Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oy, such a democracy!

Palestinian identity under attack in Israel
Ma'am News Ageny
april 27, 2011
By Mya Guarnieri

Earlier in April, the Israeli Ministry of Education decided to add a question about the Holocaust to the matriculation exam of Arab students.

Because the state has banned any study of the Nakba-- going so far as to strike the word from the textbooks-- the move has drawn sharp criticism in Israel's Palestinian community.

The Abraham Fund -- a joint Jewish-Arab organization that advocates for equality within in Israel -- remarked that, "It is important that Arab students learn about the Holocaust and understand the history and pain of the Jewish people... At the same time, it is important that Jewish students learn about the history of the Palestinian minority in Israel, especially those aspects tied to the state of Israel and her existence."

Sawsan Zaher is a Palestinian who was born and raised in Israel. An attorney at Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Zaher recalls that she did not learn about the Nakba until she studied it on her own, in her early twenties.

"I finished high school without being able to study Palestinian history--about what was here before 1948, about the nakba."

"And if the parents [of Palestinian students] aren't political?" she adds. "That's it."

The decision to add a question about the Holocaust comes in the wake of the "Nakba Law," which was passed by the Knesset last month.

The new legislation states that municipalities, public institutions, or organizations that receive public funds will be fined for marking the Nakba or expressing feelings of mourning about Israel's establishment.

The law was slammed by both Jewish and Arab members of Knesset. "On this day, the thought police is being established in Israel," Isaac Herzog of the right-wing Labor party said.

Both the Nakba Law and the change to the matriculation exam come just months after a principal of a public school in Yafo, the historically Arab city that was annexed by the Tel Aviv municipality in 1950, forbade students from speaking Arabic.

About half of the school's students are Palestinian citizens of Israel. While all classes are taught in Hebrew, the principal's decision forbade Palestinian students from speaking Arabic amongst themselves.

Russian-speaking students, however, are allowed to use their mother tongue.

Friday, April 29, 2011

More Indications of the Decline of the US Empire

* Web Comics

Apr 27th 2011 By: Laura Hudson

Superman Renounces U.S. Citizenship in 'Action Comics' #900
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After recently undertaking a journey to walk -- not fly -- across the United States in the "Grounded" storyline and reconnect with the country and everyday Americans, Superman appears to be taking another step that could have major implications for his national identity: in Action Comics #900...

...Superman announces that he is going to give up his U.S. citizenship. Despite very literally being an alien immigrant, Superman has long been seen as a patriotic symbol of "truth, justice, and the American way," from his embrace of traditional American ideals to the iconic red and blue of his costume. What it means to stand for the "American way" is an increasingly complicated thing, however, both in the real world and in superhero comics, whose storylines have increasingly seemed to mirror current events and deal with moral and political complexities rather than simple black and white morality.

The key scene takes place in "The Incident," a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President's national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

Superman replies that it was foolish to think that his actions would not reflect politically on the American government, and that he therefore plans to renounce his American citizenship at the United Nations the next day -- and to continue working as a superhero from a more global than national perspective. From a "realistic" standpoint it makes sense; it would indeed be impossible for a nigh-omnipotent being ideologically aligned with America to intercede against injustice beyond American borders without creating enormous political fallout for the U.S. government.

While this wouldn't be this first time a profoundly American comic book icon disassociated himself from his national identity -- remember when Captain America became Nomad? -- this could be a very significant turning point for Superman if its implications carry over into other storylines. Indeed, simply saying that "truth, justice and the American way [is] not enough anymore" is a pretty startling statement from the one man who has always represented those values the most.

It doesn't seem that he's abandoning those values, however, only trying to implement them on a larger scale and divorce himself from the political complexities of nationalism. Superman also says that he believes he has been thinking "too small," that the world is "too connected" for him to limit himself with a purely national identity. As an alien born on another planet, after all, he "can't help but see the bigger picture."

Do you think the shift to a more global role makes sense for Superman? If he really is going to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to function as a more international figure, how do you think it will affect the character?

Read More:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mizrahi (Arab) Jews in Israel in solidarity with mideast youth led uprisings & Palestineian people

Sunday, April 24 2011|+972blog
Young Mizrahi Israelis’ open letter to Arab peers

Translated from Hebrew; English edited by Chana Morgenstern | Arabic version here

In a letter titled “Ruh Jedida: A New Spirit for 2011,” young Jewish descendants of the Arab and Islamic world living in Israel write to their peers in the Middle East and North Africa

We, as the descendents of the Jewish communities of the Arab and Muslim world, the Middle East and the Maghreb, and as the second and third generation of Mizrahi Jews in Israel, are watching with great excitement and curiosity the major role that the men and women of our generation are playing so courageously in the demonstrations for freedom and change across the Arab world. We identify with you and are extremely hopeful for the future of the revolutions that have already succeeded in Tunisia and Egypt. We are equally pained and worried at the great loss of life in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and many other places in the region.

Our generation’s protest against repression and oppressive and abusive regimes, and its call for change, freedom, and the establishment of democratic governments that foster citizen participation in the political process, marks a dramatic moment in the history of the Middle East and North Africa, a region which has for generations been torn between various forces, internal and external, and whose leaders have often trampled the political, economic, and cultural rights of its citizens.

We are Israelis, the children and grandchildren of Jews who lived in the Middle East and North Africa for hundreds and thousands of years. Our forefathers and mothers contributed to the development of this region’s culture, and were part and parcel of it. Thus the culture of the Islamic world and the multigenerational connection and identification with this region is an inseparable part of our own identity.

We are a part of the religious, cultural, and linguistic history of the Middle East and North Africa, although it seems that we are the forgotten children of its history: First in Israel, which imagines itself and its culture to be somewhere between continental Europe and North America. Then in the Arab world, which often accepts the dichotomy of Jews and Arabs and the imagined view of all Jews as Europeans, and has preferred to repress the history of the Arab-Jews as a minor or even nonexistent chapter in its history; and finally within the Mizrahi communities themselves, who in the wake of Western colonialism, Jewish nationalism and Arab nationalism, became ashamed of their past in the Arab world.

Consequently we often tried to blend into the mainstream of society while erasing or minimizing our own past. The mutual influences and relationships between Jewish and Arab cultures were subjected to forceful attempts at erasure in recent generations, but evidence of them can still be found in many spheres of our lives, including music, prayer, language, and literature.

We wish to express our identification with and hopes for this stage of generational transition in the history of the Middle East and North Africa, and we hope that it will open the gates to freedom and justice and a fair distribution of the region’s resources.

We turn to you, our generational peers in the Arab and Muslim world, striving for an honest dialog which will include us in the history and culture of the region. We looked enviously at the pictures from Tunisia and from Al-Tahrir square, admiring your ability to bring forth and organize a nonviolent civil resistance that has brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets and the squares, and finally forced your rulers to step down.

We, too, live in a regime that in reality—despite its pretensions to being “enlightened” and “democratic”—does not represent large sections of its actual population in the Occupied Territories and inside of the Green Line border(s). This regime tramples the economic and social rights of most of its citizens, is in an ongoing process of minimizing democratic liberties, and constructs racist barriers against Arab-Jews, the Arab people, and Arabic culture. Unlike the citizens of Tunisia and Egypt, we are still a long way from the capacity to build the kind of solidarity between various groups that we see in these countries, a solidarity movement that would allow us to unite and march together–all who reside here–into the public squares, to demand a civil regime that is culturally, socially, and economically just and inclusive.

We believe that, as Mizrahi Jews in Israel, our struggle for economic, social, and cultural rights rests on the understanding that political change cannot depend on the Western powers who have exploited our region and its residents for many generations. True change can only come from an intra-regional and inter-religious dialog that is in connection with the different struggles and movements currently active in the Arab world. Specifically, we must be in dialog and solidarity with struggles of the Palestinians citizens of Israel who are fighting for equal political and economic rights and for the termination of racist laws, and the struggle of the Palestinian people living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza in their demand to end the occupation and to gain Palestinian national independence.

In our previous letter written following Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009, we called for the rise of the democratic Middle Eastern identity and for our inclusion in such an identity. We now express the hope that our generation – throughout the Arab, Muslim, and Jewish world – will be a generation of renewed bridges that will leap over the walls and hostility created by previous generations and will renew the deep human dialog without which we cannot understand ourselves: between Jews, Sunnis, Shias, and Christians, between Kurds, Berbers, Turks, and Persians, between Mizrahis and Ashkenazis, and between Palestinians and Israelis. We draw on our shared past in order to look forward hopefully towards a shared future.

We have faith in intra-regional dialog—whose purpose is to repair and rehabilitate what was destroyed in recent generations—as a catalyst towards renewing the Andalusian model of Muslim-Jewish-Christian partnership, God willing, Insha’Allah, and as a pathway to a cultural and historical golden era for our countries. This golden era cannot come to pass without equal, democratic citizenship, equal distribution of resources, opportunities, and education, equality between women and men, and the acceptance of all people regardless of faith, race, status, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic affiliation. All of these rights play equal parts in constructing the new society to which we aspire. We are committed to achieving these goals within a process of dialog between all of the people of Middle East and North Africa, as well as a dialog we will undertake with different Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.

