Thursday, March 30, 2006
Ramzy Baroud - It's the Media, Stupid
March 28, 2006
There is little disagreement on the indispensable role of the media in influencing political debate and narrative, thus shaping public discourse.
Among progressives, liberals and most political minorities in the United States and Europe, there is an equal consensus regarding the troubling alliance that is bringing warmongering politicians, ideologues, religious zealots and media moguls together. They alone possess the capabilities to sway the public in any way they wish, or so it seems; they stack a nation's priorities in the way they find most fit; they concoct wars and justify them when they go awry. In short, they manipulate democracy by manipulating the public, using whatever means necessary: fear, misinformation and all the familiar rest.
No other issue has been the victim of such treachery like the Middle East discourse in the West, and particularly that concerning Palestine and Israel. This is a subject that is as old as the conflict itself. Even before the establishment of the state of Israel upon the hundreds of conquered and mostly destroyed Palestinian towns and villages in 1947-48, the founders of Israel seemed utterly aware of the destructive impact of their action on Western public opinion. Israeli historian Benny Morris's commanding book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem is dotted with instances where - in their secretive dealings - Zionist politicians bickered over the massacring of Palestinians or their overt ethnic cleansing particularly because of how such blatant actions could damage Israel's image in the West, not because of the moral dilemma of the acts themselves.
This 'image' problem has indeed irked Israel since day one and continues to do so; this is why the term 'PR disaster' has always constituted a nightmarish scenario for Israeli politicians throughout the years, and subsequently turned Israel into a master in media spins and crisis management. Israel understood well that in order for its habitually indefensible policies, so evident in the illegal confiscation of land, the oppression of people and the defiance to international law, and so on, to be justified, facts have to be spun, truths have to be hidden and a new discourse, one that defies reality altogether would has to be woven, as it has.
Thus, despite the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most reported media story on earth, it's the least understood, seemingly the least rational, and most certainly one with the least potential to be resolved. The media's skewed narrative makes the conflict an end in itself; it creates a status quo that is most suitable for Israel's colonial policies and least desirable for Palestinians, who are silently - or so it seems - losing their land, their livelihood and any prospect of freedom, let alone their refugees' right of return.
Israel's impact on the media however, has metamorphosed throughout the years, from that seeking to influence to the one doing its own molding of public opinion. Israel's dedicated media friends, from the New York Times to the British Telegraph are perhaps the largest and by far the most influential interest groups in the media anywhere around the world, a fact that they - understandably so - often rebuff. But the facts are too apparent to deny. According to the findings of a recent study conducted by two top American scholars - Professor John Mearsheimer at the University of Chicago and Professor Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University - the single largest influence on US foreign policy in the Middle East is Israel's interest, even when it is at odds with the United States own interests.
The study cited the Israeli lobby, AIPAC as chiefly responsible for hijacking US foreign policy in the Middle East and has based its apparently thorough research on diverse sources, including uncountable media reports.
Many are already familiar with the 'special' ties between the United States and Israel, which arguably allowed for the latter to steer the foreign policy of the 'greatest democracy on earth' into the Middle East political abyss - whose injurious consequences are likely to diminish the US global import. But most might not be aware of the fact that the media is largely responsible for manufacturing that 'special relationship'. In fact, US interests in the Middle East - be they political, economic, i.e. strategic - have been greatly hampered, thanks to the perpetual, albeit misguided advocacy by Israel's allies in the administration, Congress, media and 'independent' think tanks and endless lists of 'experts' unleashed whenever Israel's image is at risk.
But what has in fact magnified the impact of the Israeli lobby and its influence in the media - whose work on behalf of Israel has exceeded Palestine, Palestinians and even the Middle East as a whole to all kinds of geopolitical boundaries as far as Africa, Asia, Latin America, and of course, Washington itself, also known as 'the other occupied territory' by a former US congressman - was the pitiable and most disorganized response of Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs. Some out of fear, perhaps, chose to disown the matter altogether using whatever injudicious logic they could drum up. Others tried to develop their own media alternatives, which is commendable. However, such mediums have failed - unlike the Israeli media machine - to carry any depth, strategy or sense of unity toward a fixed goal. In fact, it reflected Arab factionalism and brought into question the actual motives behind these 'alternative' ventures.
The result has been catastrophic. Israel's decades-long quest to bolster its media image has done wonders as American public opinion either sees Israel as a lone defender of democracy amid uncivilized Arab polities or not at all aware of the facts, basing its inane understanding of Middle East politics on media half truths that see Arabs as irrational, lazy and inherently violent, with the Israeli being the embodiment of the complete antithesis.
I am afraid that many Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are themselves content with the status quo and are the least interested in reversing their misfortune or appreciating the immense impact of the media on politics, wars and indeed peace. There is an overall inclination that associates media bias with racial categorization - always the easy answer to all enigmas - which is usually followed by a shoulder shrug and the defeatist impression that 'all is lost', an echo of the same defeatist sentiment that has accompanied the Arab-Israeli conflict since its inception, which is now directly involving the United States, its military, its resources and reputation.
However all is not lost, for even the most focused misinformation can be reversed, no matter how humble the initiative, how modest the resources. I have said so for many years and many have said it before me and many will continue to echo the same idea: with all due respect "it's the media, stupid." And if one is foolish enough to neglect its import, then maybe one deserves to be burnt by its fire.
-Veteran Arab American journalist Ramzy Baroud teaches mass communication at Australia's Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. His most recent book is entitled, Writings on the Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London.) He is also the editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle online newspaper.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Nadia Hasan - You can't go home again, (they won't let you)
Yesterday I came to Aqaba, and today I went to the border at 8 am.
I was nervous, but at the same time I felt good, making something that I was waiting for long time.
I crossed the Jordanian border without problems, only 15 minutes and I take my bag again and I start walking to the Palestinian side. Two armed guys were waiting there and asked me for my passport. They look each other and asked me "from where are you?", well, one of them had my passport in his hand, a Chilean passport, why they asked me!! After I went to the check room, and two other guys were there and asked me the normal questions, well, normal for them! All the questions were about my family name, why my name is Nadia Hasan, if I am Muslim... I answered no, I am Christian, "but why you has a Muslim name, why you don't change it?" Well, 20 minutes of that and they let me pass, even they told me "Welcome to Israel, enjoy your time here"..
I went to the passport control and a big group of tourists were there, everyone got their visa in less that 5 minutes. When was my turn, I saw a familiar face, the woman in the control office was the same that last year, the same that after gave me one month visa told me "if you don't like it go back to Chile, we don't want more Palestinians here!!!!"
Everything was normal, she asked me for my passport, and checked my name at the computer.... she was looking at it for more that 2 minutes, at that moment I knew that my name was there, but which information they have, I don't know..., she called a guy, after another woman, after another guy... all of them were talking in Hebrew, looking at me sometimes, reading again, i don't know for how long, I was so nervous.
A new guy came to me and starts to speak in Arabic with me, I told him that i don't understand, he continues speaking in Arabic.... after that he told me "Good luck" and asked me to go to the check room again. Well, he didn't asked me, he order me, he told me "Move now."
I entered in the check room and I had all the Israeli security with me, more than 15 persons, all of them not more than 22, playing an important game in their life, with power in their hands and with a terrorist in front of them, I saw excited eyes, waiting for the orders of the oldest man, the guy with the biggest M16 in his hand.
They open all my bags, they put everything on a table and start to check it, everything... After a young woman told me that she need to check my body, and with a smile on my face I answered, "OK, no problem", when she was checking me she told me whispering "I am sorry, but is my work, can you take of all your clothes?", I answer yes, but I want to keep my t shirt (I didn't want to show my tattoo), well, she checked me all, open your legs, close your legs, sit here, up and open your legs again, etc... like last year.
After the woman from last year came and asked me if I was in Israel before, I answer yes. Why you are coming again. I have friends here. Arabic friends, she asked? No, Israeli friends, Israelis????? (her face changed). Yes, Israeli friends. She asked me their names and I gave to her.
After asked me for my other passport, passport that I don't have of course, asked me about Gaza, about Nablus, about other Arab countries, about my name again...
Well, she left me alone, I check the time, was 10:30 am, I was thinking that my future in Palestine will depend on what she decided, and I wanted to smoke, of course I was not allowed to do it, sit there and wait!!!!
The time running, I was nervous but quiet at the same time, I wait for this moment since I was refused from my homeland last year, 6 long months, and I was there again, ready for that.
I checked the time again, was 12:15, I asked if I can use the bathroom, they told me no, sit and wait!!! After 10 minutes the women came to me, I wanted to cry, I knew that she has my dreams in her hands and she gave me back my passport, I take my bags (after put everything inside) and I start to walk.
