Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Watching Dennis Ross on PBS News Hour

January 18, 2012

Tonight, lounging on the couch, I surfed to channel 13 and caught part of The News Hour...usual stuff & the usual suspects. Then there was a segment on "Are we moving towards war with Iran?"

And again there was Dennis Ross, the Netanyahu/APAIC approved man in the Clinton and Obama administrations holding forth on the issue, attempting to sound reasonable: "the stability of the entire region is threatened if Iran doesn't cease its nuclear efforts."

I leaped to my feet! "My god, he's right!" If Iran gets an A bomb then the US and Israel won't be able to attack them! Things will be stable. A balance of power preventing a war. This is terrible!! Iran will continue to be a sovereign nation and not bend to what the predatory military/corporate empire demands of it. "Iran IS a threat to the current instablilty!"

I sat back down on the couch muttering to myself, and then realized that Ross thinks that things are stable now and that if Iran can credibly defend itself from a US/Israeli attack then things will be instable....OH! Never mind.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Live in Belgium 1964. Charles Mingus bass - Eric Dolphy bass clarinet, flute - Clifford Jordan sax tenor - Jaki Byard piano - Dannie Richmond drums

Israel: Still not doing Gandhi very well

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
By Nima Sharizi
from his blog Wide Asleep in America

Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) reports:

"An Israeli plan to build a statue for the late Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi on an East Jerusalem plot is actually a pretext to seize Palestinian land, the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) said in a statement Sunday."

That Israel would erect a statue in honor of the great indigenous nationalist, anti-colonialist, and practitioner of non-violence speaks to either its complete lack of self-awareness and blindness to the appalling irony of its proposal or to its profound sense of humor. Recall not only what Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense, Major General Amos Gilad, told U.S. officials that "we don’t do Gandhi very well" when discussing peaceful West Bank demonstrations and anti-occupation protests, but also what Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi himself had to say in 1938 (in part) about the imposition of Zionist colonization of Palestine:

The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.

The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.

I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. (emphasis added)

In response to these statements, which were published in Gandhi's Harijan newspaper, letters were written to Gandhi by people like Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, both putting their concepts of Jewish exceptionalism and disinterest in Palestinian self-determination on full display. American Zionist Hayim Greenberg even wrote something (in 1939) that could easily be found in the Jerusalem Post today: "I cannot avoid the suspicion that so far as the Palestine problem is concerned, Gandhi allowed himself to be influenced by the anti-Zionist propaganda being conducted among fanatic pan-Islamists."

A recounted conversation between Gandhi and British Labor party MP Sydney Silverman from March 1946 is remarkable for Silverman's incessant stream of hasbara; talking points that are still used by defenders of ethnic cleansing, mythologized history, and Israeli occupation and apartheid.

As far back as 1921, Gandhi understood well the Zionist intentions toward Palestine and the gross injustice of the Balfour Declaration. In Young India on March 23, 1921, he wrote,

Britain has made promises to the Zionists. The latter have, naturally, a sacred sentiment about the place. The Jews, it is contended, must remain a wandering race unless they have obtained possession of Palestine. I do not propose to examine the soundness or otherwise of the doctrine underlying the proposition. All I contend is that they cannot possess Palestine through a trick or a moral breach. Palestine was not a stake in the War. The British Government could not dare have asked a single Muslim soldier to wrest control of Palestine from fellow-Muslims and give it to the Jews. Palestine, as a place of Jewish worship, is a sentiment to be respected and the Jews would have a just cause of complaint against Mussulman idealists if they were to prevent Jews from offering worship as freely as themselves. By no canon of ethics or war, therefore, can Palestine be given to the Jews as a result of the War. (emphasis added)

In an interview he gave to London's Jewish Chronicle in early October 1931, he stated that "Anti-Semitism is really a remnant of barbarism," but explained:

Zionism in its spiritual sense is a lofty aspiration. By spiritual sense I mean they should want to realise the Jerusalem that is within. Zionism meaning reoccupation of Palestine has no attraction for me. I can understand the longing of a Jew to return to Palestine, and he can do so if he can without the help of bayonets, whether his own or those of Britain. In that event he would go to Palestine peacefully and in perfect friendliness with the Arabs. The real Zionism of which I have given you my meaning is the thing to strive for, long for and die for. Zion lies in one's heart. It is the abode of God. The real Jerusalem is the spiritual Jerusalem. Thus he can realise this Zionism in any part of the world. (emphasis added)

