Saturday, January 29, 2005
Sanctions against the Israeli Occupation: It's Time (ICAHD)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.icahd.org
SANCTIONS AGAINST THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION: IT'S TIME
"If apartheid ended, so can the occupation. But the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined. The current divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary move in that direction." -- Bishop Desmond Tutu
You can't have it both ways. You can't complain about violence on the part of the Palestinians and yet reject effective non-violent measures against the Occupation that support their right to self-determination, such as economic sanctions. You can't condemn the victims of Occupation for employing terrorism while, by opposing divestment, thereby sheltering the Occupying Power that employs State Terror. You can't end the isolation and suffering of people living under Occupation while permitting the Occupying Power to carry on its life among the nations unencumbered and normally, by withholding a boycott of its economic and cultural products.
The Case For Sanctions
Sanctions, divestment and boycotts are absolutely legitimate means at everyone's disposal for effectively opposing injustice. As penalties, protest, pressure and resistance to policies that violate fundamental human rights, international law and UN resolutions, they are directed at ending a situation of intolerable conflict, suffering and moral wrong-doing, not against a particular people or country. When the injustice ends, the sanctions end.
Sanctions, divestment and boycotts represent powerful international responses that arise not only from opposition to an intolerable situation,but also to the complicity of every person in the international civil society that does nothing to resolve it. Because they are rooted in human rights, international law and the will of the international community, and because they are supremely non-violent responses to injustice, sanctions carry a potent moral force. A campaign of sanctions, even if it proves impossible to actually implement them, mobilizes what has been called "the politics of shame." No country wants to be cast as a major violator of human rights. Precisely because it is so difficult to enforce international humanitarian law, holding up its oppressive policy for all to see is often the only way of pressuring it to cease its oppressive policies. The moral and political condemnation conveyed by a campaign for sanctions and the international isolation it threatens sends a powerful, unmistakable messageto the perpetrator: cease your unjust policies or suffer the consequences.Rather than punishment, a campaign of sanctions rests upon the notion of accountability. A country threatened by sanctions stands in violation of the very principles underlying the international community as articulated in human rights covenants, international humanitarian law and UN resolutions.
If we go by Amnesty's annual report, virtually every country could be"called on the carpet" for their human rights violations. A campaign ofsanctions constitutes an extraordinary step, however. It is invoked when injustice and suffering have become so routinized, so institutionalized, so pervasive, so resistant to normal international diplomacy or pressures, that their very continuation compromises the very validity of the international system and the moral standing of its members, countries, corporations and citizens alike. And it targets the strong parties. The very basis of a call for sanctions is that the targeted country has the ability to end the intolerable situation. A campaign of sanctions embodies a fundamental principle of the international system: that each country must be held accountable for its policies and actions in light of accepted international norms. The message to all countries must be: Participation in the international community depends upon conformity to the "rules of the game."
Campaigns of sanctions are in essence educative, and that is part of their power. Since the reasons for taking such drastic action must be explicit,weighty and compelling, it forces those calling for sanctions to make a strong case for them. The very act of initiating such a campaign, then, raises awareness not only of the injustice itself, but of the principles it violates, thus strengthening the understanding of the international system itself. And since a campaign of sanctions must be accepted by the international community in order to succeed, it necessitates discussion and dialogue. The considerations behind the demand for sanctions are made transparent, and the targeted country given an opportunity to present its case. The likelihood, then, is that a campaign of sanctions initiated by civil society will express broad-based international consensus if it is to take hold. Again, at issue is a serious violation of international law and norms. Just as in a case of an individual caught breaking the law, what is in questionis what acts have been done, not who the country or the individual is. To paraphrase Jefferson, who spoke of "a government of laws, not men," here we are speaking of "an international system of laws and not only countries thatdo whatever they want." Thus, when the violations end, the sanctions cease and the country in question rejoins the international community.
The Case for Sanctions Against Israel
In line with the principles just discussed, economic sanctions against Israel are not invoked against Israel per se, but against Israel until the Occupation ends. With this proviso it is Israel's policy of occupation that is targeted, its status as an Occupying Power, not Israel itself. When South Africa ended its system of apartheid, sanctions ceased and it fully rejoined the international community. When apartheid ended, so did the boycott of its sports teams, one of the most potent measures employed to impress on the South African government its international isolation. The divestment campaign currently directed against Caterpillar has gained considerable momentum among the international public, effectively educating people about Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. It has generated calls for other sanctions, such as the Presbyterian Church's initiative to divest from companies profiting from the Occupation. The European Parliament has also called for trade sanctions on Israel given Israel's violation of the"Association Agreements" that prohibit the sale of settlement products under the "Made in Israel" label. The American Congress should take similar steps, since Israel's use of American weapons against civilian populations violates the human rights provisions of the Arms Control Exports Act. The boycott of California grapes in the 1960s played a key role in gaining employmentrights for migrant workers. The current boycott of settlement products is intended to express moral opposition to the very presence of settlements while making it economically and politically difficult for Israel to maintain them.
Once it builds momentum, there is probably no more effective means for civil society to effectively pursue justice than a campaign of sanctions. Its power derives less from its economic impact - although, with time, that too can be decisive - than from the moral outrage that impels it. Sanctions themselves seriously affected the South African economy. Following massive protests inside South Africa and escalating international pressure inmid-1984, some 200 US companies and more than 60 British ones withdrew from the country and international lenders cut off Pretoria's access to foreign capital. US Congressional pressure played a crucial role as well, an element totally lacking vis-à-vis the Israel-Palestine conflict, which makes the possibility of actually imposing sanctions on Israel that more difficult.
In 1986 Congress - with a Republican-controlled Senate - passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act over the Reagan's veto. The Act banned new US investment in South Africa, sales to the police and military and new bankl oans. Although the Act was not strictly enforced by the Reagan and Bush Administrations, although European governments found ways of quietly doing business with Pretoria (while Israel, by the way, was helping South African businesses by-pass sanctions by peddling their products in the US and Europe under a "Made in Israel" label, as well as by continued involvement in military development in South Africa, including nuclear; Hunter 1986), it did generate a climate - moral and economic - that made it increasingly difficult to maintain business-as-usual with the apartheid regime. The moral dimension led to a delegitimization of the very apartheid system that left no room for "reform." Carried over to Israel's Occupation, the moral element in a larger political condemnation of Israel's policies could delegitimize the Occupation to the point where only its complete end is acceptable. Acampaign of sanctions which highlights the moral unacceptability of Israel's Occupation could have a great impact, eventually impelling governments to impose economic sanctions while creating a climate difficult for businesses(beginning with Caterpillar) to continue to function.
It is not only the political unacceptability of Israel's Occupation which makes the call for sanction urgent and obligatory, it is the massive violations of Palestinian human rights, of international law and of numerous UN resolutions that the Occupation entails. If Israel as the Occupying Poweri s not held accountable for the intolerable situation within its ability,i ndeed, within its responsibility to end, the entire international system of justice is rendered meaningless and empty. And that is what makes the Occupation an international issue. If Israel succeeds in defying the Fourth Geneva Convention and making its Occupation permanent, if an entire population is literally locked behind walls and its right of self-determination trampled, then the ability of human rights to win out over an international order founded on power politics and militarism is jeopardized. We all have a stake in ending the Occupation; the implications of occupation actually prevailing and a new apartheid regime emerging are chilling. Since the Palestinians do not have the power to shake off the Occupation on their own and the Israelis will not, only international pressure will effectively achieve a just peace. A campaign of sanctions represents one of the most efficacious measures.
ICAHD'S Position on Sanctions
In principle ICAHD supports the use of sanctions against countries engaged in egregious violations of human rights and international law, including the use of moral and economic pressures to end Israel's Occupation. An effective approach to sanctions operates on different levels, however, and requires a number of strategic considerations as to its scope and focus.
First, the generic term "sanctions" actually includes three main types of economic and moral pressure:
(1) Sanctions, defined overall as "penalties, specified or in the form ofmoral pressure, applied against a country guilty of egregious violations of human rights, international law and UN resolutions, intended to bring that country back into compliance with international norms." Since they must beimposed by governments, regional associations (such as the EU or SEAC) or the UN, the power to actually apply sanctions falls outside of civil society. Nevertheless, governments can be prodded in that direction - and the "prodding" itself constitutes an important form of conscious-raising and moral pressure.
