Thursday, November 26, 2009

Obama to validate Honduran military Coup, recognize fake elections

The Organization of American States, and virtually all Latin American countries have condemned the show election being held by the illegitimate Michletti government installed by a military coup that ousted and deported the elected president Manuel Zelaya.

President Obama, being a practical guy, has decided to recognize whoever is "elected" president of Honduras. Coup, Schmoo! says Obama. Let's let bygones be bygones! Besides the new faux-president (Zelaya supporters are not participating in the elections) will be more to the liking of the U.S.A.'s governing corporate elite (I'm referring to the real governing body in this country, the the stumble-bum pack of bribe-taking schleps who populate the Senate, House and the White House).

This slap in the face to the OAS and Latin countries also has the added benefit of being a money saver. If Obama had really wanted to pressure the Honduran coup-makers to relinquish power and restore the real president to finish out his term, all sorts of bad things could happen. A Zelaya supporter would be elected and the new government would continue Zelaya's policies of looking out for the interests of the impoverished Honduran people instead of the profit margins of mulit-national businesses and banks. How tiresome would that be!?

Then, on top of that, the U.S. would have to stage another coup or even invade Honduras to make sure the place is safe from terrorism and community organizers.

Obama's way is much more economical. Besides, from the White House's point of view what's wrong with the army arresting and deporting the president of some country? It worked out OK in Haiti.

President Aristede was siezed by U.S. troops in Haiti in 2004, put on a plane and dumped in the Central African Republic (he's now in South Africa). Then Secretary of State Coin Powell thought it was no big deal and contemptously dismissed criticism of this seemingly undemocratic and imperial action on the part of the U.S.

"Hey, who gives a fuck!" I'm sure Powell said to himself, "no pissant like Aristide is going to interfere with our plans!" U.S. plans required that chaos, crime and starvation better served Washington's interests than an irritating jerk who went around talking about the poor all the time. I'm sure Powell approves of Obama's endorsement of the fraudulent elections in Honduras. It makes for good continuity of U.S. policy from supposedly agressive president W, to the "diplomacy" of our very cool Obama.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


From pages of the New Yolk Crimes:

March, 8, 2010
Obama chides Israel for its Latest Move

"A spokesman from the Obama administration said today that the Israeli government's announcement of their plan to brand the forehead of every newborn Palestinian child with the word "treif" "is not helpful," the president would prefer that "they reconsider the move."

Hillary defends Netenyahu

March 9, 2010,

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton described the Israeli government's new requirement for the branding of Palestinian babies as "an unprecedented goodwill gesture." The Secretary, speaking at a fund-raising dinner for the newly-established Israeli settlement "Beth Shalom Fuck the A-rabs,"in downtown Damascus, hosted by Rep. Jerry Nadler and Rudy Gulliani, went on to say, "Israel firmly rejected calls for the taking of an arm and a leg from the newborns."

March 10, 2010,

Obama Apologizes to Netenyahu for Criticizing Israel over Newborn Move

March 11, Lead Editorial:

Israel Once Again Shows that it is The Most Moral Nation in the World

'Nuff Said

In A Nutshell:

This says it all (from

Sunday, November 15, 2009

IDF Chief Rabbi: Show No Mercy

Last update - 11:30 15/11/2009

IDF Chief Rabbi: Troops who show mercy to enemy will be 'damned'

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israel Defense Forces' chief rabbi told students in a pre-army yeshiva program last week that soldiers who "show mercy" toward the enemy in wartime will be "damned." 

Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki also told the yeshiva students that religious individuals made better combat troops. 

Speaking Thursday at the Hesder yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron , Rontzki referred to Maimonides' discourse on the laws of war. That text quotes a passage from the Book of Jeremiah stating: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord with a slack hand, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood." 

In Rontzki's words, "In times of war, whoever doesn't fight with all his heart and soul is damned - if he keeps his sword from bloodshed, if he shows mercy toward his enemy when no mercy should be shown." 

Rontzki's remarks came during a ceremony to celebrate a new Torah scroll at the yeshiva. The service was held in commemoration of Yosef Fink, one of two yeshiva students kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1986. 

Their bodies were returned 10 years later in a prisoner exchange. 

Rontzki also referred specifically to the Israel Defense Forces' conduct during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. "Apropos all that we've heard in the media of late, thank God that the people of Israel has united recently around the simple understanding of how it must fight. One of the major innovations of that offensive was the conduct of war - not as some kind of mission or detention." 

"We all remember the beginning of the war, with a major attack of 80 planes bombing various places, and then artillery, mortar and tank fire and so forth, as in war," he said. "Everyone fought with all their heart and soul, and that includes bravery of course, but also fighting with all the resources one has - to fight as if to truly determine the mission." 

Rontzki also referred to the qualities of the ideal combat soldier. 

"In Israel's wars, warriors are God-fearing people, righteous people, people who don't have sins on their hands," he said. "One needs to fight with an understanding of what one is fighting for." 

Related articles: 
IDF rabbinate publication during Gaza war: We will show no mercy on the cruel
IDF chief rabbi says women shouldn't serve 
IDF chief rabbi: Army magazine shouldn't cover gays


Friday, October 23, 2009

My Unpublished Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

To The Editor,

In his op-ed of Oct 20, "Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast," Robert L. Bernstein faults Human Rights Watch and other similar organizations for citing Israel for committing human rights abuses in it's attack on Gaza in December 2008 and January, 2009.

Israel, Bernstein argues, is the only democracy in the Mideast, acted solely in self-defense and has the most moral army in the world. There are some problems with this argument.

First, being or not being a democracy has never restrained a country from committing indiscriminate slaughter against other peoples. The record of the United State's mass bombing and spraying of Agent Orange in the Vietnam war is only one case in point.

Second, all the facts of the Gaza attack are against Bernstein. The verified evidence from many reliable sources point to a policy of shoot first and don't ask questions later. Palestinian families were used as human shields, hospitals and schools were bombed and white phosphorous was used against the general population. Not only has this been verified on film, but how can Bernstein explain the children from Gaza with phosphorous burns showing up for treatment in U.S. and European hospitals?

Finally, the fanatical rightist and religious nationalism whipped up by the Netanyahu/Lieberman government has led to harassment and threats of arrests to members of human rights groups in Israel.

Richard Congress

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

From Haaretz, Israel's Press Freedom Ranking Falls

Last update - 22:49 20/10/2009
Israel ranks low for freedom of press, after Gaza war media ban
By Gili Eizkovitch Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

Tags: Israel Media, Gaza Offensive

Israel placed No. 93 out of 175 countries on a 2009 international index of press freedom, released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday.

The 2009 ranking meant Israeli lost its place as the top country for press freedom in the region, falling behind Kuwait at No. 60, Lebanon at No. 61 and the United Arab Emirates at No. 86.

Israel's dramatic drop - 47 spots since last year - came as a result of its press regulations dictated to international media during the Gaza offensive earlier this year.
"Israel has begun to use the same methods internally as it does outside its own territory," said Reporters Without Borders, adding that journalists had been arrested and imprisoned and that military censorship also posed a threat.

But as a result of actions during Israel's war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in December and January, Reporters Without Borders ranked the country at No. 150 for its "extraterritorial actions."

"The toll of the war was very heavy. Around 20 journalists in the Gaza Strip were injured by the Israeli military forces and three were killed while covering the offensive," it said.

Meanwhile, RSF noted that press freedom has improved in the United States in the last year as the country jumped 20 places to No. 20.

The media watchdog said the assumption of the presidency by Barack Obama in January brought a new approach in Washington after eight years under President George W. Bush, while some European countries fell in the group's Press Freedom Index.

It expressed concerns about U.S. attitudes toward the media in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it said journalists had been injured or arrested by the U.S. military.

"President Obama may have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but his country is still fighting two wars," the group said. "Despite a slight improvement, the attitude of the United States towards the media in Iraq and Afghanistan is worrying."

The United States came in just behind Britain on the press freedom index of 175 countries, while China was at No. 168. Afghanistan No. 149 and Iraq at No. 145.

Reporters Without Borders noted that in the United States the House of Representatives this year backed legislation to allow journalists to protect their sources - it has not yet been voted on in the Senate - and the Obama administration had promised better access to public information.

The group said civil liberties were violated in the name of national security during the Bush era.

European countries hold the top 13 spots, led by Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. France fell eight spots to No. 43, Slovakia dropped 37 places to No. 44 and Italy fell five spots to No. 49.

"Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties. How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave irreproachably at home?" said Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Jean-Francois Julliard.

Press freedom in France has been worsening for several years, the group said, with the authorities placing growing pressure on journalists to reveal sources and proposing legislation that could reduce their freedom.

In Italy, Reporters Without Borders said press freedom was being stifled by threats from the mafia and various lawsuits being brought or considered by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi against news organizations.

At the bottom of the list were Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea "where media are so suppressed they are nonexistent," said Reporters Without Borders.

Iran dropped to No. 172 from No. 166, with Reporters Without Borders saying the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had fostered a paranoia about journalists and bloggers.

"Automatic prior censorship, state surveillance of journalists, mistreatment, journalists forced to flee the country, illegal arrests and imprisonment - such is the state of press freedom this year in Iran," the group said.

The ranking was compiled from hundreds of questionnaires completed by journalists and media experts around the world and reflecting press freedom violations that took place between Sept. 1, 2008 and Aug. 31, 2009. The exact number of questionnaires completed was not immediately available.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Andrew Sullivan writes a mostly good column on Israel's attack on Goldstone

I'm not a fan of Andrew Sullivan, but this column is worth reading. If for nothing else but the chart showing relative deaths of Gazans and Israelis. As Sullian states: "over eight years 28 Israelis were killed by Hamas rockets...[yes I'm eliding the part about them being war crimes, he says that in the article anyway]..four times that many Palestinians were killed by Israelis in one month in 2008..."

