Friday, May 31, 2013

Why The US Recognized Israel in 1948

Why the US Recognised Israel
By Irene Gendzier

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique
Saturday, October 01, 2011

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The United States and Israel have both been intent on forestalling the appearance of the Palestinian Authority before the United Nations, in case it succeeded in winning support for its unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence. This is a reversal of history: in 1948, the US regarded the prospect of an Israeli declaration of independence as a threat to its interests in the region, and the State Department, defence department and CIA were worried about such an outcome. It was President Truman’s special legal counsel, Clark Clifford, and his small, supportive entourage, who endorsed recognition of Israel as in line with US interests. Clifford argued that the Jewish state already existed and the US should recognise it before the Soviet Union did: he got the independence proposal through the White House. Within a few months, the volte face was complete.
That year, the US administration had been close to abandoning support for the UN plan for the partition of Palestine and creation of a Jewish state, as laid out in resolution 181 of 29 November 1947. It was clear from the fight between Jewish and Arab militias that force would be necessary to implement it. Washington supported a ceasefire instead: a truce and temporary trusteeship, delaying but not entirely abandoning partition.
But developments in Palestine could not be ignored. On 3 May 1948, 11 days before Britain’s departure from Palestine, the US Consul in Jerusalem reported on the collapse of Palestinian government with the warning that “unless strong Arab reinforcements arrive, we expect Jews will overrun most of city upon withdrawal British force” (1). In April he had reported the steady advances of Jewish forces in “aggressive and irresponsible operations such as the Deir Yassin massacre and Jaffa” and the evacuation of the Arab population from Haifa.
The US consul reported that the British and others agreed in May 1948 that “Jews will be able sweep all before them unless regular Arab armies come to rescue. With Haifa as example of Haganah military occupation, it is possible their operations will restore order” (2). But what kind of order? Haifa was known to the British and Americans for its oil refinery, which processed Iraqi oil through Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) pipelines. Its takeover, unacceptable to the Iraqis, destroyed the existing relations between Palestinian and Jewish workers.
‘Armed aggression against the Arabs’
Robert McClintock, of the US delegation at the UN, speculated that the Security Council would soon be confronted by the question as to “whether Jewish armed attack on Arab communities in Palestine is legitimate or whether it constitutes such a threat to international peace and security as to call for coercive measures by the Security Council.” McClintock observed that if Arab armies entered Palestine, it would lead Jewish forces to claim “that their state is the object of armed aggression [and they] will use every means to obscure the fact that it is their own armed aggression against the Arabs inside Palestine which is the cause of Arab counter-attack,” and the US would be obliged to intervene (3).
Some 10 days before the British departure, US Secretary of State George C Marshall provided select diplomatic offices with his assessment of the condition of Arab regimes:
“The whole government structure of Iraq is endangered by political and economic disorders, and the Iraq Government cannot at this moment afford to send more than the handful of troops it has already dispatched. Egypt has suffered recently from strikes and disorders. Its army has insufficient equipment because of its refusal of British aid, and what it has is needed for police duty at home. Syria has neither arms nor army worthy of the name and has not been able to organise one since the French left three years ago. Lebanon has no real army while Saudi Arabia has a small army which is barely sufficient to keep tribes in order. Jealousies between Saudi Arabia and Syrians, and the Hashemite governments of Transjordan and Iraq, prevent the Arabs from making the best of the existing forces” (4).
Marshall’s remarks were corrected by the US ambassador in Cairo, who pointed out that the Egyptian army’s lack of equipment was the result of a British refusal to provide the Egyptians with it. The Transjordan military was dependent on British officers. Despite such conditions, Marshall warned: “This does not mean, however, that over a long period a Jewish State can survive as a self-sufficient entity in the face of the hostility of the Arab world ... If Jews follow the counsel of their extremists who favour a contemptuous policy toward Arabs, any Jewish State to be set up will be able to survive only with continuous assistance from abroad.”
Before, and especially after, Israel’s declaration of independence, US officials denounced the treatment of Palestinian refugees and called for their repatriation. Recognising the influence of the Zionist movement in the US, although not always aware of the nature of Truman’s private communications with high-level Jewish Agency officials, including Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann, the US foreign policy elite warned of the possible risks of support for Tel Aviv to US interests in the Middle East.
Developments proved them wrong. Within a year of Israel’s establishment, the position of the State and defence departments changed from criticism to an appreciation of Israel’s potential in supporting US interests. From then on US officials conceded that, while Arab public opinion and the declarations of the region’s leaders were openly critical of Washington’s pro-Israeli stance, US commercial interests did not suffer. In March 1948 US officials at the UN learned that the Saudi position was that the “Palestine conflict was civil one and it was most important [for the] Arab states’ own interest not to do anything which would give the SC [Security Council] occasion to use force in Palestine” (5).
The fear expressed by US corporate leaders that the Saudis might decide to abrogate their oil contracts soon disappeared. There was no attempt to block Aramco, the corporate US oil giant that controlled oil in Saudi Arabia, from extending its control over offshore oil.
Oil and national defence
The US director of the oil and gas division of the US department of the interior, Max Ball, reputed to be among the best informed officials on US and international oil, had already met with Eliahu Epstein (later Elath), a member of the Jewish Agency political advisory committee and its principal representative in the US, and a member of the Presidium of the Zionist General Council (the main organ of global Zionist movements) (6). The meeting took place when the US House of Representatives was conducting extensive hearings into “petroleum in relation to national defence”. Ball, interested in finding oil in the Negev, encouraged Epstein to try to meet US oil executives, including the vice presidents of Aramco and Standard Oil of New Jersey and the director of Socony.
Because of the importance Washington attached to its oil interests in the Middle East (7), the Jewish Agency leaders in the US sought to tackle the oil companies’ and US officials’ concerns that supporting the Jewish state risked endangering those interests.
The re-evaluation of the new state was based on many things, among them the US military’s conclusion that Israel could be a significant asset in “holding” the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East and its oil interests. This did not preclude recognising its dependence on external support or the need to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem. Such qualifications aside, the US military was prepared to concede that Israel had altered the balance of power in the region, which justified rethinking US policy.
On 7 March 1949 a memorandum by the chief of staff of the US Air Force to the joint chiefs of staff on “US strategic Interests in Israel” affirmed the need for such a reassessment. “The power balance in the Near and Middle East has been radically altered. At the time the state of Israel was forming, numerous indications pointed to its extremely short life in the face of Arab League opposition. However, Israel has now been recognised by the United States and the United Kingdom, is likely soon to become a member of the United Nations, and has demonstrated by force of arms its right to be considered the military power next after Turkey in the Near and Middle East” (8). He also called for a study of “US strategic objectives touching Israel”, and recommended that military training and assistance be considered and that, above all, Soviet influence in the new state be blocked.
The same calculations led to the (implicit) re-evaluation of US policy on the question of Palestine, increasingly reduced to a simple refugee problem disconnected from the future of the Palestinian state.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Open Letter from Allice Walker to Alicia Keys: Don't help Cover up Ethnic Cleansing--boycott Israeli Apartheid

Dear Alicia Keys,

I have learned today that you are due to perform in Israel very soon. We have never met, though I believe we are mutually respectful of each other's path and work. It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists. You were not born when we, your elders who love you, boycotted institutions in the US South to end an American apartheid less lethal than Israel's against the Palestinian people. Google Montgomery Bus Boycott, if you don't know about this civil rights history already. We changed our country fundamentally, and the various boycotts of Israeli institutions and products will do the same there. It is our only nonviolent option and, as we learned from our own struggle in America, nonviolence is the only path to a peaceful future.

If you go to my website and blog you can quickly find many articles I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major "crime" is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own. Under a campaign named 'Brand Israel', Israeli officials have stated specifically their intent to downplay the Palestinian conflict by using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.

