Monday, July 30, 2012

Robert Fisk: War of Lies in Syria

from the 7/30/12 issue of The Independent

Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan's dark ages.

Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad's regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar's soldiers and "Shabiha" militia.

Then we have the heroes of America – La Clinton, the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a "stern warning" to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam's connection to 9/11 – announces that things are "spiralling out of control" in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realised? And then Obama told us last week that "given the regime's stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching". Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia's designs on China, which declared that it was "keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia"? Now it is Obama's turn to emphasise how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots.

But what US administration would really want to see Bashar's atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar's torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government's request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners' tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.

Then there's that neighbouring country which owes us so much gratitude: Iraq. Last week, it suffered in one day 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilian and wounding another 235. The same day, Syria's bloodbath consumed about the same number of innocents. But Iraq was "down the page" from Syria, buried "below the fold", as we journalists say; because, of course, we gave freedom to Iraq, Jeffersonian democracy, etc, etc, didn't we? So this slaughter to the east of Syria didn't have quite the same impact, did it? Nothing we did in 2003 led to Iraq's suffering today. Right?

And talking of journalism, who in BBC World News decided that even the preparations for the Olympics should take precedence all last week over Syrian outrages? British newspapers and the BBC in Britain will naturally lead with the Olympics as a local story. But in a lamentable decision, the BBC – broadcasting "world" news to the world – also decided that the passage of the Olympic flame was more important than dying Syrian children, even when it has its own courageous reporter sending his despatches directly from Aleppo.

Then, of course, there's us, our dear liberal selves who are so quick to fill the streets of London in protest at the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. Rightly so, of course. When our political leaders are happy to condemn Arabs for their savagery but too timid to utter a word of the mildest criticism when the Israeli army commits crimes against humanity – or watches its allies do it in Lebanon – ordinary people have to remind the world that they are not as timid as the politicians. But when the scorecard of death in Syria reaches 15,000 or 19,000 – perhaps 14 times as many fatalities as in Israel's savage 2008-2009 onslaught on Gaza – scarcely a single protester, save for Syrian expatriates abroad, walks the streets to condemn these crimes against humanity. Israel's crimes have not been on this scale since 1948. Rightly or wrongly, the message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.

And all the while, we forget the "big" truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrads across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Africans as "flood," Palestinians as "demographic threat": Ruth Marcus’ vulgar racism in Washington Post

Blogs » Ali Abunimah's blog
Africans as "flood," Palestinians as "demographic threat": Ruth Marcus’ vulgar racism in Washington Post
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 12:35

Only when it comes to Israel do “mainstream” American commentators permit themselves to indulge in the kind of racism Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus treats us to when she writes:

Israel faces a demographic threat to the Jewish state from its fast-growing Arab population, even without a deluge of African refugees with no religious ties or political loyalties to the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that “60,000 infiltrators are liable to become 600,000 and lead to the eradication of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Not one mainstream commentator in the US has dared argue that white supremacy in the United States faces a “demographic threat” from Latinos because California and Texas have become “majority-minority” states, or had truck with the notion that the US faces “eradication as a white and democratic state” just because most babies now born in the US are non-white.

Marcus also has the chutzpah to write that Israel is a “country founded as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust.” Is she really unaware that 750,000 indigenous Palestinians were forcibly expelled and they and their descendants not allowed to return so that this “haven” could come into existence amid the ruins of Palestinian cities, villages and countryside?

True, Marcus declares the violence against and denigration of Africans now so common in Israel as “unacceptable” and “unsettling” but doesn’t object to the underlying premise of a “demographic threat.”

In her view and that of the Israelis she channels, Palestinians – and Africans – are inferior beings. The ongoing catastrophe caused to Palestinians due to violent Zionist colonization of their homeland is unworthy of mention and Palestinians and Africans are a “threat” merely because they live, breathe and – like all other humans – reproduce.

It is language directly reminiscent of the rulers of apartheid South Africa.

The question then is, what kind of “democracy” is “threatened” by the mere births of the ‘wrong’ kind of babies? And what would Ruth Marcus say if Jewish babies were deemed a “demographic threat” in any country?

The United States has no shortage of racism and nativism, and in large parts of the country anti-immigrant sentiment.

But we don’t talk about babies of the ‘wrong’ color or ethnicity or religious background “eradicating” the country or its democracy and we should not acquiesce when politicians use such language.

And those who do are rightly labeled as indulging in the type of vulgar racism that ought to have been banished along with Jim Crow.

Post Script: The only criticism I'd have of this article is that Jim Crow is being reestablished in the United State through so-called "anti-voter fraud" laws and immigrant racial profiling. Also, check out the book "The New Jim Crow," by Michelle Alexander.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

US Empire of Military Bases Grows

Tomgram: David Vine, U.S. Empire of Bases Grows
Posted by David Vine at 5:32pm, July 15, 2012.
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It was January 15, 2004, and TomDispatch had only been in existence for a year when Chalmers Johnson, author of the prophetic book Blowback (published in 2000 and a bestseller after the 9/11 attacks), did a piece for this site entitled “America’s Empire of Bases.” He wrote then: “Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.”

It was a benchmark essay for TomDispatch and a theme -- the unprecedented way Washington was garrisoning the planet -- that Johnson would return to repeatedly and that others of us would take up. This mattered because, despite the crucial role that Washington's empire of bases played in the American way of war and its dreams of global dominance, bases were then, and remain today, a phenomenon largely ignored in the mainstream media.

In 2004, the Pentagon was, for instance, already building the first of its 505 bases, the biggest among them meant to be “enduring,” in Iraq -- American ziggurats, I called them at the time. Some of these were large enough to qualify as full-scale American towns, with PXs, fire departments, bus routes, the usual range of fast-food joints, internet cafes, and the like -- and yet it was the rare American reporter who saw a story of any sort in them, even when visiting one of them. The same was true in Afghanistan, where the U.S. was building (and is still upgrading) 400 or more bases. No one even bothered to try to count them up until Nick Turse did so in February 2010 for this site. (Ann Jones took TomDispatch readers onto one of them in August of that same year.)

In his books and at TomDispatch, Johnson put significant effort into trying to come up with a number for the bases the Pentagon garrisoned outside the United States. In January 2011, Turse returned to that task and found that number to be well over 1,100. Again, it’s not a figure you normally see reported in the mainstream. In March 2010, John Feffer reminded TD readers of just how far the Pentagon would go to hang onto a single major base, among so many, on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

One of the last essays Chalmers Johnson published at this site before his death in 2010 was entitled “Dismantling the Empire” and it was concerned with just how the U.S. could downsize its global mission and end its empire of bases. David Vine, anthropologist and author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, has been touring American bases for the past three years. In a major survey of the changing shape of our Baseworld, he suggests that unfortunately it isn’t shrinking at all, and that “dismantling” isn’t yet on the American horizon. This means that -- until the mainstream finally stumbles upon the import of this story -- TomDispatch has little choice but to stay on the bases beat for the foreseeable future. (To catch Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Vine discusses his experiences with the Pentagon’s empire of bases, click here or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

The Lily-Pad Strategy
How the Pentagon Is Quietly Transforming Its Overseas Base Empire and Creating a Dangerous New Way of War
By David Vine

The first thing I saw last month when I walked into the belly of the dark grey C-17 Air Force cargo plane was a void -- something missing. A missing left arm, to be exact, severed at the shoulder, temporarily patched and held together. Thick, pale flesh, flecked with bright red at the edges. It looked like meat sliced open. The face and what remained of the rest of the man were obscured by blankets, an American flag quilt, and a jumble of tubes and tape, wires, drip bags, and medical monitors.

That man and two other critically wounded soldiers -- one with two stumps where legs had been, the other missing a leg below the thigh -- were intubated, unconscious, and lying on stretchers hooked to the walls of the plane that had just landed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. A tattoo on the soldier’s remaining arm read, “DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR.”

I asked a member of the Air Force medical team about the casualties they see like these. Many, as with this flight, were coming from Afghanistan, he told me. “A lot from the Horn of Africa,” he added. “You don’t really hear about that in the media.”

“Where in Africa?” I asked. He said he didn’t know exactly, but generally from the Horn, often with critical injuries. “A lot out of Djibouti,” he added, referring to Camp Lemonnier, the main U.S. military base in Africa, but from “elsewhere” in the region, too.

Since the “Black Hawk Down” deaths in Somalia almost 20 years ago, we’ve heard little, if anything, about American military casualties in Africa (other than a strange report last week about three special operations commandos killed, along with three women identified by U.S. military sources as “Moroccan prostitutes,” in a mysterious car accident in Mali). The growing number of patients arriving at Ramstein from Africa pulls back a curtain on a significant transformation in twenty-first-century U.S. military strategy.

These casualties are likely to be the vanguard of growing numbers of wounded troops coming from places far removed from Afghanistan or Iraq. They reflect the increased use of relatively small bases like Camp Lemonnier, which military planners see as a model for future U.S. bases “scattered,” as one academic explains, “across regions in which the United States has previously not maintained a military presence.”

