Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Palling Around with Nazis: Netanyahu’s political ancestors are also guilty by association Israel/Palestine

From Mondoweiss

Joe Dobkin on October 27, 2015

The Stern Gang (1944) From the left: Menachem Begin, Arieh Ben Eliezer, Leib Boyko, Reuben Franco, and Marek Kahane.

The commentariat is working overtime trying to shame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for claiming, in a speech last week, that Adolf Hitler wasn’t behind the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. It was, Netanyahu says, a Palestinian, Haj Amin al-Husayni, who gave Hitler the idea. Al-Husayni was grand mufti of Jerusalem, a Muslim leader who’d been appointed by the British administration.

According to Netanyahu, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time – he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husayni went to Hitler and said ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ [Hitler] asked. [Al-Husayni] said ‘Burn them.’”

Not only is Netanyahu blaming a Palestinian leader for the Holocaust – he’s letting Hitler off the hook. Try all you want, Internet. I don’t think shaming will work on this man.

The suggestion that the Holocaust was a strategy to prevent mass Jewish immigration to Palestine seems calculated to not only reinforce the idea of the Jewish state’s being a form of reparations for the Holocaust, but to imply that it’s the Palestinians who owed it. And of course Netanyahu’s remarks are calibrated to the present moment, in which violence is ramping up on all sides. In lieu of practicable and just solutions, scapegoating is the top priority.

There’s nothing to suggest we’ll hear him recant. Stirring up ideations of vengeance with ahistoric libel is, in Netanyahu’s line of work, good for business. Inflammatory rhetoric has a way of precipitating more suspicion, more stabbings, more armed settlers out for blood, and, ultimately, more checkpoints, more land grabs, more of the same. The status quo that keeps Israel’s right-wing in power demands it; job security is the reward for cultivating a state of perpetual tension.

While Netanyahu’s account of the mufti-Hitler exchange has been swiftly and almost universally dismissed as fiction, there is one caveat: Though he didn’t mastermind the ‘Final Solution’, the mufti did align himself with axis leaders, including Hitler. In exchange for helping them fight the British, al-Husayni was hoping the axis would back him in opposing plans for a Jewish state in Palestine. On November 28, 1941, Hitler and al-Husayni met. There are multiple written accounts of the meeting, none of which contain anything close to Netanyahu’s imagined scenario.

As for a strategic alliance, al-Husayni and Hitler never hashed out a deal, though they did maintain an acquaintanceship. When it comes to Nazism, guilt by association goes a long way, and there’s no reason for history to be kind to al-Husayni. (Accurate would be nice, though.)

But guess who else reached out to the Nazis looking for a partnership? A group known as Lehi (or the ‘Stern Gang’), a Zionist militia which had split from the Irgun – itself a splinter of the main Jewish army, the Haganah – in 1940. (Each breakaway militia felt the tactics of its parent group weren’t aggressive enough.)

The Zionist militias were looking for help seizing Palestine from the British, so it made sense to align themselves with Hitler. They offered to help fight on Germany’s side, in exchange for the transfer of Europe’s Jews to Palestine and Hitler’s support of a ‘totalitarian’ Jewish state. As Tel Aviv University history professor Yaacov Shavit writes, when a Lehi representative met with a Nazi diplomat in Beirut in January 1941, “he proposed a political as well as military cooperation leading to the establishment of a Jewish state on a nationalist and totalitarian footing, that would be linked by a treaty to the German Reich.”

Hitler didn’t respond to the overtures – as Shavit explains, “All that Lehi could in effect have offered Germany as its contribution to the Nazi war effort, was to act as a fifth column and try to place obstacles in the way of the British in Palestine“ – and the deal stalled.

If you’ve heard of the Irgun and Lehi, chances are it’s because of the Deir Yassin massacre, which the two militia groups carried out jointly. The massacre, of a Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, was a pivotal episode in the 1948 war, contributing greatly to the terror that helped facilitate Palestinian displacement.

Al-Husayni, of course, didn’t manage to stop the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The State of Israel exists, and its leadership shows no interest in backing down from decades of occupation and settlement policy the international community considers illegal.

But what became of the Irgun and Lehi, these dissident militias? After the massacre, and the terrorist attacks (including the well-known King David Hotel bombing), and the flirtation with Nazism (not to mention a near-civil war with the Haganah), one might presume the dissidents were ultimately discredited, and shut out of Israel’s future leadership.

Not a chance. The militias were largely folded into the new Jewish state’s military and administration. Yitzhak Shamir, a leader of Lehi, went on to become the seventh Prime Minister of the State of Israel. The Irgun and Lehi each have a military honor named for them, and there is a museum for each in Tel Aviv. More streets and parks in Israel are named for Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Revisionist Zionist movement that Irgun and Lehi belonged to, than any other person in history.

Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun, became Israel’s sixth Prime Minister. Begin, notably, was behind the bombing of the British administration headquarters at the King David Hotel, during which Irgun terrorists disguised themselves as Arabs. (That tradition of playing dress-up has endured; there are regular reports of the Israel Defense Forces sending agent provocateurs into peaceful protests as a pretext for crackdowns on Palestinian demonstrators).

Begin also founded the right-wing Herut party, which carried on the Revisionist Zionism mantle of the Irgun and Lehi. It later merged with several other parties and became Likud.

Likud . . . where have we heard that name before? Oh, right, Likud: the party of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the guy who just accused a Palestinian of being behind the Holocaust.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A dark-skinned innocent man brutally killed by Israeli mob in Beersheba--no surprise there. But what about the Bedouin?

An asylum seeker from Eritrea was shot by a policeman and then brutally stomped to death by a mob of Israeli Jews in the city of Beersheba on Oct. 19. The atrocity took place in the vicinity of a shooting that killed an Israeli soldier and wounded ten others at a bus station. The man who did the shooting was then shot to death by a policeman. He was later identified as a Bedouin citizen of Israel.

It isn't surprising that a mob of Israeli Jews would kill an innocent dark-skinned Eritrean man, thinking that, naturally, he was the dirty Arab who shot a rifle into a crowd of people at a bus station. Their reasoning is the standard way of thinking in the Jewish colonial-settler state. Jews are white people. When in doubt about who killed a Jew, just find someone who looks like an Arab or a black man and kill him. This mob killing simply expresses not only racism, but the true politics of the Israeli state.

The real surprise is that the man driven to attack Jews during this latest uprising is a Bedouin.

Since 1948, the Israeli state has conferred a higher status on Bedouins than to the lowly Arabs (meaning Palestinians). As part of the divide and rule caste system used in Israel since its inception, Jews have had all rights, Druze have the second rank of rights and the historically nomadic Bedouins have had a better status than Muslin and Christian Palestinians.

It's significant that this latest rebellion, mainly of frustrated youth, is not confined to the occupied West Bank, but is happening inside Israel proper. Palestinians who are Israeli citizens have had a somewhat better life than West Bank Palestinians, who have no rights at all and have been under martial law since 1967.

Why did a Bedouin shoot at Israeli soldiers? What pushed him to the breaking point? We can see that West Bank residents are frustrated by the last few years in which Israel has been building settlements at an accelerated pace, destroying Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, and stepping up shootings and detentions of unarmed Palestinians (for the last 5 years the death toll of Palestinians civilians in the occupied West Bank killed by settlers and the IDF has been running at about 100+ a year, nearly 2 a week)

Two years ago the Israeli government started to implement what was called the Prawler plan. forty thousand Israeli Bedouins were to be moved out of their homes in the Negev desert and be put into new housing areas. We should say "concentrated" housing areas, where they can be monitored and controlled. This plan created a large backlash and protests were joined by many Jewish Israelis who saw the injustice of this discriminatory move.

The plan has been delayed, but still hangs over the Bedouins. They never have been able to legalize the homes where they have been living for generations. Israel started to demolish Bedouin homes. The residents would rebuild their homes and they would be demolished again. This is in the Negev desert, inside the borders of what the world recognizes as the State of Israel and is being done to Israeli citizens.

The incident in Beersheba not only reveals the depth of racism (over the last couple of years there has been an escalation of Jewish incitement against African immigrants seeking asylum-seekers along side the usual tirades against Palestinians), but shows how previously quiescent people are reaching a breaking point and are joining the rebellion against a life made intentionally intolerable by the Israeli state.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Open letter to Mayor Bill De Blasio on his upcoming trip to Israel

From Mondoweiss
October 15, 2015

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

We understand from a recent report in The New York Times that you will be departing tomorrow on a journey to the State of Israel. According to the article, your purpose is to speak at a gathering of mayors in Jerusalem on the topic of “combating anti-Semitism.” While combating anti-Semitism, along with all forms of racism and discrimination, is a valid goal, we write to register our concern that you, as Mayor of New York City, are choosing to follow the ritual of New York politicians who travel to Israel—and do so with political blinders on. That you are being fully subsidized by an individual investor and entrepreneur who resides in Brooklyn, Baruck Eliezer Gross, only underscores the potential for one-sidedness in this trip. For us, as New York City residents and voters engaged in critiquing Israeli policies and supporting those who are charged with “anti-Semitism” for doing so, this news raises some troubling issues.