This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil. You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.

I have kept you in my awareness as someone of conscience and caring, especially about the children of the world. Please, if you can manage it, go to visit the children in Gaza, and sing to them of our mutual love of all children, and of their right not to be harmed simply because they exist.

With love, younger sister, beloved daughter and friend,

Alice Walker

- Alice Walker is an American author, poet and activist. She is best known for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple for which she won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. (This article was published in the website of Palestinian Students' Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel - PSCABI -

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can there be Jewish identity without religion?

Shlomo Sand says his identity is Israeli, not Jewish
The Gospel according to Sand: We are not Jews

In How and When I Stopped Being Jewish (Hebrew only) author and professor Shlomo Sand argues that there is no such thing as a secular Jew.

By Ofer Aderet, Ha’aretz
May 19, 2013

Professor Shlomo Sand opens his new book, “How and When I Stopped Being Jewish,” with a warning. “Many readers will see the main point presented in this book as illegitimate and even infuriating. Many of the secular people among them who insist on defining themselves as Jews will reject it out of hand. Others will see me as a vile, self-hating traitor.”

Sand, a 66-year-old history professor at Tel Aviv University, does not seem to suffer from lack of self-confidence, nor does he have any difficulty expressing himself. On the contrary, the thousands of students packing the lecture halls to hear him speak over last three decades attest to his uncanny ability to distill controversial assertions into supremely fluent language.

Why, then, would this well-known, veteran professor feel compelled to open his new book with such a warning? Perhaps he has learned from experience, having authored the two previous books in the series, “The Invention of the Jewish People” (published in English by Verso Books, 2009) and “The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland” (Verso Books, 2012). Both generated a great deal of controversy, some particularly harsh, within academia and among the general public as well.

“I suffer from people who don’t understand me — in class or in a press interview. But that’s very normal. I take into account that some people won’t understand me,” Sand says. “It’s not always easy for me to write for every person. I can’t write like [politician and journalist] Yair Lapid, but I try to be accessible.”

In the two preceding books, Sand claims that the notion of a unified Jewish people was invented, based on myths and fictional accounts, in order to further Zionist ideals. And it is this faulty logic, he says, that served as the excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel. Now, in “How and When I Stopped Being Jewish” (Kinneret Zmora-Bitan), Sand takes secular readers a step further, asserting that if there is no such thing as a Jewish people, then secular individuals cannot, by definition, be Jewish. Step by step, he undermines, weakens and deconstructs the identity of secular Jews.

“People tell me I belong to the nation of Albert Einstein, but I — Shlomo Sand — feel closer to the Israeli culture of Arik Sharon than to the German culture of Einstein,” he says. In other words, Sand does not identify with a Jewish nation, but rather with an Israeli one. “Ask me if I like it — not particularly, but I accept it as reality,” he says.

Marx, Freud and Einstein: Good for the Jews?
In “How and When I Stopped Being Jewish,” Sand asks whether there exists a secular Jewish culture that unites non-observant Jews throughout the world. He attempts, uncomfortably, to clarify whether there is a “Jewish component” that connects the philosophies of famous secular Jews such as Marx, Freud and Einstein.

“Did ‘Das Kapital,’ the theory of the unconscious and the theory of relativity contribute in any way to the shaping and preservation of secular Jewish culture?” he asks. In Sand’s view, the answer is no.

“Is Arthur Koestler, bold and provocative as he is, a Jewish writer? Did Serge Gainsbourg, of whom I’m a long-time admirer, write and sing Jewish songs rather than French ones, and no one ever knew it?” he asks sarcastically.

Sand even tries to take humor away from the Jews, asserting that figures such as Sholem Aleichem and Woody Allen, for example, drew on “Slavic-Yiddish humor” – a culture that, according to Sand, died out long ago. Though certain veins of humor mistakenly labeled as “Jewish” do indeed arouse strong feelings of nostalgia among many Diaspora Jews, Sand points out that these types of humor were never viewed as particularly funny by Jewish writers in Iraq, whose humor, he argues, is based on a different sort of logic.

If this is true, then what forms the basis for secular Jews’ Judaism? What connects secular Jews from Tel Aviv with non-believing Jews from Paris or New York? In Sand’s opinion, there is no connection.

“Those who are called ‘secular Jews’ don’t have a way of life in common. They don’t experience day-to-day pain and joy that connect them to other secular Jews throughout the world,” he says. “They speak, weep, make their living and create in their own languages and national cultures.”

So what’s left? If secular Jews share no mutual religion, no culture, no way of life, what can explain their inclusion in an exclusive nation? A few Jewish holidays and ceremonies? Sand seeks to undermine even that much. “Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century, celebrated Hanukkah with a Christmas tree and did not circumcise his son,” he points out. “On the basis of those practices, can he be considered a Jew or a Christian?”

A Jewish state incapable of defining Judaism
Sand’s book is disturbing, challenging, annoying, yes, and thought-provoking. “The deeper we delve into the subject, the more we have to admit that there is no unifying Jewish culture that is not religious,” he tells Haaretz. “You and I have a day-to-day experience and existence that are very much Israeli. They may have Jewish and Yiddish sources, but they’re Israeli.”

Today, this confusion in defining a “Jewish people” manifests as confusion in justifying a Jewish state, Sand asserts, presenting what he sees as the “cardinal claim” of the State of Israel: “It defines itself as a Jewish state, or as the state of the Jewish people across the world, but is not capable of defining who is a Jew.”

“No linguistic or cultural criterion can contribute to the definition of who is a Jew, since the descendants of Jews never had a language or secular culture in common,” he says. This explains why, in Sand’s view, Israeli legislators could fall back only on religious criteria in determining what constitutes Jewish identity: those born to Jewish mothers or who undergo an authorized conversion process.

Yet one need not go to any great lengths to find the inherent contradictions in this definition, as Sand deftly points out. “The state of the Jews isn’t all that Jewish. Being a Jew in the State of Israel doesn’t mean you have to observe all the commandments and believe in the Jewish God. You can explore Buddhist beliefs, as Ben-Gurion did, or eat shrimp, as Arik Sharon did. You don’t have to cover your head — most of Israel’s leaders and army generals don’t cover theirs.”

One of the major problems that arises from this confused definition, according to Sand, is the inherent discrimination shown by the Jewish state to Arabs living within its borders. “Being a Jew in Israel means, first and foremost, not being an Arab,” he writes, comparing the elevated status of Jews in Israel to that of whites in the American south through the 1960s, French settlers in Algeria before 1962, and white and Afrikaner residents of South Africa before 1994.

At the end of this list, Sand adds, with some reservation, Nazi Germany as well. “Maybe soon [the status of the Jewish Israeli] will also appear similar to the status of the Aryan in Germany of the 1930s,” he writes. In parentheses he adds, “I absolutely refuse to consider any sort of comparison to Germany in the 1940s.”

Why did you include the Nazis in that list?
“I hesitated when I wrote that, but I don’t want to be careful with the Israelis. I can’t treat Israelis with kid gloves in the early 21st century.”

What do you mean when you compare the State of Israel to Nazi Germany?
“I make a distinction between the 1930s and the 1940s. In the 1930s, they excluded the Jews, but they allowed them to leave. In the 1940s, they killed the Jews. There’s a significant difference. But the fact that the mayor of Upper Nazareth has kept his job even after stating, in 2013, that Arabs were not wanted there, this begins to remind me of the exclusion of the Jews. There is no historical comparison, however, between Zionism and Nazism. In no way whatsoever do I say that it will end in annihilation.”

The Holocaust is not absent from Sand’s book, however. In fact, according to “How and When I Stopped Being Jewish,” the Holocaust has become an important aspect of secular Jewish identity.

