Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yonatan Shapira, profile in courage

Yonatan Shapira is a former Israeli Air Force helicopter pilot who decided along with several fellow pilots that he could not continue to serve on missions into the occupied territories. He was dismissed from the air force as a result but has continued to work toward justice for the Palestinians.

Recently, he captained the boat carrying about a dozen Jews who attempted to reach Gaza. The boat was taken by Israeli forces before it could reach its destination.

Shapira kept a log of the time he spent on the boat to Gaza. Here is an excerpt I found powerful, particularly in his account of his friend Arik...

Seven years ago on the eve of Rosh Hashana we published what the media called “the pilots’ letter.” In that declaration we announced to the whole nation (yes, we wore flight-suits and were interviewed in the press and on television) that we would refuse to take part in the crimes of the Occupation.

Ten days after that, on the eve of Yom Kippur, we were invited for a talk with the Commander of the Air Force. After he outlined to me his racial theory (in the form of a scale of value of blood, from the Israelis on the top down to the Palestinians at the bottom) he informed me that I was dismissed and that I was no longer a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Many things have happened since then. Many boats have crossed the Corinthian Canal, many demonstrations and arrests, but mainly, many children have been murdered in Gaza. I remember Arik, a close childhood friend and a combat pilot, who hesitated over whether to sign and to refuse but in the end sincerely informed me that he did not want to give up his wonderful toy, the F-16. At first he still had a little shame about the comfortable choice he had made. Secretly he supported me and admitted that he did not have courage. Seven years passed and today he is still an operational pilot in the reserves, a leader of attack formations in his combat wing and on his hands or wings is the boiling blood of tens of innocent Palestinians and Lebanese, maybe more. The traces of morality that he had are gone now and today Arik will bomb any place at any time, wherever they tell him. That is the beauty of routine. In the end everything looks normal to you: an ordinary man, kind and polite and a good father to his daughters, turns into a mass murderer. I was not a bomber pilot. I flew Blackhawks that are used mainly for rescue missions and to transport personnel. One argument we heard from those who disagreed with us, and especially people from my wing, three members of which signed the letter, was that none of us was asked personally to shoot or to bomb or to assassinate. We replied to that argument by saying that it was not necessary to commit murder in order to say that it is forbidden to commit murder, and that it is easy to say “I just held the stick while the other pilot launched the missile.

Here is the "pilots letter" that Shapira and his fellow refuseniks wrote...
We, Air Force pilots who were raised on the values of Zionism, sacrifice, and contributing to the state of Israel, have always served on the front lines, and were always willing to carry out any mission to defend and strengthen the state of Israel.

We, veteran and active pilots alike, who have served and still serve the state of Israel for long weeks every year, are opposed to carrying out attack orders that are illegal and immoral of the type the state of Israel has been conducting in the territories.

We, who were raised to love the state of Israel and contribute to the Zionist enterprise, refuse to take part in Air Force attacks on civilian population centers. We, for whom the Israel Defense Forces and the Air Force are an inalienable part of ourselves, refuse to continue to harm innocent civilians.

These actions are illegal and immoral, and are a direct result of the ongoing occupation which is corrupting the Israeli society. Perpetuation of the occupation is fatally harming the security of the state of Israel and its moral strength.

"We who serve as active pilots - fighters, leaders, and instructors of the next generation of pilots -- hereby declare that we shall continue to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and the Air Force on every mission in defense of the State of Israel.
There is a YouTube video of Shapira speaking of his decision to refuse military service in the occupied territories.

An audio interview with Shapira about his experience on the recent Gaza blockade running attempt has been done by the Palestinian News Network

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

American murdered, U.S. silent

Furkan Dorgan, pictured, an American citizen, was 19 years old when he was shot while aboard the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza Flotilla. My thanks to TruthOut for the following information from the U.N. Fact Finding Mission report on the flotilla.

A few excerpts from TruthOut...boldface mine
The report of the fact-finding mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla released last week shows conclusively, for the first time, that US citizen Furkan Dogan and five Turkish citizens were murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos.

The report reveals that Dogan, the 19-year-old US citizen of Turkish descent, was filming with a small video camera on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara when he was shot twice in the head, once in the back and in the left leg and foot and that he was shot in the face at point blank range while lying on the ground...

...The Turkish government gave the autopsy report on Dogan to the US Embassy in July and it was then passed on to the Department of Justice, according to a US government source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the administration's policy of silence on the matter. The source said the purpose of obtaining the report was to determine whether an investigation of the killing by the Justice Department (DOJ) was appropriate...

...The administration has not volunteered any comment on the fact-finding mission report and was not asked to do so by any news organization. In response to a query from Truthout, a State Department official, who could not speak on the record, read a statement that did not explicitly acknowledge the report's conclusion about the Israeli executions...

...Although the report's revelations and conclusions about the killing of Dogan and the five other victims were widely reported in the Turkish media last week, not a single story on the report has appeared in US news media.

The administration has made it clear through its inaction and its explicit public posture that it has no intention of pressing the issue of the murder of a US citizen in cold blood by Israeli commandos.

On June 13, two weeks after the Mavi Marmara attack, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement saying that Israel "should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security" and that Israel's military justice system "meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation."

So there we have it, another example of the U.S. buttoning up in the same way it did when Israel attacked and attempted to sink the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967. For the U.S. government when it comes to Israel, American lives are expendable.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The first loss, more has followed

Israel above all

One of the remarkable things about Israel in the realm of U.S. foreign policy is that it stands above the rest of the international terrain. The Zionist project is supreme and comes before all other considerations and contenders for U.S. attention. This has remained a constant since 1970 and regardless of the actions of a particular Israeli government.

The investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, wrote a book in 1991 about the development of atomic weapons by Israel, The Samson Option. Well worth reading and bursting with little known facts, this book describes the deliberate effort by each U.S. administration to look the other way in spite of information that would have allowed the U.S. to insist on a stop to nuclear weapons development by Israel. Then, with the nuclear weapons developed, Israel was able to force the United States to send it conventional weapons during the 1973 war by threatening to use those nuclear weapons against the Arabs if the U.S. did not come through. Did this change U.S. policy toward Israel? No.

The reason for this is, as always, the political might of the Israel lobby in the United States and the influence of wealthy donors at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Hersh's story of Abe Feinberg is a perfect example of a fund-raiser so powerful that he is called in before political decisions are made to see if a possible policy change would be acceptable to the lobby.

Also in the book is a detailed account of the espionage of Jonathan Pollard, an American who sent over 500,000 pages of classified U.S. intelligence material to Israel and with the knowledge by Israeli leadership that it was taking place and should continue. Most incredible is that Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir turned over some of the information to the USSR in an attempt to thaw relations between Israel and Russia.