Disappearing are the days when Ramstein was the signature U.S. base, an American-town-sized behemoth filled with thousands or tens of thousands of Americans, PXs, Pizza Huts, and other amenities of home. But don’t for a second think that the Pentagon is packing up, downsizing its global mission, and heading home. In fact, based on developments in recent years, the opposite may be true. While the collection of Cold War-era giant bases around the world is shrinking, the global infrastructure of bases overseas has exploded in size and scope.

Unknown to most Americans, Washington’s garrisoning of the planet is on the rise, thanks to a new generation of bases the military calls “lily pads” (as in a frog jumping across a pond toward its prey). These are small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and prepositioned weaponry and supplies.

Around the world, from Djibouti to the jungles of Honduras, the deserts of Mauritania to Australia’s tiny Cocos Islands, the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can, in as many countries as it can, as fast as it can. Although statistics are hard to assemble, given the often-secretive nature of such bases, the Pentagon has probably built upwards of 50 lily pads and other small bases since around 2000, while exploring the construction of dozens more.

As Mark Gillem, author of America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire, explains, “avoidance” of local populations, publicity, and potential opposition is the new aim. “To project its power,” he says, the United States wants “secluded and self-contained outposts strategically located” around the world. According to some of the strategy’s strongest proponents at the American Enterprise Institute, the goal should be “to create a worldwide network of frontier forts,” with the U.S. military “the ‘global cavalry’ of the twenty-first century.”

Such lily-pad bases have become a critical part of an evolving Washington military strategy aimed at maintaining U.S. global dominance by doing far more with less in an increasingly competitive, ever more multi-polar world. Central as it’s becoming to the long-term U.S. stance, this global-basing reset policy has, remarkably enough, received almost no public attention, nor significant Congressional oversight. Meanwhile, as the arrival of the first casualties from Africa shows, the U.S. military is getting involved in new areas of the world and new conflicts, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Transforming the Base Empire

You might think that the U.S. military is in the process of shrinking, rather than expanding, its little noticed but enormous collection of bases abroad. After all, it was forced to close the full panoply of 505 bases, mega to micro, that it built in Iraq, and it's now beginning the process of drawing down forces in Afghanistan. In Europe, the Pentagon is continuing to close its massive bases in Germany and will soon remove two combat brigades from that country. Global troop numbers are set to shrink by around 100,000.

Yet Washington still easily maintains the largest collection of foreign bases in world history: more than 1,000 military installations outside the 50 states and Washington, DC. They include everything from decades-old bases in Germany and Japan to brand-new drone bases in Ethiopia and the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean and even resorts for military vacationers in Italy and South Korea.

In Afghanistan, the U.S.-led international force still occupies more than 450 bases. In total, the U.S. military has some form of troop presence in approximately 150 foreign countries, not to mention 11 aircraft carrier task forces -- essentially floating bases -- and a significant, and growing, military presence in space. The United States currently spends an estimated $250 billion annually maintaining bases and troops overseas.

Some bases, like Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, date to the late nineteenth century. Most were built or occupied during or just after World War II on every continent, including Antarctica. Although the U.S. military vacated around 60% of its foreign bases following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Cold War base infrastructure remained relatively intact, with 60,000 American troops remaining in Germany alone, despite the absence of a superpower adversary.

However, in the early months of 2001, even before the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration launched a major global realignment of bases and troops that’s continuing today with Obama’s “Asia pivot.” Bush’s original plan was to close more than one-third of the nation’s overseas bases and shift troops east and south, closer to predicted conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Pentagon began to focus on creating smaller and more flexible “forward operating bases” and even smaller “cooperative security locations” or “lily pads.” Major troop concentrations were to be restricted to a reduced number of “main operating bases” (MOBs) -- like Ramstein, Guam in the Pacific, and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean -- which were to be expanded.

Despite the rhetoric of consolidation and closure that went with this plan, in the post-9/11 era the Pentagon has actually been expanding its base infrastructure dramatically, including dozens of major bases in every Persian Gulf country save Iran, and in several Central Asian countries critical to the war in Afghanistan.

Hitting the Base Reset Button

Obama’s recently announced “Asia pivot” signals that East Asia will be at the center of the explosion of lily-pad bases and related developments. Already in Australia, U.S. marines are settling into a shared base in Darwin. Elsewhere, the Pentagon is pursuing plans for a drone and surveillance base in Australia’s Cocos Islands and deployments to Brisbane and Perth. In Thailand, the Pentagon has negotiated rights for new Navy port visits and a “disaster-relief hub” at U-Tapao.

In the Philippines, whose government evicted the U.S. from the massive Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base in the early 1990s, as many as 600 special forces troops have quietly been operating in the country’s south since January 2002. Last month, the two governments reached an agreement on the future U.S. use of Clark and Subic, as well as other repair and supply hubs from the Vietnam War era. In a sign of changing times, U.S. officials even signed a 2011 defense agreement with former enemy Vietnam and have begun negotiations over the Navy’s increased use of Vietnamese ports.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Pentagon has rebuilt a runway on tiny Tinian island near Guam, and it’s considering future bases in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, while pushing stronger military ties with India. Every year in the region, the military conducts around 170 military exercises and 250 port visits. On South Korea’s Jeju island, the Korean military is building a base that will be part of the U.S. missile defense system and to which U.S. forces will have regular access.

“We just can’t be in one place to do what we’ve got to do,” Pacific Command commander Admiral Samuel Locklear III has said. For military planners, “what we’ve got to do” is clearly defined as isolating and (in the terminology of the Cold War) “containing” the new power in the region, China. This evidently means “peppering” new bases throughout the region, adding to the more than 200 U.S. bases that have encircled China for decades in Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Hawaii.

And Asia is just the beginning. In Africa, the Pentagon has quietly created “about a dozen air bases” for drones and surveillance since 2007. In addition to Camp Lemonnier, we know that the military has created or will soon create installations in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Sudan, and Uganda. The Pentagon has also investigated building bases in Algeria, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria, among other places.

Next year, a brigade-sized force of 3,000 troops, and “likely more,” will arrive for exercises and training missions across the continent. In the nearby Persian Gulf, the Navy is developing an “afloat forward-staging base,” or “mothership,” to serve as a sea-borne “lily pad” for helicopters and patrol craft, and has been involved in a massive build-up of forces in the region.

In Latin America, following the military's eviction from Panama in 1999 and Ecuador in 2009, the Pentagon has created or upgraded new bases in Aruba and Curaçao, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Peru. Elsewhere, the Pentagon has funded the creation of military and police bases capable of hosting U.S. forces in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and even Ecuador. In 2008, the Navy reactivated its Fourth Fleet, inactive since 1950, to patrol the region. The military may want a base in Brazil and unsuccessfully tried to create bases, ostensibly for humanitarian and emergency relief, in Paraguay and Argentina.

Finally, in Europe, after arriving in the Balkans during 1990’s interventions, U.S. bases have moved eastward into some of the former Eastern Bloc states of the Soviet empire. The Pentagon is now developing installations capable of supporting rotating, brigade-sized deployments in Romania and Bulgaria, and a missile defense base and aviation facilities in Poland. Previously, the Bush administration maintained two CIA black sites (secret prisons) in Lithuania and another in Poland. Citizens of the Czech Republic rejected a planned radar base for the Pentagon’s still unproven missile defense system, and now Romania will host ground-based missiles.

A New American Way of War

A lily pad on one of the Gulf of Guinea islands of S­ão Tomé and Príncipe, off the oil-rich west coast of Africa, helps explain what’s going on. A U.S. official has described the base as “another Diego Garcia,” referring to the Indian Ocean base that’s helped ensure decades of U.S. domination over Middle Eastern energy supplies. Without the freedom to create new large bases in Africa, the Pentagon is using S­ão Tomé and a growing collection of other lily pads on the continent in an attempt to control another crucial oil-rich region.

Far beyond West Africa, the nineteenth century “Great Game” competition for Central Asia has returned with a passion -- and this time gone global. It’s spreading to resource-rich lands in Africa, Asia, and South America, as the United States, China, Russia, and members of the European Union find themselves locked in an increasingly intense competition for economic and geopolitical supremacy.

While Beijing, in particular, has pursued this competition in a largely economic fashion, dotting the globe with strategic investments, Washington has focused relentlessly on military might as its global trump card, dotting the planet with new bases and other forms of military power. “Forget full-scale invasions and large-footprint occupations on the Eurasian mainland,” Nick Turse has written of this new twenty-first century military strategy. “Instead, think: special operations forces... proxy armies... the militarization of spying and intelligence... drone aircraft... cyber-attacks, and joint Pentagon operations with increasingly militarized ‘civilian’ government agencies.”

Add to this unparalleled long-range air and naval power; arms sales besting any nation on Earth; humanitarian and disaster relief missions that clearly serve military intelligence, patrol, and “hearts and minds” functions; the rotational deployment of regular U.S. forces globally; port visits and an expanding array of joint military exercises and training missions that give the U.S. military de facto “presence” worldwide and help turn foreign militaries into proxy forces.

