Thursday, September 28, 2006
Aharon Shabtai, the story of a damned poem by Najwan Darwish
An "Israeli" poet warbling outside the flock By: Najwan Darwish
Saturday 23 September 2006
"In the name of the beautiful books I read/
in the name of the kisses I kissed/
May the army be defeated."
"He is now working hard to quit "Israel" because of the oppression he and his wife, Tania Reinhardt, professor of linguistics in the Tel Aviv University, political thinker and supporter of academic divestment of Israeli universities, are exposed to."
"He does not form a movement in the "Israeli" political culture, which is overwhelmed by a colonialist and racist character, even in the leftist’s speech, which covers a great deal of falsification. He is not only a unique phenomenon, but he could be an exception that proves the Zionist rule..."
Aharon Shabtai who is considered one of the greatest poets in Hebrew, could not publish his latest poem against the war on Lebanon in any "Israeli" paper. He wrote this poem during the first week of the war. It is in the form of a prayer and supplication raised so that the occupation army may lose the war. The "Israeli" poet that warbles outside his flock condemned the last atrocity on Lebanon and declared in a press conference: "I wish that the army would lose the war; then and only then will we be wiser, more human, compassionate, and able to live with other peoples.
"This failure shall wash out the dirty military spot that stains our hearts."
Shabtai was born in Tel Aviv in 1939, and studied Greek culture and philosophy in the Hebrew University in occupied Jerusalem, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne. He taught Greek drama for many years in the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv. He is now working hard to quit "Israel" because of the oppression he and his wife, Tanya Reinhardt, professor of linguistics in the Tel Aviv University, political thinker and supporter of academic divestment of Israeli universities, are exposed to.
Shabtai has published 17 volumes of poems, in addition to his translations of Greek drama to Hebrew (about 25 pieces). He exceeds other Hebrew poets such as Natan Zakh and Yitzhak Laor who are considered to be leftists, in his political stances, criticism of the Zionist entity, and condemnations of its crimes. He even criticizes these colleagues of his, considering them and their like, because their political stances - "usually lack credibility," and he accuses them of incapability of turning words into deeds.
It is correct to say about Aharon Shabtai that he is warbling outside his flock - thus he does not form a movement in the "Israeli" political culture, which is overwhelmed by a colonialist and racist character, even in the leftists' speech, which covers up a great deal of falsification. He is not only a unique phenomenon: but he could be an exception that proves the Zionist rule... But besides his political stances, it is inevitable that the literary value of his work is ignored. Aharon Shabatai is a poet of a special character. His poetry is characterized by vitality and lively senses... The substance of his poetic world is personal in its basis; it reflects a lot of his daily life, expressions, and materia ls, even when he deals with a historical subject.
During the last few years, most of Shabatai’s work has been about his favorite subject: "Israeli" shame. He has repeated quite often, through his poetic and political activity, that he tries to protect his humanity "within a culture in which the level of racism is continuously on the rise". He does not hesitate to dub "Israeli" generals and politicians as Nazis. He severely criticizes himself when remembering his past life, when he was living as an "ordinary citizen," not comprehending the magnanimity of his state’s crimes, "I was blind" he says with anger and regret that usually accompanies the complex of guilt.
Haaretz daily refused to publish Shabtai’s poem about the last assault, while it already had published his direct political and pungent poems in its cultural supplement, which at the time aroused a severe campaign instigated by extremist "Israelis". But this time, the repressive environment awaits the publishing of its Arabic translation before publishing it in any "Israeli" paper:
"In the name of the beautiful books I read/
in the name of the kisses I kissed/
May the army be defeated."
The poet writes about the cruelty of the "Israeli" war machine, the machine that had never harvested except the innocent and unarmed civilians in Lebanon. He sided with peace and the victim:
"In time of war/
I side with the villages/
with the mosques/
in this war/
I side with the Shiite family/
with Sour (Tyre)/
with the mother/
with the grandfather/
with the eight kids in the mini van/
with the white silken headscarf".
Translated by: Adib S. Kawar
"Action is the life of all and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing." -Gerrard Winstanley
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Remi Kanazi - CALLING ALL POETS!
Our goal is to bring together poets, spoken word artists, hip hop artists, Palestinians, Arabs, Jews, Americans and all those who choose to raise their voice for humanity and justice. In addition to its written works, Poets for Palestine will feature art created by Palestinians artists from the Occupied Territories and throughout the world.
The book will primarily focus on issues pertaining to Palestine. We are, however, accepting poems on related subjects (i.e. Lebanon and Iraq).
Whether submitting to Poets for Palestine or taking interest in various other cultural events, film festivals or literary projects, now is not a time to be complacent, but instead one to proactively fight for those seeking a homeland, peace, stability and a dream of their own design.
The deadline for submissions is November 10, 2006. Submissions can be emailed to Poets4Palestine@gmail.com or mailed to P.O. Box 255 New York, NY 10013. Please do not submit more than 5 poems as we will be considering a large volume of work.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Gilad Atzmon - Kebab Philosophy
Five years of intense war against terror and Britain is far from becoming Islamophobic to the degree that Blair and his Zionist friends would have expected it to. Five years of Anglo-American war against Islam, it is actually British Jews who insist that there has been an alarming increase in Anti-Jewish feelings. More than one year after 7/7 the British public keeps refusing to endorse Blair’s distinction between ‘reactionary Islam’ and a ‘good’ kind.
Though the British Government, the Home Office and the security forces do everything they can to split the British society by spreading fear, maintaining intense pressure on British Muslims through legislation, raids, and the creation of some phantasmic terror alerts, the British people remain totally apathetic to Blair’s call. If anything, the Brits are now convinced that there is something wrong with Blair and that he is actually the dangerous one. They want Blair out of the picture. Interestingly enough, it was Blair’s fateful support of Israel’s murderous attack against the Lebanese people that happened to be the last nail in the Prime Minister’s coffin.
One may ask why the Brits fail to follow their Ziophilic PM.
Kebab is my answer, as simple as that. In the wee small hours, all you can eat in Britain is Kebab: Chicken Shish, Lamb Shish, Lamb Doner, Chicken Doner and Shwarma. Seemingly, it is at the Kebab places as well as small corner shops where Brits encounter the Muslim community. In most places it is a young Mediterranean or Asian male with a foreign accent who is there to take care of one’s needs. Medium or Large? He will ask, salad? Garlic sauce, chili sauce?
It isn’t a secret anymore, merging into Britain is assimilating into its cuisine. Balti cuisine is now ‘Britain’s National Dish’. Kebab is on the verge of replacing the old Fish and Chips shops all over the country. Gefilte Fish, how to say it, is still foreign terminology in English. You may find it on Israeli imported tins at the Kosher section at Tesco and M&S or in NW London but nowhere else.
Kebab, on the other hand, is now scattered all over Britain. You will find it in every high street. If you happen to visit a Kebab shop located in an Arab-populated quarter such as Edgware Road, you may even be lucky enough to get invited for a Shisha session. And this is basically it. Once you have had your Kebab settling in your belly, your mind embraces the Orient. It has actually nothing to do with the taste or the nutritional value of Kebab. It is actually the outcome of a fundamental metaphysical principal: ‘human beings happen to trust people who put food on their table’. You don’t trust, you don’t eat. And this is something that even Tony Blair hasn’t managed to change.
