I Must Write As Long As Israeli Settlers Burn Palestinian Schools

by James M. Wall

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.

Posted in Media, Middle East Politics | 16 Comments

Barack to Bibi: Stop “Meddling” In Our Politics

by James M. WallAP 2011

On Monday morning, January 12, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An unidentified senior American official said that Obama warned Netanyahu “not to meddle in the battle” Obama was “waging against Congress over the sanctions legislation”.

Ha’aretz, reported the firmness with which Obama addressed Netanyahu:

“Obama stressed to Netanyahu that he is seeking to reach an agreement with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons and assure the international community in a verifiable fashion that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, 

One week later, after secret meetings with Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner invited Israel’s Prime Minister to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 11.

It is unprecedented for a House speaker to invite a foreign leader to speak to the Congress without prior consultation and agreement with the President of the United States.

Obama is aware that new sanctions legislation would probably sabotage negotiations between Obama, Iran and five other countries. For this reason, Obama has promised to veto any new sanctions legislation.

Nevertheless, the Speaker readily agreed when Netanyahu asked Boehner to shift the invitation to speak to the Congress from February 11 to March 3, only two weeks before Israel’s March 15 elections where Netanyahu faces strong opposition.

Netanyahu has a second reason to ask Boehner to move the date of his speech. According to Boehner, Netanyahu wanted to give his speech to the U.S. Congress during the time of the pro-Israel AIPAC conference in Washington, March 1. 

After consorting with American-born Israeli Ambassador Dermer, Boehner issued his initial invitation to Netanyahu behind Obama’s back.

Again, ignoring his own president, Speaker Boehner quickly agreed to the new AIPAC-friendly date of March 3. 

With this change, the Netanyahu-Boehner tag team (pictured above) achieves two Netanyahu goals: one, schmoozing with his AIPAC congressional funders while two, basking in the politically enhancing glow of all that congressional cheering.

This will be speech number three that Netanyahu delivers to a U.S. Congress, tying him with only one other world leader, Britain’s Winston Churchill who had delivered three speeches from the podium where U.S. presidents deliver their annual State of the Union addresses.

For its part, showing more diplomatic restraint than Netanyahu, the White House reacted to the Netanyahu-Boehner congressional insult by announcing that President Barack Obama would not meet with Netanyahu during his visit.

The official White House rationale was simple: “As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections.”

The White House also announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet with Netanyahu. Vice President Joe Biden is also expected to ignore the Israeli leader, giving Netanyahu a trifecta snub.

What cares Netanyahu about diplomatic slights? He is fighting for his political life in Israel’s March 15 elections. If his party wins and reinstates him as prime minister, Bibi is looking toward to at least two years with an overly friendly Republican controlled congress.

His political motto is simple: Will travel anywhere for votes, even to grief-stricken events.

On January 7, masked gunmen killed 12 people in a Paris attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo. It was among the deadliest such attacks in postwar France.

In response to the massacre, the French planned a “rally against terror”. The French government invited world leaders to participate in a march, while also sending word  to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas not to attend.

A French official explained that French President Francois Hollande “wanted the event to focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and to avoid anything liable to divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

One French source noted that one “French concern – not conveyed to representatives of the Israeli government – was that Netanyahu would take advantage of the event for campaign purposes and make speeches, especially about the Jews of France.”

Such obvious political moves would be contrary to the French government’s desire to have the march promote a European solidarity as part of “dealing with the terror attacks.”

The same “please stay away” message was sent to President Abbas. Both Abbas and Netanyahu agreed to “stay away”. Each issued cover stories that they would not attend.

The night before the Paris march, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett announced they would go to Paris to take part in the march and meet with members of the Jewish community.

Netanyahu quickly informed the French he would also come to Paris for the march and meetings with Jewish groups.

With Netanyahu on his way to Paris, the French quickly invited Abbas a second time. Abbas accepted.

What followed early in the Paris march resembled a Buster Keaton silent street comedy. President Abbas was marching on the front row, absorbing full television camera attention, while Prime Minister Netanyahu was several rows back in the crowd.

But not for long. Yahoo News reported that Netanyahu literally pushed his way to the front of the line,

The picture below catches the leader of the modern state of Israel looking like Buster Keaton, barely concealing a poker face of innocence after pushing his way forward.

APTOPIX France Attacks Rally

The world leaders shown here marched in Paris on January 11, 2015. They are, from left to right, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, France’s President Francois Hollande, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU President Donald Tusk, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

In Washington, on March 3, there will be no competition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will not need to push. Speaker Boehner has already done that for him.

The pictures above are from Ha’aretz and AP.

Posted in Israel, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama | 10 Comments

Obama to Senators: Choose U.S. Over Donors

by James M. Wall

Sen Menendez NJ CNNOn Thursday of last week, President Barack Obama spoke to a group of Democratic senators in a private meeting during a Baltimore hotel political retreat.

He asked the senators not to support a bill, drafted by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (left) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), which would add further sanctions on Iran during this time of delicate nuclear negotiations between the U.S., its allies and Iran.

One unnamed senator in the room told the New York Times that Obama said that “as a former senator himself, he understood how outside forces — like special interests and donors — can influence senators to act”.