I walk, with tears in my eyes, full of emotions inside me, all my memories from Palestine were in my head, in my heart, I remember in this 5 or 10 minutes every person that I met in Nablus, how much I wanted come back, how near I was.
One man stopped me and told me something that I didn't want to hear, something that was only in my nightmares, something that I listened before: "Welcome to Jordan."
I am in Aqaba again, with Palestine in front of me but more far than ever.
I checked again in the Jordanian border, I took again my bags and I start to walk. I felt my bags lighter, not so heavy than before, the tears were still in my eyes, but my legs were stronger, I am stronger, they make me feel in that way, they don't understand that every time that they refused a Palestinian at the border they recognize that the Palestinians are there, they must to use the guns to keep something that don't belong to them, they are afraid to see us through our eyes, that we are here, near, and always will be near, they know that Palestine Exists!
I took a room in front of the sea, I will buy a bottle of wine, and this night I will drink, I will drink for Palestine, I am proud to be Palestinian.
All of you will be with me tonight.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Israeli soldiers shoot at kids in Hebron
Look closely at the wound that this child's face shows, from the violence of cruel adults.
This is one photo of a photo essay sent by Omar Barghouti, showing the denial of access of the Palestinian children and teachers to their school. Part of an ongoing attempt to simply push the limits of the people so far, by offending their dignity, endangering their lives and destroying their futures, to force them to leave and make way for an all-Jewish Hebron.
the entire photo essay can be viewed here http://peacepalestinedocuments.blogspot.com/2006/03/hebron-idf-vs-palestinian-children.html
Former Israeli attorney's introduction to German edition of Beyond Chutzpah
by Felicia Langer
It was high time a book on the misuse of anti-Semitism as a political weapon got written. Now it has found its author: Norman Finkelstein. He is no stranger to daring challenges, and as this book clearly shows, Finkelstein has got what it takes. The precision and meticulousness of his research and analyses are admirable.
In the first part of the book, Finkelstein focuses on the misuse of anti-Semitism by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States and Europe, in support of Israeli policies. Any time there is a real risk that the international community will increase pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories as required by international law, a new anti-Semitism campaign is launched: "yet another meticulously orchestrated media extravaganza alleging that the world is awash in anti-Semitism."
With their allegations of anti-Semitism, American-Jewish elites seek, above all, to convince everybody that critics of Israel are really anti-Semites in disguise. Reports on what it is like for Palestinians to live under occupation, reports on their oppression and their suffering must remain taboo - only Israel is entitled to victim status. Thus reality is being inverted, in order to make sure that Israel enjoys immunity.
The hysteria about a "new anti-Semitism" serves not only to silence legitimate criticism of Israel, but also to deflect attention from violations of international law and elementary human rights. So, for example, the refusal to participate in a war of aggression against Iraq was equated with hatred of Jews. Writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, told US-President George W. Bush on 27 February 2003 that Iraq was a terrorist state, and that there was a moral imperative for intervention. Had the West intervened in Europe in 1938, Wiesel observed, World War II and the holocaust could have been prevented. "That was a meaningful moment for me," Bush said later, "because it was a confirming moment."
The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Paul Spiegel vehemently denounced the German opposition to the war on Iraq, making arguments similar to Elie Wiesel's. Alas, his words had a very bad ring to them in the light of the millions who marched to protest the war, in Germany and all over the world, among them many Jews.It is appalling to see what kind of allies this lobby has attracted on the right end of the political spectrum: Silvio Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini from the neo-Fascist National Alliance in Italy, Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. As for the Christian fundamentalists in the United States, the lobbyists argue that the fundamentalists' proverbial intolerance is not too harmful nowadays, and that what really counts is their favorable attitude toward Israel.
I want to share with the reader my experience of living in Germany, both as an Israeli Jew and as a holocaust survivor. My husband, Mieciu, went through five Nazi concentration camps. He is the only one from his family to have survived the holocaust, and was himself on the brink of death. My mother and I survived, in the USSR, but all the rest of my family were murdered. My husband and I have been living in Germany for fifteen years now, and it has become our beloved home. In all those years, we, personally, have not experienced any anti-Semitism. This merits emphasis because my husband has been talking about his Nazi era suffering for years, and those who have heard him speak at German schools now number in the thousands. I do not, however, want to deny that anti-Semitism and xenophobia exist in Germany. Our first experience in this regard was the following:
One day in 1990, I noticed a black swastika on the wall of a mall in Tübingen. All the beauty of the enchanting summery scenery surrounding it could not cover up this blemish. My husband and I decided to go and remove the swastika, and we went there that same night. However, we discovered that someone had already painted it over, apparently just a couple of minutes before we arrived - someone who, just like us, had been disgusted by the Nazi symbol. This was my first encounter with an anonymous protester in Germany.
These protesters are our allies in Germany: in our fight against xenophobia and the real anti-Semitism, as well as in our fight against war and the devastating Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinian people - the policies which are the subject of this book. Norman Finkelstein deplores the misuse of the holocaust by those who use anti-Semitism as a political weapon. His concern is to restore the victims' dignity and to do what their real legacy requires us to do. My husband, Mieciu, and I share Norman Finkelstein's concern, and I would like to repeat here what I've written elsewhere about this legacy:
Over the years, Mieciu and I have internalized the legacy of those who were murdered, and this legacy, as we see it, is this: never to be silent in the face of any crime or injustice, but to fight relentlessly against each and every form of racism and anti-Semitism, and to defend the dignity and rights of all human beings, whoever they may be. This will be the obligation of the German people for all times, but it is not an exclusively German obligation. In honor of the memory of all those victims and in the spirit of their final legacy, which is humanity, I denounce the decades-long oppression of the Palestinians by Israel, and the wrong that was done to them and that still persists to this day.
Norman Finkelstein says, rightly, that those Jews who want to fight the real anti-Semitism must first of all expose the alleged "anti-Semitism" as the sham it is:
Tell the truth, fight for justice: this is the time-tested strategy for fighting anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of bigotry. A full Israeli withdrawal from the territories conquered in 1967 would deprive those real anti-Semites exploiting Israel's repression as a pretext to demonize Jews - and who can doubt they exist? - of a dangerous weapon, as well as expose their real agenda. And the more vocally Jews dissent from Israel's occupation, the fewer will be those non-Jews who mistake Israel's criminal policies and the uncritical support (indeed encouragement) of mainline Jewish organizations for the popular Jewish mood.
A clear and unambiguous statement.
In the second part of this book, we read about the human rights situation in Israel/Palestine. Israel's human rights record is "generally superb," Harvard Law School professor and lawyer Alan Dershowitz claims in his book, The Case for Israel. "The purpose of this book," he writes, "is to help clear the air by providing direct and truthful defenses to false accusations."
Dershowitz's book became a best seller in the United States. American-Jewish organizations widely distributed it on college campuses; and the Israeli Foreign Ministry bought thousands of copies, in order to distribute them.
Having devoted 23 years (1967-1990) to defending the Palestinians in the occupied territories and having been the first Jewish lawyer to do so, I have many things to say about the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and Israel's flagrant violations of these rights. I want to thank Norman Finkelstein for exposing Alan Dershowitz's lies in this book and for making available to the reader important information from the various Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights organizations, who have - ignored by Dershowitz - unanimously and vehemently deplored Israel's human rights violations, many of which amount to war crimes. I, too, deplore them, and I do so both as a witness to an era and as an eyewitness. I denounce the various Israeli governments.Those pages of this book dealing with Israel's crimes during the Al Aqsa intifada - crimes which, according to Dershowitz, did not happen - are deeply distressing. Reading these pages, the German media's reluctance to cover Israeli crimes, and their concealment of the actual scale of the Israeli repression in the Palestinian territories, becomes glaringly obvious.
One chapter is devoted to the so called liquidations (a Nazi terminus, incidentally), i.e., Israel's assassinations of Palestinian "suspects," which Dershowitz justifies. Already during the first intifada (1987-1993), the undercover units made frequent use of their license to kill. In the course of the second intifada, these assassinations have become official Israeli policy. Extrajudicial executions are not only acts of state terrorism but quite simply, according to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, war crimes.
During a 21 August 2002 talk I gave in Vienna, I spoke, inter alia, about Israel's criminal invasion of the occupied territories, which Norman Finkelstein, too, discusses in his book, and which was euphemistically referred to as Operation Defensive Shield. I spoke about the executions, and the crimes in Jenin refugee camp, but also about a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Vienna's Jewish Community had sent their members to disrupt the talk, to defame me both as an anti-Semite and a traitor, to stage tumultuous protests, to shout "Nazis out!" etc. Things very nearly got physical, and the event had to be broken off. The Austrian branch of the Jewish lobby could not bear to hear the truth and used the allegation of anti-Semitism as a weapon.
