Thursday, April 28, 2011

too bizarre to believe - but true

This video is of an attack on helpless Palestinian prisoners in Ktziot military prison of Israel. Intended to boost morale, (not of the prisoners!) combat troops armed with what are supposed to be non-lethal weapons burst in on the sleeping prisoners in the middle of the night, shouting and threatening them. Is it a surprise someone got killed? This happened in 2007. Have you ever heard of it? I hadn't.

The video was kept secret until word of its existence was given to an Israeli lawyer who broke the news. The video ended up in an Israeli TV expose.

To get English subtitles, click on the CC (closed captioning) button just beneath the timing bar on the right.

Here's what I found on this incident...
Ketziot is the largest security prison in Israel, with some 2,200 prisoners. The Prisons Service took over responsibility for it in 2006.

According to the operation’s orders, which Haaretz has obtained, and a Prisons Service investigation into the events, the operation had four goals. One, the surprise search, with the assistance of the Masada unit, was to “impart the element of deterrance.” The second was to “increase morale and motivation” among prison guards. The third was to raise the level of the guards’ skill, and the fourth was to uncover contraband that could be used to compromise security in the prison.

In his pre-operation briefing to the participants, Cohen said: “I am glad this operation fell to me in Ketziot.” Citing the morale-boosting element, Cohen also said: “If we manage to surprise the prisoners, all the better. If it is uncovered [beforehand], there will be shouting.” Cohen also told participants “the population is expected to respond in any case.”

The operation began as planned at 2 A.M. But four minutes later riots broke out that gradually spread from section 12b to the whole compound. Prisoners became violent, set the section on fire and threw objects.

According to the Prisons Service investigation, at 2:12 A.M., Cohen ordered the Masada unit team into the section, where the prisoners live in tents. The team commander said he encountered “a large number of prisoners” who threw objects at him. In describing Ashkar’s death, the Prisons Service investigation states: “The team commander opened fire according to the rules of engagement, toward the legs. A prisoner who entered the line of fire was shot in the head.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the capture of Israel by the national-religious

The founders of Israel were not religious, in fact looked down upon religious Jews and thought that religion was on the way out.

So how did it come to pass that today the settlers in the occupied territories are for the most part fanatically religious and the talk is of holy places and a God-given right to the land?

To find out, read the excerpt below from an article, Who is Annexing Whom? by Israeli Uri Avnery, an always reliable source of solid information on Israel, a careful writer who is at pains to define the terms he uses and someone who's been there since the beginning.

Read on to learn about the fanaticism that the U.S. Congress falls all over itself to please.

Avnery writes...

Some weeks ago, I wrote that the problem may not be the annexation of the West Bank by Israel, but the annexation of Israel by the West Bank settlers.

Some readers reacted with a chuckle. It looked like a humorous aside.

It was not.

The time has come to examine this process seriously: Is Israel falling victim to a hostile takeover by the settlers?

First of all, the term “settlers” itself must be examined.

Formally, there is no question. The settlers are Israelis living beyond the 1967 border, the Green Line. (“Green” in this case has no ideological connotation. This just happened to be the color chosen to distinguish the line on the maps.)

Numbers are inflated or deflated according to propaganda needs. But it can be assumed that there are about 300,000 settlers in the West Bank and an additional 200,000 or so in East Jerusalem. Israelis usually don’t call the Jerusalemites “settlers,” putting them into a different category. But, of course, settlers they are.

But when we speak of Settlers in the political context, we speak of a much bigger community.

True, not all settlers are Settlers. Many people in the West Bank settlements went there without any ideological motive, just because they could build their dream villas for practically nothing, with a picturesque view of Arab minarets to boot. It is these the Settler Council chairman, Danny Dayan, meant, when, in a (recently leaked) secret conversation with a U.S. diplomat, he conceded that they could easily be persuaded to return to Israel if the money were right.

However, all these people have an interest in the status quo, and therefore will support the real Settlers in the political fight. As the Jewish proverb goes, if you start fulfilling a commandment for the wrong reasons, you will end up fulfilling it for the right ones.

But the camp of the “settlers” is much, much bigger.

The entire so-called “national religious” movement is in total support of the settlers, their ideology, and their aims. And no wonder—the settlement enterprise sprung from its loins.

This must be explained. The “national religious” were originally a tiny splinter of religious Jewry. The big Orthodox camp saw in Zionism an aberration and heinous sin. Since God had exiled the Jews from His land because of their sins, only He—through His Messiah—had the right to bring them back. The Zionists thus position themselves above God and prevent the coming of the Messiah. For the Orthodox, the Zionist idea of a secular Jewish “nation” still is an abomination.