The president urged the lawmakers to “take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain”. Seated in front of the podium, Senator Menendez stood up to say he took “personal offense” at the president’s remark.

The New Jersey Democrat told the president that he (Menendez) had worked for more than 20 years to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and had always been focused on the long-term implications.

What “special interests and donors” did the President have in mind that caused Senator Menendez to take “personal offense”? 

The unnamed source did not say. Neither did the New York Times. CNN, which credited the Times as its source for the reference to “special interests and donors” also refrained from identifying the “special interests” that brought Senator Melendez out of his chair.

As Dana Carvey’s  Church Lady  on Saturday Night Live, might have said in one of her church chats:

“Which churchlady02donors could he possibly mean? Let’s see now, Senator Menendez, President Obama, Israel and Iran. Is there a naughty connection here? Is Satan lurking about? Now, isn’t that special.”

President Obama talks about negotiating with Iran and reminds a group of senators that from personal experience, he understands “donors have influence”, a remark to which Senator Menendez took “personal offense”.

It is a strong possibility that the Church Lady was on  to something, and President Obama was speaking of Israel’s influence on the U.S. Congress. Israel is well known as the world’s major power demanding that the U.S. force Iran out of nuclear power development.  

Still, as Phillip Weiss perceptively noted in his posting on the closed door Baltimore meeting, the New York Times could not bring itself to mention Israel in the story.

Deeply engrained in the Times‘ collective psyche, is the mandate to avoid like the plague any implication that Israelis (never say “the Jews”) control the U.S. Congress. 

Members of Congress know that Israel is the fourth largest nuclear arms power in the world. Every member of Congress also knows to never, ever, acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal, with between 200 and 800 nuclear war heads, tucked away in its Dimona desert location.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and the excessive power of the Jewish Lobby, are terms not up for discussion, nor even hinted at by anyone who expects a long political career. President Obama knew that the day he entered politics. 

070906-israel-lobbyThe Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by Obama’s University of Chicago colleague John Mearsheimer, and Harvard’s Stephen M. Walt, was in print a year before Obama launched his first campaign for president in 2007.

Michael F. Brown, Institute for Middle East Understanding wrote a review of The Israel Lobby for The Electronic Intifada in September 2007.

One line from that review shows an optimism of the book’s authors, that is unfortunately, still far from fruition:

“Indeed, perhaps the most powerful section of the book is when the authors highlight cases in which significant parts of the lobby have leveled the anti-Semitism charge at individuals guilty of nothing more than challenging the human rights record of Israel.

Due to such overuse, they write, “There are signs that the reflexive charge of anti-Semitism is beginning to lose its power to stifle debate.”

The Times, which strives daily to avoid any smidgen of  “anti-Semitism”, fills its columns with political and economic speculations, but it will not allow into the debate the mere speculation that President Obama linked U.S. senators to the “deep pocket influence” of  the Israel Lobby. 

How deep? In Senator Menendez’ 2012 senate reelection campaign, he received $56,000 from  pro-Israel PACs, the third highest PAC donation total to senators that year. (Campaign finance calculations are from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, courtesy Janet McMahon, managing editor).

Senator Menendez will have the president know he has spent 20 years as a U.S. senator opposing Iran’s growing strength as a Middle East power because of a personal conviction, not because the Israel Lobby wants him to remain a loyal and devoted supporter of a foreign power, Israel.

Senator Mark Kirk, who now occupies Barack Obama’s old Illinois U.S. Senate seat, co-authored with Senator Menendez an earlier Senate bill which failed to find the 60 votes necessary to overturn a filibuster after Obama threatened to veto the legislation,

Senator Kirk, who served as a U.S. House representative from Illinois before his election to the Senate, has received a lifetime contribution total of $339,386, from pro-Israel PACs, through 2014. 

Meanwhile, a revised Kirk-Menendez bill is back for consideration in the new Republican-controlled Senate. 

The vote trading and warnings, if we are to believe Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, will not be about the money from pro-Israel donors. It will be, the senator tells us, because of his “personal convictions”. 

Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama | 4 Comments

“Something Rotten in the State of Israel”

by James M. WallPalestinian-leader-Mahmoud-Abbas-e1410180312127-665x385

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced that the Palestinian Authority will join the International Criminal Court (ICC), a long overdue action which potentially could bring the state of Israel to an international courtroom at the Hague.

Al Jazeera reported that “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established the court last Friday, the last formal step to becoming a member of the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.”

Instead of preparing to defend its conduct as an occupying military power, Israel has fallen back on its usual form of punishment, withholding tax funds it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. 

Why, we must ask, does Israel collect tax funds from Palestinians and then return the funds to the Palestinian Authority to finance its government? 

The quick answer is that Israel is the controlling military and economic master on all such matters in the West Bank and Gaza. You want to pay the tax collector? You pay through Israel as the tax collector. 

Israel also handles matters of the security which it enforces through its own military force, the IDF, and with police forces it controls under the Palestinian Authority, a control that has been going on under increasingly draconic rules, since 1967.

The international community knows that this control of a neighboring people is illegal and its length unprecedented.  And yet, the international community stands mute, with only the occasional peep of protest. 