We hope you recognize that your constituents include many Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, and others who strongly oppose Israeli policies of occupation, exclusion, apartheid, and relentless suppression of both Palestinian citizens of Israel and those residing in the Occupied Territory. Your travel to Israel under the circumstances detailed in the news report validates the “With-us or Against-us” ideological perspective of Israel partisans and marginalizes the perspectives of those who suffer from Israeli government policies—including Palestinians in exile in your own city.
You should be aware that, since the brutal siege on Gaza of summer 2014 when over 2,500 Palestinian civilians were killed and many more injured and displaced, the military violence against Palestinians (murders of youth, house demolitions, punitive reprisals, incarceration, restrictions of mobility, lockdowns of Palestinian neighborhoods) has escalated massively. We are concerned that the intent and effect of the visit by the mayor of the largest city in America during this time might be read as legitimating the actions of the Israel Defense Forces and border police in their campaign of violence and repression against Palestinians. We urge you to consider the risk that your office is being exploited.
As you address your audience about “combating anti-Semitism,” it is vital that you understand the ways in which the term is used to undermine criticism of Israeli government practices. The false charges of “anti-Semitism” have been repeatedly used by Israel advocacy groups to smear and silence peaceful, lawful organizations, scholars, and students in the US for speaking out against Israel’s policies—policies that many Israeli Jews also oppose. As an advocate of social justice and the First Amendment, you should recognize the ways in which criticisms of Israeli government policies are no different in kind than criticisms of US policy. We expect you would be sensitive to this reactionary tactic—and resist it. Ultimately, the tactic is used to justify or evade Israel’s widely condemned violations of international human rights and to vilify groups that support Palestinian demands for justice.
We must ask whether you have considered questions that would be natural for a mayor who asserts a commitment to voices of marginalized communities: Will your audience in Jerusalem include any Palestinian mayors from the West Bank? Will your talk address Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian attacks as well as anti-Semitism? Would you consider modifying the itinerary of your three days in Israel to include a visit to Palestinian areas in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to Hebron, to border checkpoints, so you might witness the brutal conditions that Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subjected to on a daily basis?
Along with this letter, we are including the links to two urgent new reports—one issued by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights (The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US); the other by Jewish Voice for Peace (Stifling Dissent: How Israel’s Defenders Use False Charges of Anti-Semitism to Limit the Debate on Campus). Both reports document many recent examples of how groups supporting Israel have used erroneous accusations of anti-Semitism and terrorism against professors, students, and public intellectuals throughout the US in order to stifle or suppress views about Israel/Palestine with which they disagree. The targets of these attacks include faculty and students right here in New York City at CUNY, Columbia, and New York University, especially members of Students for Justice in Palestine.

As you review these documents, we would urge you to incorporate some of the realities they describe into your Jerusalem speech, to inject some fairness into the conversation. We hope they inspire you to visit areas and people (including Jewish and Palestinian human rights groups) most affected by Israel’s security regime. The stature of your office, we believe, compels you to hear the voices of the dispossessed and evaluate the realities on the ground.

We would ask for an opportunity to meet with you after your return to discuss our organizations’ goals of peace and justice with regard to Israel/Palestine and the implications of these reports regarding the suppression of speech on this critical issue, including here in New York City.


Center for Constitutional Rights
Jewish Voice for Peace-New York City chapter
Jews Say No!

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Israel’s domination of Palestinians makes violence inevitable Mairav Zonszein

from The Guardian

The latest round of attacks is shocking, but no anomaly. There will never be quiet as long as one group of citizens are forced to live without rights, and with no way out

Sunday 11 October 2015 08.50 EDT Last modified on Monday 12 October 2015 03.50 EDT

In the past week there has been an onslaught of Palestinian stabbing attacks across Israel and the West Bank, several each day – so many it is hard to keep track. In the span of just a few days, at least 20 Israelis have been wounded in over a dozen incidents, in addition to four Israelis killed at the start of the month. The violence is targeting both civilians and soldiers on both sides of the “green line”, the old pre-1967 boundary, with no distinction between far-off settlements or cities in the heart of Israel. There have also been increasing incidents of Israeli Jews attacking Palestinian citizens of Israel. The geography of the violence is beginning to take on the character of a civil war between Israelis and Palestinians.

This current round of violence may seem shocking but it is no anomaly: it is a direct result of government policy determined to normalise Israel’s occupation, now nearly 50 years old. Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister since David Ben-Gurion, was re-elected last March on a ticket that promised to preserve the status quo: tightening Israel’s hold on the West Bank while dismissing any possibility of a Palestinian state.