Ok, you may think to yourself, this explains why the British failed to follow Blair’s Islamophobic agenda, yet, it doesn’t explain the alleged ‘rise of Anti-Semitism’ .
Although British Gentiles do not rush to Blooms en masse, one may have to admit that in the wee small hours, Golders Green, the official London shtetle, is indeed buzzing. It is open for visitors. More than a few Jewish bakeries and bagel machers are selling their goodies. Yet, it is mainly members of the Jewish community who you find there. Unlike Edgware Road that has already become London’s No 1 late night cultural melting pot where everybody is hanging out either in Ranush, Maroush or Al-Dar, Golders Green is a Kosher social setting. If you happen to stop at Karmeli for a Burekas or a rogalah, the only people you meet there are big men with skullcaps hanging around with their Kosherly dressed spouses. Goyim do not feel welcomed at Karmeli, Tabun, Blooms or in any of the other Kosher delis around.
One may ask oneself where the Brits meet their Jewish fellow countrymen. Like in the case of Muslims, they probably meet them in very many places. In the arts, in the music business, in academia, in the hospital, in the market, in the financial world. The Brits meet many Jews and Muslims without even being aware of it. Yet the more interesting question to be asked is where Britons meet the ‘stereotypical Jew’.
First they meet him in the press, mostly in the shape of Zionists who happen to be the loudest (obviously) supporters of Blair’s criminal wars. The Zionist, a politically orientated Jew, insists upon presenting a phoney argument for violence in the name of humanism and democracy. He would advocate killing in the name of world peace. In short, he is the Neocon Ambassador to the UK. Considering the emerging colossal defeat in the War Against Terror as well as that in Iraq, it is rather obvious that some Jews are now regretting the early war mongering by their ideologically motivated brothers. Yet, it is exactly this initial manifested support for the war that makes Jews feel so unsafe in Britain at the very moment.
But obviously it isn’t the press alone, in fact the Brits have a clear image of the ‘stereotypical Jew’. ‘The Jew’ is by now an image of a very gifted, shrewd and skilled man. ‘The Jew’ is the one you need when you consider buying a new home but lack the necessary funds to do so. ‘The Jew’ is the one you need to speak to when you seek a mortgage broker who knows how to ‘build a financial portfolio’ and ‘curve the sharp corners’. When the Briton needs to sort out his inland revenue bill, it is again ‘The Jew’ accountant that at least stereotypically, does it better than anyone else. When the Brit needs some legal aid it is again ‘the Jew’ who possesses the reputation for the most appropriate qualities.
At least stereotypically, ‘the Jew’ is there to do the things the Briton hesitates doing on his own. Surely this shouldn’t be a problem. 'The Jew’ has an established role in British society. He is there to trace the legal loopholes, to teach you how to save on your taxes, how to work less and earn more. He’s there to set up your ‘off-shore bank accounts’, to help you win a legal case even when you yourself aren’t so sure you deserve such a victory. Stereotypically at least, ‘the Jew’ is the ultimate in shrewdness and this is exactly where the Jewish modern tragedy starts. The better the job ‘the Jew’ is doing on your behalf, the less highly you think of him as a fellow human being. The more successful he is at winning your case, the less trustworthy he becomes. The better he serves you, the less you want him to be your friend.
Once the Britons had been pulled into the Zionist inflicted Judeo-Islamic conflict and were asked to take sides, it was the Kebab boy rather than the accountant who happened to win their hearts. Seemingly, it is the young struggling foreign man, who unpretentiously makes a living that finds his way, accepted into British society, while modern ‘Nathan The Wise’ is fading into an inevitable social detachment.
But ‘Kebab philosophy’ doesn’t stop there, it goes at least one step further: It is an established fact that Britons are basically a bunch of devoted holiday makers. What they really love is just to fly away. They love to be close to the sun and as far away as they can from ‘London’s congestion charge’. But in order to do so, they first have to visit the airport terminal. Once in the terminal already on their way to the Duty Free, the Brits are stripped of their drinks and they are asked to take off their shoes as well. It occurred to me a few days ago, that just their holding their shoes in their hands, stripped of alcohol, marching triumphantly and cheerfully in stocking feet, the Brits resemble Muslims entering a mosque in Kabul, Baghdad or anywhere else. No doubt, due to their PM’s recent wave of colonial Zio-centric zeal, the Britons are now adopting some deep and meaningful Muslim rituals. But how to say it, while Muslims take off their shoes out of respect to Allah, the Brits take theirs off out of respect to Bin Laden, Al Qaeda or any other CIA fictional terror network. What can I say? I better confess, Tony, if this is what you had in mind, you may have been on the right track all the way through. If this is indeed the case we may ask you to stay in office forever.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Gilad Atzmon - Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder-A Glimpse Into Israeli Collective Psychosis
While many may find it heartening or amusing that even an Israeli right winger cannot see a ray of light at the end of the Zionist tunnel, it is rather disconcerting to read that Israelis are already seriously contemplating their next Shoah. I would argue here that it is exactly this form of deadly meditation that turns Israel, Israelis, global Zionists and Neocons into the gravest enemies of world peace.
Indeed, a growing number of people want to see an end to Israel, the ‘Jew Only State’. Yet, no one around expresses any murderous or terminal plans against world Jewry or even against their Jewish State. No one in the political or the media spheres is calling for a homicidal act against the Jews or their Jewish State. Thus the well-established Judeocentric tendency to interpret almost any legitimate political and ideological criticism as a perpetration of an upcoming Judeocide should be comprehended as a severe form of paranoia verging on collective psychosis, which I define as Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Pre-TSD).
Within the condition of the Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the stress is the outcome of a phantasmic event, an imaginary episode set in the future; an event that has never taken place. Unlike the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in which stress comes as the direct reaction to an event that (may) have taken place in the past, within the state of Pre-TSD, the stress is the clearly the outcome of an imaginary potential event. Within the Pre-TSD, an illusion pre-empts reality and the condition in which the fantasy of terror is focussed is itself becoming grave reality. If it is taken to extremes, even an agenda of total war against the rest of the world is not an unthinkable reaction.
One may wonder at this stage whether Pre-TSD is just another name for paranoia. I would argue that the difference between the two is rather obvious. In the case of paranoia he who is subject to the disease makes us feel sorry for him. In the case of confrontation with a Pre-TSD case, we happen to feel sorry for ourselves. Unlike the case of paranoia wherein the sufferer is subject to his own symptoms, in the case of Pre-TSD the sufferer actually celebrates his symptoms while others are left with the role of the audience. Regarding paranoia, we can clearly point out that the sufferer is deluded and captured within a phantasmic universe. Concerning Pre-TSD, the ‘supposedly healthy’, are ‘not so sure’, they too manage to lose the grip of reality. More than once we end up believing the Pre-TSD sufferer when he claims that he is indeed a victim of a ‘future phantasmic crime’. We somehow happen to participate in the fantasy. However, we are the addressees as long as we remain silent. Once we raise our voices, once we point out that the future crime is yet to happen and actually may never happen, we then immediately become part the crime ourselves.
Projection and Pre-TSD
"We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon. …What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," (the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/761781.html)
Let us face it once and for all. Since no one voices a call to throw the Israelis into the sea or to nuke them instead, one is entitled to argue that the Israeli inclination to blame Muslims and Arabs for holding such murderous tendencies themselves must be understood in terms of projection. The people who rained Lebanon with ‘more than a million cluster bombs’ are projecting their murderous zeal onto their victims and even onto their victims to come.
