Sunday, October 31, 2010

they're dancing in Philly, for BDS

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

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hanin Zoabi speaks to Americans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passionately devoted to the cause of justice, she could have spoken for more time than was allowed. She had what appeared to me to be a coup of bodyguards, who looked Palestinian. I doubt the Knesset would provide her with any protection.

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

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

madrassas and yeshivas

For years Americans have had the madrassa, or Islamic school, held out to them as the birthplace of terrorism. Pictures of very young boys chanting the Qur'an in chorus along with the knowledge that the intolerant Taliban are the product of such schooling is indeed upsetting - a rejection of our value on the individual and the use of rational judgment.

But the news from Israel is hardly reassuring. In that country, religious zealotry and right-wing fanaticism are growing and have been for many years. The yeshivas, or Jewish religious schools, are turning out fanatics with a very restricted view of the world and the state is in favor of it. Yeshiva students have their expenses paid by the state in contrast to secular schooling where students must come up with their tuition. Could there be anything more un-American?

Religious political parties hold power in the current government coalition. The leader of one of those parties, Shas, has declared that non-Jews are born to serve Jews. He has also said that Palestinians should "perish from the world".

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has noted the increasing proportion of officers in the IDF that are from the yeshivas, now almost a third of the total, and the population of settlers in the occupied territories is increasingly made up of the religious. I have also heard that the Israeli police are now seeking recruits in the settlements. We can confidently expect more such stories as this one reporting IDF recruits refusing to evacuate settlers.

In contrast to the depiction of madrassas, I haven't seen any of the foregoing information on the religious Jews in Israel prominent in the U.S. news. This is remarkable because the founders of the United States were very concerned about mixing religion and politics and took care to keep church and state separate. Religion, of whatever kind, lends itself to extremism and intolerance simply out of the refusal to accept other views than its own.

Israel was quite secular in early years but now it is heading toward intolerance with a will as a detailed article on legislation before the Knesset reveals.

All of this is reason for concern, but it has not stopped one dollar of American money or one item of American weaponry, or one pause in protection for Israel by the U.S. in the U.N. from proceeding. We still heard continually of how much Israel has in common with America.

I was frightened by Joe Biden's remark that there is "no daylight between American and Israel". It prompted the start of this blog. Biden is not stupid, nor is he a right-wing ideologue. He is, however, keenly aware of the layout of political power so speaks as he does. The vice-president of the United States unable to speak truthfully about a foreign country. This sobering thought should get you and I moving to reduce the power of the Israel lobby ASAP.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A concerned Israeli acts for justice

Last night I attended a talk by Gal Lugassi, seen below, a young Israeli who spoke of her participation in anti-wall protests in the occupied territories.

Why does she do it? Anyone can see that the Palestinians are being oppressed but Gal participates because she knows that as an Israeli Jew she will not suffer the dire consequences that the Palestinians do if they are held by the IDF. While Gal might be detained for a few hours and interviewed after demonstrating, Palestinians can be put in prison without a hearing and for an indefinite period of time. In other words, Gal understands how apartheid works from real experience and uses her knowledge to help those who are suffering. She is also aware that while she lives in comfort, they continue to know the daily losses and deprivations that have been ongoing for decades.

I ask you - how can we Americans stand by in the face of this courage and support the very government in Israel that is causing the suffering?

Gal showed part of a gripping video of Palestinians losing their olive trees to make room for the separation wall. I hope to discover it online so I can present it to you.

She told of the mass of indifference in Israel and repeatedly told us that she thought 95% of Israelis don't care what happens to the Palestinians, viewing them as sub-human. The behavior of the IDF that I have seen would bear this attitude out.

She said that she and her fellow activist Israelis never go to a demonstration unless they are asked to do so by the Palestinians, again for the reason that it is the Palestinians who suffer the consequences so it is for them to decide what to do and what it is that they want to see in the future as a result of the protests.

Gal is a passionate advocate for justice. I know from the Vietnam War days that there is a tremendous inertia that will prevent activism by the public but without those like Gal to put their beliefs on the line, injustice continues indefinitely. It takes courage to do something when there are no great number of people acting with you. It's often lonely work but while not in the least humorous, the saying is true - someone has to do it. How about you?