This kind of double dealing is to be expected between nations. What makes the Pollard/Israel case exceptional is that there were no consequences for Israel. Though Pollard was given life in prison, it was still possible to mount a "free Pollard" movement in the U.S. that continues today. At one time, some synagogues had signs up demanding Pollard be freed - U.S. citizens asking that a traitor to the United States be freed! Were Americans in general upset by this? No.

The very idea that the U.S. would even consider freeing a person caught undermining the country with determination for years (Pollard sent everything he could get his hands on) is evidence that Israel is not just another country, but an exception for which the U.S. will jump through hoops. But we know that. And we know it continues to this day, as we see President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton virtually beg Israeli PM Netanyahu to stop settlements - then stand by helplessly when he doesn't.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

blogging for change in U.S. policy

There is an excellent new video available at the Palestine Center, an interview/discussion recorded last Thursday in Washington DC called The New Media and the Palestine Question. There are two sessions (morning and afternoon) with two guests each.

Though all of it is worth watching, I realize you likely will not want to devote 3 hours of your time to it. The must see portion runs from 32 minutes in on the second session to the end of the session and features author/blogger Stephen Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby and blogger MJ Rosenberg. Both of these men know their subject and are passionate about it. I promise you won't be bored and will be enlightened on the political process that is so difficult and frustrating to re-direct.

The second session can be found by scrolling down to the second Flash player screen

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

destruction of facts on the ground

I have watched many videos from Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is apparent that Israelis do not consider the Palestinians as equals. This is backed up by the story of a friend, an Irish-American who, while visiting Jerusalem, noticed a female member of the IDF give a gratuitous shove to an elderly Palestinian woman who had passed in front of the soldier.

Shocked at this casual abuse, my friend turned to her fellow tourists and said "did you see that?" They had, but showed little interest. My friend was outraged and followed the soldier to ask her why she had shoved the old woman aside. The soldier answered, "she's just an Arab". Slaveholders in the American Old South would understand.

Israel has been in existence for over 60 years, plenty of time for the indoctrination of several generations. In Israeli schools a national mythology is taught, a story thoroughly refuted by Shlomo Sand as related in a previous post. But mythology, if placed in the head and reinforced, is taken as fact - the very reason that education is so important to nationalism. The principle fact imparted to young Israelis by the national mythology is that they are the only legitimate possessors of the land and the Palestinians are implants to be removed.

This explains much Israeli behavior that, to those of us outside the area, appears antithetical to Judaism. The thing to remember is that Zionism is not Judaism and Israel is a Zionist project. This is why many Jews are at least as appalled by what is being done to the Palestinians by Israelis as I am.

With this deeply implanted contempt of the Palestinians as a theme, consider the outrageous act of cultural destruction that is the demolition of the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem. Could anything be more insulting to a people than to destroy a shrine to their dead? Could anything more powerfully indicate the worthlessness of one people to another than bringing in earth-movers to uproot and dump human remains as so much trash?

But that's not all. To be erected on the same site is the "Simon Wiesenthal Center for Human Dignity and Museum of Tolerance". The word for the situation is Orwellian. From Wikipedia - boldface mine

"Orwellian" describes the situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free society. It connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson" — a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments.
Can't believe it? Read the report on the destruction and don't miss the video included. There is a simple fact sheet and, should you feel inclined to object, a petition against the destruction of the cemetery that you can sign here.

For how little this means to the Jerusalem Post, see this article about the project in that newspaper. The destruction of the cemetery merits a single sentence in passing. It's the kind of ho-hum treatment (at best) Palestinians have learned to expect. A reader of the article could easily miss the cemetery mention entirely.

Monday, September 20, 2010

law that means nothing

The law is a farce in the occupied territories, whether it is military law or Israeli civil law that is supposed to apply to the Israelis who live in the settlements.
  • laws that exist can be interpreted so broadly as to exercise no restraint on the IDF
  • rulings of the Israeli High Court can be disregarded repeatedly by the military, as one would expect of a militarized state such as Israel where power lies with force rather than legislation.
  • laws can be passed specifically to discriminate against Palestinians, in fact the founding law of the State of Israel does so by declaring Israel a Jewish state.
  • settlers can disregard law entirely when harassing or stealing land or destroying property of the Palestinians. In fact, IDF soldiers will often stand by or even assist settlers against Palestinians.
There's a good example of the meaninglessness of law provided by what has happened at the Derekh Ha’avot outpost, near the Elazar settlement, in the Etzion Bloc. The Etzion bloc is the southernmost of the four settlement blocks shown on the following map, all of them illegally established in occupied territory.

The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled nine years ago that the Derekh Ha’avot outpost was illegal and ordered it stopped and demolished. Neither action happened. Instead, settlers continued to build.

The Israeli group Peace Now petitioned the court, demanding the law be enforced. In 2008 this petition was denied. The reason? The High Court deferred to the military, though Israeli citizens are involved. This, of course, is a green light to all manner of behavior by the settlers in the occupied territories since the Israeli military has shown itself unwilling to restrain them.

Law restraining the Palestinians, however, such as the one forbidding them to build new structures or additions on their own land, is rigorously enforced.

I ask all Americans - would we accept a ruling by the Supreme Court that is not enforced? As you know, the Supreme Court ruled on judicial matters at Guantanamo, outside of the United States, and there was no question that the ruling would be obeyed by the U.S. Army.

In Israel, though, American money continues to flow in regardless of the flagrant disregard of the law. What would Jewish U.S. Supreme Court Justices Felix Frankfurter and Louis Brandeis have said, what would current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg say?

Frustrated Palestinians who are driven to extremes, to violence, by this outrageous lawlessness are dubbed terrorists - but who is it that truly is stopping at nothing, at no law?

Summarizing the situation at the Derekh Ha’avot outpost, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem in it's report says...
The High Court’s decision, which adopts the state’s position with respect to the Derekh Ha’avot outpost, legitimizes the looting of land and ongoing contravention of the building laws, in this outpost and in all the other settlements, and exempts the law-enforcement authorities from enforcing the law on criminal settlers and lawbreakers. Given the illegality of the settlements in the first place, B'Tselem demands that the government of Israel dismantle the outpost along with the rest of the settlements and immediately enforce the law on the settlers.

Justice for all? Good luck on that!

P.S. This just in - the prohibition on using .22 bullets on protesters is ignored by the IDF

Saturday, September 18, 2010

no appeal to the law for Palestinians attacked by settlers

One thing that surely should get Americans upset is the Israeli way of disregarding the law when it concerns Palestinians. By international law it is the obligation of an occupier to look out for the welfare of the people in the occupied territory.

In the latest issue of Haaretz, there is a perfect example of this in action. Palestinians are told by Israel that if they are attacked by settlers, they should go to a settlement to file a complaint with the police there.

