A regular reader wrote recently and asked why I write so often about Palestine and Israel.
It was a good question and after some time for reflection I have an answer for him, inspired by a 1971 Johnny Cash song, “The Man in Black”.
Cash had been asked why he always wore black. He explains that he did so because he identifies with the poor and the hungry, the prisoners, the lonely and the old, and those who are dying in a war in a distant land, at that time, the Vietnam War.
A few years later, after “The Man In Black” became a best-selling album, Cash said:
“With the Vietnam War as painful in my mind as it was in most other Americans’, I wore it ‘in mournin’ for the lives that could have been.’ … Apart from the Vietnam War being over, I don’t see much reason to change my position … The old are still neglected, the poor are still poor, the young are still dying before their time, and we’re not making many moves to make things right. There’s still plenty of darkness to carry off.”
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and our American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, are today providing “plenty of darkness”. Together, these wars are today’s Vietnam.
I am aware that I cannot sing, or write simple, powerful poetry as Cash has done. But I must write about the darkness that covers our nation as it continues its pursuit of empirical conquest at a tremendous cost at home, under the guise of “fighting terror”. Indeed, “terrorism” is today’s version of the Communism that Nixon and Kissinger used as their excuse for “defending” South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.
Johnny Cash originally recorded “The Man in Black” before a college audience in May, 1971, one year after the Kent State Massacre when, during a student protest against the invasion of Cambodia, Ohio national guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.
In May, 1971, Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, were still conducting a secret war, the details of which were only fully revealed on June 30, 1971, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times.
The story of how those Papers were finally published in the Times is vividly presented in the 2010 documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America. The title refers to Daniel Ellsberg, the Harvard professor who courageously risked his freedom to deliver the Pentagon Papers to the Times.
Henry Kissinger, who once taught with Ellsburg at Harvard, bitterly described his former academic colleague as “the most dangerous man in America.”
Ellsberg writes of his experiences in his 2002 book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
Along with the vast majority of the American public, Johnny Cash was unaware of the Vietnam war narrative which Nixon and Kissinger tried to keep secret, when he wrote the lyrics for ”The Man in Black”. What he did know was that young Americans and many Vietnamese were dying needlessly.
The lyrics are at the end of this post.
Today, with wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the West Bank Bank and Gaza our military forces, and our surrogate Israeli military forces, are involved in an overall war against what a previous American president misnamed as “the global war on terror”.
This 2010 midterm election have essentially ignored the thousands and hundreds of thousands who are dying in distant lands because of our wars. Instead, public attention is riveted on the craziness of the Tea Party candidates, some of whom may very well end up in the Congress.
The American public does not know about the Israeli settlers who set fire to a Palestinian girls’ school building near Nablus this past week. Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment blog is a flashing light of warning to the American public, tells the story of the attack on the school:
The phrase “ethnic cleansing” conjures up a swift, comprehensive act of expulsion. But in reality, moving a large population off its land is the death of a thousand cuts, a slow, inexorable process of stealing property, harassment, forcing people into a condition of malnutrition.
The Native Americans in the Americas, the Aborigines in Australia, and the Palestinians in Israel/Palestine were only sometimes forced off their land suddenly and en masse. The gradual processes told, in the long run.
The amazing thing about what is being done to the Palestinians in the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli illegal aliens is that it is happening in full view of the world, reported on by wire services, and yet remains invisible to Western publics.
The world reacts in horror when the Taliban in Afghanistan torch girls’ schools. But Israeli squatters just set fire to the store room of a Palestinian girls’ school, and the whole school would have gone up in flames if that warehouse had not been near a water main. The Israeli illegals left behind graffiti saying ‘regards from the hills.’
Cole also reports that earlier in October,
Israeli squatters set fire to a Palestinian mosque in Bethlehem.
[Also this autumn] there is the seasonal vandalism against olive trees in Palestinian orchards, which reached a fever pitch this year. The Israeli authorities prosecute few of these offenses and almost never hand down a punishment to an Israeli squatter.
The 10 million olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza, occupying some 45 percent of the farmland, are the matrix of Palestinian existence. An attack on olive trees is a form of economic warfare of the first water.
The American public knows far more about the fumbling responses of the Republican candidate for Joe Biden’s old Delaware senate seat, than it does about the needless death of a 2-year-old Gaza child who was prevented by the Israeli army from traveling the short distance outside Gaza for specialized treatment. The Palestinian organization, Physicians for Human Rights, has that story on its website:
Nasma Abu Lasheen died on Saturday, October 16, 2010 in Gaza. Israel failed to issue her an urgent entry permit for life-saving medical treatment at Ha-Emek Medical Center in Afula, Israel. She was two years old.
Abu Lasheen, a young resident of Gaza diagnosed with Leukemia, was referred for emergency treatment in Israel on October 6, 2010. When requests to the Israeli Army for an entry permit went unanswered for several days, by way of B’tselem, the family contacted Physicians for Human Rights- Israel (PHR-Israel) for additional help.
That very same day, on October 13, 2010, PHR-Israel contacted the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO) demanding a permit be issued immediately to the baby and her father to enable their entry into Israel. A military approval was finally granted the next afternoon, October 14, 2010.
Abu Lasheen’s medical condition had been deteriorating rapidly and by the time the permit was received, the treating doctor in Gaza, Dr. Mohammad Abu Sha’aban, said she was too sick to travel. Nasma died in the early morning hours of October 16, 2010.
Ziad Abbas works for the Middle East Children’s Alliance on a project to bring clean water to the children of Palestine. He grew up in Palestine. He writes in Counter Punch, that his work is especially personal to him because of his own childhood experiences of growing up deprived of water.
Israel controls and uses 89% of the water resources in the West Bank, leaving 11% for the 2.5 million Palestinians. The Israeli Occupation continues to limit Palestinian access to clean water as form of collective punishment by controlling the water resources and distribution and by destroying the water that we are able to get.
During Israeli military incursions, and especially during curfews, when we could not leave our homes, Israeli soldiers would shoot the water storage tanks on our roofs. Our water would pour down the sides of our buildings unused.
During the recent attack on Gaza, Israel targeted the entire water infrastructure including the largest water purification system in Gaza. They also targeted electrical generators that supported water purification and sewage treatment.
I write about these things because American churches are still hung up on not offending their Jewish neighbors, thus choosing interfaith harmony over justice.
I write about these things because major denominational meetings, like this past summer’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA, dickered and delayed and finally decided to study further how they might best deal with the “problems” in the Middle East.
Since that Presbyterian GA meeting, two-year-old Abu Lasheen died waiting for permission to travel to an Israeli hospital. Since that meeting, Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian girls school, leaving behind graffiti on the wall that said, “regards from the hills”. Something about the insensitive arrogance of that graffiti implies there was not enough room on the wall to add, in Clint Eastwoodian fashion, “we’ll be back.”
I write about the American media’s blindness to the narrative of the suffering in Palestine because Tom Friedman continues to fool his liberal readers by pretending to criticize Israel when his criticism always includes the AIPAC approved list of what he insists are “facts”, but which are either outright lies or distortions of reality.