And lots and lots of lily-pad bases.

Military planners see a future of endless small-scale interventions in which a large, geographically dispersed collection of bases will always be primed for instant operational access. With bases in as many places as possible, military planners want to be able to turn to another conveniently close country if the United States is ever prevented from using a base, as it was by Turkey prior to the invasion of Iraq. In other words, Pentagon officials dream of nearly limitless flexibility, the ability to react with remarkable rapidity to developments anywhere on Earth, and thus, something approaching total military control over the planet.

Beyond their military utility, the lily pads and other forms of power projection are also political and economic tools used to build and maintain alliances and provide privileged U.S. access to overseas markets, resources, and investment opportunities. Washington is planning to use lily-pad bases and other military projects to bind countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America as closely as possible to the U.S. military -- and so to continued U.S. political-economic hegemony. In short, American officials are hoping military might will entrench their influence and keep as many countries as possible within an American orbit at a time when some are asserting their independence ever more forcefully or gravitating toward China and other rising powers.

Those Dangerous Lily Pads

While relying on smaller bases may sound smarter and more cost effective than maintaining huge bases that have often caused anger in places like Okinawa and South Korea, lily pads threaten U.S. and global security in several ways:

First, the “lily pad” language can be misleading, since by design or otherwise, such installations are capable of quickly growing into bloated behemoths.

Second, despite the rhetoric about spreading democracy that still lingers in Washington, building more lily pads actually guarantees collaboration with an increasing number of despotic, corrupt, and murderous regimes.

Third, there is a well-documented pattern of damage that military facilities of various sizes inflict on local communities. Although lily pads seem to promise insulation from local opposition, over time even small bases have often led to anger and protest movements.

Finally, a proliferation of lily pads means the creeping militarization of large swaths of the globe. Like real lily pads -- which are actually aquatic weeds -- bases have a way of growing and reproducing uncontrollably. Indeed, bases tend to beget bases, creating “base races” with other nations, heightening military tensions, and discouraging diplomatic solutions to conflicts. After all, how would the United States respond if China, Russia, or Iran were to build even a single lily-pad base of its own in Mexico or the Caribbean?

For China and Russia in particular, ever more U.S. bases near their borders threaten to set off new cold wars. Most troublingly, the creation of new bases to protect against an alleged future Chinese military threat may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: such bases in Asia are likely to create the threat they are supposedly designed to protect against, making a catastrophic war with China more, not less, likely.

Encouragingly, however, overseas bases have recently begun to generate critical scrutiny across the political spectrum from Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to Democratic Senator Jon Tester and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. With everyone looking for ways to trim the deficit, closing overseas bases offers easy savings. Indeed, increasingly influential types are recognizing that the country simply can’t afford more than 1,000 bases abroad.

Great Britain, like empires before it, had to close most of its remaining foreign bases in the midst of an economic crisis in the 1960s and 1970s. The United States is undoubtedly headed in that direction sooner or later. The only question is whether the country will give up its bases and downsize its global mission by choice, or if it will follow Britain’s path as a fading power forced to give up its bases from a position of weakness.

Of course, the consequences of not choosing another path extend beyond economics. If the proliferation of lily pads, special operations forces, and drone wars continues, the United States is likely to be drawn into new conflicts and new wars, generating unknown forms of blowback, and untold death and destruction. In that case, we’d better prepare for a lot more incoming flights -- from the Horn of Africa to Honduras -- carrying not just amputees but caskets.

David Vine is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 U.S. military bases located outside the United States. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Vine discusses his experiences with the Pentagon’s empire of bases, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook, and check out the latest TD book, Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. there anyone to root for?

While the US and other western governments and their stenographers in the "respectable" media call for regime change in Syria, what are those who oppose US imperialism and understand its hypocritical propaganda for "democracy" doing?

Or, put another way, what can you do?...or at least say?

Is it either/or? Support the Assad regime as a "progressive, Arab Socialist bulwark against US/Israeli imperialism, or support the rebellion and be a puppet of "reactionary forces?"

Whatever the pretensions of the Assad family dictatorship and its Baath party, it is neither progressive, anti-imperalist, nor socialist. It's an ethnically based dictatorship, supported by a business class and military caste. They have maintained power via a police state and mass murder. It rhetorically supports Palestine and denounces Israel while mistreating Palestinian refugees in Syria, keeping the status quo at the border. Israel has relied on the Assads, pere and fils, to maintain stability.

It's easy to see why people would finally rebel. This is a popular uprising. There's no way it could have the energy and momentum it has if it was some artificial creation of the CIA, Mossad, or whatever.

There are diverse forces entering into the fray in Syria. There's no assurance that it will ultimately win (although it look like it at this time) and its unknown what will happen if the revolutionary forces prevail. Don't count on being able to predict it with any assurance. Are there pro-imperialist elements involved? Certainly, the US will try and contaminate and take advantage of any opening it sees. That is a given in any social struggle anywhere in the world. But that's life. Should oppressed people not fight for their rights because reactionary groups and/or countries will try and influence events? Ideological perfection and complete clarity has never been one of the strong points of real life in this world.

To oppose the uprising and give support to Assad is both shameful and stupid.

--R. Congres

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Censorship? Haaretz deletes Amira Hass article on surging settler violence

from The Electric Intifada
Censorship? Haaretz deletes Amira Hass article on surging settler violence
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 17:09

Israel’s Haaretz has mysteriously deleted a powerful article by Amira Hass headlined “The anti-Semitism that goes unreported,” about an unchecked upsurge in violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers.

This is at least the second notable act of apparent censorship by Haaretz in recent months. In December, as we reported, the newspaper expunged from its website an article by David Sheen on a horrifying anti-African rally in Tel Aviv.

Hass’ article, originally published on 18 July, likened the alarming increase in settler attacks to the period leading up to the 1994 settler massacre of Palestinians in Hebron:

For the human rights organization Al-Haq, the escalation is reminiscent of what happened in 1993-1994, when they warned that the increasing violence, combined with the authorities’ failure to take action, would lead to mass casualties. And then Dr. Baruch Goldstein of Kiryat Arba came along and gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahim Mosque.

Hass is one of Haaretz’s best known writers, renowned internationally for documenting Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Article disappears

The Hebrew version of Hass’ article still appears on the newspaper’s Hebrew language website. It is the English version that is gone.

An image of the now deleted English version can still be seen via Google Cache (above).

However, the original url for the article now redirects to an unrelated page:

A search of Haaretz archive for articles by Amira Hass indicates that as of today, her most recent article was from 16 July. The 18 July article is nowhere to be found.

Ironically the url originally leading to Hass’ article now links to one by a man subtitled “Women, don’t be suckers; The protest’s female voice is not being heard.” Hass is one of Haaretz’s few prominent female writers, and apparently her voice cannot be heard.
Full text of censored article

Luckily, The Electronic Intifada captured the text of the article Haaretz didn’t want you to read. Here it is in full:

Amira Hass: The anti-Semitism that goes unreported

18 July 2012
By Amira Hass, Haaretz - 18 July 2012
Tens of thousands of people live in the shadow of terror

Here’s a statistic that you won’t see in research on anti-Semitism, no matter how meticulous the study is. In the first six months of the year, 154 anti-Semitic assaults have been recorded, 45 of them around one village alone. Some fear that last year’s record high of 411 attacks - significantly more than the 312 attacks in 2010 and 168 in 2009 - could be broken this year.

Fifty-eight incidents were recorded in June alone, including stone-throwing targeting farmers and shepherds, shattered windows, arson, damaged water pipes and water-storage facilities, uprooted fruit trees and one damaged house of worship. The assailants are sometimes masked, sometimes not; sometimes they attack surreptitiously, sometimes in the light of day.

There were two violent attacks a day, in separate venues, on July 13, 14 and 15. The words “death” and “revenge” have been scrawled in various areas; a more original message promises that “We will yet slaughter.”

It’s no accident that the diligent anti-Semitism researchers have left out this data. That’s because they don’t see it as relevant, since the Semites who were attacked live in villages with names like Jalud, Mughayer and At-Tuwani, Yanun and Beitilu. The daily dose of terrorizing (otherwise known as terrorism ) that is inflicted on these Semites isn’t compiled into a neat statistical report, nor is it noticed by most of the Jewish population in Israel and around the world - even though the incidents resemble the stories told by our grandparents.

The day our grandparents feared was Sunday, the Christian Sabbath; the Semites, who are not of interest to the researchers monitoring anti-Semitism, fear Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Our grandparents knew that the order-enforcement authorities wouldn’t intervene to help a Jewish family under attack; we know that the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, the Civil Administration, the Border Police and the courts all stand on the sidelines, closing their eyes, softballing investigations, ignoring evidence, downplaying the severity of the acts, protecting the attackers, and giving a boost to those progromtchiks.The hands behind these attacks belong to Israeli Jews who violate international law by living in the West Bank. But the aims and goals behind the attacks are the flesh and blood of the Israeli non-occupation. This systemic violence is part of the existing order. It complements and facilitates the violence of the regime, and what the representatives - the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, the generals and the Civil Administration officers - are doing while “bearing the burden” of military service.