The chapter entitled "Israel's Abu Ghraib," on torture, is of particular significance for me. When I saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq, on the TV screens, I thought of my tortured Palestinian clients, and publicly declared: "These are the Israeli methods to break the detainees. It's just that there are no photographs and, regrettably, our torturers enjoy immunity." I thought about Sami Esmail - Norman Finkelstein reports his case - and about Dershowitz who already in 1978 had been willing to lie in order to whitewash Israel's methods of ill-treatment and torture. I saw my clients' wounds, resulting from torture, with my own eyes. I petitioned the Israel Supreme Court. To no avail. In some cases, the torture led to permanent psychological disorder; some of my clients - for example, Auad Hamdan from the West Bank who died in July 1987, and Mahmud El Masri who died in the General Security Service's wing of Gaza prison in March 1989 - even lost their lives.
I would suggest to read this especially important chapter very carefully, for Israel has resumed its routine torture of Palestinian detainees, and inside the prisons the horrors depicted in this book are very real.
In addition, Norman Finkelstein writes about house demolitions as collective punishment. During the second intifada, Israel began using this cruel measure on a massive scale. Thousands of Palestinians have been rendered homeless, many of whom not for the first time in their lives. This policy is in contravention of international law and has been condemned by the international community. Yet Dershowitz justifies it. Basing himself on human rights reports, Finkelstein documents that Palestinians have been buried alive in the rubble of their homes. I cannot stress too much that, in all those years, my attempts to get the Israel Supreme Court to abolish or at least halt this collective punishment, illegal under international law, were futile. Finkelstein also writes about the destruction of "illegally" built homes. I hereby declare that I tried for many years, mostly without success, to obtain building permits for Palestinians. Israel pursues a clear policy of strangulation, and Norman Finkelstein has reached the same conclusion as I have: the aim of this policy has been to maximize the land available for Jewish settlement and to make it impossible for Palestinian towns and villages to expand.
"[Israel's] Supreme Court is among the best in the world, and it has repeatedly overruled the army and the government and made them operate under the rule of law," Dershowitz avers.
Basing himself on human rights reports and Israeli expertise, Norman Finkelstein proves this absurd thesis to be wrong.
I agree with Finkelstein that, instead of seeking justice, the Israel Supreme Court has all too often legitimized injustice, and that singing paeans to it is absolutely unwarranted. I testify to this as the first "pioneer lawyer" who has had 23 years of experience with petitioning the Israel Supreme Court on behalf of Palestinians, against the occupying forces. Many Israeli colleagues of mine can testify to this too. No matter what the issue - house demolitions; settlements and land grab; deportations; torture; denial of family unification; administrative detention - the Supreme Court routinely rejected my petitions, and it did so mostly in violation of wholly unambiguous maxims of international law. It was to protest these many years of the Supreme Court's pursuit of injustice as well as the brutal military justice system of the occupation that, after 23 years, I shut down my lawyer's office in Jerusalem. This does not mean, however, that I admit defeat. Rather the contrary. I continue to take every opportunity to bring the truth to light.
Norman Finkelstein seeks to disentangle, historically and politically, the artificial web of complexity woven around the Israel-Palestine conflict, and demonstrates how the conflict may be solved in accordance with international law. He describes the "two-state settlement." The Palestinians have declared long ago that they would be willing to make do with roughly twenty percent of historic Palestine, while it remains to be seen how the refugee problem will be solved in accordance with international law. Israel, on the other side, continues to illegally settle the occupied territories, builds an apartheid wall encroaching deeply into the West Bank, and refuses to accept any responsibility for having caused the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees.
Norman Finkelstein calls upon his readers to get politically involved and to commit themselves to the truth, "so that, together, we can achieve a just and lasting peace in Israel and Palestine." By deploring the wrong done to the Palestinians, he reaches out to the dispossessed, thus building a bridge of peace between Israel and Palestine. Finkelstein's is an important voice, a conscientious and human voice - a different Jewish voice, a blessing both for the Palestinians and the Jews.
10 May 1976 was a memorable day for me. I gave a talk at Harvard University's Science Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Due to massive threats, the event and I were under police protection. The disruptions, shouts, and boos were immense. The rowdies, Jewish-Zionist students, yelled, "She won't speak here!" Afterwards, a woman came up to me and handed me a portrait she had made of me. The drawing was entitled:
"Blessed are the peacemakers"
For me, this gift proved that the rowdies had not gained the upper hand. I would like to say to the author of this book:
"Blessed are the peacemakers!"
1. Felicia Langer, Miecius später Bericht: Eine Jugend zwischen Getto und Theresienstadt, Lamuv Verlag, Göttingen 1999, pp. 136-7.
2. Ibid., pp. 127-8.
3. Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, University of California Press, Berkeley 2005, p. 85.
4. See Felicia Langer, Zorn und Hoffnung (autobiography), Lamuv Verlag, Göttingen 1991, pp. 388-98.
(Translation: Maren Hackmann)
Jeff Halper - to hell with...
Hamas in power because Palestinians have had enough, says Jeff Halper
Mar. 26, 2006. 01:00 AM Toronto Star
As the new Hamas government assumes power, we might ask: What would bring Palestinians, the most secular of Arab populations, to vote Hamas? Mere protest at Fatah ineffectualness and corruption doesn't go far enough. While warning Hamas that their vote was not a mandate for an Iran-like theocracy, Palestinians took the only option left to a powerless people when all other avenues have been closed: non-co-operation. Gandhi put it best: "How can one be compelled to accept slavery? I simply refuse to do the master's bidding. He may torture me, break my bones to atoms and even kill me. He will then have my dead body, not my obedience. Ultimately, therefore, it is I who am the victor ..., for he has failed in getting me to do what he wanted done ....
The roots of non-co-operation lie not in hatred but in justice." This is not to equate Hamas with Gandhi, but merely to point out that non-co-operation, a powerful means of non-violent resistance, arises when the oppressed have no other avenues to achieve their freedom. The international community, the U.S., Israel and, yes, Fatah, have closed all avenues to the Palestinians. They carry the "blame" for the rise of Hamas.
Palestinians have simply said: "To hell with all of you!" To hell with the international community for failing to apply international law, and allowing Israel to construct its occupation.
International law defines occupation as a temporary situation to be resolved through negotiations and prohibits unilateral action. Besides military bases, every element of Israel's occupation is patently illegal: settlements; the plunder of Palestinian water and resources; house demolitions and expropriation of Palestinian lands; military attacks on civilians. Even when Israel's "separation barrier" was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice, nothing was done.
To hell with the U.S. for closing off negotiations, and neutralizing the UN with the U.S. veto. At the start of the Oslo "peace process," at Israel's urging, the U.S. reclassified the Palestinian areas from "occupied" to "disputed," thus removing international law from the negotiations. Had this law been respected, the occupation would have ended under the weight of its illegality.
To hell with Israel for closing off even the possibility of a viable Palestinian state by expanding into Palestinian areas. Hamas is criticized for "not recognizing Israel" but Israel has never explicitly recognized the Palestinians' right to self-determination, and never negotiated with Mahmoud Abbas despite his government's recognition of Israel. The world and Israel ignored the Palestinians' "generous offer" to Israel which could have ended the conflict: recognition of Israel within the 1967 borders on 78 per cent of historic Palestine, in return for a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories on the remaining 22 per cent. Israel is now poised, with American support and international complicity, to reduce the Palestinians to a prison-state of five Israeli-controlled "cantons" — no freedom of movement, no water, no viable economy, no Jerusalem, and no hopeful future.
And to hell with Fatah for enabling corruption and not pursuing effectively Palestinian self-determination. Removed from the people, the Palestinian Authority failed to support victims of Israeli occupation. Still, only 44 per cent of Palestinians voted Hamas. Most Palestinians seem to hope that Fatah will learn its lesson.
Indeed, the vote for Hamas was not a closing of the door, but a rational and powerful statement of non-co-operation in a political process that is only leading to Palestinian imprisonment.
Hamas stands for steadfastness, sumud. But also resistance to occupation. As an Israeli Jew who sees how the occupation has eroded the moral foundations of my society and, indeed, my entire people, and as a resident of Israel-Palestine who knows that my fate is intricately intertwined with that of the Palestinians, I pray that a just peace will come sooner rather than later. As a member of civil society, I realize that the Palestinians have only one staunch ally: us, the people.