Sheleg, for instance, throws his own malicious tendencies onto the Muslim world and Iran in particular. Sheleg, being a devoted Zionist who advocates violent measures against almost anyone who fails to be a Jew, is doomed to project his own murderous zeal when referring to Arabs and Muslims. Obviously Sheleg is not alone; the American Jewish Committee (AJC) is doing exactly the same thing. In a recent PR campaign it warned Europe of Iran’s long-range missiles. Obviously within their phantasmic Judeocentric universe, a global war against Islam is a ‘Judeo-Christian interest’. However, Europeans tend to laugh once confronted with the AJC’s embarrassingly aggressive ideology. Europeans are obviously not afraid of Iran at all. Unlike the Jewish American Committee members who happen to promote violence, the Europeans fantasise over peace; seemingly Europeans have had enough wars (clearly AJC didn’t have enough yet….). Europeans also realise that as long as they do not harm Iran, Iran’s ballistic capability is totally irrelevant to their security. In other words, Europeans fail to regard Iran as a murderous entity just because unlike the AJC, Europeans are not murderous to start with. Because they aren’t murderers, they simply fail to see murderers in others. The Europeans lack the necessary aggressive zeal, which the AJC are overwhelmingly saturated with. This is exactly where a growing abyss is emerging between the Zionist’s utterly phantasmic bloodthirsty universe and the rest of Humanity.
Who needs a Nuclear Arsenal, (Aren’t Katyusha Rockets just more than enough)?
The general mood in Israel, which is expressed so eloquently by Sheleg and reflected in the AJC catastrophic scenario, reveals a severe collective form of Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Israelis and their supportive lobbies are contemplating publicly over their Nuclear Shoah to come. This pathological mode is rather bizarre considering the fact that the bold Hezbollah has managed to defeat the mighty Israeli army just with light weaponry. It also managed to defeat the Israeli society with nothing more than short-range Katyusha rockets. In fact, the enemy of Israel does not need to ‘nuke Israel’, all they have to do is just to send a message to the Jews of the world: Israel is anything but a shelter. By doing so they confront Israelis with the following realisation: once again you have failed in the ‘love your neighbours’ test. This is what Arab resistance is all about. It is a metaphysical message rather than a call for a Judeocide.
However, the Israelis somehow fail to read the message on the wall. Rather than looking at the mirror and spotting out their obvious faults that have already matured into severe moral bankruptcy, the Israelis prefer total submission to the materialist fantasy of Nuclear Judeocide. Rather than thinking in ethical terms, the Israelis surrender to the shallowest materialist discourse solely centred on ‘the destruction of the I’. The Israelis have succumbed to an imaginary phantasmic Shoah in which they are nuked on a daily basis. Worryingly enough, the Israelis are not alone, insofar as worrying of an illusionary terror is concerned, Blair and Bush are infected with the very same mental disease.
Repeatedly, Sheleg, the AJC and Bush refer murderous tendencies to the Iranian president but is this indeed the case? Do they have a case? Has the Iranian president ever spoken of destruction of the Jewish people, the Israelis, or anyone else?
Let us confront the obvious fact. President Ahmadinejad certainly said that Israel should be ‘wiped off the Map’. However, the president has never said that Jews as people should be murdered. He was clearly referring to Israel, the racist ‘Jew Only State’. This is a legitimate criticism as much as criticism of Apartheid South Africa was justifiable. But Ahmadinejad doesn’t stop there, he elaborates on the issue. Cleverly and rather reasonably, he challenges the West:
"If you (the West) have burned the Jews, why don't you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel?… Our question is; if you have committed this huge crime, why should the innocent nation of Palestine pay for this crime?"
This is indeed a most appropriate question to be asked and yet, there is not a single hint that this man has any plans to annihilate the Jews or their State. If anything, Ahmadinejad does his best to find the Jews a new home. Clearly, the Zionist dream of a Jewish settlement in the Holy Land turned into a grave disaster. And it is Ahmadinejad who is already pointing out that the wanderers may have to Schlep again. May I suggest that a glimpse into the endless queue list of Israeli citizens who are now reclaiming Polish and other EU citizenship reveals that a growing number of Israelis already internalised the idea that Schlepping is probably the next phase of their Jewish existence.
The Real Axis of Evil
Reading Sheleg’s op-ed in Haaretz, one may wonder, “who exactly contemplates the liquidation of the Jewish State?” It is obviously clear that Iran plans to join the nuclear club. However, even if Iran intends upon developing an arsenal of deadly nuclear weapons, surely it won’t be the first in the region. It would just follow the Jewish State, a State that proved beyond doubt that the killing of innocent civilians happens to be its favourite practice. Thus, the Israeli as well as Zio-centric fear of Iranian nuclear aggression must be realised as nothing but projection. Since Israel is engaged on a daily basis in the killing of innocent civilians, Israelis and Zionists are doomed to interpret others’ behaviour as a murderous inclination.
This is indeed very sad but far from being unique. The case of America’s Cold War paranoia is not that different from the case of Israel. Since America was the first and so far, the only country to use the atomic bomb against other people, it was the Americans who were actually caught in a cold war Pre-TSD. They simply projected their collective murderous tendencies onto the Soviets. It goes without mentioning, that unlike the Americans, the ‘Communists’ have never dropped an atomic bomb on anyone nor it seems had they ever considered such an act. Somehow, it becomes clear that the more cruel one is, the more subjected to terror one is. Moreover, the more cruel practices a nation is engaged with, the more subjected to the politics of fear the nation would be. This simple formula may throw some light over the emerging bond between America and Israel. Applying some devious expansionist tactics, the two countries are sinking into dark deadly thought on the verge of collective paranoia. This collective paranoia maintains the hegemony of the one and only axis of evil around: i.e., Global Zionism and Neocons.
A comic Relief
The following is a Jewish Telegram:
‘begin worrying, details to follow’
The joke above is actually older than Israel, it is probably as old as the telegraph itself. In fact, it refers a devastating reality in which the dialectic of fear is dominating the Jewish existence as well as mindset. Seemingly, fright has been exploited politically by Jewish ethnic leaders since the early days of emancipation. It is possible that within the process of Jewish secularisation and emancipation initiated by enlightenment and the French Revolution, fear of imaginary phantasmic reality replaced the fright of the almighty evil God, the God that kills without grace and mercy, the very God of Sodom and Gomorrah. If this is indeed the case, ‘fear’ should be realised as the modern Jewish God and the Pre-TSD is better seen as the modern Jewish practice. The Judification of Blair and Bush can be realised as the emergence of the ‘Politics of Fear’. Seemingly, this very political practice is very successful in America but it proved to be a total failure in the UK.
However, Pre-TSD is not an Israeli invention at all. Jewish opinion leaders as well as ethnic campaigners were specialising in maintaining Jewish anxiety a long time before Israel came about. Early Zionists were very effective in terrorizing their brothers. Herzl was foolishly inspired by the Dreyfus case (as Lenni Brenner points out, Herzl failed to understand the meaning of the case and its implications. In fact, Dreyfus’s vindication proves that French people and French Jews won in their fight against Anti-Semitism and xenophobia). Other early Zionists were stimulated by some East European anti-Jewish riots and pogroms. In general, Zionism can be realised as an urge to formulate a general political agenda based on self-inflicting fright. This is probably why Zionism must maintain terror in order to sustain its power. It is evident that Bush and the Neocons use exactly the same tactic.