They are grabbing as much land as possible, using pretexts and tricks made kosher by the High Court of Justice; they are confining the natives to densely populated reservations. That is the essence of the tremendous success known as Area C: a deliberate thinning of the Palestinian population in about 62 percent of the West Bank, as preparation for formal annexation.

Day after day, tens of thousands of people live in the shadow of terror. Will there be an attack today on the homes at the edge of the village? Will we be able to get to the well, to the orchard, to the wheat field? Will our children get to school okay, or make it to their cousins’ house unharmed? How many olive trees were damaged overnight?

In exceptional cases, when there is luck to be had, a video camera operated by B’Tselem volunteers documents an incident and pierces the armor of willful ignorance donned by the citizens of the only democracy in the Middle East. When there is no camera, the matter is of negligible importance, because after all, you can’t believe the Palestinians. But this routine of escalating violence is very real, even if it is underreported.

For the human rights organization Al-Haq, the escalation is reminiscent of what happened in 1993-1994, when they warned that the increasing violence, combined with the authorities’ failure to take action, would lead to mass casualties. And then Dr. Baruch Goldstein of Kiryat Arba came along and gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahim Mosque. The massacre set the stage for a consistent Israeli policy of emptying the Old City of Hebron of its Palestinian residents, with the assistance of Israeli Jewish pogromtchiks. Is there someone among the country’s decision-makers and decision-implementers who is hoping for a second round?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"I pledge allegience to the bank and to fraud it stands for..."

This Global Financial Fraud and Its Gatekeepers
By Naomi Wolf, Guardian UK
15 July 12

The media's 'bad apple' thesis no longer works. We're seeing systemic corruption in banking - and systemic collusion.

last fall, I argued that the violent reaction to Occupy and other protests around the world had to do with the 1%ers' fear of the rank and file exposing massive fraud if they ever managed get their hands on the books. At that time, I had no evidence of this motivation beyond the fact that financial system reform and increased transparency were at the top of many protesters' list of demands.
But this week presents a sick-making trove of new data that abundantly fills in this hypothesis and confirms this picture. The notion that the entire global financial system is riddled with systemic fraud - and that key players in the gatekeeper roles, both in finance and in government, including regulatory bodies, know it and choose to quietly sustain this reality - is one that would have only recently seemed like the frenzied hypothesis of tinhat-wearers, but this week's headlines make such a conclusion, sadly, inevitable.
The New York Times business section on 12 July shows multiple exposes of systemic fraud throughout banks: banks colluding with other banks in manipulation of interest rates, regulators aware of systemic fraud, and key government officials (at least one banker who became the most key government official) aware of it and colluding as well. Fraud in banks has been understood conventionally and, I would say, messaged as a glitch. As in London Mayor Boris Johnson's full-throated defense of Barclay's leadership last week, bank fraud is portrayed as a case, when it surfaces, of a few "bad apples" gone astray.
In the New York Times business section, we read that the HSBC banking group is being fined up to $1bn, for not preventing money-laundering (a highly profitable activity not to prevent) between 2004 and 2010 - a six years' long "oops". In another article that day, Republican Senator Charles Grassley says of the financial group Peregrine capital: "This is a company that is on top of things." The article goes onto explain that at Peregrine Financial, "regulators discovered about $215m in customer money was missing." Its founder now faces criminal charges. Later, the article mentions that this revelation comes a few months after MF Global "lost" more than $1bn in clients' money.
What is weird is how these reports so consistently describe the activity that led to all this vanishing cash as simple bumbling: "regulators missed the red flag for years." They note that a Peregrine client alerted the firm's primary regulator in 2004 and another raised issues with the regulator five years later - yet "signs of trouble seemingly missed for years", muses the Times headline.
A page later, "Wells Fargo will Settle Mortgage Bias Charges" as that bank agrees to pay $175m in fines resulting from its having - again, very lucratively - charged African-American and Hispanic mortgagees costlier rates on their subprime mortgages than their counterparts who were white and had the same credit scores. Remember, this was a time when "Wall Street firms developed a huge demand for subprime loans that they purchased and bundled into securities for investors, creating financial incentives for lenders to make such loans." So, Wells Fargo was profiting from overcharging minority clients and profiting from products based on the higher-than-average bad loan rate expected. The piece discreetly ends mentioning that a Bank of America lawsuit of $335m and a Sun Trust mortgage settlement of $21m for having engaged is similar kinds of discrimination.
Are all these examples of oversight failure and banking fraud just big ol' mistakes? Are the regulators simply distracted?
The top headline of the day's news sums up why it is not that simple: "Geithner Tried to Curb Bank's Rate Rigging in 2008". The story reports that when Timothy Geithner, at the time he ran the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, learned of "problems" with how interest rates were fixed in London, the financial center at the heart of the Libor Barclays scandal. He let "top British authorities" know of the issues and wrote an email to his counterparts suggesting reforms. Were his actions ethical, or prudent? A possible interpretation of Geithner's action is that he was "covering his ass", without serious expectation of effecting reform of what he knew to be systemic abuse.
And what, in fact, happened? Barclays kept reporting false rates, seeking to boost its profit. Last month, the bank agreed to pay $450m to US and UK authorities for manipulating the Libor and other key benchmarks, upon which great swaths of the economy depended. This manipulation is alleged in numerous lawsuits to have defrauded thousands of bank clients. So Geithner's "warnings came too late, and his efforts did not stop the illegal activity".
And then what happened? Did Geithner, presumably frustrated that his warnings had gone unheeded, call a press conference? No. He stayed silent, as a practice that now looks as if several major banks also perpetrated, continued.
And then what happened? Tim Geithner became Treasury Secretary. At which point, he still did nothing.
It is very hard, looking at the elaborate edifices of fraud that are emerging across the financial system, to ignore the possibility that this kind of silence - "the willingness to not rock the boat" - is simply rewarded by promotion to ever higher positions, ever greater authority. If you learn that rate-rigging and regulatory failures are systemic, but stay quiet, well, perhaps you have shown that you are genuinely reliable and deserve membership of the club.
Whatever motivated Geithner's silence, or that of the "government official" in the emails to Barclays, this much is obvious: the mainstream media need to drop their narratives of "Gosh, another oversight". The financial sector's corruption must be recognized as systemic.
Meanwhile, Britain is sleepwalking in a march toward total email surveillance, even as the US brings forward new proposals to punish whistleblowers by extending the Espionage Act. In an electronic world, evidence of these crimes lasts forever - if people get their hands on the books. In the Libor case, notably, a major crime has not been greeted by much demand at the top for criminal prosecutions. That asymmetry is one of the insurance policies of power. Another is to crack down on citizens' protest.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why pick on little Israel?

When discussing or debating Israel/Palestine, supporters of Palestinian rights inevitably encounter someone who says, “Why pick on poor little Israel? So, maybe there's a problem there. It's nothing compared to Sudan, Syria, Tibet, etc. People being oppressed and starved all over the place! Why get all worked up about Israel and not serious problems? You must be an anti-semite, or an Arab, or Muslim, or a fellow-traveler.”

The excerpt below from The Journal of Palestinian Studies has a good answer to this sort of question.

excerpt from (with added bold type emphasis by me):
Reflections on the Meaning of Palestine
Author(s): Alain Gresh
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Autumn 2011), pp. 67-81
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Institute for Palestine Studies

What Does Palestine Represent?

Palestine’s place at the heart of the Holy Land and of a Middle East rich
in oil explains in part why it has often been front page news, at least since
1967. But for many years the Palestine problem aroused scant indignation or
attention. Neither the destruction of an entire society in 1948–49 nor the
millions of refugees crowded into miserable camps had much of an impact
on a Europe still traumatized by World War II. After 1967, there was a certain
mobilization in support of the Palestinian fedayeen by extreme leftist groups
within the framework of anti-imperialist solidarity, the exaltation of “armed
struggle,” and grand dreams of revolution. But it was not until Israel’s 1982
invasion of Lebanon and the eruption of the first intifada (the “revolution of
stones”) in 1987 that Palestine solidarity spread beyond militant groups.
Les Temps modernes, the most influential French cultural and intellectual
periodical of the post-World War II era, came out with an edition just after
the June 1967 war that provides an excellent example of the uneasiness with
regard to Palestine that prevailed among the French Left, including those
who had been deeply engaged in the struggle for Algerian independence
and decolonization in general. In his preface to the review, of which he was
founder and editor, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre did not even attempt to
hide his discomfort:

I wanted simply to recall that, for many of us, there is in
this response [to the war] an affective dimension which, for
all that, is not just a passing effect of our subjectivity but
rather the result of historical and perfectly objective circumstances
that we cannot soon forget. Thus are we allergic to
anything that could in the least resemble anti-Semitism. To
which many Arabs would respond: “We are not anti-Semitic
but anti-Israeli.” Doubtless they would be right, but can they
change the fact that, for us, the Israelis are also Jews?2
In fact, this “reticence” within the European Left concerning Palestine
bordered on blindness. Palestinians as such were hardly even mentioned in
1967, while the threat to Israel, presented in the most alarmist terms throughout
the 1960s, was totally without foundation since Israel, supported by the
United States, could defeat all the Arab countries put together. As Sartre’s
preface makes clear, the conflict in Europe was seen through the lens of anti-
Semitic persecutions and the “legitimate aspirations of the Jewish people for
a country.”