Also the chart tells us something else: Hamas observed a truce and didn't fire rockets for 5 months before the invasion, based on a promise that Israel would ease up on the blockade. But Israel launched a tank incursion into Gaza in November, killing 15 Gazans and Hamas responded with more rockets and then Israel unleashed the massive attack that had obviously been well planned long before the justifying "incident."
Anyway, maybe someday Sullivan will atone for his ignorant flag-waving and terrorist baiting of opponents of the Iraq invasion. This article is fairly good -- for him. I obviously don't agree with his pro-Israel remarks, but you can't have everything.
Rick Congress

Andrew Sullivan in his blog Daily Dish on Israel's attack on the Goldstone report about war crimes in Gaza.

I thought ambassadors were supposed to smoothe over rifts, not inflame them. And I thought they were supposed to speak to the broadest number of citizens in the countries to which they have been appointed, not provide inflammatory rants to the already-persuaded. But this Michael Oren piece in TNR abandons any pretense of diplomatic balance.
The premise of Oren's piece is that Israel faces a new Nazism represented by Ahmadinejad and Holocaust deniers but, to an even greater extent, by the South African liberal, Richard Goldstone, and the United Nations. Oren seems to be arguing that Gaza was a war of survival for the Jewish state and that Israel had no choice but to launch a war that killed, by one conservative Israeli count, 320 children, destroyed 4,000 homes, and up to 80 government buildings. Even if one is sympathetic to the horrific barrage of Hamas rockets that Israeli citizens endured (and what decent human being wouldn't be?) - every single rocket being a war crime - it helps no one to use language this extreme or to distort history in this manner.
One might ask what the response of Michael Oren would be if Palestinian terrorists pulled off a major coup by killing 320 Jewish children, and destroying 4,000 homes in Tel Aviv, because Israel had lobbed primitive missiles at its territory, missing human targets an overwhelming proportion of the time. This is not to defend Hamas' wickedness and war crimes. It is not to say that Israel deliberately targeted children. It is to insist that the laws of war be applied equally to both parties in a conflict. It is to ask Israel to live up to its own ancient moral values - values that were pioneered when my own ancestors were running around painted in wode.
It is also to ask beleaguered Israel to get some perspective and to see, for a moment, how things might look from the outside. I can see why they may feel encircled and alone. But they're not. Even those of us who have been made angry by their recent actions and seeming unconcern for the needs of their most powerful friend, want to help. God knows I love Israel and its people; and I understand that some of the extremism among neocons is really an excess of passion and love rather than mere belligerence and orneriness. But, seriously guys, get a grip. Help the US help you. And try to see the wider picture.
Here's a graph that tells the story of the comparative human toll in the year before the conflict broke out:

the above chart was published by B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. The red lines represent Palestinian deaths in Gaza and the blue Israeli deaths from rockets fired from Gaza. The rockets are not necessarily all "Hamas launched." Islamic Jihad is an opposition group not under the control of Hamas and has often fired rockets that Hamas has tried to stop.

Over eight years, 28 Israelis were killed by Hamas rockets in what were clearly war crimes, as Goldstone emphatically reports. Four times that many Palestinians were killed by Israelis in one month in 2008. In the subsequent conflict, the ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israeli deaths was close to 100 - 1. With this tally, Oren writes:
If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all.
Seriously? No; the issue is whether Israel committed war crimes in its self-defense in Gaza and whether that self-defense was disproportionate to the threat it faced. At the time Bret Stephens offered the just war theory behind the Gaza war thus:
For every single rocket that falls randomly on Israeli soil, an Israeli missile will hit a carefully selected target in Gaza. Focusing the minds of Hamas on this type of "proportionality" is just the endgame that Israel needs.
Does that sound like the desperate act of a country on the brink of extinction? Glenn Reynolds explained the actual rationale:
Israel’s just playing by Chicago rules:  “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.  That’s the Chicago way!”
Whatever else that is, it is not a just war. The disproportion was the point: it was designed to teach the Gazans and Hamas a lesson they would never forget. Michael Goldfarb, McCain's former spokesman, echoed Reynolds' statement but embraced the murder of children as well:
The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it's not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man's entire family, it's hard to imagine that doesn't give his colleagues at least a moment's pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions. Or maybe not, and the only way to stop Hamas is to eliminate its capacity for violence entirely.
Now it is a completely fair point that many other nations are in no position to criticize, including the US. Israel has to survive on a tiny strip of land which is surrounded by enemies. The Jews have achieved there such a miraculous, inventive, dynamic state it puts most other countries to shame. And its moral standards and its internal airing of debate have no peer in its own region. In some respects, the US has recently had lower standards.
The US, by invading Iraq and failing to provide any security for the civilians trapped in the chaos the US tolerated, ("stuff happens"), by torturing hundreds of prisoners, innocent and guilty, and by unleashing entities like Blackwater on civilian populations is in no position to judge. 3,000 Americans died on 9/11. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the Iraq occupation in sectarian violence that an invading army has a fundamental moral responsibility to restrain. To have invaded a country with no thought for the security of its civilians is one reason I came to see the execution of the Iraq war as morally intolerable. Israel, moreover, has seen its Supreme Court outlaw the torture methods championed by the US under Bush and Cheney. The US, in stark contrast, refuses to investigate its seven-year policy of torture and abuse of individuals, some of whom it knew to be innocent.
But that doesn't make either war just. As Matt points out, even if you believe the Israeli attack on Gaza was justified, that doesn't exclude the possibility of war crimes in its execution. Is this so hard to understand? Jews of all people - the victims of war crimes of unimaginable evil - should know this. And exchange anger and paranoia for the integrity they once had.

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Catch their CD relase gig at Jalopy's in Red Hook Brooklyn on Oct. 23rd!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Uri Avnery on Netanyahu's drubbing of Obama the Lame (or is it Obama the complicit?)

The Drama and the Farce
The Waldorf-Astoria Summit


September 23, 2009 "Counterpunch" -- NO POINT denying it: in the first round of the match between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten.

Obama had demanded a freeze of all settlement activity, including East Jerusalem, as a condition for convening a tripartite summit meeting, in the wake of which accelerated peace negotiations were to start, leading to peace between two states – Israel and Palestine.

In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The President of the United States has stumbled.

* * *

THE THREEFOLD summit did indeed take place. But instead of a shining achievement for the new American administration, we witnessed a humbling demonstration of weakness. After Obama was compelled to give up his demand for a settlement freeze, the meeting no longer had any content.

True, Mahmoud Abbas did come, after all. He was dragged there against his will. The poor man was unable to refuse the invitation from Obama, his only support. But he will pay a heavy price for this flight: the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, have seen his weakness. And Obama, who had started his term with a ringing speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, now looks like a broken reed.

The Israeli peace movement has been dealt another painful blow. It had pinned its hopes on the steadfastness of the American president. Obama’s victory and the settlement freeze were to show the Israeli public that the refusal policy of Netanyahu was leading to disaster.

But Netanyahu has won, and in a big way. Not only did he survive, not only has he shown that he is no “sucker” (a word he uses all the time), he has proven to his people – and to the public at large – that there is nothing to fear: Obama is nothing but a paper tiger. The settlements can go on expanding without hindrance. Any negotiations that start, if they start at all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of them.

For Netanyahu, the threat of peace has passed. At least for the time being.

* * *

IT IS difficult to understand how Obama allowed himself to get into this embarrassing situation.

Machiavelli taught that one should not challenge a lion unless one is able to kill him. And Netanyahu is not even a lion, just a fox.

Why did Obama insist on the settlement freeze – in itself a very reasonable demand – if he was unable to stand his ground? Or, in other words, if he was unable to impose it on Netanyahu?

Before entering into such a campaign, a statesman must weigh up the array of forces: What power is at my disposal? What forces are confronting me? How determined is the other side? What means am I ready to employ? How far am I prepared to go in using my power?

Obama has a host of able advisors, headed by Rahm Emanuel, whose Israeli origins (and name) were supposed to give him special insights. George Mitchell, a hard-nosed and experienced diplomat, was supposed to provide sober assessments. How did they all fail?

Logic would say that Obama, before entering the fray, should have decided which instruments of pressure to employ. The arsenal is inexhaustible – from a threat by the US not to shield the Israeli government with its veto in the Security Council, to delaying the next shipment of arms. In 1992 James Baker, George Bush Sr’s Secretary of State, threatened to withhold American guarantees for Israel’s loans abroad. That was enough to drag even Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid conference.

It seems that Obama was either unable or unwilling to exert such pressures, even secretly, even behind the scenes. This week he allowed the American navy to conduct major joint war-games with the Israeli Air Force.

Some people hoped that Obama would use the Goldstone report to exert pressure on Netanyahu. Just one hint that the US might not use its veto in the Security Council would have sown panic in Jerusalem. Instead, Washington published a statement on the report, dutifully toeing the Israeli propaganda line.

True, it is hard for the US to condemn war crimes that are so similar to those committed by its own soldiers. If Israeli commanders are put on trial in The Hague, American generals may be next in line. Until now, only the losers in wars were indicted. What will the world come to if those who remain in office are also accused?

* * *

THE INESCAPABLE conclusion is that Obama’s defeat is the outcome of a faulty assessment of the situation. His advisors, who are considered seasoned politicians, were wrong about the forces involved.

That has happened already in the crucial health insurance debate. The opposition is far stronger than anticipated by Obama’s people. In order to get out of this mess somehow, Obama needs the support of every senator and congressman he can lay his hands on. That automatically strengthens the position of the pro-Israel lobby, which already has immense influence in Congress.

The last thing that Obama needs at this moment is a declaration of war by AIPAC and Co. Netanyahu, an expert on domestic American politics, scented Obama’s weakness and exploited it.

Obama could do nothing but gnash his teeth and fold up.