May I suggest at this point that it is rather possible that more than one world leader is alarmed by the Iranian atomic program not because they are afraid of Iranian aggression but rather because by now, they are all aware of the Israeli collective psychosis. Without knowing about Pre-TSD, Western leaders do grasp that Israel would not hesitate to initiate a nuclear war as much as it didn’t hesitate to cover Lebanese cities with more than one million cluster bombs. A country that can destroy its neighbour and turn one-third of its citizens into homeless people just for 2 POWs is basically capable of anything.
I am not a psychiatrist, I am not even a practicing psychoanalyst, I do not know whether there is an analyst couch big enough to accommodate the entire Israeli people and their many global Zionist brothers. I am not so sure whether there is a professional around who can take care and help the Israelis to deal with their current Pre-TSD phase. I don’t even know whether the Israelis would take the advise of a shrink. All I myself do is merely suggest a diagnosing of a rather severe malaise. While many of us are convinced that Israel’s behaviour is the outcome of moral bankruptcy, I insist that the Israeli identity is emerging as a pathological psychotic case. The moral bankruptcy, thus, is a mere symptom of a deeply concerning mental disorder.
Being in a psychotic state, the Israelis indeed enjoy their symptoms, from us they just need some brief attention. They basically need our approval. When they flatten southern Beirut, their spokesman insisted upon convincing us that it was actually a Western sacred war that they were fighting. They really wanted us to believe that they have done it all for our behalf and in our name. We may have to admit that except two democratically elected Pre-TSD cases (Bush & Blair) who approved the Israeli atrocities, the rest of humanity who was watching the emerging carnage in Beirut sensed some clear growing detestation towards the Jewish State and the entire Zionist adventure.
For those who still fail to see it, we are dealing here with a severe mad case of a State that is reaching the very peak of its collective psychotic phase. For those who tend to forget, this mentally disordered national entity possesses a vast nuclear arsenal, and it has its belly full of deadly intentions. We are horrified and so we should be. We can see them bullying the entire Middle East. We are encircled by their merciless hedonism and self-righteousness and there is very little for us to do except pray for divine intervention.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
"The Lemon Tree" by Sandy Tolan
Our beliefs and any actions we might take regarding the conflict are influenced by the version of the story that was made available to us, often without our being aware of how simple it is to distort facts, and usually out of good faith, we in the West have accepted almost entirely the veracity of the version that is dominant in our society. Not going into all the reasons behind the monolithic embracing of the Israeli narrative, we Westerners are only now beginning to see the holes in the thesis that Israel is the home of the “good guys”; that it is just a small, weak country formed from Holocaust survivors who had built an island of democracy and sanity in a sea of blind Arab anger. In part, this is the effect of identification with those who we perceive to be similar to us and who we think share our same values. Perhaps we never took the time to look at the conflicting versions of the same events and stopped to ask ourselves why the narratives are so dramatically different. It boils down to a question of ignorance or indifference. It is possible that the key to coming to a resolution of the conflict will only happen when we are able to suspend our “automatic affiliations” and look objectively at what has actually taken place.
Let’s work at eliminating the bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors. Let’s blow away the fog of catchy phrases that have substituted reality and let’s actually begin to view the events as they have unfolded. Doing this, we will soon realise that this conflict is not mysterious, endless and irresolvable. It is much simpler than what we have been led to believe. First, it is not a religious war. Second, the populations involved are not simply acting out a script drawn up for them by the inevitable hand of destiny. These people can act as individuals, can change their reality in some way, and society itself can be changed by their will and actions.
Most importantly, there are not two histories, there is only what actually took place. The history of Palestine-Israel can be traced in a series of events that has been documented unlike few other national histories. There are thousands upon thousands of eyewitness accounts and an impressive body of tangible evidence and proofs that repeat over and over again the many events that have shaped the Middle East. What is striking is the fact that while on the Palestinian side the events have never been forgotten, in fact, it is uncanny how closely they mirror the bulk of the forensic evidence, and on the Israeli side, these event have been obscured, denied or deformed by the entire society. Most Israelis (admittedly) know nothing of the events that see Israel in the role of the aggressor, and they seem to ignore what life is like for the Palestinians their own State controls. Any Palestinian aggression is interpreted as coming out of a vacuum, from the irrational hatred they believe Arabs have towards Jews. This deception is at the core of the incomprehension. It is quite amazing to hear how so many Israelis claim that they have “always” been against the occupation (of Gaza and the West Bank), even though perhaps a few years ago they may “always” have been convinced that occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank and creating major settlements was a necessity in order to create a buffer zone for security purposes. It’s not inconceivable to imagine that one day Israelis might take a look around them and say that they “never” felt threatened by the Palestinian Right of Return, and that they “always” thought that living in a unified, democratic State together with the Palestinians was the only just solution to satisfy the equal and conflicting claims.
If that thought is going slightly too far, at least in the meantime we have a book that goes farther than most in presenting an accurate history of Palestine-Israel to a general public. Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree is a very good work of intelligent journalism. Due to its original format, I believe it is an important book that can give a deeper awareness to anyone who wishes to gain deeper understanding of the problem and a hope that there is indeed an acceptable solution.
The Lemon Tree tells the true story of a Palestinian family and their vicissitudes following the creation of the State of Israel. It also tells the true story of a Bulgarian family that inhabited the house the original owners were forced to leave. The focus on the human aspect offers refreshing insights into the depth of feeling that the “other” possesses. The perspective of viewing the same events through very diverse pairs of eyes is an effective one. Rather than take away a sense of “objectivity”, seeing the two narratives side by side increases our comprehension of the events themselves and clearly illustrates how people are affected by all that happens around them, and consequently, have the reactions they do. The humanity of the protagonists allows us to come near to their fears, desires and beliefs. It need not imply a sacrifice of historical accuracy.
The author’s attempts to present the episodes in a readable narrative are quite successful. It is not long before we start to know and care about the details that were important to the people he presents to us. The intensity of some feelings and the importance of symbols are tangible. The individual and collective memories are never obscure or irrelevant matters; they are central to the issue.
The history of the conflict is condensed in the clearest of manners, which would be extremely useful to the neophyte. The author presents the information without weighing the reader down in minutiae which risks interrupting the flow of the narrative. In fact, there is not a single footnote in the text itself, but even the smallest of details has been checked for accuracy. All of the information is contained in a 70-page-long appendix in fine-print (which in itself makes for fascinating reading) and an extensive bibliography, which touches practically every important text written on the subject. What is extraordinary is that in a user-friendly format, all the noteworthy events are mentioned. The political scenario, population movements, military operations, assassinations, acts of terrorism, summits, legal aspects and so forth are presented with extreme clarity and precision. Little to nothing has been left out, so the reader is allowed to consider historical events in their context. There is a segment on the Clinton-Arafat-Barak talks that is extremely interesting, with details that are fascinating, fully verified and quite surprising. Tolan’s presentation of this event is the best I have yet read and it alone makes the book a very useful document.