Governments will not pursue peace and justice without our prodding. If the Palestinians remain steadfast and resist, it is our duty to actively support their fight for freedom and justice. Otherwise — to hell with us.
Jeff Halper is co-ordinator of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and a candidate for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Israel vote - The "Center" Leader's Bet by Sandro Viola
Published in Italy's La Repubblica By Sandro Viola. Translated by Diego Traversa.
JERUSALEM—On the chipped walls of Mea Shearim, the quarter where ultra-orthodox Jews live, one of the most typical parts of Jerusalem, there is not even one electoral poster. The parties haven’t invested money to stick them up because the ultra-orthodox people either don’t vote or they vote massively for the two religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Not voting are the most vehemently anti-Zionists, that’s the two or three hundred families still refusing the state of Israel and embodied by the “Guardians of the city” movement.
Instead, all the others massively vote, according to their origins. The Eastern or Sephardi Jews for Shas and the Ashkenazi ones for UTJ.
There is no absenteeism, never, as their rabbis’ suggestions are literally obeyed. And it’s about thundering advices. He who votes for Kadima, as Rabbi Ovadia Yossef has been saying for days, will end up to hell whilst the vote for Shas will lead directly to heaven.
Ultra-orthodox Jews apart, the rest of the constituency has never seemed to the experts so much unsettled and unsteady as this time.
Polls are continuously and abruptly swinging, as if the Israeli woke up each morning with a different vote intention. Yet, notwithstanding such a restlessness (and, provided clamorous surprises when between Tuesday and Wednesday night the votes will be counted), the general opinion is that to gain the majority of votes will be Kadima, the party founded by Sharon some weeks before his fall into coma.
Hence, it should be Kadima to represent the core of the coalition government which will be leading the country in this umpteenth crucial phase of its history. And it’s expected that the Prime Minister will be Ehud Olmert, Sharon’s successor, a figure who is almost unknown outside Israel. Thus, 24 hours to the vote, the question I’m trying to answer to is: who’s Olmert?
Who is this “bon vivant”, 60 year old man, a magnificent house, a very fashionable wife, it’s unknown if he is more keen on basketball or football, and who has no physical or career likeness with the Israeli former prime ministers.
Olmert, in fact, is not one of the Israel founders as other prime ministers, from Ben Gurion to Begin and Peres, were. He’s not a glorious military man like Rabin or Barak or Sharon. His rise has been slow, with no really meaningful phases, and they have completely happened behind the scenes.
What is known is that he has always had a seat in the parliament during the past thirty years, that he’s very skilful in parliamentary manoeuvres, that he is a tough negotiator. Yet, we know something else. Above all, it’s known that his job as a lawyer has put him at the center of several scandalous crossings between business and politics and that, as Knesset member, as Jerusalem mayor and as minister, he has gone round with an impressive good deal of shady figures. Something that has brought him endless times before a law court to answer for undue financial support in favour of his former party, the Likud, and for shady real estate transactions in Jerusalem.
Always acquitted, it’s true. But too many times suspected, by investigators and public opinion. Because his property, today, is not that of a normal political man. It’s a vast estate, maybe a very vast one.
There is no taxi driver who doesn’t repeat this to me, there is no daily which hasn’t published some story about the vortical but little clear turnover in which the former Jerusalem mayor has had some role.
Hence, who’s Olmert ?
Just yesterday morning I was talking about this with Shlomo Avineri, the most outstanding one amongst the Israeli political experts, in a Rehavia café. And Avneri, rather than going into long arguments, proposed a couple of comparisons.
“Think of a kind of Truman,” he was saying “or a Lyndon B. Johnson. Both were the heir of two men of great charisma and prestige, the former of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the latter of John F. Kennedy, and also they were unknown in the international scene. Both were political foxes, cunning goers in political rooms, sometimes involved in not so lawful relations with financial environments.
Now, what was these two figures’ typical feature, in respect to the halos of their predecessors? They had a pragmatic frame of mind, a deep knowledge about the way that power must be managed. And, by and large, they were useful to their country.
Well: Olmert might turn to be a character of this same type, exactly a pragmatist, less ideologized or venturesome than other former prime ministers…..”
A center man, many of my Israeli acquaintances go on repeating. And “center” in their arguments, sounds like a propitiatory word, a sort of providential formula: the sign of how the Israeli society has been diving itself from the old dualism which had marked during the past three decades the country's political life.
“The real newness,” Prof. Ephraim Yaar, the most trusted amongst the Israeli poll-makers, was in fact was telling me yesterday in Tel Aviv, “is this push by the constituency towards the center. In my opinion, the emergence of a historical necessity of placing oneself halfway.
Therefore, halt to the left—Peres’ and Barak’s Labor and the Meretz party pacifists—which has tried, without succeeding in it, the path of negotiation with the Palestinians. And an even firmer no to the Greater Israel supporters, the right that has never allowed to face seriously the problem of giving back the Occupied territories.”
The argument seems to be clear.
Yet, what does the “center”, that’s to say Kadima, mean nowadays in Israel, in terms of political decisions to take as regards the conflict with the Palestinians?
It means the unilateralism choice. Olmert, as a matter of fact, doesn’t speak of peace, he doesn’t announce the slightest negotiation with the Palestinian side. He has clearly explained, through a decision that is unusual in the electoral agendas of the parties standing for a country rule, what he means to do. And he has promised to do it over the four years of his mandate.
Progressive withdrawals from the West Bank, that Israel has been occupying for almost forty years; pulling down many settlements and about 70 thousand settlers; definitive borders route of the Jewish state. All this through no negotiation with the Palestinians at all: neither with Hamas leaders nor –should the Hamas-led government fall—with the moderate faction of Mahmud Abbas. Nothing. Only unilateral measures.
Yet, can a conflict as the Palestinian-Israeli one be really settled in this way?
“I can’t answer this question” Professor Yaar was saying, “I can only tell you that, if on one hand the 36% of Israelis still profess to be in favour of a negotiation, were it even with Hamas, on the other hand, those who approve of the unilateral decisions plan are by now about 50%. The prevailing trend is this: to break off with the Palestinians, to finish the wall works, to withdraw from the two thirds of the Occupied Territories. Those who want to keep the occupation are by now only the extreme-right fringes, the settlers’ two small parties. It’s true, Likud also holds that, at least for the moment, the occupation of the territories is a security guarantee: but those are only words. The leadership knows well that most of territories will have to be evacuated, sooner or later,”
This is how most of Israelis are going to the elections tomorrow. Without any hope for a peace accord with the Palestinians, inclined to enclosing itself behind the cement blocks and the fencings of which the wall is made up, as if not talking with the rival might help to make the rival vanish from the stage.
In short: people vote for the seventeenth Israeli parliament while the quarrel between Israelis and Palestinians remains more or less the same—that’s to say, at least for the moment, irremediable—as it was when Ben Gurion opened in 1948 the first session of the first parliament of the Jewish State.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Remi Kanazi - US Media Bias: Covering Israel/Palestine
On July 18, 2005 14 year old Ragheb al-Masri sat in the back of a taxi with his parents at the Abo Holi checkpoint. An Israeli bullet penetrated his back and cracked open his chest. His mother screamed as his body lay lifeless. Have you heard his name? I wouldn’t expect that you have because CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post didn’t report the killing online. If they had quoted his parents, their readers would have been able to feel their tears and envision the heartbreak. Ultimately, no Israeli soldier was arrested or even reprimanded.
Every time a suicide bombing strikes Israel, mass coverage of the tragedy begins instantly. Whether landing on the front page of The New York Times or taking up the headline block on CNN.com, the pain Israeli people endure is shown endlessly. Israelis do suffer. Suicide bombings are horrific. Nevertheless, Palestinian pain occurs far more frequently, and yet often overlooked by the mainstream American media.
Since the uprising in September of 2000, more than 3800 Palestinians have been killed in the Occupied Territories as a result of the conflict. Most Americans are unaware of the toll because it is not properly reported. In 2004, If Americans Knew—an American organization that exposes and examines the facts of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—reported that 808 Palestinian conflict deaths occurred while 107 Israelis conflict deaths occurred. The study, however, found that The New York Times covered Israeli deaths in the headline or the first paragraph in 159 articles—meaning in some cases they covered the same death numerous times. In contrast, The New York Times only covered about 40 percent of Palestinian deaths—334 of 808—in the headline or in the first paragraph of the articles. Nearly eight Palestinians died for every one Israeli. Disturbingly The New York Times is considered the quintessential “liberal” newspaper of the US.