The most recent example was Friedman’s October 20 column which calls on Israel to help President Obama line up world opposition to Iran by reaching a friendly agreement with Palestinian negotiators.
Friedman opens his column with a set of “stubborn facts” which are really just a repeat of the acceptable Israeli narrative which, of course, he assures his readers are “stubborn facts”. Only, they are not.
Here is the start of Thomas Friedman’s latest column, followed by corrections:
Say what you want about Israel’s obstinacy at times, it remains the only country in the United Nations that another U.N. member, Iran, has openly expressed the hope that it be wiped off the map. And that same country, Iran, is trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Israel is the only country I know of in the Middle East that has unilaterally withdrawn from territory conquered in war — in Lebanon and Gaza — only to be greeted with unprovoked rocket attacks in return.
Indeed, if you want to talk about spoiled children, there is no group more spoiled by Iran and Syria than Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.
Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese — and Hezbollah’s punishment was to be rewarded with thousands more missiles and millions more dollars to do it again. These are stubborn facts.
Friedman’s “stubborn facts” are stubborn, alright. They are falsehoods or distortions he clings to “stubbornly”.
Iran’s President Ahmedinejad never used the phrase, “wipe Israel off the map”. That was an initial mistranslation into English which the media loved and never let go. The media has refused, as Friedman does here, to go back and obtain the original statement by Ahmedinejad in a speech he gave to a Persian audience.
The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran’s first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, when he said that “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” just as the Shah’s regime in Iran had vanished.
He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The “page of time” phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon. There was no implication that either Khomeini, when he first made the statement, or Ahmadinejad, in repeating it, felt it was imminent, or that Iran would be involved in bringing it about.
Another error: It is true that Israel took its military forces out of Lebanon and Gaza, but it did so because the cost in Israeli lives had become too expensive to maintain the garrisons in those two areas.
The invasions had proved to be a major loss for the vastly superior Israeli forces, a fact Friedman ignores as he praises Israel for its “unilateral withdrawal” from the two countries it had invaded and failed to control.
Friedman writes that “Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese.”
Israel did launch a massive invasion of Lebanon in 2006, but who fired the first shot has been debated. Israeli sources have confirmed that Israel’s invasion plans were already on the drawing board when a border skirmish erupted, giving Israel the excuse it wanted to launch a war that, indeed, “brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese.”
Who brought those deaths, injuries and destruction to the Lebanese? Israel, of course.
Careful research would quickly demonstrate to Friedman and every other pro-Israel pundit and politician that Friedman’s “stubborn facts” are either false or distorted.
I will continue to write on Israel and Palestine as long as pundits like Thomas Friedman have access to the pages of the New York Times, and the American public remains ignorant of the actual facts on the ground in Israel and Palestine.
The Man in Black, lyrics by Johnny Cash
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black, Why you never see bright colors on my back, And why does my appearance always have a somber tone. Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town, And I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, But still is there because he’s a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read, Or listened to the words that Jesus said, About the road to happiness through love and charity, Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.
Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose, In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes, But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back, Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old, For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold, I wear the black in mornin’ for the lives that could have been, Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died, Believen’ that the Lord was on their side, And I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died, Believen’ that we all were on their side.
Well, there’s things that never will be right I know, And things need changin’ everywhere you go, But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right, You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.
Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day, To tell the world that everything’s OK, But mabe I can carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.
The photo at the top of the page is of two Bedouin girls, in school uniform, returning to their houses after a school day in Abu Farda near the West Bank city of Qalqilia on October 6, 2010. MaanImages/Khaleel Reash.
The Youtube above, and the lyrics by Johnny Cash may be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLkmC2VuXA8.
Filed under: Media, Middle East Politics | 16 Comments
Obama will host Palestinian Authority President Abbas at the White House on March 17. He will no doubt engage in the same tough talk with Abbas.
Obama also said in the interview that he will warn Netanyahu that “time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy”.
In the hour-long Oval Office interview, which was conducted Thursday [February 27] Obama used a famous saying from the first century Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, one of the most influential scholars in Jewish history, that he planned to tell Netanyahu, “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who”?
The original Hillel quote, according to the Jewish Virtual Library is:
“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
The Jerusalem newspaper Ha’aretz noted an important reference to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the interview. Goldberg writes that Obama described Abbas as “the most moderate leader Israel would encounter in the foreseeable future”.
According to Goldberg, Obama gave him the impression that Netanyahu was the one who had to be flexible in order to advance the peace talks.
The President also said that he intends to remind Netanyahu:
“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices. Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time?
Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”
Amnesty International has released its report, entitled, appropriately enough, “Trigger-happy”, on the conduct of Israeli forces that underscores the growing international awareness of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian population it holds in its tight military-grip.
Amnesty’s web site begins its story on the latest investigation:
Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity, said Amnesty International in a report published today.
The report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, describes mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians since January 2011.
In all cases examined by Amnesty International, Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life. In some, there is evidence that they were victims of willful killings, which would amount to war crimes.
“The report presents a body of evidence that shows a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“Trigger-happy” and the Goldberg-Obama interview, were both available to Netanyahu before he met Monday with Obama. The Prime Minister had a long plane ride from Tel Aviv to Washington Sunday.
After arriving in Washington Sunday night Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Secretary Kerry Monday morning before meeting with the president. On Tuesday morning Netanyahu was expected to address AIPAC, no doubt to thunderous applause.
The advance word from AIPAC indicated that as many as 400 members of Congress would be among the 14,000 in attendance.
Later Tuesday, the Prime Minister will fly to Los Angeles. He will have received his Obama ultimatum.
On the flight he will have more time to reflect on his future dealings with the Palestinian people, his international reputation, and on how he intends to lead Israel into the future.
The picture above of Obama and Netanyahu was taken in Israel, March, 2013, by Marc Israel, Sellem Pool Getty Images.
Filed under: John Kerry, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama | 6 Comments
Rachel Corrie was killed March 16, 2003, by an Israeli soldier who crushed her to death with an American-built Caterpillar bulldozer.
Eleven years later, March 16, 2014, on the anniversary of her death, Rachel Corrie (right) will be remembered by her family and friends.
She will also be remembered on this anniversary, by those who celebrate and cherish a young American woman who said no to Israel’s occupation and no to the constant attacks on Palestinians and the destruction of Palestinian homes.
This year, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice will hold a series of events in Olympia, Washington, to remember and honor Rachel. (Click here for details.)
What happened when an American citizen was killed by an Israeli soldier driving an American-built bull dozer? Mother Jones had Israel’s official reaction in 2003:
“The Israeli government, which rarely acknowledges the deaths of Palestinian civilians killed during its military operations, went into damage-control mode. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush a “thorough, credible, and transparent investigation.” Later Israel declared the killing a “regrettable accident” and blamed it on overzealous Corrie and the other activists working as human shields.”
Subsequent calls for Congress to investigate Rachel Corrie’s death were ignored. A civil lawsuit brought by her family against the Israeli military, was introduced in Israeli courts, March 15, 2005. The Israeli justice system responded slowly.