The leitmotif of the book is a sentiment of nostalgia. There is no denying that the love of the homeland is sincere. There is the pain of separation from beloved landscapes that is evident even in the pining that the Bulgarian mother expresses for Bulgaria, there is a longing for the clock to turn itself back.
The main protagonists, Dalia Eshkenazi Landau and Bashir Khairi agree that the time has come for their people to be liberated. Bashir, like 40% of the male Palestinian population, has been imprisoned many times in Israeli jails, often without charge. Each time, it did little more than reinforce his sense of the injustice that his people was undergoing and further the love of his land. Dalia realises that it is unfair that the Palestinians were forced to leave their land and homes so that Jews could move in. She wishes to return the home she grew up in to its original owners, but the law of Israel forbids her from doing so. She too is trapped in the paradigm of two peoples forced to live separated but whose blood was pumping from the same heart. This leads to the reflection as to whether the Israelis, in denying the Palestinians their possessions, right and self-determination have obtained what they wanted for themselves. They live neither in peace or security. Dalia recognises and feels responsibility for many of the crimes that were committed to allow the creation of the Jewish State, yet, oddly enough, she remains a dedicated Zionist. She acknowledges the injustice, and wishes personally to make reparations, but she does not feel that it is appropriate to extend that request to others to do the same.
Bashir, a lawyer, is aware that the demands made by the Palestinian people to the Israeli State are steeped in legitimacy and are supported by international law. The book has the merit of presenting to the public at large two concepts that are all but unheard of outside those who closely follow the issue: the Right of Return and the concept of a single democratic State that is home to all the people laying claim to Palestine-Israel as their homeland, be they Jew or Palestinian. Bashir, like most Palestinians, including most prominent ones, believes that exchange is not an option. There may never be a truly fair and equitable solution that will do justice to those who have suffered, but a viable solution that will allow the two populations to coexist in the place they consider home is an idea to consider before giving up all hope. Dalia mentioned the story of King Solomon where she stresses that the true mother surrenders her baby. I personally always wondered if the king was so wise in even proposing such a thing; the true mother could very well have allowed the sword to sever the baby in two, simply to not permit the other from raising the child. We all know maternal instincts are far from automatic. If using this metaphor, we can draw only one conclusion, that at any rate, no baby survives if he or she is severed. The Holy Land, the Homeland, the Promised Land, under whatever term it is considered, can only survive if no one dares sever her in pieces. Since no one is willing to abandon her, sharing her is the only option. May the wise king rest in peace.
Dalia admits that Israelis are raised to be suspicious of Arabs. As a matter of fact, unlike most others in her place may have done, as a teenager she welcomed Bashir into her home without hesitation. She does not like to come off as a “good” Israeli, yet she realises that Palestinians have only known the Israeli as the oppressor and usurper. Despite the fact that she agrees with the interpretation of most of the events, she still refuses the moral solution of the Right of Return or even of a unified State. She is not critical of Zionism, and she does not see it as an oppressive force. I cannot figure out a single valid reason why she maintains that there is something good about Zionism, when the results of it are before our very eyes. Taking the land of Zion from another people is simply unethical and it allows a vision of colonialism to be masked as a demographic solution to a humanitarian problem. The enormous ethical and practical problems inherent in it were contemplated even in the days when it was not practiced but merely theorised, and no cultural Zionism has ever been possible, grounded as it is in the realpolitik of populating a land already inhabited by another group of people. Yet, her gesture is coming from a good place, her humanity, and perhaps that is the place we have to keep looking if we want to see a change in heart that will bring about a change in practice.
For more information or to order the book, http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/Authors/microsite.asp?id=1139&cf=0
PRIVATE: a Must See Film
I finally saw it, after having read about it and written about the vicissitudes of the film itself: winner of international festivals and selected by the Italian jury as the film they wanted to represent Italy at last year's Oscars, but elmininated from the running because "not filmed in Italian". It stood up to all of my expectations and then some.
Brilliantly written and directed and having a cast of actors who were utterly convincing in their roles, where a drama that pulls the nerves to their limits leaves space for deep sensitivity to the psychological states of all the characters would demand extraordinary talent and naturalnes. Each character is developed in his or her contradictions and complexity, merit of an airtight screenplay and the conviction of those who participated that what they were doing was real. The actors were all Israelis and Palestinians, obviously, drawing from their own feelings and experiences to make the film look almost like a documentary, even though I believe it was inspired by Italian Neorealism.
The film tells the story of a Palestinian family whose home is occupied by the Israeli Army because it is considered to be a good outpost. The tension of the situation, and the human implications of the bigger picture are palpable. And, what is worse, this story is true, and it is a common occurence. Not a single one of us would tolerate such a situation for ten minutes, and therefore, we can't help but feel the injustice of it all.
For Israeli apologists, it would be a good film for them to see how the IDF works, what it actually does in a real life setting, and to consider if this is something that should be permitted and in any way justified. This is not an extreme case, unfortunately.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
And I didn’t speak up – Gilad Atzmon
They first came for the Holocaust Deniers and I didn't speak up; though I suspect many of their Holocaust tales, denial was just too exhausting at the time.
Then they came for the Jewish self-haters, and I didn't speak up; despite the fact that I do not like myself that much, I just wasn’t Jewish enough to protest.
Then they came for the ordinary Anti-Zionists, and I didn't speak up; while I hate Israel to the bone I just wasn’t that ordinary about it all.
Then they came for me but I wasn’t at home so they went for the dog.
Saturday, September 9, 2006
Saul Landau - Israel makes some American Jews irrational
Like other progressive Jewish friends, a retired psychology professor justified the invasion of Gaza and then Lebanon. “Israel fights terrorism to meet its legitimate security needs,” she stated -- a simple fact. This sadly included routine attacks against civilians in Lebanon and even depriving the Palestinians in Gaza of food and water. “They had to do it. How do you fight fanatics?” she said, sadly but firmly.
She used “fanatics” as code for members of Hamas and Hezbollah. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, “should be killed so that Israel could enjoy some peace. Look at how many good Jewish people have died,” she said, referring to Israeli civilians and soldiers -- some were Israeli Arabs -- who perished during the war against Lebanon.
In the 1960s and 70s, this woman marched for civil rights and protested against the Vietnam War. She still thinks of Cuba as a progressive place and opposed Bush’s Iraq War. But on Israel, she applies different criteria. “Why should Israelis suffer because of extremists, like Hezbollah and Hamas?”
And the suffering Israel imposed on Palestinians? I asked. Each month residents of Gaza die from Israeli violence at the rate Israelis die from opposing force every two decades.
“Too bad they have to suffer. They refused good chances repeatedly. Look how they rejected peace at Camp David, referring to the “generous” offer by Ehud Barak in July 2000.”
In several versions of events at that summit, presided over by Bill Clinton, all agree that Israeli and American negotiators offered Arafat a Palestinian state based on Israel turning over more than 90% of West Bank land to the Palestinians along with Gaza and a land passage between the two. Israel would have pulled out of 63 settlements. The agreement allegedly called for Arab East Jerusalem to become the new capital. Refugees would have the right of return to Palestine, and would receive reparations from a large international fund. Arafat would concede Israeli sovereignty over the religiously important parts of the Western Wall.