When Palestinian deaths occur, especially militant deaths, the Israeli Government’s version of the story is taken as fact in the mainstream US media. In most cases, articles covering the death of Palestinians only include large Israeli quotes, without citing Palestinian witnesses and other credible nongovernmental organization sources. This continues to be the case after human rights groups have released reports stating Israel has indiscriminately shot at civilians, even using them as human shields. In as early as 2001, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated, “At least 470 Palestinians have been killed, most of them unlawfully by Israeli security forces when their lives [Israeli Security Forces] and the lives of others were not in danger.” Since the AI/HRW report, more than 3350 Palestinians have been killed. It is remarkable how so many can accept Israeli Government as the sole, objective source when it forcibly occupies the Palestinian territories.
On August 25, 2005 the headline on CNN.com read, “Israel: Five Militants Shot in Raid.” The article claims the militants were suspected of being involved with a suicide bombing; they were armed and exchanged fire with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), and five Palestinians were shot. The report also mentions the town Netanya, where the suicide bombing referenced in the article took place, was a frequent sight for suicide bombings. No Palestinian quote, no witnesses giving an alternative perspective, and no mention that three of the victims shot were under the age of 18.
The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, covered the same event including Palestinian quotes and some Palestinian claims. The paper reported that the IOF killed five Palestinians on August 25, three of whom Palestinian sources claim to be between the ages of 14 and 17 with no known links to militant organizations. Four of the victims died at the scene, while one of the young victims died later that night.
Varying Palestinian reporters cited witnesses claiming all five Palestinians were unarmed, including the two militants killed. This was the first fatal attack since the “disengagement” of the Gaza Strip.
The contrast in coverage between CNN and Haaretz is staggering. The CNN headline was written in absolutes: “5 militants shot in raid.” The CNN article continues by stating only the Israeli claim that five militants were killed, making the headline biased and misleading. The Haaretz headline read: “U.S. urges restraint after IDF raid that killed 5 Palestinians.” This headline refers to the people who were shot as Palestinians and not solely militants. The Haaretz article covers conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims, which made it impossible to determine whether or not all five killed were militants or civilians.
On September 7 the findings of a probe, conducted by Haaretz and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, found that three of the five Palestinians killed in the assault on August 25 were under the age of 18 and did not have any links to known terrorist organizations. Their investigation also found that the two militants killed were low ranking operatives who were not armed at the time. This repudiates the Israeli claim that IOF soldiers were in the area involved in an operation against militant leaders and a “ticking bomb” with connection to suicide bombings in Israel.
“Ticking bombs” are characterized as individuals that are an imminent physical threat to the state of Israel or people holding information that imminently threaten the security of the state of Israel. In most cases, “ticking bombs” are referred to as would be suicide bombers or those holding valuable information on individuals carrying out a suicide bombing. Israel used the “ticking bomb” scenario in the past as an excuse to torture Palestinians with impunity. In a 1998 study on the “ticking bomb” scenario, B’Tselem found Israel’s claim that it is necessary to use torture against “ticking bombs” was in most cases “totally unsubstantiated.” The recent findings of Haaretz and B’Tselem deeply call into question the reliability of the state of Israel on affairs in the Occupied Territories and reaffirm the notion that using Israel as the sole source is careless and unacceptable.
Israel professes it doesn’t have the death penalty, but it has in the past and “maintains the right” in the future, to carry out extrajudicial assassinations of “wanted” Palestinians. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz admitted on August 26 that Israel invaded and fired first in the incident that killed five Palestinians, while maintaining the notion that the militants—meaning all five killed—were armed. Again, Israel, the occupying force, reserves the “right” to play God with the lives of the Palestinian people. There are many examples of unarmed children and disabled Palestinians being injured or killed by Israeli forces. More than 875 women and children have died since the start of the conflict under the guise of security. Nearly 25 percent of the children killed were under the age of 12.
Coincidence or Collusion?
Why are “left wing” media outlets such as The New York Times and CNN not reporting the Palestinian side of the story? Well the simple answer is The New York Times and CNN are not liberal, nor honest. They cover injustices only when there is no risk of backlash from readers and advertisers. The media moguls are only “aware” and objective when it pays them to be. CNN and the New York Times must vet their content, so as not to be viewed as “pro-Palestinian,” in fear that advertisers will pull their ads or commercials, leading to a loss in revenue.
Israel solidified itself as the strategic ally of the US in the Middle East after its victory in the Six Day War (1967 Arab/Israeli War). Israel was taken under the wing of the US—which saw its potential as a strategic, military, and political force.
The rise of religious Zionism after 1967 and the subsequent call for the preservation of the Jewish homeland became relevant in America with the Jewish elite as well with Christian conservatives. Jewish historian, Norman Finkelstein, recalls in his book The Holocaust Industry,
Accordingly, American Jewish elites suddenly discovered Israel. After the 1967 war, Israel’s military élan could be celebrated because its guns point in the right direction—against America’s enemies.
Finkelstein continued to state, "Now they [The Jewish elite] could pose as the natural interlocutors for America’s newest strategic asset. From bit players, they could advance to top billing in the Cold War drama. Thus for American Jewry, as well as the United States, Israel became a strategic asset.”
As the years progressed, Israel claimed victory in the 1973 Ramadan War (Yom Kippur War) with the defining help of America. The mounting support for Israel as a war victor, a “democracy,” and a capitalistic society settled well with Americans.
38 years after the Six-Day war, America sees an even stronger military and political ally in Israel, and the pro-Israeli lobby has made sure that the sense of Jewish victimization has never faltered. Finkelstein comments, “Organized Jewry has exploited the Nazi holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel and its own morally indefensible policies.”
The effectiveness of the pro-Israeli lobby hinges on the willingness of the US government to support Israel. According to the strongly pro-Israeli website the Jewish Virtual Library, the US has given Israel nearly 50 billion dollars in aid from 1974 to 1997. If the US government didn’t have significant interests in backing Israel, the pro-Israeli lobby would be less of a factor much like the Palestinian lobby. Interestingly, the Jewish Lobby only supported Israel when it was in their interests to do so. Finkelstein notes, “The Holocaust industry sprung up only after Israel’s overwhelming display of military dominance and flourished amid extreme Israeli triumphalism.”
The convergence of American and Israeli support found success in delegitimizing the Palestinian cause. This consequently washed Israel’s hands clean in US eyes of the atrocities committed throughout the Middle East—i.e. the invasion and indiscriminate bombing of Beirut in 1982—and more directly to the Palestinian people through dispossession and occupation. Strikingly, the American media refuses to differentiate between the past suffering of the Jewish people and the suffering Israelis endure due to inept Israeli policy which has besieged the Palestinian people for 58 years.
Consider the backlash professors at Colombia received because they were accused of promoting anti-Semitism. In reality Joseph Massad, one of the accused professors, and others simply critiqued the Israeli government. As a result, pro-Israeli groups like the David Project and Campus Watch tried to silence their right to free speech. Just as questioning the war in Iraq is “un-American,” the idea of questioning Israeli actions is “anti-Semitic.” Ridiculous assertions such as equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a way in which the pro-Israeli lobby restricts the media from criticizing Israel or fairly reporting matters.
In a post-9/11 world, it has been much easier to side with mostly European Israelis, who look more like Americans, who love capitalism like Americans, and who are fighting “Arab terror” like Americans. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the media doesn’t like to diverge from mainstream political correctness. If objectivity was the top priority of the media, they would not have dropped the ball in the coverage leading up to the war in Iraq. Even Bob Woodward of the “liberal” Washington Post admitted, “We did our job but we didn’t do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder.”
The media are corporate sponsored outlets that feed into the majority support at a time when the Palestinian lobby is virtually non-existent in America. The “biblical rights” of Jews and their suffering the Holocaust are exploited to reassert the status of victimization. Pro-Israeli advocates incorporate the notion that the Arabs are trying to “drive the Jews to the sea.”
But who would really push the American/Israeli agenda, besides those fearing backlash? The neoconservatives and Christian coalitions in support for Israel. The Pat Robertsons and the Billy Grahams. Neoconservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Best selling authors Alan Dershowitz and Thomas Friedman. Lobbying groups like AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and attack dogs such as Daniel Pipes and his cronies in Campus Watch. The fortune 500 companies such as Caterpillar, McDonalds, Disney and Starbucks to name a few. But most damningly, it’s the “liberals,” that complete the majority support. Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, the honest broker himself Bill Clinton, the heads of The New York Times, CNN and the rest of the “left wing” media that won’t stand up for what’s morally right. These people are too selfish or too weak to do what’s right, and off with the heads of those who do.