Seven years after the suit was filed, and nine years after Rachel Corrie’s death, an Israeli court reached a final verdict. Robert Mackey, a New York Times blogger reported:
As my colleagues Jodi Rudoren and Danielle Ziri report, an Israeli judge ruled on Tuesday that the state bore no responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who was crushed to death by a military bulldozer in 2003 as she tried to block the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.
Ms. Corrie, who was a student at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., joined the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement in January 2003, and was killed two months later in the Gazan town of Rafah, which straddles the border with Egypt.
Photographs published by The Electronic Intifada on March 16, 2003, the day she died, showed that Ms. Corrie confronted heavily armored bulldozers that day wearing a bright orange vest and, until a few minutes before her death, using a bullhorn to amplify her voice. The same Web site also published sworn affidavits recorded within days of the deadly incident by three other international activists who were present when Ms. Corrie was killed.
One of those witnesses, a Briton named Tom Dale, sent the following statement to The Lede on Tuesday from Cairo, where he now works as a journalist:
“The verdict in Rachel’s case is saddening for all those who knew Rachel, and for all who believe in what she stood for. It should be disappointing for all those who want to see justice done in Israel and Palestine.
On March 16, 2003, Rachel could not have been more visible: standing, on a clear day, in the open ground, wearing a high visibility vest. On that day, she had been in the presence of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli army for some hours.
She was standing in front of the home of a young family which was under threat of demolition by a bulldozer. Many homes were demolished in such a way at that time, and Rachel was seeking to protect her friends, with whom she had lived.”
In the picture at right above, shocked friends from the International Solidarity Movement try to revive a dying colleague. The blue bull dozer continues on its mission to destroy a Palestinian family home.
The juxtaposition of the anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death and AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference, March 1-4, is repeated each year in Washington, DC. It is a coincidence of timing that epitomizes our nation’s shame.
American media rarely takes note of the March 16 anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death. But it will provide ample coverage of AIPAC’s annual celebration of the long time love affair between Israel and the U.S. Congress.
Over 400 members of Congress are expected to attend this year’s conference. Some of the representatives and senators will be granted the honor of gaining additional media exposure when speaking to the assembled AIPAC members..
In return for their unswerving obsequiousness, these members of Congress pocket campaign cash contributions and perhaps more importantly, they take home a guaranteed AIPAC PPP (political protection plan).
The plan protects incumbents against primary opponents. The plan also guarantees campaign strategists who comb an opponent’s record for the slightest action or statement available to reshape and brand with the deadly anti-semitic designation.
Religious groups, like the Presbyterian Church USA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), operate without the protection of AIPAC’s political protection plan. So it was that when the IPMN produced an excellent and well-researched study guide (complete with DVD), appropriately named Zionism Unsettled, a storm of protest rose against them.
Modern Israel’s claim to the lands of Judea and Samaria is rooted in a political ideology called Zionism, a political movement formed in the late 19th century. It is not a biblical promise from the time of Jesus.
Chris Leighton, Executive Director of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, produced an “open letter” on February 6, attacking his fellow Presbyterians for not uniting Zionism and Judaism..
The Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) and their allies have once again mounted initiatives that advance an extremist posture with respect to the Palestinian-Israeli impasse. Their agenda threatens to polarize our community, betray relationships with our Jewish colleagues, and ultimately undermine our credibility as “peacemakers.”
Brant Rosen, a congregational rabbi from Evanston, IL, began his response to Leighton on Rosen’s blog, Shalom Rav:
I believe your characterization of my sacred tradition is incorrect – and dangerously so. It is prejudicial in the extreme to equate Zionism with Judaism itself.
Zionism – that is, the movement to create a Jewish nation-state in historic Palestine – is in fact a political movement that was born in 19th century Europe.
As such, it was a conscious and radical break with centuries of Jewish tradition that strongly cautioned against the establishment of an independent Jewish state in the land.
While it is certainly true, as you write, that the yearning for a “return to Zion” is suffused throughout Jewish tradition, it is important to note that this yearning was pointedly directed toward a far off messianic future.
Rabbi Rosen closed his blog posting:
At the very least, there is a growing desire to allow non-Zionist voices to be part of the Jewish communal debate once more.
One notable bellwether of this phenomenon may be found in the Swarthmore Hillel student board’s recent unanimous decision to defy the guidelines of Hillel International and declare itself an “Open Hillel.” In a statement accompanying their resolution, these Jewish students noted:
“All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist. We are an institution that seeks to foster spirited debate, constructive dialogue, and a safe space for all, in keeping with the Jewish tradition.”
I trust you would never suggest that these Jewish students are driven by “anti-Semitism.” On the contrary, they are clearly motivated by sacred Jewish values and a courageous refusal to reduce Jewish identity to one political ideology.
The usually cautious J Street, which wants to be a friendly version of AIPAC, also weighed in against IPMN’s study guide. Ali Abunimah covered J Street’s surprisingly unfriendly reaction to Zionism Unsettled.
The Israel lobby group J Street has launched a blistering attack on the Presbyterian Church USA over its new study guide Zionism Unsettled, claiming that the publication promotes “polarization” and “intolerance.”
Zionism Unsettled, published last month by the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), is a 74-page study guide examining the role Zionism and Christian Zionism have played in shaping attitudes and events in Palestine and its region.
It is intended to help church congregations and others to learn and talk about Zionism and the devastating impact the practice of the ideology has had on Palestinians, as The Electronic Intifada previously reported.
In a statement yesterday, J Street said it was “deeply offended” by Zionism Unsettled, asserting that “one has to question the IPMN’s motives in publishing this ‘resource.’”
J Street claimed the guide’s authors “had no intention of encouraging thoughtful reflection on Zionism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or Jewish perspectives on Israel. Instead, reductive and divisive thinking of this kind exacerbates polarization and intolerance, both of which are not in short supply in this conflict.”
When even the usually cautious J Street feels the need to vilify a highly respected Christian group like IPMN, it becomes obvious that the false linkage of Zionism, a political ideology, with classical religious Judaism, is a sagging reed on which the Zionists now attempt to lean.
Zionism Unsettled explains why that sagging reed will no longer bear the weight Zionists put upon it.
Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem, Recessional, on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Wikipedia reminds us that “The poem defied the celebratory mood of the time, offering instead a reminder of the transient nature of British Imperial power.
In the poem, Kipling argues that boasting and jingoism, faults of which he was often accused, were inappropriate and vain in light of the permanence of God.”
The first four verses of the poem repeat the line, “Lest we forget, Lest we forget”. The poem is often sung as a hymn in Christian churches.
Rachel Corrie was defying an American/Israeli empire when she stood against the destruction of a Palestinian home on March 16, 2003.
Here is verse three from Kipling’s Recessiona:
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Rachel Corrie, “lest we forget, lest we forget”.
The picture of Rachel Corrie at top is a Getty Image. The picture of Rachel Corrie lying on the field after she was struck by the bull dozer, is from the Palestinian Solidarity Movement.
Filed under: Middle East, Middle East Politics, Presbyterian Church USA, Religious Faith | 7 Comments
A New York Times column, A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel,” opens with an interview with Orthodox Jewish scholar Charles H. Manekin.