He has continued to entrench a reality in which Palestinians and Israelis who live side by side are subject to different laws and courts, use separate roads and have unequal access to basic necessities such as water and housing; where settler violence goes unchecked and discrimination is increasingly institutionalised; and where not only is there no recognition of the Palestinian right to statehood, but next to no recognition of Palestinian rights, period. Palestinians are under constant daily threat of losing their lives, homes, income, lands and dignity. Yet this reality is barely mentioned in the current Israeli rhetoric about “unrest” and a “wave of terror”.

Since this latest wave of violence began, Netanyahu has been lambasted by everyone – from the opposition to those in his own Likud party – for being soft on security. They are calling for tougher action, more closures, more military force on the ground, more freedom to act. In other words, more of the same. Responding to his critics, Netanyahu guaranteed that “there are no restrictions on the actions of our security forces”.

Indeed, in the last 11 days, Israel has killed 21 Palestinians, several of them minors, and wounded hundreds, a significant number with rubber or live bullets. These numbers include stabbers who were shot on the spot in self-defence, but also those shot at during protests – an all too common phenomenon – as well as an alleged stabber shot at point-blank range by police at a moment when it appears he didn’t pose a direct threat to anyone. Netanyahu has also vowed to increase and expedite home demolitions – a method that Israel’s own military has concluded is an ineffective deterrent. He has promised, too, to make broader use of detention without trial for suspects, even though Palestinian hunger strikes have proven to be one of the most effective non-violent tools for challenging this inhumane and illegal policy.

What we are witnessing is the result of the Israeli right’s failed vision of Greater Israel: Palestinians and Israelis living together in a de facto single state, one that is ruled by Jews and that privileges Jews. Resistance and violence are inevitable as long as Palestinians are forced to live under what is foreign rule, without basic rights and representation, and with no way out. No amount of one-tonne bombs or collective punishment will ever provide Israelis with the long-term safety they crave.

Analysis Palestine clashes: Netanyahu and Abbas are losing their grip

Signs that protests are appealing to young, educated women reveal how far the crisis is escalating beyond politicians’ control
Read more
This is most evident in Jerusalem, the microcosm of Israel’s one-state reality, where Palestinians and Israelis live on top of each other on grossly unequal terms and where the Palestinian Authority is prohibited from operating. Since the city became a flashpoint of daily violence last summer following the murder of the Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir – himself murdered in revenge for the murder of three Israeli teens – Israeli forces have been shooting more, injuring more and cracking down more, with no calm in sight. It is here that the right’s failed ideology is plain for everyone to see.

Israelis have lived in perpetual conflict since the state was established, with fleeting periods of calm, some longer than others. The relative quiet experienced by Israelis in the last decade since the second intifada convinced many that the status quo could continue without consequences. But the notion that there will ever be quiet and stability in the context of Israel’s ongoing domination of the Palestinians with no diplomatic horizon is a delusion. The critical question, then, is how much more violence will it take for Israelis to realise the path they are going on promises them a bleak future?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

In Israel/Palestine we are witnessing the end of a colonial regime

Israel/Palestine Ilene Cohen on October 7, 2015

A Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli soldiers during clashes in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Oct. 6, 2015. (Photo: Xinhua/Luay Sababa) A Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli soldiers during clashes in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Oct. 6, 2015. (Photo: Xinhua/Luay Sababa)

What is happening in Israel today and what happened last week, last month, last year, and for the past almost fifty years is about cementing sovereignty over land that the international community agrees does not belong to Israel and over a subject people, the Palestinians—all in contravention of international law.

I’m in Israel now, taking a break from the inanity and horrors of American politics, and watching the situation in Israel/Palestine heating up. Frequent topic in the Israeli press: is this or isn’t this the start of the third intifada? And, if it is, the discussion goes, how can Israel tweak the occupation so as to pacify the Palestinians? As for, how can Israel address the root cause—the very fact of the occupation—by decolonizing, well, that’s not part of the discourse.

My reaction is always the same when Palestinian youth, in particular, reach a breaking point. In 1987, with the outbreak of the first intifada, in Gaza, my first thought was that it was so long in the coming—that is, it took twenty years from the outset of the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories and the start of Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestine for the outrage to boil over.