Hamlet“There is something rotten in the state of Israel”, sounds an alarm for modern times, updated from Marcellus’ warning as he spoke with Horatio about Denmark in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

In Act One, Marcellus and Horatio are talking on the battlements of the castle of the new king of Denmark, Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius, who had murdered his brother, Hamlet’s father King Hamlet.

In the play, Hamlet, who seeks revenge against his uncle, has just left his colleague on the battlements to follow the Ghost of his murdered father.

Hamlet knows, as Shakespeare notes, that there is “something rotten in the state of Denmark”. The Ghost will show him what to do.

Denmark’s governmental rottenness begins within the King’s palace, where Uncle Claudius is now married to Hamlet’s mother, a marriage which took place “within a month” of the death of Hamlet’s father.

There is today a rottenness at the leadership level in the modern state of Israel, which over decades has developed in a state whose current government considers itself “exceptional” and beyond all criticism.

It is this rotten condition that tolerates lawlessness in the occupied territories, a lawlessness that both randomly and systematically, kills, wounds, destroys and imprisons at will. 

John Whitbeck, an American international attorney now based in Paris, addressed America’s (and by extension, Israel’s) claim to exceptionalism in a recent mailing:

“A country which believes that half a century of belligerent occupation of a dispossessed and oppressed people is simply not long enough is truly “exceptional” – and should suffer the consequences of its “exceptionalism”.”

If President Abbas continues on his present course, he will challenge this “exceptionalism” which operates above legal and moral standards. By joining the International Criminal Court  (ICC) Palestine will be in a position to bring criminal charges against Israel.

Like a bully on the playground who holds a kid’s lunch money high over his head, Israel holds the tax funds it collected for Palestine, returning the funds as Israel wills.

This is rotten conduct.

It is rotten because it is wrong, illegal and immoral. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, put it succinctly when he described Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax funds as “blatant theft”.

Israel has made this threat before, and then, after withholding Palestinian tax funds sufficiently to cause further pain in Palestine’s economy, quietly released the funds. Will it repeat this again?  Only Israel knows.

Meanwhile, Israel moves toward its March 17 election which does not promise much in the way of change. Lawrence Davidson describes the election context:

“There is trepidation in the Zionist ranks over the March 2015 elections for a new Knesset, or parliament. It seems that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu got angry at his more “liberal” coalition partners, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, because of their opposition to the proposed Israel-equals-a-Jewish-state bill.

In essence he fired them, sacrificing the government’s majority in the Knesset, and necessitating the upcoming elections. Some observers believe that the election represents something of a crossroads for the Jewish state.

Roger Cohen, a New York Times columnist, wrote a headline piece in the Sunday Review section of the newspaper on 21 December 2014. It was entitled “What will Israel become?” and tells us that “uneasiness inhabits Israel”. 

Quoting the Israeli writer Amos Oz, Cohen explains further: “There is a growing sense that Israel is becoming an isolated ghetto, which is exactly what the founding fathers and mothers hoped to leave behind them forever when they created the state of Israel.” “

Liberal Zionists like Cohen are trapped between their loyalty and devotion to Israel and their obvious awareness that Israel’s current leadership is driving their nation into what Amos Oz sees as an “isolated ghetto”.

What they do not want to accept is the reality that after decades as an occupying military force, Israel has already sunk itself into an isolated ghetto. 

Only drastic change that addresses the rottenness of Israel’s government will even begin to halt this plunge into the ghetto the Jews of Europe thought they left behind in 1948. 

Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin, has made a small start in addressing this rottenness. He has  denounced the withholding of tax funds at a closed-door meeting with Israeli ambassadors. In remarks widely reported in the Israeli media, Rivlin said:

“Freezing the transfer of Palestinian tax funds does not benefit us and does not benefit them. Using these funds, the Palestinians sustain themselves and [keep] the Palestinian Authority functioning. Israel’s interest is a functioning PA.”

That is a worthy beginning for the Israeli President, who unfortunately does not possess any power other than ceremonial. It is, if we may recall a familiar quotation, one small step for mankind.  Israel still has a long journey ahead to escape total isolation.

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Netanyahu, Palestinians, Religious Faith | 7 Comments

The Smells of Gaza and New Jersey

by James M. Wall24-Gaza-Getty-v3

Richard Ford’s latest novel, Let Me Be Frank With You, begins when Frank Bascombe drives into a suburb of Haddam, a New Jersey town recently destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. 

Frank had been a real estate salesman in the community. A former client wanted to meet him at the site of a house he had purchased from Frank.  

The novel opens with a description of what Frank experienced in the aftermath of Sandy’s destructive power:

“Strange fragrances ride the twitchy, wintry air at the shore this morning, two weeks before Christmas. Flowery wreaths on an ominous sea stir expectancy in the unwary.

It is, of course, the bouquet of large-scale home repair and  re-hab.  Fresh-cut lumber, clean, white PVC, the lye-sniff of Sakrete, stinging sealants, sweet tar paper, and denatured spirits. The starchy zest of Tyvek mingled with the ocean’s sulfurous weft. . .”

I could read no further. I was immediately thrown back into the memory of the cities and towns of Gaza, where this past summer a destructive military force pounded a narrow strip of Palestinian land, packed with Palestinian people.