Unsurprisingly, Zionist propaganda was often used to refute Gandhi's views on the Jewish colonization of Palestine during the British Mandate. In response to the Jewish Chronicle interview, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) chairman Rabbi Stephen Wise, speaking in late October 1931 at the Dinner of the Friends of Gandhi in New York in honor of Gandhi's 62nd birthday, countered, "Jews throughout the world cannot but help regretting the word of Gandhi spoken concerning Zionism. It is strange to find Gandhi alluding to Zionism as if it might mean the 're-occupation of Palestine', with all of the sinister military meaning which 'occupation' and 're-occupation' convey." Wise continued,

As for the Jewish settlers in Palestine, no one can sanely and honestly accuse them of resting their case on bayonets. Their title is immemorial, and they have returned to Palestine not to hurt and to wound, but to serve to enrich and to bless the land and all its people. This have they done from every point of view, economically, culturally, morally and spiritually.


Would that Gandhi knew that what he claims is the suffering and denial of his people in India is the status of the largest number of Jews in the world, that Jews have no desire for military occupation or forcible re-entry into Palestine, that they seek peaceably and, in a very real sense non-resistently, to live and labour and serve and to sacrifice for Palestine, which means to many Jews exactly what India means to Gandhi! (emphasis added)

The irony of Wise's words, considering the actions of pre-State Zionist terror militias, the Israeli military, and Jewish colonists over the intervening eight decades, is staggering.

Perhaps more striking, however, is what Gandhi wrote on July 14, 1946 in Harijan: " my opinion, they [the Zionists] have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism." He continued:

No wonder that my sympathy goes out to the Jews in their unenviably sad plight. But one would have thought adversity would teach them lessons of peace. Why should they depend upon American money or British arms for forcing themselves on an unwelcome land? Why should they resort to terrorism to make good their forcible landing in Palestine? (emphasis added)

Also of note is his answer to the question "What do you feel is the most acceptable solution to the Palestine problem?" posed to him by United Press of America on June 2, 1947. He replied, "The abandonment wholly by the Jews of terrorism and other forms of violence."

A Tribute King Would Have Approved Of....for a change

Subject: Fighting a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong Jesse Lieberfeld, Dietrich College News

Fighting a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong Jesse Lieberfeld, Dietrich College News
2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University

Prose: High School
First Place (Tie)

Fighting a Forbidden Battle:
How I Stopped Covering Up
for a Hidden Wrong

Jesse Lieberfeld
Dietrich College News
January 2012

Ionce belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that
allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people
in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought
that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed
intelligence, and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat
privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow
believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.

Although I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not try to force
me into any one set of beliefs, being Jewish was in no way possible to
escape growing up. It was constantly reinforced at every holiday, every
service, and every encounter with the rest of my relatives. I was forever
reminded how intelligent my family was, how important it was to
remember where we had come from, and to be proud of all the suffering
our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the
perfect society of Israel.

This last mandatory belief was one which I never fully understood, but I
always kept the doubts I had about Israel’s spotless reputation to the back
of my mind. “Our people” were fighting a war, one I did not fully
comprehend, but I naturally assumed that it must be justified. We would
never be so amoral as to fight an unjust war. Yet as I came to learn more
about our so-called “conflict” with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned.
I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases,
and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible
reason. “Genocide” almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I
knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they
always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms. Whenever I
brought up the subject, I was always given the answer that there were
faults on both sides, that no one was really to blame, or simply that it was a
“difficult situation.” It was not until eighth grade that I fully understood
what I was on the side of. One afternoon, after a fresh round of killings was
announced on our bus ride home, I asked two of my friends who actively
supported Israel what they thought. “We need to defend our race,” they
told me. “It’s our right.”

“We need to defend our race.”

