Friday, December 30, 2011

1AM - soldiers at the door

Watch this video made possible by B'Tselem giving cameras to Palestinian families to record events in their lives. In this case, Israeli soldiers arrive in the wee hours of the morning to roust a Palestinian family out of bed so that pictures can be taken of the male children. This is proof once again that Palestinians have no rights, even to the privacy of their own homes. Note that the Israeli soldiers are hardly more than teenagers.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We came to inherit the land

Amnon Neumann, a former soldier in the Palmach, the army that expelled the Arabs from areas that the future state of Israel would hold as its own, recounts some of his experiences (but not all, some being unmentionable).

Concerning the erasing of what is called by the Palestinians the catastrophe (Nakba), he says on reflection, "my whole world view of what happened in the war changed completely. I saw that this was a deliberate deception of the Zionist movement. And they did it successfully, a major success"

This video was produced by Zochrot, which means remembering in Hebrew. From the website:
Zochrot seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, especially among Jews in Israel, who bear a special responsibility to remember and amend the legacy of 1948. The principal victims of the Nakba were the Palestinians, especially the refugees, who lost their entire world. But Jews in Israel also pay a price for their conquest of the land in 1948, living in constant fear and without hope.

The Nakba destroyed the fabric of relations that existed between Jews and Palestinians before 1948. In recognizing and materializing the right of return lies the possibility for Jews and Palestinians to live in this country together.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Israel's school textbook propaganda

Israeli Nurit Peled-Elhanan doesn't mince words when she asks
How do Israeli boys and girls educated on supposedly enlightened humanistic values and end up being such horrible monsters in the army?
She decided to take a look at the textbooks used in Israeli schools to see if a clue might be found there. She has examined such books for many years. In this video, she tells of what she found in maps, the handling of death, excuses and rationalizations for Israeli military actions, blame placing, glorification of the military and more.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

America, what has happened to you?

What has tripped up the U.S. repeatedly is the anxiety factor of our leadership. How can a democratic political system that has shown it’s inherent strength now for over 200 years be continually headed by people who think it is about to be undermined by every wind that blows?

While the world admires the personal freedoms we enjoy and most would love to share it in their own part of the world, our leadership counteracts that very positive image with the endless fear they show by an obsession with domination everywhere. From the frenzy over Communist power (a system whose collapse was welcomed by the very people who were supposed to be under its sway) to the current Islamophobia, America must be forever planting military bases and issuing warnings; setting up trip-wires for intervention and laying down markers not to be crossed.

How ironic that freedom and liberty, so attractive to the great majority of mankind, cannot be allowed to do their good work of setting an example for others to try their best to emulate. Instead we must have a ponderous and heavy-handed policy backed with unlimited weapons that disfigures the U.S. image all over the world. Top it off by calling it “national security”.

Now after 19 people pulled off an attack with airliners of all things, we have heavy-handed law enforcement right here in the U.S. to oppress us as well with the FBI running after people who simply visited the occupied territories. If anything, it appears this monster of coercion and force is relentlessly putting liberty and justice for all in the shade everywhere, crushing the very way of life that it is promoted as protecting!

Israel and the U.S. are alike in one way – they are hard at work on their own undoing, completely blinded by an obsession with hard (as opposed to soft or diplomatic) power.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

innocent? plea bargain regardless

UPDATE: Nearly 100% of all military court cases in West Bank end in conviction.
B'Tselem has released a publication called No Minor Matter concerning the injustice of military law as applied to Palestinian teens in the West Bank.

Setting aside the basic injustice that Palestinians are considered adults by the IDF when they reach 12 years of age though Israeli children must become 18 before they may be tried as adults under Israel's civil law, I want you to know of the application of plea bargaining this reports brings to light.

Normally, a plea bargain is the path that a defendant might take if the penalty for a crime is less onerous than the process required to go through a trial that might end up producing a guilty verdict anyway. If the plea bargain is used frequently, it makes it appear that the authorities and the court system are efficiently doing their jobs of going after criminals when, in fact, the rights of those accused are being abused. I recommend the excellent book Courtroom 302 for anyone interested in how this works in the overloaded judicial system of Cook County, Illinois.

In Chicago and in the West Bank the goal is the same - to pass through as many accused as possible just as one would create sausages in a factory - while letting the matter of innocence or guilt in the alleged crime fall by the way.

Because they can far more easily convict people, military courts have become the choice of those wishing to quickly put away those they assume to be guilty, for example everyone at Guantanamo.

If you want people to plea bargain, the best way to do it is to make the trial process a long drawn out affair and allow no bail so that the accused must sit in jail for the entire time. Add to that the very good chance of conviction that comes with any trial under military law and it will be very unlikely for anyone, innocent or not, to pass up the chance to plead guilty, pay a fine and be gone.

As Americans should know, we are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial by our Constitution (though it rarely works out in practice). But military courts do not operate under the civil law. According to B'Tselem, in Israel's military courts each step in the trial process requires a separate hearing. To indict someone is a hearing, then calling witnesses is another. Anyone who has followed the Rachel Corrie case brought by her parents against Israel will know the frustrating delays that are involved; the hearings can be months apart. When an accused is in custody the whole time, it means the accused is serving time even before guilt is established.

Here is the strange logic of the process as explained by Israeli military court appellate judge Col. Eli Wilf:
...a period of five months from the time of arrest to the filing of the indictment and setting of a time for hearing the matter cannot be deemed such a long period as to justify release from detention. This length of time is acceptable; it is neither unusual nor unreasonable. To hold that this period of time justifies a detention alternative would lead to the conclusion that, in almost all cases, we would have to consider release, which is an unacceptable result.
One can tell from this statement the regard with which any rights of a defendant are held! The military court system must operate efficiently before any rights for the accused are considered, if ever.

Of the 642 cases involving minors that B'Tselem reviewed, only 5 involved a trial. In 13 the defendant pleaded guilty without a plea bargain and the remaining 97% of the cases were plea bargains. And remember, all these cases involve teens that Israel has decided to label adults.

Read the full report for an account of all the other travesties of justice that occur to Palestinian minors netted by the IDF.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

protesting together for almost 40 years

For the third time in nearly four decades, Ghada Karmi (at left) and Ellen Siegel have stood outside an Israel embassy—in London in 1973 and 1992, and in Washington, DC on Oct. 25, 2011—holding identical signs telling the world of their respective dispossession and privilege. The longtime friends and activists were prohibited from having this year’s photograph taken in front of Israel’s Washington embassy, as they had in London, so went to the back of the building instead. Other than that, their situations have not changed—as Karmi’s “still” notes. Photo credit: FRANCIS KHOO (London photos) and JEAN-PASCAL DEILLON

Thanks to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs for this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How can a Jew oppose Zionism?

Sylvia Schwartz, a member of IJAN, who is Jewish with a Palestinian husband says:

The right of Palestinians to return to their homes in Israel is denied by Israel through a series of laws in the Israeli legal system. As I talk about these laws, try to imagine analogous ones in the Unites States, privileging one ethnic group over another

1950 The Law of Return - Any Jew, anywhere in the world has the right to come to Israel

1952 The Citizenship Law - Gives any Jew anywhere in the world the right to citizenship in Israel

The charter of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) (a quasi-government institution) says that it holds land in perpetuity for Jews only. It owns outright 13% of Israel and administers another 80% through the Israel Land Authority.

This means that I, as an American Jew, any time I want I can go to Jerusalem become a citizen and purchase or rent the property that my father-in-law was expelled from. But my husband who was born there and who left there involuntarily, can never go back.

And there is so much more. How can any American support this? Watch and listen to Sylvia Schwartz speak.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

CBS poll on Israel and Iran

I wish there were historical data to put the results of this poll on US foreign policy into perspective. My hope is that the number of Americans who buy Israel's rosy view of itself is declining.

Excerpts - italics mine - full info is here
Forty-one percent of Americans call Israel an ally, including 58 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats. Thirty-four percent describe the nation as friendly but not an ally. Seven percent describe it as unfriendly, and five percent call it an enemy.