However, a few religious Jews did join the nascent Zionist movement. They remained a curiosity. The Zionists held the Jewish religion in contempt, like everything else belonging to the Jewish Diaspora (galut—exile, a derogatory term in Zionist parlance). Children who (like myself) were brought up in Zionist schools in Palestine before the Holocaust were taught to look down with pity on people who were “still” religious.

This also colored our attitude toward the religious Zionists. The real work of building our future “Hebrew State” (we never spoke about a “Jewish State”) was done by socialist atheists. The kibbutzim and moshavim, communal and cooperative villages, as well as the “pioneer” youth movements, which were the foundation of the whole enterprise, were mostly Tolstoyan socialist, some of them even Marxist. The few that were religious were considered marginal.

At that time, in the ’30s and ’40s, few young people wore a kippah in public. I don’t remember a single member of the Irgun, the clandestine military (“terrorist”) organization to which I belonged, wearing a kippah—though there were quite a number of religious members. They preferred a less conspicuous cap or beret.

The national-religious party (originally called Mizrahi—Eastern) played a minor role in Zionist politics. It was decidedly moderate in national affairs. In the historic confrontations between the “activist” David Ben-Gurion and the “moderate” Moshe Sharett in the ’50s, they almost always sided with Sharett, driving Ben-Gurion up the wall.

Nobody paid much attention, however, to what was happening under the surface—in the national-religious youth movement, Bnei Akiva, and their Yeshivot. There, out of sight of the general public, a dangerous cocktail of ultra-nationalist Zionism and an aggressive tribal “messianic” religion was being brewed.

The astounding victory of the Israeli army in the 1967 Six-Day War, after three weeks of extreme anxiety, marked a turning point for this movement.

Here was everything they had dreamed of: a God-given miracle, the heartland of historical Eretz Israel (alias the West Bank) occupied, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” as one general breathlessly reported.

As if somebody had drawn a cork, the national-religious youth movement escaped its bottle and became a national force. They created Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”), the center of the dynamic settlement enterprise in the newly “liberated territories.”

This must be well understood: for the national-religious camp, 1967 was also a moment of liberation within the Zionist camp. As the Bible (Psalm 117) prophesied: “The stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone.” The despised national-religious youth movement and kibbutzim suddenly jumped to center stage.

While the old socialist kibbutz movement was dying of ideological exhaustion, its members becoming rich by selling agricultural land to real-estate sharks, the national religious sprang up in full ideological vigor, imbued with spiritual and national fervor, preaching a pagan Jewish creed of holy places, holy stones, and holy tombs, mixed with the conviction that the whole country belongs to the Jews and that “foreigners” (meaning the Palestinians, who have lived here for at least 1,300, if not 5,000 years) should be kicked out.

Most of today’s Israelis were born or immigrated after 1967. The occupation state is the only reality they know. The settlers’ creed looks to them like self-evident truth. Polls show a growing number of young Israelis for whom democracy and human rights are empty phrases. A Jewish state means a state that belongs to the Jews and to the Jews only; nobody else has any business to be here.

This climate has created a political scene dominated by a set of right-wing parties, from Avigdor Lieberman’s racists to the outright fascist followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane—all of them totally subservient to the settlers.

If it is true that the U.S. Congress is controlled by the Israel lobby, then this lobby is controlled by the Israeli government, which is controlled by the settlers. (Like the joke about the dictator who said: The world is afraid of our country; the country is afraid of me; I am afraid of my wife; my wife is afraid of a mouse. So who rules the world?)

So the settlers can do whatever they want: build new settlements and enlarge existing ones, ignore the Supreme Court, give orders to the Knesset and the government, attack their “neighbors” whenever they like, kill Arab children who throw stones, uproot olive groves, burn mosques. And their power is growing by leaps and bounds.

The takeover of a civilized country by hardier border fighters is by no means extraordinary. On the contrary, it is a frequent historical phenomenon. The historian Arnold Toynbee provided a long list.

Germany was for a long time dominated by the Ostmark (“Eastern marches”), which became Austria. The culturally advanced German heartland fell under the sway of the more primitive but hardier Prussians, whose homeland was not a part of Germany at all. The Russian Empire was formed by Moscow, originally a primitive town on the fringes.

The rule seems to be that when the people of a civilized country become spoiled by culture and riches, a hardier, less pampered, and more primitive race on the fringes takes over, as Greece was taken over by the Romans, and Rome by the barbarians.

This can happen to us. But it need not. Israeli secular democracy still has a lot of strength in it. The settlements can still be removed. (In a future article, I shall try to show how.) The religious Right can still be repulsed. The occupation, which is the mother of all evil, can still be terminated.