But wait. Palestinians are not allowed into settlements. So they are to go to the entrance to the settlement, call the police and wait for a patrol car to come get them and take them to the police station to file a complaint.

Palestinian Munir Kadus waiting for the police

You can imagine how well this works. Please read the article for the sorry facts documented by two reporters from the paper, and remember that settlers, if they complain, have the Israeli army to back them up at a moment's notice - and all of this blatant injustice on Palestinian land taken by the settlers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Exclusion zone takes land and lives

Recently, a Palestinian farmer and his grandson were killed by a tank-fired shell while walking on their land near the border with Israel at the north end of the Gaza trip. Let's take a look at the background situation.

Here is a map of the Gaza Strip showing the perimeter zones: "no-go" in red, where anyone entering will be shot and "high-risk" in orange, where anyone entering might be shot. See the second map for a close-up of where the incident of the farmer/grandson occurred.

The grandfather/grandson were in the "high risk" area (blue arrow) between the Erez crossing to Israel and the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun (bet ha-NOON)

Though the two were killed by tank fire, remote-controlled machine gun towers are the typical means of enforcing exclusion. Here is a picture of one of the machine gun towers. The guns are fired by women in the IDF using joy-sticks located in a control room. This means that any attacks on the towers will not endanger the operators. The tower shown is near Khan Yunis, not Erez, but the operation is the same.

Though the no-go zone extends on 300 meters from the border, the high-risk zone extends without clear definition but about 1300 meters from the border, or 3/4 of a mile, all of it Palestinian land. The United Nations report, from which I am drawing my pictures, says this is 17% of the entire land area of the Gaza Strip, so it isn't surprising that farm land is part of it - hence the presence of the farmer/grandson on their land. The Israeli army makes it a practice to clear this land of crops so that it can maintain a clear line of sight. Palestinian farmers have taken to growing very low-height crops in hope of continuing to farm.

Now let's get a feel for the area. Here is a video of demonstrators appearing at the same site as the killings to protest them. You will hear the machine gun tower begin firing in warning and you will see the actual terrain and the tower for yourself.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

military-industrial complex working fine

From a story in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today...(boldface is mine)

A ministerial panel headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak made a final decision Thursday to purchase 20 new F-35 fighter jets, despite opposition from a number of senior defense officials over the high cost of the deal.

Barak gave his go-ahead last month to purchase the jets in a deal valued at around $2.75 billion. The first planes are expected to arrive in 2015.

The Israel Air Force, however, will have to make do with considerably fewer planes than the 75 originally sought. The entire deal will be funded by American military...

...Negotiations dragged on for more than two years amid several disagreements; many revolved around the IAF's demands that Israeli-made systems be installed for specialties such as electronic warfare and communications. Israel also wanted to expand the plane's capacity to allow it to carry Israeli-made missiles.

The Americans declined, however, insisting that the deal was a "closed package" and none of the components could be altered.
In any case, the F-35 will give the IAF outstanding radar-dodging capabilities that allow preemptive strikes against enemy states with advanced air defense technologies.
So it's more weapons paid for by the United States and built by the United States going to Israel. The only real argument was over which country's weapons manufacturers would get to jump on the money train.

Note the pre-emptive capability. This is the heart of the "Bush Doctrine" that got us into the mess of Iraq and, since Israel does as it pleases with U.S. weaponry, may get us into another mess.

Interestingly, at the moment, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton is pleading with Netanyahu to stop the settlements, even if only temporarily. From another story in the same issue of Haaretz today...

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Israel on Thursday to extend its freeze of construction in West Bank settlements, telling Channel 10 in an interview that such a move would be "extremely useful" in advancing peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Clinton, who was visiting the region this week for a second round of direct talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamain Netanyahu, suggested extending the partial freeze for even a limited amount of time...
So the try for peace is a poor relation to the arming of Israel. Both are regular features in the Middle East. The difference is that the arming goes on successfully year in and year out, while the "peace process" fails to even stop the settlements, let alone make any headway toward justice for the Palestinians. Israeli pilots fly, Palestinians die.

Are you a hip-hop fan? Here's a hip-hop video that makes a statement about terror.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Israeli speaks out

I'd like you to read an opinion piece from the Christian Science Monitor, written by an Israeli who spent 18 months in prison rather than serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. He wraps up the situation very nicely, bringing out the reasons America should stop reinforcing bad behavior.

If this man can spend a year and a half in prison, can't we do a little something to help?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Invention of the Jewish People

I have been so impressed by Shlomo Sand's book, The Invention of the Jewish People, that here I am reproducing the review of it I wrote for

* * * * *

I have written reviews of many books here. If there is one above all the rest that I would like others to read it would be this one.

Regardless of the country you call home, it rests on a foundation of myths, stories of the distant past that unite the citizenry. Israel is no exception, yet the story of the historical Jews is one that more people in the United States are familiar with that that of any other people.

Shlomo Sand begins his book discussing definitions - what are a people? What is a nation? With his terms defined, he looks at the story of the Jews and how it relates to what has been discovered (or not) by archeology, philology (language study) and archival research.

He takes us from the founding myth of the Jews as a tribe descended from Abraham, in captivity in Egypt, escaping in the Exodus, wandering in the desert for 40 years, defeating the Canaanites, living under kings David and Solomon, exiled to Babylon, returning to Judea, expelled by the Romans and continuing on to the present in Israel.

There's only one problem. Except for the Babylonian exile, none of this account of the Jews in ancient times holds up. There is no evidence for any of it and plenty of facts that deny it. The central fact is that there was never any expulsion of the Jews by the Romans after the Jewish revolt was suppressed in 70 CE.

But the facts are no less interesting than the myth. Did you know there was a Jewish Khazar empire between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea? Did you know there was a long period (400 years) of enthusiastic conversion to Judaism prior to the coming of Christianity? Did you know there was a Jewish warrior queen in north Africa and a Jewish kingdom in what is now Yemen?

Sand effectively makes the case that the vast majority of today's Jews have no connection by birth to the Jews of ancient Palestine. The Palestinians of today are more likely related to the Jews of ancient times. Today's Jews are descendants of converts to Judaism. It is impossible to define the Jews by genetics, only by religion.

So where did the mythology come from? It is based on the Biblical account and even that was never considered to be based on hard facts until the coming of Zionism put it to use to create the body of people who would become the people of modern Israel - it was a script, made concrete and embellished by those with an agenda for creating a new country.

And the agenda continues to be followed by historians in the modern state of Israel. One of the most remarkable things mentioned by Sand is the complete lack of scholarly research into the origins of modern Jewry by anyone in Israel. Why? Because it would contradict the story of the nation, the story that is in Israeli textbooks used in Israeli schools to teach history.