In 1967, in the wake of the war, Theodor Merom, legal counsel for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, issued an unequivocal opinion for the government of Levi Eshkol, that moving Israeli civilians to settlements in the recently occupied territories would be a violation of international law, specifically, of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Further, Geneva IV is also explicit that military occupation as a result of war does not confer sovereignty over the territory for the occupier and that the occupation is by definition temporary. All of this was known to the Israelis in 1967. For all the protest to the contrary, including the (truly absurd) notion that the “deed” to Palestine was given to the Jews by god three thousand years ago (and therefore trumps Geneva IV?), the Israelis have not a leg to stand on. The Greater Israel project is illegal, full stop—a reality recognized by the international community. All of Israel’s current (Golan Heights, East Jerusalem) and future annexations cannot change that fact.

So here we are, thirty years after the outbreak of the first intifada, watching as the apartheid regime of land theft, including its colonization and repression of the occupied, rightless, stateless people needed to sustain the settlement project, with its 550,000 colonists, only grows. I consider each of those colonists, in both occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, to be a stumbling block in the way of any possibility of peace.

The resulting Israeli routine for “managing” the conflict (that’s the Israeli concept), rather than finding a fair resolution, is more murder of Palestinians by the IDF, the Israeli police, and settlers (with essentially no accountability for the perpetrators), house demolitions, imposition of additional draconian laws, more Jew-only bypass roads, more closures, more arrests of children, more people held under administrative detention (no legal rights at all; forget about habeas corpus), and more restrictions on travel both within the occupied territories, as well as abroad. That’s only a partial list, of course.

Amira Hass nails it in her new article, “Palestinians are fighting for their lives; Israel is fighting for the occupation.” She eloquently and accurately outlines the situation and interprets it:

The war did not start last Thursday, it does not start with the Jewish victims and does not end when no Jews are murdered. The Palestinians are fighting for their life, in the full sense of the word. We Israeli Jews are fighting for our privilege as a nation of masters, in the full ugliness of the term.

That we notice there’s a war on only when Jews are murdered does not cancel out the fact that Palestinians are being killed all the time, and that all the time we are doing everything in our power to make their lives unbearable. . . . When something in the war’s one-sidedness is disturbed, and Jews are murdered, then we pay attention.Young Palestinians do not go out to murder Jews because they are Jews, but because we are their occupiers, their torturers, their jailers, the thieves of their land and water, their exilers, the demolishers of their homes, the blockers of their horizon. . . . [T]he enemy they face proves every day that its malice has no limits. . . .

. . . Even the language is malicious. Jews are murdered, Palestinians are killed and die. Is that so?

This is the way of resistance to colonial regimes. Israel is simply another case study. Occupiers rule by the sword and expect the ruled to acquiesce quietly. The situation has played itself out historically around the world. Israeli colonization—both in the founding of the state itself and in the post-1967 Greater Israel project, the latter being the relevant point for most of the international discussion—was taking off just as the rest of the Western empires were reluctantly embarking on the business of decolonization. For its part, South Africa, with its apartheid regime, gave up (technically) in 1991, with the abolition of the apartheid laws, and then with the multiracial election of 1994. While it is true that, as Israelis never fail to remind, the Palestinian people are not led by a person of the stature of Nelson Mandela—who, it must be remembered, was imprisoned as a terrorist for twenty-seven years—more important, the Israeli people are not now, and have never been, led by a person of the stature of F. W. de Klerk (though granting that one cannot know where Rabin would have taken Oslo had he survived).

Netanyahu, a person of no stature (and admittedly only the latest in a long line of self-deluded ultranationalist Israeli leaders, including the leaders of the Labor Party), is bringing ruination on his country, alas, with the approval of most Israelis via his party and the other nationalist parties, regardless of what they call themselves (I include Herzog’s Zionist Union in this description). I concede Netanyahu’s “successes,” however: he has achieved his goal—reelection.

Back to Hass, who writes of the travesty of the reportage in the Israeli media:

Our worldview is shaped by the consistent betrayal by Israeli media outlets of their duty to report events, or their lack of the technical and the emotional ability to contain all of the details of the world war that we are conducting in order to preserve our superiority in the land between the river and the sea.

Not even this newspaper has the economic resources to employ 10 reporters and fill 20 pages with reports on all the attacks in times of escalation and all the attacks of the occupation in times of calm, . . . The random examples we do manage to report are but a drop in the ocean, and they have no impact on the comprehension of the situation for a large majority of Israelis.

And I will add that this problem of reportage, by which the aggressors are too often presented as victims, is a travesty duplicated in much of the Western media. The New York Times, the newspaper of record, is, tragically, a case in point, certainly in its daily language. When will the Times view Palestinian blood as being as red as Jewish blood in terms of coverage? When will it stop referring to occupied East Jerusalem as something that Palestinians “want” as their future capital when it is internationally understood that that is a just resolution and that Israeli settlement of East Jerusalem is a nonstarter? (Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem is, of course, not in question internationally.) And how many puff pieces by Jodi Rudoren must readers of the Times have to stomach? On reading her article about Ayelet Shaked, Netanyahu’s latest justice minister, I found myself thinking that there’s no way a Times reporter covering a new neofascist minister in, say, today’s Hungary, would have produced an article like that. But Israel is different, and that’s the rub. The mainstream reportage is changing, to be sure, but far too slowly to keep pace with changing realities.