We, the undersigned:

Shva Salhoov (Libya), Naama Gershy (Serbia, Yemen), Yael Ben-Yefet (Iraq, Aden), Leah Aini (Greece, Turkey), Yael Berda (Tunisia), Aharon Shem-Tov (Iraq, Iranian Kurdistan), Yosi Ohana (born in Morocco), Yali Hashash (Libya, Yemen), Yonit Naaman (Yemen, Turkey), Orly Noy (born in Iran), Gadi Alghazi (Yugoslavia, Egypt), Mati Shemoelof (Iran, Iraq, Syria), Eliana Almog (Yemen, Germany), Yuval Evri ((Iraq), Ophir Tubul (Morocco, Algeria), Moti Gigi (Morocco), Shlomit Lir (Iran), Ezra Nawi (Iraq), Hedva Eyal (Iran), Eyal Ben-Moshe (Yemen), Shlomit Binyamin (Cuba, Syria, Turkey), Yael Israel (Turkey, Iran), Benny Nuriely (Tunisia), Ariel Galili (Iran), Natalie Ohana Evry (Morocco, Britain), Itamar Toby Taharlev (Morocco, Jerusalem, Egypt), Ofer Namimi (Iraq, Morocco), Amir Banbaji (Syria), Naftali Shem-Tov (Iraq, Iranian Kurdistan), Mois Benarroch (born in Morocco), Yosi David (Tunisia Iran), Shalom Zarbib (Algeria), Yardena Hamo (Iraqi Kurdistan), Aviv Deri (Morocco) Menny Aka (Iraq), Tom Fogel (Yemen, Poland), Eran Efrati (Iraq), Dan Weksler Daniel (Syria, Poland, Ukraine), Yael Gidnian (Iran), Elyakim Nitzani (Lebanon, Iran, Italy), Shelly Horesh-Segel (Morocco), Yoni Mizrahi (Kurdistan), Betty Benbenishti (Turkey), Chen Misgav (Iraq, Poland), Moshe Balmas (Morocco), Tom Cohen (Iraq, Poland, England), Ofir Itah (Morocco), Shirley Karavani (Tunisia, Libya, Yemen), Lorena Atrakzy (Argentina, Iraq), Asaf Abutbul (Poland, Russia, Morocco), Avi Yehudai (Iran), Diana Ahdut (Iran, Jerusalem), Maya Peretz (Nicaragua, Morocco), Yariv Moher (Morocco, Germany), Tami Katzbian (Iran), Oshra Lerer (Iraq, Morocco), Nitzan Manjam (Yemen, Germany, Finland), Rivka Gilad (Iran, Iraq, India), Oshrat Rotem (Morocco), Naava Mashiah (Iraq), Zamira Ron David (Iraq) Omer Avital (Morocco, Yemen), Vered Madar (Yemen), Ziva Atar (Morocco), Yossi Alfi (born in Iraq), Amira Hess (born in Iraq), Navit Barel (Libya), Almog Behar (Iraq, Turkey, Germany)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Our new pledge of allegiance. " nation, under the great god money, with no mercy for all."

Posted on Apr 25, 2011

By Chris Hedges

When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?

The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity. Debate over the expansion of empire became taboo. Secrecy, the anointing of specialized elites to run our affairs and the steady intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens conditioned us to totalitarian practices. Sheldon Wolinpoints out in “Democracy Incorporated”that this configuration of corporate power, which he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” is not like “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto,” the result of a premeditated plot. It grew, Wolin writes, from “a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences.”

Corporate capitalism—because it was trumpeted throughout the Cold War as a bulwark against communism—expanded with fewer and fewer government regulations and legal impediments. Capitalism was seen as an unalloyed good. It was not required to be socially responsible. Any impediment to its growth, whether in the form of trust-busting, union activity or regulation, was condemned as a step toward socialism and capitulation. Every corporation is a despotic fiefdom, a mini-dictatorship. And by the end Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs had grafted their totalitarian structures onto the state.

The Cold War also bequeathed to us the species of the neoliberal. The neoliberal enthusiastically embraces “national security” as the highest good. The neoliberal—composed of the gullible and cynical careerists—parrots back the mantra of endless war and corporate capitalism as an inevitable form of human progress. Globalization, the neoliberal assures us, is the route to a worldwide utopia. Empire and war are vehicles for lofty human values. Greg Mortenson, the disgraced author of “Three Cups of Tea,” tapped into this formula. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan are ignored or dismissed as the cost of progress. We are bringing democracy to Iraq, liberating and educating the women of Afghanistan, defying the evil clerics in Iran, ridding the world of terrorists and protecting Israel. Those who oppose us do not have legitimate grievances. They need to be educated. It is a fantasy. But to name our own evil is to be banished.

We continue to talk about personalities—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—although the heads of state or elected officials in Congress have become largely irrelevant. Lobbyists write the bills. Lobbyists get them passed. Lobbyists make sure you get the money to be elected. And lobbyists employ you when you get out of office. Those who hold actual power are the tiny elite who manage the corporations. Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book “Winner-Take-All Politics,”point out that the share of national income of the top 0.1 percent of Americans since 1974 has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 percent. One in six American workers may be without a job. Some 40 million Americans may live in poverty, with tens of millions more living in a category called “near poverty.” Six million people may be forced from their homes because of foreclosures and bank repossessions. But while the masses suffer, Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms most responsible for the evaporation of $17 trillion in wages, savings and wealth of small investors and shareholders, is giddily handing out $17.5 billion in compensation to its managers, including $12.6 million to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

The massive redistribution of wealth, as Hacker and Pierson write, happened because lawmakers and public officials were, in essence, hired to permit it to happen. It was not a conspiracy. The process was transparent. It did not require the formation of a new political party or movement. It was the result of inertia by our political and intellectual class, which in the face of expanding corporate power found it personally profitable to facilitate it or look the other way. The armies of lobbyists, who write the legislation, bankroll political campaigns and disseminate propaganda, have been able to short-circuit the electorate. Hacker and Pierson pinpoint the administration of Jimmy Carter as the start of our descent, but I think it began long before with Woodrow Wilson, the ideology of permanent war and the capacity by public relations to manufacture consent. Empires die over such long stretches of time that the exact moment when terminal decline becomes irreversible is probably impossible to document. That we are at the end, however, is beyond dispute.

The rhetoric of the Democratic Party and the neoliberals sustains the illusion of participatory democracy. The Democrats and their liberal apologists offer minor palliatives and a feel-your-pain language to mask the cruelty and goals of the corporate state. The reconfiguration of American society into a form of neofeudalism will be cemented into place whether it is delivered by Democrats, who are pushing us there at 60 miles an hour, or Republicans, who are barreling toward it at 100 miles an hour. Wolin writes, “By fostering an illusion among the powerless classes” that it can make their interests a priority, the Democratic Party “pacifies and thereby defines the style of an opposition party in an inverted totalitarian system.” The Democrats are always able to offer up a least-worst alternative while, in fact, doing little or nothing to thwart the march toward corporate collectivism.

The systems of information, owned or dominated by corporations, keep the public entranced with celebrity meltdowns, gossip, trivia and entertainment. There are no national news or intellectual forums for genuine political discussion and debate. The talking heads on Fox or MSNBC or CNN spin and riff on the same inane statements by Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. They give us lavish updates on the foibles of a Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen. And they provide venues for the powerful to speak directly to the masses. It is burlesque.

It is not that the public does not want a good health care system, programs that provide employment, quality public education or an end to Wall Street’s looting of the U.S. Treasury. Most polls suggest Americans do. But it has become impossible for most citizens to find out what is happening in the centers of power. Television news celebrities dutifully present two opposing sides to every issue, although each side is usually lying. The viewer can believe whatever he or she wants to believe. Nothing is actually elucidated or explained. The sound bites by Republicans or Democrats are accepted at face value. And once the television lights are turned off, the politicians go back to the business of serving business.

We live in a fragmented society. We are ignorant of what is being done to us. We are diverted by the absurd and political theater. We are afraid of terrorism, of losing our job and of carrying out acts of dissent. We are politically demobilized and paralyzed. We do not question the state religion of patriotic virtue, the war on terror or the military and security state. We are herded like sheep through airports by Homeland Security and, once we get through the metal detectors and body scanners, spontaneously applaud our men and women in uniform. As we become more insecure and afraid, we become more anxious. We are driven by fiercer and fiercer competition. We yearn for stability and protection. This is the genius of all systems of totalitarianism. The citizen’s highest hope finally becomes to be secure and left alone.

Human history, rather than a chronicle of freedom and democracy, is characterized by ruthless domination. Our elites have done what all elites do. They have found sophisticated mechanisms to thwart popular aspirations, disenfranchise the working and increasingly the middle class, keep us passive and make us serve their interests. The brief democratic opening in our society in the early 20th century, made possible by radical movements, unions and a vigorous press, has again been shut tight. We were mesmerized by political charades, cheap consumerism and virtual hallucinations as we were ruthlessly stripped of power.

