Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Can the US Congress bring justice for the Palestinians?: A response to Robert Naiman

from Mondoweiss

Joel Beinin on September 29, 2014

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with congressional leaders after addressing a joint session of Congress in May, 2011. (Photo: Chet Susslin) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with congressional leaders after addressing a joint session of Congress in May, 2011. (Photo: Chet Susslin)
The United States Congress has been placing obstacles in the path of a just resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict since the 1956 Suez War.

In that conflict, Israel, in collusion with France and Britain, attacked Egypt and occupied the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. President Eisenhower demanded that Israel withdraw from those territories and sought to impose sanctions if it did not. In terms that sound positively naïve today, Eisenhower asked, “Should a nation which attacks and occupies foreign territory in the face of United Nations disapproval be allowed to impose conditions on its own withdrawal?” Lyndon B. Johnson, then Senate Majority Leader, and Minority Leader William F. Knowland strenuously opposed the president’s policy. Eisenhower rebuked them, saying, “America has either one voice or none, and that voice is the voice of the President – whether everybody agrees with him or not.” [1] Israel resisted for several months, and finally, under U.S. and Soviet pressure, withdrew.

Since then, Congress has consistently, and often more successfully, obstructed Palestinian-Israeli peace, in both symbolic and material ways. Most egregiously, it annually votes, with only scattered nays, to provide Israel with some $3 billion in military aid. During Operation Protective Edge – Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in July-August 2014 – the Senate, by unanimous consent, adopted Resolution 498 announcing that, “The United States firmly and resolutely stands with Israel.” This extraordinary statement obliterates any distinction between the interests of Israel and those of the United States. On August 14, before leaving for recess, the House voted an additional $225 million in aid for Israel. The Senate had unanimously adopted the measure two weeks earlier.

Robert Naiman’s Truthout op-ed, “Attacking J Street Won’t Bring Justice for Palestinians” is based on the fundamentally flawed premise that appealing to Congress can bring about a just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Naiman is impatient with those who argue that, “because of its conduct during the recent Gaza war, J Street should die and be supplanted by Jewish Voice for Peace.” He does not identify anyone who has actually posed the issue in these terms, and I am not aware of anyone who has. It is not the stated policy of JVP.

Naiman goes on to criticize JVP for not engaging with Congress effectively. But his “explanations” for this supposed “failure” are all false. JVP does not ignore Congress because it is based in California; it is a national organization with 65 chapters and offices in Oakland, CA and New York. JVP does not underestimate the importance of engaging with Congress because of its membership in the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Many JVPers have lobbied members of Congress for years. The San Francisco Bay Area has a longstanding relationship with Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), although it cannot claim to have moved her much on this issue. What is the evidence for the claim that some JVPers “seem to have an existential hatred of J Street”? Is Naiman qualified to render a psychological diagnosis? J Street has consistently lined up with the American Jewish establishment to exclude JVP. Has that in any way undermined joint action on occasions when it might be possible?

The issue is not, as Naiman poses it, whether J Street or JVP is “more progressive.” JVP opposed Operation Protective Edge. J Street supported it. Was there any basis for collaboration between the two organizations in the summer of 2014?

If J Street’s influence wanes, it will be because its strategy has failed. After six years, its congressional lobbying has resulted in zero concrete results. Despite J Street’s vigorous supported for a Democratic president who entered office verbally committed to Israel-Palestine peacemaking, congressional obstruction has become more obdurate. During his May 2011 visit to Washington Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu testily rejected President Obama’s position that the 1967 borders should be the basis of an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Despite his insulting public dismissal of the president’s views, behavior, Netanyahu went on to receive 29 standing ovations during his address to a joint session of Congress.

Given this history, counting on Congress to make a positive contribution to Palestinian-Israeli peace without changing anything else fits Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The point is not that we should ignore Congress, but that we should understand that Congress will likely be one of the last institutions to move on this issue. The way to get Congress to move is to emphasize a grassroots movement building strategy to change the balance of forces so that Congress will feel compelled to pay attention. Attempting to influence Congress without sufficient street heat is a proven failure.


1 Robert Divine, Eisenhower and the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 64-66.

- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/congress-palestinians-response?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=139e4c01c1-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-139e4c01c1-309260894#sthash.SLEf9FIy.dpuf

Monday, September 29, 2014

Video: Ali Abunimah on Abbas’ UN speech, new Fatah-Hamas deal on Gaza

(Luay Sababa / Maan Images)
Video: Ali Abunimah on Abbas’ UN speech, new Fatah-Hamas deal on Gaza
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Sun, 09/28/2014 - 14:55
Palestinian Authority Has No Legitimacy to Govern in Gaza

On Friday, I was interviewed on The Real News Network by Anton Woronczuk. The video is above and the full transcript is below.

We discussed Palestinian Authority de facto leader Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday, the latest announcement of a deal between Fatah and Hamas for the Abbas-run PA to take over the government of Gaza and the long-term prospects for reconstruction.


(courtesy of The Real News Network)

Anton Woronczuk: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

Hamas and Fatah have agreed to transfer administrative control of the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority after a couple of days of negotiations in Cairo. The decision comes about a month after a ceasefire was agreed between Gaza and Israel after the 50-day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, in which over 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 72 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed.

Meanwhile, PA President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations General Assembly, where he called Operation Protective Edge a, quote, “genocidal crime” and made demands for a timeline requiring Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to the 1967 borders.

Joining us now to discuss all this is Ali Abunimah. Ali is the cofounder of the award-winning online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. His latest book is titled The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

Thanks for joining us, Ali.

Ali Abunimah: Thank you, Anton.

AW: So, Ali, let’s start off by getting your response to Mahmoud Abbas’ comments to the UN General Assembly.

AA: Well, it was really a speech that was empty of any substantive content. There was some disappointment among Palestinians who expected him to announce some bold initiative, for example announcing that he would sign the International Criminal Court [ICC] treaty and try to bring to justice the Israelis who carried out the slaughter in Gaza, among other crimes.

But he did nothing of that. All that he announced was another initiative to bring forward another UN resolution to add to the hundreds of UN resolutions gathering dust. So really it was the speech of an individual who lacks legitimacy, lacks authority, and who has absolutely reached a political dead-end.

AW: Yeah, I mean, a fundamental problem with that strategy that he announced seems to be that if he brought forth a UN resolution, that the US could easily veto it, and it seems the more effective thing for him to do would be to go to the ICC to bring war crimes charges against Israel. Why wouldn’t he do that?

AA: Well, that’s, of course, the million-dollar question. And the answer is that Mahmoud Abbas is, his Palestinian Authority regime is in fact closely allied to Israel in a number of ways.

Despite his rhetoric criticizing Israel, the fact is at no point has he ever stopped the so-called security coordination between the Israeli occupation army and the Palestinian Authority. So, while families were being slaughtered in Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas’ security forces were continuing their routine cooperation with the Israeli Shin Bet security services and with the Israeli army in the West Bank.

And secondly, his authority relies on cash transfers via Israel for tax revenues. His Palestinian Authority security forces rely on Israel for the deliveries of their equipment and weapons. So he’s not in a position and nor is he inclined to challenge Israel, let alone to take its leaders to a war crimes court.

And I think his game, you know, this sort of shell game of constantly saying, we will do something, we will do something, has really reached a dead end. And all he had today was to announce that he’s going to try and get another UN resolution, as if another UN resolution, even if it passed, would lead to any change on the ground.

AW: I mean, this issue of legitimacy seems to be a major factor here in the transfer of administrative control to the Palestinian Authority, as you have tens of thousands of civil servants in Gaza who remain unpaid. And as far as I understand, no referendums or no vote was allowed to Gazans on this decision to transfer administrative control.

AA: Well, let’s be clear. The reason that Hamas has agreed nominally to transfer administrative control to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is not because the Palestinian Authority has any great legitimacy, but because it has the de facto backing of Israel and the United States and the Europeans, and, of course, the Egyptian military dictatorship, which means that all of those forces that ranked and lined up against the Palestinians, and against particularly Hamas, have insisted that any reconstruction aid, any loosening of the Egyptian-Israeli siege on Gaza, one condition for that is that the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas control the border crossings of Gaza.

So, in effect, Mahmoud Abbas and his forces would be acting as Israeli proxies to function as sort of Israel’s presence on Gaza’s borders. That’s the only reason that Hamas would agree to this. But it’s certainly not because of any greater political legitimacy that Abbas has. On the contrary, as a consequence of the resistance’s – and by resistance I mean all the factions that fought against Israel, not just Hamas – they are the ones who’ve seen sort of popularity and their popular legitimacy soar, because of their ability to withstand the brutal Israeli assault for 51 days.

AW: So if Hamas and Islamic Jihad have seen such a major surge in their popularity after Operation Protective Edge, why would they decide to this agreement? How would it be in their interest?

AA: Well, as I said, they withstood the assault. But they remain besieged in Gaza. Unfortunately, the siege has not been lifted yet, even though that was reportedly one of the promises Israel made as part of the ceasefire agreement a month ago. We’ve seen almost no change on the borders of Gaza.

So that’s also something we have to be very aware of, that previous ceasefires have broken down not because Palestinians have violated them. Palestinians, on the contrary, have been the ones that have kept to them far more strictly. It has been because Israel has never respected the terms. And once again we’re going down that path where a month later absolutely nothing has changed as the situation in Gaza remains desperate.