“The strange fragrances” which Frank Bascombe smells in the fictional New Jersey coastal town, are the smells of rebuilding, with “fresh-cut lumber” and “the lye-sniff of Sarkese, stinging sealants, sweet tar paper, and denatured spirits”.  

There are no rebuilding smells of “fresh-cut lumber” in Gaza. There are only the continued smells of garbage, putrid water, death and destroyed structures, left behind by Israel’s unrelenting three-week bombardment of Gaza.

There is no rebuilding in Gaza. How can this be so when all those nations promised so much money for rebuilding?  The London Independent’s  Kim Sengupta, traveled to Gaza to find out:

“Four months after last summer’s bloody war, Gaza remains in ruins, with little or no reconstruction, a continuing blockade, unemployment rising towards 70 per cent and a desperate and angry population. . .

Just a fraction of the construction material required after such devastation has been delivered so far – only 1 per cent of the five million tonnes needed. Similarly, extremely little of the $5bn pledged from abroad – 1.2 per cent – has been sent so far. The number of homeless, meanwhile, stands at 50,000.”

The Independent’s Sengupta returned to Gaza in late December, his first visit since the summer’s conflict.  He heard two different reasons as to why the reconstruction smells have not replaced the smells of death and destruction. In his report for the Independent, Sengupta wrote:

“A Palestinian reason was that Israel has imposed draconian conditions for allowing in the material for rebuilding because it does not want Gaza to recover, but to be a crippled economy, a people dependent on aid.

The Israeli narrative was that the security measures were essential to stop Hamas from using the supplies to replace the destroyed network of tunnels under the border. Hamas, [the Israelis say] was happy to leave Gaza in its current devastated state for propaganda value.”

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen traveled to Gaza in late December.  Like the Independent’s Kim Sengupta, he found destruction and no smells of re-building.

Bonnie and ClydeCohen’s reading of what he found in Gaza is a display of liberal Zionism which always reminds me of that scene in Arthur Penn’s 1967 movie, Bonnie and Clydewhen Clyde is driving the getaway car from a small southern town.

The man he has just robbed has had the audacity to jump on Clyde’s running board. Clyde shoots him in the face. Later he laments to Bonnie, “Why did he make me do that?”

Why indeed.

Cohen begins his Gaza column, “Gaza is Nowhere”, with the unctuous self-righteousness of  a reporter who loves Israel so much that he can only see as grossly misinformed, those who do not yield to Israel’s wants and demands. 

“You trudge into Gaza from a high-tech Israeli facility through a caged walkway that brings you, after about 15 minutes, to a ramshackle Palestinian border post; and then, formalities completed, on you go, through dust and the reek of sewage, past the crumpled buildings and the donkey carts, to arrive at last in the middle of nowhere.”

Cohen smells “the reek of sewage” as he moves “past the crumpled buildings and the donkey carts, to arrive at last in the middle of nowhere.”

The smell remains in Gaza for what reason? He does not say. Why is that destruction not showing some signs of recovery with all that donor money pouring in?  He does not say.

What Cohen does say is that:

“Gaza is nowhere. Very few people go in or out of the 140-square-mile enclave. Most people want to forget about it. . . .”

Cohen knows wars are futile, so why does Hamas, from his perspective, always want to start wars?

The last one changed nothing. Hamas rockets are being test-fired. A Palestinian farmer has been shot dead near the border. Tensions simmer. The draft Security Council resolution at the United Nations, championed by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, seeking a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank by 2017, amounts to an elaborate sideshow.

When Cohen states that “Nobody wants to talk about Gaza because it reeks of failure,” he locates that failure in a series of events filtered through his liberal Zionist perspective. 

He starts with “the failure of Israeli withdrawal [from Gaza]; the failure of a long-ago election that ushered Hamas to power; the failure to achieve the Palestinian unity necessary for serious peace talks”. 

That’s outrageous. Israel withdrew from Gaza to wrap it in a barbed wire prison and remove its scattered Israeli settlements that were too expensive  to protect and maintain.

The failure of a “long ago” election which was won by Hamas throughout all of Gaza and the West Bank, is a lie. The election was a failure only to Western and Israeli eyes.

The “failure”, as liberal Zionists and right-wing Zionists alike, do not want to admit, was that the Hamas government defeated an Israel/U.S.-trained and financed Fatah army 

Unable to gain the control the Palestinian voters in 2006 refused to give them, Israel sealed off its Gaza barbed wire prison and jailed most of the legislators chosen to run a unified government in Gaza and the West Bank.  

Cohen does not pause to reflect on the distortions of the Israeli narrative which he continually spreads in the U.S. through his New York Times columns.

Instead, he continues with his list of failures, all of which are the responsibility of the “other”, Hamas.

He concludes with the undeniable, even to followers of the liberal Zionist narrative, that the final failure is “the failure to offer decency to 1.8 million trapped human beings.”

That is liberal Zionism at its most pious. Cohen, like Clyde Barrow, does not like it when Hamas does not let Israel offer “decency to 1.8 million trapped human beings”.  Who is responsible for keeping Gaza Palestinians imprisoned within their own land?