“The symbolic capital derived from the suffering of the past is supposed to be passed down in ink like any other capital,” Sand writes. “The Holocaust industry sought to maximize the suffering of the past and derive from it as much political and even financial capital as possible.”

“Instead of the old religious identity of the ‘chosen people,’ what arose was an extremely beneficial modern secular ritual of not only ‘the chosen victim’ but also ‘the exclusive victim.’” That same “chosen victim” became an “exclusive” one when he methodically began to ignore the other victims of the Holocaust, Sand asserts, until eventually “the genocide received Jewish exclusivity.”

“Since the last quarter of the 20th century, almost all other victims of the Holocaust whom the Nazis did not mark as ‘Semitic’ have vanished,” he writes. “From then on, all comparison with other acts of genocide was forbidden. … Any crime of the past or the present necessarily paled next to the great massacre of the Jews during World War II.”

Thus it is Hitler who has proved the victor of World War II, Sand claims. “Although he was defeated militarily and politically, only some years later the core of his perverted ideology seeped once more to the surface, and today it is alive, kicking and menacing.”

Sand is not referring here to anti-Semitism but to the way he says many Jews use racist doctrine to their advantage. “The perception of the Jews as a nation and a race whose traditional characteristics are passed down through heredity in some invisible way is still very much alive. Yesterday it was simple physical characteristics such as blood or facial structure. Today it’s DNA,” he writes. “Hitler’s desire to remove the Jews from ‘normal’ humanity was fulfilled in a perverted way by the politics of memory adopted by Israel and its followers in the Western world.”

How We Lost The Syrian Revolution

By: Edward Dark for Al-Monitor Posted on May 28.

So what went wrong? Or to be more accurate, where did we go wrong? How did a once inspirational and noble popular uprising calling for freedom and basic human rights degenerate into an orgy of bloodthirsty sectarian violence, with depravity unfit for even animals? Was it inevitable and wholly unavoidable, or did it not have to be this way?
About This Article
Summary :
A Syrian activist in Aleppo laments the lost revolution as he reveals the sense of betrayal felt after rebels looted and ravaged his city.
Author: Edward Dark
Posted on: May 28 2013
Categories : Originals Syria Security

The simple answer to the above question is the miscalculation (or was it planned?) of Syrians taking up arms against their regime, a ruthless military dictatorship held together by nepotism and clan and sectarian loyalties for 40 years of absolute power. Former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford specifically warned about this in his infamous visit to Hama in the summer of 2011 just as the city was in the grip of massive anti-regime protests and before it was stormed by the Syrian army. That warning fell on deaf ears, whether by design or accident, and we have only ourselves to blame. Western and global inaction or not, we are solely responsible for our broken nation at the end of the day.
Nietzsche once said, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” That has proved to be very prophetic in the Syrian scenario. Away from the all the agendas, whitewashing, propaganda, and outright lies of the global media stations, what we saw on the ground when the rebel fighters entered Aleppo was a far different reality. It hit home hard. It was a shock, especially to those of us who had supported and believed in the uprising all along. It was the ultimate betrayal.
To us, a rebel fighting against tyranny doesn’t commit the same sort of crimes as the regime he’s supposed to be fighting against. He doesn’t loot the homes, businesses and communities of the people he’s supposed to be fighting for. Yet, as the weeks went by in Aleppo, it became increasingly clear that this was exactly what was happening.
Rebels would systematically loot the neighborhoods they entered. They had very little regard for the lives and property of the people, and would even kidnap for ransom and execute anyone they pleased with little recourse to any form of judicial process. They would deliberately vandalize and destroy ancient and historical landmarks and icons of the city. They would strip factories and industrial zones bare, even down to the electrical wiring, hauling their loot of expensive industrial machinery and infrastructure off across the border to Turkey to be sold at a fraction of its price. Shopping malls were emptied, warehouses, too. They stole the grain in storage silos, creating a crisis and a sharp rise in staple food costs. They would incessantly shell residential civilian neighborhoods under regime control with mortars, rocket fire and car bombs, causing death and injury to countless innocent people, their snipers routinely killing in cold blood unsuspecting passersby. As a consequence, tens of thousands became destitute and homeless in this once bustling, thriving and rich commercial metropolis.
But why was this so? Why were they doing it? It became apparent soon enough, that it was simply a case of us versus them. They were the underprivileged rural class who took up arms and stormed the city, and they were out for revenge against the perceived injustices of years past. Their motivation wasn’t like ours, it was not to seek freedom, democracy or justice for the entire nation, it was simply unbridled hatred and vengeance for themselves.
Extremist and sectarian in nature, they made no secret that they thought us city folk in Aleppo, all of us, regime stooges and sympathizers, and that our lives and property were forfeit as far as they were concerned. Rebel profiteer warlords soon became household names, their penchant for looting and spreading terror among the populace inducing far more bitterness and bile than what was felt against the regime and its forces. Add to that terrible fray, the extremist Islamists and their open association with Al-Qaeda and their horrific plans for the future of our nation, and you can guess what the atmosphere over here felt like: a stifling primordial fear, a mixture of terror and despair.
So who was “us,” and why did we feel that we were any different or better? Well, by “us” I mean, and at the risk of sounding rather elitist, the civil grassroots opposition movement in Aleppo, who for months were organizing peaceful protests and handing out aid at considerable danger and risk to our own lives. “We” truly believed in the higher ideals of social and political change, and tried to emulate them. We tried to model ourselves on the civil rights movement of the US in the 1960s, Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, and the teachings of Gandhi: precisely what similar civil movements in other Arab Spring countries such as Tunisia and Egypt had done before.
For “us,” a revolution was a slow, deliberate and committed struggle for change. Like water drops repeatedly beating down on a boulder, eventually we would break it. But for “them,” well, their idea of change was throwing a ton of TNT at that boulder and having it, and everything around it, blown to smithereens. ” We,” well, we mostly came from the educated urban middle class of the city. We came from all walks of life, all sects and all areas, and we didn’t care.
We never asked where that guy or girl was from or what they worshiped. Each one of us gave and contributed what we could, in the capacity we could. The leader of our group was a young Christian lawyer, a very active and dedicated young woman. The rest of the volunteers in our group were a microcosm of Syrian society; veiled girls, Shiite boys, rich kids and poor working class all working together for ideals we strongly shared and believed in.
Over the course of our activist work, some of our group were jailed and injured, one was even killed. That is why it never hit home so hard, and never have I felt as sad as when, shortly after Aleppo was raided by the rebels, I received messages from some of those people I used to work with. One said, “How could we have been so stupid? We were betrayed!” and another said, “Tell your children someday that we once had a beautiful country, but we destroyed it because of our ignorance and hatred."
It was around about that time that I gave up on the revolution, such as it had become, and saw that the only way to Syria’s salvation was through reconciliation and a renunciation of violence. Many felt this way, too. Unfortunately, that is not a view shared by the warmongers and power brokers who still think that more Syrian blood should be spilled to appease the insatiable appetites of their sordid aspirations.
Even as activists, intellectuals, businessmen, doctors and skilled professionals fled the city in droves, others remained and still tried to organize civil action in the form of providing aid and relief work to the countless thousands of families that were now internally displaced inside their own city in desperate conditions. But it was clear that it was becoming futile. Everything had changed; it would never be the same again.
This is what it has come down to in Syria: It’s us versus them everywhere you go. Opposition versus regime, secular versus Islamist, Sunni versus Shiite, peaceful versus armed, city versus rural, and in all of that cacophony the voice of reason is sure to be drowned out. Whatever is left of Syria at the end will be carved out between the wolves and vultures that fought over its bleeding and dying corpse, leaving us, the Syrian people to pick up the shattered pieces of our nation and our futures.
Do we have recourse to blame anyone but ourselves for this? Was this our destiny, or the cruel machinations of evil men? Perhaps a future generation of Syrians will be able to answer that question.
Edward Dark is a pseudonym for a Syrian currently residing in Aleppo. He tweets at @edwardedark.
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Friday, May 24, 2013

The same motive for anti-US 'terrorism' is cited over and over Ignoring the role played by US actions is dangerously self-flattering and self-delusional

Glenn Greenwald, Wednesday 24 April 2013 11.27 EDT
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News reports purporting to describe what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told US interrogators should, for several reasons, be taken with a huge grain of salt. The sources for this information are anonymous, they work for the US government, the statements were obtained with no lawyer present and no Miranda warnings given, and Tsarnaev is "grievously wounded", presumably quite medicated, and barely able to speak. That the motives for these attacks are still unclear has been acknowledged even by Alan Dershowitz last week ("It's not even clear under the federal terrorism statute that this qualifies as an act of terrorism") and Jeffrey Goldberg on Friday ("it is not yet clear, despite preliminary indications, that these men were, in fact, motivated by radical Islam").

