I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf the region – and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions – not just words – that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
Hawking Stuns Israel With Conference Boycott
University of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking stunned Israel last week with his announcement that he would boycott the fifth annual Israeli Presidential Conference, scheduled to be held in Jerusalem, June 18-20.
Hawking was responding to an incongruity: He had been invited to attend an Israeli conference of scientific, economic and political world leaders under the lofty title: ”The Human Factor in Shaping Tomorrow”.
Many usual political suspects are expected to speak at the conference, including noted Israeli friends Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
Also listed as speakers are Stuart Eizenstat, Larry Summers and David Axelrod. George W. Bush was a speaker for the 2008 inaugural conference.
As a matter of conscience, Hawking will not be there.
What makes this conference such an incongruous event is that it will hold its “Shaping Tomorrow” sessions in close proximity to what is essentially a prison wall built to separate an occupied, entrapped Palestinian population, from the rest of the world.
Is this the future Israel would have us shape? Prison walls enforcing ethnic cleansing?
In his conference withdrawal statement, Hawking (above) explained his boycott decision: (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Claims Its Attack On Syria Was “To Stop Iranian Missiles Reaching Hezbollah”
The civil war in Syria between rebel forces and President Bashar Assad’s Syrian army, escalated this weekend when Israel bombed Damascus, the capital of Syria.
With its standard rationale familiar to Gaza residents, Israel released an official story that claimed the bombing was carried out for defensive purposes.
The Reuters story in the Jerusalem Post, reported that the Israeli airstrikes, which killed “dozens of Syrian soldiers close to Damascus”, were “downplayed” by Israeli leaders.
The “downplaying” consisted of Israel’s claim it was not attempting to influence the Syrian civil war, but wanted only to “stop Iranian missiles reaching Lebanese Hezbollah militants”.
To bolster its official version of the raid, veteran Israeli lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Israel Radio that ”Israel wants to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime.” (It should be noted that Hezbollah and Assad’s government are allies)
The Post rushed past the fact that “dozens of Syrian soldiers” were killed outside Damascus. There was no mention, not even a sympathetic nod to the possibility, that civilians may also have died in the attacks.
Instead, the Post story got to the heart of the matter, the heart, that is, for Israel:
Oil prices spiked above $105 a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of the two-year old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports. (To continue reading, click here.)
Conquerors from The Congo to The Jordan
In the late 19th century, Henry Morton Stanley (of Stanley and Livingston fame),(right) was the “king’s man”—more accurately, a hired colonist conqueror—working for Belgium’s King Leopold II.
Stanley’s assignment: Seize and conquer for Belgium, the vast and unexplored territory surrounding Africa’s Congo River, a territory that stretched from Stanley Falls in the north to the mouth of the river, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
Stanley and King Leopold worked with the conqueror’s template, one which the 19th and 20th century Zionist movement also utilized to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The formula used by Leopold and the Zionists is a well-worn conquerors’ formula of deceit, deception, destruction and seizure.
In his book, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adam Hochschild tells the sordid and sad, but still illuminating story, of Stanley’s successful conquest of Central Africa in the 19th century.
One description of the book offers a dark description of King Leopold:
Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million–all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian.
Hochschild’s book focuses on King Leopold, but the modern reader should see the historical parallel of Belgium’s African empire with the Zionist movement’s (still on-going) seizure of Palestinian land. (To continue reading, click here.)
Kerry Forgot Rule Number One: Never Question the Sacred Israeli Narrative
If you believe the Israeli and US pro-Israel media, the new US Secretary of State, John Kerry (right) is “confused” in his new job.
What led to the confusion? To those who embrace his negative media coverage, the Secretary forgot the rules.
He forgot what US Diplomats must never forget. What is that? To paraphrase a quote from the movie Fight Club:
The First Rule of US diplomacy: You do not question the Sacred Israeli Narrative.
The Second Rule of US diplomacy: You DO NOT question the Sacred Israeli narrative.
Kerry was attacked by defenders of these Rules when in a fit of compassion, he questioned one verse in one chapter from the Book of The Sacred Israeli Narrative. Annie Robbins explains:
Under the headline: Kerry likens Boston victims to ‘Mavi Marmara’ victims, Robbins reports: (To continue reading, click here.)
At Boston Interfaith Service, Obama Calls for Justice and Compassion
A Boston Marathon Interfaith memorial service, “Healing Our City”, was held at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross Thursday, April 18. It was a service that concluded with remarks delivered by President Barack Obama.
The National Journal’s Matthew Cooper called Obama’s remarks “an emotional rallying point for the city”. It was also, Cooper writes,
“a moment for Obama to speak to the nation and strike a tone between remembrance and optimism, a call for justice and a call for compassion.”
The service included a local children’s choir, prayers and remarks by political and religious leaders.
The service was held three days after two deadly explosions struck cheering bystanders at the Boston Marathon’s finish line. Three people died, two young women and an 8-year old boy, all of whom were spectators cheering for the runners. As many as 176 were injured, some of whom will lose one or both legs.
Thursday’s memorial service was held to mourn the dead and support the wounded.
The service included Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders. Prominent state and local leaders were present, including Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and Obama’s rival in last year’s presidential election. (For update and to continue reading, click here.)
Cardoza Law School Ignores Dershowitz To Honor Jimmy Carter
Despite vicious opposition from the Alan Dershowitz conservative wing of the American Jewish community, Cardoza Law School honored former President Jimmy Carter April 10, for his career of work on peace and conflict resolution.
The International Advocate for Peace award was given to Carter by the student-run Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution.
The journal cited “Carter’s brokering of the 1979 peace accord between Israel and Egypt and the SALT II nuclear weapons treaty with the then-Soviet Union.”
The presentation ceremony was held at the Cardoza Law School, a part of New York City’s Yeshiva University.
Since it began as a university more than a century ago, Yeshiva, according to its website, “has been dedicated to melding the ancient traditions of Jewish law and life with the heritage of Western civilization”.
With that tradition, Yeshiva University was hardly an institution the Dershowitz radical wing of American Jewry, expected to honor Jimmy Carter.
The loudest protest voice leading the demand that the school “withdraw” Carter’s award, came from Professor Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard University since 1967.
Dershowitz seldom misses an opportunity to demand that Carter confront him in a “public debate” on any campus where Carter is invited to appear. (To continue reading, click here.)
Confronting the “Moral Bankruptcy” of Iraq War’s Liberal Supporters
Prior to the start of the Iraq War on March 19, 2003, New York Times journalist Chris Hedges (right) occupied a lonely perch among major media journalists. He opposed the war.
Today, Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner and now a columnist for the website Truthdig, continues to write with the passion of a man set free from corporate control.
His latest posting is a perceptive analysis of both the role this nation’s political and media “liberal hawks” played in launching the Iraq war, and the ”rewriting of history” by those “liberal hawks” on the 10th anniversary of the start of that war.
In his Truthdig column, “The Treason of the Intellectuals“, Hedges asks, how did the liberal Iraq war boosters react to the tenth anniversary of the war they initially supported?
Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others . . . argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false.
[They] did what they always have done: Engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it. . . .
Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing “patriots” and their liberal apologists, became pariahs. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama: “Look at the world through [Palestinian] eyes”
Many political progressives have harshly criticized President Obama’s recent trip to Israel and Palestine. They claim he was too warm toward Israel and too lukewarm toward Palestine.
Did these critics pay close attention to what the President actually said and saw on this trip? I don’t think so.
The president declined to speak to the Israeli Knesset, asking instead for a younger audience.
In his speech to Israeli youth, the President said:
[T]he Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes.
It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.
In the picture above one of those Palestinian children watches his father show his papers to an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint.
Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun (below with the President) told Dauod Kuttub she was especially pleased that the arrival of a khamsin* sand storm that hit the area on Friday, forced the president to forego an Israeli helicopter. (To continue reading, click here.)
“We Have No 3G in Palestine”
Unless security forces have torn it down, the poster (shown here) was one of the sights President Obama would see if his motorcade made its way to Ramallah, Palestine on a West Bank highway.
The poster was posted on a corner after the road passes through the Qalandia checkpoint separating the West Bank from east Jerusalem.
Of course, the President would miss the poster and miss seeing the highway if he traveled to Ramallah in a helicopter. That would be unfortunate because he would miss seeing the poster which says in Arabic and English:
“President Obama, don’t bring your smart phone to Ramallah. You won’t have mobile access to Internet — we have no 3G in Palestine!”
The poster would be one of more hospitable messages a disappointed Palestinian public would offer the visiting President on his visit to the West Bank this week. (To continue reading more on the Obama trip, click here.)
Khalidi to Obama: Time For a New Course
The New York Times performed a valuable service for its readers on Wednesday, March 13, exactly one week before President Obama is scheduled to arrive on his first-ever presidential visit to Palestine and Israel.
The Times contrasted the major media voice of the liberal Zionism of the American ruling classes, with that of the voice of a champion for the Palestinian people.
Which of these voices do your leaders, political, media, or religious. respond to? As President Obama prepares to fly to Tel Aviv, this would be a good time to visit, write or call those leaders and ask them.
The Times paired its resident liberal Zionist columnist, Thomas Friedman (Mr. Obama Goes to Israel), with Palestinian-American Middle East scholar Rashid Khalidi (Is Any Hope Left…”?), Obama’s University of Chicago academic colleague and good friend.
In his column, Friedman reiterated liberal Zionism’s formulaic belief that the Middle East must be made over entirely in an empirical US/Israel image.
Friedman wants Obama to say to Israel’s leaders:
After all, you have a huge interest in trying to midwife a decent West Bank Palestinian state that is modern, multireligious and pro-Western — a totally different model from the Muslim Brotherhood variants around you.
Who defines “decent”? And who determines if Israel qualifies as “multireligious”? The answer is, Thomas Friedman, the media maven of US liberal Zionism. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Congress Fund Iron Dome Over Head Start?
More than 13,000 delegates to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) descended on Washington this week.
AIPAC, a lobby organization with no equal in American politics, had assembled its usual list of high-profile political leaders to address the delegates.
US President Barak Obama was not among the speakers. He had a good excuse. The president is up to his neck in what Washington calls,”sequestration”, a federal budget agreement that will bring pain to American citizens.
AIPAC does not want that pain to involve anything related to Israel’s “security”.
And so it came to pass that two pro-Israel Florida lawmakers — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (shown above), a Republican, and Ted Deutch, a Democrat–introduced a bill in the House of Representatives just in time for delegates to deliver copies of the bill to congressional offices during AIPAC’s Washington lobby week.
The Ros-Lehtnen/Deutch bill, if passed, would designate Israel as a “major strategic ally,” a one-of-a-kind label. (To continue reading, click here.)
Hagel Confirmed Despite Petulant Senators
Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel assumed command of the Pentagon this week.
Hagel was sworn in after an extended and contentious encounter with neocon, petulant Republican senators, each in his or her own way, determined to damage both the nominee and President Obama.
Not since Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy hunted non-existent communists in Dwight Eisenhower’s executive branch, has the country seen such a vitriolic legislative performance
Paul Craig Roberts wrote for Global Research, “lawmakers owned by the Israel Lobby” shamed America by their attacks on Hagel.
The most embarrassing behavior of all came from the craven Lindsay Graham, who, while in the act of demonstrating his complete subservience by crawling on his belly before the Israel Lobby, dared Hagel to name one single person in the US Congress who is afraid of the Israel Lobby.
If I had been Hagel, I would have written off the nomination and answered: “You, Senator Graham, and your 40 craven colleagues.”
This would have indeed, “written off his nomination”. Hagel, however, refused to take the bait Graham offered. (To continue reading, click here.)
Right Wing Media Pushes “Friends of Hamas” Rumor
The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief in a 58-41 vote, ending the most contentious confirmation fight for a Defense secretary in U.S. history.
Only four Republicans backed Hagel, a former GOP senator from Nebraska whose controversial statements on Israel, Iran and other issues made him a lighting rod on the right and led to the first-ever filibuster of a nominee to lead the Pentagon. GOP Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted to confirm Hagel.
One rumor in the anti-Chuck Hagel campaign started as a joking question that quickly swept through the right wing media machine until it reached Fox News business guru, Lou Dobbs.
It was such an outlandish charge that it should have been ignored and tossed into the “birther” trash can. The rumor “implied” that Hagel might have received funds from an organization called “Friends of Hamas”.
Dan Friedman, the New York Daily News reporter who inadvertently launched the “Friends of Hamas” rumor, was shocked to see how quickly a joking question he posed casually over the phone, went from nowhere to everywhere. He tells his sad tale in the Daily News:
On Febrary 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did [Chuck] Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?
Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?
The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically.
No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.
Friedman was wrong.
The right wing media machine swung into action, sending Friedman’s joking question on its mission to destroy Hagel. (Click here to continue reading.)
Republicans Block Hagel for Ten More Days
The agreement Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid (NV) thought he had reached with Republican leader Mitch McConnell (KY), died a slow, angry and ugly death Thursday.
When this new Senate held its first session in January, younger and more progressive Democratic members of the Senate wanted Harry Reid to take advantage of having a Democratic majority.
They urged him to make changes in the senate’s archaic rules while he had a Democratic majority vote. That action may only be taken at the start of a new congress.
Reid loves the senate and he loves its traditions. He refused to take advantage of his majority. Instead he trusted Mitch McConnell to keep his Republican minority caucus in line without any real rule changes.
Don’t they trade horses in Reid’s Nevada? Doesn’t Harry know that if a horse trader offers you a “too good to be true deal on a mare”, look closely at the animal’s past history and then study her teeth?
Harry Reid was snookered (tricked, fooled) by Mitch McConnell, who promised him a good deal on a mare in a deal that was “too good to be true” way to run the senate, the old way.
Reid was also snookered by John McCain (AZ) and Lindsay Graham (SC), (above) two veteran members of the senate who claim all they want is “more information” on what happened at Benghazi before they would allow an up or down vote on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.
That is Republican-speak that has nothing to do with Benghazi and everything to do with their awareness that Hagel does not meet their “I love Israel” taste test. (To continue reading, click here.)
GOP Descends Into Its Winter of Discontent
William Shakespeare: Richard III
by James M. Wall
A major archaeological discovery was announced in Leicester, England this week.