Hamas keeps jumping on the running board of Israel’s car, so naturally, and reluctantly, like Clyde Barrow, Israel has to shoot them. Hamas makes them do it. 

The picture above of a destroyed Gaza block is by Getty, from the Independent.

Posted in -Movies and politics, Gaza, Israel, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Movies, USA, War | 10 Comments

“A Taboo on Telling the Truth About Palestine”

Screen Shot 2 3

By James M. Wall

Psalm 2:3 is sung in George Frideric Handel’s Messiah before the arrival of the triumphant Hallelujah chorus, when audiences rise to their feet, following the tradition set by England’s King George II at the Oratorio’s first London performance.

Handel’s Sacred Grand Oratorio, which had its first performance in Dublin, Ireland, on April 17, 1741, has been described as “the most famous piece of sacred music in the English language”.

John Pilger

Recently, while listening to a live performance of the Messiah, I remembered an article by John Pilger (right) which he adapted from his Edward Said Memorial Lecture presented in Adelaide, Australia, September 11.

The Adelaide lectures have been presented annually since 2005 in honor of the late Edward Said, the Palestinian scholar and political activist who was as a major face and voice of Palestine. 

I had been thinking about the absence of Christian outrage and action from the institutional Christian church over this summer’s Gaza massacre. Pilger, an Australian-born film-maker and author, who now lives in England, connected Said for me, to Psalm 2:3. He did so with a statement Pilger quotes from Said:

“There is a taboo,” said the visionary Edward Said, “on telling the truth about Palestine and the great destructive force behind Israel. Only when this truth is out can any of us be free.”

Handel chose Psalm 2:3 to deliver this same wisdom in Part Two of his Messiah: “Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us”

Our refusal to speak and act on the truth about Palestine’s physical and mental bondage imposed by the military might of Israel is a manifestation of our last taboo.

edward_saidWhat exactly is this taboo?

Said (left) believed the “great destructive force behind Israel” demands that we honor the taboo against telling the truth about Palestine.

During this Christmas season, what does the Christian church say and do, in its individual and corporate forms, about this bondage? 

We sing about angels in Bethlehem, and we thrill to the musicality of the Hallelujah chorus that follows Psalm 2:3 in Handel’s Messiah.

We preach about loving our neighbor, but we say and do nothing to love our Palestinian neighbors enough to speak out and act against the Israeli occupation bondage which our nation defends, endorses and finances.

Bethlehem is not a stage setting for a fairy tale envisioned by Walt Disney. The birthplace of Jesus is a real city surrounded by a gigantic prison wall.

The birthplace of Jesus is a city held in bondage by the taboo against telling the truth about Palestine

This cannot continue. The time has come when the intimidation and fear must end. Pilger writes,

“For many people, the truth is out now. At last, they know. Those once intimidated into silence can’t look away now. Staring at them from their TV, laptop, phone, is proof of the barbarism of the Israeli state and the great destructive force of its mentor and provider, the United States, the cowardice of European governments, and the collusion of others, such as Canada and Australia, in this epic crime.”

Pilger reminds us that Nelson Mandela called the struggle of Palestine “the greatest moral issue of our time”.

Pilger denounces the “mass murder” in Gaza this past summer, as an act “sponsored by the same godfather in Washington that answered the cries of children in Gaza with more ammunition to kill them”.

The psalmist instructs us that we will remain in bondage to an “epic crime” so long as continue to honor the taboo against telling the truth about Palestine.

Television writers remind us in sci-fi films, “the truth is out there”. True enough, but the psalmist reminds us that the truth of our bondage is part of our daily existence, a bondage that keeps us from smashing down those taboos that keep us blind to the suffering that cries out to be heard.

It is that taboo which keeps us from seeing, as journalist Chris Hedges writes, that the current tangible force of evil that haunts us is a creature of our own making, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).Hedges

ISIS is “our Frankenstein” Hedges (left), writes:

“The United States after a decade of war in Iraq pieced together its body parts. We jolted it into life. We bathed it in blood and trauma. And we gave it its intelligence. Its dark and vicious heart of vengeance and war is our heart. It kills as we kill. It tortures as we torture.

It carries out conquest as we carry out conquest. It is building a state driven by hatred for American occupation, a product of the death, horror and destruction we visited on the Middle East.

There is no taboo against speaking of ISIS.  The taboo related to ISIS is its connection to another American creation, the modern state of Israel.

Hedges opens a door into the darkness of our refusal to acknowledge our major role in Israel’s creation myth. He sees ISIS as an emulation of the modern state of Israel.

“ISIS now controls an area the size of Texas. It is erasing the borders established by French and British colonial powers through the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. There is little we can do to stop it.

ISIS, ironically, is perhaps the only example of successful nation-building in the contemporary Middle East, despite the billions of dollars we have squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Its quest for an ethnically pure Sunni state mirrors the quest for a Jewish state eventually carved out of Palestine in 1948.”

Why have we not seen the parallels between the creation of ISIS and the earlier creation of Israel?  The taboo against speaking the truth about Palestine is enforced by our mainstream media, our churches and our political leaders.bethlehem-wall-2010cropped

The bondage of the people of Palestine and the attacks by Israel are not limited to Palestinians. As Pilger points out:

“The attack on Gaza was an attack on all of us. The siege of Gaza is a siege of all of us. The denial of justice to Palestinians is a symptom of much of humanity under siege and a warning that the threat of a new world war is growing by the day.”