Before returning to the question of anti-Semitism, let us try to reformulate
Serraf’s concern and instead ask ourselves why, after decades of disinterest,
Palestine suddenly became a “universal cause,” as the philosopher
Etienne Balibar put it. Why, during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, did
everyone from Latin American peasants to French young people to veterans
of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle turn out in massive demonstrations
to denounce Israel’s aggression against Gaza?

Why is it that at a certain moment a cause is able to mobilize public opinion
across the globe?

Why, for example, did Vietnam occupy such a privileged
place in the world’s imagination as of the 1960s, or South Africa a little
later? Was it justified? The United States at the time said that communism was
responsible for crimes far more serious than the U.S. intervention in Vietnam.
The apartheid regime, meanwhile, claimed that there
were far fewer violent deaths in South Africa than
under this or that African dictatorship. The murder
of the student leader and activist Steve Biko by the
apartheid police in September 1977, a year after the
Soweto riots, touched off far greater indignation than
the elimination at the same time of thousands of
opponents of the Ethiopian dictator Haile Mariam Mengistu. In other words,
so many arguments raising the same point that Serraf made about the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict being less deadly than the “little wars” on the borders
between Uganda and the Congo.

Be that as it may, and whether we like it or not, international public opinion
is not formed by death tolls alone. It also responds to the symbolism of situations.
At a given moment, a conflict can express the “truth” of an entire era,
spilling beyond the narrow confines/boundaries of its geographic localization
to acquire a universal significance.
Despite their differences, Vietnam, South
Africa, and Palestine are all on the fault line between North and South. The
history of the last century was no doubt marked by the two world wars; by
the emergence, rise, and fall of communism; and by the consolidation of U.S.
power. But it also witnessed the emancipation from the yoke of colonialism of
the great majority of the world’s population, who had fought for the right to
determine their own destiny. Vietnam symbolized the struggle of a small Third
World people against the greatest power of the North. South Africa encapsulated
a revolt against a white-dominated segregationist system; Palestine, the
last survival of European settler colonialism, crystallizes the aspirations for a
world that has turned the page on two centuries of Western domination.
What, then, is the meaning of Palestine? What does it represent? First,
colonial domination by the West. Next, an ongoing injustice characterized by
a permanent violation of international law. Finally, the logic of double standards
applied by various governments, adopted (in essence) by the United
Nations, and theorized by a significant number of Western intellectuals. At
the crossroads between East and West, South and North, Palestine symbolizes
at one and the same time the old world, marked by the hegemony of the
North, and the gestation of a new world founded on the principle of equality
between peoples.

Serraf was right, though perhaps not in the way he intended. The coverage
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does obey different rules from those
prevailing in other conflicts, and Israel is judged by special standards. Indeed,

is there another example of an occupation condemned for more than forty
years by the United Nations without there being either results or sanctions? Is
there another case where a conquering power has been permitted to implant
almost a half million settlers in the territories it occupied (which under international
law represents a war crime), without the international community
emitting more than faint verbal condemnations with no follow-up?

The case of Iraq is emblematic of the West’s sliding scale of values. Within
four months of Saddam Hussein’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the United
Nations had condemned the aggression, given the green light for the creation
of a military coalition against Baghdad, and launched a war of massive
destruction followed by a deadly embargo that lasted more than ten years
and culminated in the U.S. invasion of 2003. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis
have lost their lives since August 1990; the country is in tatters. Imagine for a
moment that on 3 August 1990 the United States and the European Union had
instead demanded (as they have for decades in the case of Palestine) that the
“two parties” sit down for negotiations “in good faith” in the aim of reaching
an agreement; twenty years later, Kuwait would still be occupied.
Cloaking themselves in a reading of the Jewish genocide that absolves Israel
a priori of any responsibility for possible war crimes committed since 1948,
the West refuses to apply the same criteria of analysis and judgment to the
Palestine conflict that it has applied to Iraq, Serbia, or Iran. In other regions, one
hears demands for international law, human rights, freedom of the press, and
the right of journalists to cover wars, and about the importance of observing
proportionality in military responses. Serbian exactions against the Kosovars,
often real but sometimes exaggerated by the international media, served to
justify NATO’s military intervention against Serbia in March 1999. But when
one of the most powerful armies in the world bombs the minuscule territory of
Gaza, into which over 1.5 million people are crammed, deliberately devastates
the infrastructure, destroys schools and hospitals, and kills hundreds of civilians,
the Western governments find countless justifications for what elsewhere
would be called war crimes, if not crimes against humanity....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Should the oppressor dicatate the terms of struggle of the oppressed?

How obsession with "nonviolence" harms the Palestinian cause
Linah Alsaafin
The Electronic Intifada
10 July 2012

Palestinians do not have to tailor their resistance to the liking of the oppressor class and their supporters.

In recent years, western discourse surrounding the Palestinian cause has employed a few new — and superficial — adjectives to describe Palestinian resistance: Palestinian “nonviolent” resistance, Palestinian “peaceful” resistance, Palestinian “popular” resistance, Palestinian “unarmed” resistance. And the ever so popular Palestinian “Gandhi-style” resistance.

This discourse has been adopted by the Palestinian popular struggle committees, born after the success story of the occupied West Bank village of Budrus that embarked on popular protests and managed to regain 95 percent of its lands that were expropriated by Israel’s apartheid wall in 2003. However, the obsessive, fetish-like concentration on a specific type of resistance has in one way or another contributed to the delegitimization of other forms of resistance, while simultaneously closing off open discussion on what popular resistance actually is.

An historical overview of Palestinian resistance would testify to its use of different forms, although they were not viewed separately by Palestinians themselves. Palestinians were aware of their rights being stripped from them and confronted their occupiers.

There were the 1929 Wailing Wall/Buraq Wall demonstrations against the domination of the site by Jews who were backed by the British Mandate that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and Jews; the 1935 armed uprising spearheaded by Izz al-Din Qassam against British soldiers; the six-month trade strike against the British Mandate and Jewish colonialists the following year; and the subsequent three-year uprising brutally crushed by the British.

During the outbreak of what became known as the first intifada, in 1987, the iconic image of a Palestinian rock thrower facing a fully-armed, sophisticated army “redeemed” the Palestinian resistance of hijacking planes in the 1970s.
No need to explain

Nowadays, Israelis and internationals and unfortunately even some “enlightened” Palestinians champion “nonviolent resistance” and consider throwing a rock to be a violent act. The argument goes that throwing rocks tarnishes the reputation of Palestinians in the western world and immediately negates the “nonviolent/peaceful” resistance movement. This argument falls into the trap of western- (read, colonizer) dictated methods of acceptable means to resist.

Oppressed people do not and should not have to explain their oppression to their oppressor, nor tailor their resistance to the comfort of the oppressors and their supporters.

The last time we truly had a genuine, grassroots popular resistance movement in Palestine (before the protests against Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank village of Budrus in the early 2000s) was during first three years of the first intifada.

In 2005, people in the village of Bilin began their weekly protests against the wall Israel built on their land. The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) was formed in 2008, touted as the rebirth of popular resistance as more and more West Bank villages started their own weekly protests and were effectively swept under the wings of the PSCC.

Mohammed Khatib, one of the founders of the PSCC, told me in an interview that the committee “sought to undertake creative direct action as a result of the low numbers in the protests.”
Bailed out by PA

The model of the PSCC is built around generating international support and media awareness, and on this front it has proven to be highly successful. Yet the use of the term of “popular resistance” is unfair and quite simply an inaccuracy as these demonstrations are built around no mobilizing strategy or goal, do not include the majority or even half of the villagers, and some of those who do take part prevent their wives and daughters from joining in.

The structure of the committee is built on an undemocratic basis, with self-appointed figures from the various villages fulfilling the leadership roles. The unelected Palestinian Authority prime minister, the darling of Europe and the US, Salam Fayyad funds the committee with more than half a million shekels ($125,000) each year.

“Since October 2009, we have been getting 50,000 shekels per month from Fayyad,” Khatib said. The money ostensibly goes to paying the bails of Palestinians arrested during the protests, logistical needs and administrative purposes.

“The financial costs could not be covered except from the support and donations of official bodies,” Khatib explained. “During one month in 2008, fifty Palestinians were arrested from Bilin. Fifty people needed to be represented by a lawyer and have their bail paid. Donations from supporters were just not enough.”

Fayyad carries an agenda with him, which he has no qualms in making public. During the seventh annual Bilin conference in April this year, he spoke about how these “popular protests are the steps toward an economically independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.” This is in stark contrast to the popular chants at these same demonstrations of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

More concretely, of course, Fayyad nominally commands the security forces that work with the very same Israeli occupation army that is carrying out the theft of land from the villages.