The overwhelming evidence for the origin of the Yiddish-speaking millions of eastern Europe (destroyed or driven out by the end of WW2) is the Khazar empire and not Germany. The Sephardim of Spain and north Africa came not from ancient Palestine but from converts to Judaism. There is no Jewish gene, just as there is no Anglican or Methodist or Catholic gene.

The book concludes by an examination of the dilemma of modern Israel - a country that denies there is such a thing as an Israeli or an Israeli culture. Citizens of Israel are defined as Jews quite intentionally to connect them to the Jews of the world and to disconnect them from the Palistino-Israelis, the Arab citizens of Israel who make up a fifth of the population of the country, but are denied acknowledgment as full citizens.

Israelis allow orthodox religious Jews to determine who is a Jew for the purpose of citizenship precisely to maintain the connection to world Jewry as a pseudo-biological link. This mythological link allows Israel to take in foreigners (in all but religion) as rightful heirs to the land while denying legitimacy to those who have actually been living on the land, the Palestinian. It's an inherently unstable situation that cannot continue indefinitely. The book is a warning that things must change in the direction of a true democracy and away from an "ethnocracy".

The Invention of the Jewish People is a riveting read during which Sand systematically and very clearly demolishes myth under the bright light of solid research. In the process he introduces the people who built the myth to epic proportions and relates how they did so. Shlomo Sand is a credit to his profession. Bravo!

P.S. It appears that Bible study in Israeli schools is not thorough enough. In this article, the Israeli Education Minister says "No doubt there was a need for change in the Bible study program, which veered away from the actual folktales". In America we keep religious study completely out of our public schools and we have also escaped the cowboys and Indians historical mythology that mis-educated young Americans for so long. In Israel, it seems there is a need for more emphasis on the mythology that Professor Sand debunks in his book, so that the good guys can continue to be distinguished from the bad guys.

Monday, September 13, 2010

two paragraphs of great insight

Shlomo Sand, a professor of history at the University of Tel Aviv has produced what I consider a masterpiece of rationality, The Invention of the Jewish People.

Two paragraphs from near the end of the book cry out for a large audience because they summarize the situation of Israel so concisely and pertain so directly to what this blog examines. See if you don't agree...(boldface mine)

No Jew who lives today in a liberal Western democracy would tolerate the discrimination and exclusion experienced by the Palestino-Israelis (Arab citizens of Israel), who live in a state that proclaims it is not theirs. But Zionist supporters among the Jews around the world, like most Israelis, are quite unconcerned, or do not wish to know that the "Jewish state", because of its undemocratic laws, could never have been part of the European Union or one of America's fifty states. This flawed reality does not stop them from expressing solidarity with Israel, and even regarding it as their reserve home. Not that this solidarity impels them to abandon their national homelands and immigrate to Israel. And why should they, seeing that they are not subjected to daily discrimination and alienation of the kind that Palestino-Israelis experience daily in their native country?

In recent years the Jewish state has become less interested in large-scale immigration. The old nationalist discourse that revolved around the idea of aliyah (Jews moving to Israel) has lost much of its appeal. To understand current Israeli politics, replace the word "aliyah" with "diaspora" (the spread of Jews throughout the world). Today, Israel's strength no longer depends on demographic increase, but rather on retaining the loyalty of overseas Jewish organizations and communities. It would be a serious setback for Israel if all the pro-Zionist lobbies were to immigrate en masse to the Holy Land. It is much more useful for them to remain close to the centers of power and communication in the Western world - and indeed they prefer to remain in the rich, liberal, comfortable "diaspora".
There it is in a nutshell - an explanation for the dedication and power of the Israel lobby in the United States. The challenge for Americans is to break this power over Congress and that's what all my blogging is about.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

and what of Christians?

I was raised in a Christian family. It didn't take. I'm an atheist who sees no reason why human beings cannot have a system of morality based on the simple fact that you can feel pain, I can feel pain and we should both minimize, if not eliminate, any pain experienced by others as we would want them to do the same with us.

So, I don't look upon Christianity as superior to any other religion. In fact, I am disappointed when I see those calling themselves Christian acting in a way counter to anything I ever learned about the teachings of Jesus. To my mind, the best Christian is the one concerned with practicing his/her beliefs rather than boasting to others of his/her Christianity and pointing out the many sins of others.

The ultimate in Christian hypocrisy were the "Christian" militias in the Lebanese civil war. In America, a good example of being far from Christianity though professing it, are those elated at the thought of Judgement Day, primarily because they believe they will see those with whom they do not agree punished. A good example of this is John Hagee.

Hagee is known for his fierce defense of Israel. In the settlement of Ariel there is a John Hagee Center, built with some of the money he has raised and sent to Israel. There is little evidence that he gives a hoot about the Jews or knows much about them as this video documents. I doubt he knows a thing about the Palestinians that his money helps oppress.

On the bright side, there are some Christians who are behaving exactly as I would expect of those who practice what Jesus taught. Take a look at CPT - Christian Peacemaker Teams They have a great motto - "Getting in the way" wearing red hats as they stand their ground non-violently against force employed by the IDF against peaceful protesters. You will see two of them appear in this video at about 5:30 in, as they protest the restriction of Shuhada Street in Hebron to Jews only.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

countries in the courtroom - but not U.S.

You may recall my posting on Adib Abu Ramah, another Palestinian languishes in prison, with a video showing him in non-violent action protesting the Israeli wall cutting through Bil'in (bee-il-EEN) , a town in the West Bank about 10 miles NW of Jerusalem.

Another protester from the same village, Abdallah, was an organizer of the weekly protests at Bil'in.

In prison since December of last year, on August 24, 2010 Abdallah was sentenced under military law for "incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations". His additional time in prison will be announced soon. UPDATE 10/15/2010 - Abdallah has been given another year in prison

From a report on the verdict:
incitement is defined as "The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order" (section 7(a) of the Order Concerning Prohibition of Activities of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda (no.101), 1967), and carries a 10 years maximal sentence.

Military law defines illegal assembly in a much stricter way than Israeli law does, and in practice forbids any assembly of more than 10 people without receiving a permit from the military commander.

How could any law be more sweeping than that? Not only does the military put people under arrest, it is also the military that judges!

Yes, it's outrageous. That's why, per the report, diplomats from France, Malta, Germany, Spain and the UK, as well as a representative of the European Union were in attendance to observe the trial.

Notice a glaring absence - that of anyone from the United States Department of State? The world's superpower and defender of freedom of speech is not allowed by the Israel lobby to be there. Other countries are not so intimidated.