But it’s not just about Israel. The problem is you have the Egyptian dictatorship, you have the Palestinian Authority, which are trying to use this situation to regain leverage. Mahmoud Abbas wants to return to Gaza. He wants his Palestinian Authority to return to Gaza. So he’s very happy with anti-Palestinian forces like Israel and the Egyptians and the Europeans and others insisting that Abbas’ forces be present in Gaza.

But even if Abbas’ forces do return to control the crossings in Gaza, it’s very difficult to see it going beyond that, because I can’t see how the resistance forces in Gaza could trust Abbas’ security forces to have any more substantial presence in Gaza, given their cooperation with the Israeli occupation and the fear that by letting forces that are working with Israel into Gaza, that this would endanger the lives of people working in the resistance.

AW: Well, it also seems that cooperation with Egypt could be a further way that the Palestinian Authority would undermine its legitimacy both within the West Bank and Gaza, since Egypt has played a tremendous role in perpetuating the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza through the control of the Rafah border. And it seems –.

AA: And that’s something Mahmoud Abbas has never complained about. Again, we heard him in his UN speech praising Egypt and praising this conference which Egypt is going to host, supposedly for reconstruction aid of Gaza.

And the real danger here of letting the Palestinian Authority control the reconstruction process and letting its allies, like Norway and some of the other European countries, control the reconstruction process is that historically these forces have subordinated aid to Israel’s interest and Israel’s will.

And, of course, what we’ve seen in the West Bank in the twenty years since the Oslo accords is the development of a very corrupt neoliberal economy in which a few Palestinians at the top benefit from large construction projects, siphon off huge profits, a sort of a disaster capitalism, to use Naomi Klein’s term for it, and that the danger is that instead of reconstruction in the interests of the people of Gaza, that we get disaster capitalism.

The people who should really be in control of reconstruction in Gaza are people in Gaza, the communities that have been destroyed. The families, the villages, the refugee camps, they should be the ones who determine how reconstruction is done, and it should be done in their interests and their interests alone.

AW: But to go back to a question that I was trying to ask before is, it just seems that Hamas is making concessions – at least I’m talking in terms of its own political interests – it’s making concessions at a time in its peak popularity. And the decision to go to Cairo to engage in this kind of negotiations, I mean, it’s clear to everyone that the Sisi government in Egypt is entirely trying to crush or eliminate Hamas’s political control of the Gaza Strip. So why would Hamas agree to even having negotiations hosted in Cairo?

AA: Well, there are certainly people who question that strategy and who say that, you know, time and again we’ve seen the Egyptians really acting as proxies for Israel. And there are voices within Gaza and within Palestine more generally saying, don’t go to Cairo. I suppose that the calculation that Hamas leaders and other resistance factions have made is that the ceasefire agreement did include agreement to go back to Cairo to negotiate the terms of a long-term truce. And I suppose they think that they have to follow through with that.

But the real test of whether that strategy is the right one will be if these negotiations actually produce a lifting of the siege and the end to Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the Europeans, and the Americans – I mean, this is the so-called international community – using Palestinian civilians in Gaza as hostages in their war against Hamas.

Will they stop using humanitarian aid, stop using reconstruction as a political weapon, and allow Palestinians in Gaza to rebuild their lives regardless of whether Hamas agrees to this or that Israeli or American or European condition?

People in Gaza should be allowed to rebuild. It’s a basic right. It shouldn’t depend on whether the Egyptian dictator or the unelected Palestinian Authority leader or the European countries are happy with the platform of this or that Palestinian political party.

AW: Alright. Ali Abunimah, cofounder of Electronic Intifada.

Thank you so much for joining us.

AA: Thank you.

AW: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

The everyday racism and ethnic cleansing of the "vibrant Israeli democracy"

Israel exploring ways to "lower birthrate" of Bedouins, says minister
Submitted by Patrick Strickland on Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:35

Racism with a smile: Yair Shamir regards the existence of indigenous people as a “problem.” (Gvahim)
Israel is exploring ways to “lower the birthrate” of Palestinian Bedouins, its agriculture minister Yair Shamir has stated.

“We have to take all the Bedouin and get them out of the desert a bit and bring them closer to a normal state from the perspective of legislation, life expectancy, education and livelihood,” Shamir said, as reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz. “Perhaps we could even deal with the phenomenon of multiple wives to reduce the birthrate and raise the standard of living.”

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Naqab (Negev) region of present-day Israel is home to an estimated 160,000 Palestinian Bedouins who carry Israeli citizenship. During a recent tour of the region, Shamir lamented that the Bedouin population would grow to half a million by 2035.

“Only a suicidal country doesn’t recognize the Bedouin problem,” Shamir said. “The blindness is terrible.”

Shamir is a member of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) political party, founded by radical right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s current foreign minister. The party is known for its notoriously anti-Palestinian members, such as David Rotem and Uzi Landau, both members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

Yair is also the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a one-time member of the notorious Stern Gang (also known as Lehi), which violently attacked Palestinians and British colonial representatives during the British Mandate period (1920-1948).

The minister’s comments are “hardly even news in Israel,” explained Nadim Nashif, director of Baladna, a Haifa-based group campaigning for the rights of Palestinians in Israel.


“Obviously this is part of a broad pattern of incitement by Israelis, but sometimes it’s astonishing how racist politicians and ministers are,” Nashif told The Electronic Intifada. “In any country around the world, this would be compared to fascism, but in Israel it’s just daily news and not considered important.”

It is not the first time Israel has experimented in population control, either. In January 2013, Israel admitted that Jewish Ethiopian immigrants were being given long-acting contraceptives without their knowledge in order to decrease the community’s birthrate.

Bedouins in the Naqab are part of the estimated 1.7 million Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship and live in cities, towns and villages across the country. According to the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Center, they suffer from dozens of discriminatory laws that muzzle their political expression and limit their access to state resources, most importantly land.

Israeli politicians have a long history of using racist and dehumanizing language when speaking about Bedouins, particularly during attempts to justify plans to forcibly relocate large parts of the indigenous population in the Naqab region.

Continued demolitions

“For years Israeli politicians have been talking about controlling Bedouin in certain geographical areas,” Nashif added. “We shouldn’t be surprised — the next step is controlling their birthrates, according to their logic.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel also estimates that some 80,000 Bedouins live in “unrecognized villages” in the Naqab, where they are denied access to state resources, including electricity, water, education and healthcare.

Though many of these communities predate the 1948 Nakba — the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and establishment of Israel — authorities have attempted to forcibly relocate them time and again.

The Prawer Plan, which aimed to relocate tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins into ghetto-like communities, was cancelled last December after sparking widespread outrage and protests among Palestinian communities in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Yet, as recently reported by The Electronic Intifada, Israeli authorities have continued without pause to demolish homes in Bedouin communities across the Naqab.


During Israel’s latest massacre of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip — which lasted 50 days and killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians — anti-Palestinian incitement skyrocketed.

Among the politicians calling for increased violence was Knesset member Ayelet Shaked of the Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, who published on Facebook an article she accredited to the late settler leader Uri Elitzur.

Elitzur’s article labels “the entire Palestinian people [as] the enemy,” and calls for its destruction “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

The article “is as relevant today as it was at the time,” Shaked wrote in a “status,” which received thousands of “likes” and was shared widely among Israeli Facebook users.

During the assault on Gaza, Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset, called for Israel to “concentrate” and “exterminate” Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Writing on Facebook on 1 August, Feiglin said Israel should embark on the “conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and the annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters.”

In late August, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens, a group that represents Palestinians in Israel, called for “immediate and effective legal action against the wave of violence, incitement, discrimination and racism targeted against the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.”

Yet like Israeli soldiers and civilians who carry out violent attacks, politicians enjoy systematic impunity when their racist incitement is aimed at Palestinians.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How Israel Silences Dissent

from the NYT The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR


JAFFA, Israel — On July 12, four days after the latest war in Gaza began, hundreds of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest the killing of civilians on both sides and call for an end to the siege of Gaza and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. They chanted, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Hamas had warned that it would fire a barrage of rockets at central Israel after 9 p.m., and it did.

But the injuries suffered in Tel Aviv that night stemmed not from rocket fire but from a premeditated assault by a group of extremist Israeli Jews. Chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to leftists,” they attacked protesters with clubs. Although several demonstrators were beaten and required medical attention, the police made no arrests.

The same thing happened at another antiwar protest in Haifa a week later; this time, the victims included the city’s deputy mayor, Suhail Assad, and his son. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no statement condemning the violence, even though he had previously stated his primary concern was the safety of Israeli citizens.

The vilification of the few Israelis who don’t subscribe to right-wing doctrine is not new. Similar acts of incitement occurred before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. But now they have multiplied, escalated and spread.

On July 10, the veteran Israeli actress Gila Almagor did not show up to perform at Tel Aviv’s Habima Theater; she had received threats that she would be murdered on stage. In an interview in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot a few days earlier, she had expressed feeling ashamed after a 16-year old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists.

In an interview during the Gaza war, the popular comedian Orna Banai said she felt terrible that Palestinian women and children were being killed — she was subsequently fired from her position as spokeswoman for an Israeli cruise ship operator. And Haaretz hired bodyguards for its columnist Gideon Levy after he wrote an article criticizing Israeli Air Force pilots.

The aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians is the latest manifestation of an us-versus-them mentality that has been simmering for decades. It is based on the narrative that Palestinians are enemies who threaten Jewish sovereignty and are solely to blame for the failure to achieve peace. The Israeli peace camp — which remains obsessively focused on stopping settlement expansion and pursuing the ever-elusive two-state solution while ignoring Israel’s failure to separate religion and state and guarantee equal rights for Arab citizens — has been incapable of challenging this mentality.

Israeli society has been unable and unwilling to overcome an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right. Israel’s liberal, progressive forces remain weak in the face of a robust economy that profits from occupation while international inaction reinforces the status quo. In their attempt to juggle being both Jewish and democratic, most Israelis are choosing the former at the expense of the latter.

Israel has never, for example, genuinely addressed the fact that non-Jewish Arabs who generally identify as Palestinian account for about 20 percent of the population (this excludes the approximately three million Palestinians living under Israel’s control in East Jerusalem and the West Bank). Israel has also never clearly defined its borders, preferring to keep them vague and porous. Nor has it defined what it means to be “Israeli,” as distinct from being “Jewish,” leaving a vacuum that has been filled by nationalist and religious ideologues.

This has allowed the us-versus-them mentality to bleed into Israeli Jewish society. “Us” no longer refers to any Jewish citizen, and “them” to any Palestinian. Now, “us” means all those who defend the status quo of occupation and settlement expansion, including many Christian evangelicals and Republicans in America. And “them” means anyone who tries to challenge that status quo, whether a rabbi, a dissenting Israeli soldier or the president of the United States.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a shock. For most of Israel’s existence, the majority of Israelis have allowed the state, in the name of Jewish sovereignty and security, to violate Palestinians’ basic human rights — including access to water and the freedom of movement and assembly. The state has killed unarmed protesters and then failed to carry out investigations; it has allowed settlers and soldiers to act with impunity; and it has systematically discriminated against non-Jewish citizens. After so many years of repressing those who stand in the way, the transition to targeting “one of your own” isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies.

Zeev Sternhell, a political scientist and an expert on fascism, believes that “radical nationalism” and the “erosion of Enlightenment values” have reached new heights in Israel. “To grieve for the loss of life on both sides is already a subversive act, treason,” he told Haaretz. Mr. Sternhell has experienced Jewish extremist violence firsthand; in 2008, a settler planted a bomb in his home that wounded him.

Israelis increasingly seem unwilling to listen to criticism, even when it comes from within their own family. Not only are they not willing to listen, they are trying to silence it before it can even be voiced. With a family like that, I would rather be considered one of “them.”

Mairav Zonszein, an Israeli-American writer, translator and editor, blogs at +972 Magazine.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Absurdity of US Policy in Syria

SEPTEMBER 22, 2014

Only a Truce in Syria Can Stop ISIS

If the United States and its allies want to combat the Islamic State jihadists (IS, formerly known as Isis) successfully, they should arrange a ceasefire between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-IS Syrian opposition. Neither the Syrian army nor the “moderate” Syrian rebels are strong enough to stop IS if they are fighting on two fronts at the same time, going by the outcome of recent battles. A truce between the two main enemies of IS in Syria would be just that, and would not be part of a broader political solution to the Syrian crisis which is not feasible at this stage because mutual hatred is too great. A ceasefire may be possible now, when it was not in the past, because all parties and their foreign backers – the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran – are frightened of the explosive advance of the Islamic State. US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US Security Council on Friday that there is room for everybody “including Iran” in an anti-IS coalition.

President Obama was much criticised for admitting that he had no strategy to cope with IS and, despite his address to the nation on 10 September, he still does not have one. Assuming he is not going to send a large US land army to the region, he lacks a credible and effective local partner in either Syria or Iraq with the necessary military force to take advantage of air strikes, even if they are intensified in Iraq and extended to Syria.

Mr Obama won the assent of the House of Representatives last week to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria who are supposedly going to fight both Assad and IS. This is essentially a PR operation, since IS forces 30 miles from Aleppo are poised to move against the last rebel strongholds, while the Syrian army is close to regaining control of the city itself.

Likewise in Iraq, air strikes can only do so much. The government in Baghdad and the Iraqi army are still Shia-dominated and, however much the Sunni in Iraq dislike IS, they are even more frightened of its opponents. The US will try to split Sunni tribes and neighbourhoods away from the fundamentalists as it did in 2007, but there were then 150,000 US troops in the country and al-Qa’ida in Iraq was much weaker than IS. At the same time, it will find it difficult to advance further because, aside from
Baghdad, it has already seized the areas where live the 20 per cent of Iraqis who are Sunni Arab. In Syria at least 60 per cent of the population are Sunni Arabs, meaning that IS’s natural constituency is much bigger.

The case for a ceasefire in Syria is cogently argued by Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut in a paper entitled “To Confront the Islamic State, Seek a Truce in Syria”. He rightly says that “both the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the more moderate armed rebels arrayed against it are stretched thin, bleeding badly and in an increasingly vulnerable position …. Each has self-serving reasons to suspend military operations to confront the looming jihadist threat from the east.”

The Syrian army suffered heavy defeats at the hands of IS in July and August, though these were little reported in the West. Mr Sayigh cites figures of 1,100 government soldiers dead in July alone. It has long been clear that the army was short of combat troops and could only fight one front at a time. Mr Assad appears to have calculated that the rise of IS would be to his political advantage because most of the world would prefer him to the fundamentalists. But he underestimated the military strength of IS since they captured Mosul on 10 June.

No truce is likely to happen unless there is pressure on both sides by their outside backers – notably the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Much would depend on how realistic they are: the US and Saudi Arabia still want the departure of Assad, but this has been very unlikely since the second half of 2012. Demanding this at the Geneva II talks in February effectively killed off any diplomatic framework for negotiations to JihadisReturn_WebAd_2014_08_20_Counterpunch_Square_300x300end the conflict. Critics of multilateral ceasefires argue that this would mean accepting that the Assad government stay in place, but the Syrian government is not departing in any case. The Assad government may believe that it is gradually reasserting its authority over the rest of the country, but these advances are at a snail’s pace and its grip on ground regained is fragile. The Syrian army might not be able to withstand an all-out offensive by IS.

IS is growing stronger while its opponents in Syria are weakening. It is recruiting fast in all parts of its caliphate: Mr Sayigh cites opposition reports that it began training 6,300 recruits in Iraq in July alone. A study by the National Security Adviser’s office in Baghdad showed that in the past, where jihadis took over an area with 100 fighters, they could recruit between 500 and 1,000. IS seems prepared for air strikes, evacuating its fighters and heavy weapons from buildings where they are identifiable. US air power did not win the war in Afghanistan and is even less likely to do so in Iraq or Syria.

A ceasefire in Syria would remove one of IS’s strongest cards, which is the fear of the Sunnis that, bad though IS may be, the alternative of government re-occupation is even worse. For its part, the government may fear no longer being able to face Syrians with a stark choice between Assad and jihadis who chop off heads.

The restoration of a more normal civilian life in Syria would be an immense advance. Some of the 3 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced people out of a total population of 22 million would be able to go home. There might be a re-emergence of more moderate individuals and groups marginalised or driven underground since 2011.

At the moment, the political landscape in Syria must look good from the point of view of IS. Its opponents are divided. The US is backing a group of moderates who barely exist and wants to weaken the Assad government. In the past week some of the heaviest fighting in Syria has been IS’s attack on the Kurdish enclave of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, close to Turkey. It is defended by the fighters of the YPG Kurdish militia who are the Syrian branch of the mainly Turkish Kurd PKK which the US labels as “terrorist”.

US policy has an Alice in Wonderland absurdity about it, everything being the opposite of what it appears to be. The so-called “coalition of the willing” is, in practice, very unwilling to fight IS, while those hitherto excluded, such as Iran, the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the PKK, are the ones actually fighting. A truce between the government and moderate rebels in Syria would enable both to devote their resources to fighting IS, as they need to do quickly if they are to avoid defeat.

Patrick Cockburn’s new book is The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

Going, Going, Gone, But Let’s Not Forget Him The Terrible Tenure of Eric Holder

from Counterpunch, WEEKEND EDITION SEPTEMBER 26-28, 2014

Good riddance!

Eric Holder has announced that he is leaving his post of Attorney General, which he has sullied and degraded for six years.

A corporate lawyer with the Wall Street law firm Covington & Burling, Holder will be remembered for his timid defense of civil rights, his overseeing. and even encouragement of the massive militarization of the nation’s police forces, his anti-First Amendment efforts to pursue not just whistleblowers but the journalists who use them, threatening both with jail and in fact jailing a number of them (particularly in the case of whistleblower extraordinaire Edward Snowden, and Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange, both of whom reportedly face US treason charges), and his weak enforcement of environmental protection laws.

But Holder, who came into his position as the nation’s top law enforcement officer in early 2009 at the start of the Obama administration and at the height of the financial crisis, will be best remembered for his overt announcement that there would be no attempt to prosecute the criminals at the top of the nation’s biggest so-called “too-big-to-fail” banks, whose brazen crimes of theft, deceit, fraud and perjury during the Bush/Cheney years and beyond sank not just the US but the global economy into a crisis which is still with us.