Khatib is aware of the criticisms relating to an alleged popular committee accepting funds from politicians. “I’ve personally met with Salam Fayyad several times since April 2011 and told him that the popular committees do not want his money, but he didn’t listen,” Khatib added.

The PSCC is also funded by nongovernmental organizations who come in with their own schemes and plans. For example, the Spanish group NoVA seeks, according to its website, to “offer support for civil society in conflict areas in the field of violence prevention, peace building, mediation and nonviolent conflict transformation” (

NoVA supports a study program called the Executive Diploma for Leading Change. According to participant Beesan Ramadan, the Spanish deputy consul Pablo Sanz was brought into one of the classes to lecture about the “proper way to resist” and then proceeded to say that Palestinians should be “pragmatic” and to consider not throwing rocks in protests. Sanz argued that it makes the consuls’ jobs harder if they encounter rock throwing when they attended protests with European officials.
Mired in apathy

This is the root problem for the protests that internationals and Israelis so love to participate in. The PSCC is not reflective of Palestinian society, one that is mired in deep apathy due to a number of factors: the dependency of large numbers of people on loans from banks, the illusion of a “state” as introduced by Fayyad’s neoliberal agenda of “state-building,” the high cost of sacrifices already made and the exhaustion of 64 years of increasing and incessant occupation and colonization.

Overshadowing all of it are the Oslo accords of the 1990s, which only legitimized and entrenched the Israeli occupation instead of getting rid of it.

A need for mobilization

Meanwhile, efforts are made to bring in European and international delegations and show them around the villages engaging in the weekly protests, and in establishing solidarity links that lead to speaking tours during which leaders of the popular committees talk about “nonviolent resistance.”

However, equal effort is not made toward mobilizing Palestinians. The failure to do so is indicative of the prevalent attitude in Palestinian society, one that hasn’t changed since Bilin’s first protest in 2005. Seven years of weekly protests and the general attitude is again one of apathy, contempt for “Fayyad’s resistance” and despair regarding the uselessness of it all, of how the youth are bravely risking their lives week in, week out and how that won’t change the status quo.

By criticizing this model of protests, I am in no way seeking to belittle or cast doubt on the courage of men and women who protest against the occupier, or the sacrifices made by numerous villages, particularly by those whose sons and daughters have been martyred or injured by the Israeli forces.

The psychological and physical stresses that villagers suffer from frequent night raids on their homes, multiple arrests of their family members, and the helplessness of not being able to give their children a better future are all to be taken into consideration, as well as their admirable steadfastness and conviction that these protests are an effective means to challenge the occupation.
No such thing as “joint struggle” with Israelis

In addition to questions about the strategy behind and efficacy of these forms of protests, the participation of Israeli activists is certainly a topic of great debate. Today’s dynamics of “Palestinian resistance” have drawn more and more Israelis to the protests and made it an attractive prospect, almost like a tourist destination.

Unless explicitly stated by villagers or the Palestinian community involved in demonstrations, no one is refusing to allow Israelis come to the protests. With that in mind, it is also helpful to acknowledge that the majority of Palestinian society does not trust Israelis from the outset. So what exactly should the role of Israeli activists be?

It goes without saying that Israeli activists must never take a decision-making or leadership role in the Palestinian struggle, but instead must remain on the periphery. In my experience, most of the Israeli activists already know and understand that. Once establishing their presence in Palestinian protests, their primary responsibilities are documenting the Israeli occupying army’s crimes, facilitating legal proceedings in the case of Palestinians getting arrested by the Israeli army and diverting arrest, which means placing themselves in front of Palestinians who are about to get arrested to allow the Palestinians more time to escape arrest.

Eltezam Morrar from Budrus, who led the women in her village to protest against the occupation army, shared her fear that the present-day reality is not totally led by Palestinian voices.

“Any international or Israeli who wants to join us in our demos is welcomed,” she told me. “But as my father once said, we are the ones who put the agendas for the resistance and the Israeli or international supporters follow it. Nowadays I am not really sure if the agendas are 100 percent Palestinian.”

This issue is exacerbated by the absence of a truly representative Palestinian leadership able to lay out a strategy for resistance and mass mobilization, instead of busying itself with creating a police (non)state in the West Bank bantustans, or autocratic rule under Hamas in Gaza.

Some Israeli activists speak explicitly of a “joint struggle” between Israelis and Palestinians (see, for example, Noa Shaindlinger’s 24 June article “Thoughts on a joint, but unequal struggle” on the website +972).

But to put it bluntly, there is no such thing as a “joint struggle.”

Israeli anarchists, many of whom attend the Palestinian protests and who are perhaps the closest to understanding the Palestinian struggle, don’t even identify themselves as Israelis to begin with, so the term doesn’t make much sense anyway. There must be an understanding of what the Palestinian struggle is about, specifically so that liberal Zionists won’t waste their time coming to protests all in the name of “peace” and “the two-state solution.”

There can be no peace without justice, and justice means decolonization, allowing the implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and obliterating all the racist laws and policies of Israeli apartheid and occupation. That means no Jewish state, no supremacist laws and no different systems for people of different ethnic backgrounds.
No symmetry under occupation

The term “joint struggle” implies a degree of equality or at least symmetry, and that is definitely not the case between Israelis and Palestinians, even if they are dodging the same rubber bullets and inhaling the same tear gas.

Israeli activists are solidarity activists, just like their international counterparts. There is no clear role for solidarity activists precisely because there is no clear Palestinian resistance strategy within Palestine.

If there was an aim to the protests, then solidarity activists would join the villagers from, for example, Nabi Saleh and trek down the hill to where the stolen village spring lies, instead of habitually hanging back and philosophizing on the inhuman nature of the occupation soldiers.

The fact that Israeli activists live on Palestinian colonized land spurs them to want to do more and be considered as more than solidarity activists, as they claim that they are connected to the Palestinian cause, which is true enough. The problem lies with what sort of actions are implemented, and what these Israeli activists can do to chip away at the occupying, colonizing system.
Israeli activists should focus on changing their own society

Israeli activists must work within their own societies and communities. Of course this will be a very difficult and even dangerous task, as one would expect in a society where racism and fascism are so institutionalized.

To Palestinians, that would make the difference, not swamping weekly protests that don’t hold much credibility with Palestinians in the first place, and sometimes even outnumbering the Palestinian participants.

Complaints from some Israeli activists of how horrible they are treated and of the persecution they receive at the hands the army can come off as self-indulgent, especially when arrests or injuries of Israelis and internationals are already far more likely to be widely reported anyway than the routine and horrifying abuses suffered by Palestinians on a far larger scale.

Israeli activists sometimes despair about how pointless and ineffective their efforts are in creating more awareness about the realities of the occupation within their own communities but that should only spur them to be more creative in coming up with strategies to confront and challenge their society.

For now, Palestinians must also work within their own societies in order to mobilize and inject the society with the spirit of volunteerism and social community that is now fragmenting due to neoliberal economic policies that widen inequality, aid dependency, debt and consumerism.

“Becoming an anti-Zionist in Israeli society is such a difficult process that demands lots of bravery and courage,” a friend of mine from Nazareth observed, “and when they resort to me, I have the privilege to rescue them as human beings and not reject them just because they were born to this dysfunctional society.”

No one is rejecting Israeli anti-Zionists, but simply calling yourself an anti-Zionist, and even coming to protests is not enough. Israeli activists who do so claim, for the most part, to understand the privileges they enjoy due to being white and Jewish in a colonial situation. But it is not always clear that they understand in practice how these privileges continue to manifest themselves in their interactions with Palestinians.
Toward a truly popular resistance

Despite the good intentions of the internationals and the Israelis who come to protests, their presence can also buttress the notion that Palestinians need someone to speak in their name. Not only is this model of resistance hugely ineffective in terms of outcome and mobilizing Palestinians, it also helps maintains the status quo that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority strive to protect.

Bassem Tamimi, one of the leaders of the popular struggle committee in Nabi Saleh, acknowledged that the reality on the ground is not a popular resistance.

“We are still in the preliminary stages. I would even say the stages behind the preliminaries behind the first step to be taken toward a popular resistance. There are a lot of faults with the current model. When we first started out on these weekly protests we used the term ‘popular resistance’ as a way to mobilize so that in the near future, it could be just that. Now we’re at a stagnation point.”
Building from the ground up

Revolutions and successful resistance do not take place overnight. It takes months, years for a movement to establish itself. The struggle must be brought back to the Palestinians themselves, and one sure way to mobilize is not through protests or speeches, but through social community work (which incidentally is what made Hamas so popular from its establishment, especially in the refugee camps).

Get to know the people on the street. Ask them what they need, what they are suffering from. It could be a broken roof or not having enough money to pay their daughter’s university tuition. Trust begins to be built up in different communities, and with that awareness and the spark to rekindle a true resistance movement on the ground.