Here is the statement from the Spanish Parliament on the verdict -

STATEMENT FROM THE PARLIAMENTARY INTERGROUP FOR PALESTINE ABOUT ABDALLAH ABU RAHMAH'S CONVICTION (The Intergroup for Palestine is an official body of the Spanish Parliament, in which all political parties are represented. Its decisions and statements are achieved by full consensus)

On August 24, 2010, the coordinator of the Bil'in Popular Committee (West Bank), Abdallah Abu Rahmah, was convicted of incitement and of participating in and organizing demonstrations by an Israeli Military Court.

This sentence comes after an eight months trial, during which the defendant has been bereft of freedom.

He is now awaiting his sentence, which could carry several years in prison.

The Parliamentary Intergroup for Palestine considers the Bil'in peaceful struggle against the construction of the Separation Wall, which was declared illegal, as a defense of the primacy of law and international law in the face of arbitrary decisions, which ignore not only the reiterated resolutions of the United Nations’ political bodies, but also Israel's own legal organization.

The peaceful opposition to the occupation and the construction of the Wall is in and of itself a defense of the individual and collective human rights of the Palestinian People, which deserves the protection of the international community.

It is on these grounds that Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union, has issued a statement on the issue on August 24, to which the Intergroup subscribes.

Therefore, we express our deep concern that Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s potential incarceration aims at preventing him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the Wall in a non violent manner.

Spanish Congress of Deputies Hall, August 30, 2010.
You can get a full account of the history of and reason for the demonstrations at Bil'in.

Abdallah was released in March 2011

Friday, September 10, 2010

a mouse with a lion's power

Suppose a single mouse had the power of a lion.

Would the mouse, knowing he had such power, be content to remain living as just another mouse among his fellows?

I believe the power of the United States has been more of a liability than an asset, a view supported in the case of Vietnam by Gareth Porter's Perils of Dominance. Those who reach the top of the political ladder are proven lovers of power. It can be expected that such people will itch to use the greatest power on the planet, particularly since they are convinced it is for the good. The so-called Bush Doctrine of unilateral pre-emptive action was proof to me that the end of the USSR had unleashed a threat simply from lack of restraint. The Iraq and Afghanistan adventures have proven this out.

Now consider Israel, the mouse. It, like any other country, has power-seekers at the top. But what makes Israel unique in the world of international relations is that the power it wields is that of the United States - the lion's power is held by the mouse - while surrounding states are only other mice. How much more seductive could this be to the power hungry? To such people it is a pure win - all the power with little of the expense of wielding it.

That's why it is essential that we Americans take back our Congress from the Israel lobby.

Listen to the words of Gideon Levy, an Israeli and columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, from a recent interview by Jamie Stern-Weiner...

If activists in the US succeeded in changing American foreign policy significantly, could Israel continue the occupation without US support?

No way. Israel cannot carry on anything, including its existence, without the support of the United States. Israel was never so isolated and never so dependent on the United States as now. So the key is in Washington, no doubt. The problem is that I don’t see… I see a change in Washington, but a very minor one.

Do you see much change in how the Obama administration has approached the conflict, compared to its predecessors?

I’d be more than happy to hear any sign of change. There’s been nothing. When he was elected and gave that speech in Chicago, I had tears in my eyes. I really hoped and believed that it was going to be a new atmosphere, a new world and a new Middle East. Nothing, but nothing, out of this. It’s a deep, deep disappointment.

President Obama does so little because he is afraid of the power of Congress to undercut him. Congress can undercut him only because you and I and many other Americans stand by. But what about those in Israel? Where is the opposition? Again, from the interview...

Over the past decade Israeli public opinion seems to have gone over the cliff – the last elections produced the most right-wing and possibly, as your recent columns have suggested, the most racist Knesset in Israel’s history. What is behind this trend?

There were two things happening. One was the failure of the Camp David conference in 2000, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak comes back and claims there is no ‘Palestinian partner’. This lie was well spread and convinced Israelis from across the political spectrum. And then came the Second Intifada – the exploding buses, the suicide bombers – and the entire so-called ‘Israeli Left’ totally crashed—which makes me think, ‘how solid was it in the first place?’ Because if it was so easy to crash it, then I’m not sure it was very solid before. But in any case, nothing was left of the Israeli Left, except for some small, devoted, courageous groups which are still very active. Unfortunately, they are not very influential.
What this means is the settlers, a group of just over 300,000 people, living in a land not their own, have the power of the U.S. at their disposal. Why do we let them have it and how crazy is it to endanger the security of the United States by allowing this to continue?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

no bill of rights for Palestinians

In the Bill of Rights, a series of amendments to the United States Constitution, amendment three states -
"No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
But here we see west of Hebron, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers make themselves at home after walking unannounced into the house of the Salayma family. This is not an isolated case, CBS News has covered a similar situation.

Is the United States opposing this action? No, it is continuing to support Israel in every way - America defending un-American acts. Hypocritical yes, but that's the definition of U.S. support for Israel and it will continue unless Americans act to change it.

Read the full story of the Salayma home occupation

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

the discomfort of apartheid

Israel is in a fix of its own making.

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, has published the results of a poll among Israeli students that indicates most of the teens polled agree that Arab Israelis do not have equal rights in Israel. Of this group, a majority agree that Arab Israelis do not deserve equal rights.

This should be expected because it comes from the design of the state, intended specifically for Jews. I'm surprised the results aren't more stark. There's hope.

The admission of a limited number of Arabs as Israeli citizens came in 1952, at the same time prohibiting citizenship to any Arab who left Israel during or after 1948; a concession to make the best of a sticky situation. By legalizing citizenship for a minority of Arabs who had been living in what was to become Israel and had stayed, the law excluded the great majority who had fled, sealing the state from any further appeals for return by former Arab residents.

At the time that Theodore Herzl wrote The Jewish State (1896), and for several decades thereafter, the positive aspects of a land for Jews alone was persuasive, if only as a refuge from the European world that preyed upon them. The Holocaust and the following reluctance of other countries to admit the victims virtually dictated the creation of Israel.

These days, Germany and Poland seem benign places. The Poles have in some cases revived Jewish culture, though only a few Jews remain there. After WW2, this would never have been considered a possibility. Couldn't Jews thrive almost anywhere today in Europe, even in places they thought would be hostile for all time? But Israel exists and will continue to exist - but not easily.

I say not easily because the whole idea of exclusion, while in the very nature of historical religious practice, ill fits a people who have so consistently been among the front rank of philosophers and practitioners of individual freedom and human rights. Look at the list of Israeli human rights group at the upper right of this blog. One might say of Israel that it seemed like a good idea at the time of formation but becomes harder to defend as the years roll by and the physical state acts in defiance of so much "metaphysical" Jewish thinking that has humanity in its debt.