The dilemma of the “free press” in America is that it isn’t free. The media hinges on the support of the people, newspaper subscriptions, television viewership, advertisements, and the bottom line of their companies. We live in a capitalistic society run by corporate profits and essential year over year growth.
I understand why The New York Times and CNN reports the way it does. They are media hacks run by the corporate dollar. Injustice is injustice. Murder is murder. While Palestinian suffering goes on unreported children like Ragheb Al-Masri remain dead and forgotten, and the American press remains biased and forgiven.
* Remi Kanazi is the primary writer for the political website www.PoeticInjustice.net. He lives in New York City as a Palestinian American freelance writer and can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel's vote ignores peace
There is going to be the great absentee at the upcoming elections of next Tuesday 28th March. And it’s not Ariel Sharon, forcibly and relentlessly kept alive in order to serve as a symbol for his party, Kadima—in reanimation ward of Hadassa hospital.
No: the great absentee is the co-called peace process. The negotiation for a settlement of the conflict in which Israelis and Palestinians have been struggling, dripping with blood, for about sixty years.
This is what immediately leaps to the eye, by judging the electoral eve. And this is what precisely strikes: the fact that people is not speaking any longer about a peace negotiation.
In the other occasions in which it occurred to me to attend the political elections in Israel, that wasn’t the case. The only ones not speaking about peace were the extreme right parties which rejected, as they are doing today, any return of the occupied Territories.
Yet, the two main parties, Likud and Labor, used to put forward agendas in which, as well as security promises against Palestinian terrorist attacks, they would always let people harbour the hope of an accord to put an end to the conflict.
Even the right of Likud or the Sharon of his hard-liner days used to refer to a “peace plan”. First—up to 2004—to Oslo Accords and then to the “road map”: negotiation plans left for years to get dusty on the carpet but ready, at least in theory, to be revived.
And in fact, even if with some difference in emphasizing, Likud’s and Labor’s slogans were similar: “Peace and security”, “Only security can lead to peace”, “There will be no peace without security”.
Nowadays, the concept itself of a peace plan seems to have vanished.
At the first performances of his electoral campaign, Amir Perez, the Labor’s leader with a pacifist past, had said many times that he would be willing to restart talks with Palestinians. Yet, the drop of his party ascribed by polls has made him change his mind and his slogan has turned in : “Defeating terrorism, fighting poverty”. No hint, hence, to a possible negotiation. And even the Meretz, the most sided on the left of the political spectrum, once the bravest in demanding the withdrawal from the Territories, this time has focused its campaign on civil rights: its slogans is “the person at the core”, the main issue is homosexual marriages.
No: I have been talking about it for three days with my Israeli acquaintances, I have been getting several electoral posters translated for me and I have been reading dailies in English editions: yet, as to the peace process, not even a hint.
Let’s take Kadima as example, the party which is expected to win the elections.
Founded on the political legacy left by Sharon, Kadima’s agenda provides for neither negotiations nor possible accords with the Palestinians. It provides for—as Sharon’s successor, Ehud Olmert, has already overtly and clearly declared—only unilateral decisions by the Israeli side: the definitive borders of the Jewish state, a military presence in the most strategic zones, the annexation of some parts of the West Bank and the withdrawal form other ones.
Still, all this without having a chat with the Palestinian part at all. No meetings, no dialogue, no negotiations. Backs turned.
On the other hand, the position prevailing in the Palestinian front is perfectly symmetrical.
There, elections have already taken place, have been won by Hamas which is not willing to negotiate with an Israeli government. Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel, doesn’t regard itself bound by the accords which have previously taken place between Israelis and Palestinians, and, even if it is concretely willing to defer the truce on course for more than one year, it doesn’t mean to give up the armed struggle.
The reason why Hamas has won is because the Palestinians have understood that, during the thirteen years of Oslo accords, the “peace process” has been nothing but a sequence of bloody clashes and frail truces. It has done nothing but make the situation in the occupied territories even more hard and unbearable.
Therefore, Hamas’s rise ensues—neither more nor less as Kadima’s performance in Israel—from the havoc of any project of negotiated peace.
Also this must be the reason why the electoral here in Jerusalem seems to be so unusually apathetic. The less lively and the most feeble one that the Israelis can remember.
Of course, too many things have occurred during the past seven months. The Gaza retreat with the split between lay people and religious Zionists, Sharon’s splintering from the Likud and the establishment of his new “centrist” party, his first ictus and the second one, which has determined his disappearance from the political scene, and, in the end, Hamas’s victory at the Palestinian elections.
From this long series of political shocks, it was natural that some tiredness would emerge. And upon this tiredness, the by now prevailing mood of the Israeli society has been shaping. The spur to get away both from Palestinians and the bigotry of religious Zionists and settlers. That’s to say: no more dreams about a Great Israel and giving up a part of West Bank but, at the same time, the door shut before the Palestinians’ face.
The newness is this. The “centrism” in which, according to polls, most of Israelis identify themselves. And which finds in Kadima’s agenda and in Sharon’s successor, Ehud Olmert, its political means.
End of the wait and see policy but only through unilateral decisions. Withdrawals in groups from West Bank, the returning on this side of the wall of at least 70 thousand settlers (out of 220 thousands today living in the settlements), military posts in the crucial areas.
“There are no other less hazardous choices” I’m told by Alexander Jacobson, professor of ancient history at the university of Jerusalem and bright editorialist from Haaretz : “going on with the occupation” Jacobson clarifies “ would be tantamount to keeping a time bomb in one’s own lap. Negotiating with Hamas government seems to be far-fetched. Thus, either we’ll go ahead as we have done up to now through expanding the settlements and the creeping annexation of the Territories (that would be, I repeat, a foolish act) or we’ll put an end to this deadlock through unilateral moves, without negotiating”.
In short, the Kadima's line.
A line hard to approve because it’s obvious that, without an agreement with the Palestinian side, the conflict will be going on pouring forth the same, and maybe more tragic, violence of these past years.
Yet, it has surprised me that even the writer Amos Elon, who has never been guilty of optimism as regards the policy of Israeli governments, acknowledges that breaking the impasse might let a glimmer of hope in.
“First of all—Elon says—the end of Great Israel taboo, ie. the giving up of a “historical right” over Biblical lands, is a new fact”. Much more meaningful than has been the Gaza pulling out. Then, it’s possible that withdrawals, even if partial ones, may shake the pond, provoking a virtuous dynamic”.
The only sure thing is that, four days to elections, their outcome remains still quite unforeseeable.
Even because the polls swing as a mad compass needle and record the possibility of a wide abstention.
Kadima, which until the day before yesterday seemed to be sailing before the wind, now is dropping. The Labor party, with which the Sharon’s heirs are likely to form a center-left coalition government, is trudging.
Thus, it seems to be more and more improbable that the two parties may manage to have a majority in the parliament without making room in the coalition for the religious ones or the Ysrael Beiteinu of Avigdor Lieberman, the right-wing party which catches the vote of the nearly whole Russian population. And, in that case, there would be a government as have there been many other ones in Israel ( and many in Italy) , entangled with the clashes between its own members.
Yet, that the formations still opposed to the giving up of the occupied Territories (from Likud to the settlers small parties) are crumbling seems to be undoubted. Maybe for the demographical risks, the fear of becoming a minority amongst an Arab majority, or maybe the intention of putting an end to the haemorrhage of funds that today are used to support the settlements, the fact remains that the Israelis are by now aware of the unendurable burden of the occupation. And maybe aware of the fact that almost forty years of economic sacrifices, of young human lives fallen on both side of the conflict and of unremitting tension, have been a terrible mistake.
the forbidden land
NO Gazans are allowed to stay in the West Bank
No cars into Nablus
and much more....
click on the image to enlarge.
Thanks to Zaki for sending this map from the Print Editon of Haaretz.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Interview with Hooded symbol of Abu Ghraib on imposture allegations
What is your reaction to the allegations in several newspapers based on US military sources, that you are not the man on the photos that became the symbol of abuse and torture in Abu Ghraib?
Haj Ali: The truth to this is that I was not the only one who was tortured in this barbaric fashion. Almost all prisoners in the part of the prison that I was familiar with were tortured in this way. That doesn't change the fact that I was one of those who had to stand on that cardboard box, with a black hood placed over my head and electrical wires attached to my hands. As an Iraqi person who has gone through Abu Ghraib, I represent all those tormented people.
What is the reason for this campaign to discredit you?