That debacle is especially painful at this precise point in time. The impression is rapidly gaining ground that he is indeed an inspiring speaker with an uplifting message, but a weak politician, unable to turn his vision into reality. If this view of him firms up, it may cast a shadow over his whole term.

* * *

BUT IS Netanyahu’s policy wise from the Israeli point of view?

This may well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

Obama will not disappear. He has three and a half years in office before him, and thereafter perhaps four more. That’s a lot of time to plan revenge for someone hurt and humiliated at a delicate moment, at the beginning of his term of office.

One cannot know, of course, what is happening in the depths of Obama’s heart and in the back of his mind. He is an introvert who keeps his cards close to his chest. His many years as a young black man in the United States have probably taught him to keep his feelings to himself.

He may draw the conclusion, in the footsteps of all his predecessors since Dwight Eisenhower (except Father Bush during Baker’s short stint as hatchet man): Don’t Mess With Israel. With the help of its partners and servants in the US, it can cause grievous harm to any President.

But he may also draw the opposite conclusion: Wait for the right opportunity, when your standing in the domestic arena is solid, and pay Netanyahu back with interest. If that happens, Netanyahu’s air of victory may turn out to be premature.

* * *

IF I were asked for advice (not to worry, it won’t happen), I would tell him:

The forging of Israeli-Palestinian peace would mean a historic turnabout, a reversal of a 120 year old trend. That is not an easy operation, not to be undertaken lightly. It is not a matter for diplomats and secretaries. It demands a determined leader with a stout heart and a steady hand. If one is not ready for it, one should not even start.

An American President who wants to undertake such a role must formulate a clear and detailed peace plan, with a strict timetable, and be prepared to invest all his resources and all his political capital in its realization. Among other things, he must be ready to confront, face to face, the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

This will not succeed unless public opinion in Israel, Palestine, the Arab world, the United States and the whole world is thoroughly prepared well in advance. It will not succeed without an effective Israeli peace movement, without strong support from US public opinion, especially Jewish-American opinion, without a strong Palestinian leadership and without Arab unity.

At the appropriate moment, the President of the United States must come to Jerusalem and address the Israeli public from the Knesset rostrum, like Anwar Sadat and President Jimmy Carter before him, as well as the Palestinian parliament, like President Bill Clinton.

I don’t know if Obama is the man. Some in the peace camp have already given up on him, which effectively means that they have despaired of peace as such. I am not ready for this. One battle rarely decides a war, and one mistake does not foretell the future. A lost battle can steel the loser, a mistake can teach a valuable lesson.

* * *

IN ONE of his essays, Karl Marx said that when history repeats itself: The first time it is as tragedy, the second time it is as farce.

The 2000 threefold summit meeting at Camp David was high drama. Many hopes were pinned on it, success seemed to be within reach, but in the end it collapsed, with the participants blaming each other.

The 2009 Waldorf-Astoria summit was the farce.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


photo(by Rick Congress): Protesters at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli blockade preventing needed food, medicine and daily use supplies from entering Gaza is causing death and suffering among the whole population. Part of Israel's policy of "Collective Punishment," which is a war crime under the Geneva Convention.


Richard Falk

“So why did the Israeli government boycott the commission? The real answer is quite simple: they knew full well that the commission, any commission, would have to reach the conclusions it did reach.”

Uri Avnery (Israeli peace activist, and former Knesset member), “On the Goldstone Report” 19 Sept 2009

Richard Goldstone, former judge of South Aftica’s Constitutional Court, the first prosecutor at The Hague on behalf of the International Criminal Court for Former Yugolavia, and anti-apartheid campaigner reports that he was most reluctant to take on the job of chairing the UN fact-finding mission charged with investigating allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the three week Gaza War of last winter. Goldstone explains that his reluctance was due to the issue being “deeply charged and politically loaded,” and was overcome because he and his fellow commissioners were “professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation,” adding that “above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war,” as well as the duty to protect civilians to the extent possible in combat zones. The four-person fact-finding mission was composed of widely respected and highly qualified individuals, including the distinguished international law scholar, Christine Chinkin, a professor at the London School of Economics. Undoubtedly adding complexity to Goldstone’s decision is the fact that he is Jewish, with deep emotional and family ties to Israel and Zionism, bonds solidified by his long association with several organizations active in Israel .

Despite the impeccable credentials of the commission members, and the worldwide reputation of Richard Goldstone as a person of integrity and political balance, Israel refused cooperation from the outset. It did not even allow the UN undertaking to enter Israel or the Palestinian Territories , forcing reliance on the Egyptian government to facilitate entry at Rafah to Gaza . As Uri Avnery observes, however much Israel may attack the commission report as one-sided and unfair, the only plausible explanation of its refusal to cooperate with fact-finding and taking the opportunity to tell its side of the story was that it had nothing to tell that could hope to overcome the overwhelming evidence of the Israeli failure to carry out its attacks on Gaza last winter in accordance with the international law of war. No credible international commission could reach any set of conclusions other than those reached by the Goldstone Report on the central allegations.

In substantive respects the Goldstone Report adds nothing new. Its main contribution is to confirm widely reported and analyzed Israeli military practices during the Gaza War. There had been several reliable reports already issued, condemning Israel’s tactics as violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law, including by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a variety of respected Israeli human rights groups. Journalists and senior United Nations civil servants had reached similar conclusions. Perhaps, most damning of all the material available before the Goldstone Report was the publication of a document entitled “Breaking the Silence,” containing commentaries by thirty members of the Israel Defense Forces who had taken part in Operation Cast Lead (the Israeli official name for the Gaza War). These soldiers spoke movingly about the loose rules of engagement issued by their commanders that explains why so little care was taken to avoid civilian casualties. The sense emerges from what these IDF soldiers who were in no sense critical of Israel or even of the Gaza War as such, that Israeli policy emerged out of a combination of efforts ‘to teach the people of Gaza a lesson for their support of Hamas’ and to keep IDF casualties as close to zero as possible even if meant massive death and destruction for innocent Palestinians.

Given this background of a prior international consensus on the unlawfulness of Operation Cast Lead, we must first wonder why this massive report of 575 pages has been greeted with such alarm by Israel and given so much attention in the world media. It added little to what was previously known. Arguably, it was more sensitive to Israel ’s contentions that Hamas was guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into its territory than earlier reports had been. And in many ways the Goldstone Report endorses the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defense against a terrorist adversary. The report focuses its criticism on Israel ’s excessive and indiscriminate uses of force. It does this by examining the evidence surrounding a series of incidents involving attacks on civilians and non-military targets. The report also does draw attention to the unlawful blockade that has restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medical supplies to subsistence levels in Gaza before, during, and since Operation Cast Lead. Such a blockade is a flagrant instance of collective punishment, explicitly prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention setting forth the legal duties of an occupying power.

All along Israel had rejected international criticism of its conduct of military operations in the Gaza War, claiming that the IDF was the most moral fighting force on the face of the earth. The IDF conducted some nominal investigations of alleged unlawful behavior that consistently vindicated the military tactics relied upon and steadfastly promised to protect any Israeli military officer or political leader internationally accused of war crimes. In view of this extensive background of confirmed allegation and angry Israeli rejection, why has the Goldstone Report been treated in Tel Aviv as a bombshell that is deeply threatening to Israel ’s stature as a sovereign state? Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, calling the report “a mockery of history” that “fails to distinguish the aggressor and a state exercising the right of self-defense,” insisting that it “legitimizes terrorist activity, the pursuit of murder and death.” More commonly Israel’s zealous defenders condemned the report as one-sided, biased, reaching foregone conclusions, and emanating from the supposedly bastion of anti-Israeli attitudes at the UN’s Human Rights Council. This line of response to any criticism of Israel’s behavior in occupied Palestine, especially if it comes from the UN or human rights NGOs is to cry “foul play!” and avoid any real look at the substance of the charges. It is an example of what I call ‘the politics of deflection,’ attempting to shift the attention of an audience away from the message to the messenger. The more damning the criticism, the more ferocious the response. From this perspective, the Goldstone Report obviously hit the bullseye!

Considered more carefully, there are some good reasons for Israel ’s panicked reaction to this damning report. First, it does come with the backing of an eminent international personality who cannot credibly be accused of anti-Israel bias, making it harder to deflect attention from the findings no matter how loud the screaming of ‘foul play.’ Any fair reading of the report would show that it was balanced, was eminently mindful of Israel ’s arguments relating to security, and indeed gave Israel the benefit of the doubt on some key issues. Secondly, the unsurprising findings are coupled with strong recommendations that do go well beyond previous reports. Two are likely causing the Israeli leadership great worry: the report recommends strongly that if Israel and Hamas do not themselves within six months engage in an investigation and followup action meeting international standards of objectivity with respect to these violations of the law of war, then the Security Council should be brought into the picture, being encouraged to consider referring the whole issue of Israeli and Hamas accountability to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Even if Israel is spared this indignity by the diplomatic muscle of the United States , and possibly some European governments, the negative public relations implications of a failure to abide by this report could be severe.

Thirdly, whatever happens in the UN System, and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva , the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion. Ever since the Gaza War the solidity of Jewish support for Israel has been fraying at the edges, and this will likely now fray much further. More globally, a very robust boycott and divestment movement was gaining momentum ever since the Gaza War, and the Goldstone Report can only lend added support to such initiatives. There is a growing sense around the world that the only chance for the Palestinians to achieve some kind of just peace depends on the outcome over the symbols of legitimacy, what I have called the Legitimacy War. Increasingly, the Palestinians have been winning this second non-military war. Such a war fought on a global political battlefield is what eventually and unexpectedly undermined the apartheid regime in South Africa , and has become much more threatening to the Israeli sense of security than has armed Palestinian resistance.