Israel can't look to any other country for comfort. The South African effort collapsed and the world as a whole doesn't look fondly on exclusive citizenship. Tribal wars continue, certainly, but everyone looks to their end in the future. So Israel is stuck in a bind - wanting to think of itself as an advanced, civilized place, even as it practices something archaic. Though Israel is a fortress, is there any doubt that every Israeli could live in peace and security elsewhere? The primary reason for the state has evaporated. Yes, anti-Semitism still exists, but it can never be a shadow of what it was. The places where it was most cruelly practiced are now ashamed of that part of their history and repudiate the occasional eruptions of extremism.

Yet, irony of ironies - the United States, a country that has always boasted it represents the most advanced form of civilization, is the unquestioning backstop for Israel. By arming Israel to the teeth and pouring in money, the U.S. allows Israel to drive on regardless and, in fact, to use military might to isolate itself ever more completely.

So when someone tells you that the U.S. is doing what is right for Israel, don't believe it. All that is accomplished is putting off the day when Israel will have to face the uncomfortable nature of its design squarely. Apartheid has no future, no matter how adamant its defense.

I think of it this way. Imagine someone has a machine gun. He sees an enemy in front of him but, thanks to a crew that endlessly feeds him ammo, he can keep up a steady fire, mowing down all comers. There's no need for him to question what he's doing because it works, he is secure and the ammo is endless.

But suppose the ammo suppliers tell him that they will have to start reducing the amount he can have until finally no more will be available. To survive, our dedicated gunner must come up with an alternative to shooting.

Israel needs to be looking for alternatives instead of stoutly digging in deeper. The Unites States, specifically the United States Congress, is acting to increase the number of extremists and extremist acts in Israel. The Israel lobby is a decidedly right-wing operation and must be opposed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

as black and white as it gets

There is an organization called Nefesh B'Nefesh, that, according to Wikipedia is
"an organization that encourages immigration by Jewish people to Israel from North America and the United Kingdom. The organization was founded in 2002 by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart, and works in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government."
This makes sense because it is a goal of Israel to bring in as many Jews to become citizens as possible in order to keep a Jewish majority for the Jewish state.

The problem is that at the same time (and for the last 43 years), Israel has also had a program to populate Palestinian land, not just Israel, with Jews. There couldn't be any greater contrast between the winners in this and the losers, hence the title of this post.

For Israel, it would be perfectly acceptable for a former American, say, to move to Israel and then to a settlement...a settlement that, from the arrival of the first bulldozer, evicted Palestinians who lived on that land, a settlement that is not part of Israel.

Let's take a look at some pictures.

Here is a happy group sponsored by Nefesh B'Nefesh, from their website, just arrived on a chartered El Al flight. The caption says they plan to join the IDF (the Israeli army). It looks like a very happy bunch. They haven't lived in Israel yet but they are welcome to do so.

Such happiness is not misplaced. Peruse the Nefesh B'Nefesh website and you will get the feel of a very well funded organization. Look at the many services they offer to young and old. Happiness jumps from the screen.

Now let's take a look at some Palestinians in the occupied territories. They don't look happy or prosperous. Here are women and children waiting at an Israeli checkpoint (Shu'afat) in East Jerusalem. They are not welcome, though they live there. Actually, they are welcome to leave. (B'Tselem photo)

Here's another Nefesh B'Nefesh group arriving and joyful. Notice the elderly woman near the middle holding the flag of Israel.

Now look at an elderly Palestinian, just refused entry to Jerusalem by IDF troops. He is welcome to walk back to wherever he came from...and keep walking out of his land as well. If he chooses not to, a future eviction from his home for settlement expansion might help him along. No Palestinian knows what the next day will bring. (B'Tselem photo)

I could provide dozens of similar comparisons but I think you get the idea. Foreigners are brought in to live and to help (if they join the IDF as Israeli citizens are expected to do) evict natives from their own land.

  • Israel controls all access to the occupied territories and Gaza
  • Israel does not allow any Palestinian immigration (coming in)
  • Israeli citizens have full civil rights, even in settlements outside Israel
  • Palestinians have Israeli military justice wherever they live (except a token number of Palestinian Israelis)
  • Israeli citizens may travel freely on modern roads
  • Palestinians must stop at checkpoints and use assigned roads, un-improved, often dirt.
  • Israelis are encouraged with incentives by the government to move to settlements on Palestinian land
  • Palestinians may not enter settlements, though they are built on Palestinian land.
This is only a short list, there is much much more that makes Palestinians not just second-class citizens but no citizens at all - on their own, rapidly shrinking, land.

Keep in mind, this doesn't appear to trouble the newcomers in the least. Many of them are Americans and I wonder if they know even the little about the Palestinian plight that I have just told you. Try entering "Palestinian" in the search box of the Nefesh B'Nefesh website. It returns nothing.

You, as an American, are supporting outrageous injustice. If you are reading my posts, you should be getting the gist of how truly awful this situation is, a terrible stain on the reputation of the United States that is blatant to the world.

We say we are sorry about the Indians.
We say we are sorry about the Japanese-American internment.
We say we are sorry about our terrible record regarding African-Americans

But we finance Israel, arm it, and do nothing to stop the settlement project!

I want nothing to do with it, but our government has decided to ignore the many like me who want change now and panders to the Israel lobby. If you think Nefesh B'Nefesh looks well funded, imagine the kind of money going to Congress.

Will you join me, us, in the drive for change?

Avatar - the Palestinian version

A sure way to make a movie that will sell tickets is to appeal to the sense of justice.

Think of movies that you've seen that open with a scene of innocence - it might be of a happy family, someone going about their daily routine with a sense of normality, that is suddenly torn apart by some awful act.

The rest of the movie is predictable. The injured party, the one who has lost a loved one or been terribly wronged, goes after the perpetrator. Not seldom the perpetrator is at the top of some conspiracy - a government official, or high ranking member of the military or some huge corporation.

This is standard Hollywood fare. It sells because it taps the strong sense for righting wrong that is deep within every human being. Vicariously, each movie-goer gets the satisfaction of having this feeling aroused and then, often violently, put to rest.

So it is with Avatar. The difference is cosmetic. The Na'vi are on another planet, the bad guys are human, but the plot line is the same.

Now consider a movie about the Palestinians. There they are in Palestine, tending their flocks, sharing the land in peace with a minority of Jews. Outsiders arrive from Europe and start buying land, occupying territory. Move forward a few years and the Europeans and the Palestinians are fighting sporadically. A few years more and the Europeans have a state.

Ok, now remember this is a movie about the Palestinians, so we've arrived at the scene where the outrage takes place. Instead of the tree being brought down as in Avatar, the land is lost, but in both cases the good guys are evicted from their home.