While thirty-eight percent say America gives the right amount of support to Israel, nearly one in three says the U.S. supports Israel too much. Seventeen percent - including 26 percent of Republicans - say the U.S. supports Israel too little.

Forty-two percent of Americans support the establishment of a Palestinian state that is recognized by the United Nations, while 34 percent are opposed to it; 22 percent aren't sure.

A majority of Americans - 55 percent - say the threat posed by Iran, which has been developing a nuclear capability, can be contained by diplomacy. Fifteen percent say the situation requires the United States to take military action now; 17 percent say Iran is not a threat. Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to say Iran is a threat that requires military action.

Monday, November 7, 2011

settler tot says "go away you dog"

From all I've seen, read and heard, the settlement in Hebron is the showcase for the worst that settlers can do. A tiny colony of Israelis is maintained within a Palestinian city. A full and detailed account of the situation is provided by the Israeli NGO, B'Tselem.

This video, not from B'Tselem, but episode 64 of the series Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem, provides an intimate view. Reporter Ashira Ramadan, accompanied by a Palestinian resident of Hebron, comes across settler children playing in the street. In response to her attempt to be friendly, these 5 somethings insult her and one even wields a stick. The final cry of one of the children is "get out, you dog". Go to 11:45 to see the interaction with the children.

You also should meet Alfred Ginsberg, a settler, apparently from Brooklyn, who denounces "Hussein Obama" as a racist among other insults he doesn't hesitate to voice. Go to 20:10 for Mr. Ginsberg.

The entire video is worth watching.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

act to offset the UNESCO cut

As you may know, the US is set to stop contributing to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in a fit of anger at the absolutely harmless admission of Palestine to the group. This is yet another counterproductive act in the service of Israel. As an American, I'm going to do my small part to make up for this by donating to UNESCO myself. You can too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

thoughts at one year

I've been writing this blog for a year now. Do I have any readers? I haven't a clue. I write because I want a record of my position on what I believe to be the moral issue of our time, just as slavery was a moral issue in the 19th century.

I've come from a state of complete ignorance concerning Israel to one in which I have a good idea of what happens there on a daily basis. I've also greatly deepened my understanding of Israel's position within the region. Here are some thoughts

Israel is a colony, originally of Europeans

Israel is an ethnic-cleansing project

throwing indigenous people out to achieve ethnic purity is not democracy

Jews have a right, no more or less than anyone else, to live in Palestine

the holocaust did not come with a consolation prize - being wronged, no matter how deeply, doesn't entitle the wronged party to do wrong

the holocaust made Israel possible

collective guilt has in the past allowed Israel a pass that no other state would be allowed

the political/financial power of Zionists in the United States is the only thing that now allows Israel immunity to world opinion

the charge of anti-Semitism has been a powerful (but rapidly weakening) force in protecting Zionsim in the United States

the claim that Jewish Europeans are more closely related to the people who lived in Palestine than the Arabs who live there today is pure mythology

the claim that any Jew anywhere in the world is by right entitled to replace any Palestinian living in Palestine is one of the most outrageous claims ever made

Israel will one day be a state for both Jews and Arabs with equal rights. In other words, there is no possibility of two states

racism on the part of Jews in Israel and in the United States toward Arabs is common

the close association of the United States with Israel has been a disaster for the United States, bringing justified charges of hypocrisy and understandable attacks by those sympathetic to the Palestinians. The refusal of the U.S. to see this drives it steadily lower in world public opinion.

the U.S. Congress is a captive of Zionism and will remain so until there is campaign finance reform

HAMAS is the enemy of choice for Israel because it plays on the chessboard of violence at which Israel is a master. Abbas with his bid for statehood in the UN is the more terrible enemy because he plays on the chessboard of diplomacy where Israel's indefensible position is weakening daily.

Friday, October 21, 2011

They're Jews - how can they support us?

Mohammed El Kurd is a young Palestinian man in Sheikh Jarrah, the Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that Israeli settlers which to see gone.

In this short video you can see the typical action taken - a home is entered and the people living there are evicted. Hate is an understandable reaction and Mohammed describes how he felt it. But what was he to make of other Israeli's, Jews, who came to support his family and hold the settlers at bay?

This blog is dedicated to Jews such as those who help the El Kurd family.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

cracks in the wall are appearing

No, I don't mean the wall in the occupied territories that has been ruled illegal, I mean the wall of silence in the United States when it comes to questioning anything about Israel.

Washington Post writer Walter Pincus has just written a very good summary of the many ways the U.S. taxpayer is supporting Israel. This support is sacrosanct in Congress and is never brought up for review as is every other line item in the budget as legislators struggle to reduce the budget deficit and the national debt.

As Pincus says:
The question for the Obama administration, Congress and, in the end, perhaps the American public, is: Given present economic problems, should the United States supply the money to make up for reductions the Israelis are making in their own defense budget?
Take a look at the entire article, (you may have to register) which has been immediately denounced by one of the top Israel First Congressmen, Howard Berman. But such attacks are losing steam as Americans come to realize how badly they are being had by Israel.

Monday, October 17, 2011

the tax free charity scam

One of the most remarkable ways that Uncle Sam subsidizes Israel is through the tax-exempt organization. The IRS looks the other way while Americans contribute to the Israeli settlements and take a tax deduction on it.

Most blatant of these is "American Friends of Ariel, Inc." that raises money to support the illegal settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. The frosting on the cake is that the president of the organization is none other than Ron Nachman, Mayor of Ariel! You can get a good impression of Mr. Nachman by watching a short NY Times video on Ariel. Pay particular attention to his laugh at the end, and well should he laugh because he is taking Americans for a ride.

Sad to say but many residents of the settlements are Americans, through the dual-citizenship deal that allows people to be both citizens of the United States and Israel at once - enabling fanatics to retain all the rights and freedoms they enjoy as Americans while at the same time taking away land from Palestinians who have no rights even to hold onto their own land.

Check out this informative article on the "charitable" scam.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the unequal Gilat Shalit swap

No, I don't mean unequal in exchanging one person for many.

On the front page of the NY Times for Wednesday there was a picture of relatives and friends rejoicing at the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in return for the release of a group of Palestinian prisoners.

This sounds like a good deal all around but let's consider it more deeply. Of course in the U.S. it isn't surprising that Shalid is almost a hometown boy while the Palestinians are just another bunch of terrorists. Attention has been focused on Shalit being held by HAMAS while no attention is given to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Shalit was abducted while on duty with the IDF. As a member of an occupying army, it's not hard to understand that he was taken prisoner. An interesting point about the Palestinian prisoners is that most of them might as well have been kidnapped for the lack of legal process accompanying their imprisonment. Since there is no law except Israeli military law in the occupied territories, any Palestinian can be grabbed and put in prison if some officer in the IDF decides it should be done...whether on the spur of the moment or as a result of planned 3AM raids that the IDF conducts nightly. May a lawyer be called? Maybe. Will the family be told where the prisoner will be taken? Maybe. May the family visit the prisoner? Maybe but probably not if the prisoner is taken into Israel itself because Palestinians may not go there without permission.

This brings up another difference in this case. Gilad Shalit will be warmly welcomed to a secure home that any American would find familiar. Shalit will never again be subject to the Palestinians and will live in the same security as any other Israeli for the rest of his life protected by an army, an air force, a navy, a undercover police force, the border guard and the plain old ordinary police - backed up by the civil laws of Israel.

Those Palestinians released in the exchange will go home to the same lives dominated by Israel that they knew from the past. They will have no laws to protect them that cannot be flouted at will by the IDF. They will have no police force other than that of the Palestinian Authority which is a creature of Israel that stands aside upon the appearance of any Israeli military or police units. If Israel wanted it, every one of these Palestinians could be back in prison next week. (update: This has come true)

There is another difference. The Shalit family and supporters put on a demonstration to demand the release of Gilad. They had tents and had been actively calling for the government to do something for some time. They were not molested by the police and had plenty of support as one might expect.

But Palestinian demonstrations of any kind are barely tolerated and usually bring barrages of tear gas and stun grenades. Leaders of non-violent protests such as Bassem Tamimi are arrested in order to disable the organization of protests.