The game is over. We lost. The corporate state will continue its inexorable advance until two-thirds of the nation is locked into a desperate, permanent underclass. Most Americans will struggle to make a living while the Blankfeins and our political elites wallow in the decadence and greed of the Forbidden City and Versailles. These elites do not have a vision. They know only one word—more. They will continue to exploit the nation, the global economy and the ecosystem. And they will use their money to hide in gated compounds when it all implodes. Do not expect them to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and culture values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global, corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Humanitarian Imperialism?

Libya in face of humanitarian imperialism. An interview with Jean Bricmont.
Jean Bricmont

14 avril 2011

Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan : have the advocates of intervention in Libya not learned the lesson? Jean Bricmont, who wrote a book about humanitarian imperialism, tells us why the right to interfere is incompatible with world peace, and that it goes against humanitarian principles. Unless, of course, those principles are just an excuse.

Interview : Grégoire Lalieu

Can you remind us of what humanitarian imperialism consists of ?

It is an ideology which aims to justify military interference against sovereign countries in the name of democracy and Human Rights. The motive is always the same : a population is the victim of a dictator, so we must act. Then all the usual references are trotted out : the Second World War, the war with Spain, and so on. The aim being to sell the argument that an armed intervention is necessary. This is what happened in Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan.

And now comes Libya’ s turn.

There is a difference here because a United Nations Security Council resolution makes it possible. But this resolution was passed against the principles of the Charter of the United Nations themselves. Indeed, I see no external threat in the Libyan conflict. Although the notion of the « responsibility to protect » populations had been evoked, many short cuts were taken. Besides, there is no proof that Gaddafi massacres his people just for the sole purpose of slaughtering them. It is a bit more complicated than that : it is an armed insurrection, and I know not of any government that would not repress an insurrection of this kind. Of course, there are collateral damage and civilian casualties. But if the United States knows a way to avoid such damage, then it should go and tell the Israelis about it, and apply it themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also no doubt that coalition bombings will cause civilian casualties.
From a strictly legal point of view, I think the U.N.S.C. resolution is questionable. It is, in fact, the result of years of lobbying for the recognition of the right to interfere, which proves here to be legitimized.

And yet, many - even among the parties of the left - deemed it necessary to intervene in Libya in order to stop the massacre. Do you think it is an error of judgment ?

Yes, I do, and for several reasons. First of all, this campaign ushers in the reign of the arbitrary. Indeed, the Libyan conflict is not exceptional. There are many other conflicts anywhere in the world whether it may be in Gaza, in Bahrain, or in the Congo, which happened some years ago. As for the latter, it occurred within a context of foreign aggression on the part of Rwanda and Burundi. The enforcement of the international law would have saved millions of lives but it was not done. Why not ?

Besides, if we apply the underlying principles of interference behind the aggression against Libya, it means that anyone can intervene anywhere they want to. Imagine that the Russians intervene in Bahrain or the Chinese in Yemen : the world would be a general and ongoing war. Therefore one major feature of the right to interfere is the infringement of standard international law. And if we had to change international law to new laws justifying the right to interfere, it would result in a war of all against all. This is an argument to which the advocates of the right to interfere never give an answer.

And lastly, such interventions strengthen what I call the « barricade effect » : all the countries in the sights of the United States will start to feel threatened and will seek to increase their armaments. We all remember what happened with Saddam. Moreover, Gaddafi had said to the Arab League : « We have just lost a member state of the league and none of you have done anything. But it can happen to you too, because even though you are all U.S. allies, so was Saddam in the past. » Now the same thing is repeating itself with Gaddafi and the threat which hangs over many states is likely to relaunch the arms race. Russia, which is not an unarmed country, has already announced that it would reinforce its troops. But it can go even further : if Libya had the nuclear weapon, it would have never been attacked. Actually, this is why North Korea is untouchable. Therefore, the left which supports the intervention in Libya should definitely realize that humanitarian interference is inevitably going to relaunch the arms race and lead to long-term wars.

And yet, wouldn’t the armed intervention against Gaddafi be a lesser evil ?

One has to consider the consequences. Now that the Western forces are involved, they will obviously have to go all the way, overthrow Gaddafi and bring the rebels to power. Then what is going to happen ? Libya seems to be divided. Is the West going to occupy the country and embark on an endless war similar to the ones in Iraq or in Afghanistan ?

Be that as it may, let us suppose that all goes well : the members of the coalition remove Gaddafi in a few days, the rebels take power, and the Libyan people is united. Everyone is happy and then what ? I do not think the West will go : « Well, we did it because we are nice people and fond of Human Rights. Now you can do whatever you please. » What is going to happen if the new Libyan government is too Muslim-like or does not properly limit migration flows ? Do you think the West will let them do ? It is obvious that after the intervention, the new Libyan government will be caught up in the interests of the West.

If military intervention is not the solution, then what is ?

It would have been better if we had honestly attempted all peaceful solutions. It might not have worked but here, there is a blatant intention to reject these solutions. And by the way, this is an abiding feature of humanitarian wars. Concerning Kosovo, there were very detailed propositions on the part of Serbia in order to come to a peaceful solution but they were rejected. The West has even imposed conditions that made any negotiations impossible, such as the occupation of Serbia by N.A.T.O. forces. In Afghanistan, the Taliban proposed to try Bin Laden by an international court if they are provided with evidence of his involvement in the W.T.C. attacks. The U.S. refused it and bombed the country. In Iraq, Saddam had accepted the return of the United Nations inspectors as well as many extremely restrictive conditions. But it was never enough. In Libya, Gaddafi accepted a cease-fire and proposed to have international observers sent out there. The observers were not sent and it was said that Gaddafi did not respect the cease fire. The West also rejected Chavez’s offer to mediate in Libya, even though it was backed up by many Latino countries and the Organization of African Unity as well.

In that connection, I am angry when I hear left-wingers in Europe expose the horrible Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas which supports dictator Gaddafi. They got it all wrong ! The leaders in power in Latin America have important responsibilities. They are not just small leftists chattering in their corner. And the major issue for these leaders is the interference of the U.S. : the less it can do whatever it pleases, wherever it pleases, the better it will be for all those countries which try to free themselves from tutelage by state power, and also for the whole world.

Does the systematic rejection of peaceful solutions mean that humanitarian interference is an excuse ?

Yes it does, but if it works well with the intellectuals, I am more doubtful about the reaction of the peoples of Europe. Will they support their leaders during the aggression against Gaddafi ? People consider the wars for security to be the most legitimate ones : for instance, if there is a threat against our populations or our way of life, etc. But in the context of an overall climate of islamophobia (that I disapprove, but it does exist) here and in France, you try explaining that we are fighting in Cyrenaica for rebels whom we see screaming « Allah U Akbar ». This is contradictory !
At the political level, most parties support the intervention, even the parties of the left. The most moderate ones only supported the implementation of a no-fly zone, but if Gaddafi sends his tanks to Benghazi, what are we to do ? During the Second World War, the Germans lost quite quickly control of the air space but they held out for several years yet. Insofar as the objective is to overthrow Gaddafi, the moderates should have suspected that it would go even further than the establishment of a no-fly zone.
Unable to take genuine and alternative stands, the left finds itself trapped by the logic of humanitarian interference and is compelled to support Sarkozy. If the war goes well and quickly, the position of the French President will undoubtedly be secure for the 2012 presidential elections, thanks to the left which would have contributed to it. The left, unable to assume a coherent attitude against wars, is compelled to tag along behind the interventionist policy.

And what if the war does not go well ?

It is regrettable, but the only French party that set against the intervention in Libya as regards French interests is the National Front. It particularly alluded to human migration flows and took occasion to distinguish itself from the U.M.P (Union for a Popular Movement) or the S.P. (Socialist Party) by claiming that it had never collaborated with Gaddafi. If the war in Libya does not go according to plan, it will benefit the National Front for the French presidential elections in 2012.

If humanitarian interference is just an excuse, then what is the objective of this war ?

The uprisings in the Arab world surprised the Westerners, which were not well informed enough about what was happening in North Africa and the Middle-East. I do not dispute that there are good experts on the issue, but they are seldom listened to at some level of the government, and by the way, they are complaining about it. So now, the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia might not align themselves with the interests of the West any longer, and consequently become hostile to Israel.

To take control of the area and protect Tel Aviv, the West is likely willing to get rid of governments that are already hostile to Israel and the West. The three main ones are Iran, Syria and Libya. The latter, since it is the weaker one, is attacked first.

Can it work ?

The West longed to rule the world but we can see since 2003 with the Iraq fiasco that it cannot. In the past, the United States took the liberty to overthrow rulers that it had brought to power, such as Ngô Dinh Diêm in South Vietnam in the 1960s. But nowadays, Washington cannot do that any longer. In Kosovo, the United States and Europe have to compromise with a Mafia-like regime. In Afghanistan, people say that Karzai is corrupt, but they have no other option. In Iraq, they also have to accept a government they are far from being fully pleased with.

The problem will certainly arise in Libya too. An Iraqi once told me : « In this part of the world, there are no liberals in the Western sense of the word, apart from a few rather isolated intellectuals. » Since the West cannot rely on rulers who share its ideas and who fully defend its interests, it tries to impose dictators through force. But it obviously creates a discrepancy with people’s desires.