Holder not only did not make any effort to put Wall Street’s banking titans behind bars for their epic crimes; he did not even make them step down from their exalted and absurdly highly compensated executive positions when his office reached negotiated settlements with the banks in civil cases involving those crimes — civil cases that in almost all cases allowed the banks to settle without even having to admit their guilt. (His ludicrous excuse: punishing these criminal executive might jeopardize the banks’ stocks and hurt “innocent” shareholders!) Nor was this legal benevalence limited to purely financial crimes. Banks like Citicorp and HSBC, which were found to have knowingly laundered millions — even billions — of dollars in drug money for drug cartels, were also allowed by Holder to escape with petty fines, and no prosecution of a single bank executive.

It is being suggested that Holder may opt to go back to his old post as a partner at Covington & Burling, which would be the final, though hardly surprising, insult to the American people, providing a particularly galling example of Washington’s revolving door between government regulators and enforcers and the industries that they were supposed to be regulating or keeping honest.

God, how far we have fallen from the days when Ramsey Clark was attorney general, and left to become a leading critic of Washington’s imperial government at home and abroad!

At this point the Obama Administration is little more than a place holder until the next presidential election in 2016. President Obama, who campaigned as a fire-breathing liberal who would restore constitutional government, end the Bush/Cheney wars, re-open the government so that transparency instead of secrecy would be the default position, and take decisive action against climate change, has abandoned all those false promises.

The illegal and unconstitutional wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are now being expanded into Africa and Syria and, at least by proxy, but most dangerously, to Ukraine. Civil liberties are under attack at least as severely as they were back in the McCarthy period, with whistleblowers being jailed, with the president asserting the unfettered right to order the killing without trial of American citizens, and with a spying system in place run by the National Security Agency that is monitoring and storing, by its own admission, virtually all electronic communications of the American people. The government is also as closed and secret in its operation as it has been since 1974, when it was broadened following the Watergate and Cointelpro scandals, and is certainly less transparent and open than it was even under Bush/Cheney. The Obama administration has also done little to nothing about tackling carbon emissions despite the president’s lies to the contrary in his address to the UN.

In all of this extraordinary list of treachery and cowardice, Holder has played his sycophantic role as a defender of corporate America, of white privilege, and of Washington power. He has been both the John Ashcroft and the Alberto Gonzalez of the Obama administration. (Actually, that comparison is unfair to John Ashcroft, who at least was a man of conviction — repellent as some of those convictions may have been. In Holder’s case, we have a man not of principle, but who is simply a corporate lawyer, ready to do his clients’ bidding, however sordid and corrupt.)

Given the depths of unpopularity to which President Obama has sunk after six years of selling out his own electoral base and catering to the interests of the rich and powerful, the military establishment and neo-con right-wing of the Washington policy elite, it is safe to say that Holder’s replacement, still unknown, will be no better, though given Holder’s tenure it’s also hard to imagine his successor being much worse either.

So good riddance to Holder. But it will be worth while, and indeed important, to watch carefully this departing Obama official’s behavior back in the private sector, from under which rock he emerged to be attorney general six years ago.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online ne

Thursday, September 25, 2014

US elites are vulnerable to donor pressure on Israel question

from mondoweiss.org Philip Weiss on September 24, 2014

Several recent articles have highlighted the importance of pro-Israel donors in influencing the political discourse at universities, in synagogues, and in U.S. elections. Two pro-Palestinian voices have lost their jobs at campuses in part because of such pressure (Steven Salaita, Bruce Shipman). Here are several stories/incidents that underline the importance of pro-Israel money and even blackmail threats. I’m ranging over several years, but the pattern is clear; and as Lawrence Davidson points out near the end of these items, elites are particularly vulnerable to donor pressure, and elites are crucial to the lobby because Israel has lost the grass-roots. In fact, the battle is now raging inside elite opinion, which makes donors crucial.

Rabbi Danielle Leshaw, head of Hillel at Ohio University, responding earlier this month in anger to student senate president Megan Marzec’s “bloodbucket” challenge for Israel:

Dear Megan… How could you possibly do such a thing if you’ve got university partners that care about you?… It makes alumni want to pull their funding.

Rev. Bruce Shipman commenting on his forced resignation from Yale after he criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza:

“I think of abolitionism and the role the church played in that, I think of the civil rights movement, I think of the anti-war movement and the role the chaplains played in that, often incurring the wrath of big givers and donors of the university, but they were protected and they were respected,” he says. “That seems not to be the case now.”

A report in the pro-Israel press in 2006 on why the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard was distancing itself from the Walt and Mearsheimer paper on the Israel lobby:

Harvard, the observer said, had received “several calls” from “pro-Israel donors” expressing concern about the Walt-Mearsheimer paper. One of the angered contributors is said to be the donor who underwrote the chair occupied by Dean Walt, Robert Belfer. Mr. Belfer, a 1958 graduate of Harvard Law School, endowed a faculty chair as part of a $7.5 million gift to the Kennedy School in 1997. [Walt continues to have the Belfer chair.]

A report in The New York Times yesterday on divisions inside the Jewish community over Israel:

“If [liberal rabbis] say anything critical of Israel, they risk angering the older, more conservative members who often are the larger donors and active volunteers…. Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinical Call for Human Rights, a liberal group with 1,800 member rabbis, said: ‘Rabbis are just really scared because they get slammed by their right-wing congregants, who are often the ones with the purse strings.'” –

Threats by Zionist cheerleader Martin Peretz surrounding the resignation of Harvard president Summers in 2007:

When Lawrence Summers was forced out as Harvard’s president, Martin Peretz, a wealthy donor himself, said it was out of “anti-Israel and even anti-Jewish animus” and threatened financial repercussions: “…[M]y own impression of wealthy alumni who were once my students is that Summers made them more generous… I know of at least three gifts in the $100 million range that were very likely to materialize and now are dicey.” –

Emails in the Steven Salaita case at University of Illinois, reported by Inside Higher Ed, show that the scholar’s angry tweets on the Gaza massacre this summer set off a fundraising crisis for the school’s administration, days before Salaita’s firing by the school’s chancellor:

“The communications show that [University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis] Wise was lobbied on the decision not only by pro-Israel students, parents and alumni, but also by the fund-raising arm of the university… There is an email from Travis Smith, senior director of development for the University of Illinois Foundation, to Wise, with copies to Molly Tracy, who is in charge of fund-raising for engineering programs, and Dan C. Peterson, vice chancellor for institutional advancement. The email forwards a letter complaining about the Salaita hire. The email from Smith says: “Dan, Molly, and I have just discussed this and believe you need to [redacted].”…

Later emails show Wise and her development team trying to set up a time to discuss the matter, although there is no indication of what was decided.

At least one email the chancellor received was from someone who identified himself as a major donor who said that he would stop giving if Salaita were hired. “Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses. This is doubly unfortunate for the school as we have been blessed in our careers and have accumulated quite a balance sheet over my 35 year career,” the email says.

Democratic nominee for US Senate from Georgia, Michelle Nunn, is advised that she has “tremendous opportunity” to raise money on the Israel issue — $250,000– if she takes the right position. Matthew Yglesias comments:

Jewish donors are very important to Democratic Party finances, some of these donors have strongly held hawkish views on Israel, and the financial clout of AIPAC is the stuff of legend. At the same time, talk of rich Jews throwing their financial muscle around to influence policy in favor of Israel touches far too many anti-semitic tropes to be regularly mentioned in political discourse. But the concrete world of political fundraising doesn’t leave a ton of time for beating around the bush, so we get a little window here into how it looks to the finance people: if Nunn wants to maximize her donations, she needs to take the right stance.

[The Israel lobby group J Street is raising money for Nunn, saying she "traveled to Israel as a Kellogg Fellow during the Oslo Process in the early '90s. She is a strong supporter of the US-Israel alliance and US leadership towards a two-state deal."]

Tom Friedman on the importance of donors for Israel, speaking to Al Jazeera last year:

“President Bush the first stood outside the White House one day and said I’m one lonely man standing up against the Israel lobby. What happened as a result of that… is that Republicans post Bush I, and manifested most in his son Bush 2, took a strategic decision, they will never be out pro-Israel’d again. That they believe cost them electorally a lot.

“So that pulled the American spectrum to the right. and it created an arms race with the Democrats, over who could be more pro Israel… if you and I were running from the same district, and I have AIPAC’s stamp of the approval and you don’t, I will maybe have to make three phone calls and I can raise my whole– I’m exaggerating but I don’t have to make many phone calls to get all the money I need to run against you. You will have to make 50,000 phone calls. So that pulled the whole spectrum to the right…”

Lawrence Davidson on the importance of elites, who are vulnerable to wealthy donors, to the preservation of pro-Zionist opinion, at Richard Congress’s blog.

Due to Israel’s brutal racism and repeated attacks on Palestinian civilians, it is losing popular support internationally. As this happens, the Zionists appear to be intensifying pressure on societal and political elites, particularly in the U.S. and other Western states, to maintain policies that support and protect Israel’s criminal behavior. Their vehicle for achieving this goal has always been financial gifts and donations to elite individuals and institutions…

[W]hy would a highly placed academic administrator such as Chancellor Linda Katehi, of the University of California, Davis, accept this missive from the ADL and distribute it to all her vice chancellors, deans and, significantly, the head of the UC Davis police department? Because, unlike her student constituency, which is evolving an accurate view and critique of Israel, she is stuck in the world of elites dominated by donors and ideologues who have always been pro-Israel. In other words, her world remains static while the world outside her clique is changing.