But for that we have to recognize the danger—and do something about it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

the Holocaust fixation

Today, Saturday, in the New York Times is a big spread (front page of the Arts section) on the Illinois Holocaust Museum. I felt that a letter to the editor was needed. Here it is...

Dear New York Times editor:

The Holocaust was a horror that began in the 1930's and ended with the conclusion of World War II in 1945. I was born in 1950. In my 60 year life I have been exposed to innumerable presentations of the Holocaust in books, films, TV and as with your article, in newspapers. In Illinois, it is a law that public school students must learn about the Holocaust. The Illinois Holocaust Museum is an easy bicycle ride from my home. Americans are steeped in the Holocaust.

Two years before my birth, in 1948 the Catastrophe, the Nakba, in which Palestinians were driven from their homeland began. Just as the Holocaust was carefully planned, so was and is the Catastrophe. Unlike the 15 years containing the Holocaust in which Jews were victimized along with others, Palestinians are to this very moment, still being thrown out of their homes and land, still being killed on an average of about 1 to 2 per week, still subject to no law but that of the Israeli occupying army and subject in every detail of daily life to the desires of Israel. There are no memorials in the United States to lost Palestine, the subject is never mentioned in Congress and Israel, the ongoing oppressor behind the Catastrophe cannot be praised more highly, paid more lavishly with U.S. foreign aid or given too many weapons. American public school students are not required to know one thing about anything Palestinian.

There is no stranger irony in a country that claims to support human rights, than the fixation with a horror long since ended accompanied with absolute blindness to a horror that has continued with active, eager U.S. support for decades and would end this second without it. The Nazis drove the Holocaust for a relatively brief period, we Americans drive the Catastrophe with no end in sight.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Railroading Jews to Palestine

The Zionist story of Israel would have us believe that Jews flocked to Palestine eager to start new lives in a virtually empty land. Checking history will tell you that the land was not only populated by Arab Palestinians but that the place was a hard sell for Zionists.

Up to WW2 the number of Jews who had moved there was a big disappointment, not nearly enough to pull off the Israel project. It's no exaggeration to say that WW2 saved the Zionist dream, but not because Jews suddenly wanted to move to the Middle East, only because it allowed Zionists to arrange for them to move their whether they wanted to or not.

Yosef Grodzinsky has written In the Shadow of the Holocaust, an account of how Zionists arranged for those Jews in the displaced persons camps post WWII to be sent to Palestine regardless of their wishes, often drafting them into the Haganah to fight there as well.

Now, Yossi Gurvitz, in his blog, has brought my attention to another chapter of railroading to Palestine in his post Soviet Jews were Cheated into Immigrating to Israel which draws its information from an article in 7 Yamim, the weekly magazine supplement of Israel's most popular newspaper, Yediot Ahronot.

I encourage you to read the blog post. Here is an excerpt. "Kadmi" is Yasha Kadmi, who was the chief of Nativ, "the clandestine organization infiltrating the Soviet Bloc", who has written a book explaining the way the system worked...

It went like this: The goal was to prevent Russian Jews from reaching Vienna, from which they could make it to the US as refugees. So Kadmi gathered Jews wishing to emigrate to Moscow, and met with them after 17:00, the time the Austrian embassy stopped working. He then gave them a plane ticket to either Romania or Hungary, which they had to use immediately, preferably that night. Kadmi has already made a deal with the two dictatorships, who would in turn make certain no Soviet Jew had the option of boarding a plane to anywhere but Israel. Often, they didn’t even have the chance to leave the airport. Such deals with the Romanian despot Nicolae Ceausescu – “dear departed Ceausescu, peace be upon him”, as he is described by Kadmi – were common; throughout the 1970s and 1980s he literally sold Jews to Israel. “7 Yamim” summed it thus: “No [Austrian] embassy? No way to reach Vienna. No way to rwach Vienna? No America. So what’s left? What Kadmi gives”.
Yossi Gurvitz also relates in his blog post another example of Jews sacrificed, in this case their lives sacrificed, for the sake of Zionism, in the story of the ship Patria...

This was a ship into which the British herded Jewish refugees from the Nazis, intending to deport them. With the blessing of Moshe Sharet, later to become prime minister, the Hagana placed an explosive device on the ship. On 25 September, 1940, 216 Jews who managed to escape Hitler’s hell were done to death by the Zionists. Later, the perpetrators would claim they misjudged the amount of explosive they used; given that the explosion blew away the entire steel frame on one side, this was some misjudgment, if that’s what it really was. When one of Mapai’s members dared to publicly come out against the attack, writing “it is unacceptable for Jews to sanctify the name by killing other Jews. What right have we to drown women, men, old people and young, whose permission we did not ask, and make a sacrifice of them?”, he was slapped in public by Ben Gurion’s son, Amos. Few people remember the Patria today.