A fourth reason for Israeli worry stemming from the report, is the green light given to national courts throughout the world to enforce international criminal law against Israelis suspects should they travel abroad and be detained for prosecution or extradition in some third country. Such individuals could be charged with war crimes arising from their involvement in the Gaza War. The report in this way encourages somewhat controversial reliance on what is known among lawyers as ‘universal jurisdiction,’ that is, the authority of courts in any country to detain for extradition or to prosecute individuals for violations of international criminal law regardless of where the alleged offenses took place. Reaction in the Israeli media reveals that Israeli citizens are already anxious about being apprehended during foreign travel. As one law commentator put it in the Israeli press, “From now on, not only soldiers should be careful when they travel abroad, but also ministers and legal advisers.” It is well to recall that Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions calls on states throughout the world “to respect and ensure respect” for international humanitarian law “in all circumstances.” Remembering the efforts in 1998 of several European courts to prosecute Augusto Pinochet for crimes committed while he was head of state in Chile, is a reminder that national courts can be used to prosecute political and military leaders for crimes committed elsewhere than in the territory of the prosecuting state.

Of course, Israel will fight back. It has already launched a media and diplomatic blitz designed to portray the report as so one-sided as to be unworthy of serious attention. The United States Government has already disappointingly appeared to endorse this view, and repudiate the central recommendation in the Goldstone Report that the Security Council be assigned the task of implementing its findings. The American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, evidently told a closed session of the Security Council on September 16, just a day after the report was issued, that “[w]e have serious concerns about many recommendations in the report.” Elaborating on this, Ambassador Rice indicated that the UN Human Rights Council, which has no implementing authority, is the only proper venue for any action to be taken on the basis of the report. The initial struggle will likely be whether to follow the recommendation of the report to have the Security Council refer the issues of accountability to the International Criminal Court, which could be blocked by a veto from the United States or other permanent members.

There are reasons to applaud the forthrightness and comprehensiveness of the report, its care, and scrupulous willingness to conclude that both Israel and Hamas seem responsible for behavior that appears to constitute war crimes, if not crimes against humanity. Although Israel has succeeded in having the issue of one-sidedness focus on fairness to Israel , there are also some reasons to insist that the report falls short of Palestinian hopes. For one thing, the report takes for granted, the dubious proposition that Israel was entitled to act against Gaza in self-defense, thereby excluding inquiry into whether crimes against the peace in the form of aggression had taken place by the launching of the attack. In this respect, the report takes no notice of the temporary ceasefire that had cut the rocket fire directed at Israel practically to zero in the months preceding the attacks, nor of Hamas’ repeated efforts to extend the ceasefire indefinitely provided Israel lifted its unlawful blockade of Gaza. Further it was Israel that had seemed to provoke the breakdown of the ceasefire when it launched a lethal attack on Hamas militants in Gaza on November 4, 2008. Israel disregarded this seemingly available diplomatic alternative to war to achieve security on its borders. Recourse to war, even if the facts justify self-defense, is according to international law, a last resort. By ignoring Israel ’s initiation of a one-sided war the Goldstone Report accepts the dubious central premise of Operation Cast Lead, and avoids making a finding of aggression.

Also, disappointing was the failure of the report to comment upon the Israeli denial of a refugee option to the civilian population trapped in the tiny, crowded combat zone that constitutes the Gaza Strip. Israel closed all crossings during the period of the Gaza War, allowing only Gaza residents with foreign passports to leave. It is rare in modern warfare that civilians are not given the option to become refugees. Although there is no specific provision of the laws of war requiring a state at war to allow civilians to leave the combat zone, it seems like an elementary humanitarian requirement, and should at least have been mentioned either as part of customary international law or as a gap in the law that should be filled. The importance of this issue is reinforced by many accounts of the widespread post-traumatic stress experienced by the civilians in Gaza , especially children that comprise 53% of the population. One might also notice that the report accords considerable attention to Gilad Shalit, the one IDF prisoner held by Hamas in Gaza, recommending his release on humanitarian grounds, while making no comparable suggestion to Israel although it is holding thousands of Palestinians under conditions of harsh detention.

In the end, the Goldstone Report is unlikely to break the inter-governmental refusal to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza or to induce the United Nations to challenge Israeli impunity in any meaningful way. Depending on backroom diplomacy, the United States may or may not be able to avoid playing a public role of shielding Israel from accountability for its behavior during the Gaza War or its continuing refusal to abide by international humanitarian law by lifting the blockade that continues to impinge daily upon the health of the entire population of Gaza.

Despite these limitations, the report is an historic contribution to the Palestinian struggle for justice, an impeccable documentation of a crucial chapter in their victimization under occupation. Its impact will be felt most impressively on the growing civil society movement throughout the world to impose cultural, sporting, and academic boycotts, as well as to discourage investment, trade, and tourism with Israel . It may yet be the case that as in the anti-apartheid struggle the shift in the relation of forces in the Palestinian favor will occur not through diplomacy or as a result of armed resistance, but on the symbolic battlefield of legitimacy that has become global in scope, what might be described as the new political relevance of moral and legal globalization.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Great North Indian/Free Jazz Group


Snehasish Mozumder - doubleneck mandolin
> Sameer Gupta - tabla
> Vin Scialla - drums, frame drums
> Nick Gianni - saxophones
> Bopa King Carre - percussion
> Aaron Whitby - piano, keys
> biography:
> Snehasish Mozumder, an exploratory string virtuoso, expands the boundaries of the mandolin instrument. Classical and jazz fusion’s Snehasish Mozumder’s double-neck mandolin is at the center of a band SOM, that swings it North Indian style. His talent comes from the sublime human voice he coaxes from his instrument - be it an Indian melody, a haunting Celtic rendering or something completely different. He, together with his guest accompanists, improvises on North Indian classical style ragas shaped around harmonious melodies. His bassy North Indian vocal phrasings elevate his music beyond global boundaries.
A highlight of Snehasish’s career includes sharing the stage with musicians such as Eric Clapton while in Ravi Shankar’s Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall Concert For George in 2002. He hit Andy Donnelly’s Top Ten in Penguin Eggs Magazine and is among a new generation of recognized Indian classical musicians coming from the Indian subcontinent today. Snehasish enthusiastically shares his talent and innovations with diverse artists and audiences all over the world and is regularly on tour in Europe and the US.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


This excerpted article is from an Israeli mainstream media source. However, it does refer to evidence that undercuts racist ideas about “the Arabs.” Common Zionist parlance doesn’t allow that they are “Palestinians,” since that might indicate that they have lived in what is called Israel for centuries and may have some rights.

The article also raises questions about the “it’s our land, we were here first” argument used by apologists of Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies. So, are all the Polish, Russian, English, etc. Jews who populate Israel the original inhabitants of the land? How can the people who never left be outsiders? And what’s more, even if they never went anywhere could they qualify as Jews under the right of return…. How about the right of original residence?

Then there is the question of what the “diaspora” really was. True, the ancient kingdom of Judea was abolished by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD, but it took about five centuries for the majority of the population to be non-Jewish. And prior to the abolition of the Jewish kingdom large expatriate communities of Jews had been living (for centuries) in Alexandria, Rome, Athens and other urban centers of the Roman Empire. So this story is not so simple as it has been presented, in Zionist “education” and in religious schools (as a child I remember thinking that all the Jews were in Israel and then suddenly they were kicked out… at, say 1:15 PM on a Tuesday, and that was that). – Rick Congress

In an article titled “Arabs of Jewish Descent” published August 9, 2009 on the web site by Hillel Fendel he quotes an Israeli rabbi who said that he has believes that up to 85 percent of Arabs in “greater Israel” are of Jewish descent.

Fendel’s article cites the narrator in a new film about the efforts of Tzvi MiSinai to find the Jewish roots of what Fendel calls “Israel’s Arab enemies.” “In our search for the lost Ten Tribes in India and Afghanistan, we seem to have forgotten to look for their descendants in our very own backyard.” Says the film’s narrator.

MiSinai traveled throughout occupied Palestine and heard stories from villagers who remember observing Jewish customs when they were children. Besides documenting the extent of Jewish ancestry among Palestinians, MiSinai is also proselytizing, trying to get them to embrace their Jewish roots and convert (*editor’s note: this idea is not in the plans of the Israeli government. They don’t want the Palestinians to become Jews and outnumber the European Jews. They want them to get out.)

Fenton’s article goes on to say, “It is generally accepted that most Jews left Israel after the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. Yet many remained, and of these, many are still here, after having been forced to convert to Islam. ‘It turns out that a large part of the Arabs of the Land of Israel are actually descendants of forced converts to Islam over the years,’ says Rabbi Dov Stein of the nascent Sanhedrin rabbinical council. “There are some studies that say that 85 percent of the Arabs in Israel are descended from Jews; others say there are fewer.”

“The claims are not new. Early Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi wrote in a book 100 years ago: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.” The authors cited an edict in the year 1012 by Caliph el-Hakim, who ordered the non-Muslims to either convert or leave Israel.
It is estimated that 90 percent of the Jews chose the former, though many continued to practice Judaism in secret. The decree was revoked 32 years later - apparently too late for about 75 percent of the converts…

“Prof. Ariela Oppenheim of Hebrew University conducted a genetic study that backs up conclusions of Jewish-Arab genetic similarities. “…despite the dispersion of Jews around the world for 2,000 years, they essentially kept their Jewish continuity,” Oppenheim said. “In addition, we found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close, genetically, to the Arabs living here in Israel.”

She said that the study shows that both the Arabs of Israel and the Jews are descended from the Kurds of Aram in Babylon – the birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham.