Where had I heard that before? Wasn’t it the same excuse our own country
had used to justify its abuses of African-Americans sixty years ago? In that
moment, I realized how similar the two struggles were—like the white
radicals of that era, we controlled the lives of another people whom we
abused daily, and no one could speak out against us. It was too politically
incorrect to do so. We had suffered too much, endured too many hardships,
and overcome too many losses to be criticized. I realized then that I was in
no way part of a “conflict”—the term “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” was no
more accurate than calling the Civil Rights Movement the “Caucasian/
African-American Conflict.” In both cases, the expression was a blatant
euphemism: it gave the impression that this was a dispute among equals
and that both held an equal share of the blame. However, in both, there
was clearly an oppressor and an oppressed, and I felt horrified at the
realization that I was by nature on the side of the oppressors. I was
grouped with the racial supremacists. I was part of a group that killed
while praising its own intelligence and reason. I was part of a delusion.

I thought of the leader of the other oppressed side of years ago, Martin
Luther King. He too had been part of a struggle that had been hidden and
glossed over for the convenience of those against whom he fought. What
would his reaction have been? As it turned out, it was precisely the same
as mine. As he wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, he believed the
greatest enemy of his cause to be “Not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the
Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who...lives by a mythical
concept of time.... Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than
outright rejection.” When I first read those words, I felt as if I were staring
at myself in a mirror. All my life I had been conditioned to simply treat the
so-called conflict with the same apathy which King had so forcefully
condemned. I, too, held the role of an accepting moderate. I, too, “lived by
a mythical concept of time,” shrouded in my own surreal world and the set
of beliefs that had been assigned to me. I had never before felt so trapped.

Idecided to make one last appeal to my religion. If it could not answer my
misgivings, no one could. The next time I attended a service, there was an
open question-and-answer session about any point of our religion. I wanted
to place my dilemma in as clear and simple terms as I knew how. I thought
out my exact question over the course of the seventeen-minute cello solo
that was routinely played during service. Previously, I had always accepted
this solo as just another part of the program, yet now it seemed to capture
the whole essence of our religion: intelligent and well-crafted on paper,
yet completely oblivious to the outside world (the soloist did not have the
faintest idea of how masterfully he was putting us all to sleep). When I was
finally given the chance to ask a question, I asked, “I want to support
Israel. But how can I when it lets its army commit so many killings?” I was
met with a few angry glares from some of the older men, but the rabbi
answered me. “It is a terrible thing, isn’t it?” he said. “But there’s nothing
we can do. It’s just a fact of life.” I knew, of course, that the war was no
simple matter and that we did not by any means commit murder for
its own sake, but to portray our thousands of killings as a “fact of life” was
simply too much for me to accept. I thanked him and walked out shortly
afterward. I never went back. I thought about what I could do. If nothing
else, I could at least try to free myself from the burden of being saddled
with a belief I could not hold with a clear conscience. I could not live the
rest of my life as one of the pathetic moderates whom King had rightfully
portrayed as the worst part of the problem. I did not intend to go on being
one of the Self-Chosen People, identifying myself as part of a group to
which I did not belong.

It was different not being the ideal nice Jewish boy. The difference was
subtle, yet by no means unaffecting. Whenever it came to the attention of
any of our more religious family friends that I did not share their beliefs,
I was met with either a disapproving stare and a quick change of the
subject or an alarmed cry of, “What? Doesn’t Israel matter to you?”
Relatives talked down to me more afterward, but eventually I stopped
noticing the way adults around me perceived me. It was worth it to
no longer feel as though I were just another apathetic part of the machine.

I can obviously never know what it must have been like to be an African-
American in the 1950s. I do feel, however, as though I know exactly
what it must have been like to be white during that time, to live under an
aura of moral invincibility, to hold unchallengeable beliefs, and to
contrive illusions of superiority to avoid having to face simple everyday
truths. That illusion was nice while it lasted, but I decided to pass it up.
I have never been happier.

Jesse Lieberfeld is an 11th-grader at Winchester Thurston High School.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Perserving Israel's Ethnic Purity....Sayanara to Japanese Grad Student

From Haaretz
Published 18:16 11.01.12
Latest update 18:16 11.01.12

Israel to deport Japanese researcher over fear he will ‘settle down’ after studies

Israel’s Immigration Authority decided not to extend Koji Yamashiro’s visa, needed to complete his doctorate at the Hebrew University.
By Talila Nesher

More than 300 lecturers and doctoral students sent on Tuesday letters to Israel’s President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to protest the Immigration Authority’s decision not to extend a foreign student’s visa. In its decision, the Immigration Authority said it feared the student – who asked to extend his visa so he can finish his doctorate, might “strike down roots” in Israel.