Experts have confirmed that skeletal remains found during the excavation of a Leicester parking lot are those of Britain’s King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings.
Richard (at right portrayed by Kevin Spacey) was killed in 1485 by Tudor enemies during the Battle of Bosworth Field.
British officials authenticated the remains through the thoroughly modern method of DNA “fingerprinting” connecting King Richard to a 21st century male descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne.
The serendipitous timing of this archeological discovery has prompted Michael Hirsh, writing in The National Journal, to engage in a nifty bit of colligation, a 17th century word rarely used today, but one most appropriate this week, since colligation refers to “”the abstract tying together of things not previously seen as connected”.
Hirsh does not refer to colligation (I take full blame), but he does embody the term when he connects what he “ranks as one of the most titillating archaeological discoveries ever”, to the current US Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary. (To continue reading, click here.)
CUFI and the Ugly Face of Hagel’s Opposition
This nation’s foreign policy is, for this weekend at least, in the pious hands of John Hagee, a Christian fundamentalist preacher from Texas.
To be sure, Hagee is not the only policy-shaker whose minions are roaming the hallowed halls of the nation’s capitol. But he is certainly the most conspicuous and overt religionist participating in the US senate battle over President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, former Senator Chuck Hagel.
Hagee created Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in February, 2006. Seven years later (a divine period which in biblical years led to the release of slaves), CUFI is buying television ads in four states, each of which has a Democratic senator who could be vulnerable to defeat in 2014.
That reads more like the creation of, rather than the release of, slaves, but then, divine commands may more often than not, be in the minds and hearts of the divine command transmitters.
At any rate, it is not seven years, but six years (the term of office for a US senator), which John Hagee assumes is on the minds of four Democratic senators who are up for reelection in 2014. The states and the senators are Arkansas (Mark Pryor), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), Colorado (Mark Udall) and North Carolina (Kay Hagan). (To continue reading, click here.)
Are Liberal American Zionists “Delusional”?
Shortly after the polls closed in Israel’s Knesset election this past Tuesday, two American Liberal Zionist groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now (APN), were out with triumphant emails to their peace-oriented members:
Israel voters have chosen a new government that will “revive the peace process with the Palestinians and make vital moves to “save” Israel”.
Writing for Mondoweiss, the website co-edited by Philip Weiss and Adan Horowitz, Alex Kane bluntly rejects that optimistic conclusion:
In his scathing criticism of the optimism of J Street and APN, Kane sets the stage for what will most certainly be an intense struggle within the American peace camp over the meaning of this Knesset election:
The liberal Zionist wing of the American Jewish community are deluding themselves about the results of the Israeli elections. (To continue reading, click here.)
Election Could Push Israel Further To The Right
Israel’s 19th general election, Tuesday, January 22, is almost certain to be won by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
There is no serious Liberal election opposition to Likud. What is serious, however, is the very real possibility that after this election, the Israeli government could turn even harder to the political right.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Likud has been losing votes to a party even more conservative than Likud. The brash newcomer is the previously little-noticed Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party. The leader of Bayit Yehudi is a 40-year-old charismatic newcomer to Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett (shown above), who has emerged as the hottest new personality on the Israeli political scene.
Bayit Yehudi has languished in the shadows of recent Israeli elections. It currently has three members in the Knesset. Some polls indicate that number could rise to as many as 15 seats, elevating Bayit Yehudi to a third place finish among the 20 parties currently represented in the Knesset. The two leading parties are expected to be the right-wing alliance of Likud and Avidor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu.
Joel Greenberg, reporting for the Washington Post, noted the combination of religious and nationalist themes in one Bayit Yehudi campaign event:
It was a mostly young crowd that turned out on a chilly winter night to hear Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious nationalist party Jewish Home [Bayit Yehudi], deliver an appeal for understanding — not between Israelis and Palestinians, but among Israelis themselves. (To continue reading, click here.)
Take It to the Bank, Hagel Will Win
The war against Chuck Hagel followed a predictable pattern. It will end soon when the U.S. Senate votes to confirm Hagel as President Barack Obama’s next defense secretary.
This is one of those rare occasions in American politics when you may ”take it to the bank“, that in a struggle between a U.S. presidential nominee, and the pro-Israel lobby, the presidential nominee will win.
The political war the Lobby will lose began when Lobby forces launched their initial attacks against former Republican Nebraska Senator Hagel’s rumored nomination.
Led by its media and political “myrmidons” (myrmidon: A faithful follower who carries out orders unquestioningly) the Lobby’s plan followed the usual pattern:
Strike early, suggest a safer nominee, provide liberals with political cover, and then, to whip up emotions from the dark side, play the anti-Semitic card.
Obama made the nomination at the White House on Monday, January 7. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Hagel Narrative the Neocons Want
The Daily Beast and the Los Angeles Times are reporting that President Obama will name Chuck Hagel as his next Defense Secretary. Sources in Washington have said that the nomination will be announced Monday or Tuesday, of next week.
Al Jazeera has purchased the struggling U.S. network, Current, which was created by former Vice President Al Gore and Joel Hyatt. Current has failed to compete in the American market but it does have outlets which Al Jazeera covets.
Al Jazeera has developed a world wide reputation as a responsible non-ideological network, a fact that must have made the sale more acceptable to Gore and his partners. In addition, according to the New York Times story on the sale:
Hagel Defenders Battle Neocon Opposition
The Washington Post wrote in a lead editorial, December 18, that President Obama should not nominate former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as his Defense Secretary because the President “has available other possible nominees who are considerably closer to the mainstream and to the president’s first-term policies.”
“Considerably closer to the mainstream” is not a good thing if the mainstream (including the Washington Post) led us to endless, pointless, fruitless occupations and wars that have deeply wounded American credibility and credit, as well as costing up to a hundred thousand innocent lives? We need less mainstream thought in Washington, not more.
The Post editorial reads like a set of instructions to a pro-Israel media/political hit squad on how to block Hagel as Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary.
Will Israel Block Hagel as Defense Secretary?
Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (right) may be nominated by President Barack Obama to be secretary of defense.
The President is known to like his old Senate colleague, a Republican who, like Obama, considered running for president in 2008. Unlike Obama, Hagel decided not to run.
Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran, would provide Obama with a Republican in the upper echelon of his second-term cabinet, a nice touch in a season when the American movie-going public is discovering Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 “team of rivals” cabinet. The script for the film, Lincoln, is derived, in part, from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. (To continue reading, click here.)
“The fate of human dignity is in our hands.”
by James M. Wall
Writing for both Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart used a surprising phrase to describe how President Obama plans to deal with the Israel/Palestine issue during his second term.
Beinart took his clue from the “pro forma and bland” response the White House made after Israel’s defiant announcement that it would build 3,000 new housing units in a area of the West Bank known as E1.
The announcement came just days after the U.N. elevated Palestine to a non-member state status. Some of those Palestinians are shown here, standing in a long line waiting to gain admission to visit Jerusalem during Ramadan.
Obama made no personal comment regarding the new E1 housing, not even the customary “the action is not helpful” reaction. What Beinart learned from “senior administration officials” was that this bland response was the “first sign” of what “may be a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Obama’s second term: benign neglect”.