“It’s clear that we’re all from the same family,” Oppenheim concludes. “Most unfortunately, however, there are conflicts even within families, and sometimes brothers fight as well. I wish this is what will bring the Redemption, but I’m very sad to say that I don’t think so…”

Monday, August 17, 2009


GAZA FREEDOM MARCH DEC. 27 - JAN. 1 on the one year anniversary of the Israeli massacre of Gaza.

photo by Rick Congress, March 2009, Gaza


Amnesty International has called the Gaza blockade a "form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel's obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention." Human Rights Watch has called the blockade a "serious violation of international law." The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has said the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza are being treated "like animals," and has called for "ending of the siege of Gaza" that is depriving "one and a half million people of the necessities of life."

One of the world's leading authorities on Gaza, Sara Roy of Harvard University, has said that the consequence of the siege "is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel, but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union."

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked.

The Palestinians of Gaza have exhorted the international community to move beyond words of condemnation.

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

The illegal siege of Gaza is not happening in a vacuum. It is one of the many illegal acts committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories it occupied militarily in 1967.

The Wall and the settlements are illegal, according to the International Court of Justice the Hague.

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would end.

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

Sources of Inspiration

The Gaza Freedom March is inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first Intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the land grab of Israel's annexationist wall.

It draws inspiration from the Gazans themselves, who formed a human chain from Rafah to Erez, tore down the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, and marched to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the international volunteers who have stood by Palestinian farmers harvesting their crops, from the crews on the vessels who have challenged the Gaza blockade by sea, and from the drivers of the convoys who have delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And it is inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. ... I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

It heeds the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who called his movement Satyagraha-Hold on to the truth, and holds to the truth that Israel's siege of Gaza is illegal and inhuman.

Gandhi said that the purpose of nonviolent action is to "quicken" the conscience of humankind. Through the Freedom March, humankind will not just deplore Israeli brutality but take action to stop it.

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the civil rights movement in the United States.

If Israel devalues Palestinian life then internationals must both interpose their bodies to shield Palestinians from Israeli brutality and bear personal witness to the inhumanity that Palestinians daily confront.

If Israel defies international law then people of conscience must send non-violent marshals from around the world to enforce the law of the international community in Gaza. The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza will dispatch contingents from around the world to Gaza to mark the anniversary of Israel's bloody 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008 - January 2009.

The Freedom March takes no sides in internal Palestinian politics. It sides only with international law and the primacy of human rights.

The March is yet another link in the chain of non-violent resistance to Israel's flagrant disregard of international law.

Citizens of the world are called upon to join ranks with Palestinians in the January 1st March to lift the inhumane siege of Gaza.

لمزيد من المعلومات الرجاء الاطلاع على بيان السياق

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New Zealand | Norway | Oman - سلطنة عُمان | Palestine - فلسطين | Qatar - قطر | Saudi Arabia - السعودية
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Midwest or Plains | West or Northwest |
Please join this group if none of the other groups apply: General Campaign FaceBook group

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The upsurge of overwrought, red-faced screaming white people mobbing health care forums, or parading around with tea bags hanging from their WalMart hats has set some commentators to musing about what's behind this backlash. It's not so hard to fathom.

A common sight on our TV screens is some grossly overweight "middle American" holding up a sign about Obama's death panels, weeping into the Fox News microphone saying that "We are losing our country!" Or they might phrase it, "are we losing our America?" The answer is : YES.

Millions of white, stupid American are losing their country. And it's about time. This ignorant, whining mass of racists, religious fascists, and fast food consumers deserves any misfortune they get. Demographics are putting them into a minority status. They are kicking up a fuss, but their social weight and political power is slipping away, and it's all for the good.

These are the ones who thought Jim Crow America was great, who bought into every dumb-ass military adventure or CIA caper from Guatemala and Iran in 1954, to the Domincan invasion of 1965 ... Chile 1973, Vietnam, Grenada! nauseum. They were Nixon's silent majority and their kids became Regan's born-again racists as he cashed in on the Southern Strategy.

Let these dopes become an abused, shut-out minority. Let this country be flooded by smart, enterprising people from Mexico, Nigeria, China. Let's see mosques and Hindu temples abound (I'd prefer that everyone would be an atheist, but you can't have everything), let's see chicken fried steak driven out by curried lamb. Let's see the NFL and MLB be eclipsed by soccer (real football) and cricket (maybe I'll understand the rules by then). Let's see if the future non-redneck majority of the state of Georgia wants the Confederate battle flag to remain part of the state flag.

"We're losing our American values, our culture" wail the brigades of porcine rightist populists from small town USA (even those of them who live in larger cities are mentally small-town). What values? White people are the anointed ones, the only real Americans. Culture? They haven't given us Jazz, or Blues or Theater, literature or cinema. Besides corn dogs and NASCAR what have they produced? Billie Ray Cyrus?

These people (the book, by Thomas Frank, "What's the Matter With Kansas" was written about them) have been too addle-brained to act in their best economic interests. As a social class they have a common cause with organized labor and working class blacks and latinos. But no, they've never had any truck with these lesser beings. They have stuck with the middle and upper class con artists who can lead them around by the nose, whispering about god, abortion, guns, aliens (from Mars or Ecuador, same thing to them -- an opinion poll would probably find that they think nuking Roswell, NM would solve the illegal alien problem), etc.

As a consequence they have voted for and supported all of the scams that allowed the ruling rich to poison the air, water and land; loot their pension funds, sell them fake mortgages, take away their jobs and leave them dazed and confused ... seduced and abandoned.

If they are the base of the Republican party then the Republicans have no future. This won't necessarily lead to anything progressive in US politics. The Democrats will just occupy the mid-left, the center and the right of the political spectrum and do what major political parties have always done: represent the interests of finance capital and corporations (the Democrats are just smarter at it than the Republicans). To paraphrase what Bill Maher quipped: The Republicans have moved into a mental insitution and the Democrats have become Republicans.

The "true" Americans of Sarah Palin's constituency can't understand any of this ... no surprise there.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Battle for Bil'in


Below is an excerpt from an article giving background on the struggle. I was there with a Code Pink delegation in June of 2009 and got my first whiff of teargas since the 1960s -- Rick Congress

The Battle For Bil'in

By Eileen Fleming

24 February, 2009

[Bil'in, Feb. 23, 2009] For four years, the beleaguered agricultural village of Bil'in in the West Bank has resisted the route of Israel's Wall; which in Bil'in is composed of miles of electrified-barbed wire fencing that denies the landowners access to their legally owned land.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that The Fence must be moved and the stolen land restored to the Bil'in villagers; but civil and military authorities have not complied and last week, night time raids by Israel escalated.

Mahmoud Zwahre, a coordinator of the Popular Committee Against The Wall, wrote:

Imagine being awakened to the sound of a stun grenade. Imagine such a grenade landing in your front yard every night. This is the reality that residents of Palestinian villages who are struggling against the apartheid wall are forced to deal with since the attack on Gaza.

These nightly invasions by the army, which terrorize villagers, are becoming ever more frequent. Invasions take place three to four times a week in the villages of Beit Likia and Bil'in. In the last week, the villages of Ma'asara, Ni'ilin and Jayus too have joined the list, as troops have been harassing those who participate and organize the village protests.

Around 12:30 at night the solders [knocked on] the door of my house [demanding] I open the door; more than 10 solders entered my house without my permission…they pushed me out side in the cold weather with very light clothes…they told me that they are going to arrest me and they [bound] me …I'm on the ground on my knees at that time; I thought that I'm in Guatanomo…and then they told me…we are going to arrest you next week we are going to come in more difficult way; so don't come to demonstrate, don't organize demos…While they was checking in my house they found emails for many friends from solidarity associations.

Today or tomorrow we are going to win because we have the faith.-end Mahmoud

Even with the four years of media blackout on the popular struggle, thousands of Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals have been waging a nonviolent campaign of resistance to the construction of the route of Israel's Wall in the Occupied Territories.

Palestinian farmers, mothers, children and activists have been braving teargas, beatings, bullets, arrest, and even death to rise up against the most well equipped army in the world, with nothing more than their own bodies and determination.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that The Wall is a violation of International Law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian villages and economy in order to establish more illegal settlements.

The route of The Electric Fence in Bil'in and the Israeli army prohibits the indigenous people to tend and harvest their olive groves. Over 2,003 dunums of prime agricultural land have been confiscated by The Electric Fence.

The Israelis built apartments for 750 settlers that the indigenous people are forbidden to enter.

In Billin, the Green Line is five miles from The Electric Fence and the Popular Committee in Bilin has been fighting the illegal actions of the Israeli government with demonstrations and legal actions.

The Israeli government attempts to justify their land theft by returning to the Ottoman Law that states if the landowner doesn't tend his land it can be confiscated by the State. The Israeli army and The Electric Fence have prevented the indigenous people from accessing their legally owned land, thus depriving them of food, income and human rights.

After the indigenous people of Bilin brought their case to the Israeli Municipal Court and the High Court; both courts agreed the building of the settlement dwellings was indeed illegal and ordered the construction to cease in January 2006. Construction continued and the settlers moved in and the High Court accepted these 'facts on the ground' but the indigenous people have not given up seeking justice.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More home thefts in East Jerusalem

Journalist Eileen Fleming was on the Israel/Occupied Palestine trip with me in June of 2009. Our group met with Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem whose home are being stolen by state-sanctioned (and American Zionist funded) illegal settlers. Here is her report.

MasterCard and the Extremist Settlers of Silwan

Eileen Fleming

Occupied East Jerusalem, June 13, 2009- Over thirty CODE PINK activists met with a few of the soon to be 1,500 homeless residents of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, located minutes away from the Temple Mount and the Al Aqsa Mosque.

On June 8, 1998, under the cover of darkness, members of the fundamentalist nationalistic settlement group Elad [a Hebrew acronym for: To the City of David] entered four Palestinian homes, threw out the furniture and raised Israeli flags on the property.

Yigal Kaufman, a spokesman for Elad was quoted the following day in the New York Times, ''Our aim is to Judaize East Jerusalem. The City of David is the most ancient core of Jerusalem, and we want it to become a Jewish neighborhood."