Gal is a member of the group Anarchists Against the Wall. Click on "Videos" in the right-hand column of their website for some very revealing views of the protests.

Another member of Anarchists Against the Wall, Joseph Dana, presents a video talk about the history and methods of peaceful demonstrations by Palestinians and their supporters since the Second Intifada, mentioning the techniques used to counter the demonstrators by the IDF.

Monday, October 25, 2010

MUST WATCH: CIA analyst gives remarkably straight talk

The CIA has a bad name for all the dirty work it does throughout the world. That doesn't mean that there aren't skilled employees who are well versed in their areas of expertise.

I was impressed by CIA analyst Kathleen Christison's talk on CSPAN about Israel and the United States. She speaks clearly, comprehensively and persuasively about the lock that the Israel lobby holds on United States policy and the incapacity of the Obama administration to act justly. She describes the long accomplished capture of American public opinion by the Zionist/Israeli narrative that portrays Israel as almost a part of the United States. It runs about 17 minutes.

It's very encouraging that this information is coming out from higher and higher places in the U.S. government.

This screen grab of Christison speaking is not active - use the link above.

posters appear in Chicago

While traveling on public transportation in Chicago, riders may see the sign shown below, just as I did yesterday in the subway at the Chicago and State stop on the Red Line. Due to a limited budget, the signs are not in the most prominent positions - this one was the very last one opposite the end of the platform - but the word is out. The organization behind these signs is just getting started. Why not contribute to this worthy publicity effort?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

what no Palestinian can do

I just returned from a week of vacation travel, covering 1500 miles. I was not stopped at any checkpoint, my identity was not required to move across state lines, the police and the military, though seen, had no interest in me. There were no roads I could not take, no places I was forbidden to visit. When I returned, my home was as I left it.

This simple act of travel is forbidden to Palestinians, though they have a lineage in Palestine far, far deeper than I have in the United States. They cannot leave where they live for any period of time for fear that their property will be taken from them and they must take round-about routes since there are roads they may not take. A visit outside the occupied territories is very risky because there is no guarantee they will be allowed back home.

When I did get home, I found a political flyer in my mail. A candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois was condemned for having contributed to Palestinian relief. The title of the flyer: A TROUBLING PATTERN OF FUNDING ANTI-ISRAEL GROUPS.

This shows how far Americans are from any connection with events in Palestine, and how little they know about their own unwitting support for the denial of the freedoms they hold dear.

Friday, October 15, 2010

military order 101

In America, we pride ourselves on free expression and demonstrating in public is one very important form of it.

Israelis enjoy the same freedom, whether inside Israel or in the West Bank, what's more, they can be armed as they enjoy it.

But Palestinians in the occupied territory live, though on their own land, under Israeli military law. According to B'Tselem, since February of 2010, the Israeli military (IDF) has been operating under "military order 101" resurrected from 1967.

Military order 101 is wonderfully broad, making essentially any demonstration illegal under this wording:
"every gathering, vigil or procession of ten or more persons requires a permit from the IDF commander in the region, if the gathering involves a 'political issue or can be construed as political or to discuss such an issue' or 'for a political purpose or for a matter than can be construed as political.' "
If someone should violate this order, a sentence of ten years can be imposed, not by a civil court, access to which is denied Palestinians, but by a military court. Think of this situation as Guantanamo East, because it's the same idea of making people disappear without due process. For an instance of quashing Palestinian demonstrations see countries in the courtroom, but not the U.S.

But that's not all.

Areas where demonstrations are taking place can be declared closed military zones, giving the IDF even more freedom to act and the demonstrators none. To see a demonstration underway, see another Palestinian languishes in prison

Any "internationals" who might want to join a demonstration can be deported.

It's more of the same story - the Palestinians have no rights. Does America side with the powerless and defenseless and oppose this "military justice"? No.