Can anyone say when the Israeli colonial project, dependent as it is on the suppression of a subject people in the name of the theft of their land, will reach its end? For sure not. Nor can we know exactly how it will end. But we can say that the realization abroad that Israel administers an apartheid regime is spreading, the proof being official Israeli panic over the matter. Eventually, the push from outside will be to replace the current apartheid system (entangled as it is with a massive web of settlements) with 1S/1P/1V—one state, one person, one vote—in all of Israel/Palestine. When that happens, the Jewish state, even in some benign cultural form that hypothetically could have evolved, will become history.

It may be hard for Israelis (and their best friends abroad) to digest the reality of the situation, but they fail to do so at their peril. The downfall of such regimes as colonial Israel often comes unforecast and without warning. Examples from recent decades should easily come to mind to those willing to pay attention.

The irony is that they are bringing that future on themselves.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Richard Dawkins & Bill Maher Still Baffled Why So Many Liberals Think They're Bigots -- Here's Why Their moral libertarianism and attacks on Islam don't make them edgy "truth tellers".

By Adam Johnson / AlterNet October 3, 2015

Bill Maher and his good friend, Richard Dawkins, sat down on his show Real Time Friday night for the fifth time in almost eight seasons. Their discussion, per usual, was an agreeable, tedious mix of self-victimization and indignation about why so many on the left - specifically the Twitter left - think their obsession with "radical Islam" makes them bigots.

"It's so dumb, because all the people who are accused of being Islamophobes like you and me and Sam [Harris], we're liberals." Maher said perplexed. "When I was a child in my home, I was seven and my parents said 'we're for Kennedy, we're for him letting black people go to college in the south" Maher fumed, as Dawkins nodded enthusiastically along with Maher's notoriously sycophantic audience.

"Why don't liberals love us?", they ask. "We're so goddamn liberal but for some reason our critiques of Islam are seen as hateful". And while Maher is correct that he's generally good on taxes and calling out Republican bigotry, this doesn't give him a free pass on his rank Islamophobia (a term he thinks is "meaningless".)

Firstly, no one thinks "Islam is a protected species" as Maher put it. This is a typical strawman New Athiest employ. Dawkins doesn't go after "all religions" equally. Quite the opposite, he has said that Islam is uniquely sinister, referring to it as "unmitigated evil", on numerous occasions. Accusations of bigotry against Dawkins, therefore, are not selective in favor of Islam, they are a reaction to his selective, repeated highlighting of it - fair or not. Secondly, this position is dripping with libertarian false equivalency. The "I criticize all religions equally" is the close cousin to "I criticize all races equally" -- a principle that sounds cute in theory but willfully ignores the burden of history and imperialism.

To the Mahers and the Dawkins of the world, the connection between America's wars in the Middle East is cosmetic at best, and "silly liberal" relativism, at worst. That President Obama - who Maher gave $1 million to in 2012 - has bombed seven Muslim countries in as many years is seen as irrelevant. Western panic and outrage over "women in beekeepers suits" (what Maher calls burkas) is entirely divorced from the convenient "civilizing mission" of America's wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. America is always the reluctant warrior who is forced to bomb, occupy, and invade those hot-headed Muslims, the inverse - that Muslims may become radicalized because of our bombing, occupying and invasions - is never truly entertained much less factored in. It was fitting that around the time their self-indulgent interview was being recorded, the US was shelling a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 19 - including three children.

Never mind this. To them, religion is seen in a historical and political vacuum in the same way crime and economic hardship is to libertarians. A moral and cultural failing separate from material forces. To them, it's the year zero, and radical religion is an ideology that must be attacked as such, rather than viewed, at least in part, as the logical byproduct of years of colonial aggression. Just last week CENTCOM spokesman Steve Warren said, after Russia had bombed a CIA-armed rebel group, that he "didn't know" if the U.S. was aligned with al Qaeda in Syria. A recently declassified DIA report casually suggested that the U.S. support Salafist elements in Syria as a means of undermining the Assad government. The US, just last week, reinforced its support for radical Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia as they continue their war of aggression in Yemen. America doesn't just incidently create radical Islamists with its bombings, it continues to fund, arm, and protect them.