Koji Yamashiro finished his B.A. and M.A. in the Department of Jewish Thought in Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and won a presidential scholarship for his doctoral studies. Yamashiro’s research focuses on monotheistic religions.
Japanese student - Michal Fattal - January 10, 2011

The Immigration Authority said it is concerned that Yamashiro, who has been in Israel for eight years, will not want to leave the country once he is completes his studies. A German doctoral student has in the past been forced to stop his studies at the Department of Jewish Thought after his visa was not extended.

The Hebrew University also sent a letter requesting Yamashiro’s visa be extended, saying that his research enriches the field and even stated that Yamashiro “agreed to sign a document committing to not staying in Israel.”

Yamashiro told Haaretz in fluent Hebrew that even though he is not Jewish, he became interested in Kabbalah. “I read Gershom Scholem’s books and was drawn to this world,” he said.

In his research, Yamashiro looks into the myth of the Primordial Man in Abrahamic religions. “There is no access to material in my field like the there is in Israel,” he said, adding that he has written the Interior Ministry twice to inform them that he intends to leave Israel once he completes his studies.

In their letter, the academics write that “we see the Interior Ministry’s decision as damaging to our academic activity and to the academic community in Israel in general, at a time when there are more and more voices around the world calling for an academic boycott on Israeli researchers.”

The Immigration Authority told Haaretz that “the issue will be reexamined by Immigration Authority head Amnon Ben Ami.”

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Edward Gibbon at America’s Grave What the Future Will Remember About America’s Decline and Fall

from Tomgram, Sept. 2011
By Mike Davis

1. Twin Towers

Two years from now the staffs of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker will move into the most haunted building in the world. There, the elite of American celebrity photographers, gossip columnists, and magazine journalists may meet some macabre new muses.

Aloft in the upper stories of 1 World Trade Center (where Condé Nast publishing has signed the biggest lease), they will gaze out their windows at that ghostly void, just a few yards away, where 658 doomed employees of Cantor Fitzgerald were sitting at their desks at 8:46 AM, September 11, 2001.

Not to worry: The “Freedom Tower” -- the boosters reassure us -- will be an enduring consolation to the families of 9/11’s martyrs as well as an icon of civic and national renaissance. Not to mention its dramatic resurrection of property values in the neighborhood. (I confess that I find this conflation of real-estate speculation with sublime memorial unnerving: like proposing to build a yacht marina over the sunken Arizona or a Katrina theme park in the Lower Ninth Ward.)

One World Trade Center, in the original design, was also meant to restore vertical architectural supremacy to Manhattan and to be the tallest building in the world. This global phallic rivalry was won instead by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa super-tower, completed last year and twice as high as the Empire State Building.

In a few years Dubai, however, will have to surrender the gold cup to Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden family.

Financed by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who revels in being known as the “Arabian Warren Buffet,” the planned Kingdom Tower in Jeddah -- the ultimate hyperbole for Saudi despotism -- will pierce the clouds along the Red Sea coastline at an incredible altitude of one full kilometer (3,281 feet).

One World Trade Center, on the other hand, will max out at 1,776 feet above the Hudson. (Conspiracy theorists can obsess over this coincidence: the number of feet higher the Saudi Arabian tower will be than the American one almost exactly equals the number of people who died in the North Tower of the WTC in 2001.)

With little publicity, the initial billion-dollar contract for the Jeddah spire was awarded by Prince Al-Waleed to the Arab world’s mega-builders and skyscraper experts -- the Binladen Group. It may keep their family name alive for centuries to come.

2. Collusion

Ten years ago, lower Manhattan became the Sarajevo of the War on Terrorism. Although conscience recoils against making any moral equation between the assassination of a single Archduke and his wife on June 28, 1914, and the slaughter of almost 3,000 New Yorkers, the analogy otherwise is eerily apt.

In both cases, a small network of peripheral but well-connected conspirators, ennobled in their own eyes by the bitter grievances of their region, attacked a major symbol of the responsible empire. The outrages were deliberately aimed to detonate larger, cataclysmic conflicts, and in this respect, were successful beyond the darkest imagining of the plotters.