Those caveats to the side, the reports about what motivated the Boston suspects are entirely unsurprising and, by now, quite familiar:

"The two suspects in the Boston bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 were motivated by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials told the Washington Post.

"Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 'the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack,' the Post writes, citing 'US officials familiar with the interviews.'"

In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world - violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children:

Attempted "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab upon pleading guilty:

"I had an agreement with at least one person to attack the United States in retaliation for US support of Israel and in retaliation of the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Palestine, especially in the blockade of Gaza, and in retaliation for the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and beyond, most of them women, children, and noncombatants."

Attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, the first Pakistani-American involved in such a plot, upon pleading guilty:

"If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, 'we will be attacking US', adding that Americans 'only care about their people, but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die' . . . .

"As soon as he was taken into custody May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, onboard a flight to Dubai, the Pakistani-born Shahzad told agents that he was motivated by opposition to US policy in the Muslim world, officials said."

When he was asked by the federal judge presiding over his case how he could possibly have been willing to detonate bombs that would kill innocent children, he replied:

"Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don't see children, they don't see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It's a war, and in war, they kill people. They're killing all Muslims. . . .

"I am part of the answer to the US terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I'm avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die."

Emails and other communications obtained by the US document how Shahzad transformed from law-abiding, middle-class naturalized American into someone who felt compelled to engage in violence as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drone attacks, Israeli violence against Palestinians and Muslims generally, Guantanamo and torture, at one point asking a friend: "Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?"

Attempted NYC subway bomber Najibullah Zazi, the first Afghan-American involved in such a plot, upon pleading guilty:

"Your Honor, during the spring and summer of 2008, I conspired with others to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and fight against the U.S. military and its allies. . . . During the training, Al Qaeda leaders asked us to return to the United States and conduct martyrdom operation. We agreed to this plan. I did so because of my feelings about what the United States was doing in Afghanistan."

Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan:

"Part of his disenchantment was his deep and public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a stance shared by some medical colleagues but shaped for him by a growing religious fervor. The strands of religion and antiwar sentiment seemed to weave together in a PowerPoint presentation he made at Walter Reed in June 2007. . . . For a master's program in public health, Major Hasan gave another presentation to his environmental health class titled 'Why The War on Terror is a War on Islam.'"

Meanwhile, the American-Yemeni preacher accused (with no due process) of inspiring both Abdulmutallab and Hasan - Anwar al-Awalaki - was once considered such a moderate American Muslim imam that the Pentagon included him in post-9/11 events and the Washington Post invited him to write a column on Islam. But, by all accounts, he became increasingly radicalized in anti-American sentiment by the attack on Iraq and continuous killing of innocent Muslims by the US, including in Yemen. And, of course, Osama bin Laden, when justifying violence against Americans, cited US military bases in Saudi Arabia, US support for Israeli aggression against its neighbors, and the 1990s US sanctions regime that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, while Iranians who took over the US embassy in 1979 cited decades of brutal tyranny from the US-implanted-and-enabled Shah.

It should go without saying that the issue here is causation, not justification or even fault. It is inherently unjustifiable to target innocent civilians with violence, no matter the cause (just as it is unjustifiable to recklessly kill civilians with violence). But it is nonetheless vital to understand why there are so many people who want to attack the US as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Brazil, or Mexico, or Japan, or Portugal. It's vital for two separate reasons.

First, some leading American opinion-makers love to delude themselves and mislead others into believing that the US is attacked despite the fact that it is peaceful, peace-loving, freedom-giving and innocent. As these myth-makers would have it, we don't bother anyone; we just mind our own business (except when we're helping and liberating everyone), so why would anyone possibly want to attack us?

With that deceitful premise in place, so many Americans, westerners, Christians and Jews love to run around insisting that the only real cause for Muslim attacks on the US is that the attackers have this primitive, brutal, savage, uncivilized religion (Islam) that makes them do it. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan favorably cited Sam Harris as saying that "Islamic doctrines ... still present huge problems for the emergence of a global civil society" and then himself added: "All religions contain elements of this kind of fanaticism. But Islam's fanatical side – from the Taliban to the Tsarnaevs – is more murderous than most."

These same people often love to accuse Muslims of being tribal without realizing the irony that what they are saying - Our Side is Superior and They are Inferior - is the ultimate expression of rank tribalism. They also don't seem ever to acknowledge the irony of Americans and westerners of all people accusing others of being uniquely prone to violence, militarism and aggression (Juan Cole yesterday, using indisputable statistics, utterly destroyed the claim that Muslims are uniquely violent, including by noting the massive body count piled up by predominantly Christian nations and the fact that "murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States").

As the attackers themselves make as clear as they can, it's not religious fanaticism but rather political grievance that motivates these attacks. Religious conviction may make them more willing to fight (as it does for many in the west), but the motive is anger over what is being done by the US and its allies to Muslims. Those who claim otherwise are essentially saying: gosh, these Muslims sure do have this strange, primitive, inscrutable religion whereby they seem to get angry when they're invaded, occupied, bombed, killed, and have dictators externally imposed on them. It's vital to understand this causal relationship simply in order to prevent patent, tribalistic, self-glorifying falsehoods from taking hold.

Second, it's crucial to understand this causation because it's often asked "what can we do to stop Terrorism?" The answer is right in front of our faces: we could stop embracing the polices in that part of the world which fuel anti-American hatred and trigger the desire for vengeance and return violence. Yesterday at a Senate hearing on drones, a young Yemeni citizen whose village was bombed by US drones last week (despite the fact that the targets could easily have been arrested), Farea Al-Muslimi, testified. Al-Muslimi has always been pro-American in the extreme, having spent a year in the US due to a State Department award, but he was brilliant in explaining these key points:

"Just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers. The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine.

"What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America."

He added that anti-American hatred is now so high as a result of this drone strike that "I personally don't even know if it is safe for me to go back to Wessab because I am someone who people in my village associate with America and its values." And he said that whereas he never knew any Yemenis who were sympathetic to al-Qaida before the drone attacks, now:

"AQAP's power and influence has never been based on the number of members in its ranks. AQAP recruits and retains power through its ideology, which relies in large part on the Yemeni people believing that America is at war with them" . . .

"I have to say that the drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen. In some areas of Yemen, the anger against America that results from the strikes makes it dangerous for me to even acknowledge having visited America, much less testify how much my life changed thanks to the State Department scholarships. It's sometimes too dangerous to even admit that I have American friends."

He added that drone strikes in Yemen "make people fear the US more than al-Qaida".