What say they of this? Almost nothing. Maher and his loyal band of Twitter partisans have little to say about colonialism, and when it's brought up, as Glenn Greenwald did to him in 2013, it's dismissed as irrelevant. It's excuse-making, end of story.

The ignoring of these power dynamics is dripping with the same type of reductionist handwringing one sees among the right's obsession with "black on black" crime. It's an appeal to objective standards that willfully ignores that history did not begin in 1970 and Islam's relationship with the United States isn't limited to light panel chats with Aspen Institute-vetted token Muslims. Without directly addressing American empire and its relationship to radical Islam their analysis will invariably be superficial. Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins have walked into a game between a Division III college football team and the New England Patriots and feel good about themselves for calling holding on both sides. In a very limited, morally O.C.D. way, they're correct, both sides are technically in violation given the rules of the game. But without addressing these rules or the broader power asymmetry at work, they're party to a farce, a rigged discourse that mistakes "consistency" for fairness and posturing for principle. In doing so, they help prop up a fundamentally uneven relationship between the west and the Muslim world that in effect, if not in intent, spreads bigotry every time it ignores this imbalance.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Roger Waters Slams Bon Jovi Over Israel Concert in Open Letter "You stand shoulder to shoulder/With the settler who burned the baby," Pink Floyd co-founder writes

BY DANIEL KREPS October 2, 2015

Roger Waters; Jon Bon Jovi
Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty, Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic/Getty
Roger Waters penned a long open letter to Bon Jovi slamming the group ahead of their October 3rd concert in Tel Aviv. The former Pink Floyd bassist, long an opponent of Israel's stance toward Palestine, accused Jon Bon Jovi and his band mates of standing "shoulder to shoulder" with Israel before listing many of the casualties suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government in an op-ed for Salon. Waters has routinely called on his fellow artists to boycott performing in Israel.

Roger Waters Roger Waters Calls for Boycott of Israel »
"Often in the past I have written detailed, and sometimes even persuasive, letters to colleagues in the music business, encouraging them not to give succor to the Israeli government’s apartheid policies by performing in Israel," Waters wrote. "Having read Jon's comments last week in Yedioth Ahronoth, I won't waste my time drawing parallels with Apartheid South Africa and the moral stand that so many artists took then and that thousands are taking now in the face of decades of Israeli oppression of Palestinians."

In an interview with Israeli magazine Yediot this week, Bon Jovi said he "always heard what a wonderful place Israel is – the birthplace of all religions. I have been everywhere and Israel was a place that I’ve always wanted to visit, but it never worked out. This time I insisted that Israel must be on our list and it happened!"

A representative for Bon Jovi declined to comment.

In the open letter, Waters references "the soldier who shot the soccer player’s feet to bits," "the prisoner who fasted for 266 days until freedom" and "the Minister of Justice who called for genocide," providing links to each example he lists. In February, Waters similarly called out Alan Parsons – the engineer on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon –for scheduling an Israel concert with the Alan Parsons Project.

Read Waters' entire letter to Bon Jovi below:

Dear Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan and Tico Torres,

Often in the past I have written detailed, and sometimes even persuasive, letters to colleagues in the music business, encouraging them not to give succor to the Israeli government’s apartheid policies by performing in Israel. Having read Jon's comments last week in Yedioth Ahronoth, I won't waste my time drawing parallels with Apartheid South Africa and the moral stand that so many artists took then and that thousands are taking now in the face of decades of Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

So the die is cast, you are determined to proceed with your gig in Tel Aviv on October 3. You are making your stand.

You stand shoulder to shoulder

With the settler who burned the baby

With the bulldozer driver who crushed Rachel Corrie

With the soldier who shot the soccer player’s feet to bits

With the sailor who shelled the boys on the beach

With the sniper who killed the kid in the green shirt

And the one who emptied his clip into the 13-year-old girl

And the Minister of Justice who called for genocide

You had a chance to stand

On the side of justice

With the pilot who refused to bomb refugee camps

With the teenager who chose eight prison terms over army service

With the prisoner who fasted for 266 days until freedom

With the doctor banned from entry for saving lives

With the farmer who was cut down marching to the wall

With the legless child growing up in the rubble

And the 550 others who won’t grow up at all

Because of the missiles and tank shells and bullets we sent

The dead can't remind you of the crimes you've ignored. But, lest we forget, "To stand by silent and indifferent is the greatest crime of all."