Hedges, a former New York Times correspondent who was based in Jerusalem, makes the connection between the rise of ISIS and the creation of the modern state of Israel:

“[ISIS] tactics are much like those of the Jewish guerrillas who used violence, terrorism, foreign fighters, clandestine arms shipments and foreign money, along with horrific ethnic cleansing and the massacre of hundreds of Arab civilians, to create Israel.

Antagonistic ISIS and Israeli states, infected by religious fundamentalism, would be irreconcilable neighbors. This is a recipe for apocalyptic warfare. We provided the ingredients.”

We are complicit in the creation of the modern Middle East. By honoring the taboo described by Edward Said, we made and now sustain Israel, not as a democracy which it claims to be, but as a war machine designed to extend the American empire over the bodies of dead children in Gaza and the West Bank.

John Pilger’s documentary film, Palestine is Still the Issue, is distributed in two parts, the first in 1974, the second in 2002. They are both still relevant. Part two is below. It runs 52 minutes.

Posted in Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Palestinians, Religious Faith, USA | 9 Comments

U.S. Arms Deal Will Increase Israel’s Kill Power

by James M. WallScreen Shot 2014-12-07 at 12.07.18 AM

In October of this year, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon came to Washington to visit with his counterpart,  U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. 

He asked for visits with other U.S. leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden.  The White House was not inclined to meet his requests. 

The U.S. and Israel media were quick to dub this a major “snub” related to recent Israeli verbal attacks on President Obama.

The “snub” did not prevent Ya’alon from conducting his business with Chuck Hagel while he was in Washington. He and Hagel finalized a weapons deal that they say benefited the U.S. and Israel.

At the time of the October meeting of the two defense leaders, the weapons story received no media attention. The “snub” from Obama was the story.

F-35 fighter jet wikipediaThe weapons deal was not even reported until Friday of this past week, when the Jewish Forward site provided the details for a story it headlined “Huge Israeli Arms Buy Nobody’s Talking About”.    

The story included an illustration of the U.S. F-35 Lightning II jet, shown at left.

When Israel gets the F-35s it wants, as Arlo Guthrie might put it, what care we about snubs, real or imagined? After all, Israel is the nation that has invaded Gaza and killed Palestinians in the thousands, while destroying their homes and infrastructure in three separate assaults since 2007.

The world has finally begun to rise up in horror after this latest July-August invasion. A growing number of nations now threaten all sorts of diplomatic attacks against Tel Aviv. How does Israel’s respond?.  

The Israeli Knesset takes another step toward world isolation by introducing legislative action which would merge Israeli national citizenship with being a Jew, thereby disenfranchising more than 20% of its current citizens. 

“Show us the weapons” is the Israeli mantra. In its response, the U.S. Congress, which thrives on the funding largess of the weapons industry, rushes to please both Israel and the weapons cartel. 

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a major player in this political-military cartel, was a harsh opponent of Chuck Hagel’s 2012 appointment. Hagel had failed the Israel Lobby loyalty test which automatically rallied politicians against him. He was confirmed by a narrow margin in the Senate. 

This time around, Senator McCain, the upcoming chair of the Senate Armed Services committee, has rushed to embrace President Obama’s  next Defense Secretary-appointee Ashton Carter (no relation to Jimmy).

What a difference two years and the endorsement of the Lobby make. This was part of Sen. McCain’s endorsement of Carter:

“I look forward to Dr. Carter’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee next year, which will provide a valuable opportunity to fully ventilate all of issues around this administration’s feckless foreign policy, and its grave consequences for the safety and security of our nation.”

Carter will sail through his hearing, but he will still have to provide answers to criticism of what McCain calls Obama’s “feckless” foreign policy. (“feckless” as in “worthless, incompetent, inept”).

McCain and Israel’s current government leaders are as close as two Arizona  black-tailed jackrabbits in the Arizona Sedona desert, thanks to their shared fondness for U.S. campaign finance funding, weapons-producing, power centers.

When he was selected as Defense Secretary in 2012, Chuck Hagel faced such hostility from the Republican power structure, led by Senator McCain that he  was almost rejected.

What accounts for McCain’s openness to Carter?  The Israel Lobby did not like Chuck Hagel; it does support Obama’s current choice, experienced Pentagon veteran Ashton Carter.  Case closed.

Meanwhile, whether the Defense chief is Hagel or Carter, the military industrial power center goes forward. The Jewish Forward gave these details of the October Hagel-Ya’alon meeting:

The [Israeli] cabinet authorized this purchase of 14 F-35s following an agreement between American and Israeli defense chiefs in October. This is just one part of a long-term deal that includes a 2010 purchase of 19 warplanes (which won’t arrive until 2016) for $2.75 billion, and maintains the option of purchasing 17 more in the future.

If the deal, which all together entails 50 jets, is completed, Lockheed Martin has agreed to purchase $6 billion worth of security equipment from Israel. It will also give Israel comfortable credit conditions.”