Haj Ali: First they denied ever having tortured people in this way. Then they claimed those were just isolated cases. Now they admit that they have tortured many, many people in that way. They do so to discredit us, but on the other hand, it also means that this form of torture was not an isolated case, is made public. That is a result of our campaign work. Since my release and the founding of our Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons, we have had 1,300 activities to protest the occupation and especially the private torture companies whose services are employed by the US military. Nobody could imagine that our small Association would have been able to do all that, without any official financial assistance. By dogged perseverance, donations and help from friends and some media, we have achieved something, even in the United States. We raised our voices and thePentagon doesn't like that.
The New York Times alleges that the man on the photograph is in fact Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh.
Haj Ali: I know that man. There are also photos of Said Saleh Shain from Mosul. They gave him the nickname "Joker", and he was tortured in the same way. There was also someone called Saddam Rawi. They attached the electrical wires to his ears. Still today, he has neurological problems, and he has brought suit at the United Nations.
Haven't you taken legal action as well?
Haj Ali: The lawsuit we filed is definitely one reason for the current smear campaign. We are an independent NGO. Many have tried to buy us, without success. The suit was brought a year and a half ago in the US. 200 cases were filed as a class-action lawsuit. Now we have brought fifty more former prisoners, among them several women, from Iraq to Jordan. And we have published a comprehensive documentation about the abducted and tortured, the victims of American policies.
Have you also sued torture contractors?
Haj Ali: Our campaign is directed especially against Titan Group [SanDiego]. They are a private company conducting interrogations in the prisons. They contract criminals, who extract information from the prisoners using the most brutal methods. We are well aware that the United States is run with the mentality of a corporation. Important motives for the war against Iraq were the interests of those corporations: first of all Halliburton, which is directly owned by Dick Cheney, and all the companies associated with the Bush family. The United States cannot accept that their companiesare targeted. It is a capitalist regime based on corporate profits, and complete disregard for the needs of human beings.
What has happened to your organisation?
Haj Ali: Our office in Baghdad has been attacked and stormed six times by security forces. Each time, the offices were devastated, and each time, they detained several of our leading members. Nevertheless we have succeeded to carry on.
What are the concrete charges against you?
Haj Ali: It has been enough to announce membership in our association. They demanded that we change the name from "occupation" to "coalition". They can't accept even the word "occupation".
Amman, Jordan; March 21, 2006 by Doris Höflmayer and Mohamed Aburous www.antiimperialista.org
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Elimination of Racial Discrimination: the case of Israel
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights Press release, 21 March 2006 (E/07/06)
Elimination of Racial Discrimination: the Case of Israel
A common feature of Israel for more than 50 years has been its discriminatory policies which underly intolerance and racism towards Palestinians in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and in forced exile. Such statement is not "anti-semitic propaganda", as Israel's apologists commonly claim. Independent experts reviewing Israel's peformance under international human rights treaties have regularly found that these discriminatory policies create second-class citizens, a colonial regime, and ongoing forced displacement.
Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, over 7.5 millions Palestinians are either refugees or internally displaced persons and most are stateless. Since 1948, Israeli 'laws' have been shaped not only to prevent the return of refugees but also to change the demographic composition of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This demographic transfer is aided by the Israeli Law of Return, which allows any Jew in the world to 'return' to Israel and be granted citizenship. The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that the denial of the "rights of many Palestinians to return and possess their homes in Israel" is discriminatory and perpetuates violations of fundamental human rights (CERD/C/304/Add.45, March 1998).
Creating a Jewish majority is at the heart of Israel's policies and is achieved through the de-Palestinization of Palestinian land. For instance, since 2002, thousands of people have been displaced by the construction of the Wall and its associated regime. Prof. John Dugard, Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories recently observed that "the closed zone is gradually being "cleansed" of Palestinians, where land will in due course be transferred to land-greedy settlers." (E/CN.4/2006/29, 17 January 2006).
Similarly, in pursuing a Jewish majority, Palestinian-Israelis residents of the Galilee and the Naqab are being forcibly displaced. Israel has emphasized the Jewish character of the state and the need to create and maintain a Jewish majority to such an extent that the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded that "Jewish nationality" is ground for "exclusive preferential treatment" resulting "in discriminatory treatment against non-Jews, in particular Palestinian refugees." (E/C.12/1/Add.90, May 2003). Israel's policies are based on racial superiority, and include policies of apartheid, segregation or separation, which defy the principles of equality, non-discrimination and the right of return and self-determination of the Palestinian people.
This rationale of racial superiority leads to colonialism. It is at the centre of the "unilateral disengagement plan" promoted by Olmert's Kadima party, the expected winner in the upcoming Israeli elections, and at the core of all 'transfer' (ethnic cleansing) proposals currently dominating the election campaign of the right wing in Israel.
Unless action is taken, future Israeli policies will continue to be discriminatory. BADIL strongly believes that the continued "existence of racial barriers is repugnant to the ideals of any human society" (Preamble, CERD). On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discriminaton, BADIL thus reiterates the call issued by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations and networks in July 2005:
"We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.
We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
* Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
* Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
* Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee RightsPO Box 728, Bethlehem, PalestineTelefax: email@example.com - www.badil.org
Monday, March 20, 2006
ITALIANI!!! Al voto!!
You can find out where you stand in relation to all the political parties and their programs. I'm not in the least surprised, but as Gennaro Carotenuto said, "So close to Rosa nel Pugno... I never would have imagined. Wouldn't go near them with a fishing pole."
BTW, my proportional vote goes to either PdCI or IdV...
Sunday, March 19, 2006
(sElf-)Righteous Jews (sans frontieres)
“Righteous gentiles or "Righteous Among the Nations" was a term originally used in Jewish tradition to deal with the concept of non-Jews who were good people. By Jewish tradition, the large set of laws and precepts contained in the Torah, as well as the Talmud and oral law, are only required of Jews, who are regarded as having inherited the obligation from their ancestors who volunteered for the duty. In contrast to the 613 commandments enjoined upon Jews, by Jewish tradition, non-Jews have to follow less detailed ethical principles contained in the Noahide Laws.”
So, using rational logic, we can safely deduce that this automatically assumes that Gentiles (non-Jews) are for some reason not “good people” anyway, and that there should be a sort of categorisation of those who were different from the others and were “good”, thus meriting a label of “righteous Gentiles”. Sounds pretty racist to me, but for the moment, I let the reader reflect upon any possible implications of this.
What this post is about is about those who I would consider the (Self-)Righteous Jews, with the standard definition I found of self-righteous being:
1. Piously sure of one's own righteousness; moralistic.
2. Exhibiting pious self-assurance.
It’s all about the certainty to be morally in the right, and comparing one’s rightness against the other who obviously couldn’t be right. It uses the terms and techniques of putting the other “in his place” and humiliation of the opponent in a public way, seeking to influence others that this person is bad, dangerous, a plague even, is a standard tool. It is usually very snotty, accusatory and rude. It omits discussion because it has determined a priori the limits, the terms and the subject of discourse, as well as the outcome and position of all the participants in it. I’d say that this category is pretty much the leitmotif of almost all bloggers who put their Jewish identity first, and of almost all of those activists who adopt the label “Anti-Zionist Jews”. I am sure there are exceptions to this category, but they usually don't do internet activism, so we hear little from them.
Back to our (Self-)Righteous Jews. They can be considered those who have decided to determine the who, what, how of pro-Palestinian activism, and they dictate who is allowed to speak not based on any reflections or information from Palestinian sources in activities to further the cause of redress and justice for an oppressed people fighting for their survival, but more often than not, based primarily on the criterion of what they determine is anti-Semitic. This is the major issue and no other issues will ever take priority. They can be identified especially by their irresistable urge to put the concept of being Jewish first, and other moral considerations are completely left to an arbitrary determination of how well the person who they are “considering” embraces the specialness of being Jewish. The issue is their percieved anti-Semitism metre, which, actually, they are unable to define. I would suggest they carefully read Tony Lerman’s interview, it might teach them a thing or two.
Up for special scrutiny, of course are those who are not Jews, or are no longer Jews or do not identify themselves as Jews because they reject the Nazi racial and racist implications of the Jews as an ethnic group or race that are “different” from others. In my experience with activism, especially that which is almost all written such as that we do on Internet, those who single the individuals out and attempt to smear them, going the time-tested route by labelling them as anti-Semites, without a stitch of evidence, by the way, often consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics. Some are Buddhists and others claim to be simply “secular”, so their Jewishness is not a religious identification, and therefore, where does that leave us in understanding who they believe themselves to be?