(2) Divestment, the withdrawal of investments in companies doing business with the offending country or directly involved in violating human rights and international law;
(3) Boycott, the voluntary refraining from purchasing the products of the offending country or allowing its companies, institutions, representatives or even professionals from participating in international intercourse.
Now sanctions, divestment and boycott can be applied either totally or selectively, the decision involving a strategic mix of efficacy and moral stance. In the most successful case of sanctions, apartheid South Africa,the call was for total sanctions, since the entire system was considered illegitimate. In the case of Israel and the Occupation, it is the Occupation which is considered illegitimate, illegal and immoral, not Israel per se.
Although there are those who would argue that a Zionist Israel whose ongoing policy is to displace Palestinians from the country or confine them to reservations is, indeed, as illegitimate as apartheid, this is a positionfrom which it would be difficult to generate mass support. Most advocates of a just peace - including the Israeli peace movement, ICAHD included -support Israel's right as a recognized member state in the UN to rejoin the international community when the Occupation truly ends and a just peace is attained. Since governments must be induced to impose sanctions, on a purely pragmatic level it is difficult to imagine the international community, with the US at its head, actually agreeing to blanket sanctions. More do-able would be a campaign for selective sanctions. This could be no less principled and focused than a call for total sanctions, but it targets Israel's Occupation rather than Israel itself. A campaign of selective sanctions can be effective if the choice of targets is strategic: refusingt o sell arms to Israel that would be used to perpetuate the Occupation, especially in attacks on civilian populations, for example, or banning Israeli sports teams from competing in international tournaments, especially potent in the South African case. (Israel is currently the European basketball champion and is scheduled to play in the World Cup of football/soccer). These and other selected measures could have a great impact upon Israel, as well as the ability to mobilize international opposition to the Occupation. Yet, with strong civil society advocacy, they also have a reasonable chance, over time, of being adopted.
ICAHD, then, supports in principle a multi-tiered campaign of sanctions against Israel until the Occupation ends. We believe that a selective campaign is most effective and we would incorporate into that campaigns that other organizations have already launched. At this stage, ICAHD supports:·
Sanctions: Sales or transfer of arms to Israel conditional upon their use in ways that do not perpetuate the Occupation or violate human rights and international humanitarian law, violations that would end if governments enforced existing laws and regulations regarding the use of weapons in contravention of human rights. Rather than adopting new policies of sanctions, ICAHD calls on the governments of North America, Europe and Asia to stop selling arms to Israel that are used in perpetuating the Occupation in accordance with their own laws prohibiting sales of weapons to countries engaged in serious human rights violations. No new policy ofsanctions has to be adopted; the existing laws prohibiting such sales must simply be enforced. In addition existing international law must be applied against Israel for using its weapons illegally: against civilian populations, for example, or in campaigns of extra-judicial executions, to name but two. Sanctions that comprise implementation of international and domestic laws should include a ban on purchasing Israeli weapons as well. ICAHD is currently investigating Israel's involvement in the world's arms trade, including weapons development, joint production and coordinated sales with other countries. We believe this is a hidden element that underlies the broad support Israeli receives from governments, including those outwardly critical of its occupation policies. We hope that advocates for a just peace will use our information to expose their own country's complicity in policies that perpetuate the Occupation.
We also call on activist groups to investigate and publicize the forms of aid their country - and especially the US - is giving Israel. Components of that aid that support occupation or settlement, whether military, technological or economic, should be opposed. We also call on Jewish communities to oppose the use of their donations to Israel - to the Jewish National Fund, for instance, or to the United Jewish Appeal, Israel Bonds and other channels of funding - in the OccupiedTerritories.·
Trade sanctions on Israel due to its violation of the "AssociationAgreements" it has signed with the European Union that prohibit the sale of settlement products under the "Made in Israel" label, as well as for violations of their human rights provisions.·
Divestment in companies that profit from involvement in the Occupation. Here ICAHD supports the initiative of the Presbyterian Church ofthe US to divest in "multinational corporations that provide products or services to the Israeli police or military to support and maintain the occupation, that have established facilities or operations on occupiedl and, that provide services or products for the establishment, expansion or maintenance of Israeli settlements, that provide products or services to Israeli or Palestinian organizations/groups that support or facilitate violent acts against innocent civilians, that provide products or services that support or facilitate the construction of the Separation Barrier.
We certainly support the campaign against Caterpillar whose bulldozers demolish thousands of Palestinian homes.We join with the Jewish Voice for Peace in the US whose statement in support of the Presbyterians says in part: At JVP, we fully support selective divestment from companies that profit from Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. This includes American companies like Caterpillar who profit from the wholesale destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards. It also includes Israeli companies who depend on settlements for materials or labor or who produce military equipment used to violate Palestinian human rights.
We believe that general divestment from Israel is an unwise strategy at this time. We believe that economic measures targeted specifically at the occupation and the Israeli military complex that sustains it are much morel ikely to produce results. However, we absolutely reject the accusation that general divestment or boycott campaigns are inherently anti-Semitic. The Israeli government is a government like any other, and condemning its abuse of state power, as many of its own citizens do quite vigorously, is in no way the same as attacking the Jewish people. Further, it is crucial not only to criticize the immoral and illegal acts of the Israeli government, but to back up that criticism with action.
We also note with satisfaction the many Jewish and Israeli organizations who support the idea of selective sanctions on Israel: European Jews for a JustPeace (a coalition of 16 Jewish groups from eight European countries); Not in My Name (US); Matzpun (Israel/International); Jews Against the Occupation (NYC Chapter); the petition of South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils and legislator Max Ozinsky, which has gathered more than 500 signatories from South African Jews; Jewish Voices Against the Occupation (US); Jewish Women for Justice in Israel and Palestine (US); Gush Shalom (Israel); Jews for Global Justice (US); and Visions of Peace With Justice (US), among others,
Boycott of settlement products and of companies that provide housing to the settlements or which play a major role in perpetuating the Occupation, a campaign initiated several years ago by Gush Shalom. These campaigns, it seems to us, build on existing initiatives. They are capable of garnering broad international support, are focused, raise publi cconsciousness over the economic aspects of the Occupation and expose the complicity of the international community in it. They bring significant moral pressure to bear on Israel, while moving towards effective forms of economic sanctions designed to end the Occupation.
We believe that Israel as a powerful state occupying the territory of another people should be held accountable for its policies and actions. We would therefore add to the list of sanctions the following element:
Holding individuals, be they policy-makers, military personnelcarrying out orders or others, personally accountable for human rightsviolations, including trial before international courts and bans on travelto other countries.
Since sanctions are a powerful non-violent means of resisting the Occupation, ICAHD supports this burgeoning movement and calls on the international community - civil society as well as governments - to do all that is possible to bring a swift end to Israel's terrible Occupation so that all the peoples of the region, and especially Israelis and Palestinians, can enjoy the benefits of a just and lasting peace for the generations to come. The time has come; sanctions seem the next logical step in a global campaign to end the Occupation.
Statement on Sanctions from ICAHD
THE ISRAELI COMMITTEE AGAINST HOUSE DEMOLITIONS (ICAHD)
A STATEMENT ON SANCTIONS
After years of diplomatic and political efforts aimed at inducing Israel to end its Occupation, while watching it grow ever stronger and more permanent, ICAHD supports a multi-tiered campaign of strategic, selective sanctions against Israel until the Occupation ends; i.e. a campaign targeting Israel's Occupation rather than Israel per se. We believe that inmost cases merely enforcing existing laws, international as well as domestic, would render the Occupation untenable and would pull Israel back into compliance with human rights covenants. We also favor selective divestment and boycott as tools of moral and economic pressure.