Besides, this approach proves to be a failure and people should not be fooled by what is occurring.

The West, which thought it could be in control of the Arab world with puppets such as Ben Ali and Mubarak, would suddenly think : « We had it all wrong, now we are going to support democracy in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. » ? It is all the more absurd since one major demand of the Arab revolts is the right to sovereignty. In other words, no interference !
The West has to relinquish its desire for world domination : the Arab world, just like Africa and the Caribbean, does not belong to it. Actually, the regions in which the West most interfere are the less developed ones. If their sovereignty is respected, those regions will be able to develop, just like Asia did, and certainly so will Latin America. The policy of interference is a failure for everyone.

Then what is the alternative ?

First of all, one has to know that the policy of interference requires a huge military budget. Without the support of the United States and its outrageous military budget, France and Great Britain might not have become involved in it. And it is much less the case for Belgium. But all these means which are put at their disposal are not heaven-sent. The budget is based on loans from China that lead to U.S. deficits and all kinds of economic issues. We rarely think about it. Moreover, we are constantly told that there is no money for education, research, pensions, etc. And, all of a sudden, a huge sum comes out of the blue to wage war in Libya. And it is a limitless sum since no one knows how long the war will last ! In Afghanistan, money is already spent fruitlessly. There is a need to adopt a new political approach and to me, Switzerland is a good example. Its military budget is only devoted to the protection of the Swiss territory. The Swiss have a coherent non-interventionist policy because, as a matter of policy, the Swiss army cannot leave the country. You can say that Switzerland is letting Gaddafi kill the insurgents, nevertheless, it has never committed any genocide nor any other massacre, even though we can criticize its policy on other matters (banks or immigration). And secondly, if all the countries followed the example of Switzerland for the reasons I stated earlier, the world would be much better.

Wars and embargoes have always had disastrous consequences. I think the best alternative is to cooperate with all the countries of the world regardless of their systems of government. Through trade (not the arms trade of course), ideas spread and things can evolve, without wars. We can of course discuss its forms : fair trade, ecological trade, etc. Nevertheless, trade is a much less bloody alternative as opposed to sanctions and embargoes, which are the soft version of humanitarian wars.

Translated from the French by Sheila Carby for Investig'Action

Source :

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pass over Passsover

It doesn't take four questions to reveal the fraudulent message of this fake story:

Jews were never in bondage in Egypt. There is not a shred of real world evidence that the Seder story is more than a fairy tale. There is a lot of historical and scientific evidence that it didn't happen and couldn't have happened. (It's not just Jewish historical myths that need to be examined, all religions peddle false narratives.)

This fake story of slavery and liberation has become part of the historical justification for the Zionist colonization of Palestine (under the cover of British colonialism) and its relentless policy of ethnic cleansing.

The liturgical phrase "Next year in Jerusalem," begs the question: What's happening this year in Jerusalem? answer: the destroying of homes, and the displacement of families that have lived there for generations, the obliteration of historic Muslim and Christian sites, and the spread of a swaggering, arrogant, anti-democratic racism among Israeli Jews.

I know a lot of leftish Jews who celebrate Passover in a "progressive" way. This is not my cup of Manishevitz, There's no way to make this reactionary, false story progressive. Give it up!

I appreciate religious people who are dedicated to social justice and act upon their beliefs, but it's their deeds in this world that count. If their motivations are different than mine, even ones I consider to be odd, so what?

But to give credence to a fabricated, supernatural story that has become part of the Zionist rewriting of history to justify Israel's crimes (even to try and "secularize" the story) is not a progressive act.

Maybe I'm writing this because I grew up celebrating all the Jewish holidays...until I reached the age of reason and figured all religion is a scam and most often a tool for fostering and justifying oppression. When you reject religion, the one you react against most strongly is the one you are shaking off...for what it's worth.

who uses cluster bombs where? Oh! only Gaddifi in Misrata

Multiple Choice Question:

Which story is worth getting worked up about?

A) "MISURATA, Libya — Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have been firing into residential neighborhoods in this embattled city with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world and ground-to-ground rockets, according to witnesses and survivors, as well as physical evidence..."New York Times,by C. J. CHIVERS
Published: April 15, 2011

B) From numerous press sources and human rights groups, including the UN: criticism of Israel for using cluster bombs on civilian areas in Lebanon and also cluster bombs and white phosphorus in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008/9.

C) Depends.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Billy Bang, 1947-2011, Jazz violinist, Vietnam veteran

Billy Bang, a violinist known for intense performances and a wide-ranging sensibility, died Monday night, his agent Jean-Pierre Leduc confirmed. Bang, who had been suffering from lung cancer, was 63.

Born William Walker in 1947, Bang was an important figure on the experimental jazz scene that blossomed in New York in the 1970s. But he gained wider recognition in the last decade for a series of recordings which drew on his military service during the Vietnam War.

His experiences in combat scarred him mentally, and he generally avoided speaking about them until Leduc encouraged him to create what would become 2001's Vietnam: The Aftermath. The album — and its successor, Vietnam: Reflections — received critical acclaim and proved cathartic for Bang.

"There used to be a time where I used to have dreams about it a lot and it's not as often now," he told Howard Mandel for NPR in 2004. "But for a very long time, I suffered a lot in my sleep. But to be honest, I think after I faced the ordeals of what I've gone through — after completing that music, and after rehearsing it, particularly after recording it — I've felt a lot lighter."

Bang grew up in New York City 's South Bronx , and actually studied the violin as a teenager. He didn't like it.

"I didn't know what was going on," he told Tom Vitale for NPR in 1993. "I couldn't carry it back on my block. I lived on 117th Street . Can you imagine a little guy carrying a violin, and you talk about guys picking on you, man. I mean, they really did. I had to put the violin down, throw a couple of punches, get thrown at me, go upstairs. I hated to practice it. It sounded terrible."

Despite being offered a scholarship to a boarding preparatory school in New England , Bang never finished high school. He was drafted into the service and, as he told Mandel, he was thrown into combat two days after landing in Vietnam .

As a squad leader, he had to maintain intense focus in combat. There was no music in his life then.

"Only the music of machine guns," Bang told Mandel. "The rhythm of that is what I heard. The only instrument I had was an M-79, M-14 and a .45."

At least initially, the period after his service was hardly any better. In 2005, Bang told Roy Hurst of NPR's News and Notes that returning was a shock.

"When I came home from Vietnam — when I got off the airplane — the next thing I was on was the New York City subway, and that was extremely traumatic for me — I mean, just really destructive to my whole system," Bang said. "I couldn't take the sounds. I couldn't take the people all around. So I finally got home; I didn't want to come outside for a long time, which I didn't do. So my mother was coaxing me to come out and sort of — she was trying to help me to get back to some kind of normality. But I still criticize the United States government for not having a real bona fide re-entry program for veterans."

Bang's trauma led him to heavy drinking and drug use. He joined a Black Liberation group that drew on his wartime experience to help it buy guns. On one trip to a pawn shop, he saw a violin and that led him back to music. After discovering the way that free jazz artists like Leroy Jenkins and Ornette Coleman were using the instrument, he began taking his own study seriously. He moved from the South Bronx to the Lower East Side and immersed himself in the counterculture of likeminded artists.

Bang proved to be an active, passionate performer. Though he was associated with free improvisation, his concepts also came from more traditional jazz and Latin music, and he often incorporated that language into his playing. Tom Vitale's 1993 profile of Bang centered on his project paying tribute to pioneering jazz violinist Stuff Smith.

By the new millennium, Billy Bang had already become a well-respected musician within the jazz world. He spent 10 years with an important group called the String Trio of New York, an improvising ensemble with his violin, guitarist James Emery and bassist John Lindberg.

The Vietnam albums proved to be more high-water marks for his career. Bang called up fellow musicians who had also served in Vietnam for the recording sessions, including conductor Butch Morris.

"It was quite heavy," Morris told Howard Mandel. "I've never seen so many grown men cry. It's not only how he brought this thematic stuff back — it's how he brought the experience back, the experience of being there, the experience of smelling, the experience of seeing, the experience of feeling, the experience of fear, the experience of joy, the experience — he brought back all these experiences. That's what was so frightening in the studio. He brought back the same experience that each of us had."

Billy Bang was scheduled to perform at the Rochester International Jazz Festival in June of this year. Last year, he released a well-received album called Prayer for Peace.

Three of the four Goldstone UN commission members say Goldstone's retraction is wrong

UN Gaza report co-authors round on Goldstone

Exclusive: Three mission members say calls to recant UN report disregard the rights of Palestinian and Israeli victims

* Ed Pilkington in New York and Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem
*, Thursday 14 April 2011 08.19 BST

Richard Goldstone has said he regrets the report's suggestion that some Israelis were responsible for potential war crimes. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Three members of the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza war of 2008-09 have turned on the fourth member and chair of the group, Richard Goldstone, accusing him in all but name of misrepresenting facts in order to cast doubt on the credibility of their joint report.

In a statement to the Guardian, the three experts in international law are strongly critical of Goldstone's dramatic change of heart expressed in a Washington Post commentary earlier this month. Goldstone wrote that he regretted aspects of the report that bears his name, especially the suggestion that Israel had potentially committed war crimes by targeting civilian Palestinians in the three-week conflict.