Israel Plans a “Doomsday Settlement” for E1
Israel’s response to the United Nations’ overwhelming vote to admit Palestine to the UN was easily predictable. Israel had been waiting for just this moment to announce it would build a settlement in Area E1 (East One).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was harshly rejected at the UN General Assembly, a stinging defeat he knew was coming which explains why he did not attend the GA personally.
On November 29, 2012, the General Assembly elevated Palestine to a new status as a non member observer state. Such a rejection of Israel could not stand for one simple reason: Israel has other plans for Palestine, a long envisioned series of “worker bee” Palestinian bantustans located within an expanded state of Israel.
Netanyahu retaliated for the UN vote by announcing he had authorized the building of 3000 new Jewish housing units in Area E1, a plot of land east of Jerusalem. Note carefully that E1 is east, not west of Jerusalem.
(See below for a clip from the film.) (To continue reading, click here.)
Palestine Granted UN Observer State Status
by James M. Wall
History may well record what happened on November 29, 2012, as Mahmoud Abbas’ “finest hour”.
This was the day the Palestinian Authority president announced to the world that he would no longer bow to blackmail from the West. A familiar political threat by Israel to withhold tax funds due the Authority, did not deter him.
Nor was he moved by the insulting British tactic that a pledge not to haul Israel before the world’s criminal court, would buy the Crown’s yes vote.
The U.S. State Department’s most recent contribution to the effort to force Abbas back onto the US-Israeli reservation, was both naive and arrogant.
Bill Burns, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, was sent on a last-ditch begging mission to Mahmoud Abbas’ New York hotel room to persuade the PA president to “reconsider” his request for statehood status.
Abbas ignored them all. As a result of President Abbas’ persistence, the resolution passed, granting Palestine a “non member observer state” status in the United Nations. The word “state” in that resolution is huge. It opens doors for Palestine and it represents a step up into international status which is, as of 11/29/12, 65 years overdue.
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) approved the Palestinian resolution by an overwhelming majority, 138 in support with only 9 in opposition. There were 41 abstentions. (To continue reading, click here.)
Clinton In Middle East As Ceasefire Begins
To read a Wednesday update of this story, (click here.)
On her trip to the Middle East this Thanksgiving week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Tel Aviv, Israel, to meet, first, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
After this stop, the Secretary will fly to Cairo, Egypt, where Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire to Israel’s “Pillar of Cloud” assault on Gaza’s population.
Of course, her first stop would be to set up a photo op with the leader of her government’s “best friend” in the Middle East.
Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, finds this friendship troubling:
A central premise of US media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza – beyond the claim that Israel is justifiably “defending itself” – is that this is some endless conflict between two foreign entitles, and Americans can simply sit by helplessly and lament the tragedy of it all.
The reality is precisely the opposite: Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does. . . . .Pretending that the US – and the Obama administration – bear no responsibility for what is taking place is sheer self-delusion, total fiction. It has long been the case that the central enabling fact in Israeli lawlessness and aggression is blind US support, and that continues, more than ever, to be the case under the presidency of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Looks To Exodus In Gaza Invasion
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) selected two names for Israel’s current military assault against an imprisoned Gaza population. This is a military that thinks seriously about naming its military assaults.
The first name given the second Gaza invasion in four years is “Pillar of Cloud” (Amud Anan, in Hebrew). It was intended for use in Israeli media and was for Hebrew-speakers. The second name,”Pillar of Defense” was designed for the rest of us, those who are, presumably, less biblically informed.
The Tablet magazine, a U.S.-based, openly Jewish, Israeli-friendly, publication, explains that “Pillar of Cloud” comes from “a direct biblical allusion to the divine cloud which guided the Israelites through the desert and shielded them from those who might do them harm”.
Exodus 14:19-20 is the biblical source:
“Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.”
From its pro-Israel perspective, The Tablet justified the use of the two terms with this rather supersillious explanation: (To continue reading, click here.)
Voters to Obama: Move Now on Palestine
Joy and relief are evident on the faces of the Obama family, shown here arriving back in Washington, the day after the election. Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney on November 6, was also a moment of deep satisfaction for that segment of the American voting public that longed for a happy ending to what has been a bitter, contentious presidential campaign.
The “dark moon” that rose after Obama’s dismal first debate performance, was finally blown away. The people had voted, many standing in Republican-engendered long lines, lines that in Florida continued until 1:30 a.m., several hours after Mitt Romney conceded. Except for North Carolina, every swing state went for Obama.
The voters wanted Obama to have a second term. They made him the first second-term Democratic president to win a majority of the popular vote since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Bill Clinton won his second tern with less than a majority of the popular vote.
This strong election victory sent two messages to the President: The majority of voters did not trust Romney’s economic policies, and they are tired of fighting Israel’s wars. Implied in that second message is a demand: Move now on Israel’s decades-old occupation of the Palestinian people. In short, move now on Palestine.
To those who would say, there was no mandate on Palestine in this election, let them listen to the music, not just to the words. Israel’s wars come directly from its Occupation of Palestine. End the Occupation, and you end Israel’s embrace of military solutions. Now is the time to move on Palestine. (To continue reading, click here.)
Memo To Obama: Bring Back Chas Freeman
Less than a month after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama made a move that quietly told the Israel Lobby there was a new sheriff in town.
He selected an experienced diplomat, Chas Freeman, to serve as the new administration’s Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC).
In retrospect, it it is clear that this was one appointment he did not clear with any lobbyists, no matter how much the special interest crowd hung around the White House armed with their own suggestions for important assignments.
Laura Rozen wrote the first story about Freeman on February 19, 2009, in The Cable, a Foreign Policy blog. Since the position of NIC Chairman did not require Senate approval, it was largely unnoticed among the large number of appointments made by the President early in his first term.
This was how Laura Rozen broke the story of Freeman’s appointment:
Sources tell The Cable that Chas W. Freeman, Jr., the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will become chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the intelligence community’s primary big-think shop and the lead body in producing national intelligence estimates.
Freeman has told associates that in the job, he will occasionally accompany Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair to give the president his daily intelligence briefing.
Romney’s “Peculiar Sense” of Geography
After eight years of running for president, Mitt Romney has yet to master the geography of the Middle East.
His knowledge appears limited to what he sees from his hotel room in Jerusalem, following the example of Sarah Palin, who is reputed to have said she understood Russia because she could see the country from her back porch.
To paraphrase Ann Richards’ memorable reference to George Bush the First, in her 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech, “Poor Mitt, he can’t help it, he was born in a country that has abandoned the study of geography”.
In a piece she wrote on the subject, Christina Salas lamented:
In the wake of the recent presidential election, an increased level of interest has surfaced in this country over foreign issues. While domestic economic issues arguably dominated the political scene, both candidates were repeatedly asked questions about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea and all of the other so-called rogue nations. . . .
[Unfortunately,] The education system in this country has never done a satisfactory job in pushing geographic knowledge. Just as U.S. students are losing ground in the international education rankings, so too is geography falling completely off the map in secondary education.
Sad to relate, that analysis appeared four years ago on December 10, 2008, following the last presidential campaign in which Mitt Romney sought, but failed to gain the Republican nomination. Four years later, the Republican nominee is back, still lacking a basic grasp of Middle East geography.