The Shalit family can safely put the episode in the past. For every Palestinian, Israel looms menacingly over every day and night into the indefinite future. In a very real sense, every single Palestinian lives on probation.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yousef Munayyer on target re the US

Yousef Munayyer of the The Jerusalem Fund in Washington DC describes the position of the United States regarding Israel and the Palestinians concisely and in doing so explains why the US is no longer considered a mediator (if it ever was) in the Middle East.

"The Palestinians came to the United Nations in the hopes of putting forward a membership application because they had come to understand that domestic dynamics in the United States made it impossible for Washington to be an even-handed broker. If the Obama administration can't get Netanyahu's right-wing government to halt settlement expansion - an Israeli obligation under international law and the US-initiated Road Map for Peace - how could they possibly press Netanyahu to dismantle settlements, divide Jerusalem and admit refugees when the time came to get serious?

The United States is an exceptional place and it is a country that believes in its exceptionalism. Washington likes to believe it can do anything, and it can do and has done many things. But there is one thing it simply cannot do and that is even-handedly broker a deal between Israel and Palestinians. This has to do almost entirely with US domestic politics. Whether you blame the Israel lobby or accept the narrative that Americans en masse have a special connection with Israel, there is no doubt that America is solidly in Israel's corner.

The Israelis have long since recognised this; that is why they insist no other state or alliance of states mediates this conflict. Most Palestinians have long since recognised this and now, after 20 years of failed negotiations, even those among the Palestinians which have be most committed to a US-led peace process have come to the same conclusion.

If there was any doubt about how Washington's domestic politics handicaps its ability to broker, it was erased by President Obama's speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Without even a modicum of recognition of Palestinians' suffering and without one word of condemnation for Israeli colonialism, President Obama rang in the US election season."

This is a very short excerpt from his article Five Lessons Learned from Palestinian UN Bid. Munayyer moderates the excellent video presentations of The Palestine Center where one can always find intelligent conversations regarding Palestine.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kristof in the NYT speaks up

Nicholas Kristof, a man whose work I've always thought showed good sense had a piece in the NYT today, Thursday, called Is Israel it's Own Worst Enemy?

In it he says, accurately...

"Palestinian radicals antagonized the West, and, when militant leaders turned to hijackings and rockets, they undermined the Palestinian cause around the world. They empowered Israeli settlers and hard-liners, while eviscerating Israeli doves.

These days, the world has been turned upside down. Now it is Israel that is endangered most by its leaders and maximalist stance. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is isolating his country, and, to be blunt, his hard line on settlements seems like a national suicide policy."

The whole article is worth a read.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

shooting and crying

People don't understand. When you're in the military you'll blame everything on yourself and not the system. The system has to be right for you to just go about doing your daily thing. So I was sure that it was only me or my company or my platoon that was not behaving properly and it had nothing to do with the system of occupation...but it was really bizarre for me to understand that my story was pretty much the same as everybody else. It's not about a systematic problem, it's about a problematic system.
-Mikhael Manekin

The military cannot make me a nice occupier.
-Yehuda Shaul

Tolstoy wrote a book called "The Kingdom of God is Within You" in which he made the case that it is only because individuals will not refuse to obey that war is possible. But it doesn't take belief in a god to know this is true. Insights that are so powerful in those who have served are not easily conveyed to the recruit. You have to take the damage to gain the wisdom. They who will destroy on command must at least in part destroy themselves. The machine damages the gears on which it runs.

A new film from members of Breaking the Silence -

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

foreign aid must be cut - but not for Israel

Today in the New York Times there is a front page story, FOREIGN AID FACES MAJOR CUTBACKS IN BUDGET CRISIS that says it all in very few words about the iron grip of the Israel lobby on Congress.

After many paragraphs speaking of "deep cuts for food and medicine for Africa and relief for disaster-affected places like Pakistan and Japan", the number one recipient of US foreign aid and most of that in weaponry, Israel finally gets mentioned as words in parentheses
However, one of the largest portions of foreign aid — more than $3 billion for Israel (in fact Israel is the #1 recipient of US aid by far) — is left untouched in both the House and Senate versions, showing that, even in times of austerity, some spending is inviolable.
Remember, Israel is not a poor country. Americans, how long will you be played the fool?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

From Russia, of all places

American media have produced some outstanding stories over the years but when it comes to Israel and the occupation, the silence is deafening.

So it's ironic that RT, the Russian satellite TV service in English, has produced an excellent overview of the situation in the occupied territories of Palestine. Featuring some of the Israeli human rights groups that I have dedicated this blog to, such as Machsom Watch and Breaking the Silence, in two parts the viewer will be given an excellent if incomplete picture of the daily oppression suffered by the Palestinians. I say incomplete because there is nothing in this video about the lack of civil law, the theft of resources, the total control of imports and exports and the constant surveillance by drones that the Palestinians know so well.

But for what is covered, the story is well told. If you can only watch one of the two parts, watch the second since it shows the worst situation - that of Hebron - where a tiny number of Israeli settlers torment the overwhelming number of Palestinians protected by the might of the Israeli armed forces - screaming and shouting insults as the soldiers stand idly by.

Thanks to the blog Jews sans frontieres for making me aware of this video.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

four 20-somethings

In this video we have four Palestinians, each around 20 years old sitting around a table discussing the situation face by their fellow men and women on the occasion of the application for statehood by Mahmoud Abbas in the United Nations.

This reminds me of the kind of discussion that went on among young Americans during the Vietnam War. It's important that Americans see Palestinians as they really are and not behind the uniform Israeli label of "terrorist"

So sit down at the table and listen to these four. The woman in the blue headscarf if Jehan Alfarra who writes a blog called Palinoia

Friday, September 23, 2011

He did it, now what will YOU do?

Mahmoud Abbas presented the application for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations today.

He did this because it has been clear for some time, many years, that the so-called peace process was a fraud used by Israel to delay the Palestinians while grabbing more land with settlements.

The Israeli Peace NGO Forum, a group of Israeli peace groups, issued a list of 50 reasons to support Palestinian statehood and Israeli newspaper columnist Gideon Levy has written an excellent piece stating the truth - Israel does not want a Palestinian state.

President Obama has continued his hypocrisy, speaking against his own words of a year ago that called for a Palestinian state. Zionists continue there relentless manipulation of American politics and the average American, concerned with the economy, continues to be oblivious to the issue of Palestine.

This American has realized after investigating the entire situation intensively for several years now that the United States will never be the source of, or the broker for a solution to the plight of the Palestinians. I deliberately do not say the plight of Israel because that country is so thoroughly over-armed and enabled that it is in no danger and has not been for many decades.

That America could end the oppression of the Palestinians today is indisputable because it is the single country that stands with Israel.

Abbas' speech marks the isolation of the United States with Israel, a tragic alignment of a country that supposedly stands for liberty and justice for all with one that stands for one group exclusively. The United States, once a colony that fought for freedom now backs up a colony that dictates to the natives which it is relentlessly expelling. Hypocrisy cannot reach a higher level than this.

Have you, fellow American, had enough? The White House has established a new petition site called "We the People" where the public is invited to petition the government. Why don't you go there as I did and sign the petition asking the U.S. not to veto the Palestinian application for statehood at the U.N. (the response of the White House website is slow - be patient, after all it's the very heart of inefficient government)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Maureen Murphy - from art student to FBI suspect

There is a great danger to Americans. It isn't from any terrorist threat, but from the actions of our own government against our freedom to stand for our beliefs. Since 9/11 it has increased dramatically.

Maureen Murphy is a perfect example of an American living oblivious to the wider world, becoming aware that all is not right and, curious to find out why, taking positive action to change things, for which the reward is being placed under investigation by the FBI.

Her's is not an isolated case. What the previous paragraph outlines has been repeated countless times in the history of the United States since the elevation of the national security apparatus that came after World War II.

At one time the bogeyman was Communism. Many lives were ruined by the relentless attempt to find Communists under every streetlight. Now the Great Fear is of terrorism and the FBI is on the case against Americans.

It appears this is an endemic problem for America - going after its own for their exercise of rights that are guaranteed under the Constitution - acting against those who actually put freedom into practice.

Please read Maureen Murphy's essay on her path from art student to activist to suspect in only ten years.