As Paolo Freire rightly pointed out, “No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.”

Linah Alsaafin is a recent graduate of Birzeit University in the West Bank. She was born in Cardiff, Wales and was raised in England, the United States and Palestine. Her website is

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Water Torture - by Gideon Levy

from Haaretz

Water torture
IDF confiscates water containers from Palestinians and Bedouins in Jordan Valley.
By Gideon Levy | Jul.08, 2012 |

Avi is an inspection coordinator for the "Civil Administration" - the occupation regime, to speak without euphemisms. Presumably Avi likes his job. Maybe he's even proud of it.

He doesn't bother mentioning his last name in the forms he signs. Why should he? His ornate "Avi" signature is sufficient to carry out his diktats. And Avi's are among the most brutal and inhumane diktats ever to be imposed in these parts.

Avi confiscates water containers that serve hundreds of Palestinian and Bedouin families living in the Jordan Valley.

The containers are these people's only water source. In recent weeks, Avi has confiscated about a dozen containers, leaving dozens of families with children in the horrific Jordan Valley heat, to go thirsty.

The forms he takes pains to complete, in spiffy style, say: "There is reason to suspect they used the above merchandise for carrying out an offense." Avi's bosses claim the "offense" is stealing water from a pipe. This is why the containers are seized - with no inquiry, no trial. Welcome to the land of lawlessness and evil. Welcome to the land of apartheid. Israel does not permit thousands of these wretched people to hook up to the water pipes. This water is for Jews only. Even the greatest Israeli propagandists could not deny the nationalist, diabolical separation taking place here.

The axis of evil is located about an hour's drive from your home. But emotionally distant and far from the heart, it inspires no "social protest." And on the scale of Israeli evil, it is one of the worst. Backed with forms and bureaucracy, applied by ostensibly nonviolent inspectors, it involves not a drop of blood, yet leaves no drop of water either.

The Civil Administration is supposed to take care of the people's needs. But it does not stop at the most despicable measure - depriving people and livestock of water in the scathing summer heat - to implement Israel's strategic goal: to drive them from their lands and purge the valley of its non-Jewish residents.

The stealing of water, whether it did or didn't take place, is of course only the excuse. Even if there was such a thing - what choice do these people have? The authorities won't allow them to connect to the water pipe running through their fields; pipes whose water is flowing to saturate the settlers' green vineyards and fields.

Last week I saw the people whose water container Avi had confiscated, leaving them thirsty. Newborn babies, a handicapped little girl, a small boy post-surgery, women and old folks, and, of course, the sheep - the only source of income here. Denizens with no water - in Israel, not in Africa. Water for one nation only - in Israel, not in South Africa.

But this is not the only watershed. A few days ago, the Israel Defense Forces decided to hold training exercises in the area. What did it do? Evicted the residents from their homes for 24 hours. Not all of them - only the Palestinians and Bedouin. It occurred to nobody to evict the residents of Maskiot, Beka'ot or Ro'i. The authorities don't call that apartheid, either.

Where did the IDF evict them to? Wherever the wind carries them. Thus some 400 people were forced to leave their huts and tents and spend a day and a night on the arid soil by the roadside, exposed to the elements.

Amjad Zahawa, a 2-day-old infant, passed his third day under the hot sun, with no shelter over his head. Greetings, Amjad; welcome to the reality of your life.

Avi, as we have already mentioned, loves his work and is proud of it. Dozens of others like him are also doing this contemptible work. But they are not the only ones at fault. Behind them stand millions of Israelis who are entirely untouched by all this. They blithely drive through the valley roads, paying no heed to the endless embankment alongside the road, imprisoning the residents and blocking their access to the road.

There is an iron gate every now and then. The soldiers, representatives of the merciful occupier, show up every few days to open the gate for a moment. Sometimes they forget, sometimes they are late. Sometimes they lose the key, but what does it matter?

The occupation is enlightened, Israel is right, the IDF is the most moral army, and apartheid is merely an invention of Israel's haters. Go to the Jordan Valley and see for yourselves.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Inspired by discovery of Higgs Boson, physicists renew search for elusive Higgs Zi-on

The Higgs Boson, the so called “god particle” that gives mass to all matter and allows the universe as we know it to exist, has up to now been an unproven hypothesis based on the “Standard Model” of quantum physics. Recent experiments at the CERN large hadron super collider, which is located in France and Switzerland, have come up with convincing evidence of the Higgs Boson's existence.

This milestone in quantum physics frees up researchers to address the most puzzling remaining problem of the quantum phenomenon know as Zionist Israel, an unparalleled example of the weird world of quantum effects that strangely show themselves, full-blown, in our natural “Newtonian” existence. Normally the actions of the denizens of the whirling, unstable sub-atomic world don't directly effect what we see happen in our stolid, solid every-day life. But the big exception is what some refer to as the “Jewish and democratic” state of Israel. (a self-contradictory phenomonon in itself—similar to soluble fish, or boiling ice).

Being at two places at the same time, moving backward and forward in time, pairs of subatomic particles influencing each other at impossibly huge distances, entities being particles or waves depending on how you look at them... this strange behavior is common in the quantum world.

But those physicists who specialize in the science of LRJOOP (Looney Rhetoric to Justify Oppression of Other People) believe that only a previously unknown basic particle at the quantum level (the Higgs Zi-on) can explain how such wild, unstable, contradictory actions which normally only can happen in the sub-microscopic quantum domain, are manifested in the world we live in.

Dr. Zyzymon Syzygy, leader of the Higgs Zi-on team at CERN, commented, “We see this inexplicable breakthrough of the quantum world into our world concentrated in an impregnable quantum haze surrounding Israel, and everyone who takes action or speaks in favor of its unstable, quantum-like properties.” Syzygy goes on the cite some of the erratic behaviors that his team is preparing to investigate, “How can Palestinian citizens of Israel be equal and not equal at the same time? How can a military occupation simultaneously exist and not exist? How can a state created in 1948 move back in time to 1000 BC and still exist in 2012? Why do so many Semites have pale skin and blue eyes? How can you aggressively take other people's land, routinely arrest and kill them, be the strongest, only nuclear-armed power in the region and still be a fearful victim? How can you say that Hummus is an Israeli food?...only quantum instability interfering (perhaps “infiltrating”) into our macro-level world explain such things.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One State? Two States? Fuggedaboudit! for now Israeli apartheid status quo rules

From Mondoweiss

Israeli-Palestinian peace has effectively been removed from the international diplomatic agenda
Jul 02, 2012 10:18 am | Reuven Kaminer

The plain fact of the matter is that the question of Israeli-Palestinian peace has been permanently removed from the historical agenda. There are many honest and highly motivated activists, who are still devoting time and energy to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace, and who, naturally enough, will bitterly challenge this assertion. With all due respect, I shall do my best to explain.

There are three main developments which have effectively removed the Palestinian issue from the international diplomatic and political arena: a) The hardening structure of Israeli politics; b) The weakened state of US hegemony in the Middle East; 3) The growing turmoil in the Arab world.

Before going on to analyze these developments and their role in eliminating the Palestinian issue from current consideration, I must offer a sad commentary on the role of the discussion of the issue – and not the issue itself, in current discourse. Many friends of peace are involved in long, complex, even convoluted discussions as to the comparative benefits and disadvantages of the two apparently possible solutions; I am referring of course to the long standing debate between the two-state and the one-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A tremendous amount of sincerity and emotion, deep thought and ingenuity have been marshaled by both sides to the debate. I myself was quite active in this sense, having been for years a strong devotee of the 2-state solution. The sad fact is that the discussion has become increasingly meaningless in that there is no real connection between the debate and any existing political perspective. The periodic news items on this or that meeting devoted to the resuscitation of the "peace process" only serve to stress that we are dealing with a mockery and that, effectively, it is Israel which is calling the shots. For better or for worse, this debate about the relative virtues of either "solution" has become meaningless, passé, i.e. totally irrelevant to real life of Palestinians and Israelis.

The historical elements which created diplomatic space for the possible for the settlement of the conflict have more or less withered away. Not all of the new relevant elements concerning the future of the Jews in the Middle East have come into play, but there are clear signs of their emergence. Nowhere, now or in the new future, are we able to discern the outlines of an agreement for peace in Palestine. The old structures in the region will die, sooner than later. Let us return here to the three main causes for this development.

Bibidom and Israel as a Regional Hegemonic Power

The broadest coalition in Israeli history now rules the country.

Ninety four members of 120 in the Knesset (Parliament) compose an unassailable coalition. All polls indicate that Netanyahu’s policies, especially those on Palestinian and security issues, enjoy widespread support in the public.

Since there are absolutely no serious challenges to the status quo, both the US and Europe see Israel led by Netanyahu as an irreversible and reliable fact of political reality. This reality is not at all bad for the US and its allies. It means that the Palestinians are, for all practical purposes, "pacified," and there are a lot of useful things that can be done in the management of the region with the co-operation of an unencumbered Israel.