Arafat refused the offer, but had no counterproposal. Clinton pushed, indicating that Arafat’s silence indicated “you, the Palestinians, did not come to this summit with sincere intentions.” Rob Malley, Clinton’s adviser who attended the meeting, claimed “Barak was eager for a deal, wanted it achieved during Clinton’s term in office, and had surrounded himself with some of Israel's most peace-minded politicians.” Clinton blamed Arafat for the summit’s failure. A subsequent non-written Clinton plan, to which Barak agreed, fell apart just before Clinton left office in January 2001 when Arafat objected to Israeli control of parts of the Western Wall. Soon after, Sharon replaced Barak as Prime Minister. Arafat gave the nod to violence as a Palestinian strategy, thus freezing negotiations. Three days before Clinton left office, Arafat supposedly said “you are a great man.” “The hell I am,” Clinton said he responded. “I’m a colossal failure, and you made me one.” (Ma’ariv, April 6, 2001)
Arafat’s failures as a leader do not explain why Israelis think that violence will prevail after decades of failing to win peace and security through that tactic. Why would Palestinians in Hamas and Lebanese in Hezbollah change their minds because Israel bombs them? After all, from 1948 on Israelis drove Palestinians from their homes and destroyed their villages. Now, their angry kids and grandkids, whose numbers have multiplied, confront Israel.
“Israel,” my professor friend averred, “is a democracy. That separates it from those other regimes.” She, like Progressive Zionists in Israel and the United States, believe that Israel must survive both as a “Jewish state” and as a democracy.
Zionism as an ideology brought Jews back into the mainstream of world history. Ironically, many of the leaders of the movement to create a Jewish state were also atheists, who did not think initially that orthodox Jews, whom they sneered at socially, would play a heavy role in determining the contours of the Jewish state. Some Israeli founders, socialists and humanists believed that Jews and Palestinians could live together in a Jewish state. But if the one person one vote rule applies, the future of a Jewish state will face the fact that Arabs outnumber Jews.
Israel has responded to the growing Arab birth rate by luring Jews -- including lots of Russians, whose “Jewishness” appeared somewhat dubious. They tried to “settle” them in the occupied territories. Some Orthodox rabbis even sanctioned the recruitment and conversion of descendents of Peruvian Incas who were transported to the West Bank and recruited into the IDF. Some of this “settling” followed the Oslo Accords of the mid 1990s, which at least in spirit vitiated against such encroachments on Palestinian land.
This expansion process led to an increased role for the military -- to protect the new enclaves. More Palestinians had to move, and more holes grew in the shrinking and non-contiguous Palestinian territory. Militant and ultra right sects, frustrated over Israel’s inability to force the remaining Palestinians out, became violent.
In 2004, a group of the late Rabbi Meyer Kahane’s followers, linked to the Jewish Defense League in the United States, assaulted Arabs trying to harvest their olive crops. When John Ross and others volunteered as peaceful witnesses to try to deter the attacks, a gang of thugs wearing skull caps descended on him and beat him so badly he had to go to the hospital for a week. Ross protested at them “beating an old Jewish man.” They called him “traitor” as they brought their baseball bats down on his body.
In 1984, the “scholarly” equivalent of such thuggery emerged in Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine. Palestinians never existed, she asserted. Those who call themselves by that name are recent immigrants, she argued. The book became a big seller and received rave reviews from the New York Times and Washington Post and from noted authors like Saul Bellow, Barbara Tuchman and Elie Wiesel.
Noam Chomsky concluded that the Peters book justified Israel eliminating Palestinians from the area because it would raise “no moral issue, because they're just recent immigrants who came in because the Jews had built up the country.” (Understanding Power, 2002)
Norman Finkelstein, then a graduate student at Princeton, read the book, checked Peters’ sources and then accused her of perpetrating a fraud. In Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995), Finkelstein used Peters’ own sources to show how she had fabricated and distorted the evidence.
In England, Paul Blair (April 20, 2002) also refuted the Peters thesis, “that the land was empty when the Jews arrived and that the Palestinians are recent arrivals.”
Blair called From Time Immemorial a “work of propaganda, with all the bad connotations that term carries ... distortion and fabrication... She cribs uncritically from partisan works. She conceals crucial calculations, and draws hard conclusions from tenuous evidence. She speculates wildly and without ground. She exaggerates figures and selects numbers to suit her thesis. She adduces evidence that in no way supports her claims, sometimes even omitting "inconvenient" portions of the citation... She "forgets" undesirable numbers in her calculations. She ignores sources that cast doubt on her conclusions, even when she herself uses those sources for other purposes.”
Most scholars now accept the fallacies of Peters’ thesis of non-existent Palestinians. But the fear many liberal American Jews share for Israel’s future is expressed by condoning behavior they have rejected from their own country. My professor friend, for example, felt that Israel was justified in kidnapping elected Hamas Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Al Shaer from his West Bank home on August 19. “How else do you fight terrorists?” she replied.
Israeli heroes like Itzhak Shamir and Menachem Began once earned the terrorist label. In 1946, they helped blow up the King David Hotel and dispatched scores of civilians. They sent letter bombs to British officials. The label also applied to one of her heroes, Nelson Mandela. I watched her squirm as I reminded her that in 1976 three Israeli heads of state Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin hosted apartheid South Africa's Prime Minister John Vorster during his visit to Jerusalem.
“I guess,” she said, “that survival can force people to associate with the Devil.”
On August 19, Israeli survival called for a raid on Lebanon, violating the UN backed truce that ended the five week war. “The secretary-general,” the newspaper story said, “is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701.” On August 21, Israelis again crossed the border to kill supposed Hezbollah “terrorists.” One Israeli solder died. On August 23 Amnesty International accused Israel of committing war crimes against civilians.
When Jews die in conflicts tinged with anti-Semitism, I share my fellow progressives’ concern. But the number of Lebanese and Palestinian civilian dead and wounded far surpasses that of Israel. Do progressives actually believe that continued bombings will turn Palestinians and Lebanese into obedient neighbors, free of anger and hatred toward those who took their land?
Copyright 2006 Progreso Weekly
Monday, September 4, 2006
Susanne Scheidt - Gaps in Italian Information on the Situation in Lebanon
(original Italian) Al Jazira.it
The Italians know practically nothing regarding the “mission” in Lebanon that places them directly in the front lines and which can even more precariously than in the past be presented as a mission “of peace”… This is the responsibility of an apparatus, the mass media, that uses programmed disinformation where authentic vacuities are presented.
I always watch the news on Italy’s RAI and RAI News24 to know how things are presented to the general public – bearing in mind that the greater part of the public does not read newspapers, nor do they watch foreign TV, getting their information, as a matter of fact, only by means of local television.
Yesterday and the day before the news of the RAI was loaded with the exploits of the Italian troops, who had been lovingly filmed during the deployment on the beach of Tyre. These images, interspersed by the comments of Alessandro Politi, Director of the Nomisma Observatory (Nomisma) and by Gianni Rufini, university professor, and by some updates that were sent by the RAI reporters from Lebanon who were following the disembarkation, were the only information available on Lebanon and on the relationships between Italy and Lebanon. The images that were transmitted to the Italian public were of “commitment to peace in the world and glory for Italy”, an Italy that one is lead to believe, is going to gain enormously in prestige thanks to its military contingent that is operating in Lebanon, to which very soon will see the association of “civil society” in the form of numerous Italian non-governing organisations.