There seems to be this pervasive belief in the US that we can invade, bomb, drone, kill, occupy, and tyrannize whomever we want, and that they will never respond. That isn't how human affairs function and it never has been. If you believe all that militarism and aggression are justified, then fine: make that argument. But don't walk around acting surprised and bewildered and confounded (why do they hate us??) when violence is brought to US soil as well. It's the inevitable outcome of these choices, and that's not because Islam is some sort of bizarre or intrinsically violent and uncivilized religion. It's because no group in the world is willing to sit by and be targeted with violence and aggression of that sort without also engaging in it (just look at the massive and ongoing violence unleashed by the US in response to a single one-day attack on its soil 12 years ago: imagine how Americans would react to a series of relentless attacks on US soil over the course of more than a decade, to say nothing of having their children put in prison indefinitely with no charges, tortured, kidnapped, and otherwise brutalized by a foreign power).

Being targeted with violence is a major cost of war and aggression. It's a reason not do it. If one consciously decides to incur that cost, then that's one thing. But pretending that this is all due to some primitive and irrational religious response and not our own actions is dangerously self-flattering and self-delusional. Just listen to what the people who are doing these attacks are saying about why they are doing them. Or listen to the people who live in the places devastated by US violence about the results. None of it is unclear, and it's long past time that we stop pretending that all this evidence does not exist.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Israeli Army trains Mexican troops in Chiapas, aim is to eliminate the Zapatista movement of the Mayan peasants

Israel and Mexico swap notes on abusing rights
Jimmy Johnson and
Linda Quiquivix
The Electronic Intifada
21 May 201

Mexico has gone public about military coordination with Israel in Chiapas, home to the Zapatistas liberation movement.
(Omar Torres / AFP/Newscom)

Earlier this month, Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca, Mexico’s newly-appointed secretary of public security in Chiapas, announced that discussions had taken place between his office and the Israeli defense ministry. The two countries talked about security coordination at the level of police, prisons and effective use of technology (“Israeli military will train Chiapas police,” Excelsior, 8 May [Spanish]).

Chiapas is home to the Zapatistas (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), a mostly indigenous Maya liberation movement that has enjoyed global grassroots support since it rose up against the Mexican government in 1994. The Zapatistas took back large tracts of land on which they have since built subsistence cooperatives, autonomous schools, collectivized clinics and other democratic community structures.

In the twenty years since the uprising, the Mexican government has not ceased its counterinsurgency programs in Chiapas. When Llaven Abarca was announced as security head in December, human rights organizations voiced concerns that the violence would escalate, pointing to his history of arbitrary detentions, use of public force, criminal preventive detentions, death threats and torture (“Concern about the appointment of Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca as Secretary of Public Security in Chiapas,” Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (Frayba) Center for Human Rights,14 December 2012 [PDF, Spanish]).

Aptly, his recent contacts with Israeli personnel were “aimed at sharing experiences,” Abarca has claimed. This may be the first time the Mexican government has gone public about military coordination with Israelis in Chiapas. Yet the agreement is only the latest in Israel’s longer history of military exports to the region, an industry spawned from experiences in the conquest and pacification of Palestine.
Weapons sales escalate

The first Zionist militias (Bar Giora and HaShomer) were formed to advance the settlement of Palestinian land. Another Zionist militia, the Haganah — the precursor to the Israeli army and the successor of HaShomer — began importing and producing arms in 1920.

Israeli firms began exporting weapons in the 1950s to Latin America, including to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic under the Somoza and Trujillo dictatorships. Massive government investment in the arms industry followed the 1967 War and the ensuing French arms embargo. Israeli arms, police, military training and equipment have now been sent to at least 140 countries, including to Guatemala in the 1980s under Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator recently convicted of genocide against the Maya.

Mexico began receiving Israeli weaponry in 1973 with the sale of five Arava planes from Israel Aerospace Industries. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, infrequent exports continued to the country in the form of small arms, mortars and electronic fences. Sales escalated in the early 2000s, according to research that we have undertaken.

In 2003, Mexico bought helicopters formerly belonging to the Israeli army and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Gabriel missiles. Another Israeli security firm, Magal Security Systems, received one of several contracts for surveillance systems “to protect sensitive installations in Mexico” that same year, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In 2004, Israel Shipyards sold missile boats, and later both Aeronautics Defense Systems and Elbit Systems won contracts from the federal police and armed forces for drones for border and domestic surveillance (“UAV maker Aeronautics to supply Mexican police,” Globes, 15 February 2009). Verint Systems, a technology firm founded by former Israeli army personnel, has won several US-sponsored contracts since 2006 for the mass wiretapping of Mexican telecommunications, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Trained by Israel

According to declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents [PDF] obtained via a freedom of information request, Israeli personnel were discreetly sent into Chiapas in response to the 1994 Zapatista uprising for the purpose of “providing training to Mexican military and police forces.”

The Mexican government also made use of the Arava aircraft to deploy its Airborne Special Forces Group (Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, or GAFE). GAFE commandos were themselves trained by Israel and the US. Several would later desert the GAFE and go on to create “Los Zetas,” currently Mexico’s most powerful and violent drug cartel (“Los Zetas and Mexico’s Transnational Drug War,” World Politics Review, 25 December 2009).

Mexico was surprised by the Zapatistas, who rose up the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Mexican government found itself needing to respond to the dictates of foreign investors, as a famously-leaked Chase-Manhattan Bank memo revealed: “While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.”
Marketing “stability”

Today, faced with a people in open rebellion against their own annihilation, the perception of stability continues to be an important modus operandi for the Mexican government. For Israel, the Oslo “peace process” and the Palestinian Authority’s neoliberal turn has similarly helped cultivate an illusory perception of peace and stability while the colonization of Palestine continues.

Indeed, “creating an atmosphere of stability” was the stated goal of the recent Mexico-Israel contacts, and the desire for at least the perception of it might help explain why an Israeli presence in Chiapas is now going public, or rather, according to journalist Naomi Klein, is being “marketed.”

Yet managing perceptions can only remain the short-term goal of governments whose shared ambition is to annihilate. And just as Israel shares with Mexico its military experiences against Palestinians, it is equally likely that Israel could apply some of Mexico’s counterinsurgency tactics to its oppression of the the Palestinian people.

The military relationship between Israel and Mexico is how the Zapatistas themselves have long recognized their connection to the Palestinian struggle.

This message was underscored by Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos when Israel was bombing Gaza in early 2009 (“Of sowing and harvests,” My word is my weapon, 4 January 2009). Despite the distance between Chiapas and Gaza, Marcos stressed that their experiences made the people of the two territories feel close to each other.

It is worth recalling Marcos’ words: “Not far from here, in a place called Gaza, in Palestine, in the Middle East, right here next to us, the Israeli government’s heavily trained and armed military continues its march of death and destruction.”

Linda Quiquivix is a critical geographer. She can be reached at

Jimmy Johnson is the founder of Neged Neshek, a website focused on Israel’s weapons industry. He can be reached at jimmy [at] negedneshek [dot] org.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In a historic trial Former Guatemalan Dictator Rios Montt convicted of genocide...then he's not

During the Reagan-BushI years of proxy wars against revolutions in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, General Rios Montt was a star player for the USA's counter-revolutionary team. As dictator of Guatemala he waged an open war of extermination against indigenous Indian communities whom he distrusted as being sympathetic to revolutionary groups. This has been well documented and it has been a scandal for decades that Rios Montt and his henchmen got away with mass murder.

Recently, he was finally brought to book. His conviction was a vindication of the rights of the Guatemalan people and a victory for human rights workers. Until he was unconvicted. A Guatemalan court ruled the conviction invalid.

Why? The ruling business elite of Guatemala thought indicting and convicting Rios Mont was a bad precedent. Committing genocide against the people, especially the Mayan speaking Indios, who are at the bottom of the social pecking order, is a time-honored tradition of Guatemala's ruling elite. If Rios Montt is guilty of genocide and punished for it, why stop with just him? A lot of rich and connected people are also complicit.