New York Times Flacks for Jewish Groups Against 15 Major Christian Leaders
You have to know American Jewish leaders are really riled up when they call on the New York Times to flack for them against 15 leaders of Christian churches who had the audacity to send a letter to the US Congress, which said, with proper Christian indignation:
As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.
We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies.
Is that clear? These church leaders are saying it is their moral responsibility to tell the Congress that it must hold Israel accountable to U.S. laws and policies when it disburses money to Israel.
So what’s the big news angle in the New York Times story for Saturday, October 20, following the release of the letter from the 15 leaders to Congress? The lead of the story should be that “American Jewish leaders defend the action of a secular state that receives more U.S. foreign aid than any other nation in the world”. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Barack Obama we saw in his second debate with Mitt Romney was the self-assured and experienced leader we have wanted to see glaring sternly at Benjamin Netanyahu.
Thus far, in his first term in office, that second debate Barack Obama has rarely been in evidence in matters pertaining to Israel. Will that President show up for the third presidential debate Monday, October 22?
Or will we see a more cautious Obama on stage for the third and final debate?
That debate will be held in at Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida. It will focus exclusively on foreign policy.
Foreign policy should be Obama’s strongest suit. He has much to point to in this field, most notably the ending of one war and the anticipated ending of a second. He is expected to acquit himself well Monday night, especially if he enters the debate with the enthusiasm and energy he displayed in the second debate at Hofstra University last week.
Romney, on the other hand, is a one-term governor from Massachusetts, who has spent most of his professional career as a business executive. He is a foreign policy neophyte, entirely dependent on largely Republican neoconservative advisors. Romney is woefully unprepared either to debate foreign policy or to lead the nation in foreign policy endeavors.
His long personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been highlighted by his campaign. It does not, however, bode well for future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. (To continue reading and to view the video of Romney’s failed “gotcha” moment, click here.)
Romney’s Israeli Friends Desert Him
In a foreign policy speech delivered Monday at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Governor Mitt Romney sounded, well, to be charitable, like a man in an echo chamber.
I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.
A “Bad Moon Rising” Over An Obama Victory
Those voters looking forward to a second term for Barack Obama, were shocked by the President’s sub-par first debate performance.
A month before the election, it now appears that an Obama victory is no longer a certainty, pending a final judgment, of course, on the findings of post-debate polling.
If Obama continues his laid-back style in upcoming debates, Romney may persuade enough voters, especially in crucial swing states, that his vision of Republican conservatism, is superior to the current policies of the President.
In the first debate, the President displayed a surprising indifference to attacks from Romney. One debate performance does not a defeat make, but it does remind Obama supporters that no politician can avoid the threat of “a bad moon rising”.
The President failed to bring up the fact that money is corrupting our politics. In a recent Carter Center speech, former President Jimmy Carter (above) provided him with his text. Carter issued “a blistering indictment of the U.S. electoral process”, saying the process “is shot through with ‘financial corruption’ that threatens American democracy.” (To continue reading and to see the video of Bad Moon Rising, click here.)
NYT to Obama v. Romney, “let’s you and him fight”
Scott Shane’s New York Times story Friday, linked President Obama to President Jimmy Carter. Shane maintains that Obama, like Carter before him, could also be a one-term president.
The Times must have gone into a panic mode for its editors to set Shane loose on such a comparison. There is a good reason for that panic.
Polls show that, especially in crucial swing states, President Obama’s lead is increasing over his challenger, Mitt Romney. Even Benjamin Netanyahu (above, during his UN speech) has thrown in the towel, promising to hold off his attack on Iran until after the election.
The Times hit the panic button not because it wants Romney to win. What frightens the Times is the same realization that hits sports editors when a football team loses both its star quarterback and leading receiver just before the Super Bowl.
A month is a long time to cover a political fight when the outcome is already determined. What to do? What is a profit-oriented publication giant to do with all those political news pages to fill?
Not to worry, the Times knows narratives can be generated. It also knows the best narrative is the conflict narrative. As the old city editor always said, “conflict is what sells papers, kid, never forget that.” (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama’s UN Call For “the right to practice free speech” Does Not Embrace Beit Ommar
President Barack Obama was at his eloquent best when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week.
Until, that is, he inserted a jarring note that was anything but eloquent. It sounded, in fact, like a left over paragraph from Obama’s last speech to AIPAC.
Note the following contrast between the President’s explanation of why the United States does not ban even ugly and demeaning speech like that which appeared in the recent movie trailer that blasphemed the Prophet Muhammed.
The Video That Could Doom A Candidate
The presidential election is still four and a half weeks away, but the video that tells us about Republican Mitt Romney’s inner beliefs on Palestine and U.S. tax payers, may already have doomed his candidacy.
Mother Jones, a non-profit progressive publication, obtained the video of Candidate Romney speaking at a $50,000 per guest fund raiser on May 7, in Boca Raton, Florida. It is difficult to see how the Republican ticket can survive the fall-out from what it reveals about Romney.
Romney had started his current spectacular slide when he chose Clint Eastwood to speak before Romney’s nomination acceptance speech in Tampa. The off-color humor that Eastwood used was inappropriate and tasteless. It also upstaged Romney’s dull content-less speech.
Of course, Romney’s slide to a possibly doomed candidacy was already greased by Romney’s refusal to come clean on his personal finances, some of which have been stashed away in tax-free havens overseas.
Three presidential and one vice-presidential debates await the candidates. The Republican ticket of Romney and Paul Ryan could start a major comeback with those debates, but nothing in their campaign rhetoric thus far indicates they are ready to speak to any but their right-wing admirers.
How A Hate-Driven Anti-Muslim Film Led to the Death of Four U.S. Diplomats
by James M. Wall
Cole knows the Middle East and he has the writing skills to clarify the complexities of the region and how they intereact with U.S. politics as they unfold.
Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger (Informed Comment) and essayist. He is also the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
After reflecting on the chaotic series of events that began with a clumsy, fraudulent YouTube preview of an anti-Muslim film produced in California, Cole offered “the butterfly effect” as the metaphor which explains how a small film led to the deaths of four U.S. diplomats in Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.
Cole begins his blog posting:
The late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury authored a short story about time travelers. They were careful, when they went back to the Jurassic, not to change anything, but one of them stepped on a butterfly. When they got back to the present, the world was slightly different.
When scientists studying complexity put forward the idea that small initial events could have large effects in non-linear, dynamic systems like the weather, they chose the term ‘butterfly effect.” One of the images students of weather instanced was that a butterfly flapping its wings might set off minor turbulence that ultimately turned into a hurricane.
Cole’s butterfly metaphor begins this narrative describing the death of four U.S. diplomats, with a man initially known as “Sam Bacile”, who claimed to have directed the film, The Innocence of Muslims. The Associated Press traced the history of this “Sam Bacile”, and discovered that he most likely does not exist. The false name is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Night An Unscripted Moment of Democracy Surprised the Democrats
To have seen it, you had to be watching either a public or a cable network. You also had to be watching closely.
Otherwise, early Tuesday evening in the Democratic National Convention, you missed an ever-so fleeting unscripted moment of democracy at work.
The old axiom, “Never watch sausage nor legislation being made”, fits that moment perfectly.