Since sanctions are a powerful, non-violent, popular means of resisting the Occupation, a campaign of sanctions seems to us the next logical step in international efforts to end the Occupation. While it will develop over time, ICAHD supports the following elements at this time:
· Sales or transfer of arms to Israel conditional upon their use in ways that do not perpetuate the Occupation or violate human rights and international humanitarian law, violations that would end if governments enforced existing laws and regulations regarding the use of weapons in contravention of human rights;
· Trade sanctions on Israel due to its violation of the "Association Agreements" it has signed with the European Union that prohibit the sale of settlement products under the "Made in Israel" label, as well as for violations of their human rights provisions;
· Divestment from companies that profit from involvement in the Occupation. In this vein ICAHD supports initiatives like that of the Presbyterian Church of the US which targets companies contributing materially to the Occupation and certainly the campaign against Caterpillar whose bulldozers demolish thousands of Palestinian homes;
· Boycott of settlement products and of companies that provide housing to the settlements or which play a major role in perpetuating the Occupation; and
· Holding individuals, be they policy-makers, military personnel carrying out orders or others, personally accountable for human rights violations,including trial before international courts and bans on travel to other countries.
ICAHD calls on the international community - governments, trade unions,university communities, faith-based organizations as well as the broad civil society - to do all that is possible to hold Israel accountable for its Occupation policies and actions, thereby hastening the end of this tragedy. While we also call on the Palestinian Authority to adhere to human rights conventions, our support for selective sanctions against Israel's Occupation policies focuses properly on Israel which alone has the power to end the Occupation and is alone the violator of international law regardingthe responsibilities of an Occupying Power.
ICAHD UK website: http://www.icahduk.org Contact ICAHD UK: http://www.icahduk.org/contact/contact.html
Friday, January 28, 2005
Temporary Palestinian State (with provisional boundaries)
- MER - Washington - 27 January: With no real Palestinian State any longer possible west of the Jordan, the U.S. and Israel have worked long and hard to get to the point where they could force a quisling Palestinian leadership of their choosing into a kind of convoluted submission while pretending it is an agreed settlement brought about by the 'Peace Process'. By assassinating Ahmed Yassin and Yassir Arafat in 2004, and then by manipulating the quick 'election' of Abu Mazen in 2005, Ariel Sharon in tandem with the Americans has set the stage for this further attempted historic deception and geopolitical triumph.
American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- who received more negative confirmation votes in the Senate this week than any Secretary of State in history since 1825 -- is rushing to the region in a few days hoping to consolidate a quick deal before opposition can swell and the realities of the situation become more starkly understood.
Bottom line: Abu Mazen and the key Palestinian in the background, Nabil Shaath (the long-time PA 'Foreign Minister' operative working closely with the Israelis and the CIA), are poised to in effect accept the Sharon Plan for what will be called a 'Temporary State' with 'Provisional Boundaries' in about 25% of historic Palestine. Everywhere the Palestinian 'population centers', i.e. Bantustans and Reservations in reality, will be surrounded by the Israeli army which will continue to control all entry/exit and airspace of what is to be a permanently crippled and controlled 'Palestinian state'.
The plan is then to flood the Palestinian Bantustans with two things to give this new arrangement a chance to work -- monies largely from Europe and the World Bank to make daily life a little better (not hard to do in view of how bad things are) and guns supplied by Israel along with the U.S. and U.K. so P.A. forces will be able to enforce an end to the Palestinian Intifada and in effect become the Israeli police-force in the occupied territories (much harder to do and quite likely to erupt at some point into civil war).
It is an arrangement far worse than that rejected by the Palestinians when Yasser Arafat was alive; but the powers to be hope to get away with it by repeatedly declaring it is just a temporary State with just provisional borders and thus holding out hope for something more 'on good behavior'.
Meanwhile the actual 'on the ground' realities of the situation are quite bleak for the Palestinians as Israeli settlements in the major areas continue to expand, Jerusalem is being further disenfranchied of Arab people and property, the Apartheid Wall is being completed, and Palestinians everywhere have been turned more than ever into a modern-day kind of Indians on Reservations in what was once not that long ago their own country.
Israeli psychological warfare unit PWU
"The Israeli army is set to activate a special psychological warfare unit (PWU) whose main role is to "disseminate disinformation" and "carefully manipulated information" about Iran and other countries in the Middle East deemed to be "hostile".
With the military incursions failing to have an 'effect' on the Palestinians, the PWU is being re-activated in order to conduct "awareness operations" that would influence Palestinian public opinion. These "awareness operations" would be conducted though propaganda and disinformation.
The unit is reportedly already been activated in the Gaza Strip where 'messages' are being spread that ordinary Palestinians are suffering because of the resistance and not because of the occupation and illegal Jewish settlements in the area.
Another step being conducted by the PWU is at the Mintar (Karni) Crossing between Gaza and Israel where posters saying "Closed because of Hamas" have been put up.The objective behind the 'poster campaign' is so that Palestinians target their bitterness and anger at resistance groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad rather than at Israel or the Talmudic Jewish settlers.
The PWU is said to have a definite "working relationship" with Israeli journalists and the media as a whole.
According to Amos Harel, the author of the PWU report, Israeli media did publish and circulate reports originating from the Israeli army propaganda department.
"Psychological warfare officers were in touch with Israeli journalists covering the Arab world, gave them translated articles from Arab paper (which were planted by the Israeli army) and pressed the Israeli reporters to publish the same news here," he says.
He points out that purpose of the disinformation was to strengthen the perception of an Iranian threat in Israeli public opinion.
Monday, January 24, 2005
The article was originally published in Focus on the Global South (a program of development policy research, analysis, advocacy and action on the grassroots level) under the title "The Bush Victory, Fallujah, and the Republican Right’s Challenge to the Global Peace Movement."
I think that the entire article is enlightening, but I wish to highlight the aspects which are relevant to what Europeans and Americans can do to actively work to stopping this madness of the war against Palestinians and Iraqis and the occupation of their lands in defiance of all legality.
The article is very long, and here I am reprinting only the final portion.
"Supporting the Iraqi people’s struggle to create the sovereign space for a national government of their choice continues to be one of the two overriding priorities of the global anti-war movement. The other is ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the trampling of the Palestinian people’s rights. At a moment marked by the conjunction of a resurgent Right in the US and a continuing crisis of empire globally, what will it take to advance this goal?
First of all, the movement has to graduate beyond spontaneity and arrive at a new level of transborder coordination, one that goes beyond synchronizing annual days of protest against the war. The critical mass to affect the outcome of the war will not be attained without a rolling wave of global protests similar to that which marked the anti-Vietnam war mobilizations from 1968 to 1972—one that puts millions of people in a constant state of activism. Coordination, moreover, will mean coordinating not only mass demonstrations but also civil disobedience, work on the global media, day-to-day lobbying of officials, and political education. More effective coordination and, yes, professionalization of the anti-war work must not, however, be achieved at the expense of the participatory processes that are the trademark of our movement.
Second, in terms of tactics, new forms of protests must be engaged in. Sanctions and boycotts are methods that must be brought into play. At the Mumbai WSF earlier this year, Arundhati Roy suggested starting with one or two US firms benefiting directly from the war such as Halliburton and Bechtel and mobilizing to close down their operations worldwide. It is time to take her suggestion seriously, not only with respect to US firms but also with Israeli firms and products.
Moreover, the level of militancy must be raised, with more and more civil disobedience and non-violent disruptions of business as usual encouraged. We must tell Washington and its allies that there can be no business as usual so long as the war continues. The kind of debate taking place in Britain, whether to push peaceful demonstrations or civil disobedience, is fruitless, since both are essential and must be combined in innovative and effective ways.
In the US, activists can draw on the immensely powerful tradition of disobedience to unjust law that motivated people such as the abolitionists, Henry David Thoreau, the Quakers, and the Berrigan Brothers. Indeed, this kind of resistance might be the key in stopping not only the imperial drive but also the rush to restrict political liberties and democracy. At no other time than today, when the electoral option is gone, is it more necessary to resist the imperial writ nonviolently by invoking a higher law.
Third, it is clear that Great Britain and Italy—Britain especially—are the principal supports of Bush’s war policy outside the United States. Bush constantly resorts to invoking these governments to legitimize the US adventure. What happens in Italy, in turn, affects what happens in Britain. Both countries have solid anti-war majorities that must now be converted into a powerful force to disrupt business as usual in these countries ruled by governments complicit in the American war.