It is because of the continuing vulnerability of higher education’s administrative elites to donor blackmail that we continue to witness the tragic and unjust treatment of scholars and teachers who have taken a public stand against Israel.

Commentary on Democratic Party pro-Israel donors, 2012:

Estimates of the amount of money Jews have donated to American politicians, parties, and causes are even less accurate than the loose estimates of Jewish votes, but there is little question that the figure is staggering. It is impossible to determine precisely the grand total contributed to only presidential candidates by individual Jewish donors, but it may well be as much or more than one third of all Democratic money and a lesser though still impressive percentage of the funds raised by Republicans…

Nevertheless, even though Jewish votes are important, Americans should expect far more media attention paid to Jewish fundraising. Thus, the true audience for the Democrats’ massive effort to convince Jews that Obama has stayed true to Israel may well not be the Jewish electorate but the Democrats’ base of Jewish donors. Reports about how his stance on Israel may affect his ability to raise money for his reelection are mixed so far.

- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/vulnerable-pressure-question?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=1bf566e7a7-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-1bf566e7a7-309260894#sthash.w40FismU.dpuf

Missing Salaita document hints at Univ. of Illinois cover up


Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Wed, 09/24/2014 - 18:34

Students and faculty rallied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on 11 September after trustees voted to reject the appointment of Steven Salaita. (Jeffrey Putney/Flickr)
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says it cannot find a key document that may shed light on donor pressure and organized efforts to convince top administrators to fire Steven Salaita for his criticisms of Israel.

The Electronic Intifada requested the document – a memo on Salaita’s views handed to Chancellor Phyllis Wise by a major donor – under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, an 18 September letter from the university informed The Electronic Intifada that “no records responsive to your request could be located.” Under Illinois law, Wise is required to preserve the document as a public record.

Wise’s and the university’s subsequent refusal to answer any questions about the missing document, coupled with earlier contradictory statements about the Salaita affair from President Robert Easter, give rise to reasonable suspicion of a cover up.

Moreover, there is separate evidence of a “briefing document” on Salaita prepared by a major pro-Israel lobby group. But due to the university’s lack of transparency it has so far not been possible to determine if that document is the same one that was in Wise’s possession and that the university claims it cannot find.

On 11 September, the university’s board of trustees formally rejected Salaita’s appointment to a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program.

This came after weeks of campaigning against him by pro-Israel students, faculty and donors outraged at his tweets criticizing Israel’s massacre in Gaza.

The firing has generated national and international outrage from free speech and academic freedom advocates, and a boycott of the University of Illinois endorsed by thousands of scholars.

Wise’s missing “two-pager”

The existence of the document in question was revealed in a 24 July email (see below) Wise sent to the university’s senior fundraising staff reporting on a meeting she had with what appears to be a major donor.

Wise’s email was among hundreds of pages of correspondence previously released by the university under the Freedom of Information Act.

Much of the text in the email, including the name of the person Wise met, is redacted.

In the email, Wise writes (emphasis added):

He said that he knows [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] well and both have less loyalty for Illinois because of their perception of anti-Semitism. He gave me a two-pager filled with information on Steven Salaita and said how we handle this situation will be very telling.

This “two-pager” is the document that was requested by The Electronic Intifada and that the university now claims it cannot find.

“Hard to believe”

Maria LaHood, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which is part of the legal team representing Salaita, expressed skepticism toward the university’s claim that it cannot locate the document.

“It is hard to believe that Chancellor Wise would have thrown out the two-pager on Professor Salaita given to her by a donor at a meeting that was important enough for her to email details about to top Illinois fundraising officials at midnight, unless there’s a reason she didn’t want it to be made public,” she told The Electronic Intifada.

“The two-pager might indicate a more organized effort to go after Salaita, and it will be one of the many documents we’ll seek in litigation,” LaHood added.

LaHood’s statement is the clearest indication that Salaita is considering suing the university since trustees formally rejected his appointment earlier this month.

Under the Illinois State Records Act, documents received by Wise and the university are the property of the state. As a public official, Wise is legally required to preserve such records, which may not be disposed of except under conditions set out in the law.


The Electronic Intifada sent a follow-up inquiry to Chancellor Wise with these questions:

Who gave you the document?
Did the person who gave you the document tell you who prepared it?
Did the document bear any indication of who prepared it, whether an individual or individuals or an organization?
From your best recollection, please characterize the contents of the document.
Did you share the document with anyone else?
This inquiry received the following reply from Virginia Hudak-David, associate director for university relations: “Because your questions are addressed to Chancellor Wise, please follow up by contacting Public Affairs on the U of I Urbana-Champaign campus at 217-333-5010.”

The letter informing The Electronic Intifada that the “two-pager” could not be located is signed by Thomas P. Hardy, who is executive director of the Office for University Relations and chief records officer.

The letter concludes: “If you have questions for our office, please contact 217-333-6400.”

The same written inquiry that was sent to Chancellor Wise was also sent to Hardy and his subordinates. No response or further acknowledgment has been received and phone calls to Hardy have not been returned.

Emailed inquiries to Board of Trustees chair Christopher Kennedy also received no response.

With whom did Wise meet?

From the unredacted information in the 24 July email, it would appear that the person Wise met is a major donor with two sons who attend the university and that this donor has influence on, or it least close relationships with, other potential major donors.

His meeting with Wise almost certainly took place in Chicago. Public records show that Wise was present in Chicago for other meetings on 23, 24 and 25 July.

The recipients of Wise’s report on the meeting include Dan C. Peterson and Leanne Barnhart, both senior officials in the office of “Institutional Advancement” – the university’s fundraising operation.

A third recipient was Travis M. Smith, director of fundraising at a university office in Chicago whose specific role is to “manage relationships” with “alumni and friends who live in the Chicago-Metropolitan area.”

Jewish Federation’s “brief document”

The trove of emails previously released by the University of Illinois mentions another document on Salaita that was used as part of donor efforts to lobby the administration against him.

An email sent by a donor to Chancellor Wise on 24 July (see below) expresses outrage at Salaita’s hiring. The donor – whose name is redacted – describes himself or herself as “a member of the Jewish community and supporter of my alma mater.”

The donor appears to be very generous: “I was a financial supporter of the BIF [Business Instructional Facility] and Hillel buildings on campus and was proud to have my name on plaques in both of these facilities.”

“Based on the hiring of Mr. Salaita,” the donor writes, “I have decided to reconsider any future commitment of time and money to the University of Illinois.”

How did this angry donor learn about Salaita’s alleged views? “I have read a brief document on Professor Salaita’s views prepared by the Jewish Federation’s Israel Education Center,” the donor writes.

The Israel Education Center is an advocacy arm of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, almost certainly the most influential and active pro-Israel advocacy organization in Illinois.

The Chicago Jewish Federation is a member of the Jewish Federations of North America, a network of Jewish communal organizations that have put Israel advocacy at the center of their joint work.

Reached by telephone, Emily Briskman, director of the Israel Education Center, refused to discuss the “brief document” on Salaita mentioned in the donor’s email.

She requested that inquiries be sent to her by email, but then did not respond.

The Israel lobby “playbook”

It should be noted that direct intervention in campus affairs to suppress Palestine solidarity activism or criticism of Israel is the explicit methodology of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (often abbreviated as JUF).

The Israel Education Center published a document titled “The Playbook - Tackling the Delegitimization of Israel on Campus” which actively encourages students to involve Israel lobby groups in campus affairs.

It counsels students how to confront “Anti-Israel Displays and Tables” which might include “wall displays set up on campus portraying Israel as a human rights abuser, an aggressor, guilty of war crimes and so on.”

It warns that such displays “might include graphic and offensive pictures, a ‘wall’ distorted to represent Israel as an apartheid state, ‘statistics’ of US aid to Israel, inaccurate and redrawn maps of Israel, etc.”

Confronted with such educational efforts, the “Playbook” tells pro-Israel students what to do:

“If any school ‘values’ were violated, respectfully throw a red flag, bringing it to the attention of the administration via e-mail or by requesting a meeting with the appropriate representative. Consult your Hillel or community professional for advice.”

All the elements of the current campus crackdowns are there: using vague “values” such as civility as an excuse for censorship and discipline and bringing in off-campus Israel lobby professionals.

But it is when any campaigning for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestinian rights appears that the “Playbook” pulls out its most fevered American football analogies:

Call in the ref and bring in your coach. This is a serious flagrant foul.
- You’re going to need the whole team on this one: the community, faculty, administration, student groups and the outside pro-Israel community – which is why it is so important to always be building those relationships.
- If we want to win this thing, BDS attempts must be stopped at the line of scrimmage.

And the Israel Education Center’s Briskman has spared no effort in fostering relationships between off-campus Israel lobby groups and students, specifically at the University of Illinois.

The Israeli government-backed Jewish Agency has deployed former Israeli soldier Erez Cohen to the Urbana-Champaign campus as a “sheliach” – or “envoy” tasked with propagandizing for Israel.

In 2011, Cohen “sent a record number of participants on Masa programs in Israel,” according to a Jewish United Fund blog post.

Masa is a program – similar to Birthright Israel – that seeks to recruit American Jewish youths as settlers and soldiers.