Call your Congresspeople and ask how they feel about military order 101. They will, of course, have no idea what you are talking about, but they are supporting it even so - and so are you as long as you raise no protest for people who cannot protest on their own behalf.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rupert Murdoch vs reality

Rupert Murdoch receives an Anti-Defamation League award per Haaretz and proves, if any proof is needed, that the wealthy and famous and powerful can be utterly blind.
Media mogul K. Robert Murdoch on Thursday decried the "ongoing war against the Jews" and demanded an end to efforts to isolate Israel.

“Some believe that if America wants to gain credibility in the Muslim world and advance the cause of peace, Washington needs to put some distance between itself and Israel," he said. "My view is the opposite. Far from making peace more possible, we are making hostilities more certain.”
Here is a sequence of maps of Palestine that I have used before but that shows the truth so well in contrast to Mr. Murdoch's views that it deserves a re-appearance. I think the Palestinians could teach Mr. Murdoch a thing or two about what it means to be isolated.

For more information, there is a map synopsis.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mearsheimer on AIPAC and Israel

John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, co-authored The Israel Lobby with Stephen Walt. The book was a breakthrough if only because it brought out in the open what Washington DC insiders have known for decades.

He is always worth a listen because he speaks clearly and concisely and, I believe, makes a good case. In this short (13 minutes) interview, Mearsheimer sums up very well the ongoing power of AIPAC as illustrated by the current humiliation of President Obama. He also explains his view that Israel will become an apartheid state.

Should you want to hear more from Mearsheimer, I recommend a full hour video presentation of his, The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners

Saturday, October 9, 2010

George Ball said it 33 years ago

George Ball was Undersecretary of State in the Johnson administration of the mid 1960's. He had good sense, proven by his early appreciation of the futility of the Vietnam War.

Concerning Israel, he wrote two articles for Foreign Policy Magazine - "How to Save Israel from Itself" in 1977 and "The Coming Crisis in Israeli-American Relations" in 1979. Unfortunately, neither article is available for free online, so I went to the library and read them. My conclusion? Nothing has changed about American impotence in over 30 years. The proof is in the following excerpts from the two articles. I have used boldface to emphasize certain points. I hope you will agree this is frightening - because it has allowed a bad situation to get even worse.

"Over the last 30 years (1948 to 1978) American-Israeli relations have evolved to the point where Israel is more dependent on the United States than ever, and yet feels itself free to take hard-line positions at variance with American views without fear of anything worse than verbal admonition from Washington. The result is to encourage Israeli positions and actions that cannot be in the long-term interest of Isreal itself and to deprive the United States in practice of freedom of diplomatic action on issues that deeply affect its national interest...

The settlements policy discredits any Israeli claim to an ultimate peace, confirming the deep - and probably well founded - suspicions of Israel's Arab neighbors that at least substantial elements of the Israeli government have expansionist ambitions. It is a major impediment to the attainment of peace, and we must categorically insist that it be stopped. So long as we continue our subsidy while Israel flouts our futile protests, we not only support illegality, but look both impotent and absurd.

(Ball calls for an imposed solution, then says) America's indispensable role is to provide the political leaders on both sides of the need to make politically unpalatable decisions, by furnishing them the escape route of yielding reluctantly under the relentless pressure of outside forces. This means our President must take the political heat from powerful and articulate pro-Israeli groups. It means that as a nation we must be prepared to accept abuse and blame from both sides, permitting local politicians to save their own skins by attacking American arrogance and imperialism.

...the wishful assumption of many Israelis that, if Israel can only continue to occupy her post-1967 boundaries long enough, the Arabs will weary of their opposition and the world will accept as a fait accompli is quite illusory, even assuming that American taxpayers will continue, year after year, to provide aid to Israel at anything like its present level - an assumption that should by no means be taken for granted. (not only did we keep paying, we added more!!!)

So long as there is no part of Palestine that the Palestinians can call their own and to which they can, in principle, return - even though few might choose to stay there - so long, in other words, as they are denied the possibility of building their own nation in that part of old Palestine represented by the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, terrorism and excessive rhetoric are inevitable.