Both countries have the hallowed tradition of the general strike that, combined with massive civil disobedience, can significantly raise the costs to their governments’ support for Washington. When asked why the demonstrations of March 20, 2004, drew significantly fewer people than those of February 2003, many activists in Britain and Italy responded: because people felt their actions were not able to prevent the US from going to war anyway. That sort of defeatism and demoralization can only be countered not by lowering the demands on people but by upping them, by asking them to put their bodies on the line through acts of nonviolent civil resistance.
Fourth, with the Middle East being the strategic battleground of the next few decades, it will be essential to forge links between the global peace movement and the Arab world. The governments of the Middle East are notoriously supine when it comes to the US, so that, as in Europe, it is forging the ties of solidarity among civil movements that must be the main thrust of this effort. This will actually be a courageous and controversial step since some of the strongest anti-US movements in the Middle East have been labeled "terrorist" or "terrorist sympathizers" by the US and some European governments. What is important is not to let US-imposed definitions stand in the way of people reaching out to one another to see if there is a basis for working together.
Likewise, it is critical for the Palestinian movement and the Israeli anti-Zionist and peace movements to get beyond the labels imposed by governments and find ways of cooperating to end the Israeli occupation. Process has a way of bringing people together from seemingly non-reconcilable political positions. In this regard, the Beirut Anti-War Assembly that took place in mid-September 2004, with strong representation from the global peace movement and social movements from all over the Arab world, was a significant step in this direction.
As it enters its second term, the Bush agenda remains the same: global domination. Our response is the same: global resistance. There is only one thing that can frustrate the empire’s dark aims in Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere: the militant solidarity among world’s peoples. Making that solidarity real and powerful and ultimately triumphant is the challenge before us.
A few excerpts:
So far, although he has only been in power for a matter of days, many Gazans are already losing hope that he will make things any better for them, given the reality on the ground. "How can we hope for any improvement in our situation, with or without Abu Mazen? How will he succeed where Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat] failed?" Soha, a student from Gaza City, told the Weekly. "No, I don't think things will get any better. I don't think a man like him can stop Israeli incursions, or make our economy -- which is dependent on the checkpoints being open -- improve. Not if his predecessor couldn't."
Others understand that Abu Mazen was, internationally, the favoured candidate, "but now look at what is happening. We all thought things would get better, because Israel, the US and the European Union all wanted him in. In fact, that's why many of us voted for him in the first place, because we thought that he would bring us peace," Amjad, an Islamic youth leader, told the Weekly. "But the Israelis haven't relented after all on their attacks, and what I know for certain is that Abu Mazen is not strong enough to withstand their pressure and make true the demands of the Palestinian people. He has no bargaining power, and he has no personal power. He is in no position to help us now."
"The incursions have been constant and scattered throughout Gaza, and now Abu Mazen is here to ask the militias to stop attacking the settlements? It's an impossible situation for him diplomatically, and for us practically."
"After all those years," said Gazan reporter Mohamed in the city centre, "after all that insistence by the US and Israel that there was no Palestinian partner for peace, we've finally got one. Now, however, it seems there is no Israeli partner." And after all, in Middle Eastern politics, as Amjad said, "it's Israel, not any Palestinian leader, that calls the shots."
"Today we face the consequences of the unilateral invasion of a sovereign country, which at the time of the invasion posed no threat to the US," she stresses. "The Bush administration is blind to facts in Iraq."
"We live in a time heavy with ideology and propaganda, so it behooves all of us to question accepted wisdoms, in the academy especially."
I suggest reading the comments Ms Nader makes on a large quantity of subjects, from corporate America and the pursuit of artificial happiness, from Edward Said and Rifaa Al-Tahtawi to the state of affairs in academia. I'd like a Nader-Nader double bill next time!
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Ahmed Yousef (Arab League) - Reflections on Iraq and Palestine
Professor Ahmed Yousef is the Director of the Arab Institute for Research and Study, which is part of the Organization for Education, Science and Culture of the Arab League. Arabmonitor reached him in order to put the immanent Iraqi elections in perspective, as well as the possible repercussions of the vote and to evaluate whether or not there are new opportunities for an agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
Here are two excerpts from the interview:
Yousef: "The Arab League is the sum of the countries of which it is composed. When the members of the Arab League accepted the presence, in September 2003, if memory serves, of the representatives of occupied Iraq, they had in some way then adhered to the American project for Iraq. And they are still doing so. This fact is not absent of danger, because in Iraq, something is happening that is different from the American project. There are some political forces in that country who are satisfied with the changes, in the same way that there are other forces that have rejected the new things. Yet, an unexpected event happened: the resistance has survived the American military pressure and it has even reinforced itself. The indication that we get is that the military actions are not sufficient to make the resistance cease if the people support it. Now, we are witnessing a growth of this resistance and I foresee that nothing will change after the elections".
Arabmonitor: Nothing will change, that means that the bloodbath that is happening daily will continue or do you predict a civil war ?
Yousef: "I repeat that these elections, which are on the horizon, will be completely marginal. Perhaps others, organized in the future, will have a historical significance, but these present elections will show themselves to be absolutely lacking in importance. Afterwards, everything will continue as before, with the daily bloodbath. I think that nothing can change at least until the Iraqis know the precise calendar of the withdrawal of the American troops from the country".
Arabmonitor: It seems that the Arab world doesn't at the moment have the instruments in order to affirm its own will against that of America.
Yousef: "That is absolutely true. There is not a reaction in the Arab world to any fact at all that is not a consequence of direct or indirect American pressure, be it political or military, on the Arab world itself. This is much more serious in the case of Iraq, because now the Americans themselves are faced with a dilemma: what to do in Iraq? It's important to stress that, being the majority of the Arab States not democratic, our nations are extremely fragile when faced with interference from abroad".
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Reflections on Holocaust Remembrance Day
By Mary Rizzo
At the time of its adoption, I hailed the European establishment of 27 January as the official Holocaust Remembrance Day (Day of Memory) as a positive event. I thought it significant that the date chosen coincided with the liberation of Auschwitz by the army of the Soviet Union. It seemed like an opportunity to eliminate the historically false pretext that it was the United States who were those responsible for the liberation of the camps.
In that period, I was doing a great amount of volunteer work for ANED, the Italian Association for Ex-Deportees in Nazi Camps, particularly focussed on the deportation of the political opposition to Fascism. ANED had always dedicated energy to education and to organised commemorations of this little known page in Italian history. ANED enthusiastically embraced the Italian adoption of the Day of Memory.
But, there's a problem with memory and with the recounting of it - and that is, it's subsequent spectacularisation. This should be, but rarely is, cause for reflection. The "representation" of something suffices for its existence as a reality. This representation then becomes information, substituting itself in fact, for critical analysis and the narrative assumes the position of the reality. Historical accuracy becomes a secondary consideration.
An example: Roberto Begnini's "La Vita è Bella" was cause for discussion amongst those who were the actual subject of this film, the Italians deported into Nazi camps. A vibrant discussion evolved regarding the film, and it was in the journal "Il Triangolo Rosso" (The Red Triangle, which was the distinguishing mark that political prisoners in Nazi camps wore). This debate, no longer online in its English translation, is still accessible in Italian here. One of the interventions asked, "Why did Begnini show the Americans as the liberators? We know it was the Soviets". Good question. If one is to address the film as a work of art alone, with all of the poetic license and liberties that are allowed, one must not at any rate, ignore that what is represented is a historical falsehood, if only for this detail, which sets the seal on the entire experience, since it occupies the final ten minutes. Especially important is this fact since the falsehood will take the place of the authentic event in the minds of the observers. It will become the narrative. The author made an artistic-ethical-political choice in electing the Americans as the heroes of the film, when the true liberators were the soldiers of the Red Army. Yet, after the Second World War, in the eyes of the West, the Soviet Union was equated with oppression, being the "Evil Empire" in counterposition to the United States, which also assumed the role as a sort of protector of Europe from the Red Menace.