Maureen is one of 23 under subpoena by the FBI along with Sarah Smith. They have refused to appear and so far the FBI has not taken further action - though jailing is a real possibility.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Susan Rice and US hypocrisy

Susan Rice has no credibility after her absurd performance in the wake of the U.S. veto of the U.S. position on the Israeli settlements early this year. She failed to make black appear white at that time. But this is only a reflection of the lack of credibility of the administration that tells her what to say and how to vote.

Still - it is amazing what she will say with a straight face. Today in the news comes this from Ms. Rice speaking of the coming vote on a Palestinian state in the UN...

"One thing I hope the Palestinian leadership is considering is the day after," Rice warned. "What will happen when whatever show we have in the United Nations is done? What will change in the real world for the Palestinian people? The answer is nothing--sadly. Expectations will have been raised very high. But the economy will still be the economy, the situation on ground will remain the situation on the ground. The [Palestinian people] will not have any more sovereignty, freedom or autonomy than they feel today."

Who better to speak of "whatever show we have in the UN" or what the Palestinians will have to show when they have absolutely nothing to show for years of the "peace process" and "talks between the two sides" that the US has carefully managed for the benefit of Israel? What gall to talk of the Palestinians having nothing to show when the US has worked hard for decades now to be sure of that.

The United States is about to lower itself even further in the eyes of the world, moving from a history of undermining the Palestinians to brute force bullying.

It will be a relief to see the phrase "honest broker" put forever to rest when referring to the US in the Middle East. It has long been a lie.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

is the New York Times coming around?

The New York Times has employed Ethan Bronner as its correspondent in Israel for some time. His son is in the Israeli Defense Forces and his stories have never been such to cause unhappiness among the supporters of Israel.

Lately, though, the NYT has been slipping in recognition of the Palestinian viewpoint. Recently it published the anti-occupation lyrics sung by some of those who disrupted the performance of the Israeli orchestra in London.

Today, Sunday, there is a story that describes how Israel is finding itself isolated and under siege. It's a routine Bronner telling, but in the second to last paragraph comes this:

"But as the months of Arab Spring have turned autumnal, Israel has increasingly become a target of public outrage. Some here say Israel is again being made a scapegoat, this time for unfulfilled revolutionary promises.

But there is another interpretation, and it is the predominant one abroad — Muslims, Arabs and indeed many around the globe believe Israel is unjustly occupying Palestinian territories, and they are furious at Israel for it. And although some Israelis pointed fingers at Islamicization as the cause of the violence, Egyptians noted Saturday that Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, distanced themselves from Friday’s protests and did not attend, while legions of secular-minded soccer fans were at the forefront of the embassy attacks."

This is a clear statement of the foundation of outrage against Israel that has been present for decades, though it still hedges by saying "many around the globe" instead of "everyone around the world except Zionists". Who approves of armed robbery but those who gain by it? But it's progress for the NYT that I'm glad to see.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Israel - the executive is supreme

We often hear it said that Israel is a democracy just like the United States.

It isn't true.

Quite apart from Israel allowing only Jews and a severely restricted number of Israeli Arabs to vote, there is no balance of power as we have in the United States.

The Supreme Court of Israel may or may not be obeyed by the military and, if obeyed, it may be this year, next year or "we'll get back to you"

In the case of the executive, the Prime Minister can refuse to answer a call for an accounting of military affairs by the legislature (the Knesset). There is no power of subpoena so if Netanyahu decides to keep mum, so be it. This has been the case with the recent military incident near Eilat on the Red Sea.

For an excellent summary of the lack of legislative oversight, please read American Richard Silverstein's blog post about it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Finkelstein and Morris debate

You should watch this debate (too much of which is two people talking at the same time) to hear Norman Finkelstein, with his usual laser-beam use of facts, go against Benny Morris by quoting Morris' own writings. Morris attempts to throw up a barrage of noise and largely succeeds.

History undeniably shows that Israel is a theft of Palestinian land, acknowledged by the leaders of Zionism and documented by Morris in his books on the history. It was never a case of Jews asking to be allowed to come to Palestine and participate in a society with equal rights for all. Instead, it was a planned effort to expel the residents and replace them for the exclusive residence of Jews.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that Israel doesn't want to look at history before 1967 at the earliest, because that brings the whole concept of Israel itself into question and undeniably supports the right of return of the residents that were expelled in the formation of the state and the drive leading up to it. To Israel, there was a vacuum before 1948 and there continues to be a vacuum in the occupied territories where non-Jews can be swept aside without qualm.

This is why the future of Israel as a Jewish state is dim - it requires continuing injustice to add to what has occurred up to the present time. Israelis can rationalize what they have done, but it requires refusal to see the equality of the Arabs they expelled. It is by definition exceptional and arrogant. Always expect Israel to put the spotlight on two places in time: the present and a mythological link to 2000 years ago. What has happened in Palestine in the meantime is dismissed as irrelevant. Only Israelis can say with a straight face that the expelled have no rights whatever. Looking at the world with such blinders to reason has no future, but the very country that should be first to oppose it, the United States, is the only one doing everything it can to extend it. Zionism is wrong, but as long as something has political and financial power, right or wrong don't mean much.

Friday, September 2, 2011

a simple vase

Let me introduce you to the rarest thing I own: a vase exported from Palestine made by Palestinians in their own land.

This simple, small vase is the only item of several that I ordered to support the Palestinian people. The rest of the order, now over six months old, has not arrived because of the difficulty of getting anything out of Palestine.

But what about illegally made items from Israeli companies operating in the occupied territories in violation of international law? No problem of supply there. Ahava and SodaStream are the two most well known Israeli companies whose products are readily available in American stores nationwide.

This outrageous situation is a good reason for you to join in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that was started by Palestinians in protest of the unjust conditions under which they live and have lived for over 60 years.

To see a Palestinian pottery plant in action - go to 13:45 in on this video

If you would like to try obtaining Palestinian arts and crafts, place an order with Middle East Books.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tears of Gaza

I have recommended many things on the blog, but none compare in power to Tears of Gaza, a film made about the 2009-10 assault on Gaza by Israel from Norwegian director Vibeke Lokkeberg.

There is much footage of carnage; graphic scenes of terribly injured or dead children, but all to a very good purpose: to impress the viewer with the horror of the assault on defenseless civilians. I had not seen the videos of the assault in progress shown in this film.

All Americans should view this film because we are responsible for it. It is our money and weapons that go unquestioningly to Israel that make possible the destruction of lives and property that is depicted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The impossible can happen

The memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. has been opened in Washington D.C.

It's a very appropriate design - a wall of rock broken by the man.

The situation in Palestine can seem unending and without hope, particularly now as the Israeli government passes legislation that harks back to the Old South. But hope should never be lost. To see how the impossible can come to be, I want to quote a short passage from Taylor Branch's book, At Canaan's Edge, the last in his trilogy on the Civil Rights Movement.

The fabled summer of 1967 jumbled extremes of hope and horror, many of which penetrated King's life with special force. On Monday, June 12, the US Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage in sixteen states through the landmark case Loving et Ux v. Virginia, which grew from a bedroom police raid and the subsequent conviction of Richard and Mildred Loving for cohabitation under pretense of wedlock.

Until then, Virginia declared void any marriage with only one partner classified white by its written legal standard: "such person as has no trace whatever of any blood other than Caucasian." Mildred Loving's ancestry blended Europe, Africa, and Cherokee Indian. Against Virginia's appellate courts, which found in the anti-miscegenation statute a legitimate state purpose to prevent "the corruption of the blood," "a mongrel breed of citizens," and "the obliteration of racial pride," the Justices ruled that a racial definition of crime violated Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of equal protection under law.

Their decision confronted sexual taboos long at the heart of violent white supremacy. Most Americans within a generation would find it quaint or fantastic that three-quarters of citizens in 1967 opposed inter-racial marriage, and not even the wildest imagination on record from the 1960's predicted that turn-of-the-century politics would divide closely on the rights of same-sex couples.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. might say, "How long? Not Long!"