(after mention of a friend telling him Israelis are entitled to paranoia, Ball says) No matter how much we may sympathize with what my friend calls "Israeli paranoia," how far dare we let it determine American policy? How far, in other words, should we go to subsidize a policy shaped to accommodate understandable Israeli compulsions which do not accord with the best interests - as we see it - either of Israel or the United States, but are a threat to world peace?

If America should permit Israel to continue to reject inflexibly any suggestion of a return to earlier boundaries and the creation of a Palestinian state and to refuse even to negotiate about Jerusalem, we would be acquiescing in a policy hazardous not only for Israel but for America and the rest of the world. That would not be responsible conduct for a great power."
All of this written over 30 years ago!

note: Jimmy Carter considered Ball for Secretary of State but decided not to choose him because the Israel lobby would oppose it - from page 167 of The Israel Lobby by Mearsheimer and Walt

Friday, October 8, 2010

seven years seeking accountability

Rachel Corrie was killed, crushed by a Caterpillar armored bulldozer while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in 2003. Now, seven years later, her parents are in Israel at a trial where they are attempting to get Israel to accept responsibility for Rachel's death. Here is a 50 minute interview with them (in early 2010) at a Jerusalem cafe which, though poorly lit, reveals them as the ordinary Americans they are, seeking closure for their courageous child and asking for justice to be done. The New York Times has a story on it.

I have heard that Caterpillar has suspended shipment of their D9 bulldozers to Israel until the Corrie case is resolved. The case can be followed here, see the heading "trial updates".

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Outposts usually grow into regular settlements. Here is a video (go to 1:50 in and watch to the end) that shows exactly how the process starts - a few trailers in this case watched over by an Israeli Army vehicle on a nearby hill. Remember that it is legal for those in outposts to carry firearms, while the Palestinians are forbidden the possession of weapons.

For an excellent overview of the outpost-to-settlement process, watch the following video from Jewish-American activist Anna Baltzer. She rightly emphasizes the economic support America gives to Israel that subsidizes the process and shows how settlers can attack Palestinians. She goes on to make the distinction between Jews, Israelis and Zionists, a distinction the Israeli authorities do not wish anyone to make. The entire video is worth watching. Anna has created a tutorial DVD covering the gamut of topics for the conflict.

the case for Jerusalem

I've come across a most comprehensive, powerful statement on Jerusalem. It covers the history of the city and continues right up to the presidency of Obama. It includes details that, though commonly known to Muslims, are quite likely new to Western ears. It is the testimony of Walid Khalidi, now an American citizen, at the United Nations almost one year ago.

Most convincing of the points made is that a solution must be reached as soon as possible. Though 40 minutes long, none of it should be skipped.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

America, the powerless giant

A very interesting story appears in the New York Times today relating the extent to which the United States administration is making concessions to engage Israel. The breakdown is this

The U.S. is offering Israel (note that most items are long term)
  • military hardware (presumably in addition to what is already in the pipeline)
  • support for a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley
  • help with a ban on weapons smuggling through a Palestinian state
  • a promise to veto any UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during peace talks
  • a pledge to form a regional security agreement for the Middle East
In return Israel will freeze settlement expansion for two months. One short-term concession.

That's it! Could things be any more upside down here? Shouldn't it be Israel that is conceding things in return for the simple continuation of massive U.S. military, diplomatic and financial support, let alone anything additional? Could the U.S. be any more in the stance of a beggar?

This represents the whole history of the America/Israel relationship since the 1970's: Israel is in charge. It is a given in this relationship that Israel is in the right, whatever the situation, and that is what drives the world crazy and pushes frustrated opponents of Israel's oppression into the arms of terrorism.

How can the U.S. administration keep a straight face when using the term "honest broker"?

Here is MJ Rosenberg, a blogger who used to work for AIPAC, saying Obama should simply consider Israeli PM Netanyahu another right-wing Republican.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

has Zionism run aground?

The number one priority for the Israeli government is to make Jews worldwide feel that Israel is their project, their priority and vital to their lives. This is why Israel denies that there is no such a thing as an Israeli, distinct from being Jewish.