Of course, the US government backed up Rios Montt's tantrum of mass killing as part of saving the free world from godless communism (it was the 1980s, terrorism hadn't moved up to the top of the list yet). Another significant player in the massacres was the Israeli army. They trained the Guatemalan military's death squads and gave them inspiration. This is also well documented, if any one cares to look it up (don't ask Abe Foxman).

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rise Up or Die

Chris Hedges' Columns(from Truthdig)

Posted on May 19, 2013

By Chris Hedges

Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace—to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power.

What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.

Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.

The Department of Justice seizure of two months of records of phone calls to and from editors and reporters at The Associated Press is the latest in a series of dramatic assaults against our civil liberties. The DOJ move is part of an effort to hunt down the government official or officials who leaked information to the AP about the foiling of a plot to blow up a passenger jet. Information concerning phones of Associated Press bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn., as well as the home and mobile phones of editors and reporters, was secretly confiscated. This, along with measures such as the use of the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, will put a deep freeze on all independent investigations into abuses of government and corporate power.

Seizing the AP phone logs is part of the corporate state’s broader efforts to silence all voices that defy the official narrative, the state’s Newspeak, and hide from public view the inner workings, lies and crimes of empire. The person or persons who provided the classified information to the AP will, if arrested, mostly likely be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. That law was never intended when it was instituted in 1917 to silence whistle-blowers. And from 1917 until Barack Obama took office in 2009 it was employed against whistle-blowers only three times, the first time against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The Espionage Act has been used six times by the Obama administration against government whistle-blowers, including Thomas Drake.

The government’s fierce persecution of the press—an attack pressed by many of the governmental agencies that are arrayed against WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and activists such as Jeremy Hammond—dovetails with the government’s use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to carry out the assassination of U.S. citizens; of the FISA Amendments Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our Constitution was once illegal—the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of tens of millions of U.S. citizens; and of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the government to have the military seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them in indefinite detention. These measures, taken together, mean there are almost no civil liberties left.

A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia.

We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear as Odysseus’ sailors, between Scylla and Charybdis.

There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population—including those burdened by student loans—into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent.

More than 100 million Americans—one-third of the population—live in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Yet the stories of the poor and the near poor, the hardships they endure, are rarely told by a media that is owned by a handful of corporations—Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Clear Channel and Disney. The suffering of the underclass, like the crimes of the power elite, has been rendered invisible.

In the Lakota Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S.D., in the United States’ second poorest county, the average life expectancy for a male is 48. This is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti. About 60 percent of the Pine Ridge dwellings, many of which are sod huts, lack electricity, running water, adequate insulation or sewage systems. In the old coal camps of southern West Virginia, amid poisoned air, soil and water, cancer is an epidemic. There are few jobs. And the Appalachian Mountains, which provide the headwaters for much of the Eastern Seaboard, are dotted with enormous impoundment ponds filled with heavy metals and toxic sludge. In order to breathe, children go to school in southern West Virginia clutching inhalers. Residents trapped in the internal colonies of our blighted cities endure levels of poverty and violence, as well as mass incarceration, that leave them psychologically and emotionally shattered. And the nation’s agricultural workers, denied legal protection, are often forced to labor in conditions of unpaid bondage. This is the terrible algebra of corporate domination. This is where we are all headed. And in this accelerated race to the bottom we will end up as serfs or slaves.

Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil. In his poem of resistance, “If We Must Die,” Claude McKay knew that the odds were stacked against African-Americans who resisted white supremacy. But he also knew that resistance to tyranny saves our souls. McKay wrote:

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism of injustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.”

Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” grasps the dark soul of global capitalism. We are all aboard the doomed ship Pequod, a name connected to an Indian tribe eradicated by genocide, and Ahab is in charge. “All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.” We are sailing on a maniacal voyage of self-destruction, and no one in a position of authority, even if he or she sees what lies ahead, is willing or able to stop it. Those on the Pequod who had a conscience, including Starbuck, did not have the courage to defy Ahab. The ship and its crew were doomed by habit, cowardice and hubris. Melville’s warning must become ours. Rise up or die

Saturday, May 18, 2013

When ‘J’ means ‘Jewish’ not ‘Justice’

from mondoweiss

May 16, 2013 01:00 pm | Heike Schotten

This is a companion article to Sandra Tamari's piece, "The meaning of solidarity in the Palestine movement." These pieces are part of an ongoing conversation in activist spaces about “Jews identifying as Jews”. We published Elisha Baskin and Donna Nevel on this issue recently. --Ed.

When “J” means “Jewish” Rather than “Justice”: On Zionism, Jewish Exceptionalism, and Jewish Supremacy in U.S. Palestine Solidarity Organizing

Zionism contends that Jewish people have a special connection to the Zionist colonization of Palestine (i.e., Israel). Unfortunately, this “special connection” is often reproduced in certain Jewish-identified Palestine solidarity work in the U.S. This happens when the focus of movement work is directed toward the needs, motives, beliefs, or histories of Jewish people, rather than the needs and situation of Palestinians. In these cases, I shall argue, movement work exchanges its focus on justice for a focus on Judaism, shortchanging Palestinians—and genuine solidarity with them—in the process.

Undoubtedly, Jewish-identified Palestine solidarity activism does important work to undermine this “special connection.” Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Jews for a Just Peace (AJJP), and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) drive a wedge between Zionism and Judaism, demonstrating by their very existence that not all Jews are Zionists (nor are all Zionists Jews). This is of enormous strategic value, particularly in the U.S. context, wherein the presumption that Zionism and Judaism are co-extensive has a stranglehold on politics and public discourse. The importance of this work has been affirmed, for example, by the Boycott National Committee in Palestine, which has endorsed the JVP-initiated campaign demanding that TIAA-CREF divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation. Omar Barghouti has named JVP “an important ally in the U.S.” that consistently resists “Jewish privilege.”

However, in the course of my time working in the Palestine solidarity movement in the U.S. (since 2006), I have seen Jewish-identified Palestine solidarity work often reproduce the notion that Jewish people have a “special connection” with the Zionist colonization of Palestine, thereby sidelining the needs and situation of Palestinians in order to focus on Jewish people, identity, or history. This happens, in my experience, in three prominent ways:

(1) Jewish Values

All too often, in venues too numerous to mention, I have heard Jewish people cite the distinctiveness or importance of Jewish Values as their reasons for being involved in Palestine solidarity work. Jewish Values refers to any number of things: sometimes it references a specific Jewish ethical tradition or set of teachings, derived perhaps from Biblical or Talmudic sources. Sometimes it is based on a more culturalist assertion about specifically Jewish commitments to social justice (e.g., tikkun olam). And sometimes it is based on historical claims about the consistency or disproportionate participation of Jewish people in social justice movements generally (e.g., Civil Rights, labor, feminism, gay liberation, etc.). Regardless of its content, however, it is all-too-common to hear Jewish-identified people lay claim to Jewish Values as the reason, motive, or purpose for their participation in Palestine solidarity work.

In my view, this position mistakes personal reasons for joining this movement for the work of the movement itself, exchanging a focus on justice for a focus on Judaism. Distracted by individual motives or personal beliefs, this activism becomes oriented toward the maintenance or upholding of Jewish Values rather than responding to the situation and needs of Palestinians (as evidenced by the enormous amount of work being done internally within Jewish communities – more on this in the final section). Worse, Palestinian self-determination is championed because doing so exemplifies or otherwise fulfills Jewish Values. In other words, being in solidarity with Palestine becomes the new meaning or content of Jewish Values. This unwittingly instrumentalizes Palestinians or the Palestinian cause as important insofar as they can help to realize (or “heal”) Jewish Values (from Zionism).