None of his work “would have been possible without the tremendous support and teamwork from his colleagues, Aimee Weiss from Masa, and Emily Briskman, from JUF’s Israel Center,” Erez explained.

Denying donor pressure

There are other indications of the strong involvement of the Jewish Federation of Chicago and the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation (which is also a member of the Jewish Federations of North America).

As The Electronic Intifada previously reported, the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation sent an email to its supporters on 22 July telling them that it was aware about concerns over Salaita and “that leaders in the CU Jewish community take this issue quite seriously and are addressing this matter to the best of our abilities.”

And it is certainly not insignificant that venture capitalist Steve N. Miller, another major donor who Wise went out of her way to meet in Chicago to discuss Salaita, is on the board of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

Board of Trustees chair Kennedy has dismissed as “anti-Semitic” questions about the role of major donors who are not shy about their pro-Israel agenda and about using their financial clout in order to advance it.

“I mean that really is consistent with this use of code to say that anti-Semitic thinking to say that it’s really the rich Jews influencing everybody in society,” Kennedy told Illinois Public Media.

But while refusing to answer questions from The Electronic Intifada, Kennedy still speaks to more friendly media.

In a 19 September interview with the Champaign-Urbana-based News-Gazette, he continues to deny donor influence and to publicly defend Salaita’s firing while attacking the professor.

Kennedy reveals that he and other trustees made up their minds about Salaita at a 23 July meeting with Wise in Chicago – likely the same day Wise was given the “two-pager” on Salaita she now claims not to be able to locate.

Kennedy offers this account of how he and other senior leaders decided to back the firing of Salaita based on little more than a Google search:

At one point one of the student trustees Googled Salaita’s name and read his tweets aloud to the other board members, he said.

“We were sort of stunned that anyone would write such blatantly anti-Semitic remarks,” Kennedy said. “We indicated to Chancellor Wise that we’d be supportive of her decision.”

Kennedy may be saying this because it is preferable to appear rash and incompetent – making snap decisions without any proper research or due process – rather than admitting to being influenced by donors.

If Kennedy, Wise and other university officials are ready to stand by their decision and believe they have nothing to hide, they should stop stonewalling and look a little harder for documents that may shed light on their decision-making.

If they don’t do so willingly, it seems increasingly likely that they will be forced to do so by litigation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Zionism and the Educational Elite

by Lawrence Davidson

from OpEdNews Op Eds 9/22/2014 at 16:50:20

Cross-posted from To The Point Analyses

Part I - The Zionists Have a Problem
Due to Israel's brutal racism and repeated attacks on Palestinian civilians, it is losing popular support internationally. As this happens, the Zionists appear to be intensifying pressure on societal and political elites, particularly in the U.S. and other Western states, to maintain policies that support and protect Israel's criminal behavior. Their vehicle for achieving this goal has always been financial gifts and donations to elite individuals and institutions. These gifts and donations help grease the wheels, so to speak, of the systems of power through which the elites operate, and create a monetary dependency on, among others, Zionist donors. It also creates an obligation to respond to these donor's needs. The result is a growing disconnect between evolving popular attitudes toward Israel and the static positions held and actions taken by the elites.
American Zionist leaders are aware of this gap and they take it seriously. However, they have a problem in that open debate and the offering of evidence can no longer win the argument for their side. In short, the Zionists don't have a monopoly anymore on the story of how Israel came to be and Palestine came not to be. And without that monopoly the imperialist origins and ongoing racist nature of Israel are can no longer be concealed.

Part II - Donor Blackmail
If you cannot win by debate, how do you combat the growing popular suspicion of Israeli and Zionist actions? You do it by pressuring the donor-dependent elite leadership of institutions, such as universities and colleges, to suppress and punish those who criticize Israel. That such action, if carried forth in public institutions in the U.S., would be a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not bother the Zionists at all. Their standard of rights is that practiced in the discriminatory environment of Israel and not the ideal established by the United States constitution.

A good example of American Zionists subtly urging what is in fact unconstitutional behavior can be seen in a letter sent by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an aggressive Zionist organization, to top administrators at several U.S. universities and colleges.
The letter purports to offer "information and recommendations about how to respond to conflicts that may arise on your campus due to the recent conflict in Gaza." It goes on to accuse those critical of Israel of "stifling dialogue ... refusing to work with pro-Israel and Jewish student groups" and pressuring educational institutions to "engage in 'Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions' activities." The letter goes on to warn that 23 September 2014 will be a day of "action on college campuses" by such groups critical of Israel as American Muslims for Palestine.
It is interesting that the letter seeks to turn the tables on pro-Palestine groups by labeling them as the ones that seek to limit freedom of speech by advocating the boycott of Israel. On the one hand, this is a misinterpretation of the tactical rules of the boycott (which principally targets Israeli institutions rather than individuals) and, on the other, it fails to mention that Israel is a country that systematically undermines the civil rights of the Palestinians.
The ADL letter also ignores the fact that Zionist organizations on U.S. campuses (Hillel, for example) actively try to suppress dialogue and debate when it comes to Israel. The letter goes on to accuse those who stand against Israel of "attempting to harass and intimidate Jewish and other students." Actually, there have indeed been minor instances of such behavior on both sides of what is, after all, a very heated issue. However, when it comes to modeling the suppression of rights, it should be noted that Israel has turned harassment and punishment of Palestinians and their few Jewish Israeli supporters into a high art.
The ADL letter concludes with an invitation that seeks to strengthen the dependency of academic administrative elites on this highly biased Zionist organization. It states, "As one of the country's premier civil rights organizations, ADL has decades of experience in helping administrators and students on campus respond to bigotry and intergroup strife. We would be happy to discuss the challenges many campuses face today and to assist your efforts to ensure your campus remains a place where all viewpoints can be discussed." So said the spider to the fly.
The ADL might have been a "premier civil rights organization" in 1913, when it was founded, but soon after 1967 it went the way of most major American Jewish organizations by becoming a mouthpiece for the uncritical defense of Israel. To this end it has confused opposition to Israel and its behavior with anti-Semitism and, in doing so, has lost any ability to objectively know what civil rights means within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

Part III - Tragic Consequences
So why would a highly placed academic administrator such as Chancellor Linda Katehi, of the University of California, Davis, accept this missive from the ADL and distribute it to all her vice chancellors, deans and, significantly, the head of the UC Davis police department? Because, unlike her student constituency, which is evolving an accurate view and critique of Israel, she is stuck in the world of elites dominated by donors and ideologues who have always been pro-Israel. In other words, her world remains static while the world outside her clique is changing.
It is because of the continuing vulnerability of higher education's administrative elites to donor blackmail that we continue to witness the tragic and unjust treatment of scholars and teachers who have taken a public stand against Israel.

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times describes the negative institutional consequences:
"For any university, but especially a public institution ... the encroachment of donor pressure on the administration is a harbinger of the destruction of academic freedom. Wealthy donors are able to step in and exert strong influence because public funding sources, such as the state legislature, have systematically withdrawn support for public universities. They seldom have an interest in independent, objective academic study; they're interested in advancing their own notions of how the world works or should work -- in ideology, not ideas."
Donor blackmail is the last front line for the Zionists as they continue to suffer defeats in the battle for public opinion. Unfortunately, their activities on this front have resulted the erosion of academic freedom and the ruination of dozens of careers.

As Stephen Lendman has observed, American Zionists have collectively taken on the role of a modern-day Joe McCarthy now attempting to purge higher education of those critical of Israel. In so doing they join the ranks of other dubious pressure groups such as those who would purge the teaching of evolution from the classrooms and censor books in our libraries. And, in the case of the operatives at the ADL, they go about this corrupting process while proclaiming themselves a "premier civil rights organization."
Well, you know the old saying: actions speak louder than words.

"Journalist" attacks Human Rights Watch leader for pointing out the obvious

from mondoweiss.org

Goldberg tries to police view that Israel’s actions fuel anti-Semitism
US Politics Philip Weiss on September 22, 2014 27 Comments

Two weeks after a Yale chaplain lost his job for saying that Gaza has fostered anti-Semitism in Europe, Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch refers to "anti-Semitism that flared in Europe in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza war," and is slapped by Jeffrey Goldberg for doing so. But Israel itself has promoted the confusion of Zionism with Judaism.

The Rev. Bruce Shipman controversy at Yale– Israel’s carnage in Gaza is fueling anti-Semitism — is echoing in other places. Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, is the son of a Holocaust survivor, but Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic polices him for speaking incorrectly about the effects of Israel’s actions on European anti-Semitism:

A few days ago, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, tweeted the following statement: “Germans rally against anti-Semitism that flared in Europe in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza war. Merkel joins.” Roth provided a link to a New York Times article about the rally, which took place in Berlin.

Roth’s framing of this issue is very odd and obtuse. Anti-Semitism in Europe did not flare “in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza,” or anywhere else. Anti-Semitic violence and invective are not responses to events in the Middle East, just as anti-Semitism does not erupt “in response” to the policies of banks owned by Jews, or in response to editorial positions taken by The New York Times. This is for the simple reason that Jews do not cause anti-Semitism.

It is a universal and immutable rule that the targets of prejudice are not the cause of prejudice.

Roth responds:

Is NYT wrong that antiSemitism “flared up..following Israel’s invasion of Gaza” … was it the weather?

From that Times story:

“Thousands of Germans, many wrapped in Israeli flags, gathered at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate on Sunday for a rally against anti-Semitism, which has flared up in Europe following Israel’s invasion of Gaza.”