The movie Exodus, a misleading source of information for Americans about the founding of Israel, neglected to inform movie-goers of these incidents in the history of Zionism, an extremist movement within Judaism that did not by any means have the support of the majority of Jews yet now claims to represent all.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Netanyahu in Congress assembled

Upon hearing that Israel PM Netanyahu will speak to Congress next month, I composed the following letter to my two senators and representative.

Next month Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu will address Congress. When he does, please keep in mind that Congress has never listened to any representative of the people who have been and are being evicted from their homeland by the state PM Netanyahu represents.

Palestinian leaders are in Israeli prisons, Palestinians are under a never ending occupation by Israel, Palestinians have no law but what the Israel Defense Forces allow them, Palestinians may not travel on the roads that armed settlers travel. The United States values only the viewpoint of the one who evicts and dispossesses, not the victims of over 60 years of colonization. You will hear Netanyahu speak in comforting words of perfect American English of some offer to allow Palestinians to have a small fraction of a fraction of the land that was once theirs and you will hear great applause for it.

Remember that our country stands for liberty and justice for all and has rejected the idea of "whites only" as clapping resounds for a man who is dedicated to "Jews only". Consider that to criticize Israel in Congress is political suicide and ask yourself how this has come to be. Palestinians seek justice for a historical wrong of epic proportions while in the land of the free and the home of the brave only the voice of their oppressor is honored as the rest of the world watches astonished and dismayed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

the "right to defend itself"

Recently, there was an uproar due to the publication of an opinion piece by Judge Goldstone in the Washington Post. Goldstone was the head of the UN commission that looked at Israel's assault on Gaza in 2009, Operation Cast Lead.

Israel jumped to the conclusion that the article was a complete vindication of its behavior during Operation Cast Lead.

I've read the article and it's no such thing, but merely an acknowledgment that Israel has at least done something to investigate what happened while HAMAS has done nothing. It also clears Israel, in Goldstone's view, of the charge of deliberately targeting civilians as a military policy.

But what I want to look at is contained in this paragraph from Goldstone's opinion piece (boldface mine)
The purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel. I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which was skewed against Israel. I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within. Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.

I'm not about to discuss the history of the UN Human Rights Council, because I'm not familiar with it. Rather I want to speak of how one sided is the phrase "Israel's right to defend itself". I've heard this innumerable times but not once have I heard it said that the Palestinians, whose homeland has been systematically taken from them and is still being taken today, have a right to self-defense.

To hear the talk in the US, there is only one moral party, Israel, and the other side is a collection of hate-filled terrorists with nothing but the blood of Jews on their minds.

Those who founded Israel moved in with the expectation of moving out the natives, the Palestinian Arabs, who inconveniently stood in the way of a mythic vision of a homeland for Jews that would be for them alone. For most Zionist leaders, the resident Arabs were no more than bothersome flies that needed to be swept from an otherwise appealing piece of fruit.

Just as Native-Americans had every right to resist the European/American taking of the New World, so also did/do the Palestinians have the right to resist Israel. The fact that the Palestinians have been denied an official state in no way gives Israel the moral high ground because it is a recognized state. Goldstone's words about the recognized right of states to self-defense is a red herring, attempting to give weight to a technicality while the decades-long ethnic cleansing project that is the absolute bedrock of the problem is put aside.

So also, the indignant demand of Israel that the Palestinians declare Israel's "right to exist" is outrageous. Who would ever willingly respect the right of a party to come from outside and take one's homeland, not just take it but erase it as far as possible?

In fact, Israel's "right to defend itself" has covered for a tremendous arms build-up and continual taking of Palestinian lands that not only allows no effective means of military resistance to takeover but expedites the ethic cleansing by making the Palestinians helpless. The rockets of HAMAS are not a sign of awful power as Israel would like us to believe, but of pathetic helplessness against the awesome killing machine called the IDF.

Zionism was never a legitimate project because it assumed/assumes injustice and tries to make invisible the people who had to be wronged for it to be created. This is never more clear than in the lopsided use of "the right to defend itself".

The one and only way for Israel to be a legitimate state, morally, is with the one-state solution, where Palestinians are allowed to have the citizenship they have been denied and the state for Jews only is voluntarily dissolved. Until this happens, Israel will writhe on a bed of nails - the immorality of its foundation.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Israel, right or wrong?

A major reason I became involved in discussing the relationship of the United States and Israel is it is not simply a matter for Jews.