The rest is ongoing history. Unlike the Na'vi, the Palestinians don't have exotic animals as allies that can win the day. Instead, money and weapons pour in on the side of their adversaries, the Israelis. Far from seeing justice done in the return of their land, the Palestinians are driven back, and back, and back even more.

Now you can see the Palestinian perspective.

The outrage, as they see it, is that they are being asked to endorse the act of horror, their loss of land. This is exactly the opposite of the satisfying movie plot line and counter to the in-built rejection of injustice that every human being possesses.

Things are so topsy-turvy that the ones who have suffered the losses must humiliate themselves and declare to the world that the wrong that was done to them is right. This is the problem with demanding a statement from Palestinians that Israel has a right to exist.

Can't you just see the characters in a movie swearing never to do this and movie-goers having a deep feeling of empathy?

Americans have since 1948 seen the Palestinians twisting and turning in their agony and trying every possible means of violent resistance, just as the protagonists in Avatar do. But, unlike Avatar, Americans are asked to condemn the Palestinians as violent monsters incapable of reason, scornful of peace with peace-loving Israel.

In short, America has sided entirely with those who took the land instead of the dispossessed! America has acted as supplier, armorer, and bank for the party that committed the crime of throwing the innocent party out.

At the moment we have the incredible scene of the oppressing party continuing to take more land and a superpower with the ability to stop it doing nothing.

The story of the Palestinians is a reversal of the plot of Avatar. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world looks at what the U.S. does with astonishment? Is it any wonder that rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza? Is it any wonder that there is a continual confrontation between IDF troops and Palestinian stone-throwers?

Americans thrilled at the resistance of the Na'vi in Avatar as they threw out the human beings who attacked and destroyed their tree-home. But the Palestinians, whose homes not only were taken but still are being taken 62 years on, are no-good, bloodthirsty terrorists who should submit to peace plans dictated by their oppressor.

Do you see the hypocrisy and how Palestinians could be consumed with rage?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

hey Americans, read this

One of the things I stress on this blog is the dissimilarity of America and Israel. This is part of my goal in persuading Americans that our country and Israel are not identical twins with identical goals but two countries as distinct as any other international pair. It is extremely dangerous to the interests of America to say that there is no "daylight" between the U.S. and any other country in the world, including Israel.

It's necessary to stress this because the Israel lobby would love to convince Americans that the two countries have quite similar foundations and national life, making it easy for Israel to relieve us of billions of dollars every year.

It's a false pairing. America is an all-inclusive state that accepts citizens regardless of their ethnic background. Freedom and justice for all is only true in Israel for Jews who qualify for citizenship, not all Jews who think of themselves as Jews.

To become Israeli, you must be a Jew in the strict definition of the term as decided by Jewish clerics. Those who practice a strict version of Judaism are given authority to pronounce on personal life in the state of Israel that we would never accept in America, where state and religion are kept separate by law. These orthodox Jews are exempt from military service as well, no small thing in a militaristic country.

If you are an avid reader, as I am, the next time you are in a bookstore look for a copy of Israeli Professor Shlomo Sand's book, The Invention of the Jewish People. Get a cup of coffee, have a seat and read the first 14 pages of the book - the introduction. In the few minutes during which your coffee will not have time to cool, you will see the contradictions involved in Israel's policy on citizenship drawn from personal experience. It's a shameful policy that would delight segregationists in American or South African history.

If you get the chance to do the reading, keep it in mind the next time you hear an American politician proclaiming how the U.S. and Israel are virtually joined at the hip as societies.

Friday, September 3, 2010

clearing the forest with glasses on

Follow me on a flight of fancy and see if you don't think it has a connection to reality.

You and I have eyes that work the same way. But do we see things the same?

I like to think of the way a mind views the world as equivalent to what happens when putting on a pair of glasses.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "looking through rose-colored glasses" as a way to indicate the way someone looks at things differently. That's right on the mark! The way glasses affect what is seen comes from their design. Each of us, as we grow up, unconsciously puts on a pair of figurative glasses, most often with a prescription, a design, that provides a view that's quite similar to that of our parents.

Everybody wears such glasses and past generations did too.

The colonies that would become the United States were founded by folks wearing European Christian glasses. Wearing them, they were certain that the words of the Bible were a basis for moral behavior. Didn't the Bible say that the earth was given to Man to do with as he wished?

So they acted accordingly, chopping down forests, damming streams, plowing fields. In doing so, they also cleared the land of wildlife and those who had been living there, the Indians. With their glasses firmly on, they saw the wildlife as no problem - trees were just things in the way and animals were mere brutes. The Indians (Native-Americans) were a bit more tricky to deal with but, being viewed as savages, they were with some difficulty put out of the way. Soon after, glasses with an updated lens prescription started to be worn. They gave a crystal clear view of Manifest Destiny for lands to the west.

Now step forward almost to 1900 and consider people that wore Jewish glasses. These glasses had a very long-standing prescription for their lenses that give a vision of a promised land, Zion, of Jerusalem that, just as the earth was promised to those wearing European Christian glasses, was promised specifically to those wearing Jewish glasses. A new, Zionist lens prescription came out that gave a view of making Biblical promises into fact. People could decide to stick with the old Jewish lenses or put on the new Zionist lenses.

Another pilgrimage to a different land began and, as in the American case, land was cleared, streams were dammed, land was planted and plowed. With Zionist glasses, it was all very good. Again, as with the Indians, the Arabs were a bit tricky to handle but, at the end of 1948, were put out of the way.

In the 20th century, quite a few of those wearing the Jewish or Zionist glasses were in the United States. They passed these glasses around, allowing many Americans who didn't have a pair of their own to get a good look through them anyway. Even President Harry Truman was given a pair and he liked what he saw through them.

But few in America had a pair of Arab glasses to lend to others. That view remained invisible in the United States, and largely remains so. In fact, Americans who dare to try on Arab glasses can be called names.

But you and I are alone here. So now, I'm going to offer you, a fellow American, a pair of Palestinian glasses (a special kind of Arab glasses) to put on.

Before you do, I want you to think of Yassir Arafat. What springs to mind? Ugh! He was a terrible man, devious, a liar, a terrorist, someone who should have been targeted for death, right?

WAIT! Calm down for a second. Have you recently worn Zionist glasses? It's amazing how many copies have been made in America. Somebody lent you a pair? No problem. OK, here is the Palestinian pair.

Hey, you don't look half bad wearing them. Now you are ready to watch a video I have for you. In this video, Yassir Arafat will appear differently than in how you've thought of him before. Not only that, you will hear some Palestinian popular music sung by a man who is very popular in Gaza and the West Bank. It's quite emotional, interesting to hear and I'll bet, like me, like 99% of Americans, you've never heard the like of it.

Now watch this video created by some young Palestinian women, a single chapter of about 25 minutes from a series called Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem. Get ready to see things differently. If you have a pair of headphones, use them as the audio may be a bit challenging if you use your PC speakers.

