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.