They define themselves as a racial and ethnic category, different from others, just in the way that our grandparents rejected Jewishness as a race during the Nazi era!! The fact that they may be parents, handicapped, gay, immigrants, vegetarians, ecologists, arms dealers, poets, Englishmen, opera buffs, doctors, all of this is totally insignificant before the self-categorisation as belonging to “The Jewish People”, even if one’s living situation is more clearly affected following a vegetarian regime than by lighting the candles on Hannukah, and therefore would affect one’s identity in a more indelible way, generally affecting the lives of those with whom they live and work. Obviously, in their minds, they themselves consider themselves part of a separate, special, particular group, that then has to have special, particular, separate treatment by everyone. In their minds, it also gives them a right to smear and defame, not feeling themselves in any way obligated to provide any evidence to support their destructive name-calling and attempts to defile, smear, ruin and obstruct the work one is doing. Being Jewish, in this case is also used as a plastic shield, where one can be spared the smear of being called an anti-Semite (self-hating is still kinda cute, heroic to a lot of them and brings about an idea that the poor person is suffering, has a conscience, rather than that he or she is a racist, montrous and irrational being. The self-hater can be helped, but the anti-Semite must be banned from discussion, and it is always the self-righteous Jew who is the first to label others in that way, regardless of it being true or false, like an old advert in Italy said, "basta la parola", The word is enough).
Living with this situation, the self-proclaimed Anti-Zionist Left Secular Jews feel they have a special right to express themselves on Jewish issues, and that others should be silenced. No, not expressing on necessarily religious issues, in fact, they rarely will go there, because as they themselves admit, besides the Neturei Karta, which they see as nutbars for some reason (even though the NK refuses the idea that Jews must “return” to Palestine, and for reasons that are really Jewish, in that they are based in a religious interpretation of the religious texts of the Jewish faith), their primary task is to be ready to defend all Jews of the world against people who they claim peddle anti-Semitism, a political issue, not a religious one, while at the same time, they decide who is allowed to express themselves on almost any issue having to do with Israel-Palestine, the Jewish Lobby, WWII, Zionism and Pan-Arabism and even the Jewish religion. The standard procedure we have seen with Ken Livingstone (get someone to declare he is anti-Semitic and then threaten and punish him, so that he serves as an example for all).
We see it in the Zionist sites and blogs, where you cannot post commentaries that challenge certain racist precepts and statements such as the West Bank Colonist Treppenwitz’s who (self-righteously) teaches his children that Palestinians are dangerous people, even though it breaks his (self-declared and certainly self-righteous) liberal heart. He decided to spam my mailbox with wishes for my violent death under the wheels of the IDF, which I passed on to others to witness. You can read them on Umkahlil’s blog. Judy, the London-based Israel cheerleader deletes the comments that challenge her neanderthal political analysis (“Palestinians are shameless in accepting Welfare from the West, they should get up off their duffs and start working like the rest of us” – failing to notice that it’s Israel that gets the lion’s share of the world’s Welfare.) Lisa Goldberg deletes my comments expressing that she should have reported to the Palestinian police the (alleged) film she (allegedly) saw of an (alleged) Palestinian assassination of an (alleged) collaborator. She gets feisty and calls me a troll for daring to challenge her to treat her own story as something serious. Nevermind that all the Palestinians I know who read it said that what she had quoted was almost impossible (that the man with the gun to his head would shout, “I want to make a last phone call,” and “Mom, I love you!”) When I tell her that it is indeed possible and auspicable to participate in the process of legal justice rather than telling second hand stories that then get embroidered and become urban legends, she sicks her squad on me to insult me as if I was committing some serious crime in calling upon her to act like a civil individual and assume responsiblility for the material she claims to be privvy to. I hate to tell her this, but I wasn’t born yesterday, and I know a thing or two about Hasbara, and planted stories are extremely common and seem to convince the pro-Israeli and moderate people without any kind of reflection. Often, they are subsequently demonstrated as manufactured.
Latest in the long series of (Self-)Righteous Jews is Mark Elf. His blog, obviously, only deals with Jewish issues, and that might be why it’s called Jews Sans Frontieres. He is really only interested in Jews, and that is his prerogative. My blog is interested in issues of peace, war and Palestine, it’s called Peacepalestine. I don’t have any problem with him being focussed on Jews, it’s where his interests and affiliations lie and at least he’s open about it. On the Just Peace UK list (famous, among other things, for promoting a picket of Gilad Atzmon and trying to get his act pulled from the SWP summer festival, both efforts dismal failures…. Somehow, most of the promoters just weren’t in town. I think Mark Elf had to leave early to pick up his kid, someone else who promoted it vocally was in Leeds, and others had excuses…. Never before in my life had I heard of leaving a picket before the object of contention was finished,and this event lasted an hour, nor of those who support a picket but do not participate, since a picket demands physical presence, but this doesn’t seem to phase them. I leave the reader to peruse the issue which was vastly covered both in this blog and in Elf’s as well as on the JPUK list.) But, what did someone (Roland Rance) try to do in JPUK for my “offensive” rejection of the protests? Tried to ban me from JPUK by creating a disgusting little poll, failing also in this dismally, because evidence of his accusations of me were obviously not forthcoming. I am generically “bad” and had opinions against the picket that were contrary to the other vocal seven, that should be enough! Off with her head!
So, where does that tie in to Mark Elf? Let’s be specific. Elf states that Engage, a Pro-Israel, anti-Boycott activist group, which he allows to comment on his blog, have moderated his own comments on theirs, (boo hoo and he must mention this in JPUK as a sign of ???what???). I had remarked that I myself was banned by Elf on his blog. Certainly, I can’t be considered pro-Israel. I have promoted Boycotts against Israel and also the Academic one together with Palestinian activists back before the AUT did (see this blog for interventions by Omar Barghouti) by translating the material in Italian and diffusing it, creating awareness and petitions and seeking the intervention of the Europarliamentarians of Italy, two of them committing themselves to spreading the material to their colleagues. I have organised boycotts of Jaffa fruits in my regional supermarkets and other concrete activities that I imagine are at the antipodes of those people of Engage who Elf hosts on his comments without any difficulties. (Why? You ask yourself! It is weird and almost incomprehensible without a leap of rational thought. It might be because I will not bother to discuss my own distancing from all ethnic criteria, -nobody’s business but my own- and my criticism of activists who use their ethnic, religious or national identity as the determining factor of their activism. I have learned that this is something that most of the Anti-Zionist Jews can’t abide, they stress again and again that they act as Jews and that their voice as Jews is what makes them more righteous, a better voice that people should take seriously, they tend to constantly consider the ethnic criteria and part of their activity is to “out” people as not really Jewish or to keep calling people Jewish who themselves say they are not. Defining others on the Jewish plotline is a very important activity, and evidently, there is a method to the madness). How did our Elf respond?
“I banned you for promoting anti-semitism and this list should do so as well but then perhaps they feel you act as a balancer to the likes of Eric Lee and Linda Grant. And since I have banned you I don't post comments to your blog. My point was that Engage people do still comment on my blog in spite of them banning me from theirs …. I'm not aware of using any info from you., in fact I avoid you like the plague because I think you (with Atzmon, Eisen and Shamir) are the plague.
Hope this clarifies things.”
Well well! “The Plague’s” response was not late in coming:
“Anti Semitism???? Where was I ever anti Semitic or promoting it, and you must be extremely specific since you go around raising such a slur against me.”
Of course, he seems to forget I cued him and Sue Blackwell that the blogger they were praising to the high heavens posted lengthy pieces supporting Shamir and Eisen. I mentioned to him that Eurabia was coined by Oriana Fallaci, I demonstrated that Martin Smith had forwarded me a letter from Moshe Machover declaring the opposite of what was quoted in a comment on Elf's blog… these comments were deleted, but the information of course was utilised in one way or another. In fact, Blackwell hightailed it to the blog in question to give the blogger a lecture in who is righteous and who is not. Yet, this is an unimportant side issue. Elf has to be consistent and honest with himself, not with me.
I’d like to see how Engage is not racist, how I am anti-Semitic, (of course, he has made further comments on the JPUK board about other arguments, but ignored my post, but I will continue to insist that he provide concrete evidence for his defamatory slur against me, he only has over 6000 posts on JPUK and the other Yahoo groups, 418 blog entries here and the comments on his blog to sort through), and how a group that supports Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish (exclusivist) State” is fine and dandy with him. He has no problem, evidently, with a group that insists that any activities that are designed to weaken Israel’s stranglehold on Palestinians and their power through peaceful economic means are anathema to them and must be contrasted. They are not the plague, even though their activities enable Israel and they are unabashedly Zionist.
Seems like our self-righteous little Elf has some explaining to do.