The national security of the U.S. is directly related to its unconditional support of Israel - inversely proportional to it. The blind, resolute way that Congress toes the line for Israel should be a concern of every American. There is no other issue before our nation that is so little subject to debate by our politicians and that is extremely dangerous.

It's undeniable, however, that the matter of Israel is a particular problem for American Jews. To gain some perspective on this and to draw some hope from the fact that dissent over Israel within American Jewry is growing, I can't recommend too highly an article published in Haaretz, Our Brothers, Ourselves

American Jews are on the spot because Israel claims to represent them, going to the point of denying that there is anything that can be defined as an Israeli distinct from a Jew. If you are a Jew and you do not express an opinion about Israel, Israel will express one in your name. To anyone who values their right to self-expression, to individuality, this should be infuriating because it is an attempt by a collective to claim power by default. Americans, resolute individualists that we are, should have nothing to do with that. The Jewish group Not In My Name chose their name wisely.

It is because of the special place in recent history of Jews that Israel exists and can act the way it does in a manner that pays little heed to world opinion. Israel has a unique license, though one that appears to be nearing expiration.

Whether you are Jewish our not, you should read the Haaretz article to deepen your understanding of the difficult path that American Jews must walk and the positions that various American Jewish organizations have taken regarding Israel.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bassem Tamimi - ML King would understand

Thanks to Israeli activist Jonathan Pollard from whom I received the news that Bassem Tamimi (shown), the leader of non-violent protests in the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh has had his detention extended. He was arrested, held for seven days and now it will be for eleven more.

This by order of an Israeli military judge.

Here are the charges against him
  • incitement
  • organizing marches without a permit
  • solicitation to throw stones
  • disobeying the duty to report to questioning
  • giving youth advice on how to respond to interrogation if they are arrested
This goes right back to the bad old days of civil rights protests in the United States where black protesters were arrested, charged with absurd "crimes", put before a white judge and convicted. Martin Luther King, Jr. would immediately recognize Tamimi's predicament.

This is what we Americans are making possible with our support of Israel and we should be ashamed our ourselves for doing so, particularly in light of our own national history. Even in the worst days of segregation in America, there was at least the pretense that blacks were under the civil laws of the land. With Israel, all Palestinians in the occupied territories are under Israeli military law - the laws of the occupying army. Some justice.

UPDATE: Having been held in prison awaiting trial (Palestinians don't have any right to bail under Israeli military law), Tamimi's trial is to begin on June 4, 2011. You should read this account of Tamimi's history - he has lived his entire life under Israeli occupation and has spent 3 years in Israeli prisons though he has never been convicted of anything.

UPDATE (December 2011): The Foreign Minister of France weighs in on the side of Tamimi, still undergoing the purposefully lengthy procedure of a "trial" under Israeli military law.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Chief Rabbinate? It's un-American

Of the many things that differ between Israel and the United States, none is more glaring than the maintenance of a state supported religious hierarchy, the Chief Rabbinate.

Can you imagine a debate in Congress over who can be called a Christian, a Jew or Muslim? Can you imagine anyone having to be declared a legitimate member of a religious group before being allowed to become a U.S. citizen?

The founding fathers made sure that would never happen. Thank goodness. But "the only democracy in the Middle East" engages in such nonsense.

To let you read how far this goes, I'll excerpt from an article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post, What are We Celebrating? a critique of the Chief Rabbinate. If you feel you are reading a description of something that has no place in government, I understand the feeling! But this is the country that has "no daylight" between it and the U.S. according to our vice-president Joe Biden.

Last Tuesday, the Knesset celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Chief
Rabbinate, as if the institution was a positive factor in Israeli life...

Confronted with the urgent problem of the massive non-Jewish immigration
from the former Soviet Union, in which over 300,000 non-Jews became
Israeli citizens, the Rabbinate did nothing to encourage conversion or
even to make it a viable option.

When presented with a possible solution suggested by the Neeman
Commission involving the creation of a joint institute for the study of
Judaism which would lead to conversion under the Chief Rabbinate’s
auspices, the Chief Rabbinate responded with a vicious attack on the
Conservative and Reform movements – which bordered on the libelous – and
refused to cooperate with it...

Rivlin dismissed the possibility of replacing the Chief Rabbinate with
“another one, Reform or Conservative – a move that could compromise the
unity of the Jewish people” and praised halacha [Jewish law] which, he
opined, “we must safeguard.”

It appears that Rivlin continues the tradition of those secular leaders
of Israel who do not go to a synagogue, but want the synagogue they do
not attend to be Orthodox.