It was important, evidently, to grant intellectual credence to this patently false construct that the Soviet Union had little to no connection to the physical liberation of the camps and the defeat of the Third Reich in general. In this product of mass production intended for an international audience, well beyond the "art houses" that he was shown in prior to this film, Begnini plays into all of this as if he were on the payroll of a Hollywood producer who was just (as usual) promoting the American message. Well, Begnini DID win an Oscar and was nominated in categories that never before had been opened to foreign language films, so he and his producers were well aware that this film had to be appetising to Hollywood, but especially to the American public, which was ready for a tragicomic representation of the concentration camps, but not for the depiction of the Soviets as the saviours.
But, this film is only one aspect of how celebration or commemoration of a past event is open to "liberal interpretation", while maintaining the hegemonic line of the superpower. It's a "work of art", after all. Everyone is meant to add their own sentiments to it in order for it to register. Everyone is meant to be moved by it. No, everyone is EXPECTED to.
On the occasion of a recent DVD issue of Spielberg's "Schindler's List", an Italian radio commentator, Luca Sofri, was astounded, shocked and disturbed that there were STILL some people who hadn't seen or maybe didn't even care to, this film. He seems to imply that it is some sort of obligatory passage in knowing about the Holocaust, or even in being part of a European country. I don't think I've ever heard such a totalistic approach to a work of art, elevating the consumption of it to a moral imperative. Not for Dante or Homer's Odyssey, which surely have left a deeper mark in Western culture and whose repercussions will continue to be felt for tens of generations to come, but for a Spielberg movie.
It could be that there is an empathy switch which is activated by these works of art on the Holocaust. It has become the social barometre measuring if one is a decent person or not. And, naturally, one must be psychologically disturbed, or at the very least, insensitive, if the knowledge of the atrocities in Europe's recent history don't cause empathy, grief and compassion for the victims, as well as rage against those who wrought such violence against them. There is a social obligation to manifest these sentiments. It seems that even knee-jerk empathy will do.
Yet, we have been conditioned by the culture we live in to view the Holocaust as "THE" tragedy. It is the monumental event to which all else must measure up against, yet it never can be permitted to being put on the scale of values. It is beyond that. No other event is given the same weight a priori and a film on say, the Armenian genocide isn't even meant to be taken into consideration, it is a "marginal event". Further, we are meant to focus on only the Holocaust with regularity, on a particular cyclical calendar of commemorations. It has to remain in the eternal present. It has to remain the tragedy par excellence.
Guy Debord wrote in "The Society of the Spectacle", "The construction of a present in which fads and fashion itself, from clothing to singers, has immobilised itself, a present that aims to forget its past and no longer gives the impression of belief in a future. It is obtained thanks to an incessant circular passage of information, which continually returns to a very short list of trivial information, which is always the same, announced with passion as if it was important news: while the news items that really ARE important, on that which is effectively changing, are presented only rarely and for brief instants. These items always regard the condemnation that this world seems to have pronounced against its very existence, the stops on its programmed self-destruction".
"The original intention of the dominion of the spectacle is to make historical knowledge in general disappear…. The most important thing is the most hidden."
While the Holocaust itself is surely not "trivial information", it is treated as such in its commemoration. It is a cultural, mediatic and civic event. In other words, the mass media, the civil society, the schools, the communities and the very social conscience itself is focussed not on reflection of the Holocaust message, and its relevance to today's world, but on the canonic representation of the Holocaust. Back to Debord, "It is common perception that something which is good is represented, and something is good because it is represented". It is circular, self-referential and cyclical, and does not allow deviation from its goal: to remain master of the discourse and thus remain within the dominion of thought, overshadowing current events, things that are not (yet) adequately represented, because they are still beyond the power of control of the hegemonic élite.
As Gilad Atzmon writes in his essay Zionism and other Marginal Thoughts, focus on the accepted Holocaust narrative was also an instrument to cast the gaze away from the millions of innocent victims of the atomic devastation the United States wreaked on Japan, the Allied bombing of Dresden, the US invasion of Viet Nam, the Palestinian Nakba, right up to our days when the "Coalition Forces" have created catastrophic humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost to the US military machine never gain focus in the collective consciences of the Western countries. We're not supposed to look there. Indiscriminate bombing, embargoes that cause the death of millions of children and collective punishment are not part of the present that must be represented. They are the news items that tell us that some are devastating the world at the expense of others, and the planet itself, but, that news stays hidden, since it is much more important.
It would take a long time to list the news that's been hidden. But, Americans and Europeans cyclically rebuild an acceptable human conscience every year, as established by a calendar. The significance of this commemoration is of course left to its most narrow interpretation. Not even Political prisoners, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses and other victims get their space in the Holocaust commemoration. That is because there shouldn't be any excessive sympathy for those opposing the dominant political regime in their country. That very prospect is dangerous. Nor are the Gypsies deemed worthy of our sympathy, they are a group that is a real mystery, and will remain so. The moral message of "Never Again" still only applies to Jews in the current reading of the Holocaust. It is vital to maintain this as the message, and not some universal "never again" applied to all deported, ethnically cleansed, oppressed and occupied peoples. It could be a dangerous anti-war and anti-Zionist message that is best left avoided at all costs.
I am not endorsing that Europeans forget their past, or that they do not commemorate their victims or celebrate their liberation. I know that this is all part of civic education. Events need to have some meaning and history should definitely be an important part in a collective awareness of a nation or of humanity itself. I do, however, question the motivations and I condemn the result of minimising the evils perpetrated against non-Europeans, and the complicity that Europe has in creating a narrative that glorifies the US, and does not permit space for a constructive analysis of the crimes perpetrated by the West against innocent people.
Peter Brooke - One State as a Jewish Liberation Struggle
Peter Brooke's main political experience was in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was a frequent contributor to the journal Workers Weekly, arguing for the 'two nations' view of Irish history and for 'electoral integration' (the right of the people of Northern Ireland, so long as they were part of the United Kingdom, to be able to join and participate fully in the life of the political parties capable of forming the government of the United Kingdom). He is the author of Ulster Presbyterianism - the historical perspective, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1987: Belfast, Athol Books, 1994). His present interests are reflected in his website - www.politicsandtheology.co.uk
WHAT IS A NATION?
Anti-Zionists argue that the Jews are not, or ought not to be, a nation. Jews, believing or otherwise, are scattered among many nations and should assume the nationality of the country they are living in (as most of them in fact do). Zionists, on the other hand, argue that the Palestinians are not a nation. They are Arabs more or less indistinguishable from their Arab neighbours who happened to live in a particular part of the Ottoman Empire but never defined themselves as a separate people - at least not until Jews began to claim that particular part of the Ottoman Empire as a national territory.
A nation however is, if nothing else, a people that believes itself to be a nation and is prepared to fight in defence of its perceived nationhood. The nation is a historically evolved ideological construction. Though there may be certain objective foundations (ethnicity, culture, territory), those are not of themselves sufficient to create a sense of nationhood. Noel Malcolm's Short History of Bosnia argues that there is an objectively existing Bosnian nation and that Bosnian Serbs and Croats are wrong to think they are not part of it. But the argument is futile. Bosnian nationalism has as yet failed to create a Bosnian national consciousness strong enough to secure the existence of an independent Bosnian state.
National consciousness is estabished through a combination of nationalist ideology and circumstances, often adverse circumstances. A combination of Zionism and the adverse circumstances created by European anti-semitism has created a Jewish nation which has established a nation state. A combination of nationalism and the adverse circumstances created by the Zionist invasion of Palestine has created a Palestinian nation, which refuses to submit to the Jewish nation state. We may lament the existence of two nations on this narrow strip of ground but there is not much that can be done about it. Once a national consciousness has been successfully established it is very difficult to undo it - the break-up of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia are surely convincing proofs.
In these circumstances, the establishment of two nation states looks like the obvious solution and since my own instincts are in general partitionist - opposed to obliging people to live together if they do not wish to - I might have been inclined to support it. In the circumstances of Israel/Palestine however - starting with the smallness of the territory under dispute - it has seemed to me from the start that it would not work. I can have no illusions about the difficulties posed by a 'one state' solution but in what follows, given the proposed theme of 'Jewish liberation', I am going to argue that it is in the best interests of the people who might appear to be the losers - Israeli Jews.