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chicagoans get the word

It was a beautiful day at the Farmers Market in Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago yesterday, a perfect venue for the Committee for a Just Peace in Palestine to protest the behavior of Illinois Senator Mark Kirk. I took the train down and helped pass out a flyer to the public.

Why don't you send the senator a message of your own? You can use his "Comment on Legislation" form.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Senators Durbin and Leahy deserve support

Yesterday, I mentioned the excellent Legistorm site for investigating the traveling habits of members of Congress.

Looking at the information for my own members, I was struck by the fact that my Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) has not taken ANY trips to Israel nor have any members of his staff. This is truly exceptional - to the point that I felt I should contact him and thank him for resisting the pressure to go.

I also discovered through a story in Israel's Haaretz newspaper that Senator Leahy of Vermont is working to deny U.S. funds to 3 elite IDF units operating in the occupied territories. From the newspaper story...
"Leahy wants the new clause to become a part of the U.S. foreign assistance legislation for 2012, placing restrictions on military assistance to Israel...

Leahy says these units are responsible for harming innocent Palestinian civilians and that no system of investigation is in place to ensure that their members are not committing human rights violations. According to Leahy's proposal, U.S. military assistance to Israel would be subject to the same restrictions that apply to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan."
I was floored by this common sense action. I called his office in Washington to communicate my appreciation. You can as well. His office number is (202) 224-4242.

What the story doesn't mention is that there are no checks on ANY foreign aid funds sent to Israel, a unique privilege enjoyed by that country.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Legistorm, a great resource

Please take a moment to check out Legistorm, a site that examines details about Congress that I had no idea were so easily available. I used it to see how many times my people in Congress had been to Israel.

Not only is a Google map provided showing the travels of each Representative and Senator, but staff travel can be examined as well. You can find out how much was spent, the purpose of the trip and, most important, who paid for the trip.

The user interface is a snap. Started in 2006, this is a very important resource for American citizens.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Tent City/J14 movement

If you've been wondering about the social protest taking place in Israel - here is a good summary in 8 minutes. Thanks to the blog Jews sans Frontiers for bringing this to my attention.

Two weeks after this blog posting, I came across an extensive piece about the movement from West Bank journalist Joseph Dana that included this excerpt...

"The decision to exclude the occupation from the grievances of the July 14 movement was entirely organic. No hired gun consultant advised movement activists to avoid the hot button issue in order to broaden the appeal of the demonstrations. The mainstream of the Jewish public decided on its own, and without much internal reflection, that social justice could exist alongside a system of ethnic exclusivism. Thus, while the July 14 movement proceeded through cities across Israel bellowing out cries for dignity and rights, Palestinians remained safely tucked away behind an elaborate matrix of control — the Iron Wall. Ten years of separation had not only rendered the Palestinians invisible in a physical sense. It had erased them from the Israeli conscience."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Senator Durbin responds with nonsense

I wrote to Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, asking why the United States funds Israel with no thought of cutback even when the U.S. budget is in dire straits and Israel has a successful economy - though maybe not one that is benefits everyone there as the tent protesters demonstrate.

In response, I received this letter from him. Since the graphic is too small to easily read, the text is reproduced below.

Dear Mr. Brown

Thank you for contacting me with your views about U.S. aid to Israel. I appreciate hearing from you.

The United States must be engaged in the effort to end the tragic cycle of violence in the Middle East.

Israel remains the most important U.S. ally in the region. Its strong and vibrant democratic tradition is unique in the Middle East and it has a strong free market economy. The close and stable friendship between our two countries is built on a solid foundation of shared values, mutual assistance and trust. Providing aid to Israel benefits our national security.

The United States, as part of its broader goal of promoting the peaceful resolution of the Middle East hostilities, must continue to encourage regional efforts to construct successful states and resolve conflicts. The escalation of violence and the death and suffering by innocent people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only end with a ceasefire and honest negotiation for peace. As an honest partner in negotiations, the United States must encourage both sides to take the difficult steps necessary for peace.

President Obama has stated that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a top priority for his administration. I am pleased that the peace process will be a focus of our nation's diplomatic efforts and I continue to hope that the two parties will reach an accord that can bring peace and stability to the region.

Thank you for your message. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Richard Durbin
This form letter is completely out of touch with reality, dispenses the same tired phrases that have long been discredited and indicates the stone wall that the Israel lobby has constructed between Congress and the truth. Most of all, it fails to answer my question about U.S. money going to Israel. In fact, it substantiates one of my points against such aid by saying the Israel "has a stong and vibrant economy".

As anyone knows who writes to Congress, you can't expect logic or reason in the response you may receive. Nevertheless, we all must write and let Congress know that we are not deceived. Correspondence from constituents is tallied.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A graphic letter to Congress

I sent the following one page graphical letter to my two senators in Congress, my representative and to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. In each case the appropriate name was used at the top of the page.

Since Blogger doesn't allow very large graphics to be inserted in blogs, you may view the full size page here.

With the exception of the photo of the Palestinian journalist in hospital, the photos were taken by Audrey Farber.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jewish United Fund trips to Israel

The Jewish United Fund fully funds trips to Israel for the purpose of building support for that country in the United States. There's nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with elected politicians taking those trips. My Illinois State Senator, Jeff Schoenberg took such a trip with no less than the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn.

Here is my personal letter to State Senator Schoenberg...

Dear Senator Schoenberg:

Recently I read of your trip to Israel funded by the Jewish United Fund (JUF) in the company of Governor Quinn. Though I do not know of your history regarding Israel, it would surprise me if this is your first trip there.

Organizations such as the JUF make it a practice of cycling influential Americans through Israel by picking up the tab while scrupulously avoiding exposing their guests to the views of the millions of occupants of the occupied territories. Young American Jews are subject to the same thing through Birthright, a pure propaganda effort.

As you should know, for over 60 years the State of Israel has been engaged in ethnic cleansing of the native Arab Palestinian population that continues to the moment I am writing you this letter. On a daily basis comes news of further oppression by the IDF in the occupied territories, more evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, more beatings of non-violent protesters, more 3AM arrests with no reason given, more children deprived of their parents, more Israeli settlers torching the olive groves of Arabs.

Israel forces millions to live under military law, has long done so and has every intention of continuing the practice.

Israel is an exclusionary country that, like the U.S. South before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's, and like South Africa in the days of apartheid, denies rights to people who live there while granting full rights to one exclusive group. In the case of Israel, it is the Jews. In America all such legal discrimination is thankfully off the books with shame that it was ever there.

The United States, the home of "liberty and justice for all" has no business doing business with such a state as Israel. What in the world are you doing going over there as a representative of the people of Illinois? Americans should be giving no support, economic or military to a state that defiantly practices apartheid. You would never tolerate for a moment the restrictions suffered by the Palestinians, who are as much at home there as you are here.

Did Martin Luther King Jr. live for nothing? Why do we have a national holiday in his name if our government officials like you are traveling to Israel for smiles and handshakes?

As the entire world community of nations outside of the U.S. is well aware, the behavior of Israel is not only illegal under international law, but is an outrageous oppression of unprecedented length that continues solely due to the support of the United States. An entire culture - the buildings, towns and people has been erased from Israel itself with the JUF and JNF proudly working to make the erasure complete and have a U.S. blessing bestowed on it. Your trips there indicate an eagerness to do this.

America committed a monumental human rights outrage when it pushed Native-Americans from their lands. We are rightly ashamed of it today, but at least the descendants of those "Indians" have full citizenship in our country. To say that Israel and America are "partners", that America "stands with" Israel and that it is a democracy is not only odious to this American but turns the meaning of words upside down.

I have recently discovered that Illinois is also buying Israel bonds - $12 million in 2010 - money upon which there is no restriction in the way it may be spent. Israel is the ONLY foreign country debt that Illinois purchases. Senator, what is going on? Who is making these decisions in the name of all Illinoisans and why only for Israel? As a tax paying citizen of Illinois I expect your answer to these questions, specifically.

I cannot express the depth of my shame that you and the governor as my elected officials from the Land of Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, are trooping to a country that specializes in denying freedom and making people into prisoners on their own land, grabbing more of that land all the while it was in a "peace process" that is now completely discredited as a fraudulent stalling tactic.