However, the magnitudes of the resulting geopolitical explosions were not simple functions of the notoriety of the acts themselves. For example, in Europe between 1890 and 1940, more than two dozen heads of state were assassinated, including the kings of Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, an empress of Austria, three Spanish prime ministers, two presidents of France, and so on. But apart from the murder of Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, none of these events instigated a war.

Likewise, a single suicide bomber in a truck killed 241 U.S. Marines and sailors at their barracks at the Beirut Airport in 1983. (Fifty-eight French paratroopers were killed by another suicide bomber the same day.) A Democratic president almost certainly would have been pressured into massive retaliation or full-scale intervention in the Lebanese civil war, but President Reagan -- very shrewdly -- distracted the public with an invasion of tiny Grenada, while quietly withdrawing the rest of his Marines from the Eastern Mediterranean.

If Sarajevo and the World Trade Center, in contrast, unleashed global carnage and chaos, it was because a de facto collusion existed between the attackers and the attacked. I’m not referring to mythical British plots in the Balkans or Mossad agents blowing up the Twin Towers, but simply to well-known facts: by 1912, the Imperial German General Staff had already decided to exploit the first opportunity to make war, and powerful neocons around George W. Bush were lobbying for the overthrow of the regimes in Baghdad and Tehran even before the last hanging chad had been counted in Florida in 2000.

Both the Hohenzollerns and the Texans were in search of a casus belli that would legitimate military intervention and silence domestic opposition.

Prussian militarism, of course, was punctually accommodated by the Black Hand -- a terrorist group sponsored by the Serbian general staff -- that assassinated the Archduke and his wife, while al-Qaeda's horror show in lower Manhattan consecrated the divine right of the White House to torture, secretly imprison, and kill by remote control.

At the time, it seemed almost as if Bush and Cheney had staged a coup d’état against the Constitution. Yet they could cynically but accurately point to a whole catalogue of precedents.

3. “Innocence” and Intervention

To put it bluntly, every single chapter in the history of the extension of U.S. power has opened with the same sentence: “Innocent Americans were treacherously attacked…”

Remember the Maine in Havana harbor in 1898 (274 dead)?

The Lusitania torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915 (1,198 drowned, including 128 Americans)?

Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916 (18 U.S citizens killed)?

Pearl Harbor (2,402 dead)?

Same sneak attack, same righteous national outrage. Same pretext for clandestine agendas.

In addition, historians will also recall the besieged legation in Peking (1899), Emilio Aguinaldo’s alleged perfidy outside Manila (1899), various crimes against American banks and businessmen in Central America and the Caribbean (1900-1930), the Japanese bombing of the USS Panay in 1938, the Chinese army’s crossing of the Yalu River into Korea (1950), the Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam (1964), the North Korean capture of the Pueblo (1968), the Cambodian seizure of the Mayaguez (1975), the U.S. Embassy hostages in Tehran (1979), the imperiled medical students in Grenada (1983), the harassed American soldiers in Panama (1989), and so on.

This list barely scratches the surface: the synchronization of self-pity and intervention in U.S. history is relentless.

In the name of “innocent Americans,” the United States annexed Hawaii and Puerto Rico; colonized the Philippines; punished nationalism in North Africa and China; invaded Mexico (twice); sent a generation to the killing fields of France (and imprisoned dissenters at home); massacred patriots in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua; annihilated Japanese cities; bombed Korea and Indochina into rubble; buttressed military dictatorships in Latin America; and became Israel’s partner in the routine murder of Arab civilians.

4. Decline and Fall?

Someday -- perhaps sooner than we think -- a new Edward Gibbon in China or India will surely sit down to write The History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire. Hopefully it will be but one volume in a larger, more progressive oeuvre -- The Renaissance of Asia perhaps -- and not an obituary for a human future sucked into America’s grasping void.

I think she’ll probably classify self-righteous American “innocence” as one of the most toxic tributaries of national decline, with President Obama as its highest incarnation. Indeed, from the perspective of the future, which will be deemed the greater crime: to have created the Guantanamo nightmare in the first place, or to have preserved it in contempt of global popular opinion and one’s own campaign promises?

Obama, who was elected to bring the troops home, close the gulags, and restore the Bill of Rights, has in fact become the chief curator of the Bush legacy: a born-again convert to special ops, killer drones, immense intelligence budgets, Orwellian surveillance technology, secret jails, and the superhero cult of former general, now CIA Director David Petraeus.