CAN THE TWO STATE SOLUTION BE FINAL?
Most Israeli Jews, it seems, would support a two state solution. They would be willing to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and may even support an arrangement that would enable the Palestinians to have a capital in Jerusalem. They would not object in principle to the Palestinians having their own sovereign state. At least so long as they could be assured that this would be a final solution and that Palestinians would be content with it.
But how can they be assured of this? Palestinian leaders can give assurances and sign agreements. But somehow it is difficult to believe them. Not because they are more dishonest than the leaders of other peoples but because the assurances they are giving, the agreements they are being asked to sign, are in themselves inherently unreasonable. No signed agreement can oblige the Palestinian people to accept the forcible displacement they suffered in 1948, any more than any signed agreement could oblige the Jewish people as a whole to accept the forcible spoliation of their property and the ensuing horrors they suffered in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. If Palestinian leaders recognise the right of the Jewish state to exist it is, plainly, because they have been reduced to such a state of powerlessness that they have no choice. But if that is the case then from the Jewish point of view they must be kept in a state of powerlessness. It makes no sense to allow them to construct a real independent state, least of all one which sits right at the heart of the territory of the Israeli state.
The two state solution is based on a pretence that the wrong done to the Palestinians began in 1967 with the seizure of the West Bank. The wrong would then be righted when the West Bank was restored. Unfortunately, however, the decisive wrong was done in 1948 at a time when the Jews, given what they had suffered in Europe, believed that the need to establish their own state, their own place of refuge, was so pressing that it overrode any normal moral considerations. That is a situation that is commonplace in war, when peoples will do anything to survive as a people.
But the 'hot' period of the establishment of Israel is now at an end. Ariel Sharon has, if I remember aright, expressed anxiety that his generation, the generation that knew the circumstances in which the Israeli state was formed, is dying out. He is afraid of the emergence of a weaker generation that will not be ready for the tough measures needed to secure Jewish nationhood. We may read his policies as an effort to create a dynamic that these weaker successors will not be able to reverse. And that is indeed the problem. Short of a successful genocide such as the Anglo Saxons achieved in North America and Australia in the nineteenth century, the exclusively Jewish state can only be maintained by a continued, hard, work of repression. Even if Palestinians are squeezed out of the West Bank (which I assume is the 'solution' Sharon is envisaging) this merely creates a new crime, a new incentive to militant opposition to the state of Israel. Analogies are never precise but we may remember the strength that the Fenian movement in Ireland gained from the emigrants who had been pushed out to America during the mid-nineteenth century famine.
AN IRISH ANALOGY
Ireland is worth thinking about in this context. In the eighteenth century it might have appeared from a British point of view that the Irish problem was solved - Catholic Ireland was so heavily subdued that there was no prospect of it reasserting itself. Or so it seemed. It may be mentioned that the British could argue - one of the leading theorists of British Imperialism, J.A.Froude, did argue - that the Irish, hopelessly divided among many different clans prior to the conquest, were not a nation.
Unlike the British in Ireland, however, Israeli Jews will not have the luxury of nearly a century's respite from their 'Palestinian question'. To preserve the status quo, they must maintain constant pressure for the foreseeable future. It is just possible to imagine that a generous two state strategy might have done the trick but realistically speaking the territory is too small to maintain two genuinely independent states. A generous settlement would enable the Palestinians to develop an independent military capacity; and it is very doubtful if it would have resolved the vexed question of the Palestinian refugees.
A BURDEN ON THE JEWS
I would suggest that this continual repression exercised against the Palestinians is a burden on Israeli Jews - and indeed on Jews worldwide. Most will cope with it by ignoring it; some are able to maintain the required 'hot' feeling through moral indignation at Palestinian 'terrorism'. But a permanent condition of hatred and contempt for one's neighbours (all one's neighbours given the general Arab sympathy for the Palestinian cause) poses a terrible strain; and the great moral asset of the Jews - the sympathy generated throughout the world by their sufferings in the mid-twentieth century - is gradually wasting away. There is also something illusory about Israeli independence. The immense expenditure that has been felt to be necessary on security has left Israel in reality wholly dependent on the charity of the United States, at a time when the policies of the United States are exciting hatred throughout the world. The pro-Israeli political commentator Jared Israel argues on his 'Emperor's New Clothes' website, that the United States is in fact deliberately provoking Muslim militancy to create a ring of Islamic states round Russia. Whether he is right or not this end result - the strengthening of political Islam - is the predictable outcome of current US policies and creates a very dangerous environment for Israel.
Furthermore, the epicentre for the Israeli/Palestinian confrontation is the West Bank - precisely the area that Jews serious about a return to the biblical heartland most desire. For religious Jews living so close to Hebron or Shechem/Nablus but being unable to visit them freely must be very frustrating. For those who have a real love for the land, the scars imposed physically by the Israeli infrastructure designed to separate the two peoples must be deeply painful.
ADVANTAGES OF A SINGLE STATE
The one state solution creates a coherent, defensible national territory and gives Jews free access to all parts of the West Bank. A unified Israeli/Palestinian military force would give each side control over the other's military capacity. By opening the main territory of Israel to Palestinians it would end the most substantial of Palestinian grievances. It would also provide Israeli Jews once again with an abundant supply of Palestinian labour (we may assume that Jews would continue to dominate the managerial, employing class for the foreseeable future). These are advantages on the Jewish side. The question remains if they are sufficient to outweigh the great apparent disadvantage - loss of exclusive control and perhaps of the 'Jewish state'.
DISADVANTAGES OF A SECULARIST SINGLE STATE
I say 'perhaps' because I would argue that Israel/Palestine could still be described as a 'Jewish state', meaning at once a favourable environment for the integral practise of the Jewish religion but also a country whose policies would be determined by Jews, albeit in agreement with non-Jews. The difference is it would not be an exclusively Jewish state. It could also on the same terms be described as a 'Muslim state' and, who knows? a 'Christian state'. I disagree with the 'secularist' ideology of the mainstream one-state movement and believe it is important that the state should allow for the religious identity of its citizens. I follow what I would see as the 'British' model here rather than the French. In Britain, religious tolerance developed through compromises that had to be made between rival powerful religious movements (most obviously the Established Church and the dissenters) which were not themselves committed to an ideal of tolerance or compromise; there was no substantial secularist movement as such. In France there was a conflict between a single very powerful church and the forces of secularist republicanism. State recognition of religion has the advantage of giving the state some leverage in religious affairs. In the United States it could be argued that the eccentric variant of Christianity which has come to the fore with President Bush evolved precisely because the state was secularist and had abdicated its responsibilities in matters of religion.
A CHANGE IN THE ATMOSPHERE
But a one state solution, especially if it is combined, as it must be, with recognition of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, means rule by a government in which, sooner rather than later, the Palestinians will be a majority. And though the great grievance of exclusion from their own national territory will have been addressed, a multitude of grievances stemming from the Jewish takeover of Palestinian land will remain. In the atmosphere of mutual hatred generated by the present Israeli policies it is difficult to envisage. For the moment let us say that before we reach this stage the atmosphere will have to be changed utterly. Unlike other one state advocates I think it will require a period of transition in which a Jewish government continues to exercise control at the expense of Palestinian political rights, but increasingly assumes responsibility for the social welfare of all the people living in the territory of a greater Israel that includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In other words the Zionists do what they want to do - take the whole area - but they take it with the people living there and with the responsibilities that implies. That this would be a natural development is rather implied by the lengths Ariel Sharon is going to to try to avoid it and to keep the two peoples separate.
Of course from the Jewish point of view this perspective is risky. But the alternative is a literally endless brutal suppression of the Palestinians and I do not believe - and I don't believe Sharon believes (this is his dilemma) - the Israelis as a people have it in them. We might make more headway however if One-State advocates stopped presenting their case as the most militantly anti-Zionist option - the destruction of the Jewish national identity - and instead argued for it as a fulfilment of what is best in the Zionist idea: the establishment of a just nation living in security in the land of its fathers.