More Roth to Goldberg:

Why don’t you admit a connection? It doesn’t justify anti-Semitism. It’s always wrong to blame Jews for Israel’s abuses.

The instances of anti-Semitism in that Times piece are horrifying, but we all recognize the logic of Roth’s position. Especially because the Jewish community and the Israel lobby seek to enforce an identification of Jewishness with Zionism; because Israel’s rightwing warmongering prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that he is the “leader” of the Jewish people. Thus, this new report by Amcha, a pro-Israel group, on anti-Semitic activity on campus include supporting Boycott, divestment and sanctions; comparing Israelis to Nazis, “demonizing” and “delegitimizing Israel,” and so forth. Throughout the report, attacks on Israelis are deemed to be attacks on Jews. If the two categories, Jews and Israelis, are held to be co-extensive by these propagandists, then is it any surprise that some Europeans who dislike Israel will make the same error?

Gary Rosenblatt at the Jewish Week seems to agree with Roth; he says that Netanyahu’s indifference to world opinion in the wake of Gaza makes Jews around the world “cringe.”

Did you, like me and many other supporters of Israel, cringe on reading the other day that the Jerusalem government had laid claim to nearly 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank, presumably for settlement expansion?…

The bottom-line message he projects to the world, and especially to the U.S. and to American Jews, is that Israel is not subject to international pressure, even from its best friends…

What, if anything, can we as American Jews do to stop the hemorrhaging of goodwill in Washington and around the country toward Israel?

[We should] let Israel’s leaders know of our discomfort with their diplomatic arrogance. They need to understand that while American support for Israel continues to hold, there is slippage among younger people, particularly among minority groups and women. The same unease holds true for many younger American Jews who feel that Israel has not done all it could to make a two-state solution a reality. These are not healthy signs for the future.

Second, challenge Israeli government officials to take a wider, deeper view of their decision-making process, and to appreciate the serious consequences.

Again: among those serious consequences is a widespread confusion of Judaism and Zionism, which the Jewish state and its supporters have propagated. And anti-Zionists are doing the hard labor here, of explaining that Judaism and Zionism may be overlapping categories, but they are in no way congruent.

P.S. Goldberg’s neoconservative ally, James Kirchick at Tablet, doesn’t accept Goldberg’s rule, that the targets of prejudice are always innocent. Not when it comes to Muslims anyway:

While it’s true that many Europeans are prejudiced against Muslims, to conflate all critical attitudes of Islam is to act as if Islam itself and the behavior of Muslims play no part in generating negative views.

Thanks to Scott Roth.

- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/goldberg-israels-semitism?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=ff19611182-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-ff19611182-309260894#sthash.QLtPvwHe.dpuf

Monday, September 22, 2014

Israel's abiding interest in promoting war and instability laid bare by its hysterical rants agains Hamas and Iran

The Israeli government's hysterical rhetoric is exposing a growing divide between what it sees as its interests in the world and what everyone else should see as simple common sense.

Representatives of Israel are running around tugging on the shirt sleeves of anyone it can find to babble about how Hamas is the same as ISIS. No! Even worse! Worse than Satan, worse than black people trying to get refugee status in Israel. The end of the world!

Meanwhile Israel, Hamas, Abbas' Palestine Authority, the USA and Egypt are holding talks in Cairo over Gaza. So Hamas is the worst terrorist threat to the inhabited universe ever and it's ok to negotiate with them. Over the years Hamas and Israeli leaders have negotiated cease-fires, and held talks on other issues. What next? An Israel/Boko Haram summit conference?

Iran, which has never attacked Israel, and is exercising it's right to use nuclear power is painted by Israel as a state that must be destroyed. Attack! Attack! Israel has demanded, "before it is too late." Too late for what?

While Iran says it doesn't want to develop nuclear weapons, it has the same right to have them as do western nations and an equal right to them as does Israel, Pakistan and India.

The best way to stop Israel's plans to goad the US into war with Iran is for Iran to have a nuclear deterrent. It's also possible for Iran to foil Israel's war plans by successfully negotiating a deal with the US over nuclear power. Israel wants the current negotiations to fail. Israel doesn't want any strong country that can defend itself to exist in the middle east. It actively meddles in US internal politics to sabotage the talks.

Israel finds ISIS useful. They love world attention being diverted from their ethnic cleansing: new theft of Palestinian land in the west bank and recent plans to push the Bedouins off their land (this includes Israeli Bedouins who are actual citizens of Israel). They want everyone to freak out about beheadings by ISIS and forget the mass killing in Gaza.

Iran has an interest in stopping ISIS, but Israel wants to stop any cooperation between the US and Iran. Hezbollah has an interest in defending Lebanon against ISIS, but Israel wants to prevent the west from cooperating with Hezbollah to fight ISIS.

Israel's desire is for the US to continue to rely on it as a fully funded and armed super cop in the mideast whose role is to dominate the region and keep everyone else divided and, if possible, at each other's throats. Meanwhile the Jewish state can expand to its desired borders (whatever they may be) and continue its plans to create a fully Judiazed Greater Israel with as few non-Jews as humanly possible.

The main problem is that this is not a viable scenario. It worked, sort of, over the last several decades, but the historical tide is against fortress Israel and against the US as the sole dominant world power. In the not-so-long run Israel's basic strategy is bound to come unraveled. They are circling the wagons, but the outcome is not theirs to determine.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mothers of the disappeared in Latin America feel Gaza’s pain

Andrew Klein The Electronic Intifada Buenos Aires 18 September 2014

Women hold posters of hunger striking Palestinian prisoners outside the Red Cross offices in Jerusalem in June. (Saeed Qaq / APA images)

This past summer, as Israeli weapons deindustrialized Gaza and decimated its civilians, leftist publications in Latin America began circulating a 2012 essay by the renowned Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. Writing in the wake of Israel’s November 2012 onslaught in Gaza, Galeano lamented the “erasing of Palestine from the map.” Palestinians, he wrote, “cannot breathe without permission” and “when they vote for someone who they shouldn’t, they are punished.”

For Galeano, a historian of Latin America, the 2006 election in Gaza, won by Hamas, seemed a lot like the 1932 election in El Salvador. While El Salvador’s military rulers conceded a place on the ballot for the long-marginalized Communist Party (just as George W. Bush did with Hamas in 2006), they swiftly annulled the results after a Communist triumph, and within days launched a genocidal campaign targeting the party’s indigenous peasant base.

Similarly, after Bush’s “democracy promotion” elicited the “wrong” result in Gaza, the United States and Israel worked to undermine the winner of the election using a variety of methods, including orchestrating an abortive coup attempt with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, Israel has continued to impose a suffocating blockade on Gaza since 2007, which has the sadistic goal of keeping its people “on a diet” and its “economy on the brink of collapse.”

Linked plights

For Galeano and others, the respective plights of Latin Americans and Palestinians are not only linked in a fertile historical analogy — bridging the gulf of their separate oppressions is an unassailable fact.

In the second half of the twentieth century, Israel supplied repressive Latin American governments, from Guatemala to Argentina, with weapons, military transportation, intelligence equipment, counterinsurgency training and even public relations consulting.

Most notoriously, Israel kept close ties with Augusto Pinochet, the brutal Chilean general who took power during a bloody coup in 1973 with the help of the CIA. During his seventeen years of rule, Pinochet “disappeared” thousands of his citizens and committed countless human rights abuses. Throughout his reign, he benefitted from numerous shipments of Israeli weapons — and, of course, strong US backing as well.

Fewer friends

In Latin America today, Israel has far fewer friends. This reality becomes pronounced whenever it escalates the war against the population it continues to occupy.

When this happened this summer in Gaza, the now predictable pattern of destruction — the infrastructure callously destroyed, the staggering civilian casualty count — led many Latin American states to take a firm position on the Israeli attacks. (Of course, countries with close economic and military dealings with the United States — such as Colombia and Panama, which have also received arms shipments from Israel in recent years — were not among them.)

The procession of countries standing up for Palestinians was impressive. In late July, Bolivian President Evo Morales declared Israel “a terrorist state.”

Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru and El Salvador withdrew their ambassadors from Tel Aviv, and the president of Argentina joined the heads of state of Brazil, Venezuela and Uruguay in issuing a “special communiqué” condemning Israel’s “disproportionate use of force.”

Cuba, a country which ruptured diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973, is perhaps the most vocal critic of Zionism in the hemisphere. In 1959, iconic guerrilla leader Che Guevara led a Cuban solidarity envoy to Gaza soon after the triumph of the Cuban revolution. In August of this year, former Cuban President Fidel Castro penned a column in the country’s state newspaper titled “The Palestinian Holocaust in Gaza.” These are just a sampling of the latest pushes in Latin America to isolate Israel for its gross mistreatment of Palestinians.

Assertive diplomacy

This assertive diplomacy has a counterpart in the region’s press. Depictions of Palestinian suffering by Latin American journalists are not diluted by the lurking Israel-slanted bias of many US outlets.

While this summer The New York Times published a rash of articles full of false equivalencies and talk of “both sides” (for example, “Pause in the fighting gives civilians on both sides a moment to take stock” and “Neighborhood ravaged on deadliest day so far for both sides in Gaza”), the most common headline accompanying Latin American TV and newspaper reportage of this topic was “El Infierno de Gaza” — “The Gaza Hell.”