The Forward describes “the celebrated F-35 Lightning II” as a fighter aircraft designed for missions that more typically have been in the realm of specialized aircrafts to perform strikes and interceptions.

As Israel has demonstrated repeatedly, its primary air-to-ground targets since 2007 have been Gaza’s Palestinian civilian population, which possess neither aircraft nor iron dome protection of their own.

What exactly, we must ask, is the rationale for adding this air power expense to the Israeli budget? The Forward notes that this expense was discussed within the Israeli cabinet before the cabinet was dissolved by the firing of two of the ministers.

“No wonder then that some Israeli ministers strongly — but unsuccessfully — opposed approving this huge purchase”.

The money for these very expensive purchases comes, by the way, from American military aid. Each year Israel receives around $3 billion in U.S. military aid. Very generous, but Israel is obliged to spend 75% of this money in the U.S. — by purchasing U.S. arms. So, instead of treating this money as aid to Israel, you might be tempted to go ahead and call it aid to U.S. arms industries.”

If Israel follows its recent history, we can anticipate a new U.S. president in 2017 will be greeted by a protesting cry from Israel’s government leaders, “we must once again defend ourselves against attacks from Gaza”. 

The screen shot at top of a U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter jet is from a Youtube video (click here.)

Posted in Folk Music, Human Rights, Israel, Media, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians, USA | 4 Comments

“Dahiya” Author Eisenkott Named Next IDF Chief

by James M. WallHaaretz Haron Kaminsky

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this week that on February 15, 2015, Major General Gadi Eisenkott (right) will be sworn in as Chief of Staff of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces).

General Eisenkott is well-known in Israel as the author of Israel’s military Dahiya Doctrine, which he first enunciated in October 2008 while serving as commander of the IDF’s northern front.

The Doctrine is not well-known outside of Israel, as a cursory glance at even recent Western media reveals. For the West, General Eisenkott is just another Israeli military leader.  

Within Israel, the right-wing Times of Israel omitted the Dahiya Doctrine from its announcement story. Dahiya? Already well entrenched in Israel’s military strategic structure. Look at the record.

The record is unmistakable and distressing. Israel deals with its Palestinian and Lebanese neighbors in terms of total annihilation, a reality known to those Western political leaders who rushed to support Israel’s 2014 Gaza invasion with a mantra dictated from Tel Aviv, “Israel has a right to defend itself”.

American leaders, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and virtually every politician facing future reelection campaigns, will have to confront whatever ultimate judgment awaits them, knowing the words, “Israel has a right to defend itself” are inscribed on their  eternal ledgers.

Fleeing RafahImagine the deathbed scenes:

Grandchildren and great-grandchildren will ask the soon-to-be deceased, “What did you do for the least of these?”

I do not know what Obama, Clinton, and the other politicians with the power to help, will say.

But I do know I will have to respond, “Not nearly enough”. 

Thanks to a posting from my Hebrew reading/speaking ever-reliable Jewish Seattle blogger colleague, Richard Silverstein‘s background on General Eisenkott, I was led to do my own research far away from the mainline media.  Here is what I found on the record:

Dahiya takes its name from a Lebanese suburb destroyed by the IDF in 2006. This doctrine was operational in three successive IDF invasions of Gaza in 2008, 2012 and, most recently, in July and August of this past summer.

Based on recent history, there is no reason to doubt that future invasions are already being planned.

Wikipedia describes the Dahiya doctrine as a military strategy “that pertains to asymmetric warfare in an urban setting, in which the army targets civilian infrastructure, as a means of establishing deterrence against militant use of that infrastructure”.

General Eisenkott elaborated on the doctrine in his own bellicose blood-chilling words, according to Wikipedia, that promises what happened to Dahiya in 2006, would be repeated over and over again by Israel’s occupying army:

“in every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel, we will wield disproportionate power against [them] and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases. […] This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorized. Harming the population is the only means of restraining [Hezbollah leader] Nasrallah .”

The Doctrine is a reality and so long as Western leaders refuse to shake off the chains of Zionist control, it will continue as a reality.  Three times, 2008, 2012, and 2014, the Doctrine has operated in Gaza, leading once again to the destruction of civilian life and structure.

What follows such total warfare are the homeless and the suffering, grieving survivors of the latest Israeli application of the Dahiya Doctrine.

“Israel has a right to defend itself?”  Israel’s performance and its imposition of its sophisticated military equipment this past summer, were not acts of defense.They were  intentional acts of wanton destruction, clearly fitting the definition of war crimes.

To those who are paying attention, these acts of wanton destruction continue. Israel’s leaders pay no heed to agreements. They live only by their Dahiya Doctrine.  

My good friend, New York City-based and Presbyterian activist, Noushin Framke, posted her “Advent Sermon” on Facebook this week. She entitles her “sermon”, the picture below, Sumud in Gaza. Steadfast Hope.

Noushin’s “sermon” is testimony to her continued activism on behalf of oppressed people everywhere who yearn for, and fully deserve, freedom. 

The picture was taken in Gaza this summer. The children are Palestinians.  The destruction is from Israel.

May God have mercy on us all for sustaining, by our ineptitude and indifference, the on-going merciless Dahiya Doctrine.