The NY Times also reported that the religious extremist's moved into the homes "with the advance knowledge and protection of the Israeli police, raising charges that they were tacitly backed by the Israeli authorities." [1]

On June 12, 2009, Abd Schlode, a lifetime resident of the village informed the CODE PINK activists who gathered in the village's solidarity tent, "We are fighting for survival. Over 50,000 Palestinians live in Silwan.

"In 2005 we began to receive [demolition] letters on our doorsteps written in Hebrew addressed from the 'Municipality Against Honorable Unknown' but most of our people do not read Hebrew.

"We have documents that prove this land is ours and that we paid taxes.

"Since 1967 the Israelis destroyed over 18,000 homes and there are currently 22,000 home demolition orders. Yesterday 25 new home demolition letters were delivered here.

"In 2007, we paid 87,000 million shekels to the Israeli courts and we pay our taxes, but we have no playgrounds or opportunities for our children. We need the world to hear us, to look and see just who is the victim.

"The settlers are digging tunnels towards the Mosque and we learned of it when an UNWRA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] school collapsed and killed ten of our children.

"These settlers are the most extreme religious nationalists and they are behind what is going on here. They say this area was a part of King David's kingdom. So what? Many civilizations have been here since, Muslims were here too, but does this give them the right to build a zoo here?

"We need schools but the settlers take our land and build on it...It is unlikely that they actually live here, but it is recorded that among the settlers are the Minister of National Security and the head of the National Archives.

"The Shabaak [Israeli Security] are doing a great job here-there are lots of cameras and guards with guns. If I throw a stone they will see it and arrest me immediately. They arrested a ten year old boy for throwing stones.

"I once was a member of Fatah, but the last time I was arrested I quit the political party, because this is all about homes and children, survival and human rights.

"Bush made a lot of people hate America, but a few days ago when Obama was talking in Cairo, my son said to me, he is a good guy. We hope he will make the changes we need, but we know he faces a hard time with AIPAC.

"There is a lot of money coming here from developers."

Much of that money comes from the American casino tycoon Irving Moskowitz.

"For over a decade, Moskowitz has funneled millions in profits from his California-based Hawaiian Gardens casino, where he has been sued for exploiting undocumented workers, into settlement construction projects in the West Bank, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. He has also funded several neoconservative think tanks including a research center named after Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976. Moskowitz and Netanyahu have remained close since he established the center.

"In 1996, Moskowitz convinced Netanyahu, in his first round as prime minister, to open a tunnel adjacent to the Temple Mount, a controversial act that led to several days of rioting and 70 deaths. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the tunnel set off the so-called Al-Aqsa uprising, the opening salvo of the Second Intifada. [2]

Last week, holders of an Isracard and/or MasterCard credit cards in Israel received an offer for a "City of David tour" with "attractions for the entire family" - which makes no mention of the fact that the tour is to be conducted by the Elad settlers.

Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, wrote the Directors of the MasterCard Company the following letter which received a swift threat as a reply.

The letter:

Dear Sir or Madam

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Isracard Company, entrusted with issuing MasterCard credit cards in Israel, is at present involved in supporting extreme-right Israeli settlers who are actively dispossessing the Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem's Silwan Neighbourhood. Moreover, Isracard has been using the MasterCard name and logo in this campaign of support for the settlers.

Two weeks ago, Isracard sent to its customers a gift coupon providing a large reduction in entry fees to the so-called "City of David National Park", managed by the highly controversial Elad settler association. The reduction is dependant upon the customer paying with a MasterCardPlus card.

In providing such coupons to its customers, Isracard has taken a clear position in support of the extreme right in Israeli politics – and has implicated MasterCard in the same. "The City of David National Park" is administered by the settler association "Elad" whose members have established themselves since 1991 in East Jerusalem's Silwan Neighbourhood, since which time they are constantly extending their foothold by means of entering Palestinian homes and expelling their inhabitants. The proclaimed aim of the Elad settlers is to "Judaise" the village of Silwan, which they call "The City of David" and where they assert the Biblical King David had his palace 3000 years ago (a claim strongly disputed among historians and archaeologists). The tens of thousands of Palestinians who live for generations in this location are for the Elad settlers no more than "a nuisance" to be expelled. Among other things, it was the Elad settlers who initiated – and got the Jerusalem Municipality to adopt – the plan of demolishing 88 Palestinian homes in Silwan in order to establish in their place "The King's Garden", where according to the settlers King David had his garden. As you may recall, this plan was strongly condemned by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on her visit to Jerusalem in March this year.

Visitors to the "City of David National Park" are not only directly contributing to the Elad setters' coffers, but are also exposed to an intensive dose of extreme-right nationalistic propaganda and a highly biased and one-sided description of Jerusalem's history, almost completely ignoring the part of non-Jews – especially, the part of Arabs and Muslims – in the city's history. Such a distorted depiction of history also appears on the settler website to which the Isracard coupon, emblazoned with the MasterCard logo, refers the company's customers:

Isracard's issuing this coupon and promoting the Elad settlers clearly cannot be considered a legitimate commercial activity. Rather, it is a political act with far-reaching implications. As the MasterCard name and logo were directly used, implicating your company with its world-wide business network, I feel it is incumbent upon your company to take up the matter with your "Isracard" business partners and firmly ask them to sever immediately and completely all connections with the Elad settlers.

As you have taken care to make widely known, your company has taken the initiative to create "The MasterCard Foundation" whose proclaimed aim is to help and empower poor, isolated and disadvantaged people in such countries as Tajikistan and Rwanda, and whose leadership includes such distinguished people as Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, known for her great devotion to the promotion of Human Rights . Obviously, this is the polar opposite of what the Elad settlers are doing in the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem, and I am sure you will take quick steps to remedy this discrepancy.

Adam Keller
Gush Shalom spokesperson

On June 12, 2009, Gush Shalom received a fax from Ayala Tidhar and Orit Hangali of the Isracard Marketing & Foreign Relations Section and Rani Rahav an Isracard public relations director, phoned Keller and threatened to sue Gush Shalom.

Keller stated, "It is a bit surprising to hear that we are supposedly 'causing great damage' to the Isracard Company. How come one email message to our list of supporters would cause so much damage to one of the biggest companies in the Israeli economy? It would be good for them to consider if the damage was caused by us, or perhaps by the truth about them which we have uncovered.

"Indeed, the site known as 'The City of David National Park', just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, officially belongs to the National Reserves and Parks Authority, a supposedly neutral body. But this is in no way enough to whitewash Isracard's involvement with the place. It is well known that the administration of the place in practice has been transferred to the settler association Elad – a body which has a clear political and ideological identity on the extreme right side of the spectrum. The Elad people are openly and explicitly promoting the aim of "Judaizing (East)Jerusalem" – not simply by talking but also by constant and intensive activity, creating 'facts on the ground', dispossessing Palestinian inhabitants and violating International Law.

"Isracard cannot wash its hands off the nefarious settler activity by claiming that this is 'a governmental site'. In Israel, as in many other countries, a company must tell consumers what is the nature of the product or service which it is offering for sale. Isracard is not at liberty to offer its customers 'entertainment for the entire family' at a park run by extreme right people, without disclosing that, once arriving there, the customers would be exposed to extreme right propaganda.

"If Isracard goes through with the threat of judicial proceedings against us we won’t be afraid. We have available plenty of testimonies and witnesses regarding the 'City of David National Park' – what it is, who runs it and how, what kind of 'guidance' is given to visitors and what is the political slant of that 'guidance'. The gift coupon sent by Isracard to its customers includes the name and logo of MasterCard, an international company conducting world-wide business. Despite their extensive and long-standing business relationship, Isracard did not bother to let MasterCard know of the use made of its name and reputation in promoting extremist settlers who violate International Law.

"We in Gush Shalom decided to fill the vacancy and inform the MasterCard directors, with the help of our friends abroad. Meanwhile, there is a continuing wave of protest messages sent by Israeli peace activists to the Isracard offices and by Americans and Europeans to MasterCard."

Gush Shalom is requesting people of conscience to voice their concerns to the MasterCard company-contact info available @

Please CC your correspondence to


Eileen Fleming, Founder of
A Feature Correspondent for and The Palestine Telegraph
Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"
Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Bill Maher on Democrats

Every time Obama tries to take on a progressive cause, there's a major political party standing in his way: the Democrats. Now, people talk a lot about a third political party in America; we don't need a third party, we need a first party ... this is because we don't have a left and a right party in this country any more: we have a center-right party, and a crazy party. And over the last 30-odd years, Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital. So what we have is one perfectly good party for hedge-fund managers, credit-card companies, banks, defense contractors, big agriculture, and the pharmaceutical lobby: that's the Democrats. And they sit across the aisle from a small group of religious lunatics, Flat-Earthers, and Civil-War re-enacters, who mostly communicate by AM radio and call themselves the Republicans. And who actually worry that Obama is a Socialist. Socialist? He's not even a Liberal! I know he's not, because he's on TV. And while I see Democrats on television, I don't see actual Liberals. And if occasionally you do get to hear Ralph Nader, or Noam Chomsky, or Dennis Kucinich, they're treated like buffoons. … Shouldn't there be one party that unambiguously supports cutting the military budget? A party that is straight up in favor of gun control, gay marriage, higher taxes on the rich, universal health care, legalizing pot, and steep, direct taxing of polluters? These aren't radical ideas. A majority of Americans are either already for them, or would be if they were properly argued and defended. And what we need is an actual progressive party to represent the millions of Americans who aren't being served by the Democrats. Because, bottom-line: Democrats are the new Republicans. ~ Bill Maher

Monday, July 20, 2009

Israeli Jews, citizens of the Schnorer State*, relax and don't worry

* Schnorer: Yiddish for a beggar, a mooch. Israel's standard of living is elevated by sponging off of the American tax-payer and gifts from wealthy donors.