The zealotry of the Zionists is legendary. They were determined, no matter what, to make the Jewish state in Palestine a reality, even if it meant working behind the scenes to close off other options than Palestine for Jews evicted from their European homes. The use of terror to make a physical place for Israel was embraced.

The Arabs living in what was to become Israel, didn't have a chance. There is an interesting account of Harry Truman's involvement in recognizing the new Jewish state in 1948 and his rejection of the position of the pro-Arab U.S. State Department, officials of which predicted exactly what has come to pass should America back Zionism.

I don't believe that the actions of the settlers in the occupied territories can be easily separated from the original Zionist impulse, since the settlers are only continuing to take the land that was claimed even before Israel came into being. Settlement is a second wind of Zionism.

This leaves Jews in a quandary. Is Israel necessary to the survival of worldwide Jewry as was claimed by Zionists from the start of the movement? Are Jews without a voice if it does not originate from Israel? Is a Jew who opposes Zionism some kind of a traitor? Is Israel more of a liability than an asset to those Jews living outside of Israel?

Israel's government would deny emphatically that Zionism has become an anachronism but I believe it has. The counter-arguments that trumped the Arab opposition in past decades - that the Holocaust survivors deserved a place in Palestine, that Israel was an unsinkable battleship for the West in the Cold War, that Israel was a developing democracy - all of these no longer apply.

I would draw an analogy between Israel in Palestine and someone thrusting a hand into a beehive. The angry bees would sting the hand viciously. Would the owner of the hand be right in claiming to be a victim and calling the bees aggressors? Would the owner of the hand be justified in destroying the beehive because he was stung? Would he be right to say the behavior of the bees was unjustified and unforeseen?

I think the establishment of Israel was a mistake with predictable consequences that we have seen come to pass. If anything, Israel should be at pains to address the loses and suffering of the Palestinians that began right from the start, yet this is as far from Israel's policy as can be.

I don't call for the elimination of Israel. We can't roll back history. But I do call for a withdrawal of any and all support for the settlements. Zionism must come to a stop. Enough damage has been done. I am not Jewish. I don't want to underestimate the difficulty that non-Israeli Jews might have in opposing what Israel does. But that is a necessary action for them to take in the name of justice.

Here is an interesting article about Miriam Margolyes, an anti-Zionist Jew and the actress who played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, encountering a displaced Palestinian.

Monday, October 4, 2010

being true to Judaism

Earlier this year, an attempt by the University of California at Berkeley student senate to have the school engage in the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel failed. It was vetoed by the senate president Will Smelko.

Part of the process were hearings. At one (video just below) 84 year old Hedy Epstein testified. Her speech is only ten minutes long, but reveals the view of those who suffered from the Holocaust yet do not see Israel as the spokesman for or representative of worldwide Jewry or the precepts of Judaism. By the way, when she refers to the president - it is to the student senate president, not Barack Obama

To emphasize the relationship between the suffering of Jews in past times and the suffering of Palestinians at present, I provide a second video. You need not watch it all. The pertinent segment is from 3:00 to 9:00 minutes, during which a Palestinian woman breaks down in anguish over living in fear for her home and family in the face of a threatened Israeli demolition project in her East Jerusalem neighborhood of Al Bustan. At first calm and composed for the interview, she finally cannot hide her despair. I challenge any viewer not to feel it with her. In an uncanny similarity - both Hedy Epstein's father and the Palestinian woman's husband were marched away from their homes in their pajamas by the authorities.

To conclude - the words of a former soldier in the IDF, Chen Alon, from an article published in Haaretz...
In testimony to the makers of the documentary film "On the Objection Front" (2004 ), Alon said, "As a 19-year-old kid it doesn't seem so terrible to you to enter someone's home. But when you live your life and have a family and a home of your own, and you argue for an hour about where to hang each picture and where each thing should go, suddenly the thought arises that someone will knock on your door and you will have to open, and 10 animals like me enter, and each of them can kick a chair, mess up a cupboard, open a door, spill everything on the floor, tell you 'Open this door,' ask you, 'What are these papers?' And this can happen on any given day at any given time, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, at whatever time someone can enter your home without any sort of permission or authorization. Just because he feels like it; and even if he doesn't feel like it - because he has to. Because he was ordered to enter homes twice during the patrol. That is an intolerable thought.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

beyond victimhood - Jews, power and privilege

The post title is not my own, but that of a rabbi who has posted an outstanding sermon online. It is lengthy but well worth reading. What follows is my response to it, long enough in itself, but placed here with the hope that you will read the sermon as well.