In his column, Mark Oppenheimer describes Professor Manekin as a “rarity”, an apt description because in addition to his academic tasks, Manekin writes a hard-hitting blog, which he calls, The Magnes Zionist., named for:
Judah L. Magnes, an American rabbi who, until his death in 1948, argued that a Jewish return to the Middle East did not require a nation-state.
Wikipedia recalls Judah Leon Magnes (1877 – 1948) (pictured above), as “a prominent Reform rabbi in both the United States and the British Mandate of Palestine”.
Magnes was a leader in the World War I pacifist movement and was “one of the most widely recognized voices of 20th Century American Reform Judaism”.
The spirit of Rabbi Magnes lives on in the work of Professor Manekin, who shares his “at odd with Israel” tab with a small group of observant Orthodox Jews interviewed by Mark Oppenheimer.
Four who were interviewed are pictured above in a Times compilation. They are from left, Daniel Boyarin of Berkeley, Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, Rabbi Alissa Wise and Professor Manekin of the University of Maryland.
To paraphrase the urgent question from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Who are these people?”
The University of Maryland Department of Philosophy web site offers this description of Professor Manekin:
“The focus of Manekin’s research has been Aristotelian and humanist logic in Hebrew, the philosophy of Levi Gersonides, and the free will problem in Jewish philosophy.”
What makes Manekin a “rarity” is that he is both an observant Orthodox Jew and an outspoken critic of Israel. The Times:
There is no question that Charles H. Manekin is a rarity. Not because he is an Orthodox Jew who keeps the Sabbath, refraining from driving, turning on lights, even riding in elevators on Saturdays. Rather, this philosophy professor at the University of Maryland is rare because he believes that his Orthodox faith calls him to take stands against Israel.
Manekin, 61, became Orthodox in college and an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. In an interview with the Times, “he denounced Israel’s ‘excessive reliance’ on military force, its treatment of Arab citizens and its occupation of the West Bank.”
There is more on Professor Manekin as a modern-day Judah L. Magnes:
Although not a member of the American Studies Association, he was pleased when the group voted in December not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions — the “academic boycott.”
He is “sympathetic” to B.D.S., as the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is known.
“As a religious Jew,” he said, “I am especially disturbed by the daily injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians.”
The day after the Times‘ story appeared, Manekin responded in The Magnes Zionist:
Marc Oppenheimer wrote a nice piece in his Beliefs column in the New York Times for which I was interviewed. The piece features Stefan Krieger, Corey Robin, Rabbi Alissa Wise, Danny Boyarin, Noam Pianko, and me.
The headline given to it was “A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel.”
In my case that’s a bit misleading. I do have a conflict, but not between Jewish observance and Israel. I have a conflict because I am an Israeli; I live in a country that I believe is fundamentally flawed, despite the wonderful things it also possesses.
In my blog I only talk about the flaws, but that’s because they are fundamental. Perhaps I will post one day a list of my favorite things about Israel (hint: You won’t find most of them in Ari Shavit’s new book.) [link added]
The piece says my religion leads me “to oppose Israel.” That’s ambiguous; it could mean “oppose Israel’s policies” (yes) or “oppose how the Jewish state was envisioned and came into being” (yes), or “oppose the very idea of a Jewish state” (that depends).
No, I am not opposed to any Jewish state. As my colleague, Jerome Slater, has said, I don’t have a problem with a Jewish state – it’s this Jewish state I have a problem with.
Menekin called his May 12, 2008 posting, written during the 2008 presidential campaign, Leon Uris’ Influence on Barack Obama. Here is his opening:
Jeffrey (“You-Can-Dump-On-Israel-As-Long-As-You-Are-A-Liberal-Zionist-Like-Me”) Goldberg has an interview with Obama in Atlantic.Com that will trouble Obama supporters who are under the illusion that the US can still be an honest broker in the Middle East.
On the same day when my Shabbas-minyan-mate Joe Lieberman wonders out loud why a Hamas spokesman welcomes an Obama presidency, a wary Goldberg goads Obama into expressing his undying admiration for the Jewish state.
“Goldberg: You’ve talked about the role of Jews in the development of your thinking.
“Obama: I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and writers, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my sensibility, or some of the more popular writers like Leon Uris.
So when I became more politically conscious, my starting point when I think about the Middle East is this enormous emotional attachment and sympathy for Israel, mindful of its history, mindful of the hardship and pain and suffering that the Jewish people have undergone, but also mindful of the incredible opportunity that is presented when people finally return to a land and are able to try to excavate their best traditions and their best selves.
And obviously it’s something that has great resonance with the African-American experience.”
Manekin adds this cogent observation on the power of the Israel Lobby (written, it is important to keep in mind, in 2008):
In that paragraph [from Obama], and in the entire interview, you see why Walt and Mearsheimer’s thesis of an Israel Lobby is so, well, irrelevant. There is an Israel Lobby in America, and it is called America (minus some leftwing churches and Muslims).
There is much more in the Times column on observant Orthodox Jews who care enough to testify against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
These courageous Jews demonstrate an “inosculation” of their Jewish Orthodoxy with their prophetic disavowal of Israel’s conduct
In case you were wondering, the Alpha Dictionary defines “inosculation”:
“To connect to, to connect with, to open into, as a blood vessel might inosculate with another. 2. To interpenetrate, to join so as to be a part of, to grow or be tightly intertwined, as some areas of philosophy inosculate with mathematics.
The small band of Observant Jews identified by the Times, are willing to stand against Israel’s embrace of injustice. The time has come for the rest of us to join them in their struggle and inosculate our politics with our faith.
Filed under: Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Obama, Politics and Elections, Religious Faith | 6 Comments
On February 3, Illinois Sixth District Republican Congressman Peter Roskam introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress that would defend Israel against any criticism from U.S. academics.
Roskam is responding to the December, 2013 vote of the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions for their role in the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The American people were told this day would come. In his Farewell Address, delivered on January 17, 1961, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (above) warned the nation to guard against the “unwarranted influence” of “the military-industrial complex”.
Fifty-three years later, to paraphrase Job, ”that which Ike feared has come upon us.”
Melvin A. Goodman, a 24-year veteran of the CIA, and now a professor himself, was an undergraduate student at John Hopkins University in 1961. In his book, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, Goodman writes:
“In 1959 President Dwight Eisenhower began a dialogue with his brother, Milton, the president of Johns Hopkins University, regarding U.S. military policy. In the spring of 1961, a small group of undergraduates met with Milton Eisenhower to discuss the president’s farewell address.
Eisenhower informed us that he and a John Hopkins professor of political science , Michael Moos, played major roles in the drafting and editing of the farewell speech of January 1961″.
Milton Eisenhower explained that one of the drafts of the speech referred to the ‘military-industrial-congressional complex’, with the president himself inserting the reference to the role of Congress, When the farewell address was given, the reference to Congress did not appear. (p 31)
Milton asked his brother why he had not included his specific reference to the Congress. Eisenhower responded: “It was more than enough to take on the military and private industry I couldn’t take on the Congress as well.”