What happened was not pretty; in fact, it was downright ugly with a ruling from the presiding officer, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (right), saying the “ayes” sounded stronger than the “nays”, a dubious ruling, at best in a vote requiring a majority. If the vote needed more than a majority to pass–this is not made clear–then it is not just dubious, but obviously wrong.
As it often is, unfortunately, with the making of sausage and legislation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israeli Court Blames Rachel Corrie: She “Put Herself in a Dangerous Situation”
An Israeli civil court’s decision to exonerate the Israeli Defense Force in the death of Rachel Corrie, was not a surprise.
Rather, the decision, written in Israeli narrative language, reinforces the obvious: Israel’s judicial system has become a legal front that protects the power of Israel’s military dictatorship.
The court’s verdict blamed the victim with all the subtlety of a court describing a rape victim who invited trouble by wearing provocative clothing.
Gary Spedding, a Huffington Post blogger from Belfast, Ireland, writes:
After waiting for almost ten years for today’s court verdict the family of Rachel Corrie have left an Israeli court in Haifa this morning feeling the bitter sting of injustice from Israel’s politicized justice system.
Early Tuesday morning the Israeli court rejected accusations that Israel was at fault over the death of US citizen Rachel, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in the occupied Gaza strip.
Corrie Family Waits For Tuesday Verdict
Rachel Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy (right), and her sister, Sarah, are in Israel this week, waiting for a verdict from the Haifa District Court on the family’s suit against the government of Israel. The verdict from Judge Oded Gershon, is expected to be announced Tuesday.
The civil suit was filed two years ago over Rachel’s 2003 death when an Israeli Defense Force bull dozer killed her as she stood with a bull horn protesting the IDF’s destruction of a Palestinian home in Gaza. Israel’s official response was that the death was an accident.
Amira Hass, West Bank and Gaza correspondent for Ha’aretz, reported Thursday that U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, told the Corrie family that
Israel’s investigation into the death of American activist Rachel Corrie was not satisfactory, and wasn’t as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been.
The U.S. government position is “not new” to the Corries, but their attorneys told the family that hearing it only a few days before the verdict was “important and encouraging [to the family],” because it signals to the Corrie family that the U.S. government will continue to demand a full accounting from Israel about their daughter’s killing, regardless of how Judge Oded Gershon rules”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Delivers “Or Else” Demands To Obama
A message from Israel arrived on our shores this week. It came from the prime minister and defense minister of Israel.
The message was not sent in a diplomatic pouch. Nor did it come in a private conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barak Obama, though we have to assume the same message had already been sent to the White House.
The message was a warning that the Strong Man of the Middle East will go to war against Iran before Election Day, November 6, unless Barack Obama meets two Israeli demands. The warning was delivered by the New York Times in a news analysis, “Israeli Leaders Could Be Dissuaded From Striking Iran”, by the Times’ Jerusalem correspondent, Jodi Rudoren.
A former Israeli national security adviser said Wednesday that the prime minister and the defense minister told him this week they had not yet decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and could be dissuaded from a strike if President Obama approved stricter sanctions and publicly confirmed his willingness to use military force.
Got that Mr. President? Only you can prevent this forest fire from engulfing the Middle East. Israel has lit the flame. Netanyahu has sent the warning: Either you do exactly what we demand—stricter sanctions and a public statement that the U.S. is willing to use military force against Iran—or else we will ignite the deadly flame of war against Iran. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ten Swing States Could Decide the 2012 Election; Obama Leads in Nine of Them
With less than three months left before voters decide between President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, Obama has a strong lead in the latest Politico poll figures.
Politico identifies ten swing states that will most likely decide the 2012 election. Obama leads in nine of them: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Romney leads Obama by one percent in the swing state of North Carolina.
If these swing vote states hold up in an election that requires 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win a majority, Obama would gain 111 electoral votes to Romney’s 15. States that appear solid or leaning for Obama give him an addiitional 221 electoral votes. Romney’s solid or leaning state electoral votes total 191. These figures add up to 332 for Obama and 206 for Romney, more than enough to give Obama the winning total.
A major reason we might safely assume these numbers will hold up can be found in an ABC-Washington Post poll which found that only 40 percent of voters “hold a favorable view of Romney”. In a late May poll, that number was 41, suggesting a downward trend. Low favorability numbers this late in the campaign does not portend well for the challenger. (To continue reading, click here.)
Romney Visits Culturally “Superior” Israel; Totally Ignores the Occupation
Mitt Romney traveled to Jerusalem earlier this week. He was not there on a fact-finding mission. He was raising money for his presidential campaign.
He was also cultivating American voters who live in Israel, while stroking his pro-Israel voters back home with pictures like this one (right) of the candidate praying at the Western Wall.
The only attention the Palestinians received came in a back-handed slap delivered by Romney when he spoke to a luncheon sponsored by his wealthy U.S. backer, casino owner Sheldon Adelson.
Romney told 40 wealthy donors at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel that Israel has a far superior GDP per capita than “the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority”.
Displaying a total ignorance of the prison-like occupation under which the Palestinian people must struggle, Romney explained that the ”dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” was due to Israel’s superior culture. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Creates A Settler “Samaria” University
by James M. Wall
There is something about those green-covered campus lawns growing in a water-starved desert land interspersed with eager young students hurrying to class, that stirs pride in the hearts of citizens of an expanding city.
That pride was turned up another notch this week after ABC news reported an Associated Press story which began:
“A settler body voted Tuesday to grant university status to Israel’s only West Bank settlement college, overruling objections by Israel’s Council on Higher Education and potentially stirring a new round of international condemnation against Israeli policies in the West Bank.
Upgrading the college in the Ariel settlement has touched off a debate inside Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been driving a string of pro-settler measures — including a state panel’s recent conclusion that Israeli settlement of the West Bank is legal.”
Let the international condemnations rain down. And pay no heed to that debate inside Israel.
What matters to Ariel and the politically potent settler movement, is that Israel has firmly planted its first university in what they call Samaria, on Palestinian land. (To continue reading, click here.)
What Protestants Could Learn from Ron Paul
When the gavel fell on the Episcopalian convention July 10, three major U.S. Protestant denominations had formally ended their 2012 discussions on how much religious support they were willing to give Palestinians under occupation.
Judging by the degree of hostility stirred up inside the Zionist opposition, the Presbyterians and United Methodists, took the most advanced pro-justice positions in the Sturm und Drang religious political struggles.
The last of the three to meet, the Episcopal Church, ran pretty much in place, sticking with investment over divestment. According to the Episcopal News Service, the Episcopalian “House of Bishops, concurring with deputies, have overwhelmingly supported a resolution on positive investment in the Palestinian Territories”.
The Episcopalians also “agreed to postpone indefinitely the conversation on corporate engagement,” hardly a prophetic call to arms against injustice.
Indeed, all three denominations have come very close to invoking the divine thunderbolt promised in Revelation 3:16, an action best left in divine hands. (To continue reading, click here.)
Pro-Divestment Presbyterians Win By Losing
Do you really want to know what happened at the just-concluded 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination?
As a veteran watcher of Protestant church political struggles, I urge you to remember that neither the cross nor the crown are free of an eagerness to grasp deliberate obfuscation in struggling to win each political battle.