The three members – the Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani; Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and former Irish peace-keeper Desmond Travers – have until this moment kept their silence over Goldstone's bombshell remarks. But their response now is devastating.

Though they do not mention Goldstone by name, they shoot down several of the main contentions in his article and imply that he has bowed to intense political pressure.

They write that they cannot leave "aspersions cast on the findings of the [Goldstone] report unchallenged", adding that those aspersions have "misrepresented facts in an attempt to delegitimise the findings and to cast doubts on its credibility".

In their most stinging criticism, the three joint authors say that "calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the rights of victims, Palestinians and Israeli, to truth and justice". They point to the "personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission", adding that "had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitise our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade".

The four-person fact-finding mission was set up to look into allegations of war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas during the war in which 1,400 Palestinians – at least half of whom were civilians – and 13 Israelis died. The Goldstone report concluded that some Israelis could be held individually criminally responsible for potential war crimes.

In his Washington Post article, Goldstone said evidence had since come to light as a result of subsequent Israeli military investigations into the conflict that showed that Israel had not targeted civilians as a matter of policy. Had he known that then, "the Goldstone report would have been a different document," he wrote.

Goldstone's apparent retraction of key elements of the fact-finding mission he led was seized upon with delight by the Israeli government which called for the report to be set aside in the light of his comments. An Israeli minister claimed that Goldstone had himself promised to work to have his own report "nullified".

But his three fellow members of the mission state that they "firmly stand by" the conclusions of the report. They say that neither Israel nor Hamas has come up with any convincing evidence contradicting the findings.

The three authors cite the final UN report into the Gaza war, written by a follow-up committee led by Judge Mary McGowan Davies, that criticised Israel for the slow pace with which it conducted its investigations and for its refusal to address some of the most serious allegations about its conduct. "The mechanisms that are being used by the Israeli authorities to investigate the incidents are proving inadequate to genuinely ascertain the facts and any ensuing legal responsibility."

The statement of Jilani, Chinkin and Travers will set back any attempt by Israel to have the Goldstone report revoked. The UN human rights council, which commissioned the fact-finding mission, has already made clear that the report could only be withdrawn if all four of its authors unanimously made a formal written complaint or if the UN general assembly or human rights council voted to drop it.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed the statement from the three members of the mission. "[It is] as an important reminder of what matters – that the truth must be established and justice done. It is very disturbing that members of the committee say they have been put under pressure to sanitise their conclusions," said PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib.

"Israel must not be allowed to influence the outcome of what needs to be an objective process. Nor must Israel be allowed to investigate its own actions and find itself not guilty. We pay tribute to those members of the committee who have the courage to resist Israeli pressure and insist that justice must be done."

The Israeli government responded to the latest developments by restating its view that the Goldstone report was flawed from the outset.

"Israel's position on the Goldstone report and the whole process that established the committee has not changed. The establishment of the committee was based on fundamental flaws of the United Nations human rights council. The report was handled in a highly politicised manner by a council lacking in moral authority," said Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs.

"We believed that the methodology, workings and findings of the committee were mind-bogglingly distorted. All this is still valid as is Israel's commitment to investigate itself regardless of resolutions by any foreign body. We believe that our investigations and our transparency in carrying those out are the best reproach to any criticisms of Operation Cast Lead."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Israel's "vibrant" democracy doesn't like African "infiltrators"

Israeli town rallies against African refugees
Eilat is home to thousands of refugees and their lives in the small town are often marred by open hostility.

Mya Guarnieri Last Modified: 13 Apr 2011 14:59

African refugees, and the misconceptions that come with them, have become a major issue in the Israeli town of Eilat, inspiring the "red flag" campaign against the newcomers [Mya Guarnieri]

James Anei was a 16-year-old boy when he witnessed a massacre carried out by militias loyal to the government in Khartoum, Sudan's capital. Terrified, he fled his village in South Sudan.

"You see someone dying in front of you and you know this guy and you know his parents and so you run ... because you fear that you will be killed too," Anei said.

"I find myself in another place," he added, explaining that he was so frightened that he did not know he had been running until he stopped.

Once he realised he had escaped, Anei headed north. That year, 1999, he arrived in Khartoum. There, he managed to scrape together a living and go to school. Anei remembers crying sometimes when he saw his classmates with their mothers and fathers - not knowing whether his own parents had survived the massacre.

Eventually, Anei went on to Egypt. But, because he did not feel safe there, he crossed into Israel in 2007.

With a smile, Anei recalls the difference between Egypt and Israel he felt the moment he entered the country. "We received water and blankets," he said. "They made us feel at home."

But Anei was one of the earliest African migrants to arrive in Israel, and things have changed dramatically since then.

The shift is most obvious, perhaps, in Eilat, the small city in the south where Anei and several thousand African asylum seekers live. Here, refugees find their children barred from municipal schools. And in a move that has alarmed both human rights organisations and the local branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the municipality has hung red flags throughout the city as part of a municipal campaign against African migrants - initiated by employees of the state of Israel and financed with public funds.

The flags are part of a campaign called "protect our homes", hung by residents under the auspicies of local solidarity against the migrants.

Job and rape issues

I visited Eilat in the wake of several media reports that the 1,500 red flags had been taken down. I found that they were not removed but reduced; some were replaced by Israeli and municipal flags.

And the sentiments that gave rise to the campaign are still running high.

Shimon Hajiani, the 19-year-old son of Jewish immigrants who came to Israel from Morocco and France, remarks that the state needs to "throw" African refugees out.

"They make problems," he says.

When asked what those problems are, Hajiani answers: "Rape and robbery. Also they work in the hotels instead of Israelis."

Eilat's economy is dependent on tourism. While many African asylum seekers are employed in local hotels, the commonly held idea that they have "stolen" jobs is untrue. These are jobs that Israelis do not want - which is one reason why government initiatives encouraging Israelis to move to Eilat and work in this sector have failed.

Other interviewees repeated Hajiani's claim that African refugees are robbing Israelis and raping Jewish woman. But according to statistics compiled by the Knesset, asylum seekers have a lower crime rate than Israelis. And in fact, as the community of asylum seekers grows, their crime rate goes down.

Misinformation abounds

I conducted dozens of interviews with Israelis who live in Eilat, and not a single one had their facts straight; each and every Israeli I spoke with is a victim of misinformation.

Ester Ederi, a 72-year old immigrant from Morocco, told me it would be fine if Israel took in 100,000 asylum seekers and then closed its doors.

In reality, Israel is home to only 30,000 asylum seekers.

A 29-year-old man, who preferred to remain anonymous, told me that asylum seekers should be sent back to Africa because "the Filipinos" took his mother's job as a caregiver. He does not know that a tremendous majority of Filipinos arrive legally, holding visas issued by Israel.

He added that if the Africans were here "within a legal framework," he would have no problem with them.

"But there is a legal framework. There's an application that would give African migrants refugee status," I replied. "The government just ignores these applications."

He was visibly uncomfortable. "Really?" he asked.

"Yes. Did you know that?"


Like other interviewees, he calls them "infiltrators". This is a word he has picked up from the Israeli government and media, not knowing that when Israel speaks to the UN about the issue, it admits that 90 per cent of these "infiltrators" are, indeed, refugees.

Every interviewee parrots the government lines, including those of Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, who calls "the flood" of African migrants a "threat" to the state. Some repeat the words of Eli Yishai, the interior minister, who claims that foreigners bring diseases into the country.

Refugee status in question

Anei is now a man of 28. We sat on a half-broken picnic table outside a small classroom where Sudanese children study English with a European volunteer. In a few minutes, the class Anei teaches - also on a volunteer basis - would begin.

The municipality's treatment of the children, most of whom are barred from local schools, is a rare soft spot among some Eilat residents.

Itzik Moshe, the owner of a falafel stand and the son of Moroccan immigrants, remarked that Israel needs to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"We signed this international agreement and we have to honour it," Moshe said, adding that if the government does not want to be responsible for the asylum seekers, it should tighten up the porous southern border.

Some Jewish critics of Israel's treatment of African asylum say that their history as refugees - Biblical and historical, ancient and modern - means that the Jewish people have a special responsibility to help those who face discrimination and genocide.

But many Eilatis do not want to help others. And some, like Simon Ben David - who is organizing a small grassroots organization called "The War against the Infiltrators from Africa" - simply deny that these African asylum seekers are indeed refugees.

Ben David added: "I believe, as I see in the newspaper, that some of them are from al Qaeda and they're from Hamas and Islamic Jihad," referring to several unsubstantiated reports that have appeared in the Israeli press.

Asked if he considers the city's campaign against Africans to be racist, Ben David simply answered, "Jews cannot be racist."

Open hostility a way of life

While African refugees and their children have been targeted in isolated incidents of violence throughout the country, Eilat remains relatively quiet.

But as I stood on a sidewalk interviewing Deng Wol, a 37-year-old refugee from South Sudan, a Jewish Israeli pushes past us. He hit Wol's leg with a bag of groceries so hard that my recorder caught the slapping sound.