It also suggests that liberation or self-determination are uniquely or distinctly Jewish Values, which of course they are not. Such advocacy engages in Jewish exceptionalism, reinforcing the idea that Jewish people – because of certain “values” – are exceptional, both in the sense that Jews are exceptions to the rule and exceptional, or a cut above the rest. However, not only are Jewish Values neither synonymous with liberation nor uniquely related to liberation, but they are certainly unnecessary to claim as the basis for one’s Palestine solidarity work, especially when doing so re-iterates Jewish exceptionalism.

Moreover, by insisting on Jewish Values as the reason for their solidarity with Palestinians, Jewish people actually re-inscribe Jews as central to this region and the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom when in fact they are not central to it – or, at least, no more or less central to it than any other non-Palestinian people. (Remember, it is Zionism that requires an essential connection between Israel and Jewish people.) When Jewish people assert specifically Jewish Values as the basis for their Palestine solidarity work, they re-instate the connection between Jewish people and Israel – even if this time in the form of a critique – that centers Jewish people and Jewish Values as the main pivot of a relationship of resistance to Israel and the Zionist project.

I fully accept that many people are committed to the liberation of Palestine because of a personal commitment to Jewish Values. But being critical of Israel and in solidarity with the liberation of Palestine are not distinctly Jewish values, nor should they be if this movement is to be truly liberatory.

When Jewish people mistake their individual connections to Jewishness or Jewish Values for politically principled social justice work, they distract from the situation of Palestinians and re-instate Jewish people’s “special connection” to Israel/Palestine, short-circuiting solidarity and fortifying Zionism in the process.

(2) Jewish Oppression

Paralleling the Jewish Values line is the Jewish Oppression line. In this case, Jewish people invoke their historical experience of oppression as the reason for their intimate connection to Palestine solidarity work. Occasionally, this historical experience of oppression takes the form of a broader narrative about Jewish people having been exiled and oppressed throughout their existence, despised and dislocated from everywhere they have lived. Much more commonly, this argument relies on the Holocaust as the premier example of unthinkable oppression. Regardless, the claim I most often hear made is that, because of Jewish people’s excruciating experience of oppression during the Holocaust, they are uniquely situated or obligated, as Jews, to undertake Palestine solidarity work. This is because, for example, they are obliged to universalism by the uniquely post-Holocaust injunction, “Never Again.” Or simply because their distinct experience of oppression obliges them to say no to Israel’s crimes.

Connecting solidarity work to the Holocaust in this way unwittingly suggests that it is Jewish people’s unique relationship with exceptional oppression that especially situates them to work on Palestinian liberation. Again, this mistakes personal connections and motivations for justifications of political principle, shifting the focus from justice to Judaism once again. It also somehow manages to suggest that addressing the situation of Palestinians is important insofar as it addresses or speaks to Jewish Oppression. This again re-centers Jewish people in a movement for Palestinian liberation, albeit this time through the lens of Jewish Oppression rather than Jewish Values. Finally, it borders on a kind of Holocaust exceptionalism, whereby the oppression of the Jews is either exceptionally horrible or else more specifically and uniquely horrible than anything other people(s) have undergone throughout history, since it is precisely on this unique or distinctive horribleness that the claim to the special obligation to Palestine solidarity turns.

I fully accept that many people are committed to the liberation of Palestine because of familial or historical connections with the Holocaust. I would again insist, however, that this connection remains a personal connection rather than an assertion of political principle. Many people have many familial and historical connections with many oppressions that may (or may not) bring them to Palestine solidarity work. From the perspective of the work, however, such connections are interesting but inessential. Why, after all, is a connection with any oppression necessary to commit one to the liberation of Palestine? More importantly, asserting specifically Jewish people’s connection to the Holocaust as the basis for Palestine solidarity work re-iterates the Zionist insistence on the essential relationships among the Holocaust, Israel, and Jewish people. These connections should be disregarded in Palestine solidarity work, for certainly outrage at the Holocaust – much less the injustices of the Israeli state – do not and should not require a particular kinship or historical linkage with either. Suggesting otherwise sidelines Palestinians once again, undermining solidarity and fortifying Zionism.

(3) Jewish Credibility

Finally, it is all too often the case that Jewish people – sometimes unwittingly and with good intentions, sometimes not – position themselves in the United States as uniquely credible reporters about the situation on the ground in Palestine. This is due to a number of factors, I’m sure, not least of which is the proliferation of opportunities for (sufficiently moneyed) Americans to travel to Palestine on delegations or solidarity tours. (This phenomenon is so common it is now a research area for academics.) Upon return to the U.S., participants often wish to convey what they have seen and learned while they were in Palestine.

The politics of solidarity tours is complex, to be sure. I make no pretense of judging if they are “good” or “bad,” and could not do so without risking hypocrisy given my own participation in both a Birthright Israel program (in 2000) and a Birthright Unplugged program (in 2006), much less my current position as Outreach and Communications Director for Birthright Unplugged, wherein I have facilitated numerous delegations to Palestine.

However, it is often the case that delegates’ well-meaning and heartfelt attempts to communicate what they saw in Palestine—especially when those delegates are Jewish—can unwittingly position both American and Jewish people as uniquely credible reporters about Palestine. To be clear, this is often far from anyone’s intentions. Nevertheless, in the U.S. context of vitriolic, racialized Islamophobia –itself exacerbated by the imperial frame within which all news about the “Middle East” unfolds and all popular culture takes its cues – some voices are inevitably deemed more “objective” than others. And as we well know, Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims (and all those taken to be such) are always already de-legitimized in U.S. public discourse. Biased, irrational, violent, terroristic – even after decades of work on this issue, the possibility of a credible, mainstream Arab or Muslim or Palestinian voice gaining any traction as a public authority on Palestine remains remote. Moreover, we are all-too-familiar with the insistence that, anytime a Palestinian or Arab or Muslim does speak publicly, and especially about Palestine, it is necessary to wheel in a Jewish and/or Israeli counterpart in order to “balance” the conversation.

While it is crucial that people speak out about the truth of Israel’s illegal military occupation, indigenous dispossession, apartheid policies, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, nevertheless if it is only or primarily Jewish people reporting such facts, Jewish people are re-centered as the authorities on Palestine. This marginalizes Palestinian voices and leadership and reproduces the Jewish supremacy latent in U.S. public discourse that holds that only Jewish people can be objective, credible reporters about Israel/Palestine.

Aside from distinguishing Judaism from Zionism, the other primary justification I hear of both Jewish-identified solidarity work and the three positionings identified above is the importance of moving the U.S. Jewish community and/or the mainstream Jewish establishment’s hard-line position on Israel. Undoubtedly, fighting AIPAC and the Zionist lobby is important work. However, in my experience, this is typically not the “Jewish establishment” people mean when they make this claim, but rather groups like Hillel or their own congregations and temple Boards. This narrower target makes sense, given that the Zionist lobby consists not simply of Zionist Jewish organizations, but also Zionist Christian Evangelical organizations and Zionist neocons. Indeed, we would do well to remember that the Zionist lobby may not best be characterized as definitively Jewish. Its more defining characteristic may rather be neo-imperialism, a quality that Zionist Jews share with non-Jewish Zionists.

For my own part, I’m skeptical that U.S. Jewish opinion has much sway over the machinations of the Zionist lobby. Their opinions may matter more to the so-called “Jewish establishment,” but even presuming a major shift on Israel on their part leaves me unconvinced that this would significantly affect either the Zionist lobby or U.S. policy on Israel. After all, neither actually cares about Jewish people, their welfare, or what they really think—this is far from their raison d’être. To presume otherwise is again to presume that Zionism has something to do with Judaism or Jewish people, when in fact Judaism and Jewish people are instead used as ideological leverage to advance the Zionist lobby’s colonial and imperial policies.