But the RAI did not breathe a single word, on the other hand, on the sit-in that on 2 September 100 Lebanese Parliament members out of 128 were making at the Beirut Parliament in protest against the enduring Israeli blockade on the waterways and airspace of Lebanon, defined as a continuation of the war and a violation of Resolution 1701 itself, under which the Italian troops are already being deployed in Lebanon. Certainly, to speak of the protest demonstration of the Lebanese Parliament members would have raised even among the most ingenuous television viewers the question as to whether with the Israeli blockade still persisting, our troops were not perhaps entering into a situation that is still characterised by military occupation…
Just as the protest demonstration of the Lebanese Parliament members was not mentioned, there was made no mention of the decisions of the German and Turkish governments to suspend the deployment of their troops for the new UNIFIL mission until the so-called “rules of engagement” were clarified – that will determine the actual operations of the armed forces. The Italian government, it must be recognised, has not been concerned with these “rules of engagement”, because the parties that occupy the Parliament and the Senate have not even raised questions about it. The German and Turkish governments, on the other hand – and we are still talking about governments that are part of the NATO, not those of Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro – don’t dare send a single soldier until these rules are known. Before that point, the Parliaments are not called to vote upon the relative resolutions.
Furthermore: the German government would have had to make it known, within this past weekend, the exact number of troops that it would have sent. Instead, the German government had communicated that it would not be able to give the quantity of the troops due to the lack of the “rules of engagement”, nor could they call a Parliamentary reunion to vote upon the relevant resolution, since they had not yet received an official request from the Lebanese government to send a military contingent to support the UNIFIL. And without this official and formal request directly from the Lebanese government, the German government will not make any moves.
There remains a question: has the Italian government received an official and formal request by the Lebanese before they sent an Italian military contingent? Or has the request come only from Kofi Annan and Alain Pellegrini? The RAI news programs have not transmitted any information about these very important circumstances.
Nor have they spoken of the situation in Turkey, where the promises of the government at the NATO headquarters to honour it Atlantic loyalties with the sending of troops and ships from their Navy to Lebanon has caused difficulties in its relations with the opposition, but has even been problematic for the relationship between the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. What had begun as a protest, headed by Sezer, against the “protection of interests of other nations” at a cost to one’s own interests (in this case, to avoid seeing the birth of a Kurdistan from the body of Iraq that would be wedged within Turkey), has in the meantime started a detailed debate that is anything but pleasing for the USA: the block that opposes the sending of troops in Lebanon is giving voice to the insistent preoccupations that the imminent interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon, side by side with the presence of military troops lead by the NATO (the UN label seems to fool only the Italian public), could cause Lebanon to fall headfirst into the chaos and violence created by a situation similar to the one Iraq is sunk in, involving not only Turkey, but the entire Middle East.
The fateful reunion of the Turkish Parliament has been called for Tuesday. To increase its chances at success and making its resolution pass, the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has had to promise that in the eventuality that the UNIFIL troops in Lebanon would be given the task by the UN Security Council to disarm Hezbollah, the Turkish contingent would be immediately withdrawn.
The worries that Erdogan had hastened to minimise seem to have strong foundations if one takes into account that at the same time, even the German government had to postpone its parliamentary discussion, after the words of the Defence Minister Jung had kicked up a row in the Parliamentary Commission for Defence matters: Jung, referring to the new UNIFIL force that had to be built according to the UN Resolution 1701 http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8808.doc.htm), had uttered that the new, still as yet unknown “rules of engagement” would have foreseen the deployment of “combat troops”. Yet, the text of the resolution that has been submitted to voting in Parliament speaks of a “peacekeeping mission”. These are the same worries that the Turkish public opinion is facing.
But, the RAI does not interview Turkish or German exponents of the respective views, for or against the deployment, nor has a single Lebanese Parliament member that is participating in the ongoing sit-in been interviewed. In other words: the Italian mass media make use of large gaps in order to utilise disinformation.
Translated from Italian by Mary Rizzo, member of Tlaxcala (www.tlaxcala.es), network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is on Copyleft.
Friday, September 1, 2006
Mary Rizzo - Shaping Opinions by Constriction
In a functional democracy, one of the basic principals is that there should be the recognition of the right of individuals to hold their own opinion. This is often extended to groups, as is natural, since groups are nothing more than individuals who share things in common. The right to hold an opinion also entails the right to express that opinion, even if it is in dissent from the dominant or majority one. There are many ways to express an opinion, especially a dissenting one, and two of the most civil and therefore, most popular, are writing them down and allowing people to read them and manifesting them by marching in demonstrations. Last 19 August, the Union of Italian Islamic Communities (UCOII) expressed their opinion through a paid advertisement published in three newspapers having local distribution in the national territory. In the advertisement it was written that the massacres that saw the Lebanese population killed indiscriminately in massive carpet bombing campaigns that also created a refugee population of a million, at the hands of Israel, as well as a land invasion in their territory with tanks, (in addition to the occupation of the Sheeba Farms), were comparable to Nazi war crimes.
On 26 August, a pacifist march in Assisi also saw several protesters carrying a photo of Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, and the slogan “Leader of Arab Dignity.”
In the current climate, with Italy about to send 2,496 soldiers on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, the mass media and the government itself is scrambling to show themselves “worthy” of leading the mission. That means that there is a relentless campaign to reinforce the series of “Italian” values, which happen to coincide with the hegemony of the current world order and the maintenance of its dominant worldview that is blatantly biased in favour of Israel.
The magisterial branch of the State has already opened an investigation as to whether to proceed in accusing the UCOII of “incitement to racial hatred” for their advertisement, a criminal offence. The charge was brought forth by two Parliament members. This appears absolutely ludicrous in a regime of democracy, especially considering that the advertisement was directed against the policies of a State and not a race. In addition, Italy is the country of Oriana Fallaci, the woman who makes a decent living by writing bestsellers that are little more than invective against the entire Muslim world, attacking their values, culture and beliefs. If Fallaci’s opinion is acceptable and legitimate to express, why is the idea expressed in the advertisement, criticising the actions of a State that was reducing another sovereign State to rubble and killing their people arbitrarily for the simple crime of living in Lebanon, at that moment, an enemy of Israel, not given the same right of legitimacy, even if it does not mention race or religion at all?
What has been the reaction that the political world and the mass media have been inducing the general public to follow? The “opposition” political parties, on the Right, naturally have followed the line drawn by Riccardo Pacifici, leader of the Roman Jewish Community of “Unanimous Condemnation”.
What is rather more interesting is the reaction of the Left and its government. Marco Pannella, leader of the Radical Party, a person who stopped making sense a long time ago, telephoned the Corriere della Sera from Cambodia, where he was attending an event commemorating Gandhi’s Satyagraha, non-violent resistance. Showing disgust for the advertisement and especially the marchers in Assisi he said, “…often they don’t understand who is the aggressor or the reasons of those who have been attacked.” To Pannella, the leader of the campaign to add Israel to the European Union, clearly, poor little Israel is the victim of the war, not the aggressor.
Piero Fassino, the leader of the major Left party, Left Democrats (DS) said, “… our soldiers in Lebanon are not going merely to guarantee that the government of Beirut is fully sovereign and can work on the disarming of Hezbollah, but also to protect Israel from whoever wishes to destroy it.”