Wol looked shocked. He called after the man. "Aiii!" he said, grabbing his calf.

The man turns around. He didn't apologize. Rather, he said that there wasn't space on the sidewalk for all of us. Wol accepted the explanation, even though it's not true. "Okay, fine," he said, waving at the man.

Wol gave a nervous laugh and turned to me. "This is not my country," he said, shrugging.

Many Israelis consider Eilat - a faraway town at the southernmost tip of the country - an isolated issue. But it seems that the xenophobic sentiments which have taken root there, with the encouragement of both the local and national governments, are spreading.

I have seen several red flags hanging from balconies in south Tel Aviv, an area home to low-income Jewish Israelis, African refugees, and migrant workers. Jewish Israelis here have held protests against the presence of foreigners.

The most recent march came in early April, just weeks before the Jewish holiday that celebrates the ancient Hebrew exodus from slavery and persecution in Egypt. Protesters, who screamed at Africans that they should "Go home," held signs that read: "Return [deport] the 200,000 infiltrators and illegals now."

Mya Guarnieri is a Tel Aviv-based journalist and writer.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Egypt Softens Towards Hamas By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani

CAIRO, Apr 11, 2011 (IPS) - Two months since the ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's new transitional government is turning its attention to unpopular Mubarak-era foreign policies - with the ongoing Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip top of the list.

"There are strong indications that Egypt's approach to the Gaza Strip will change as Egyptian foreign policy increasingly comes into line with popular opinion following the January 25 Revolution," Tarek Fahmi, political science professor at Cairo University, told IPS.

In 2006, Israel sealed its border with the Gaza Strip after resistance movement Hamas swept democratically-held Palestinian legislative elections. One year later, after Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave from the U.S.-backed Fatah movement, Egypt closed the Rafah terminal - the only crossing along its 14-kilometere border with the strip - to human and commercial traffic.

The blockade, now entering its fifth year, has hermetically sealed the territory off from the rest of the world, depriving the strip's roughly 1.8 million inhabitants of many basic commodities and humanitarian supplies. The strip is also subject to frequent Israeli attack: within the past four days alone, 19 Gazans have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and artillery barrages.

Following Egypt's recent revolution, the Rafah crossing was opened up to Palestinian students, medical patients and expatriates. However, construction materials - especially cement - remain banned from being taken to the territory from either Israel or Egypt.

Ever since Israel's devastating three-week-long assault on the territory in 2008/2009, the Gaza Strip has remained in dire need of reconstruction. Along with killing more than 1,400 Palestinians, the assault completely or partially destroyed tens of thousands of homes, the vast majority of which have yet to be rebuilt.

"We're not looking for charity or handouts," Kanan Said Obaid, chairman of Gaza's Association of Engineers, told IPS. "We want cement with which to rebuild destroyed homes and infrastructure."

Under Mubarak, Egypt's foreign ministry justified its position by referring to a 2005 U.S.-sponsored security pact between Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. According to that agreement, the Rafah crossing could not be reopened until a contingent of EU "observers" - who had quit the border following Hamas's takeover - returned to their posts.

But since Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster, after which Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) assumed executive authority over the nation's affairs, there have been signs that Egypt's Gaza policy - which remains enormously unpopular among vast swathes of the Egyptian public - now stands on the verge of change.

"It is unbecoming of Egypt that its foreign policy be characterised by…grave violations of the basic rules of international law, as is the case with Egypt's stance on the siege of the Gaza Strip," Nabil al-Arabi, Egypt's new, SCAF- appointed foreign minister, wrote in the Feb. 19 edition of independent daily Al-Shorouk only days before his appointment.

The five-year-old blockade, Arabi conceded, "contravenes the rules of international humanitarian law," which, he went on to note, "prohibits the siege of civilians - even in times of war."

Notably, on Mar. 29, a foreign ministry spokesperson announced that Egypt was conducting "a review of the Rafah crossing to take all necessary action to achieve greater convenience and alleviate the suffering of Gaza residents."

The ministry's statements were put to the test late last month when a group of Egyptian activists attempted to enter the Gaza Strip via Rafah with ten tons of cement. Activists camped out at the crossing for a week awaiting permission to enter the territory, but authorisation from Cairo failed to materialise.

"Ultimately, we were barred by the Egyptian authorities from bringing the cement into Gaza," 37-year-old activist Tamer Azzam told IPS. "This serves to confirm that Zionist, Mubarak-era policies vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip remain intact."

According to Fahmi, who is also director of the Israel desk at the Cairo-based Centre for Middle East Studies, Egypt's foreign ministry "is still in the process of studying means of reopening the Rafah crossing." He went on to note, however, that "such major policy changes will take time."

"Under Mubarak, Egyptian foreign policy was the polar opposite of public opinion," Fahmi explained. "But in post-Mubarak Egypt, Cairo's official position can be expected to gradually fall into line with the popular will, as the government is freed from the bureaucratic and 'security' constraints that had characterised the former regime due to the latter's close relationship with the U.S. and Israel."

He added: "And Gaza will be the litmus test of the new government's ability or willingness to translate the will of the people into official policy."

One indication of this gradual change, Fahmi noted, was that, following Mubarak's departure, the Gaza file was officially transferred from the Egyptian intelligence services to the foreign ministry.

"This means that Gaza has gone from being a security issue, as it was under Mubarak, to a strictly political issue," he said. "And as such, the Gaza file - if we are to institute true democracy - must eventually come to reflect the will of the Egyptian people, who overwhelmingly want to see the siege ended and the Rafah crossing opened."

Egypt's transitional government has also appeared more open to Hamas than was its predecessor. In late March, Hamas officials visited Cairo, where they held their first official meeting with members of the SCAF.

Following a closed-door meeting with Arabi, Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters that his Egyptian counterpart had informed him there would soon be a "shift in policy" vis-à-vis the Rafah border crossing. Al-Zahar went on to refer to "the new positive spirit and obvious change in policy" since Mubarak's departure.

Under Mubarak, Egypt had adopted a tough stance towards Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (which had itself been outlawed under Mubarak). At the same time, Egypt had allied itself closely with Hamas's West Bank-based rival, Fatah.

"The Mubarak regime took a hard line towards Hamas while being very friendly towards Fatah, a fellow client of the U.S.," said Fahmi. "After the revolution, by contrast, Egypt can be expected to show much more even- handedness between the two Palestinian factions."

Cairo is planning to receive Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas's Damascus- based political bureau. Meshaal last departed Cairo over a year ago, saying that neither he nor any other Hamas official would return to Egypt as long as Mubarak held the reigns of power. (END)

Israel is not a Democracy: Ilan Pappe

An interview with Prof. Ilan Pappe from the New Internationalist April issue

‘Israel is not a democracy,’ says Israeli professor, historian and political activist Ilan Pappé in this interview with Frank Barat, co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Professor Ilan Pappé. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Some extraordinary events have taken place in the Arab world in the last few months. People in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen have taken to the streets to protest against repression, corruption and lack of jobs and access to education. Some got rid of their Western-backed dictators. A friend of mine called this ‘the second step of the decolonization process’. What’s is your view on this?

I agree with the term ‘the second phase of decolonization’, or second phase of post-colonialism. It’s a very accurate term to describe what we are seeing there.

What is happening now is not only the assertion of self-dignity in the Arab world; it’s a defining moment for the West and its rather colonialist attitudes towards the Arab world. Secondly, of course, we are talking about process in motion. We see Libya as a painful reminder that it would not be as easy as it was in Egypt, nor is it clear that the Egyptian story is over. But it brings a lot of hope.

It’s the first time I remember in my lifetime that there is good news coming from the Arab world. Because of this very sheer sense of positive energy that comes from there, it’s a moment of no return. As a historian, I keep reminding myself that a moment of no return does not mean that immediately you will have the kind of better reality that you want. It means that you have to be alert, that there will be a lot of powers and a lot of actors, including Israel, who would do the best they can to make this moment disappear. So you cannot be passive about it, you have to be active. Each one of us in our own way to help these revolutions take place. It’s a dramatic and fantastic moment which in the long run will affect Palestine in a very, very positive way.

Is there a more global implication of the Arab world revolutions? Are Israel and the US right to feel threatened?

The global implication is that whether these are academics, journalists or politicians, the schematic way in which they describe society and divide it into actors, or factors that are active and can change reality, and those that are recipients and can’t change reality has been dismantled, has collapsed. So the global implication is that you can have as much economic, political and military power as you want, but there are processes which you cannot control.

This teaches us that the way the world is represented through the eyes of its Western élite has been dealt a serious blow, which is good news.

Those in the US – and there are many very important people in America who relied on Israel to guide them in the politics of the Middle East – are panicking. I have been to Israel many times since the revolutions started and Israel is in a real panic. They understand that the usual arsenal of power and diplomacy is useless in the face of what’s happening in the Arab world. They panic because they feel that if democracy indeed appeared on their doorsteps and around them, they could not sell the fable that they are the only democracy in the Middle East anymore; they would be, in fact, painted as another Arab dictatorial regime.

That could lead to new American thinking, and a new American thinking, in the eyes of many Israelis, is tantamount to the end of Israel as we know it.