Our “antiwar” president, in fact, may be taking U.S. power deeper into the darkness than any of us dare to imagine. And the more fervently Obama embraces his role as commander in chief of the Delta Force and Navy Seals, the less likely it becomes that future Democrats will dare to reform the Patriot Act or challenge the presidential prerogative to murder and incarcerate America’s enemies in secret.

Enmired in wars with phantoms, Washington has been blindsided by every major trend of the last decade. It completely misread the real yearnings of the Arab street and the significance of mainstream Islamic populism, ignored the emergence of Turkey and Brazil as independent powers, forgot Africa, and lost much of its leverage with Germany as well as with Israel’s increasingly arrogant reactionaries. Most importantly, Washington has failed to develop any coherent policy framework for its relationship with China, its main creditor and most important rival.

From a Chinese standpoint (assumedly the perspective of our future Ms. Gibbon), the United States is showing incipient symptoms of being a failed state. When Xinhua, the semi-official Chinese news agency, scolds the U.S. Congress for being “dangerously irresponsible” in debt negotiations, or when senior Chinese leaders openly worry about the stability of American political and economic institutions, the shoe is truly on the other foot. Especially when standing in the wings, bibles in hand, are the mad spawn of 9/11 -- the Republican presidential candidates.

Mike Davis teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of Planet of Slums, among many other works. He’s currently writing a book about employment, global warming, and urban reconstruction for Metropolitan Books.

How Israel helped Islamist movements to flourish across the Middle East


By Uri Avnery

31 December 2011

Uri Avnery charts Israel’s role in the growth of Islamist movements in the Middle East – Hamas in Palestine, Hizbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Shi’i theocracy in Iran.

If Islamist movements come to power all over the region, they should express their debt of gratitude to their bete noire, Israel.

Without the active or passive help of successive Israeli governments, they may not have been able to realize their dreams.

That is true in Gaza, in Beirut, in Cairo and even in Tehran.

Let’s take the example of Hamas.

“Turning the Palestinians towards Islam, it was thought [by the Israeli secret police], would weaken the PLO and its main faction, Fatah. So everything was done to help the Islamic movement discreetly.”

All over the Arab lands, dictators have been faced with a dilemma. They could easily close down all political and civic activities, but they could not close the mosques. In the mosques people could congregate in order to pray, organize charities and, secretly, set up political organizations. Before the days of Twitter and Facebook, that was the only way to reach masses of people.

One of the dictators faced with this dilemma was the Israel military governor in the occupied Palestinian territories. Right from the beginning, he forbade any political activity. Even peace activists went to prison. Advocates of non-violence were deported. Civic centres were closed down. Only the mosques remained open. There people could meet.

But this went beyond tolerance. The General Security Service (known as Shin Bet or Shabak) had an active interest in the flourishing of the mosques. People who pray five times a day, they thought, have no time to build bombs.

The main enemy, as laid down by Shabak, was the dreadful Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), led by that monster, Yasser Arafat. The PLO was a secular organization, with many prominent Christian members, aiming at a “non-sectarian” Palestinian state. They were the enemies of the Islamists, who were talking about a pan-Islamic Caliphate.

Turning the Palestinians towards Islam, it was thought, would weaken the PLO and its main faction, Fatah. So everything was done to help the Islamic movement discreetly.

It was a very successful policy, and the security people congratulated themselves on their cleverness, when something untoward happened. In December 1987, the first intifada broke out. The mainstream Islamists had to compete with more radical groupings. Within days, they transformed themselves into the Islamic Resistance Movement (Arabic acronym Hamas) and became the most dangerous foes of Israel. Yet it took Shabak more than a year before they arrested Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the Hamas leader. In order to fight this new menace, Israel came to an agreement with the PLO in Oslo.

And now, irony of ironies, Hamas is about to join the PLO and take part in a Palestinian national unity government. They really should send us a message saying shukran (“thanks”).

Our part in the rise of Hizbollah is less direct, but no less effective.

When Ariel Sharon rolled into Lebanon in 1982, his troops had to cross the mainly Shi’i south. The Israeli soldiers were received as liberators. Liberators from the PLO, which had turned this area into a state within a state.