I look forward to your reply indicating to me how you justify not only supporting a country that denies full rights to millions of natives both in the territories it occupies, and to a lesser extent in Israel itself (previously occupied land), but that rejects the fundamental principles upon which the United States, including the state of which you are a citizen and legislator, is based.

Clif Brown

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Power + Exceptionalism = Disaster

After intensively studying Israel for some time now, I believe the problem that it presents to itself, to the Palestinians and to the world can be captured simply. Exceptionalism (the "we are different and superior" idea) combined with power is dangerous and if unchecked leads to disaster. What makes the case of Israel so instructive is that it is a tiny state that would normally be almost un-noticed in the affairs of the world but for the invincible shield of a super-power that is obedient to its wishes.

If you make special claims for your own, it can be harmless enough and it is certainly a human characteristic. In fact, it is a necessity. We all do this as individuals and with our families.

But when the group becomes larger, goes beyond the family to become tribal, then conflict begins with other groups and tribalism takes over. This has been seen in Europe for centuries and is seen in Africa and Asia today. It causes slaughter but the damage is contained unless it breaks out into catastrophes of opposing alliances as was the case in the world wars of the 20th century.

For the Jews, exceptionalism was reinforced by exceptionally strict containment with their numbers small and under constant threat from the larger non-Jewish populations in which they lived. In fact, it was very rugged exceptionalism that kept Judaism going after it stopped being a proselytizing religion with the advent of Christianity.

Jews had no choice but to withdraw when confronted. Exceptionalism was contained and reinforced by powerlessness.

Enter Zionism and the cataclysm of World War II.

Sympathy for the plight of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis is a consequence of centuries of prejudice and oppression. It provided the magic key to the establishment of a Jewish state and its perpetuation.

The worldwide sympathy for the Jews allowed Zionists to commit an appalling act of ethnic cleansing that continues today. People from foreign lands took the land away from those living in Palestine in a blatant act of aggression based only on a mythology that the invaders brought with them but, most importantly, shared with the Christian world. If not for this shared mythology, the Zionist project would have been seen for the preposterous thing it truly is. The Arab Palestinians, being an alien people to the West, the suspicious other to both Europeans and Americans had no standing from which to make a plea for justice.

Though Palestine was certainly not a land without a people, it might as well have been for Zionists and Christians.

The struggling Yishuv suddenly made a slam dunk.

Far from presenting the constraint of a competing tribe, the Arab Palestinians as a rural agricultural people provided no effective resistance against the Zionist project. The history of Israel shows exceptionalism with unrestricted power and in that sense is no different from the rise of National Socialism until it was checked by the allied response to the adventurism of Hitler.

People fail to realize that appeasement, a word that we now despise because of its connection to the British response to Nazi Germany, has been on display by the United States in regard to Israel for decades.

The results are the same - ever more audacious moves by the appeased as they become more confirmed in their superiority and right to do as they please. What we have to ask ourselves is how the inevitable tragedy will play out.

The world does not permit exceptionalism unlimited reach because it is offensive to the universal sense of justice and the now common acceptance of human equality.

Israel has been different only because it has been undertaken by a people toward whom the world has felt a debt. It has played this hand repeatedly holding high the club of anti-Semitism. This is why Israel has been allowed such a long historical leash without effective counteraction. Otherwise it is only the old story of a territorial grab, unusual only in that those doing the grabbing were dropped into their target area from distant places.

The question for the rest of the world is if there is any way to avoid tragedy for Israel. This is a question only America can answer, because it holds the key to change in the form of the transcontinental life support that keeps the Israeli pot of extremism on course to self-destruct. Will the U.S. extend the leash to Israel to the point where it destroys itself from both internal contradictions and an historic split within Judaism that will see a rejection of the country that claims to be its child?

Regardless of what the Palestinians do, this is only a matter of time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

the shrinking fishing grounds of Gaza

Here is an excerpt from an account of the unilateral reduction in the area within which Gaza fishermen can catch fish. The fishing restrictions are completely at the whim of Israel.
During the Oslo Accords, specifically under the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of 1994, representatives of Palestine agreed to 20 nautical miles for fishing access. In 2002 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan empowered Catherine Bertini to negotiate with Israel on key issues regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and a 12 nautical mile fishing limit was agreed upon. In June 2006, following the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit near the crossing of Kerem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), the navy imposed a complete sea blockade for several months. When the complete blockade was finally lifted, Palestinian fishermen found that a 6 nautical mile limit was being enforced. When Hamas gained political control of the Gaza Strip, the limit was reduced to 3 nautical miles. During the massive assault on the Strip in 2008-2009, a complete blockade was again declared. After Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli army began imposing a 1.5 - 2 nautical miles (PCHR: 2010).
The fishing community is often similarly targeted as the farmers in the 'buffer zone' and the fishing limit is enforced with comparable aggression, with boats shot at or rammed as near as 2nm to the Gazan coast by Israeli gunboats.

Remember that this is only one aspect of Palestinian life that is subject to Israel's dictates. The Palestinians in the West Bank have no law but that of the Israeli Defense Forces and live in all respects subject to their occupiers. Those who live in Gaza are under siege and subject to military attack at any time with no defense against it - even as the United States pours more weapons and money into Israel for "the right to defend itself"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

where are the Methodists?

A few months ago I read about the resolution of the United Methodist Church at their general conference in the year 2000, formally calling for the end of the Israeli occupation.

This took me by surprise. In the eleven years since, though I have seen many synagogues with "We Stand with Israel" prominently on display for the public, I have yet to see any evidence whatsoever of the Methodist Church standing against the occupation. As we all know from hearing our current president, lofty words are easily spoken without any action to back them up.

Because I was raised in a Methodist family (my father was ordained and his career was in church administration), I thought I would take advantage of my background and investigate the situation locally.

First, I composed a letter to the largest Methodist congregation in the area. In my letter, I suggested that, in light of the national church position, even the smallest act of recognition of a great wrong would be positive - perhaps just mentioning the Palestinians from the pulpit.

A few weeks went by with no response. I called the church office and nobody had seen the letter.

So I sent the same letter in again, only this time addressing it to the pastor.

A few weeks went by with no response. I called the pastor and left a phone message asking if the letter had been received.

No response.

So, I put on my Sunday best and went to church for the first time in decades. I knew that it is traditional for the pastor to greet the congregation after the service and saw that as an opportunity to meet the pastor in person. During the service, I discovered that there is a junior pastor as well.

After the service I waited in line, greeted the pastor, mentioned my name and asked if my letter had been received. "Yes", he said, "I intended to write you back, but you didn't provide a return address." Though I was tempted to exclaim, "WHAT!!??", I didn't intend to put him on the spot, I simply handed him my card and thanked him for the sermon. He told me that he would get in touch with me.

Upon return home, I composed a cover letter to the junior pastor, attached a copy of my original letter and emailed them.

Now, a week later, months since I wrote my first letter, there has been no response by phone, mail or email. I suspect there will never be any.

Why did I do this? I know from my years of association with the Methodist Church, back in the tumultuous Vietnam period, that it is politically timid, but I thought that possibly my close connection with Methodism would put anyone at ease in responding. If so many Jews are working so hard for justice, I can't sit doing nothing. If Palestinians have suffered over 60 years, couldn't I at least write a letter on their behalf to "my own people"?

A major reason I left the church in my young adulthood was that I felt it was pointless to listen to anodyne weekly lectures only to spend one's life ignoring the whole philosophical foundation of the religion, if not actively going against it. There are many good things the church does, but the risk factor in all of them is essentially nil. I'm an atheist, but whether or not one believes the accounts in the Bible, one must admire the stories (in the old or new testament) of people staking life itself for a cause.

Given the lack of response to my mild letter, you can easily imagine the intimidating power the charge of anti-Semitism, which Zionists are wont to use, would have if even the mildest support for the Palestinians were attempted.

I will close on a positive note, minor as it is. At the church service I noted with pleasure that there is now a cantor, by that very title. Things do change, but oh so slowly and cautiously. There are people in boiling water around the world. They suffer as most of us wait for the water to become tepid before putting a toe in.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jews and the civil rights struggle

I've been reading the excellent series of books by Taylor Branch on the civil rights struggle, Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire and At Canaan's Edge

It's impossible not to draw parallels with the struggle of the Palestinians, particularly in the behavior of racist whites in the South and the majority of Israelis. Just recently, an excellent piece appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that spoke of this parallel. I recommend it highly.