As co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, I am now preparing the next session of the tribunal which is going to take place in South Africa and will talk about the crime of apartheid in relation to Israel. For many, Israel is a democracy, because everyone is able to vote and Arabs are represented in the Knesset. So is Israel a democracy?

No, Israel is definitely not a democracy. A country that occupies another people for more than 40 years and disallows them the most elementary civic and human rights cannot be a democracy. A country that pursues a discriminatory policy against a fifth of its Palestinian citizens inside the 1967 borders cannot be a democracy.

In fact, Israel is what we in political science call a herrenvolk democracy, democracy only for the masters. The fact that you allow people to participate in the formal side of democracy, namely to vote or to be elected, is meaningless if you don’t give them any share in the common good or in the common resources of the state, or if you discriminate against them despite the fact that you allow them to participate in the elections. On almost every level – from official legislation through governmental practices to social and cultural attitudes – Israel is only a democracy for one ethnic group which, given the space that Israel now controls, is not even a majority group anymore. So I think that you’ll find it very hard to use any known definition of democracy which is applicable for the Israeli case.

What is your nationality, Ilan?

I don’t have a clear nationality. I have a citizenship, an Israeli citizenship. Funnily enough, I also have a European nationality because as second generation European Jews we are entitled to have a European passport, which is not equivalent to nationality but it obfuscates the question of nationality.

I would like to think of myself as a member of a potential new nation that would emerge in the secular democratic state of Israel, which would be a combination of a society made of the third generation of settler colonialists who came to Palestine in the late nineteenth century and the indigenous native population. Whether at the time this would happen people would still define themselves in national terms or not, I don’t know and I don’t care. But I feel that I am part of a settler colonialist community which pretends to be a national community by itself and is recognized as such, like the Australian and New Zealand ones. But if this is the only kind of national identity open to me, I reject it and would like to work towards something much better for me and for others.

For many people the Israel-Palestine conflict is about the Holocaust and the fact that the Jews of Europe had to find a place to live where they felt safe. Once the Jews arrived in Palestine, a dispute started about the land between them and the indigenous inhabitants, the Palestinians. It has been going on for more than 60 years. Is this what the conflict is about, in your opinion?

No, no, definitely not. The conflict is not about the Holocaust. The Holocaust is manipulated by the Israelis in order to maintain the conflict for their own interests. The conflict is a simple story of European settlers coming in the late nineteenth century, motivated by all kinds of ideas; the dominating idea was that they needed a safe haven because Europe was not safe, and that this was their ancient homeland. It happened before – this is not the only place where people have those weird ideas that they can come after 2,000 years and reclaim something which was supposedly theirs.

Because there were enough imperial powers willing to support this colonization project, they succeeded in getting a foothold and started purchasing land. They exploited a certain land regime, in which you could buy land from people who did not really own it and expel the people who really cultivated it. But even that was not really successful. As you probably know, by the time the British Mandate ended, the Zionist movement succeeded in purchasing less than seven per cent of Palestine and bringing in a number of refugees, including after the Holocaust, which was not really impressive. The Jewish community in the world preferred to go to Britain, the United States or stay in Europe despite the Holocaust. Only a very tiny minority came to Israel, and that’s why, contrary to their earlier wishes, the Zionist movement decided to bring Jews from the Arab world and de-arabize them so they would become Jewish and not identify with the Arab population.

So the conflict is about a colonialist movement that – because of the Holocaust – succeeds in not appearing colonialist in a world that does not like colonialism anymore; it is using all kinds of means and alliances to continue to colonize, ethnically cleanse and occupy. But it’s an incomplete atrocity: Zionism is an incomplete atrocity against the Palestinian people. Had it been complete, as the whites did in Australia and New Zealand, you probably would not have a conflict today. Why is it incomplete? Because of Palestinians’ steadfastness and resistance.

So there you have it in a nutshell: a colonialist project trying to complete its plan, and indigenous people resisting it. That would be a conflict, unless you decolonize Palestine and move towards a post-colonialist stage in the history of this place.

You have been a human rights activist for many years now, fighting on all fronts to help the Palestinians. Unfortunately, little has been achieved: more land is being stolen every day, more people die, more houses are destroyed and the international community reward Israel for this. So what is the way forward for the Palestinians and their supporters?

We need to have a more comprehensive historical view of successes and failures. I don’t think it has all been failure. The present Palestinian community in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the Palestinian community inside Israel, will not crack – that’s clear. Whatever the Israeli policies may be, Israel cannot that easily contemplate another ethnic cleansing – and that’s very important to understand.

Secondly, I think that something has changed in the public opinion – true, it has not been translated into policies, but we may be in the defining moment for Palestine without yet knowing it. So I would like to have a more balanced view about failure and success for all of us. However, I do agree that we need a clear strategy forward. There are three things that I would very shortly and very briefly point out.

One is that we need a better understanding about the distribution of labour between outside and inside. Namely, the Palestinian political system needs to get its act together in terms of representation, unification and so on; solidarity movements should not try to replace it on questions of representation, but should concentrate on turning Israel into a pariah state which, I think, is very important in order to get things moving.

Secondly, we have to change the dictionary. We should stop talking about the peace process, we should give up the idea of a two-state solution; in my mind, we should talk about colonialism again, anti-colonialism, change of regime, ethnic cleansing, and reparations in the larger term. [These are] all kinds of known phrases which are very applicable to the situation of Palestine, but because of Israeli propaganda and US support for that propaganda we haven’t dared use them. We have to make sure that even the mainstream media and academia, and definitely the politicians, use them.

The third thing we have to do is to accept the analysis that change from within is not likely to happen, which brings forward the question of what kind of strategy to adopt if you want to bring change from outside. Luckily, we have a very good example. Most people are now pushing the nonviolent strategy instead of the violent strategy, for change. This is good because I think a new reality that is going to be born out of the nonviolent struggle will create a much better relationship at the time of reconciliation. Whereas if you win liberation through violence, we know from other historical cases that you become a violent society yourself.

So I think there is a lot to be done, and the good thing about this age of ours is that there is a lot you can do as an individual, but never forget the organizations, and the old organizations as well, especially in the case of Palestinian representation. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel; sometimes you have to oil it and make sure that it works again – as well as it did in the past.

You can watch the full video interview on the New Internationalist website

Frank Barat is co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians, a book by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé (edited by Frank Barat), is out now.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Massive anti-Israel rally held in Cairo

Yet more evidence that the NYT's Tom Friedman is a fool, living in his own dreamworld.He wrote an op-ed about how the young leaders of the Egyptian revolutionary process should admire Israel as a shining example of the democracy they wish for. No Tom, unlike you, they know a racist, colonial settler state when they see one. R. Congress

April 8, 2011 by occupiedpalestine
PressTV - Fri Apr 8, 2011 5:59PM

Over one million Egyptian protesters staged a rally in Cairo’s Liberation Square on April 8, 2011

Over one million Egyptian protesters in Cairo’s Liberation square have demanded their military rulers to abandon Israel and lift the blockade on the besieged Gaza strip.

Protesters voiced their anger at Tel Aviv by burning the Israeli flag and demanding the Liberation of Palestine, a Press TV correspondent said.

They promised to stand by Gazans, who have been suffering Israeli attacks and its four-year long crippling siege.

Many protesters headed toward the US Embassy from Liberation Square to protest Israel’s deadly attacks on Gaza.

The Israeli flag was torn to pieces, when protesters tried to raise Palestinian flag above the Israeli embassy.

The development comes two months after a historic revolution ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters also demanded the prosecution of officials belonging to the former regime –mainly the ousted president Mubarak and his family.

Egypt’s toppled regime under Mubarak served the interests of Israel by assisting and keeping silent on the killing of Gazans.

Egypt has imposed a blockade on Gaza since the democratically elected Hamas government took control of the territory in 2007. Since then Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the territory triggering a humanitarian crisis.

A major Egyptian political party, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), has recently demanded that the country’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces takes action in breaking the siege of Gaza.

Egypt’s political parties say the Gaza blockade serves the interests of Israel and the US and threatens regional stability and independence.

This is while Israeli officials have been repeatedly threatening to launch a fresh major offensive against Gaza.

They say such an onslaught could be even more destructive and deadly than the one at the turn of 2009, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians — many of them women and children.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Heading toward an Israeli apartheid state, from Haaretz

From Haaretz

* Published 00:42 04.04.11
* Latest update 00:42 04.04.11

Heading toward an Israeli apartheid state
Israeli racism, whose natural 'hothouse' is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset.
By Daniel Blatman

It has been 60 years since the apartheid state was established in South Africa. In March 1951, a few years after the racist National Party came to power, racial segregation was anchored in law. As was common in other countries that adopted racist laws in the 20th century, those in South Africa were accompanied by "laundered" explanations.