“To outflank Amal [the main Shi’i political group in Lebanon in the early 1980s], Israel encouraged a small, more radical, rival: God’s Party, Hizbollah.”

Following the troops in my private car, trying to reach the front, I had to traverse about a dozen Shi’i villages. In each one I was detained by the villagers, who insisted that I have coffee in their homes.

Neither Sharon nor anyone else paid much attention to the Shi’is. In the federation of autonomous ethnic-religious communities that is called Lebanon, the Shi’is were the most downtrodden and powerless.

However, the Israelis outstayed their welcome. It took the Shi’is just a few weeks to realize that they had no intention of leaving. So, for the first time in their history, they rebelled. The main political group, Amal (“Hope”), started small armed actions. When the Israelis did not take the hint, operations multiplied and turned into a fully-fledged guerrilla war.

To outflank Amal, Israel encouraged a small, more radical, rival: God’s Party, Hizbollah.

If Israel had got out then (as the Israeli satirical political magazine Haolam Hazeh demanded), not much harm would have been done. But they remained for a full 18 years, ample time for Hizbollah to turn into an efficient fighting machine, earn the admiration of the Arab masses everywhere, take over the leadership of the Shi’i community and become the most powerful force in Lebanese politics.

They, too, owe us a big shukran.
Muslim Brotherhood

The case of the Muslim Brotherhood is even more complex.

“Had Israel made peace with the Palestinian people somewhere along the line, the Brotherhood would have lost much of its lustre. As it is, they are emerging from the present democratic elections as the central force in Egyptian politics.”

The organization was founded in 1928, 20 years before the state of Israel. Its members volunteered to fight us in 1948. They are passionately pan-Islamic, and the Palestinian plight is close to their hearts.

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worsened, the popularity of the Brothers grew. Since the 1967 war, in which Egypt lost Sinai, and even more after the separate peace agreement with Israel, they stoked the deep-seated resentment of the masses in Egypt and all over the Arab world. The assassination of Anwar al-Sadat was not of their doing, but they rejoiced.

Their opposition to the peace agreement with Israel was not only an Islamist, but also an authentic Egyptian reaction. Most Egyptians felt cheated and betrayed by Israel. The Camp David agreement had an important Palestinian component, without which the agreement would have been impossible for Egypt. Sadat, a visionary, looked at the big picture and believed that the agreement would quickly lead to a Palestinian state. Menachem Begin, a lawyer, saw to the fine print. Generations of Jews have been brought up on the Talmud, which is mainly a compilation of legal precedents, and their mind has been honed by legalistic arguments. Not for nothing are Jewish lawyers in demand the world over.

Actually, the agreement made no mention of a Palestinian state, only of autonomy, phrased in a way that allowed Israel to continue the occupation. That was not what the Egyptians had been led to believe, and their resentment was palpable. Egyptians are convinced that their country is the leader of the Arab world, and bears a special responsibility for every part of it. They cannot bear to be seen as the betrayers of their poor, helpless Palestinian cousins.

Long before he was overthrown, Hosni Mubarak was despised as an Israeli lackey, paid by the US. For Egyptians, his despicable role in the Israeli blockade of a million and a half Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was particularly shameful.

Since their beginnings in the 1920s, Brotherhood leaders and activists have been hanged, imprisoned, tortured and otherwise persecuted. Their anti-regime credentials are impeccable. Their stand for the Palestinians contributed a lot to this image.

Had Israel made peace with the Palestinian people somewhere along the line, the Brotherhood would have lost much of its lustre. As it is, they are emerging from the present democratic elections as the central force in Egyptian politics.

Shukran, Israel.
Islamic Republic of Iran

Let’s not forget the Islamic Republic of Iran.

They owe us something, too. Quite a lot, actually.

In 1951, in the first democratic elections in an Islamic country in the region, Muhammad Mossadeq was elected prime minister. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had been installed by the British during World War II, was thrown out, and Mossadeq nationalized the country’s vital oil industry. Until then, the British had robbed the Iranian people, paying a pittance for the “black gold”.

“Israelis made fortunes selling weapons to the Iranian army [under the Shah]. Israeli Shabak agents trained the Shah’s dreaded secret police, Savak. It was widely believed that they also taught them torture techniques.”