This is the key sentence in Eisenhower’s address: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
That misplaced” power takes many forms. The bill Congressman Roskam presented to the Congress is a direct attack on the freedom of speech. The bill proposes to “amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to prohibit an institution that participates in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars from being eligible for certain funds under that Act”.
Roskam calls his bill the “Protect Academic Freedom Act”, an oxymoronic title which contradicts itself by making it illegal for members of the academic community to exercise their academic freedom.
In contrast to Congressman Roskam’s subservience to Israel’s demands, a Jewish Member of England’s Parliament, Sir Gerald Kaufman (left), told the Parliament, “we must impose sanctions”. On February 5, Kaufman spoke during a debate in the British Parliament on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
“I once led a delegation of 60 parliamentarians from 13 European parliaments to Gaza. I could no longer do that today because Gaza is practically inaccessible. The Israelis try to lay the responsibility on the Egyptians, but although the Egyptians’ closing of the tunnels has caused great hardship, it is the Israelis who have imposed the blockade and are the occupying power.
The culpability of the Israelis was demonstrated in the report to the UN by Richard Goldstone following Operation Cast Lead. After his report, he was harassed by Jewish organizations. At the end of a meeting I had with him in New York, his wife said to me, “It is good to meet another self-hating Jew.”
“Again and again, Israel seeks to justify the vile injustices that it imposes on the people of Gaza and the West Bank on the grounds of the holocaust. Last week, we commemorated the holocaust; 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being penalized with that as the justification. That is unacceptable.”
Roskam’s bill was routinely referred to a committee, where it will no doubt linger long enough to gather the usual Zionist loyalists to add their names to the bill and curry favor with the likes of AIPAC. Chances of passage are nil. Proposed bills like this one are not meant to be; they are meant to send a message.
Ali Abunimah reports that Congressman Roskam got the idea for his bill/message from Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who made the suggestion a few weeks ago.
Former Ambassador Oren was once a U.S. citizen, a designation he gave up to become an Israeli citizen, a requirement for him to become an Israeli ambassador.
The symbiotic relationship between the U.S. and Israel is especially close in diplomatic interaction between the two nations.
Martin Indyk, for example, John Kerry’s current mediator in peace talks between Israel and Palestine, was born to Jewish parents in England. He was raised and educated in Australia before he moved to the U.S. and became a citizen. Subsequently he was named U.S. ambassador to Israel. Today he never leaves Kerry’s side as they struggle through the negotiations morass.
Making Kerry’s job more difficult, the U.S. Congress provides legislative support for Israel whenever Israel and its American lobbyists determine it is needed. After the ASA December vote, the Israel Lobby wanted action.
Prodded by Ambassador Oren, Congressman Roskam rushed to Israel’s rescue. The bill proposed by Roskam “would deny federal funding to any institution that participates in a boycott of Israeli universities or scholars or even whose departments issue statements in support of a boycott”.
This is how all encompassing the sanctions bill would be:
The proposed law defines “an institution of higher education to be participating in a boycott” if “the institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the state of Israel.”
Meanwhile, as Congress defends Israel at every opportunity, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining momentum, especially in Europe. The British Economist reported this week that BDS is turning “mainstream”, reaching into power circles that were once assumed to be immune to boycott pressure.
Financial institutions and some national governments are moving toward the BDS position. The Economist reports:
Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts. . . BDS has begun to grab the attention of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. PGGM, a big Dutch pension fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks (though the Netherlands’ largest has affirmed its investments). Norway’s finance ministry has announced that it is excluding Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, a big building firm, from a government pension fund.
. . . Romania has forbidden its citizens from working for companies in the West Bank. More churches are backing BDS. An American academic association is boycotting Israeli lecturers. The debate turned viral after Scarlett Johansson, a Hollywood actor, quit her role as ambassador for Oxfam, a charity based in Britain, in order to keep her advertising contract with SodaStream.
Throughout his book, Goodman adds “congressional” to the “military-industrial-complex”, an acknowledgement that President Eisenhower had initially had “congressional” in his thinking.
The former president was very much aware of legislative power in the “military-industrial” complex. He knew this from his own experience as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the invasion of Europe in World War II, and of his dealings with Congress during his eight years in office as president.
The following video of Congressman Roskam illustrates the influence of the “military-industrial-congressional” complex on the U.S. government.
Addressing Roskam’s proposed bill, noted First Amendment lawyer, Floyd Abrams told Buzz Feed, “The notion that the power to fund colleges and their faculties may be transformed into a tool to punish them for engaging in constitutionally protected expression is contrary to any notion of academic freedom and to core First Amendment principles.”
This is precisely what President Eisenhower warned us against.
The picture at top of President Eisenhower speaking from the Oval Office on January 17, 1961, is from the Associated Press.
Filed under: Media, Middle East, Religious Faith | 8 Comments
A television ad which ran during the fourth quarter of the Denver Broncos-Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl game Sunday, featured Hollywood film star Scarlett Johansson (shown here in a poster picture).
The ad, for which the company SodaStream, paid $4 million, features Johansson as a sexy, convincing sales person for SodaStream’s home carbonation product.
Johansson should be easily recognized in the TV ad by younger viewers who would know her from her featured role in the movie series, The Avengers. In that series Johansson plays the Black Widow, one of several Marvel Comic characters who fight evil powers as a team.
The picture of Johansson is from a poster for the yet to be released Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which she plays the Black Widow. That picture will be in theaters, April 4.
Johansson has been in many other films, most recently as the off-screen voice of Samantha, the computer-generated “her” in the film Her. In that film, the unseen Samantha establishes a love relationship with a lonely man played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film is set in the future when computers, supposedly, have developed human emotions.
A more recent Johansson film, Under the Skin. premiered in 2013 at the Toronto Film Festival. It will be released to theaters later this year. Two more Black Widow films will be released over the next two years.
The Black Widow, that is, Scarlett Johansson, is also engaged in a real life fight, now being fought largely out of sight of the average Super Bowl viewer.
That fight is being waged in a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign against SodaStream, an Israeli company that operates one of its factories in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. BDS is gathering steam as an effective, non-violent program designed to call world attention to business and companies that illegally operate in Occupied Palestine.
SodaStream is no mom and pop operation eager to be of service to Palestinians who need jobs. It is a worldwide profit-oriented corporation, described by Wikipedia as ”the maker of a consumer home carbonation product based on the principles of making a carbonated drink.”
Wikipedia explains further: “The device, like a soda syphon, carbonates water by adding carbon dioxide from a pressurized cylinder to create soda water (or carbonated water) to drink. The company also sells more than 100 different types of concentrated syrups and flavourings to make carbonated drinks”.
SodaStream went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange in November 2010. The company is headquartered just outside Tel Aviv. It currently has 13 production plants. Its principal manufacturing facility is located in the long established and still illegal, under international law, settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, the sprawling settlement located along the highway from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Why Ma’ale Adumim? The answer is easy if you think for a moment like a corporate executive responsible to stock holders. Such an executive would figure out that a new plant in an area close to Israel with a labor force desperate for jobs and willing to work for limited wages is a profit-maker. Not only that, but the labor force, so desperate for work, is also living under Israeli military occupation.