From Haaretz
Last update-11:18 19/07/2009

Israelis don't pay price for injustice of occupation

By Gideon Levy

Really, who needs all this? The U.S. president is devoting a considerable amount of his precious time and goodwill trying to be persuasive about the need to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Europeans are ready to act, half the world is waiting, but let's admit the truth: Why all the commotion about us? The settlers might scream and block highway intersections. The Israel Defense Forces would become less important and the news could actually become boring. The vineyard in the Golan Heights is liable to close, as might the boutique winery in the settlement of Ofra.

Life in Israel is just peachy, and who wants to think about peace, negotiations, withdrawals, the "price" we have to pay and all this unnecessary mess? Cafes are bustling and restaurants are packed. People are vacationing. The markets are surging. Television dumbs us down, highways are jammed, and the festivals are blaring. La Scala performed in the park and Madonna is to follow, and the beaches are full of foreign tourists and locals. The summer of 2009 is wonderful. So why should we change things?

The Israelis aren't paying any price for the injustice of occupation. Life in Israel is immeasurably better than in most countries. The global financial crisis has hit Israel less than other places. It has poor people but not like in the developing world, and the rich and middle class here have not been critically harmed.

The security situation is also in good shape. No terrorist attacks. No Arabs. And when terrorism subsides, as it has over the past several years, who remembers that there is a "Palestinian problem"? The army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can continue to scare us with the terrorism threat, but for the meantime, at least, it doesn't exist. The Iranian nuclear threat is also just a vague option at the moment. Life in Israel is currently secure.

True, every few years a wave of violence erupts, but it usually happens in the country's outskirts and doesn't interest anyone in the center. Qassam rockets in Sderot or Katyushas in Kiryat Shmona? Who cares? This is followed by another period of quiet, like now. The separation fence, media, education system and political propaganda do a great job in creating an illusion to make us forget what we need to forget and hide what needs to be hidden. They are there and we are here, and here life is a bowl of cherries, if not a blast. Like Switzerland? Even better.

We always knew how to add a measure of significance to the pleasures of life. We practice the cult of security, society's true religion, and we perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust. You can enjoy yourself in Israel and also play the victim, party and gripe. Where else is there a place like this?

The Israelis don't pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before the Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative, and why should they?

Even the most cruel terrorist attacks to befall the country haven't instilled an understanding among the Israelis about the connection between cause and effect - between occupation and terrorism. Thanks to the media and the politicians - two of the worst agents for dumbing down and blinding Israeli society - we learned that the Arabs were born to kill, the whole world is against us, anti-Semitism determines how Israel is dealt with, and there is no connection between our actions and the price we pay.

Neither an international blockade nor terrible bloodletting appear to be on the horizon, to our great fortune. So why should we worry? It's true that the world is beginning to scowl at Israel. So what? The world hates us anyway, Israelis are convinced. As long as they are not deprived of the world's pleasures, there is no reason to worry. Try to ask them why they are ostracized and you will immediately hear scorn about the world, rather than any self-criticism, God forbid. The Israelis are not only enjoying themselves. They are also very satisfied with themselves - over their level of morality and that of their army and state.

All this really could have been peachy if not for the fact that blindness is dangerous and the not-so-good ending is known in advance. It's another wonderful summer in Tel Aviv - and Gaza and Jenin - but a part of the world will blow up in our faces. And then we will pretend to be amazed, miserable victims, as we so much like to be.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Hamas...has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to

begin a process of coexisting with Israel.

U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report on Hamas, June, 2009


Although peaceful coexistence between Israel and Hamas is clearly not possible under

the formulations that comprise Hamas’s 1988 charter, Hamas has, in practice, moved

well beyond its charter. Indeed, Hamas has been carefully and consciously adjusting

its political program for years and has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to

begin a process of coexisting with Israel.

As evidenced by numerous statements, Hamas is not hostile to Jews because of religion.

Rather, Hamas’s view toward Israel is based on a fundamental belief that Israel

has occupied land that is inherently Palestinian and Islamic.

For Hamas, “recognition” of Israel would represent a negation of the rightness of its

own cause and would be indefensible under Islam. It considers unacceptable for itself

the actions of those Muslim countries that have recognized Israel, such as Egypt and

Jordan, and those that have indicated their willingness to do so, such as Saudi Arabia

and the rest of the Arab League, because they have provided no theological

justification for their policies toward Israel.

Although Hamas, as an Islamic organization, will not transgress shari‘a, which it

understands as forbidding recognition, it has formulated mechanisms that allow

it to deal with the reality of Israel as a fait accompli. These mechanisms include

the religious concepts of tahadiya and hudna and Hamas’s own concept of

“Palestinian legitimacy.”

Tahadiya refers to a short-term calming period between conflicting parties during

which differences are not put aside. A tahadiya stopped most violence between Hamas

and Israel from June to December 2008.

Hudna is a truce for a specific period, which is based on the practice of the Prophet

Mohammad and on subsequent events in Muslim history. Hamas has indicated on a

number of occasions its willingness to accede to a

hudna with Israel, assuming basic Palestinian rights as set forth in the Arab Peace

Initiative (API) are agreed to first.

Palestinian legitimacy is a term employed by Hamas to describe its willingness to

consider accepting a binding peace treaty, such as the proposal set forth in the API,

so long as the treaty is first ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum.

Although Hamas would not directly participate in peace negotiations with Israel,Hamas

has indicated that it would be willing to be part of a Palestinian coalition

government with Fatah under which Fatah would negotiate the actual treaty.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Photos above: Anti-Obama poster at ultra-Zionist demonstration: "Obama, anti-Semite and Jew Hater," Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv

An American Jew Visits A Very Foreign Country:

PART I -- Tel Aviv and my impressions, or what kind of a place IS this?

-- Rick Congress


Tel Aviv is awash with sunlight and has a light airy feel. It’s great to walk along the beach. People young and old are sunbathing, swimming, and I can see many ultra-modern high rises as I look eastward toward the city. I’ve arrived on June 3 to join up with 30 other participants in the Code Pink organized Free Gaza delegation, a follow up on the journey I took in March where 62 of us entered Gaza from Egypt to campaign against the Israeli/US/Egyptian blockade that is strangling Gaza and magnifying the suffering caused by the savage bombardment carried out by the Israeli armed forces in December and January. Our group would team up with the Coalition of Women for Peace made up of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis in an attempt to get into Gaza from the Eretz crossing in Israel.

But right now I’m in a swimming suit, relaxing. Everyone around here is relaxed. No worries or cares. And it’s not just at the beach. In the several days I spend in Tel Aviv out of my two week stay in Israel I can see and hear that the people of this supposedly more liberal and secular city on the Mediterranean shore don’t care about anything except their own well-being (which is hardly a shock, most people in the world are first of all concerned with making a living for themselves and their family). But when confronted with even a whiff of concern about Gaza, the “Arabs,” those other people, they make it clear they don’t care if they live or die (preferably die, or disappear, if you press the point).

This reaction is what you get from Israeli Jews. But it’s hard to find a non-Jewish citizen of Israel to speak with. Not the cab drivers, or the cleaning women in the hotels, or the busboys in the restaurants, or the workers in the stores. They are all Jewish, or maybe they are Russian non-Jews who posed as Jews to get out of the then-USSR and get housing and other subsidies for a good life, thanks to those perennially generous chumps, the U.S taxpayers.

This is “The Jewish State,” or the “democratic state of all the Jewish people” that Netanyahu now demands that everyone recognize Israel as being. With this designation Israel will have a free pass to expel all the Palestinians (“Palestinians” … a word the regular Israeli-in-the-street sneer at. “They are Arabs and don’t belong here”), imprison them all, or anything they want. If Israel is the state for only the Jews, then the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinians, Muslim or Christian, don’t have any rights. Not that they have much in the way of right at this moment, but there is some shred of legality they are hanging on to. Now Israel’s Foreign Minister, (a Russian speaker from Moldavia) Avidor Lieberman, wants the Palestinian citizens of the “State for all of the Jews” to pledge that they are loyal to the state that specifically says it doesn’t represent them.

Of course you can’t have a democratic state once you christen it with an ethnic label. To preserve the Jewish majority you have to use undemocratic, positively dictatorial means to keep it that way. Thus the urge to push out all Palestinians. Though Israel knows they have to do it slowly, in covert ways, to cover it up with Orwellian double-talk. Israel in its Pre-1967 borders (without Gaza and the West Bank) has 5.5 million Jews and 1.5 million Palestinians. The West Bank has 2.5 million and Gaza has 1.5 million Palestinians (the 500,000 settlers in the West Bank are counted as living in Israel, since the government won’t recognize what the whole world knows, the West Bank isn’t part of the state of Israel, it is illegally occupied land.)

The long run demographics are against a Jewish majority state. So, warring against these numbers, Israel has laws making it illegal for an Israeli citizen who marries a Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza to live with his or her spouse inside the State of Israel. Other laws restrict movement, and others take away the homes of people who have title to their land going back hundreds of years to the Ottoman Empire.

Anyway, back to the streets of Tel Aviv. What I finally realize is that the Palestinians are segregated in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a Jim Crow town. They aren’t wanted so they are not employed in hotels, or as bus or cab drivers. A premise of Zionism and “Labor Zionism” is that they have a normal society with Jewish rich, poor, middle class, workers, paupers…. all strata of society must be 100% Jewish. They don’t want to exploit Palestinian labor, they want to eliminate it. This is a major difference from South African apartheid where black labor was exploited as cheap labor to enrich all of white society. The Israelis by and large want the Palestinians gone.