Hitler declared after the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed in 1935 that they would create a suitable basis for a separate but worthy existence for Jews in Germany alongside German society. The race laws in South Africa established that people of different colors cannot exist when mixed with each other - only in separate, protected spaces.
Sheikh Jarrah - Reuters - Feb 2011

A demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, Feb. 2011.
Photo by: Reuters

The tsunami of racist laws passed by the Knesset in recent months is also being explained by reasoned and worthy arguments: the right of small communities to preserve their own character (the Acceptance Committees Law ); the state's right to prevent hostile use of the funds it allocates to education and culture (the Nakba Law ); and the right to deny citizenship to persons convicted of espionage or treason (the Citizenship Law ). But I believe that as in other historical instances, the aim of this legislation is the gradual establishment of an apartheid state in Israel, and the future separation on a racial basis of Jews and non-Jews.

An apartheid state is not created in the blink of an eye. What was created in Germany in 1935 was the outcome of a long and sometimes violent debate, which had been ongoing since the middle of the 19th century, about the place of Jews in modern Germany and Europe. Indeed, the desire to isolate and distance the Jews from society - legally and socially - was part of the belief system of anti-Semites in Europe for decades before Hitler came into power.

In this respect the Nazi regime, along with other regimes that passed racial separation laws (among them those in Romania, Hungary, Italy and Vichy France in 1940 ), only anchored in legislation a reality that had already been enthusiastically received by the populace. Of course, when such laws were enacted, the regimes involved did not support or imagine that at the end of the road, a "final solution" was waiting in its Nazi format. However, once the seeds were sown, no one was able to figure out what fruit they would bear.

The historical background of the Israeli apartheid state-in-the-making that is emerging before our eyes should be sought in 1967. It is part of a process that has been going on for about 44 years: What started as rule over another people has gradually ripened - especially since the latter part of the 1970s - into a colonialism that is nurturing a regime of oppression and discrimination with regard to the Palestinian population. It is robbing that population of its land and of its basic civil rights, and is encouraging a minority group (the settlers ) to develop a crude, violent attitude toward the Arabs in the territories. This was exactly the reality that, after many years, led to the establishment of the apartheid state in South Africa.

In her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Hannah Arendt draws a sharp picture of the process of the development of the society of racial segregation in South Africa, from the start of the Dutch Boer colonialist settlement there. Assumption of racial superiority - the subordination of the black population - was the only way the "whites" could adjust to life in the midst of that race. The nurturance of feelings of racial supremacy, to which were added the belief in cultural superiority and the justification for economic exploitation - these are what, in a decades-long process, gave rise to the need to anchor this situation in proper legislation.

Thus, the dehumanization of the blacks, who at the start of the colonization period were perceived as no more than enhanced work animals, led to the establishment of a regime of racial separation 60 years ago in South Africa, which for decades left tens of millions of black people mired in a situation of harsh poverty, exploitation and atrophy.

It is not hard to identify this sort of worldview developing - with respect to Arabs - among widening circles of settlers in the territories and among their supporters within the (pre-Six Day War ) Green Line. It also has quite a number of supporters in the Knesset, even if they will not admit this outright.

Israeli racism, whose natural "hothouse" is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset. Only people who avoid looking at the broad historical context of such a process are still able to believe it is possible to stop the emergence of an Israeli apartheid state without getting rid of the colonialist-racist grip on the territories.

Prof. Blatman is a Holocaust researcher and head of the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Goldstone's Retreat, Terrorist Chickens & Unintentional Intentionality

by Rick Congress

Bringing gladness to the hearts of Zionist ethnic cleansers and anti-Arab racists everywhere, Judge Goldstone made a public statements tacking back some of the report that he issued for the UN on the Israeli assault on Gaza December,2008/January,2009.

It seems that since Israel refused to cooperate with his investigation, there was no evidence of a valid Israeli self-investigation, leading Goldstone in his report to conclude that Israel didn't set up a credible means to determine if the IDF had committed any war crimes.

But Judge Goldstone now has declared that AFTER his report was made public Israel had indeed held a credible investigation into whether or not the IDF had a policy of intentionally targeting civilians in its attack on Gaza.

MY BAD! SORRY! says Goldstone. How silly of me to overlook the credible self-investigation Israel conducted about targeting civilians in Gaza, merely because such an investigation didn't exist at the time I was looking into the issue. But now such a self-questioning report has been issued by Israel. What's timing between friends? Why quibble over details?

Of course there is the issue of the truthfulness of Israel's "credible self-examination." But why question that? Judge Goldstone, it seems, has reached his personal limit of question asking.

Taking a line from Rodney King, he says, "Can't we all just get along?" "We" meaning the official gate keepers of Jewish/Zionist respectability and Judge Goldstone, the outcast pariah. He's been beaten down by an orgy of vilification and slander and can't take it anymore. He wants back into the club.

The part of the report Judge Goldstone retracted dealt with the question of intentionally targeting civilians. "Intentionality is a sticky ethical/philosophical conundrum these days. But more on this a bit later.

We have to address the vital strategic matter of terrorist chickens. One of the seemingly bizarre acts of the IDF in Gaza was the killing of 31,000 chickens. These chickens were being raised commercially for eggs and food. Such businesses along with others, a cement factory, fishing boats,etc. and civil facilities such as power plants, public schools and water purification plants were destroyed by the IDF. These sorts of acts (targeting civilian infrastructure) are known to be violations of the Geneva Convention, UN resolutions, and are rightfully condemned world-wide. Condemned as what? As punishing the civilian population -- collectively, and intentionally.

One line of reasoning in Israel's defense would be that these chickens provide nutrition for Gazans, and that the more Gazan children have to eat, the more likely they are to survive and grow up to become if not actual terrorists then "demographic terrorists," who by their very existence and tendency to reproduce, threaten the future of the Jewish state by staying alive in sufficient numbers to give credibility to the idea that Palestinians actually exist (another terrorist threat to Israel's existence) and might need a place to live, besides Jordan or Lebanon.

So now we can classify these actions of the IDF as combating terrorism, not of targeting civilian infrastructure.

Now. What is intention? Here we have a citation from the do-it-yourself repository of knowledge, and plagerism goldmine of college students with term papers due, Wikipedia:

"The term intentionality was introduced by Jeremy Bentham as a principle of utility in his doctrine of consciousness for the purpose of distinguishing acts that are intentional and acts that are not.[1] The term was later used by Edmund Husserl in his doctrine that consciousness is always intentional... It has been defined as "aboutness", and according to the Oxford English Dictionary it is "the distinguishing property of mental phenomena of being necessarily directed upon an object, whether real or imaginary..."

The IDF is a sensitive, phenomenologically questing sort of organization...very concerned with "aboutness" and the "I" and "Thouness" of things. The Israeli army is the unintentional intender and to the inattentive intendee they say, "Fuck Thou."

Clear anything up? If not, don't worry. Israel's intention in regard to Gaza was to generally bomb, shell, rocket, and spray with bullets the entire area. If anyone intentionally or unintentionally got in the way, c'est la vie.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Double standard on "incitement"

‘Foreign Policy’ runs piece describing Israel’s ‘carnival of hate’ toward Palestinians
Apr 01, 2011 03:11 pm | Philip Weiss

Matt Berkman writes about a letter to Hillary Clinton signed by 27 Senators condemning Palestinians for inciting violence and questions the double standard for incitement:

[I]f it is indeed the case that "words matter" -and if the elimination of violent and dehumanizing rhetoric is, as the letter says, "critical to establishing the conditions [for] a secure and lasting peace"-then what can explain the senators' silence on the veritable carnival of hate and racist incitement against Arabs and Palestinians that has lately engulfed Israeli society?

Anyone who reads Israel's press these days will find it difficult to do so without chancing upon yet another outrageous example of such incitement. Be it the declaration of Rabbi Dov Lior, a senior authority on Jewish law in the Religious Zionism movement, that the offspring of non-Jews possess "genetic traits" of "cruelty and barbarism"; or an open letter signed by dozens of Israel's municipal chief rabbis calling on Jews "to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews"; or the wives of those state-sponsored rabbis urging Jewish girls not to date, work with, or perform national service in the company of Arabs; or even news of the publication of "The King's Torah," a theological text widely endorsed by settler rabbis that authorizes the killing of non-Jewish children and babies, since "it is clear that they will grow to harm us."

Could it be that the senators who so rightfully condemn the glorification of violence when it issues from an obscure Palestinian official are simply unaware of the multiple proclamations of such a prominent figure as Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party (a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu's governing coalition) and a former Chief Rabbi of Israel's Sephardi Jewish community? "It is forbidden to be merciful to [Arabs]," Yosef was quoted as saying in 2001, "You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable." More recently, Yosef sermonized that "Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and all these evil people should perish from this world." "God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians," he said.

...Not surprisingly, this rising tide of racism in Israeli society has translated into both discriminatory legislation directed against Israel's Arab citizens and into violent hate crimes which, while not as gruesome as the massacre in Itamar, are more pervasive, bordering on quotidian..

But it should be made clear that the routine acts of violence against Arabs within Israel - and even the daily pogroms, or "price-tag" attacks, inflicted on West Bank Palestinians by rogue settler bands - are only the tip of the iceberg. The whole wide-ranging system of occupation in the West Bank, and the hardhearted policies that promote the economic asphyxiation of the entire civilian population in Gaza - themselves the most deadly form of "incitement" - are underwritten on the ethical and cultural plain by the growing disdain and racial animus against Arabs in Israeli society.