Wait a minute… that mission that even the pacifists, the pro-Palestinian left has supported is not designed to disarm Hezbollah, but to guarantee the ceasefire and let the Lebanese government resolve according to their own will the internal turmoil that is the aftermath of the Israeli invasion once Israel has returned within its own borders from the entire territory of Lebanon. Fassino is either confused, or he is showing the cards in hand without being aware of it.
Coming from a still higher place, we have the next move to condemn the UCOII. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has called in an ad hoc meeting the group known as the “Consulta” to sign a “Statement of Values”. Who is the Consulta? It is an official organ of the Ministry itself that deals with the theme of dialogue between the State and the Islamic community in Italy and integration of those practicing the Muslim faith. It is composed of 32 members, half of whom are ministerial functionaries and the remainder are representatives of the leading Islamic communities in Italy. The UCOII is one of the major groups, connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and active in 124 mosques out of a total of 250 and in 70 Islamic Centres in Italy. Of the 16 representative members, even before having the text of the Statement, 15 have said they would sign it. Whoever does not sign will be expelled from the Consulta. How’s that for democratic! If they do sign, but at a later date do not “respect” the points of the Statement, they will be immediately expelled, with the media clamour that will follow. The Statement is a severe preventive disciplinary measure and mechanism, and therefore, if any Muslim community wishes to be recognised by the State, to be accepted as a legitimate interlocutor, they have no choice but to acquiesce.
What, therefore, went on at the meeting, and what is contained in the “Statement of Values”? From today’s papers, it seems that the initial encounter was basically to discipline the UCOII and to express dissent to the advertisement they wrote. This is what the news dispatches say at the moment, although the point of the meeting is to establish the articles of the document which includes the recognition of the uniqueness of the Shoah (that word is used, as a matter of fact, even though there were also many non Jewish victims of Nazi crimes). Mario Scioloja, Vice President of the Italian branch of the World Muslim League adds, “… and I think that in addition to the uniqueness of the Shoah we have to consider appeals for peace in the Middle East, the right of Israel to exist, respect for women. It will be important that everyone does sign.”
Improvements to the statement are offered by Magdi Allam, Vice Editor of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading mainstream national paper, prophet of the “moderate” Muslim, staunch defender of Israel, and a man who I heard with my own ears state at a book presentation that the pacifists of the world were the cause of the war in Iraq, because they gave Saddam false confidence that peace would prevail. In a way, he was right. Peace will never prevail, no matter how much the people want it, and they were given a good lesson that it is utterly useless to dissent from the superpower and its lapdog. These powers do what they wish in spite of world public opinion, even their own.
Allam suggests as an article of the Statement, “The recognition of the right of all, including the right of Israel to exist and the condemnation of every appeal for its destruction, even under the form of the evil proposal to substitute Israel with a single Palestinian State where Muslims, Christians and Jews live together.”
It is pretty shocking that he sees living together in peace and democracy as evil, but this is a moderate for you…He continues, “The condemnation of Palestinian terrorism perpetrated by Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other groups, of the Lebanese terrorism of Hezbollah and other groups, of the terrorism of Al Qaeda, the Talibans and other groups who massacre Muslims in the world and attack the multinational (yes, you read it right, he wrote multinational and not international) forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.” (Corriere della Sera, 28 August 2006, Magdi Allam, “Islam, Sostantivo plurale italiano”.) Naturally, if a non-Arab invading force kills Arabs, they are not terrorists, even though the techniques sure terrorise the civilian population and make them the first victims. It seems as though there will be no space for the Italian Muslims to publicly support the right of resistance that is guaranteed by international law to an occupied nation against its invader. Too bad!
Therefore, there will first be stigmatisation for not adhering to the document, even if Arabs are forced to recognise Israel when Palestinians’ right to exist is still unrecognised. Nor are they to consider that their own “Shoah”, the Nakba, is unique. They had better always remember the correct hierarchy of victims, under threat of being considered aligned with terrorists. Much more significant than the pressure put upon the Muslims to sign a document proclaiming the values of Israel as being primary and more vital and urgent than the interests and history of the many people they represent, is the message being sent to the general public. Not only Muslims, but all Italians are being told to negate the evidence of the reality of the destruction that our own soldiers are about to walk into and witness firsthand. Everyone is being informed that there will be a price to pay for expressing criticism of Israel. One dare not do it!
It looks as if the groups will sign the Consulta document, with the exception of the UCOII. I think that they realised that dissent just doesn’t pay in the war waged in the mass media. It is not worth the stress for them, and they want to keep their affairs private and not constantly be threatened with expulsion and ostracised from the Italian power community. What is worrying is that even without the pressure, I fear that sooner or later all Italians will be required to sign such a thing. This may be the first time that an opinion is forced upon a category, and it possibly serves as a testing ground for other such initiatives.
A question remains: judging the recent events in Lebanon and Gaza, the Italian public doesn’t seem to share the view of the Internal Affairs Ministry. They seem shocked and disturbed by the invasion of Lebanon. I don’t think that they would have otherwise tolerated the deployment of so many soldiers into new theatres of war, given the recent Italian victims in Iraq and Afghanistan that have rocked the public opinion. They would only approve if they felt that what was going on had to be stopped at all costs, that it was a threat to world peace. If the European survey that caused a scandal a few years back, where Europeans expressed in an overwhelming majority that they considered Israel to be a major threat to world peace were to be made again, would these opinions be censored even in the reality of the war Israel has waged on Lebanese soil? Would we be called anti-Semites again if we simply declare what is before the eyes of the entire world as an act of war, and therefore a threat to world peace, despite the heavy campaign of lies and propaganda to make us see Lebanon as the aggressor?
Italian intellectual Pietro Citati has declared that he was a Cassandra, having predicted four years ago that there would be an upsurge in anti-Semitism in Europe. For Italy he refers to the over the top rants of Umberto Bossi of the Northern League party as well as the UCOII and the marchers at the peace rally. In the leading nationwide Centre-Left paper, La Repubblica, on a front-page editorial (not to be outdone by the pro-Israeli rhetoric and hyperbole of Angelo Panebianco of the Corriere della Sera of the same date) he writes, “Despite the indifference and the hostility of the Europeans, I don’t believe Israel will ever disappear from the face of the Earth. Disappearing much sooner will be Osama bin Laden, the president of Iran, the students of a criminal like Khomeini, the leader of Hezbollah, the anti-Semites of Europe, to whatever sort they belong. The Jews have a gift, that we Catholics don’t possess, or that we possess in different ways. With passion and avidity, they love the world: the “red” and the “blue”, the “fig” and the “vine”, travels, books to read and to write, commerce, riches: yet, they do not belong entirely to the Earth. With a part of themselves, they live elsewhere, where Shekinah, the feminine face of God, wanders in exile, sometimes emanating a pallid lunar light, other times intoning a music that is even more crystalline, shrill and triumphant.” (La Repubblica, 28 August 2006, Pietro Citati, “Il nuovo antisemitismo”.)
If the complete lack of judgement of Israel’s actions is any indication, here bordering on an ode to its glory, pretty soon, it won’t be sufficient to stop criticising Israel, we will have to start adoring the specialness, giftedness and otherness of the Jews, which these authors constantly confuse with Israel when it serves their purposes, and we will be urged to admire their triumph, despite our better judgement, and despite the horror and carnage that we witness with our own eyes.
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