Press accounts, free of cant, honestly illuminating the degradations of Palestinian life, have helped an array of pro-Palestinian social movements in Latin America galvanize members of civil society. When coordinated protests against Israeli massacres in Gaza erupted across six continents on 26 July, Latin American cities exhibited some of the largest among them.

Heritage and history

Latin America as a whole hosts the largest population of diaspora Arabs in the world, a community dating back primarily to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This group has certainly played a prominent role in Palestinian solidarity efforts in the region. Chile, for instance, a country with half a million citizens with Palestinian lineage, has a Chile-Palestine Inter-Parliamentary Group comprising nearly 40 percent of parliament.

While commentators are right to point to the sizable Arab presence in Latin America when explaining the magnitude of its Palestinian solidarity, this element should not be overstated. Indeed, the links connecting the narratives of Latin American and Palestinian disenfranchisement transcend the particularities of a shared ethnicity.

One example of this link came in 2008 when Chilean President Michelle Bachelet granted 117 Palestinian refugees asylum in her country. During the welcoming ceremony, she compared her own experience of exile during the reign of Pinochet to the plights of displaced Palestinians. “I want to tell you that I know exactly how it feels to be a refugee in a strange country,” she said. “I know it because I lived that, I also was a refugee.”

This remark was no doubt intended to resonate with Chile’s Palestinians, whose participation in the country’s politics through elections and lobbying groups like the Palestine Federation of Chile is by no means negligible. Nevertheless, it also reflects a sense of solidarity that can be perceived across the region. One need only look at places like Bolivia, Cuba and Uruguay — countries with relatively small populations of Arab descendants — where support for Palestine is no less robust than in neighboring nations.

Nuisance to the powerful

One of the most brutal of the US and Israel-backed dictatorships in Latin America was the military junta that ruled Argentina from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s.

Despite “disappearing” as many as 30,000 of its people, torturing many others and eradicating all political parties and independent media, the regime received a green light for its “dirty war” against opponents from US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Later, it enjoyed a tight partnership with US President Ronald Reagan.

In Argentina, all dissent was repressed and a culture of fear prevailed. And yet, a protest movement based in the Plaza de Mayo — the historical epicenter of popular struggle in Argentina — eventually did take hold. It was led by a group of mothers whose daughters and sons were victims of the dictatorship. This group, named the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, staged weekly demonstrations beginning in the latter half of the regime’s tenure.

Every Thursday, the mothers marched somberly in the plaza, white handkerchiefs covering their heads, holding photos of their missing children. Through their highly visible actions, the mothers challenged and ultimately destroyed the dictatorship’s grip on power.

After the fall of military rule in Argentina, the mothers maintained their presence in the public sphere, continuing to demand official accountability for the state terrorism they personally endured, while also lending their support to a myriad of leftist causes. Today, they still gather each week in the Plaza de Mayo.

On a Thursday afternoon in mid-August, the mothers rallied together with Palestinian activists. The two groups began by forming a circle and took turns addressing the crowd on their overlapping causes. Both spoke of los desaparecidos, the disappeared. While this term is most commonly used by Latin Americans to describe a specific phenomenon — the victims of the violent regimes, plaguing their continent in the twentieth century — in this setting, the phrase was generalized.

Here, Palestinians were eulogized among the disappeared, their identities and voices beyond the bounds of state-sanctioned respectability, their very existence a nuisance to the powerful. To be a Palestinian, they declared, is similar to being a leftist in Argentina in the 1970s and ’80s. The women donning headscarves, clutching pictures of their long-deceased children, stood adjacent to the activists wearing kuffiyehs — Palestinian checkered scarves — hoisting signs with images of children killed in Gaza.

The moment of silence came at the end. Heads tilted downward with solemnity. The dead were mourned — all of them.

Andrew Klein is a freelance reporter currently filing for KPFA News from Buenos Aires. He has traveled extensively in Palestine and spent three months last year working in Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut.


Great achievements in JIm Crow for the Israeli (onlydemocracyinthemideast) Supreme Court

from The Electric Intifada

Israeli high court upholds racist "admission committees" law
Submitted by Charlotte Silver on Thu, 09/18/2014 - 15:15

The Naqab township of Lakiya was founded in the 1980s in an Israeli government project to remove Bedouins from their lands. Bedouins and other Palestinian citizens are barred from many Jewish communities by racist “admissions committees.” (Ryan Rodrick Beiler / ActiveStills)
The Israeli high court upheld on Wednesday the “Admissions Committees Law,” which allows rural towns in the Negev and Galilee to reject Palestinian citizens of Israel and other marginalized groups from residing in them on the basis that they are “unsuitable” for Jewish communities.

It is a ruling that Israeli civil and human rights organizations have condemned as legalizing the practice of segregation.

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, had filed a petition against the law on behalf of several human and civic rights organizations in Israel on 30 March 2011, arguing that the law violated Israel’s prohibition against discrimination.

On 17 September, an expanded panel of judges ruled five-to-four to dismiss the petition.

In a press release, Adalah said: “This law is one of the most racist pieces of legislation enacted in recent years, the primary objective of which is to marginalize Arab citizens and prevent them from accessing housing on ‘state land’ in many communities. The court’s decision upholds one of the most dangerous laws in Israel.”

While there is specific language in the law that nominally bars explicit discrimination in terms of race, religion, gender, nationality, or disability, it nevertheless allows admissions committees to use a vague criteria to reject an applicant who is “not suitable for the social life in the community” or the “candidate’s lack of compatibility with the social-cultural fabric of the community town.”


In its condemnation of the law in 2011, Human Rights Watch pointed to one example in which a kibbutz justified its rejection of an Arab-Israeli couple citing the town’s criteria that required residents be eligible for the membership in the World Zionist Organization and to have served in the Israeli army, which swiftly disqualifies most Palestinian citizens.

Around 700 rural communities across Israel have committees made up of town residents and representatives from the Jewish Agency or the World Zionist Organization. Under the regulations of the Israel Land Authority, these communities have admissions committees, but their procedures for admitting new residents had never before been organized under a national law. The law, passed on 22 March 2011, codifies the longtime practice of these committees rejecting applicants who wish to live in the small communities on a discriminatory basis.

As the law was originally drafted, it would have applied to all communities in Israel with fewer than 400 families, totaling around 700 communities, but the final version of the bill was restricted to just the Negev and Galilee — two areas in which there have been concerted efforts to Judaize while removing Palestinian inhabitants. There are 434 communities which will fall under its jurisdiction, constituting around 43 percent of towns in Israel.

In 2010, as the bill was making its way through committee readings in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), Knesset members defended the law by arguing that the selection criteria would come under the supervision of the attorney general’s office and therefore unlikely to enable racial discrimination.

However, statements to the media by the bill’s sponsors, and documented by Human Rights Watch, betray the racist motivations for the law.


Speaking to the Knesset in December 2009, David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu, said that the law would allow towns to be “established by people who want to live with other Jews.”

The following year, Yisrael Hasson of the Kadima party, another sponsor of the bill, said it “reflects the Knesset’s commitment to work to preserve the ability to realize the Zionist dream in practice in the state of Israel” through “population dispersal.”

Israel has not allowed the establishment of any new Arab and Palestinian towns since 1948, save for seven townships in the Negev to which the Bedouin population was relocated. So while Arabs comprise roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population, only 2.5 percent of the land is under the jurisdiction of Arab local governments.

In 2008, Adalah approximated that Palestinians were blocked from living in 80 percent of the land controlled by the state — which is 93 percent of all of Israel.

As a result of the dearth of space for Palestinians in Israel to live, some have attempted to move to these Jewish-majority communities.

And despite a high court ruling in 2000 that was celebrated as paving the way to end the practice of discrimination among admissions committees, no improvement has been detected. In the highly vaunted Kaadan case, in which an Arab-Israeli couple petitioned the high court after being denied the right to live in the Jewish community of Katzir, the high court ruled that allocating land to citizens based solely on their religion was prohibited.

Continuous policy

But writing on the failure of the Kaadan ruling to fulfill any of its promise “to end decades of communal segregation of Jewish and Palestinian citizens” or “loosen the oppressive system of ethnic control over Israeli territory,” Jonathan Cook wrote:

the court did nothing substantive to enforce the rights of Palestinian citizens to equal access to land or community membership in the intervening years. And to avert any potential damage from the Kaadan ruling, the Knesset responded in 2011 by changing the law to give legal backing to such committees.

Since 2007, Adalah has been challenging the existence of “admissions committees.” Also in 2007, the United Nations committee that oversees the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended that Israel examine the role of admissions committees.

On 25 January 2012, the attorney general asked the high court to dismiss the petitions “on the grounds that they are premature and theoretical, as the law itself has not been used to bar any applicant from these small communities thus far.”

In its Wednesday ruling, the court stated, “We cannot determine at this stage whether the law violates constitutional rights”.

In 2011, HRW recorded one village committee requiring applicants “to embrace the values in the village’s charter, including ‘Zionism’ and ‘Jewish tradition’.”

Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara stated: “The law is functioning the same way it did previously as a policy, deterring many segments of the population, especially Palestinian Arab citizens of the state, from applying for housing in these towns for fear of rejection. The law has serious implications now and has had for many years, so it is not possible to say that it is not ripe for judicial ruling.”