And there is more: The work pool in the villages surrounding the exclusively Jewish population of Ma’ale Adumim is all Palestinian, where there are workers who are in no position to bother SodaStream with talk of things like unions, higher wages and better working conditions.
The BDS campaign against SodaStream is only one of many such campaigns conducted by supporters of the BDS movement. SodaStream is operating a plant in an Israeli occupied Palestinian area which, while it may profit the stock holders, still projects an ugly image to outsiders. To clean up that image, SodaStream hired a public relations team to respond to the BDS pressure.
SodaStream looked around for an established, yet still young, movie star to change the subject away from unpleasant topics like occupation and Palestinian exploitation.. SodaStream’s public relations team settled on Hollywood film star Scarlett Johansson, who it just so happened, was already serving as the public face of the British-based non-profit international aid organization, Oxfam.
Johansson agreed to add SodaStream to her portfolio.
Was she aware of the BDS campaign against SodaStream? You may bet your retirement bonus that her public relations handlers were very much aware of that campaign. Did they tell this to Johansson? You know PR people don’t work like that. Maybe the PR people had other ways to persuade Johansson that it was in her best interest to take the job, or maybe Johansson really believes what her press release said, that she wants to foster better Israeli-Palestinian relations. Only Johansson knows.
She could have stayed with Oxfam. Her movie career is picking up; she has two more Black Widow Avengers films in the works. Her role as the voice of Samantha in the film Her, has been nominated for an Academy Award.
Instead, Johansson not only took the SodaStream gig, she soon withdrew from Oxfam.
What led her to take this action? It was a subjective personal decision by a movie star with decades of film-making ahead of her. Johansson is not yet established as a movie star with enough power to reject a gig that, we may assume she assumes, benefits Israel.
After all, she works in Hollywood, the movie-making capital of the world, which is well-known as a center of pro-Israel sentiment. It is also known as a place where politicians like Barack Obama go to raise money from leaders of the film community, who are not known as BDS types.
Hollywood is also a place where the film press can be unforgiving for stars who do not play the game as it is expected to be played. Notice how the Hollywood Reporter tells its readers how quickly Johansson developed an intense devotion to SodaStream. Notice especially the use of the Hollywood adjective, “beloved”.
When it comes to our love affairs with modern-day conveniences, Scarlett Johansson’s devotion to her beloved SodaStream rivals even that of Her‘s Theodore Twombly to, well, her. But it’s unlikely that the star anticipated quite what she was getting into when she signed on as that company’s first spokeswoman and agreed to star in a TV ad that will air on Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The seltzer appliance company is headquartered in Israel, with its biggest manufacturing plant located in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim — a territory seized by Israel in 1967′s Six-Day War that Palestinians lay claim to. Critics of Israel have for years demanded a boycott of the company, and those calls have grown louder than ever in the days leading up to the commercial’s TV debut.
The Hollywood Reporter also gave some attention to a statement issued in Johansson’s name. Public relations people do not ask stars to issue statements; they know it is best for her image for them to control such statements.
Which is why last Friday, according to the Reporter, the public heard that Johansson “issued a statement in response to the mounting criticism, saying, “I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”
The Hollywood Reporter also, to its credit, reported from an Oxfam media release which states, “While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador.”
Movie stars do not normally get on the wrong side of the conservative media, where the point of view on the Middle East is demonstrated in the coverage of Johansson’s decision to jump from Oxfam to SodaStream, an Israeli-based profit-making international corporation.
Under the headline: “SodaStream ignores anti-Israeli critics to quench Palestinian thirst for jobs”, Fox news reporter Paul Alster gave the SodaStream version of its differences with BDS. Alster makes the case for Ma’ale Adumim as a SoftStream job creator center for Palestinians in need of steady work
Haifa, Israel – Jews and Palestinians might think an Israeli company providing hundreds of jobs in Palestinian territory is a way to promote peace and prosperity, but some international groups think they know better.
SodaStream, the company whose home-based soda-making machines have become an American sensation, is under pressure to close down a factory in the West Bank, where more than 500 Palestinians work, reportedly earning up to 10 times the area’s prevailing wage. The campaign has reached a fever pitch, after Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson ended her alliance with an international aid group miffed that she would endorse the company.
But the boss of SodaStream said he’s not going anywhere just because some global critics want him out.
“We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum told the Jewish Daily Forward. “[I] just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.”
Birnbaum said Palestinians and Jews work in complete harmony at his plant, which has a mosque on the premises, allowing workers to meet for prayers during their shifts. Those lucky enough to land jobs with the company are the envy of neighbors who labor for less, or can’t find work at all.
Fox News ended by including an Oxfam statement:
“Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support,” the charity explained in an official statement. “Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”
Faced with the choice, Johansson sided with SodaStream, and not Oxfam, which has a well-publicized relationship with SodaStream rival Coca-Cola. Johansson said SodaStream is doing more than its share to promote peace and create jobs in the West Bank.
Morning television talk shows prefer to ignore the BDS campaign. Here is how ABC treated the SodaStream ad which aired during the Super Bowl. It is the “happy news” approach that gives Johansson a comfort cover which she might not have received had she rejected SodaStream and stuck with Oxfam.
As you view the following video keep in mind, this is the world in which Johansson lives and works.
Juan Cole, writing on his blog, Informed Opinion, sums up all the things Johansson’s PR people and no doubt, her agent, did not want her to know:.
The determination of the Likud Party to annex the Palestinian West Bank is damaging the interests of world Jewry. This harm is clearly visible in the controversy that has engulfed movie star Scarlett Johansson, who was a global ambassador for the Oxfam charity and who also agreed to become a spokesperson for the Israeli company Sodastream, which has a factory in the Occupied West Bank. She will star in a Superbowl commercial for the company.
Oxfam points out that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank is illegal, and it is opposed to trade with settler commercial enterprises based there. The Sodastream factory in set in a 40,000-strong Israeli squatter settlement designed to cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank and make a Palestinian state impossible. Israel squatters divert most of the West Bank’s water and other resources to themselves, leaving Palestinians impoverished.
In the end, Ms. Johansson had to choose between the two, and she gave up her association with Oxfam.
What would you have done if you had never heard what Juan Cole has written? If your movie career, at age 29, depended on playing the game the way your PR people told you to play it, what would you have done? In other words, to quote a biblical source, “she who is without sin, let her cast the first stone”.
Filed under: Middle East, Middle East Politics | 6 Comments
British journalist and author Victoria Brittain traveled to the Jordan Valley to see the actual conditions and latest developments in one of the areas under discussion in the peace negotiations John Kerry is conducting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
A people under military occupation, prisoners in their own land, controlled by outside forces, live in the area in which Victoria Brittain traveled.
She later wrote of her mid-January trip and the people she met in Open Democracy. One man she interviewed was Burhan Bisharat (above), whose home in the village of Kirbet al Makhoul has been destroyed four times.
Brittain began her trip northeast of the Palestinian city of Nablus, traveling along a road toward the northern Jordan Valley and the international border with the country of Jordan. The area through which she traveled contains rocky brown hills, riddled with what she describes as “concrete posts every hundred yards inscribed ‘DANGER’ Firing Zone”.