The saddest thing here is that the current leadership is the freely chosen product of Israeli democracy. The great majority of the Israeli Jews want to maintain the status quo and genuinely fear any compromise. Much of this sentiment is a result of manipulation, but most is the direct product of the very political structure. Israel has moved on from successful management of the conflict with the Palestinians and is more and more dedicated to maintaining and expanding its regional hegemony. Life is bearable for the colonial masters of the region. But any real change or advance towards justice and equality is seen by the Jewish masses in the country as an unacceptable threat.

The US in Retreat

The facts and figures of the US global retreat are well known. It is not only a question of the ongoing financial and economic crisis. It is impossible to exaggerate the fall in intellectual and moral prestige that has made the US an embarrassment to many of its most loyal supporters. By its own admission, the US is strapped for cash, cannot fund its most essential international commitments, not to speak of a perennial inability to put required troops on the ground. After Iraq and Afghanistan, the US must be ever so cautious in employing its tremendous superiority in military technology, because it is clearly unable to convert even the most successful military successes, in the relevant arenas of contention, into sustainable political and diplomatic assets. The growing political limitations of US influence, even on the background of its military ascendency are the clearest indicator that the US has not the wherewithal to maintain its empire. It’s the old saw about bayonets. The US cannot get anyone to sit on them for it.

The Middle East in Turmoil

The historical possibility in the past for a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was generated in a situation characterized by the almost complete regional hegemony of the US. Peace was to come as a fruition of Western values. Thinking revolved around the "liberal" idea of peace, symbolized by US spiritual auspices. ("Why can't you guys just make up?"). One could argue that if the US could not engineer a settlement between the two national movements, it would eventually have to give everyone the vote, in a single secular entity. This was a theoretically achievable goal when the region was under tight US control. But for years now, neither the US, nor any of its allies show any real discomfort with the slightly embarrassing realities on the ground. "Israeli settlement is not helpful,'' goes the mantra.

Arabs in Turmoil

The Arab people of the region are in rebellion. It is most unlikely that the peace agreements with Israel will survive the storm. But whatever happens to these political artifacts of the past, it is difficult, and even impossible to imagine the emergence, in this long period of storm and stress, of a major Arab formation that would allow itself to become an open or official partner in the collusion against the Palestinians.

Israel and the US have indeed pushed Palestine off the current international agenda. As for the near future, an unstable Arab world in crisis would not dare and could not afford to be seen as exploiting Palestinian weakness. On the other hand, a stable Arab constellation, when it emerges, would not be willing to turn its back on Palestine. Its minimal program on Palestine, when enunciated, would be an Israeli nightmare.

The momentous changes occurring in the region and beyond it have rendered the old way of thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict obsolete. Though, we cannot in this and other important matters chart a clear alternative path forward, we can and should realize that the old game is over. The difficult and challenges of a new reality are no reason to cling to old, outmoded perceptions.

This rendering of Palestinian-Israeli realities on the ground may seem a bit somber. But let us remind ourselves that history in the Middle East is far from over.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shamir bites the dust

Death of a Proud, Self-Avowed Terrorist:

Former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir Goes to the Great Hague in the Sky
Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | 06.30.12

Sometimes terrible people live long lives. Such is the case with Icchak Yezernitsky, a Russian-born racist, terrorist and eager ethnic cleanser who is better known to the world as former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir died today, June 30, 2012, at a Tel Aviv nursing home from Alzheimer's Disease at the ripe old age of 96. One can only wonder if he had forgotten all the war crimes he committed.

Nearly every mainstream media outlet has eulogized Shamir with encomiums, or at least profound respect. Here are some of Shamir's greatest hits, most of which have been omitted from most of the media's effusive obituaries:

Shamir was one of the leaders of Lehi (also known as The Stern Gang), a Zionist terrorist militia which rampaged through Palestine in the 1940s. Were anyone to dispute that Lehi was a terrorist group, Shamir proudly affirmed that particular description in a 1943 article he wrote entitled "Terror." Shamir wrote,

Neither Jewish morality nor Jewish tradition can be used to disallow terror as a means of war...We are very far from any moral hesitations when concerned with the national struggle.

First and foremost, terror is for us a part of the political war appropriate for the circumstances of today, and its task is a major one: it demonstrates in the clearest language, heard throughout the world including by our unfortunate brethren outside the gates of this country, our war against the occupier.

The Zionist terror campaign of Plan Dalet, put into effect in early 1948 and described by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, consisted of "large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding population centres; setting fires to homes, properties, and goods; expulsion; demolition; and finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning."

Shamir seemed to relish the opportunity to terrorize, murder and ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous population into order to make room for the nascent state of Israel. The massacre of Deir Yassin in April 1948, during which over 100 unarmed villagers were murdered, was carried out by Zionist commandos of Shamir's Lehi and Menachem Begin's Irgun (of which Shamir was a former member).

Following Israel's unilateral declaration of independence in May 1948, the United Nations reassessed its approach to the partition of Palestine and appointed a mediator, Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, to come up with new proposal while taking into account "the aspirations of the Jews, the political difficulties and differences of opinion of the Arab leaders, the strategic interests of Great Britain, the financial commitment of the United States and the Soviet Union, the outcome of the war, and finally the authority and prestige of the United Nations." Notice that the rights of the indigenous Palestinians were not included in this mandate.

Nevertheless, while Bernadotte's second proposal was produced in consultation with British and American emissaries, then-President Harry Truman undermined its progress in the UN due to pre-election Zionist influence in the United States. When Bernadotte finally presented his progress report, "Mediation, Truce Supervision, Refugees, Proposals for Peaceful Settlement," on September 16, 1948, it included this unequivocal statement regarding the Palestinian Right of Return:

It is not yet known what the policy of the Provisional Government of Israel with regard to the return of Arab refugees will be when the final terms of settlement are reached. It is, however, undeniable that no settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged by the hazards and strategy of the armed conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. The majority of these refugees have come from territory which, under the Assembly resolution of 29 November, was to be included in the Jewish State. The exodus of Palestinian Arabs resulted from panic created by fighting in their communities, by rumours concerning real or alleged acts of terrorism, or expulsion. It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries. (A/648 1.V.6)

The very next day, September 17, 1948, Bernadotte was assassinated in West Jerusalem by members of Lehi, acting on Shamir's explicit orders.

In 1969, Shamir formally joined Begin's "Freedom Party" (Herut), which Jewish luminaries such as Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt had decried years earlier as "a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties" which "preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority."

In April 1988, during the first Intifada, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir warned that any Palestinian caught protesting would have his "head smashed against the boulders and walls.'' He continued, "We say to them from the heights of this mountain and from the perspective of thousands of years of history that they are like grasshoppers compared to us."

Shamir was a committed colonialist. Even when, in September 1991, U.S. President George H.W. Bush threatened to withhold "loan guarantees sought by Israel unless the Israeli Government, which has ignored all of his previous appeals to halt settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, freezes building activity," Shamir never halted further colonization of Palestine.

In June 1993, after being voted out of office, Shamir stated his desire to deliberately subvert any efforts to establish a Palestinian state by carrying out peace talks under false pretenses. "I would have conducted the autonomy negotiations for 10 years, and in the meantime we would have reached half a million [Jewish] souls in Judea and Samaria." Lamenting the end of his administration, Shamir said it was "painful that in the coming four years I won't be able to increase settlements in Judea and Samaria and Gaza."

In 2005, Israelis voted Shamir the 29th Greatest Israeli in a poll conducted by Ynet.

Despite Shamir's history of despicable violence and willful abrogation of international law, Barack Obama's press secretary Jay Carney released a statement on behalf of the White House at the news of Shamir's death.

"Yitzhak Shamir dedicated his life to the State of Israel," the statement read. "From his days working for Israel's independence to his service as Prime Minister, he strengthened Israel's security and advanced the partnership between the United States and Israel."

It is unsurprising that Benjamin Netanyahu praised his Likud predecessor, saying, "He was a paragon of loyalty to the Land of Israel and the eternal values of the Jewish people," adding that "Yitzhak Shamir belongs to a generation of giants, who founded the State of Israel and fought for the freedom of the Jewish people in its land."

One should remind Netanyahu of Shamir's proud justification of terrorism or perhaps simply note the words of the mayor of Tel Aviv under British Mandate, Israel Rokach, who in 1944 accused Shamir's Zionist militia of "lacking even a spark of humanity and Jewish conscience" after Lehi gunmen murdered three British police officers in a public shooting.

Shamir's daughter, Gilada Diamant, claimed her father "belonged to a different generation of leaders, people with values and beliefs. I hope that we have more people like him in the future." Certainly anyone who values human rights, justice, sovereignty, and self-determination for the Palestinian people, the rule of law, the Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Principles does not share Diamant's hope.

Thomas Friedman once wrote that Shamir "exemplifies those Israeli leaders whose vision of tomorrow is yesterday." For all those whose innocent lives were obliterated or whose families suffered at the hands of Yitzhak Shamir due to his commitment to ethnosupremacism, colonialism and mass murder, any more visions of violence and bigotry that he may have had thankfully died today.


Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City.

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