RIVLIN ALSO warned against what he called the “privatization of
conversion.” What exactly is the Knesset speaker talking about? Does he
not know that, currently, there are conversions in Israel and throughout
the world conducted by Conservative and Reform rabbis that are
recognized by the State of Israel? Does he not know that even if Israel
were not to recognize them, they would continue to be performed? Is he
totally unaware that, like it or not, the Jewish world is pluralistic?
Does he not know that there are large sections of the Jewish world – the
ultra-Orthodox (haredim) for example – who do not even accept the
conversions of the Chief Rabbinate?

...Even the Orthodox in America are appalled by the efforts of the
Rabbinate to attain total hegemony over conversion throughout the world
and to be the sole authority deciding which American rabbis can convert
and which cannot.

...The celebration of the Chief Rabbinate is a celebration of a backward
march, one in which Israel becomes more like a religious autocracy than
a modern, democratic state. It is a march into darkness which leads not
to Jewish unity but to a situation in which Israel finds itself on one
side and the rest of the Jewish world on the other; in which any support
of Israel by American Jewry would not be because of Israel’s attitude
toward religion, but in spite of it.

It sounds like something from extremist Islam, or Christian fundamentalism at it's worst - the religious dictating to the rest of society. Sad to say, the religious in Israel have been on the ascendant for some time and make up a good portion of the settlers, living on land that God has given them.

What does the United States have in common with this? Nothing, no more than it shares the ideas of religion in government of Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Most outrageous of all, this Chief Rabbinate is the organization that determines who is a Jew and, as such, who is entitled to take away the land of the Palestinians! Do you begin to understand the view the Palestinians would have as they see their homes demolished and their fields bulldozed for settlement expansion? Wouldn't you be upset?

Friday, April 8, 2011

how Associated Press works (for Israel)

Here's a very interesting bit of information I've received from the Council for the National Interest about venerable AP.

How AP works

Since most newspapers don't have their own reporters in Israel or the Palestinian Territories, they obtain their news on this region from wire services. AP is usually the only global wire service taken by U.S. newspapers.

Although AP is a cooperative, which means that it is "owned" by all the news organizations that use its news, in reality there is almost no oversight of its work. Editors around the country simply accept its reporting at face value.

The trouble is, however, that its reporting is consistently Israeli-centric.

The "control bureau" for the region, through which all news reports are funneled, is located in Israel. Its editors are living in Israel, their families are frequently Israeli, and quite often they themselves are Israeli citizens.

Even when an AP report carries a Palestinian dateline and even a Palestinian byline, in the large majority of cases the article was actually written in Israel, frequently by an Israeli editor.

A study of AP's reporting found that it had reported on Israeli children's deaths at a rate seven times greater than they reported on Palestinian children's deaths – even though Palestinian children were killed first and in far greater numbers.
Because of this bias, CNI is starting a blog that will be deconstructing AP reports from Israel and the occupied territories. A great idea, I'm subscribing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

constructing the prototypical terrorist

To look at the actions of Congress, one could be forgiven for thinking Israel is the 51st state.

Noura Erekat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist who is an adjunct professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University, among other things.

She has written an outstanding article titled "Constructing the Prototypical Terrorist in America: Arab, Muslim and Palestinian" that I highly recommend. You may find her use of the word "other" as a verb unusual. By that she means the making into "the other", or outsider, of certain groups of people.

To whet your appetite, here is an excerpt...(boldface mine)

Congress’s response to the settlement row in Spring 2010 exemplifies Israel’s status as “insider,” as opposed to political ally. In the aftermath of Vice President Biden’s embarrassing visit to the Middle East where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed the US’s calls to halt settlement expansion scores of Congressional members from both sides of the aisle lined up to chastise the Obama Administration for its public handling of the affair. Despite being the source of US foreign policy, no less than twenty-three members expressed terse disapproval either in press statements or from the House floor. Several dozen other members sent four open letters to the Obama Administration as well. Significantly, the lawmakers’ choice of language mirrors an AIPAC press release dated March 14, 2010 and therefore nearly every member echoed the sentiment that Israel should not be treated like any other country but rather with heightened sensitivity and special treatment. Representative Todd Tiahart described President Obama’s public position as “disrespectful,” and characterized Secretary Clinton’s decision to “openly question” Israeli policies as “inappropriate” as the US has a “moral and strategic obligation to support this beacon of democracy in the Middle East.” (March 13, 2010) No other member better captured the centrality of Israel within the US national identity as did Representive Mike Pence who explained that “[t]he American people consider Israel our most cherished ally and we her closest friend and guardian…[a]s I just told the Prime Minister, I never thought I'd live to see the day that an American administration would denounce the State of Israel for rebuilding Jerusalem…[t]he American people and the American Congress in both parties support the State of Israel.” (March 23, 2010)