Israeli MK says assassination of Hamas leader is being contemplated
In 1997 the Mossad already made a failed attempt to assassinae Mashal in Jordan. The agents entered into Jordanian territory under Canadian passports and they injected poison into him. It was the late King Hussein who insisted that Israel provide the antidote and also release Sheikh Yassin in order for the two arrested agents to be released.
Mashal, leader of Hamas's Politburo, is accused of being behind the rockets launched into Beit Hanoun. The accusations from an anonymous Israeli official claim that Syria is "flaming the situation in Gaza in order to put the newly elected Palestinian president in a trap and then control him".
Yet, this same official claims that Hezbollah is behind the rockets…… So, I think it's a good idea to keep an eye on Yuval Steinitz, since he confuses Hezbollah with Hamas, the Occupied Territories with Syria, and most of all, thinks that it is still legitimate to do targetted assassinations of Palestinian public figures. Get ready for a bomb dropped on Syria, if this is the case. I don't think Damascus could abide such an aggression, and the road to War With Syria has been paved.
Arab Americans subject to human rights abuses and arrest in Israel
"The Department of State’s annual human rights reports have documented for many years a depressing litany of extra-legal human rights abuses perpetrated against the Palestinian people by Israel: countless home demolitions, land confiscations, arbitrary arrests, and widespread torture. Similar practices have also been reported in detail by numerous Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations for years.
But it may come as an unpleasant surprise for the American public to learn that for over 30 years, Israel has also repeatedly detained, tortured and incarcerated Americans of Arab origin, without suffering any sanctions or even a public reprimand from Washington.
Responding to a question in the April 2, 2002, press briefing, a State Department spokesman confirmed that Israel was holding at least 18 American citizens on "security" charges, and had detained at least 22 more since "the current violence began last fall." He also noted that "we have no way of knowing for certain the numbers of American citizens who may have been detained for short periods and released." Since it is a legal obligation of every host government to notify the local diplomatic mission within 48 hours of the detention of a foreign national, this is an alarming admission.
In addition, Israeli and international human rights organizations have gathered evidence that such prisoners are routinely denied family visits for long periods and deprived of access to legal counsel. Their interrogations routinely include torture.
Few Arab-Americans are willing to go public with the details of their torture in Israeli prisons once they gain release and return to America, fearing that they will be targeted by the FBI as so many Arab-Americans have been, or reviled by their fellow citizens as possible security risks. Fear of U.S. reprisal has only increased in the aftermath of Sept. 11. But three men (Anwar Mohamed, Yousif Marei and Bishar Saidi) who endured this experience came to Washington twice to present their cases to the Department of State, Congress and the public. I regard them as brave because Shin Bet officials told them as they left Israel, "Don’t cause us any trouble. We can get you wherever you are"."
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Avigail Abarbanel - What "Peace" Really Means to Israelis
Two months ago I returned from a two-week family visit to Israel. Although I am an activist for Palestinian rights, I decided that this visit would be entirely private. Living for two weeks with my brother, his wife and their two little girls in their tiny apartment in a North Tel-Aviv suburb, gave me an opportunity to observe and see what daily life is like for Israelis at the moment.
I did not do anything particularly noteworthy. I went for long walks in the streets of Tel-Aviv and visited many of the places that I knew from my past. I shopped at the local supermaket and had coffee at the nearby shopping mall. I watched local TV and even went to the gym. For two weeks I joined ordinary life in Tel-Aviv. Rather than talk, I did a lot of listening. I speak fluent Hebrew, of course, so it was easy to blend in and people spoke freely around me. Australian media likes to emphasise how hard life is for Israelis, and I wanted to see for myself.
The most obvious thing about Israeli society is how profoundly insecure Israelis feel. They are nervous and twitchy and live with extremely high levels of anxiety. Not that any of this was new to me but there did seem to be a new edge to it. When a bomb exploded in the Ha’carmel Market in central Tel-Aviv, I was at the gym. I looked around me and within moments everyone was on their mobile phones reporting to, or checking on their loved ones. A young woman right next to me in the weights area sighed to herself with anguish, "not again".
Since my adolescence, I was used to having my bags checked whenever I entered a public building like a cinema or a supermarket anywhere in Israel. Despite my 13 years in Australia, the reflex to open my bags was still there. What was different this time was that now security guards also have an electronic detector to scan your body. These days even small businesses like restaurants and coffee shops have their own security guard up the front. There is a small ‘security levy’ of 2 NIS added onto your bill to help the business pay for the security guard, but you aren't required to pay it.
Israelis have always talked about peace, sung about it, made art and poetry about it as if it is something almost supernatural, some kind of a paradise that they yearn for but that has nothing to do with their everyday reality, and that they have no idea how to create. But what peace really means to these exhausted, anxious Israelis is to be left alone. It was sad and disturbing to see how desperately Israelis hold on to what they believe is ‘normality’. They are desperate to be ‘like everyone else’ in any other Western country, go to work, go shopping, go out to bars and coffee shops with friends. They feel outrage and desperation when Palestinian militants occasionally disrupt this routine of ‘normality’. To some degree I can sympathise with that. After all one of the main reasons I left Israel was that I found this way of life unbearable.
When life is so difficult I suppose it is human to wish your difficulties away. But here is where the problem really lies. When an individual, a group or an entire society live with a dark secret or are in denial about something important in their past, they cannot experience peace. It is simply impossible to live a ‘normal’ or peaceful life on a foundation of lies and secrecy. Denying the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948, trying to not think about the consequences of long years of brutal occupation, and just wishing for it all to go away is no more than a fantasy.
In family therapy there is an accepted principle that unless serious injustices are addressed, there cannot be real peace. Families that protect dark secrets always pay a heavy price. I watched Israeli intellectuals on TV engage in genuine discussion trying to analyse and understand why things are so bad in Israel. They raised every possible reason for the situation other than the most obvious one – Israel’s history. It was excruciating to watch but also familiar. I have never seen a society so steeped in denial as Israeli society.
The entire spectrum of Israeli politics is in denial about Israel’s history and this is why I do not have much faith in the Israeli Left. The handful that are not in denial like Dr Ilan Pappe who visited Australia last year, or Dr Uri Davis exist outside this spectrum. Their research into the events of 1948 and the circumstances surrounding the birth of the state of Israel is not discussed on public television and is not in Israeli history books. The average Israeli does not even know who they are. Although published by reputable publishers like Cambridge University Press, Dr Pappe’s books have so far been refused publication in Hebrew. The reason offered is that they lack academic merit... The way most Israelis perceive their own history is as if they have always been the weak victim. The question of whether or not it was morally right or even wise to create a state at the expense of another people is never raised. No one in the mainstream questions the validity of democracy in a country where the right for citizenship is based on race (you can only become an Israeli citizen if you can prove that your mother is Jewish).
When Israelis engage in ‘peace talks’ it is important to understand their basic position. They have no real interest in a solution that goes to the core of their problem. They are like an individual who wants his or her symptoms to go away but refuses to do anything about their real causes. A wish ‘to be left alone’ is not much of a basis for a sustainable peace, at least not without another act of ethnic cleansing. Six million Palestinians are there to remind Israel of its past, and they are not going anywhere.
If a day comes, and I hope it does, when Israelis decide to stop living in denial, they will have to realise that real peace will only come through justice. Justice in this context means one thing, that the ideal of an exclusively Jewish state at the cost of an entire people might have to be abandoned. Only a bi-national state and a right of return for the Palestinian refugees will come close enough to rectifying some of the injustices committed in 1948 and since. Having been ethnically cleansed, this is also what the Palestinians are entitled to under international law and common human decency.
This could be Israel’s atonement. It will also be Israel’s opportunity to free itself from carrying this burden of guilt that I believe is making their lives and the lives of the Palestinians a nightmare. Yes, it will be a challenge. But it will offer a possibility of real and sustainable peace both for Israelis and for Palestinians, possibly for the entire region. Continuing with the mentality and policy of denial will lead nowhere, and will continue to cost the lives and wellbeing of many more people and communities.
IDF prepares large operation in Gaza - get ready for a bloodbath
Ya'alon Commands the army top prepare large operation in Gaza
George Rishmawi-IMEMC & Agencies, January 18, 2005, 11:00
Chief of Staff of the Israeli army Moshe Ya'alon ordered the army on Monday to prepare for a wide scaled military operation in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported.