At its best, Jewish people’s addressing the U.S. Jewish community’s position on Israel is a form of unlearning racism, a way in which Jewish people educate other Jewish people about Israel’s status as a settler colonial state rather than an emancipatory polity for Jewish people.

However, this kind of work is also about personal commitments which, like Jewish Values or Jewish Oppression, may be important to individuals but are not productive bases or justifications for solidarity work. Some people wish to make synagogues more welcoming spaces for dissenting views on Israel. Young folks want to alert their elders that their generation is not committed to Zionism, even as they embrace Judaism (this is one animus behind the JVP project Young, Jewish, and Proud). Others are interested in building new religious institutions and practices of worship that are spiritually meaningful but no longer complicit with Zionism.

All of these are admirable goals. But they are not solidarity work. Making internal change within the U.S. Jewish community may make U.S. Jews less racist, synagogues more open, families more communicative, and religious institutions and practices less Zionist. But in order for solidarity work to be solidarity work, it must be responsive and accountable to the demands and situation of the oppressed. And it really must be said that Jews are not oppressed in the U.S. (much less anywhere else). They are certainly not the oppressed in this movement. The oppressed here are the Palestinians, and our work for Palestinian liberation must be accountable to the demands and situation of Palestinians – in Palestine and throughout the world. Working to change families, synagogues, and Jewish communities may make more room for individual Jewish people to live, work, worship, and play. But changing the Jewish community is work that is addressed to Jewish people, by Jewish people, for Jewish people. It should not be confused with work that aims at the liberation of Palestine.

I, too, came to this work with the belief that, as someone raised Jewish in a staunchly Zionist home, I had a “special connection” to the Zionist colonization of Palestine. In particular, I felt I had an obligation to do Palestine solidarity work because everything Israel did was undertaken and justified “in my name.” However, as I have spent more time in this movement and also begun to learn from the work of other activists, particularly those in the prison abolition and immigrants’ rights movements as well as participants in indigenous struggles for self-determination in the Americas and beyond, I have begun to understand the ways in which my belief in my “special connection” to Palestine is self-serving and itself a by-product of Zionist propaganda. It is in the interest of Zionism that Jews everywhere understand themselves to be uniquely or distinctly connected to Israel – even if that connection is a critical one.

While it is necessary and important to distinguish Zionism and Judaism, the role of Jewish people in Palestine solidarity work (if indeed any such “role” actually exists) is to confirm that Palestinian liberation is not a Jewish issue. Jewish people must recognize that commitment to justice turns not on an exceptionalist Jewish connection to this region, country, or colonial project, but rather on the principled belief in the freedom, equality, and self-determination of all people(s). Indeed, such commitment may help us to remember that we ourselves are settlers in North America, complicit with the colonization of indigenous peoples here, residing upon stolen land from which we launch our otherwise heroic critiques of Israel.

The fight for Palestinian liberation is anti-racist work and a form of anti-colonialism. It is part of an indigenous people’s struggle. To suggest that Jewish people have a special connection to Israel/Palestine is to re-iterate a central Zionist contention that the settler colonization of Palestine is by, for, or about Jewish people. Insofar as it is Zionism which we are fighting, we surely do not want to agree to that.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A former insider explains how Human Rights Watch panders to the Israel lobby

from Electric Intifada
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 05/03/2013 - 18:57

Scott Long has written an excellent exposé of the scurrilous smear campaign against Egyptian human rights defender Mona Seif by the Zionist organization UN Watch and its director Hillel Neuer, “a former corporate lawyer and lobbyist for Israel” (I wrote about the UN Watch smear campaign against Seif here yesterday).

While the whole post is well worth reading, Long includes a fascinating passage on how Human Rights Watch (HRW), where he was director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program until 2010, panders to the Israel lobby which attacks it constantly.

Those of us who observe HRW’s work have long known that it deals with Israel by a different, much softer standard than it applies to any other country.

Long’s account indicates that HRW observes a sort of fake balance in which it must artificially generate criticism of Palestinians just in order to offset criticism of Israel’s much greater and more frequent human rights abuses and crimes:

Human Rights Watch, where I worked for many years, strains all its muscles to be completely objective on Israel/Palestine — an effort that has never gotten it a scintilla of credit from the militant pro-Israel side. Its releases on Israel and Palestine are the only ones in the entire organization that are routinely edited by the executive director himself. An informal arithmetic dictates that every presser or report criticizing Israel has to be accompanied by another criticizing the Palestine Authority or Hamas — or, if that isn’t possible (the PA barely retains enough authority to violate anybody’s rights) at least one of the surrounding Arab states. A mathematical approach to objectivity may help accountants detect embezzlement or captains keep ships afloat, but that kind of balance looks ridiculous in the political world, where the incessant fluidity of action disrupts the illusions of double-entry bookkeeping. (The call for an “embargo on arms” to “all sides” is an excellent example of “objectivity” that benefits one side much more than the other. As often noted during the Yugoslav civil war — when extremely well-meaning people urged that unarmed Bosnians and the Serbian army both go cold turkey on acquiring arms — a cutoff will matter much more to those who have only scant resources than to those flush with weaponry. If you want to stop that kind of fighting, an embargo alone won’t do it. It’s like the majestic equality of the law as Anatole France described it, forbidding both rich and poor to sleep under bridges.)

Whatever you think of the neighboring conflict, Egyptian activists are undoubtedly reasonable when they ask what a similar “objectivity” would have looked like in their 20-year struggle with Mubarak. Should each documented act of torture by State Security have been followed by a search for some malfeasance by human rights organizations? Do the immense power of a state and the vulnerability of a people’s movement carry the same responsibilities? At what point do you acknowledge (as Human Rights Watch did in Egypt) that, though both sides may do wrong, one side’s demand is right and the other’s is wrong?

An excellent question indeed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

More thoughts on US foreign policy, Israel, the Israel Lobby, Saudi Oil, China and Jonathan Pollard

Sometimes, something inspires me to get a deep thought, well, it can seem like it at that moment. But occasionally that idea develops staying power and explains something about the real world.

In the introduction to Rashid Khalidi's new book "Brokers of Deceit," about the USA's dishonest role in the Palestine/Israel negotiations, Khalidi points out that the USA's alliance with Saudi Arabia is the key strategic one in the Mideast (and maybe in the world) because of oil. The alliance with Israel has benefited the US, as a proxy military arm and testing ground for new technology in controlling, maiming and killing people. But If the two allies of the US in the region clash too much, the US would slap Israel down (as it did over selling US weapons to the Saudis). Luckily for Israel's Zionist rulers, the Saudis really don't care about what they do to the Palestinians, neither does the US government, and besides, the Israel lobby has a lot of clout in domestic politics. So, there's no incentive to reign Israel in.

Taking this line of thought further, China really needs oil and is going to increasingly encroach on US turf in the Mideast and central Asia. How far can the US trust Israel in this coming clash? Israel has a history of playing its own games outside of US control. US intelligence agencies have had their suspicions about how Israel has used US intelligence and US technology behind Washington's back, especially in terms of secretly selling information to China. Which brings up the question of why has the US--which endorses in advance everything Israel does and says--been so hard and unforgiving of Israel's jailed-for-life spy, Jonathan Pollard?

The Israeli government, AIPAC & the whole lobby, senators and representatives, all have appealed for a presidential pardon, but no dice. Perhaps this is a warning to Israel to not screw around with US military and technological assets that could endanger its position of dominance over Mideast oil. If the Israelis becomes a serious hinderance to the US in its coming clashes with China over who has hegemony over energy supplies and who has the military edge, the US won't hesitate to throw them overboard. Even Alan Dershowitz won't be able to save them.