Her journey covered one part of Area C, designated as land under Israeli total control under an earlier agreement reached under President Bill Clinton known as Oslo 2. One particular part of Area C in which Brittain traveled is described on UN maps with the occupier’s euphemism, “Israel’s Nature Reserve”. Much of the area map is shaded with the equally euphemistic identification, “an Israeli closed military area”.
In her trip report, entitled The Fourth Destruction: Stolen Land and Childhood, she writes:
Every few miles there are tents or simple structures of Palestinian farms with sheep and cows in makeshift pens visible, set back below the hills. In recent weeks and months defenseless families in this remote place have had their homes and farms repeatedly destroyed by military bulldozers in dawn raids.
Traumatised barefoot children, silent exhausted mothers, desperate fathers, now living in new shelters, spoke of their every-present fear of army and settler violence.
Main stream media reports on the Kerry negotiations do not include references to Area C, nor are there any references to the suffering of Palestinians under occupation. Instead, the MSM focuses almost exclusively on Israeli demands which shift as often as a carnival con man shifts his three cups under which he claims he has hidden a pea.
You know the game: At the con man’s invitation, the sucker chooses one of the three cups. The sucker bets on which cup contains the pea. He or she, always loses because the cups and pea are under the control of the fast moving hands of the con man.
Who are the suckers in the current peace negotiations? Start with the American government and travel down the chain of command to the American tax payer. U.S. tax money floods annually into Israeli coffers. Your tax dollar at work, busily destroying villages in the Jordan Valley.
In this current game of cups and the pea, also called peace negotiations, Israel had introduced two new, never before included in negotiations, demands.
The two new Israeli demands are, first, the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a “Jewish State”, in spite of the obvious fact that a large minority of citizens in any “Jewish State” would be non-Jewish.
The Washington Post pushes the “security claim”.
The Israelis are insisting that their troops remain in the Jordan Valley corridor in any future Palestinian entity, and since this demand is new — and was not a core issue in the last serious negotiations in 2000 and 2007 — it represents a real test for the Obama team’s diplomatic ingenuity.
The second new Israeli demand is the retention of a large chunk of the Jordan River Valley, a “necessity” for Israel’s “security”. The land Israel claims to need for its “security” expands with each new move of the negotiation cups.
In Area C construction is prohibited, no water or electricity connection allowed, schools and water pumps put up by aid agencies are destroyed, health care is almost absent. Israeli settlements, outposts and military bases proliferate. Five thousand Palestinians live in 38 communities in parts of Area C, like these designated as “firing zones” for military training.”
Burhan Bisharat’s village of Kirbet al Makhoul was destroyed four times in two weeks in late September last year. With no warning or demolition notices the bulldozers drove up the dirt road before dawn and brought down tin homes, hay sheds, animal pens, water troughs and a playground with swings belonging to the twelve families.
Today Bisharat, his wife, and youngest daughter, are visibly traumatised and he spoke softly of how the psychological pressure, especially of the fourth destruction [of his home], was very, very difficult for him. He saw relief tents brought by the ICRC put up and immediately brought down by a bulldozer in front of the aid agency staff.
[The picture at the top shows Bisharat sitting in his ruined home. It was taken in October, 2013]
The three now live in another almost empty replacement home half the size of what they had before and which Burhan built himself in two days, bringing an aluminium roof from Nablus. But every day is lived under the shadow of another onslaught that they know can hit their lives any time.
This is a father who took the very difficult decision to send his seven older girls to live a few miles away in a small town where they go to school. His oldest daughter is 17 and in the twelfth grade and is in charge of the little household of children.
“I want my children to have a better life through education…it is best to keep them away, though it is very tough for them to be alone, and (with a gesture to his silent wife) for their mother.” Burhan is only 38, but the harshness of his life has made him look and seem a generation older.”
Israel repeatedly, and illegally, destroys the Basharat home because Israel wants to clear the land for what it wants as a future Israeli state. This repeated action takes place at the time when negotiators are discussing the future “ownership” of the land.
Palestinian right to this land is not in dispute; it is land that is illegally occupied by Israel. Furthermore, the mistreatment of Palestinians like Basharat and his family is illegal. In a world where justice has meaning, such mistreatment is considered to be a crime.
Who are the guilty parties in this crime? Israel, of course, but Israel is aided and abetted by every U.S. President and Congress and every American tax payer who elects pro-Israel governments. We are all guilty because we tolerate or encourage the permanent intimidation of our public officials by Israel and its American allies.
There was a time when a few major U.S. political leaders spoke against that intimidation.
In his new book, The Brothers, Stephen Kinzer offers a remarkably candid quote from one of the brothers in his book, John Foster Dulles, then the U.S. Secretary of State in the Eisenhower administration. Israel took advantage of the Suez Crisis in 1956-57, sending its army across the Sinai Desert toward the Egyptian border. Dulles angrily insistsx that Israel withdraw.
In response, Dulles used words no recent Secretary of State would dare use:
“I am aware how almost impossible it is in this country to carry out a foreign policy not approved by the Jews. . . . The Israeli embassy is practically dictating to the Congress through influential Jewish people in this country.” (p. 244).
Kinzer does not offer a source for this quote, so before using it, I checked Google, which promptly led me to the ever-valuable and always reliable Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA). I found a report published in WRMEA’s February/March 1996 issue.
The writer was Donald Neff, (at left) who worked for Time magazine for 15 years. From 1975 to 1978, Neff was Time’s Jerusalem bureau chief. After leaving Time, Neff wrote extensively on the Middle East for magazines like WRMEA. He also wrote a Middle East war trilogy, Warriors Against Israel, Warriors for Jerusalem, and Warriors at Suez.
A collection of his WRMEA columns is available in another book, 50 Years of Israel. His WRMEA report from February/March 1996, looked back at a significant moment in history. It includes the Dulles quote, and a good deal more.
Donald Neff wrote about the Israeli-Palestinian situation with a veteran journalist’s passionate need to tell the full story. It was headed, Ike Forces Israel to End Occupation After Sinai Crisis. It begins:
It was 29 years ago, on March 16, 1957, that Israel withdrew under unrelenting U.S. pressure from all the territory it had occupied in the Sinai peninsula during its invasion of Egypt less than five months earlier. As Israeli forces pulled out, they ignored pleas from U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold and displayed their contempt for U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s policy by systematically destroying all surfaced roads, railway tracks and telephone lines. All buildings in the tiny villages of Abu Ageila and El Quseima were destroyed, as were the military buildings around El Arish.
Israel’s dogged insistence on keeping by military occupation parts of the Sinai had led to increasingly tense relations between Eisenhower and Israeli Prime Minister David Bed-Gurion. From the very beginning of what became known as the Suez crisis, Eisenhower had forcefully opposed the secret plot by Britain, France and Israel to invade Egypt. Against great political pressures, Ike had managed to stop the ill-considered invasion – but not before Israeli troops grabbed Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in a lightning surprise attack starting Oct. 29, 1956.