The lawmakers’ choice of language and tone both reflects Israel’s insider status and works to construct its critics as threats to US national security. While the description of Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East, works to distinguish Israel from its authoritarian counterparts, it also acts as a marker that others Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbors. Their written and oral statements condemn the US President in defense of a foreign state; describe their relationship to Israel as moral; describe the US as Israel’s guardian; and affirm the immutability of the US’s relationship to Israel irrespective of circumstances. This behavior is more reflective of a family dispute than a diplomatic affair and works to reify the boundaries circumscribing American national identity wherein Israel enjoys the privileges of inclusion.

read the whole article. Erekat makes the case that Congress has created a legal situation where entire groups of people that Israel has determined are not to its liking are easily attacked and convicted in the United States by prejudicial laws the pre-dispose judges/juries to convict simply for defendants being members of one of the groups.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is your state holding Israel bonds?

There is a very interesting article in the current issue of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (April) on the effort of a group of Minnesotans to have their state divest itself of the Israel bonds that it holds (you need to be a subscriber to read the current issue).

As with so much regarding Israel - this bond purchasing by Minnesota is exceptional. It's exceptional because Minnesota law forbids investments with foreign governments. Though an exception is specified for Canada, Israel is not mentioned.

The United States supports international law. Israel violates international law in the occupied territories. The United States opposes Israeli settlement. Israel uses government funding for settlement and Israel bonds are a source of government funds.

So Minnesota is funding Israeli settlement activity but passing it under the radar of state law. In that state, there are four people who make decisions on bond purchases in their capacity as the State Board of Investment (SBI), they are the governor, the attorney general, the secretary of state and the state auditor.

The group attempting to hold Minnesota responsible for what it does is the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign.

I checked and found that Illinois is a purchaser of Israel bonds as well. I don't know Illinois state law on investments in foreign governments, but I intend to find out.

Finding out may be a challenge. My state representative is a big supporter of Israel so I doubt that the information will be getting to me soon if at all through her, but this is a perfect example of how benefits to Israel are woven into the woodwork in the United States.

Oh, did I mention my state senator is a big supporter of Israel? Did I mention my Congresswoman is too? Surely I've mentioned that one of my senators, Mark Kirk, is AIPAC's poster boy? Did I mention that my other senator, Dick Durban, entered Congress years ago with the help of AIPAC?

Wherever you live in the United States, make it a point to find out how your own politicians stand on Israel. Even if they have no particular view on that foreign country, you can bet that the Israel lobby has a tally on how they vote. There is no lobby in opposition to AIPAC, so you may find that regardless of your own view, your political representatives are cheerfully voting the Israel line. It's a bad habit of U.S. national politicians (and it appears state pols too) that the American electorate needs to break.

Monday, April 4, 2011

America pulled it off, Israel can't

I'm constantly reminded of the parallel between the ethnic cleansing of North America by those of European descent and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by, again, those of European descent.

HAMAS is the counterpart of the bands of Native-Americans (I'll call them Indians for brevity) who refused to submit and chose to fight. The unguided missiles that HAMAS fires off are the equivalent of the burning arrows that Native-Americans would use to set settler homes alight...with the difference that the rockets have little to no effect while the arrows were quite effective.

Likewise, the pin-prick attacks of HAMAS and of the Indian bands were met with great violence and killing all out of proportion to the violence received. The Sand Creek Massacre and Operation Cast Lead being good examples.

For Israel to say it has the "right to defend itself" against attacks by Palestinians is the equivalent of American settlers saying they had the right to defend themselves against the Indians. In both cases land was taken from the natives by the new-comers, new-comers who were eager to turn the title of terrorist on the defenders of the land.

"The Peace Process" was used in the Old West just as it is used by Israel to keep the natives occupied while their lands are taken. The United States held all the cards in 1850, just as Israel holds them today (with a big exception I will get to below)

American settlers, with the unlimited power of the U.S. military behind them, claimed they were innocent victims just as do Israelis today.

Whereas the United States worked hand-in-glove with the railroads and land developers to take land that was not theirs to give - in particular for the government to deed lands it unilaterally declared its own without the consent of the Indians, so also does Israel have the Jewish National Fund that works closely with the government to erase all evidence of Arab towns with tree plantings.

The 19th century United States worked tirelessly in finding individual Indians who had no authority to sign away land, having them sign documents transferring it anyway for promises of money or favors. Today, Israel has the Palestinian Authority that will, for money and position, give away Palestinian rights and lands as required by Israel (revealed by the Wikileaks "Palestinian Papers"

Just as the United States saw itself as a superior civilization taking "unused land" for noble purposes (economic development), so also does Israel see itself as morally and racially superior to the Arab Palestinians. This parallel is particularly interesting because neither the Americans of 1850 or the Jews of Israel today are of a race.