Roger Waters


Quartet fiddles while Palestine burns

Ali Abunimah Rights and Accountability 2 October 2015

Palestinians sit outside their home after Jewish settlers daubed it with Hebrew graffiti which reads “vengeance, Henkin,” and set their car on fire in Beit Ilu village, near Ramallah, 2 October. Shadi Hatem APA images
On Thursday, two Israeli settlers were killed in the occupied West Bank.

Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot dead in their car as they traveled between Itamar and Elon Moreh, two Jewish-only colonies built on land Israel violently seized from Palestinians in violation of international law.

Their four young children were left unharmed by the assailants who reportedly fled in their own vehicle.

The killers remain unknown, though Israeli occupation forces are carrying out widespread raids in the Nablus area.

Meanwhile, settlers have been free to rampage and attack Palestinians and their property in what even Israel’s Ynet termed a “night of price tag attacks.”

Palestinians have been defending their communities against ongoing settler retribution.

The Israeli army and settler assault against Palestinians following yesterday’s killings are in sharp and depressingly predictable contrast to the situation in August, after Israeli settlers burned alive the Dawabsha family in the village of Dura.

Israel’s defense minister Moshe Yaalon recently admitted that occupation authorities know who the killers of baby Ali Dawabsha and his mother Riham and father Saad are, but has decided not to arrest them.

It seems entirely plausible that the killing of the Henkins was intended as a revenge attack. Their children, like Ali’s severely injured 4-year-old brother Ahmed, are now orphans.

Israel remains responsible for all these horrific and avoidable deaths; its occupation constitutes brutal and systematic round-the-clock violence and terror against every Palestinian man, woman and child.

As for the Henkins, they and other settler families are, in the eyes of Israeli top officials like Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, “the bullet-proof vest of the State of Israel” – fodder to be used for land grabs.

The systematic impunity and protection Israel affords settlers who destroy and steal Palestinian land and property and who burn Palestinians alive, sends the chilling message that Palestinians have no protection from a regime of occupation whose ministers and clerics incite genocide against them.

Lethal attacks on settlers are relatively rare compared to Israel’s routine murders of Palestinians. But in the brutal and lawless reality of settler-colonialism and occupation, such violence takes on a grim logic of its own, as the long and bloody conflict in Northern Ireland also showed. There, only a political settlement that enjoyed broad legitimacy could bring the violence to an end.

Many have warned that the gradual escalation in violence – especially in Jerusalem – provoked by Israel’s aggressive colonization and attempts to takeover al-Aqsa mosque, risks exploding into something even worse than we’ve already seen.

Yet as Israel’s behavior becomes more brazen and unrestrained, international neglect seems only to harden.

A case in point is the statement issued by the so-called Quartet, the ad hoc group of representatives of the UN, EU, the United States and Russia that purports to manage the “peace process.”

Its most senior officials met in New York this week, at the margins of the UN General Assembly.

The statement they issued is so replete with empty clich├ęs it could have been machine-generated.

“The Quartet reaffirmed its steadfast commitment to achieving a two-state outcome that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967 and resolves all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict,” it says.

This is a steadfast and delusional commitment to ignore the reality that if a “two-state solution” were ever possible, Israel has made it impossible with its relentless colonization.

Moreoever, Israel’s top diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, recently admitted openly what everyone knows: Israel has no intention ever of withdrawing from one inch of the West Bank, which Israel calls “Judea and Samaria.”

“[Handovers of] Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians,” Hotovely said.

The Quartet did express its “serious concern that current trends on the ground – including continued acts of violence against Palestinians and Israelis, ongoing settlement activity, and the high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures – are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.”

It said absolutely nothing, though, about following up on the independent UN inquiry that called for perpetrators of war crimes in Gaza to be brought to justice.

But what about any other action? The statement makes clear in masterful diplospeak that there will be absolutely none:

“The Quartet envoys will engage directly with the parties in order to explore concrete actions both sides can take to demonstrate their genuine commitment to pursuing a two-state solution, including encouraging efforts to agree on significant steps, consistent with prior agreements, that benefit Israelis and Palestinians.”

The phrase “both sides” appears throughout the statement, perpetuating the fiction that Palestinians and Israelis are equal in power and therefore in responsibility and ability to act.

The result is to absolve Israel, the occupying power, and the violator of dozens of UN resolutions, of any accountability.

When you peel away the nonsense, the Quartet statement amounts to a firm resolve to watch from the sidelines as Palestine burns.

That is remarkably reckless because as Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov observed in a UN press conference this week, the situation in Palestine remains one of the key factors fueling violence and extremism across the region.

But while attention is focused elsewhere, Israel will continue to occupy, colonize and terrorize Palestinians, with the certain and tragic result that more families – Palestinian and Israeli – will be mourning their loved ones.