Britain and France followed Eisenhower’s firm advice and quickly removed their troops from Egypt. But Israel insisted on retaining parts of the peninsula. Despite repeated U.S. urgings, Ben-Gurion refused to withdraw Israeli troops. In retaliation, Eisenhower joined with 75 other nations in the U.N. General Assembly in passing a resolution on Feb. 2, 1957, “Deploring” Israel’s occupation. Only two nations opposed: France and Israel.
Still, Ben-Gurion refused to move his troops. On Feb. 11, Eisenhower sent a forceful note to Ben-Gurion to withdraw. Again Ben-Gurion refused. At the same time, the influence of Israel’s supporters became intense. The White House was besieged by efforts to halt its pressure on the Jewish state; 41 Republican and 75 Democratic congressmen signed a letter urging support for Israel.
In reaction to mounting pressures against his policy, Eisenhower on Feb. 20 called a meeting of the congressional leadership to seek their support for his position. But the lawmakers, sensitive to the influence of the Israeli lobby, refused to help, causing Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to complain to a friend.
“I am aware how almost impossible it is in this country to carry out a foreign policy [in the Middle East] not approved by Jews.” In other conversations around the same time, Dulles remarked on the “terrific control the Jews have over the news media and the barrage which the Jews have built up on congressmen…I am very much concerned over the fact that the Jewish influence here is completely dominating the scene and making it almost impossible to get Congress to do anything they don’t approve of. The Israeli Embassy is practically dictating to the Congress through influential Jewish people in the country.”
Disgusted with Congress’s timidity, Eisenhower boldly decided to take his case directly to the American people. He went on national television on the evening of Feb. 20 and explained:
“Should a nation which attacks and occupies foreign territory in the face of United Nations disapproval be allowed to impose conditions on its own withdrawal? If we agree that armed attack can properly achieve the purposes of the assailant, then I fear we will have turned back the clock of international order.”
Ike’s concluding paragraph asks a question that demands to be heard again as negotiations continue over Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territory.
The picture (at top) of Burhan Basharat, is from Activestills.org.
Filed under: Human Rights, John Kerry, Middle East, Middle East Politics, United Nations, US govermemt | 7 Comments
by James M. Wall
Sixteen Democratic U.S. Senators, including two with higher political aspirations, have joined Republican senators as co-sponsors of Senate legislation which might better be described as “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” legislation.
The Senate bill, labeled the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. would impose additional sanctions against Iran, thereby destroying the carefully negotiated nuclear pact Secretary of State John Kerry has worked out with Iran.
On January 15, Chris Hayes devoted a segment of his MSNBC All In television program to a heated attack on the 16 Democratic senators who have turned away from President Obama and followed, instead, the marching orders of the Israel Lobby, led by AIPAC.
To view Hayes’ four minute segment on the 16 Democratic senators who follow AIPAC’s bidding, click here. (Not counting the ad, sorry about that, stop the video after 4:03 minutes unless you want to hear more about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and who needs more of that.)
Hayes is not alone in opposing “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” Senate legislation. He provides media backing to California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, (above left) who spoke on the Senate floor against the Kirk-Menendez legislation.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein faced criticism Wednesday for comments that some thought implied a new Iran sanctions bill could put Israel in charge of U.S. foreign policy.
Feinstein objected to moving forward on a new Iran sanctions bill sponsored by 59 senators, including 16 Democrats, and co-authored by Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). The California senator said the bill could imperil ongoing negotiations between Iran and the West, harm U.S. diplomatic credibility, break up the current international sanctions coalition, and allow Tehran to argue “we are interested in regime change.”
“Candidly, in my view, it is a march toward war,” she said, echoing the White House argument that senators who support the Iran sanctions bill have a secret pro-war agenda.
Feinstein took direct aim at a provision in the new bill that states, “If the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence” Feinstein worried that this language might hamstring American foreign policy decision makers as a result.
“While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war,” she said.
In his MSNBC segment, Hayes recalls the recent history of two veteran Democratic senators who cast votes in the Senate in favor of invading Iraq. The two, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, must cringe today when they see themselves in the Hayes report. Both have done well in their post-senatorial careers, but so far, no White House.
Booker and Gillibrand are in safe Democratic states, so their need for AIPAC’s largess and muscle is not as crucial as it could be for their 14 pro-AIPAC fellow Democrats, most of whom are in states that lean toward the Republican political brand.
A New York Times report on January 13, set the stage for the Obama-Senate struggle:
With the United States and Iran about to embark on a critical phase of nuclear talks, President Obama is waging an intense rear-guard action to prevent Senate Democrats from supporting strict new sanctions that could upend his diplomatic efforts.
Sponsors of the bill, which would aim to drive Iran’s oil exports down to zero, have secured the backing of 59 senators, putting them within striking distance of a two-thirds majority that could override Mr. Obama’s threatened veto. Republicans overwhelmingly support the bill. So far 16 Democrats have broken with the president, and the bill’s sponsors hope to get more.
The Booker-Gillibrand duo can no doubt anticipate long careers in the senate. They present themselves as Progressive Democrats. Their early media coverage supports this belief.
Here, both from the Huffington Post, are two earlier glowing reports on Booker and Gillibrand. First, Booker:
Booker, the 44-year-old Democratic former mayor of Newark, N.J., came into Congress as a rare freshman senator with celebrity status. He has been dubbed a rock star mayor by Oprah Winfrey, been called a hero for pulling a neighbor out of her burning home in 2012 and hobnobbed with Matt Damon.
And here is a Gillibrand press clip:
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is a smart, hardworking passionate public servant, who is focused on the difficult economic challenges that are facing New York and the country. Since joining the U.S. Senate, Kirsten has helped expand health insurance for millions of uninsured children, stood with President Obama to ensure America’s economic recovery, and secured billions of dollars to create jobs in New York and make sure New York taxpayers get their fair share.
This move to stand with AIPAC and Israel in a matter of foreign policy, has turned Progressives against both Booker and Gillibrand. The New Republic is not happy with Booker’s position on Kirk-Menendez.
The bill’s supporters insist that they’re simply trying to improve the U.S. negotiating posture. On Twitter, Booker insisted that he favors a peaceful solution, adding, “I’m 4 additional sanctions if current negotiations fail 2 start or fail 2 work.”
A senior Democratic aide told Joshua Hersh and Ryan Grim, “The goal isn’t to disrupt things, it’s to make Iran even more willing to make serious concessions by making them aware of what will happen if they don’t.”
This isn’t credible. First of all, the administration presumably has some idea of what’s best for its negotiating position, and it has been lobbying furiously against new sanctions. Second, the timing is suspect—these senators hurriedly drew up this bill only after the breakthrough in negotiations was announced. Third, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif himself said new sanctions would signal a lack of good faith that would kill any long-term agreement.
No, this bill is an attempt to kill the Iran deal, whether Booker and company admit that or not. No other explanation makes half as much sense.
Booker, Gillibrand and their 14 Democratic senate colleagues will soon have to decide whether to stand with AIPAC and support Israel’s desire to kill the Iranian nuclear deal, or will they stand with Obama.
Filed under: Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama | 6 Comments