In reading the comments about the Haaretz article, I came across the following comment with the title "one half of the pro-civil-rights "whites" were Jews". Significantly, it received 25 thumbs up and only 4 thumbs down votes from readers.
"The article is great and completely correct - but since we're talking about Israel, tell the whole truth - half or more of the white pro-civil rights activists were Jews; Rabbi Heschel is the rabbi in the photo with Dr. King at Selma, and he quoted scripture to amazing effect in support of the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War; two of the most famous whites killed in the struggle, Schwerner and Goodman, killed in Mississippi in the summer of 1964, were Jews - and there are tens of thousands more. Don't just write for Israelis about blacks and whites in the South; they'll say it has nothing to do with us. Tell the truth - the majority of American Jews supported the civil rights movement, and a completely disproportionate amount of the "white" activists were Jews whose historical consciousness of their identity made white racism abhorrent to them. There is nothing more Jewish than to oppose racist oppression - especially when it's our own people who are responsible for it."

Friday, July 8, 2011

an emergency for Americans

Here's a letter I've sent to everyone on my contact list...

Please bear with me and read what follows - I am frightened of the immediate danger of another war. You and every ordinary American are needed to act because in one critical area we have lost control of our Congress and because of this we may shortly be committed to a new war that Americans do not want.

Consider the following facts.

>Never in the history of the United States has there been any topic not open to debate in Congress until now - on one topic.

>Not one Democrat, not one Republican will raise any question on this topic. Even the Tea Party is silent. Senator Rand Paul made a single comment about the money involved and immediately went silent earlier this year.

>In a time of economic stress that questions even Social Security and Medicare, funding on this topic is off limits unless it is a vote to increase the amount granted.

>The NRA, AARP, agribusiness, the unions, the oil companies, the banking industry - the issues of all these groups are debated. On this one topic - no debate.

Standing alone, unquestioned, beyond debate, is Israel.

Yet, the height of irony, in the Israeli Knesset debate is completely open on policies that, once determined, the United States rubber-stamps without question.

The world's superpower is captive to the government of a tiny foreign country on the other side of the world. This is a recipe for disaster. You must act.

Not one of the 435 Representatives and 100 Senators in Congress will question any aspect of U.S. policy toward Israel. President Obama is extremely careful in what he says as well.

Instead, the Prime Minister of Israel dictates what he will and will not do - and U.S. support will be continued no matter what he does.

When Israel takes any action in foreign affairs that calls for debate, instead the U.S. House or Senate will within 24 hours have a resolution of support ready, often initiated by Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, with many eager co-sponsors not even needing to be asked to do so, because this is evidence at election time of support for Israel.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to Congress. He could hardly get out a sentence without a standing ovation. Every member of Congress was eager to be seen cheering vigorously. The sight of this should have been disquieting at the least to anyone who loves democracy, as this was evidence that we the people are no longer running our Congress when it comes to Israel.

The funding that backers of Israel can put into election campaigns has muted all debate. Anyone who questions unlimited support for Israel knows he/she will be marked for defeat and the process is so effective that all are now silent and obedient. Standing always ready for use against legislators who raise questions is the accusation of anti-Semitism. Our legislators are completely intimidated.

In races for office, when the subject of Israel comes up there is a contest for who can speak more loudly in support of that tiny foreign country with a population about that of the Chicago area. In the last election for U.S. Representative from my district, Jan Schakowsky, a veteran supporter of Israel, was challenged by an even more fierce advocate, Joel Pollack. This is typical.

Israel is guaranteed over $3.5 billion minimum every year, the number one recipient of our foreign aide, yet a thriving economy. This is augmented by additional funds voted throughout the year by Congress. The base amount is pledged over ten year periods and has only increased each time it comes up for renewal. Our current economic crisis has had no effect on this. We can cut back spending on Americans but we can't do enough for Israelis.

This email is a plea to you to not maintain silence. Now is the time to make your voice heard for a very serious reason. In September the United Nations is likely to vote on a Palestinian state. Israel is determined, no matter what it takes, to defeat this effort.

There is good reason to believe that it may attack Iran to divert attention from the vote on Palestine, since it knows the U.S. would automatically come into the war on its side. Please read this excellent article for the evidence that this might happen.

Can we possibly get into another war just as we are eager to get out of Afghanistan? Yes, because of the subservience of Congress. Any impulsive act by Israel would automatically bring U.S. support. Congress has no idea how to act in relation to Israel other than in the robotic manner it does now. Israel has been continually threatening a pre-emptive attack on Iran.

It is imperative that you write your representatives and senators now. The Israel lobby relies on citizen indifference, ignorance and apathy so that the wealth and power of a relative few Americans can exert the control it does. You as an American citizen must make a showing of your independence and demand Congress do likewise. Let Congress know that you are watching them too. There is absolutely no topic that should be beyond debate in Congress. Most Americans never write (or email) their people in Congress. Please do so to demand that there must be debate and no automatic joining of an Israeli-initiated war with Iran.

Here are some useful links

Write your representative
Senators of the 112th Congress

Council for the National Interest (a group dedicated to freeing Congress from the Israel lobby - started by IL Rep Paul Findlay in the 1980's)
AIPAC - the unrivaled lobby (written by former AIPAC employee M.J. Rosenberg)
Jewish Voice for Peace (Jews who object to Israeli policies)
If Americans Knew (started by a reporter, Alison Weir, with the goal of informing Americans about what they are supporting in Israel)

Monday, July 4, 2011


We put humanity in top priority. Not my tribe, my race, or my people. That's why we went out against Zionism. A Zionist's values are all tribal, what's good for the Jews.

To this day, when people ask me about my identity, who are you? Are you this, are you that, are you brown, are you Moslem? I say I am a rootless cosmopolitan and very proud of the fact.

There used to be a saying - "Only dead fish float with the current. Live fish swim against it" When you swim against the current, you think for yourself. You don't accept what you are told.
These are quotes from three different people that you will hear in the remarkable Israeli-made one hour video, Matzpen, the story of the anti-Zionist group of that name that defied the overwhelming majority. Watch it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

the Jewish State - Avnery's view

I always read what Uri Avnery writes. This remarkable Israeli was around when the British were still in Palestine. He was raised on a kibbutz and served in the Knesset. He is well qualified to speak with knowledge of Israel and does so in regular "letters" that he writes.

In the letter that I reproduce below is historical information necessary for an understanding of the meaning of the phrase "the Jewish state". I learned several things I did not know and I hope you will too.

Uri Avnery
June 18, 2011
Deny! Deny!

I AM fed up with all this nonsense about recognizing Israel as the
“Jewish State”.

It is based on a collection of hollow phrases and vague definitions,
devoid of any real content. It serves many different purposes, almost
all of them malign.

Binyamin Netanyahu uses it as a trick to obstruct the establishment of
the Palestinian state. This week he declared that the conflict just has
no solution. Why? Because the Palestinians do not agree to recognize
etc. etc.

Four rightist Members of the Knesset have just submitted a bill
empowering the government to refuse to register new NGOs and to dissolve
existing ones if they “deny the Jewish character of the state”.

This new bill is only one of a series designed to curtail the civil
rights of Arab citizens, as well as those of leftists.

If the late Dr. Samuel Johnson were living in present-day Israel, he
would phrase his famous dictum about patriotism differently:
“Recognition of the Jewish Character of the state is the last refuge of
a scoundrel.”

IN ISRAELI parlance, denying the “Jewish Character” of the state is
tantamount to the worst of all political felonies: to claim that Israel
is a “State of all its Citizens”.

To a foreigner, this may sound a bit weird. In a democracy, the state
clearly belongs to all its citizens. Mention this in the United States,
and you are stating the obvious. Mention this in Israel, and you are
treading dangerously close to treason. (So much for our much-vaunted
“common” values”.)