The winner of the obfuscation battle in Pittsburgh was, hands down, the anti-divestment crowd. The pro-divestment crowd, on the other hand, won by losing a key vote in the Assembly.
The presumed “winners”, the anti-divestment forces, operated with a strategy that set up a “stalking horse” to enter the field of battle.
Faced with the huge problem of how to persuade delegates to vote against basic human rights for Palestinians living under occupation, the anti-divesment forces created a “stalking horse” of “investments that will benefit Palestinians”.
Seriously, that is what they put forward. (To continue reading, click here.)
Presbyterians Next Up for Divestment Vote
Jimmy Carter wrote a New York Times op-ed piece this week, A Cruel and Unusual Record, which states flatly:
“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public.
As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
Carter’s focus is on “moral authority”. This is the same authority that must, in all cases, motivate the nation’s churches.
44 Senators Tell Obama To Do Israel’s Bidding
War, as General Sherman once said, is hell. It is also widely perceived to be a failure of diplomacy.
Which would explain why it is that when war-promoting lobbyists want to generate congressional enthusiasm for the next war, all short-term congressional memories must be wiped out.
Wiped out, that is, with the efficiency of that “cricket clicker” used by Agents Kay and Jay, played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith (shown here), in the Men in Black film series.
In the films, one click aimed at a targeted subject erases all recent memory; the clicker also works amazingly well in US elections.
Which is one explanation of why after yet another click-call from AIPAC, 44 US senators found that they no longer remembered what happened the last time the neocons took us to war against a Middle East nation, a war that has thus far cost 4,000 American military dead at a cost of more than $800 billion.(To continue reading, click here.)
Five Years and Counting: Israel Creates and Manages Its “Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza”
Drawing from a report by Save the Children, Electronic Intifada’s Managing Editor Maureen Clare Murphy, describes what she correctly terms, Israel’s managed “humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.
A humanitarian crisis that is managed? Wait a minute; “managing” means controlling what happens. Yes it does.
Which is how it comes about that Israel is managing “Gaza’s humanitarian crisis”.
Aided and abetted by the United States, Israel has for five years deliberately and systematically blockaded Gaza with militarily-enforced “restrictions placed on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza”.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not come from floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes. This on-going crisis comes from the official policy of Israel.
American tax payers are funding this evil and deliberate crime, through annual doles in the billions, and the continued presence of corporate US interests that support and contribute to the managed crisis. (And which American church leaders refuse to condemn.)
How could it be that American tax payers permit a blockade that “has been the single greatest contributor to endemic and long-lasting household poverty in Gaza”, an act that prevents families from access to food, medicine and medical care. (To continue reading, click here.)
New Jersey’s 9th CD Voters Say No to AIPAC
One election night victory in one New Jersey congressional district does not represent a major shift in American politics. But shifts do occur, and they must start somewhere.
On the night of June 5, 2012, this was the news the Star-Ledger reported from the Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ.
In an upset, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell has defeated fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman in the Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District.
What makes the news from Passaic County so surprising was that Pascrell’s election to a House seat from New Jersey’s new 9th district was not supposed to happen.
How could it, two years after the news broke that Bill Pascrell was one of 54 House members who signed a 2010 letter to President Obama urging him “to use diplomatic pressure to resolve the blockade affecting Gaza.” The letter reads, in part:
The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. . . . The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering.
Signing that letter was a risky political move for Pascrell. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama Emerges as the US Warrior President
Memorial Day in the United States is a time for hot dogs, overcooked burgers, too much beer, and a massive dose of militaristic patriotism.
It is also a good time for Americans to begin thinking seriously of who should be elected president this November.
This year, President Obama kept his focus on his own reelection campaign and, at the same time, announced himself as the US warrior president. The president has apparently decided a warrior president is a better image to project for his reelection in a downward spiraling economy.
Don’t take my word for it. Check out a story released on Memorial Day. It was orchestrated by the Obama White House for The New York Times. The story appeared in the Times‘ internet edition on Memorial Day, and in the print edition the next day.
With the help of White House operatives, past and present, the Times portrays the president as a man carrying the heavy moral burden of deciding when a US-desginated suspected terrorist will die in a drone attack. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Elections Penetrate Israel’s “Impenetrable, Dangerous, Ideological Shield”?
It has been 25 years since Jewish historian, and Israeli critic, Simha Flapan, described the dominant narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his 1987 book, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities.
Even though Israel has the most sophisticated army in the region and possesses an advanced atomic capability, it continues to regard itself in terms of the Holocaust, as the victim of an unconquerable, bloodthirsty enemy. Thus whatever Israelis do, whatever means we employ to guard our gains or to increase them, we justify as last-ditch self-defense. We can, therefore, do no wrong. The myths of Israel forged during the formation of the state have hardened into this impenetrable, and dangerous, ideological shield.
At the time of its publication, Flapan’s book was exhilarating to anyone who by the mid-1980s, was running up against what Flapan termed, Israel’s ” impenetrable, and dangerous, ideological shield”
This summer, that impenetrable wall has begun to show cracks of possible penetrability. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Incompatibility of Nakba and Neutrality
Neve Gordon, a 47-year-old Israeli-born professor and author, greeted this year’s 64th anniversary of the Nakba with an essay for CounterPunch that included this revealing confession:
I first heard about the Nakba in the late 1980s, while I was an undergraduate student of philosophy at Hebrew University. This, I believe, is a revealing fact, particularly since, as a teenager, I was a member of Peace Now and was raised in a liberal home.
I grew up in the southern [Israeli] city of Be’er-Sheva, which is just a few kilometres from several unrecognised Bedouin villages that, today, are home to thousands of residents who were displaced in 1948.
How is it possible that a left-leaning Israeli teenager who was living in the Negev during the early 1980s (I graduated from high-school in 1983) had never heard the word “Nakba”?
It is an honest question. It is also a question that every one of us must confront if we are ever to grasp what is at the core of the so-called “debate” within American churches about the role Christians must play in ending the agony of the Israeli occupation.(To continue reading, click here.)
Your Hard-Earned US Tax Dollars and Church Pension Funds at Work for Israel
Mass demonstrations in support of 2500 Palestinian hunger strikers swept through the West Bank this weekend.
Marchers moved through the streets of Hebron, Kafr Qaddoum, Nablus, Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin, Ramallah, al-Walaja and outside of Ofer prison. The picture here was taken in Hebron.
It shows an Israeli soldier with his knee firmly planted on a young Palestinian’s neck.
The picture also shows how American tax dollars and church pensions are at work on this Mothers Day weekend, a commercially-driven event in which American teenagers and their families annually honor mothers with gifts and family meals.
On this particular American Mothers’ Day weekend, a large contingent of Palestinian teenagers joined their mothers and other family members to offer their support to prisoners on lengthy and dangerous hunger strikes.
Laura Kacere wrote in A Nation of Change, that Mothers Day had a different meaning when it was initially launched. In fact, the Palestinian mothers who marched this weekend in support of hunger strikers, some of whom may have been their children, are demonstrating in a manner more akin to the original purpose of Mothers Day.
Methodists Boycott Settlement Products
By a vote of 558 to 367, a strong majority of lay and clerical delegates to the United Methodist General Conference called this week for a boycott of Israeli companies operating in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
The resolution denounces the Israeli occupation and the settlements in a sweeping indictment.