The radio also stated reported that this plan will be implemented if the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did stop the Palestinian resistance.
The Israeli news website ArabYnet quoted Israeli security source as saying, "The operation will be executed only if terror attacks continued and the Palestinian security devices fails in controlling the militants and if Qassam and mortar shells."
These Israeli military preparations were declared hours following a senior Palestinian Official said that Abbas gave orders to the Palestinian security forces to stop all attacks against Israel.
Abbas will head on Wednesday to Gaza for series of meetings with the different Palestinian resistance faction.
The radio also reported that Ya'alon will join a meeting for what was described as a "secret committee" that is part of the Knesset foreign and security affairs committee to discuss ways of stopping the home made Qasssam shells fired by the Palestinian resistance groups at Israeli targets.
Resistance Groups: Will Continue With Attacks
IMEMC & Agencies, January 18, 2005, 08:37
Spokespersons of few Gaza-based resistance groups criticized Monday the PA leadership decision to act against attacks on Israeli targets, affirming that attacks will continue until occupiers leave.
Representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah-affiliated armed groups confirmed their intentions to defy the PA National Security Council call for halting all attacks against Israeli targets.
Leader of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Abu-Musab confirmed that his group will not stop attacks against Israeli targets.
Abu-Musab affirmed that resistance, including firing "Arafat" shells, at Sderot will continue as long as there is one Israeli soldier in the Gaza strip. The brigades named their locally made shells after late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Abu-Musab also said that his group is not against a cease-fire agreement, but would not accept the dictation of a unilateral halt of attacks. He also called the new Palestinian leadership to open dialogue with resistance groups prior to making such decisions.
Abu-Qusi, another leader of the same group, said that prior to even calling for a halt of resistance defensive attacks, Israel have to halt the daily killings of Palestinians.
Hamas's spokesperson Mushir Masri affirmed that his group will not abide to the PA new instructions, describing the continuity of resistance to occupation as a "red line no one is allowed to cross"
An Islamic Jihad spokesperson said that the PA latest decision adds more complications to Palestinian internal problems, assuring that resistance groups will do its utmost to avoid a clash with PA security forces. He also expressed hopes that the issue will be addressed through dialogue only.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) considered the latest call to halt all kinds of resistance as harmful to the Palestinian cause. The PFLP reiterated its call for the formation of a unified leadership and affirmed that Palestinian resistance is a legitimate one.
2,000 Palestinians Stuck at Rafah Border Crossing for 55 Days
For the past 55 days, at least 2,000 Palestinians are held at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing and are prevented from arriving back to their homes in the Gaza Strip.
"We already buried the sixth body, most of the people stuck here are Palestinians who left to Egypt for medical treatment" said a Palestinian at the Egyptian side of the border crossing point.
Israel closed the crossing border point following an attack at the military base near the crossing two months ago. The crossing point has been closed since then.
Palestinians has been demanding Israel to open the crossing point to allow Palestinians to celebrate Al-Adha, the holiest Islamic feast, with their families, describing closing the border point as a collective punishment measure.
Hani Jabour, a PA employee at the Egyptian side of the border crossing, described the situation of families who are stuck there as drastic and inhuman.
"At least two thousand people, many are children and sick, are living on the little food provided by the Egyptian red crescent." He said.
" Israel did not allow us to move the bodies of the ones who died to their families inside Gaza in order to burry them. This is unbearable" he added.
Jabour suggested that Israel allows Palestinians to pas through other crossings, if it was impossible for them to open the Rafah crossing, saying that Israel had repeatedly rejected such possibility.
Israeli army source confirmed that the order to close all the crossings to Gaza is still in effect.
Zionist critics of Israel - keeping the ship afloat
In an outstanding article in Axis of Logic by By Lana Habash and Noah Cohen of One Palestine, Left Zionism is deconstructed as the mechanism used to prohibit any real steps towards fighting the racism in Israel and providing a real means creating a movement of support for Palestinians.
Here are a few excerpts of an excellent analysis.
Faced with images of refugee camps buried in rubble from Israeli missiles, children attempting to hold off tanks with stones, and Palestinian cities surrounded by prison walls, our political leaders can think of nothing to say but the empty formula, "Israel has a right to defend itself." Such phrases do not even emanate from the brain; they are a reflex reaction to any criticism of Israel. Since thought is no longer involved in framing this mainstream discourse, such leaders are incapable of adapting to the more and more widespread recognition of Israel's racism and its genocidal policies against the Palestinian people.
This is why Zionist critics of Israel have become so crucial in the effort to maintain support for the colonial regime.
Dershowitz (thus) recommended to university students attempting to build support for Israel on US campuses that they must gain control of both sides of the discourse, and thus "assert the label pro-Palestinian." At this point, the primary work of ensuring that no serious opposition emerges within the US against an untenable apartheid regime is performed by these self-appointed "pro-Palestinians," who criticize Israel's most extreme actions while simultaneously asserting its "right to exist," and--more importantly--denying any action to Palestinians that effectively exacts a significant cost upon Israel.
This crucial work of support shows itself most dramatically in the anti-war movement, where it is primarily carried out by "Middle East" or "Palestine/Israel" peace groups and task forces. These groups have succeeded largely in keeping the discussion away from clear positions of support for the Palestinian struggle as an anti-colonial liberation struggle against racism and apartheid, in favor of one with positions like the following:
Opposition to the "cycle of violence," according to which Palestinian acts of armed self-defense, or Palestinian attempts to reclaim land by exacting a cost on its colonial occupiers, are equated with Israel's programmatic genocide and structural violence against native Palestinians as if they were the same;
Support for the "right to self-determination" of "both peoples" (meaning that settlers have a "right to self-determination" on land they have taken and now occupy by military force, and this right is somehow compatible with the right of native people to self-determination on their own land);
"Dialogue" between Israelis and Palestinians as a "bridge to peace," regardless of the material circumstances of injustice and racist oppression under which such "dialogue" takes place.
In general, the most important function of the Zionist "pro-Palestinians" is to enforce two boundaries in the discourse:
1) the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state;
2) the illegitimacy of violence against Israelis.
These two positions form a litmus test for inclusion in the forums of the "peace movement." One is regularly asked to demonstrate a commitment to these two points before one is allowed to give a speech at a rally or a talk in an educational community event.
To talk about the inherent racism evident in Israel's foundation and formation (which necessarily brings into question its international legitimacy) or the necessity and legitimacy of an armed anti-colonialist Palestinian resistance goes outside the bounds of this discourse. When these boundaries are broken, the limits are reinforced through a series of accusations ranging from "anti-Semitism," on the one hand, to "ideological purism," "sectarianism," and "divisiveness," or, at best, being "impractical" or "not strategic" on the other. The first of these accusations tends to be made by ideologically committed Zionists; the last, by well-intentioned people who consider themselves representatives of the "tactical left," persuaded that they must maintain an alliance with left-Zionists for the sake of credibility or other strategic gains. In this case, the left-Zionist position maintains its dominance precisely through such an alliance: without the tacit support of non-Zionists or anti-Zionists (in some cases cowed by the threat of the accusation of anti-Semitism, in some cases kept in line by an argument about the limits of "realism") this dominance would be broken by those who reject Zionism as a form of racism.
As a result of the ascendancy of this alliance between left-Zionists and the "tactical left," Palestinians and other anti-Zionists and non-Zionists are faced with poor options for participation in movements for Palestine solidarity. For a Palestinian, there is always political space for participation as a victim, as long as one offers only stories of human rights abuses, but steers clear of any analysis. When Palestinians question Israel's legitimacy or advocate for resistance that exacts a serious cost on Israel, they are accused of not supporting the "peace agenda." "Peace" in this case is understood as maintaining the safety and security of Israeli citizens while Palestinians are subjected to racist domination and control. This leads many Palestinians and anti-Zionists to withdraw their support and consequently their voices from a broader movement that they find deeply racist and lacking in a strategy for liberation.
The task that lies before us in the United States is to build a movement that is genuinely pro-Palestinian. This means at least two things: opposing Zionism and supporting Palestinian resistance.