But there are significant differences between the American land theft and the Israeli land theft.

> the American west of the 1800's could not have been more isolated and out of the spotlight. Anything could be done with nobody the wiser for months, if ever. Now we have instant video and news 24 hours a day.

> the Indians were small in number compared to the mass of white people in the east and were relatively isolated from each other. By the use of inter-tribal hatreds, the U.S. was able to turn the Indians against each other very effectively. Though the Palestinians are not of one mind, they are not so divided

> the Indians as a large group stood alone with no allies. They were unable to duplicate the temporary alliance with the French against the British that allowed them to hold off the frontier for a time. The French, once defeated by the British left the Indians to fend for themselves.

> 19th century America was a booming, expanding nation looking to a west that was, by comparison, empty. Palestine contains more Palestinians than Israelis and this difference is increasing. Israel is a sore thumb forcibly grafted on to a large body of Arab people.

> 19th century America was self-sufficient, able to produce more than everything that it needed without financial help. Israel is completely dependent on the United States for weaponry and funding. Settlements would stop immediately if U.S. support were withdrawn.

> 19th century America was a wonder of the world and a source of excitement for people around the world, many of whom determined to move there and become citizens. Israel is a pariah and has lost the friends it once had with the sole exception of the United States.

> 19th century America, hypocritical though it was, did put forth the claim of liberty and justice for all and made some effort to apply its laws to all of its citizens (African-Americans notably excepted). Israel does not present itself as anything but a state for Jews. No others need apply.

> 19th century America moved, at a glacier's pace, toward liberalism and the expansion of rights for all. Israel has moved away from liberalism and toward extremist, militarist, orthodox-religious intolerance that is counter to the general move away from such a political view worldwide.

To sum up. I don't think Israel has a future as a Jewish state. It has willfully destroyed any chance for a Palestinian state, an object it has never wanted to see come into being. It maintains itself only as a fortress of belligerence resting on a mythology, that goes out of its way to lecture its neighbors on what they are allowed to do and doesn't hesitate to lash out at will under the full protection of the United States to date. It is the perfect example of irresponsible power, a bully that is allowed whatever it wants by a superpower standing in the background. Israel is by nature self-isolating and with the direction it is going, making itself repulsive to the worldwide Jewry for which it claims to be a shining beacon.

Unlike the United States that finished it's period of ethnic cleansing with a triumphant victory over a people that it either destroyed, penned up, or silenced, Israel has no chance of the same.

At some point Israel will become a bi-national state, but there is every reason to believe that many bad events will occur before this happens as fanaticism is not easily defused. Like South Africa, another country that couldn't continue to exist as a sore thumb - in that case, a white thumb on a black body, Israel has no future as it is. The only question is how much more suffering will it force on others before the project can no longer be carried on? It all depends on the persistence of U.S. support.

Israel is the political equivalent of that high-school science class example of instability - a cone standing on its tip. It does so because of scaffolding labeled "made in USA"

Friday, April 1, 2011

State Dept acting for Israel

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian who has written a book, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
that is, as you might expect, not one that Israel would like to see a best seller.

To promote the book, Barghouti planned a tour of the United States - to New York City, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Brandeis University, Washington DC, and Philadelphia, but the plans stalled when the U.S. State Department balked at giving him a visa.

This is a perfect example of Zionism at work in America. It's no exaggeration to say that Zionists are everywhere in this country in positions of power, wealth and influence, be they Christian or Jewish. The recent bowing of Obama to their will was shown by the US veto in the UN of a resolution calling for the Israeli settlements to be withdrawn from the occupied territories. Obama was silent about this contradiction of stated U.S. foreign policy of long standing. Instead, his UN representative, Susan Rice, spouted nonsense about the need to go through the peace process - which is now universally seen as the cover it has always been for the Israeli land grab. It's now clear to everyone that Israel has a veto in the UN Security Council though it is not a member of it and this strength is so powerful it can force the US to place Israel above American interests.

My recent post with Jeff Blankfort's interview is further evidence of Americans supporting Israel making the decisions large and small that keep their fellow citizens under a covert censorship that is both broad and deep.

The Barghouti book tour visa issue was so blatant it became a project for Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP called for people to sign a petition to the State Department objecting to the denial of a visa. The result was a rare victory over the Israel lobby (don't click the "read more" link on the victory page because it goes to the wrong page).

Things happen when people get motivated to make them happen. Kudos to JVP for working for justice and open debate. The group is instrumental in opposing the Israel lobby because it is proof against the absurd charge that to oppose Israeli policy is to be anti-Semitic.