It calls for “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.”
The resolution was focused specifically on the settlements, not on the state of Israel. It states:
“The United Methodist Church does not support a boycott of products made in Israel. Our opposition is to products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.”
That was not an easy vote. It also was an important victory for anti-occupation forces in Tampa since it calls attention to one of three actions in the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that Palestinians have adopted as a non-violent way to attack the occupation.
The vote on a resolution calling for the UMC to divest its pension funds from three US Corporations, Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Systems, was brought to the floor on Wednesday afternoon.
That resolution was a long shot from the outset. It lost after a series of votes that ended in a final 685 to 246 decision that the UMC would continue to finance the occupation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Methodists Delay Vote Until Later This Week
The United Methodist Church has delayed a vote on a resolution on divestment from three US companies which ““aid and abet”* Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The vote was initially set for Tuesday, but has been delayed until later this week. There is speculation among General Conference delegates in Tampa, that a move will be made to limit debate on the final resolution to two short speeches on each side.
Supporters of divestment are hopeful they will prevail. Prominent Palestinian visitors have made convincing speeches in meetings around the Conference. The outcome, however, remains uncertain.
Meanwhile, while we wait, let us use our time creatively by pondering another vote scheduled in the US in November.
That would be the election between the incumbent US President, Barack Obama, and the presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. That election offers an ominous connection to the resolution process currently facing United Methodist delegates in Tampa.
The November election campaign has begun. President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan overnight Tuesday where he was greeted by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Lt. General Mike Scaparrotti, Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. (picture above.) (To continue reading, click here.)
Methodists Face Moment of Occupation Truth
The mainstream media does not know it, and far too many high steeple church folk do not want to know it.
But in Tampa, Florida, this week, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will make a decision.
They will spend the week writing and rewriting. Some, like Alissa Bertsch Johnson, a campus minister at Washington State University (at right), will passionately state their case.
Before the gavel falls on the last session of the 2012 General Conference, the people called Methodists will have responded, one way or another, to the call from Palestinian Christians that they take one small step toward ending the Israeli Occupation.
They may vote to endorse a targeted divestment resolution.
Or, they may declare that such action is not needed, forgetting that in doing so, they follow the path of those segregation-tolerating Birmingham church leaders who wrote to Martin Luther King, Jr., in words to this effect, “it is too soon to attack this evil. We must wait until our people are with us.” (To continue reading, click here.)
“Throw Their Dirty, Filthy Ships Out of the Water!”
“Throw Their Dirty, Filthy Ships Out of the Water!”
In the 2006 movie, Amazing Grace, John Newton shouts these words at William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament who was the leader of a 19th century fight to force the British government to bar British ships and ports from participating in the slave trade.
The “dirty, filthy ships” to which Newton refers are slave ships which sailed from England to Africa and then to the New World.
Newton (Albert Finney) delivers his demand to his younger friend Wilberforce at a time when the younger man was faltering in his struggle against pro-slavery members of Parliament
This conflict is captured in precise and dramatic detail in the film, as Wilberforce and his allies in the Parliament, and from anti-slavery groups, visit slave ships and meet with former slaves.
John Newton had been the owner and captain of one of those ships. Following a major storm in the Atlantic that almost sank his ship, Newton repented of what he knew was a great sin, the mistreatment of fellow human beings.
Newton returned to England to become what he later termed, “an old preacher”. He also wrote hymns, the most famous of which was Amazing Grace, which contains the line, “I once was lost but now I am found, was blind, but now I see”.
Newton had known Wilberforce for many years, constantly encouraging him to continue his long abolitionist struggle, first to bar all slave ships from English ports and then to eliminate slavery throughout the United Kingdom.
At the time pro-slavery members of Parliament argued that the slave shipping trade brought economic benefit to England. Some even maintained that slaves were content with their lot; others argued slaves were sub-human.
Amazing Grace, directed by Michael Apted, traces the friendship of Wilberforce and Newton. It also examines Wilberforce’s growth as a political leader, and not so incidentally, as a friend of William Pitt, his friend who became Prime Minister at the age of 24.
Pitt was a cautious politician. He was also a supporter of Wilberforce’s idealism. Another important historical figure who is not portrayed in the film, is John Wesley
When I revisited the film this week, less than a week before the United Methodist Conference opens, I was struck by a historical parallel, and most especially, I was moved by Newton’s violent outburst to Wilberforce. (To continue reading,click here.)
Does Israel Interfere in US Elections?
Israel’s ambassador to the US, former American citizen Michael Oren, (at right) trotted out a classic Zionist strategy when he sent a letter to the New York Times denying that Israel is “interfering” in the American presidential campaign.
Oren’s letter was reported in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on April 12, under the headline:
“Israeli ambassador to New York Times: Netanyahu does not interfere in U.S. elections”
This Ha’aretz headline was followed by a sub headline, stating:
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, submits letter to the editor to NYT, complaining about an article detailing the close relationship between Netanyahu and likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The problem with Oren’s attack is that the Times story did not use the term “interfering”. The ambassador denies something the story does not claim.
Oren’s letter skillfully ignores the facts of the story under a theoretical cloud of his own making. He also manages to bring attention to his Israeli public to a story which promises good things ahead if Romney is elected. (To continue reading, click here.)
Gunter Grass Exposes Israel As a Nuclear Power that “Endangers” a Fragile World Peace
Western journalists and politicians have long enforced that silence by unspoken and unwritten common agreement.
The silence was successfully imposed for two reasons: The Holocaust and the fear of being called anti-Semitic.
Gunter Grass (pictured above) has broken that silence with his poem, Was gesagt werden muss (What must be said). (To continue reading, click here.)
Church Leader Tells Palestinians and Israelis “eat together and listen to each other’s stories
(New Comments Posted Below)
An appalling shallowness has descended over Mainline Protestantism.
Episcopalians, United Methodists and Presbyterians are actually debating how they should deal with the Israeli Occupation
Martin Luther King, sitting in that Birmingham city jail, would most certainly inform these prelates that there is no debating evil. A brutal military occupation is not open to debate.
It is a disturbing spectacle. The collective ignorance displayed by many of the men and women—though, thank God, not all—who govern these denominations, boggles the mind.
The issue, my dear Christian friends, is justice, pure and simple. And yet, there they are, these robed religiosos, dripping with interfaith piety, proclaiming that the simple act of divestment of church funds is too harsh a tactic to use against Israel’s settlement obsessed, right-wing government.
What do they teach in seminary these days? Have those Old Testament professors who lead their Israeli-sanctioned “study groups” to the Holy Land removed the prophets from their syllabi? (To continue reading, click here.)
The View From Israel/US In 1977 and 2012
The editorial comment below is reprinted from the Christian Century magazine of November 23, 1977.
At the time the editorial appeared, I was the editor of the Century. This was the week’s lead editorial. In 1977, I had been editor for five years, a position I held until 1999.
President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in January, 1977. Menachem Begin was head of the Likud Party, which won a majority in the Knesset elections held on May 17, 1977.
Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in June, 1977.
At the time this editorial appeared, the new American President had come to the United Nations to meet with the new Israeli Prime Minister. I was at the meeting in an editorial capacity.