Jews, more than any people, should object (and do!) to what Israel is doing in the occupied territories.

Rabbi Brian:

I was raised in a Christian family with little contact with Jews until I was a teenager. As I grew up, however, I enjoyed history and my impression, which grew stronger the more I read, was that wherever someone was in trouble, often beyond hope, there might well appear a Jew to help. Your sermon makes me realize the basis for acts that had led to my impression – a fundamental philosophy that you describe so well. No wonder a Jew might well step forward when there was nothing material to gain and the life or reputation of a person was at stake.

In recent years my positive impression of Judaism has not weakened, but my unquestioning positive regard for all who call themselves Jewish has been tested by Israeli policies. For too long I have done nothing to aid those who, in the occupied territories, are completely at the mercy of a people I had always considered the most merciful.

I believe that we should take as a first truth that, for good or bad, each of us is equally a human being. There is no guarantee of good behavior because we come from one group or another. The most powerful emphasis on doing right can be resolutely ignored by anyone. The Lebanese militias of the late 1970′s that called themselves Christian were no less driven by hatred and prone to violence than their adversaries.

We all should be judged by what we do, not by any claims based on our heritage or family or wealth. May the wisdom in your sermon be widely heard. The opportunity to be a mentsh happens frequently for those who are able to see it. It’s the best kind of opportunity that can knock.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Alison Weir - telling Americans the truth

Tonight I attended a meeting held by a Palestinian student group at North Eastern Illinois University in Chicago. The keynote speaker was Alison Weir (pictured above) who is the creator of the invaluably informative website If Americans Knew. I wanted to meet Alison because I've heard lots about her and I was not disappointed in the talk she gave, unfortunately cut short by a delay in the start of the program.

Alison described how ten years ago she was a reporter for a local paper in northern California when, horrified by what was going on during the period of the Second Intifada suicide bombings, she decided to learn about the situation in Israel for herself and took a trip there that turned her perception of the situation upside down - because she could see the facts for herself unfiltered by American news reports. Ever since, her mission has been to let Americans know the truth about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The truth, you say, but don't we get the truth from the news?

We don't. Alison presented several graphics drawn from research done on the news reports about the Middle East from the major outlets for foreign reports - ABC, CBS, NBC, the Associated Press and the NY Times.

Here is an example of what was found - in this case for the NY Times alone. The following graphic shows the number of children killed in Israel and the occupied territories in 2004. Israeli children killed are shown in blue and Palestinian children killed, in red. Note that for every Israeli child killed, 22 Palestinian children were killed. Data is taken from B'Tselem (bet SELL em), the Israeli human rights organization.
Now take a look at how this was reported in the NY Times. This time the bars show the percentage of deaths reported in a story headline or first paragraph. The ratio is 7.3 to 1. Translation - 50% of the Israeli children killed, 4 children, received headline or first paragraph coverage but only 7% of the far larger number of Palestinian children killed received such coverage.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. A more recent study of NPR coverage was less biased but still tilted heavily in favor of Israel. The other media outlets are similar to the NY Times.

The result of such skewed reporting is Americans perceive that Israel is taking far higher casualties than it is in comparison to those of the Palestinians. This only encourages the view of Palestinians as crazed terrorists preying on innocent people who are only defending themselves. But the actual figures from B'Tselem show that the Israeli military exacts a heavy toll of Palestinian lives, both adults and children, year after year after year.

In fact, the widely held view that violence subsided after the Second Intifada was true only for Israel. Palestinian deaths at the hands of the IDF increased. Even if we leave aside deaths, daily violence in the form of roughing up, beatings and tear gassing are the norm for Palestinians.

I encourage you to get the full picture