Two years later, in a coup organized by the British MI6 and the American CIA, the Shah was brought back and returned the oil to the hated British and their partners. Israel had probably no part in the coup, but under the restored regime of the Shah, Israel prospered. Israelis made fortunes selling weapons to the Iranian army. Israeli Shabak agents trained the Shah’s dreaded secret police, Savak. It was widely believed that they also taught them torture techniques. The Shah helped to build and pay for a pipeline for Iranian oil from Eilat to Ashkelon. Israeli generals travelled through Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they helped the rebellion against Baghdad.

At the time, the Israeli leadership was cooperating with the South African apartheid regime in developing nuclear arms. The two offered the Shah partnership in the effort, so that Iran, too, would become a nuclear power.

Before that partnership became effective, the detested ruler was overthrown by the Islamic revolution of February 1979. Since then, the hatred of the Great Satan (the US) and the Little Satan (Israel) has played a major role in the propaganda of the Islamic regime. It has helped to keep the loyalty of the masses, and now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using it to bolster his rule.

It seems that all Iranian factions – including the opposition – now support the Iranian effort to obtain a nuclear bomb of their own, ostensibly to deter an Israeli nuclear attack. (This week, the chief of the Mossad pronounced that an Iranian nuclear bomb would not constitute an “existential danger” to Israel.)

Where would the Islamic Republic be without Israel? So they owe us a big “Thank you”, too.

However, let us not be too megalomaniac. Israel has contributed a lot to the Islamist awakening. But it is not the only – or even the main – contributor.

Strange as it may appear, obscurantist religious fundamentalism seems to express the zeitgeist. A British nun-turned-historian, Karen Armstrong, has written an interesting book following the three fundamentalist movements in the Muslim world, in the US and in Israel. It shows a clear pattern: all these divergent movements – Muslim, Christian and Jewish – have passed through almost identical and simultaneous stages.

At present, all Israel is in turmoil because the powerful Orthodox community is compelling women in many parts of the country to sit separately in the back of buses, like blacks in the good old days in Alabama, and use separate pavements on one side of the streets. Male religious soldiers are forbidden by their rabbis to listen to women soldiers singing. In Orthodox districts, women are compelled to swathe their bodies in garments that reveal nothing but their faces and hands, even in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius and above. An eight-year-old girl from a religious family was spat upon in the street because her clothes were not “modest” enough. In counter-demonstrations, secular women waved posters saying “Tehran is Here!”

Perhaps some day a fundamentalist Israel will make peace with a fundamentalist Muslim world, under the auspices of a fundamentalist American president.

Unless we do something to stop the process before it is too late.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

3-year-old arrested, leftist writer interrogated — another day in the ‘Jewish and democratic’ state

Jan 06, 2012 02:50 pm | Max Blumenthal

This post originally appeared in Al-Akhbar English:

Geraldine Blingoai (Photo: Ynet)

3-year-old Geraldine Blingoai was born to non-Jewish migrants. That was her crime.

Yesterday, Blingoai was arrested at her birthday party by officers from the Israel Oz Unit, a division of the police created to target non-Jewish migrants and other violators of Israeli immigration policy (link is to Hebrew article; pardon any translation errors). When Ilan Gilon, a member of Knesset from the left-of-center Meretz Party, attempted to visit Blingoai at a holding facility, his assistant was arrested too.

While Blingoai and her mother await deportation to the Philippines, their friends have "gone underground," according to the Israel daily Yedioth Aharanot.

In other news, left-wing Israeli blogger Yossi Gurvitz said in a Facebook post (also in Hebrew) that he was interrogated by Israeli police after a right-wing legal foundation complained about his writing. Gurvitz wrote:

Two weeks ago I was questioned on suspicion of incitement. This investigation was politically inspired by a complaint of a political organization, the Legal Forum for Israel, aimed at silencing me. I have not committed a crime and I am convinced that the case [will] be closed. So far, I was not able to report it and I am prevented from expanding on the subject because of police guidelines.

In 2010, I interviewed Legal Forum for the Land of Israel founder Nachi Eyal after his group attempted to pressure Israel's Attorney General to prosecute another dissident writer, Ilana Hammerman, for bringing Palestinian girls living under occupation to play at Israeli beaches. “Israel will not allow these kinds of things to continue,” Eyal told me.

Monday, January 2, 2012