Oh, and I won't be back after the video. You can keep the glasses.

view the video

Thursday, September 2, 2010

another Palestinian languishes in prison

Israel has a policy called Administrative Detention in the occupied territories. It's detention without charge or trial that is authorized by administrative order rather than by judicial decree, part of the system of military justice to which Palestinians are subjected, unlike the settlers in the occupied territories who, though they do not live in Israel, are protected by the same system of civil courts as any Israeli.

This means a Palestinian can be arrested easily because with no charge required, who couldn't be hauled in?

It's also a fact that torture of prisoners is legal in Israeli prisons under certain conditions. Who would want to test if those conditions are properly met? Add to this the fact that thousands of Palestinians have experienced prison stays and you can understand why no Palestinian would take the possibility of arrest lightly.

With this in mind, watch a courageous and passionate man, Adib Abu Rahmah, in a video taken in 2008, as he led protesters objecting to the wall being put through Bil'in. The soldiers he faces, calm and passive, in addition to holding guns also hold all the cards, he holds only a flag. With the protesters dispersed, they leave.

By the way, to any who doubt that many Israelis are disgusted with what their country is doing - note the name of the videographer/editor, Yisrael Puterman. Abu Rahmah was not arrested in this video but you can see his method of shaming the powerful. Please watch then read on below.

He didn't give up after this, but continued his protests at Bil'in until about a year ago when he was arrested.

Here is a press release from today, September 2, 2010 - boldface is mine

Adeeb Abu Rahmah, 38, a taxi-driver and father of nine and courageous nonviolent activist, was arrested during one of the weekly protests in Bil’in over 11 months ago. An initial decision to release him on condition of avoiding demonstrations was reversed on July 21st 2009 when the military prosecution appealed. A judge ruled he should be kept till the end of proceedings against him.

Eventually sentenced on June 30th 2010, he was convicted of “inciting violence” and “activity against the public order”. These broad military orders are increasingly being used by Israel to criminalize peaceful protest. An additional charge initially made against him for inciting others to throw stones was withdrawn following arguments and evidence put forward by his legal defense.

The appeal rejected yesterday - which had argued that his conviction was incorrect and his sentence too severe – was dismissed by the military judge on the grounds that not enough time had passed since the latest appeal was lodged. Instead he will remain incarcerated until a judge decides whether or not to grant the prosecution’s request that his sentence be increased to two years or more.

Amnesty International amongst others called the Israeli court not to convict him, saying that: “The broad scope of Israeli military orders mean that Adeeb Abu Rahma could be imprisoned solely for legitimately exercizing his right to freedom of expression in opposing Israeli policies in the West Bank.” They added that he should be regarded “as a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
So Abu Rahma, in prison almost a year will remain there. Who knows when he will be out? Would this be acceptable in America? Remember habeas corpus? It doesn't apply to Palestinians, who, in the eyes of Israel, are a nuisance to be dealt with with little regard to what we know as due process.

UPDATE - Adib Abu Rahma was given another year in prison extended to 18 months by request of the Israeli government (10/26/2010)

In the military courts the conviction rate is about 97% and the time taken for each case is about 13 minutes according to Joseph Dana. In standing with Israel, America stands with this kind of "justice". Over $3 billion of our money goes there every year, like clockwork. Why?

an appeal to repudiate America

I've discovered a video that is intended to put American males, who are Jewish, at ease about giving up their country for another, Israel. It's a recruitment tool for the Israeli army, from the Mahal website (not an official Israeli site). The video itself is linked below.

Note that American life is portrayed as a superficial, evil illusion that prevents a young man from ascending to spiritual goodness by leaving for "home". The point is simple - there is really nothing to lose by leaving America to answer the call of co-religionists. If this isn't a rejection of everything America stands for, I don't know what is.

The video is called Free Your Mind.

Please watch it and decide for yourself if it does.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Americans - you ARE involved

When I talk to fellow citizens about the situation in the Middle East, I often get the response that it's a mess over there, both sides are to blame and it's a hopeless hate-fest that is impossible to untangle.

The logical conclusion? The person doesn't want to get involved for either side.

This sounds like a safe position but it relies on a fallacy.

Americans, though they may think they are being impartial, are not. The United States government that represents them internationally is entirely on the side of Israel and has been firmly in that position since the 1967 six-day war.

Despite the formal policy statements that do not support the settlement project, the reality is that the United States has never stopped the flow of billions of dollars to Israel in the face of the fact that Israel pursues the settlement project with deliberate subsidies and government endorsement.

Words mean nothing when not backed by action. Israel knows quite well that it can do as it pleases because the money from the U.S. will keep on coming and coming in a variety of ways.

Don't believe it? Read this story from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz from which I took this excerpt. Boldface is mine.

The F-35 purchase deal is the largest in Israel's history. The defense establishment is afraid to mortgage most of the American defense aid earmarked for purchases in the United States for this deal, especially when the Defense Ministry's budget is expected to be cut.

If the budget is slashed, the defense establishment will have to use some of the American aid money to buy ammunition and bombs (to renew the supplies diminished by the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead) in the U.S. instead of buying them in Israel.
Remember that the Israeli Air Force is only one part of the Israeli forces that receive U.S. funding. So also does the Israeli army, the IDF, that uses military force at will in the occupied territories. In Operation Cast Lead over 1200 Palestinians died. U.S. weapons routinely kill Palestinians. American F-16's and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters attack them.

So the U.S. is no "honest broker". Rather, the U.S. and Israel are continually doing deals that benefit Israel financially and secondarily, U.S. arms manufacturers. The U.S. gives money to Israel only to have it return for arms purchases. Could things be any more cozy than that?

But that's only part of it.

Did you know that U.S. money built the settlers-only roads that run through the West Bank - roads on Palestinian land that Palestinians cannot use? It's true. The money came out of the Oslo Accords and the roads were to eventually be used by the Palestinians. It hasn't happened and there is no sign that it will, but has there been even a peep from the U.S.? No.

So, my fellow Americans, if you wanted to be even-handed, you would have to tirelessly work for the Palestinians and even then you wouldn't be able to come close to what your government does against them in your name.

How does this happen?

It happens because of the very apathy that I mentioned at the start of this post. The Israel lobby relies on American citizens as a whole to do nothing to influence their Congress. This frees the Israel lobby to work the levers of money, with the help of the arms industry lobby, and political clout made possible by a dedicated corps of pro-Israel voters to make the United States into a vending machine (that provides its own coins!) for Israel as well as a shield for it at the United Nations.

A sweet deal for Israel and infuriating to the Palestinians. It's gone on for decades while Americans continue to believe they are being fair by being aloof.