the United States Congress keeps the money flowing, who cares? And with those rocket attacks bringing in even MORE money ($220 million this year for the Iron Dome anti-missile system that pays an Israeli company to produce it for Israel) can the party of peace possibly hope that things could be any better?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Jerusalem land grab - Sheikh Jarrah

Join me on a short geography tour that may clear up some confusion among Americans about what is going on in Jerusalem these days.

Just below is a map of the Jerusalem area, my color-modified excerpt from the excellent B'Tselem map of the settlements. The light blue area, with the label West Jerusalem, is the extent of Israel prior to the 1967 war. Everything else - not blue - was under the control of Jordan and is part of what we call the West Bank, the homeland of the Palestinians that remained after Israel was created in 1948. Only the blue area shown here is recognized by the international community as part of Israel. Everything else is occupied territory. The line that defines Israel is called the green line. The map covers about 15 miles east to west

Now let's move to the present with the same map centered on Jerusalem seen below. This version is full color, but note the light blue area of Israel at left remains as before. Look at how the West Bank has turned blue! All of the dark and light blue areas there are Israeli settlements, either urban (darkest blue) or simply under settlement "jurisdiction" (very light blue), all in occupied territory. Red marks Israeli military areas.

This is a land grab, but only a fraction of it as you are viewing only a small part of the West Bank. You can see the squeeze on the Palestinians (brown areas) is on. The illegal settlements are closing in on east Jerusalem from the north, east and south, deliberately, to force out the Palestinians, disconnect Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and establish it as a Jewish city. It is already claimed by Israel as its capitol, another assertion that the world doesn't recognize. The United States has taken no action to impede this occupation/eviction. This process is known as establishing "facts on the ground".

Now let's move in closer to a Palestinian neighborhood known as Sheikh Jarrah (shake jar-AH), identified with the arrow to the white X on the map below. Notice that it is right on the green line in East Jerusalem - a prime location for evicting Israeli settlers to target. And they are doing so with full force, aided by the Israeli courts, the police and, unwitting Americans who don't know this is going on even as Congress obediently "stands by Israel" under the influence of the Israel lobby.

Palestinian residents, living in Sheikh Jarrah since 1948 after being evicted once from their original homes in what is now Israel, are being evicted again. Quite a few Israelis are justifiably outraged as they see a mockery made of the rule of law and the role of the police. I hope you are stimulated to find out more now that you see the geography of the situation. People are being beaten and taken to jail over this, attempting to defend the human rights that Jews have been known to uphold throughout history. Why do we in America not lift a finger to support them?

Go to Sheikh Jarrah to find out more, complete with videos of demonstrations and a full explanation in both Hebrew and English. It's an outrage that you can do something about.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nakba - the other side of the coin

For Americans, the story of Israel is presented in only one way, that of a heroic re-possession of ancient lands, a just action for a historically persecuted people.

From the film Exodus, to the many plays, other movies and books on the Jewish experience in America, one can only come away with a sympathetic view toward Israel and a vision of the Israelis as underdogs who deserve unquestioning support against yet another group who oppose the Jews.

But no attention is paid to the indigenous Palestinians who were the great majority of those living in the area that is now Israel. For them the founding of the Jewish state is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe. As they saw more and more people from other countries arriving after 1900, they opposed the moves and were increasingly alarmed by the steady acquisition of lands.

They had no spokesmen to compare with such as Chaim Wiezmann, who had the ears of the British Parliament and of President Truman. For the Arabs, the ascent of Israel was accompanied by loss after loss culminating in the 1948 war that established Israel, resulting in eviction and the establishment of over 50 refugee camps run by the United Nations (UNRWA) now holding 4.7 million people.

But that was not the limit of their losses. After the 1967 war, the Israeli settlement movement pushed into the occupied territories in violation of international law. This movement continues to the present day and a recent report by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem revealed that 42% of the West Bank is now settler occupied, squeezing the Palestinians into a tiny fraction of the land they knew as home in the past.

They must watch as the land from which they were evicted and to which they cannot return is held within a country that freely offers citizenship to anyone from a foreign country whose sole qualification for residence is that they are Jewish.

If this were not bad enough, the boot of Israel is on the Palestinian neck every day in every aspect of daily life. No one can leave the occupied territories without permission, and everyone fears that even if they do get permission to leave they will not be allowed to return. Permanent and "flying" checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers demand identification. Routes of travel within the occupied territories are restricted. Military justice is the best that can be hoped for. All this even as Israeli settlers in the occupied territories have full Israeli citizenship rights, are personally armed, protected by military force and rarely are called to account for attacks on Palestinians.

From a people living upon their own land, the Palestinians have become prisoners with that land subject to seizure by the Israeli military or by settlers at any time with no one to appeal to but the Israeli authorities.

How bitter it must be to see such oppression explained by the "right of Israel to defend itself" while any and all Palestinian opposition to the land grab is called terrorism.

Catastrophe indeed, and America has stood by with hands folded throughout. Don't let this continue. Get involved.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

standing with Israel on cluster bombs

The Convention on Cluster Munitions takes effect today, August 1, 2010.

It's an international treaty that bans the use of cluster bombs, a type of explosive that scatters bomblets over an area. Most major producers of cluster munitions and their components, including the US, Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Brazil, have not signed the Convention.

From Wikipedia - The impetus for the treaty, like that of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines, has been concern over the severe damage and risks to civilians from explosive weapons during and long after attacks. A varying proportion of submunitions dispersed by cluster bombs fail to explode on impact and can lie untouched for years until disturbed. The sometimes brightly colored munitions are not camouflaged, but have been compared to toys or Easter eggs, attracting interest from children at play.[9][10] Human rights activists claim that one in four casualties resulting from submunitions that fail to explode on impact are children who often pick up and play with the explosive canisters well after the conflict has ended.[11] The 2006 Lebanon War provided momentum for the campaign to ban cluster bombs. The United Nations estimated that up to 40% of Israeli cluster bomblets failed to explode on impact.

Proudly standing with Israel?