As a matter of fact, Israel is indeed a state of all its citizens. All
adult Israeli citizens – and only they – have the right to vote for the
Knesset. The Knesset appoints the government and determines the laws. It
has enacted many laws declaring that Israel is a “Jewish and democratic
state”. In ten or in a hundred years, the Knesset could hoist the flag
of Catholicism, Buddhism or Islam. In a democracy, it is the citizens
who are sovereign, not a verbal formula.

WHAT FORMULA? - one may well ask.

The courts favor the words “Jewish and democratic state”. But that is
far from being the only definition around.

The most widely used is just “Jewish State”. But that is not enough for
Netanyahu and Co., who speak about “the nation-state of the Jewish
people”, which has a nice 19th century ring. The “state of the Jewish
people” is also quite popular.

The one thing that all these brand-names have in common is that they are
perfectly imprecise. What does “Jewish” mean? A nationality, a religion,
a tribe? Who are the “Jewish people”? Or, even more vague, the “Jewish
nation”? Does this include the Congressmen who enact the laws of the
United States? Or the cohorts of Jews who are in charge of US Middle
East policy? Which country does the Jewish ambassador of the UK in Tel
Aviv represent?

The courts have been wrestling with the question: where is the border
between “Jewish” and “democratic”? What does “democratic” mean in this
context? Can a “Jewish” state really be “democratic”, or, for that
matter, can a “democratic” state really be “Jewish”? All the answers
given by learned judges and renowned professors are contrived, or, as we
say in Hebrew, they “stand on chickens’ legs”.

LETS GO back to the beginning: the book written in German by Theodor
Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, and published in 1896. He called
it “Der Judenstaat”.

Unfortunately, this is a typical German word that is untranslatable. It
is generally rendered in English as “The Jewish State” or “The State of
the Jews”. Both are quite false. The nearest approximation would be “The

If this sounds slightly anti-Semitic, this is not by accident. It may
come as a shock to many, but the word was not invented by Herzl. It was
first used by a Prussian nobleman with an impressive name - Friedrich
August Ludwig von der Marwitz, - who died 23 years before Herzl was even
born. He was a dedicated anti-Semite long before another German invented
the term “anti-Semitism” as an expression of the healthy German spirit.

Marwitz, an ultra-conservative general, objected to the liberal reforms
proposed at the time. In 1811 he warned that these reforms would turn
Prussia into a “Judenstaat”, a Jewstate. He did not mean that Jews were
about to become a majority in Prussia, God forbid, but that moneylenders
and other shady Jewish dealers would corrupt the character of the
country and wipe out the good old Prussian virtues.

Herzl himself did not dream of a state that belongs to all the Jews in
the world. Quite the contrary - his vision was that all real Jews would
go to the Judenstaat (whether in Argentina or Palestine, he had not yet
decided). They – and only they - would thenceforth remain “Jews”. All
the others would become assimilated in their host nations and cease
altogether to be Jews.

Far, far indeed from the notion of a “nation-state of the Jewish people”
as envisioned by many of today’s Zionists, including those millions who
do not dream of immigrating to Israel.

WHEN I was a boy, I took part in dozens of demonstrations against the
British government of Palestine. In all of them, we chanted in unison
“Free immigration! Hebrew State!” I don’t remember a single
demonstration with the slogan “Jewish State”.

That was quite natural. Without anyone decreeing it, we made a clear
distinction between us Hebrew-speaking people in Palestine and the Jews
in the Diaspora. Some of us turned this into an ideology, but for most
people it was just a natural expression of reality: Hebrew agriculture
and Jewish tradition, Hebrew underground and Jewish Religion, Hebrew
kibbutz and Jewish Shtetl. Hebrew Yishuv (the new community in the
country) and Jewish Diaspora. To be called a “Diaspora Jew” was the
ultimate insult.

For us this was not anti-Zionist by any means. Quite the contrary:
Zionism wanted to create an old-new nation in Eretz Israel (as Palestine
is called in Hebrew), and this nation was of course quite distinct from
the Jews elsewhere. It was only the Holocaust, with its huge emotional
impact, which changed the verbal rules.

So how did the formula “Jewish State” creep in? In 1917, in the middle
of World War I, the British government issued the so-called Balfour
Declaration, which proclaimed that “His Majesty’s Government views with
favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish

Every word was carefully chosen, after months of negotiations with
Zionist leaders. One of the main British objects was to win American and
Russian Jews for the Allied cause. Revolutionary Russia was about to get
out of the war, and the entry of isolationist America was essential.

(By the way, the British rejected the words “the turning of Palestine
into a national home for the Jewish people”, insisting on “in Palestine”
– thus foreshadowing the partition of the country.)

IN 1947 the UN did decide to partition Palestine between its Arab and
Jewish populations. This said nothing about the character of the two
future states – it just used the current definitions of the two warring
parties. About 40% of the population in the territory allocated to the
“Jewish” state was Arab.

The advocates of the “Jewish state” make much of the sentence in the
“Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel” (generally
called the “Declaration of Independence”) which indeed includes the
words “Jewish State”. After quoting the UN resolution which called for a
Jewish and an Arab state, the declaration continues: “Accordingly we …
on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General
Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz
Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”

This sentence says nothing at all about the character of the new state,
and the context is purely formal.

One of the paragraphs of the declaration (in its original Hebrew
version) speaks about the “Hebrew people”: “We extend our hands to all
neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good
neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and
mutual help with the independent Hebrew people in its land.” This
sentence is blatantly falsified in the official English translation,
which changed the last words into “the sovereign Jewish people settled
in its own land.”

As a matter of fact, it would have been quite impossible to reach
agreement on any ideological formula, since the declaration was signed
by the leaders of all factions, from the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox to
the Moscow-oriented Communist Party.

ANY TALK about the Jewish State leads inevitably to the question: What
are the Jews – a nation or a religion?

Official Israeli doctrine says that “Jewish” is both a national and a
religious definition. The Jewish collective, unlike any other, is both
national and religious. With us, nation and religion are one and the same.

The only door of entry to this collective is religious. There is no
national door.

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russian immigrants have come to
Israel under the Law of Return with their Jewish relatives. This law is
very broad. In order to attract the Jews, it allows even distant
non-Jewish relatives to come with them, including the spouse of the
grandchild of a Jew. Many of these non-Jews want to be Jews in order to
be considered full Israelis, but have tried in vain to be accepted.
Under Israeli law, a Jew is a person “born to a Jewish mother or
converted, who has not adopted another religion”. This is a purely
religious definition. Jewish religious law says that for this purpose,
only the mother, not the father, counts.

It is extremely difficult to be converted in Israel. The rabbis demand
that the convert fulfill all 613 commandments of the Jewish religion –
which only very few recognized Israelis do. But one cannot become an
official member of the stipulated Jewish “nation” by any other door. One
becomes a part of the American nation by accepting US citizenship.
Nothing like that exists here.

We have an ongoing battle about this in Israel. Some of us want Israel
to be an Israeli state, belonging to the Israeli people, indeed a “State
of all its Citizens”. Some want to impose on us the religious law
supposedly fixed by God for all times on Mount Sinai some 3200 years
ago, and abolish all contrary laws of the democratically elected
Knesset. Many don’t want any change at all.

But how, in God’s name (sorry), does this concern the Palestinians? Or
the Icelanders, for that matter?

THE DEMAND that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “the Jewish State”
or as “the Nation-State of the Jewish people” is preposterous.

As the British would put it, it’s none of their bloody business. It
would be tantamount to an intervention in the internal affairs of
another country.

But a friend of mine has suggested a simple way out: the Knesset can
simply resolve to change the name of the state into something like “The
Jewish Republic of Israel”, so that any peace agreement between Israel
and the Arab State of Palestine will automatically include the demanded

This would also bring Israel into line with the state it most resembles:
“The Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, which came into being almost at the
same time, after the partition of India, after a gruesome mutual
massacre, after the creation of a huge refugee problem and with a
perpetual border war in Kashmir. And the nuclear bomb, of course.

Many Israelis would be shocked by the comparison. What, us? Similar to a
theocratic state? Are we getting closer to the Pakistani model and
further from the American one?

What the hell, let’s simply deny it!