Walking around Tel Aviv with other members of the delegation we got strange looks. Some of our group were wearing Code Pink T shirts that said “Free Gaza” and “Lift the Siege of Gaza.” There obviously was something wrong with us. When we decided to go to Jaffa, we finally found some Palestinians. Jaffa is an ancient city dating from the Bronze Age that became a Muslim city in 625 AD. It’s a beautiful, historical place with arched walkways and massive stone building that are many centuries old. If you walk south from our hotel (which was on the corner of Hayarkon St. and Allenby Road and a block from the beach) it takes about half an hour to get to the old city of Jaffa.

As we got close to Jaffa we saw some young Palestinian couples and families strolling along the waterfront, but not very many. Jaffa has been taken over by Jewish Israelis. It’s been absorbed as part of the Tel Aviv municipality. In 1948 most of the residents were pushed out by military action. They were marched to the docks and forced onto boats as Israeli soldiers fired over their heads. Many of these Jaffans and their descendants are now in Gaza (see “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” by Illan Pappe Pappe is an internationally acclaimed Jewish historian who now is the chair of the History department of the University of Exeter in the UK.). Now Jaffa has become a tourist attraction and a center for Israeli artists. When my wife asked someone who worked at a gallery we were browsing in where she could find Palestinian art the woman looked puzzled and answered, “we only have well know artists here.”

There were a few signs in Arabic in Jaffa. At least they hadn’t been removed yet. All over Tel Aviv, and other cities as well, the public signs and signs on businesses are in Hebrew, Russian (there are 500,000 of them in Israel and is the main voting block for Liberman’s far-right party), and English. Rarely was anything in Arabic.

There are highway signs in Arabic on the main roads between cities. Especially ones that warn drivers that a road is for Jews only (the ones that connect West Bank settlements to cities in Israel proper). Cars registered to Palestinians have different colored license plates than those registered to Jewish Israelis so the police and soldiers can separate out the vehicles they want to.

While in Jaffa I went to a hilltop over the harbor where an archeological dig had unearthed an arch that was constructed by Egyptians during the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. A blurb on one of Yahoo’s Tourism Web pages says:

On the slope of the green, carefully manicured hill in the park area of Old Jaffa is an interesting archeological site. A massive doorjamb, as it were, stands in front of partially excavated ruins. This is the reconstructed gateway to a building from the time of Egyptian ruler Ramses II (1400-1200 BCE). A portion of the jamb, inscribed with hieroglyphics, was discovered by an Israeli archeologist in the late 1950s. The archeological site has remnants of structures from the many civilizations that established, or attempted to establish, themselves in the area.
Does this trump the 3000 years of history that Zionists say gives them the right to all of biblical (broadly defined) Israel today? Was the Mediterranean coast part of biblical Israel or it’s rival kingdom, Judea? Does the Ramses gate give Mubarak a claim to Tel Aviv? Was the bible written by visiting space aliens as a practical joke? Stay tuned.

During my stay in Israel there were banners hung in Tel Aviv celebrating the city’s 100th anniversary. Why was it founded right next to Jaffa in 1909 by Jewish immigrants during the time of the Ottoman Empire? Because they didn’t want to live with lowly Arabs. They wanted an all-Jewish town.

Ralph Ellison wrote a great novel, “The Invisible Man,” about how white Americans looked right through black Americans, they didn’t want to see them, but they were there. Blacks lived in segregated, run-down housing apart from white society. They commuted into town to work in low-paying jobs and went right home again.

In Israel, in everyday life, the Palestinians are also made to be invisible. But different from the U.S. experience, they aren’t commuting to work for Israelis. There is no work for them. Jobs are for Jews, not Palestinians. Well, not quite. If there aren’t enough Jews to do low-wage jobs then these jobs are for Filipinos, or Indians … anyone but Palestinians. There are thousands of mainly Asian “guest” workers in Israel. One friend who had spent a lot of time in Israel told me the Hebrew word for home health care attendant is “Filipino.”


I was in Tel Aviv during Obama’s Cairo speech at the start of my trip and also, near the end of my trip, was standing outside Bar-Illan University in Tel Aviv where Netanyahu gave his response to Obama’s speech. I was with a group of protesters from the Code Pink delegation, later joined by a small number of Israeli Peace Now members.

My president, Barack HUSSEIN Obama (Israelis stress the Hussein part) isn’t appreciated by Jewish Israelis. “Someone should shoot him in the head, you Americans are crazy,” is a remark a cab driver in Tel Aviv made to a member of our delegation. Newspapers refer to him as “Pharaoh.” Opinion polls show that he is not viewed as a friend of Israel; he’s not to be trusted. Foreign Minister Lieberman made a show of visiting Moscow with the idea that Israel could find other powerful friends. An article in the Jerusalem Post told about a minor cabinet minister’s proposal that Israel impose sanctions on the U.S.A. Would they boycott our money? The article didn’t specify, other than to let the minister vent his anger at Obama for daring to question Israel’s behavior.

Did Obama cut off the three billion dollars a year in foreign aid (Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid)? Did he demand that the borders with Gaza be opened right now or he will impose sanctions against Israel? All he did is make the mildest criticism of Israel, overlooking the systematic theft of land and war crimes, and made a very weak demand of not expanding existing settlements. The prospects of Obama doing anything strong against Israel’s intransigence are slim to none. But his words are enough to make him public enemy number one. Just the departure from the norm of U.S. presidents falling over themselves to shower praise on Israel and give it everything it wants, and a suggestion that Palestinians are an occupied and dispossessed people (or even the assertion that they are a people at all) is enough to drive rightwing Israeli Jews (that is to say, the current majority of the people) crazy.

They aren’t used to hearing any public criticism from the White House. It’s not very likely that Obama will end up doing anything to really stop the expansion of the West Bank settlements, let alone dismantle most of them, which is an absolute necessity for a Palestinian state to be a real one, not the pretend state that Netanyahu proposed in his public response to Obama at Bar-Ilan University June 12.

While I don’t expect any meaningful action on Obama’s part (I’d like to be wrong) words can be important. Israeli leaders must sense, as do their AIPAC (the famous Israel lobby in Washington) surrogates, the slippage in support in the U.S. for Israel due to their murderous attack on the civilians of Gaza.

Standing across the street from the University gates my group of demonstrators -- with signs calling for the ending of settlements, and lifting the siege of Gaza -- were treated to the spectacle of frothing at the mouth counter-demonstrators who help up posters showing Obama dressed up like Yasser Arafat with a keyfaia and military tunic (someone probably just Photo Shopped Obama’s face into a picture of Arafat). The caption in large letters said: Obama, anti-Semite and Jew hater. Nice way to talk about your major financial benefactor!

This prompted me to do something I’ve never done in the U.S.(or anyplace else that I can think of) I supported the president …. Just to piss off the ultra-Zionists across from us. We yelled: “American Jews voted for Obama! Obama won the election, the neo-cons are out! American taxpayers are tired of paying for your war crimes,” and so on.

I came up with a few good chants. Holding up my U.S. passport I yelled, “I want my money back! Three billion dollars a year, we want a refund! Hey Bibi, give me that Armani suit you’re wearing. I paid for it!” I think my best one was “No more U.S. taxpayers money to Israeli schnorers (Yiddish for moocher).


Helen (my wife) and I had trepidations about going to Israel. Mainly because we knew of pro-Palestinian political activists who were not let into Israel and summarily deported, sometimes after humiliating strip-searches and rummaging through luggage. Some were detained for hours and finally allowed to enter Israel, but often with restrictions, such as a visa good for only 3 days, or threats of arrest if they participated in any unspecified “improper activity.” We were warned that a careless possession of book by Noam Chomsky, or a “Free Palestine” button in our belongings would lead to our detention and or expulsion (to be put back on the next plane to New York).

When we went to Gaza via Egypt we were welcomed as desperately needed supporters and friends by the officials and people there. Going to Israel was like entering hostile territory. So I got a short haircut and we dressed like well-off old Jews from New York and were square enough looking to clear customs. While waiting in line we saw a couple of young women, each traveling alone, taken out of line and led off somewhere. Someone later told us that young unescorted women were often suspected of being part of some pro-Palestinian activist group like the ISM (International Solidarity Movement). I suppose the reasoning was that if a young woman came in with a husband or boyfriend they wouldn’t get out of control.

On the plane from JFK to Tel Aviv an Israeli woman struck up a conversation with Helen. “Are you Jewish?” The answer being “yes,” the woman went on, “Oh, you’ll love Israel,” and mentioned some sights to see. Then she said, “I’m glad to get back home, it’s great to live in a country where everyone is Jewish.” Helen though it best to let that pass without comment.

As the days went by during our stay in Israel we talked about how it felt to be in a “Jewish State.” Virtually everyone around us in Tel Aviv (even most of the tourists) were Jews. One evening we were in a Jewish owned restaurant in Jaffa and Helen commented how the clientele, a mostly middle-aged to older bunch, reminded her of the people at her parent’s country club in Long Island. She was right, I recognized the type. That’s the problem with Israel, I realized. I know this type of people, having grown up with them and I had to put up with their small mindedness and racism (“Oh, the svartzers, what’s the matter with them?”).

The woman on the plane returning home to Israel thought it was great to live exclusively among Jews. For me, it’s definitely not great to live in a place where the people are all the same. It sucks! I grew up in a small Jewish community in white-bread bland Indianapolis. I was glad to finally get out of there for good and live in places with some variety. I don’t automatically crave Jewish companionship or society. I like rice and beans, hot peppers, Chinese food, but not Jewish heart-attack food. Being a deracinated Jew is great! Living in New York where an Albanian can get into an argument with a Bengali over a parking space in front of a Peruvian restaurant is great! Contrast! Stimulation! Multi-culturalism! Living in this kind of environment is great. The ingrown, ethnocentric, paranoid culture of an exclusvely Jewish state is not great.

Meeting with a Palestinian member of the Kenesset
Jerusalem: the Silwan neighborhood
The Galilee