Noushin advent sermon

 The smaller picture above of families fleeing Rafah, Gaza, was taken this summer. The picture at top of General Gadi Eisenkott is from Ha’aretz.  It was taken by Haron Kaminsky.

Posted in Gaza, Hillary Clinton, Israel, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians, Presbyterian Church USA, Religious Faith, War | 6 Comments

A Circle of Violence: Deir Yassin to Har Nof

By James M. WallSaif-funeral-e1416402220892-635x357

Early Tuesday, November 18, two young Palestinians broke into a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of West Jerusalem’s Har Nof.

Armed with a gun, knives and axes, the assailants killed three rabbis and a fourth worshipper.

The New York Times reported that in the gun battle that ensued, one Israeli policeman and the two Palestinians intruders were killed.

In its coverage of the Har Nof killings, the Washington Post put “Americans” in its headline, leaving the impression they were tourists. They were not. They were Orthodox rabbis with dual citizenship, American and Israeli.

Few media outlets have taken note of the glaring fact that a circle of violence connects Har Nof to Deir Yassin, the Palestinian village destroyed before the formation of the modern state of Israel by the terrorist Jewish group, the Irgun, on April 9, 1948.

Deir Yassin was part of the “ethnic cleansing” strategy of the Zionist military. It was this strategy that launched the Nakba. This strategy is well-documented in Jewish scholar Ilan Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Should the media have acknowledged the circle of violence in the Deir Yassin-Har Nof connection?  If the murder of six contemporary Americans occurred outside Washington’s Ford Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was killed, would the media ignore Lincoln’s assassination?  I don’t think so. 

Meanwhile, back to 2014 in the world according to Israel and the Western media, this is what happened: 

“On Tuesday night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence and committing “blood libel” by suggesting that Jews were responsible for the death this week of a Palestinian bus driver who Israeli police say committed suicide by hanging.”

The Prime Minister has also reactivated a former Israel government policy of destroying the East Jerusalem homes of the two men responsible for the synagogue killings and the homes of other Palestinians linked to other recent attacks.

This is, of course collective punishment, a violation of international moral and legal standards, and what “Human Rights Watch says could be war crimes”.

Samia Nasir Khoury, a revered Palestinian leader and activist, and the author of the highly876530520Reflections_COVER_FINAL_WEB praised memoir, Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hopespoke for many Palestinians in her posting on November 18, in which she expresses sadness over the horrendous Har Nof attack, even as she puts it in its historic context by linking it to another act of violence.

“Ironically, Har Nof where the events of today took place is originally a Palestinian suburb adjacent to Deir Yassin where the infamous massacre of the Palestinians took place on April 9, 1948. That was the spark that terrorized the Palestinian residents of West Jerusalem that led to their exodus.

Yes indeed, it is brutal and completely unacceptable to attack worshipers in their place of worship, as was the attack of settler doctor, Baruch Goldstein, on Muslim worshipers during the month of Ramadan at the Hebron Mosque in February 1994. Twenty-nine Palestinian were killed and 125 wounded at the time.”

If the international media were interested in the circle of violence between Deir Yassin in 1948 and Har Nof in 2014, they could turn to recent writings by Dina Elmuti in The Electronic Intifada.  

One of her postings appeared April 7, of this year, several months before Israel’s summer invasion of Gaza and the killings at Har Nof this week.  She begins with her grandmother’s personal story:

(The picture on the right shows Dina’s grandmother as a young girl. She is on the left, with her older sister on the right.)  Electronic Intifada

“My grandmother is a survivor of the Deir Yassin massacre. Sixty-six years later, her scars still bear witness.

Deir Yassin is a name permanently inscribed in the Palestinian narrative. Friday, 9 April 1948 is a date forever engraved with infamy. The Deir Yassin massacre is a turning point in Palestinian history, remaining a symbol of dispossession, ongoing erasure and humanity’s capacity for cruelty.

When I was in Palestine recently, my grandmother pointed to the stone home in Deir Yassin where she was born 76 years ago — and my eyes caught a glimpse of a pale scar on her arm. The nostalgia in her voice was so strong, I could almost see the barbaric scenes of terror as if they were being projected from a movie reel onto a screen in front of us.

Today, a psychiatric hospital occupies the center of Deir Yassin village, restricting access to its fortified stone homes standing out defiantly against the grid of generic Israeli settlement buildings constructed on stolen land. The village was once home to around 750 people.

Located outside Jerusalem and a few hundred meters to the west of the Jewish-only settlement of Givat Shaul, it was known for its peaceful reputation and primary industry of stone quarrying.

By sunrise on 9 April, the Zionist terrorist organizations known as the Irgun and Stern Gang, had raided the village and stormed homes, slaughtering as many people as possible. The victims included unarmed elderly men, pregnant women and children.

The grandmother of Dina Elmuti was one of the girls who escaped the massacre  of Deir Yassin and made her way to East Jerusalem where she was rescued by Hind Al-Hussein, a member of a prominent Jerusalem family.

138pounds_Hind_Al-HusseiniIt was Hussein (as a young woman at left) who discovered 53 orphans from Deir Yassin. An account originally written by Daniel A. McGowan for the American Middle East for Understanding (AMEU)’s Link publication, describes Hussein’s initial encounter with the orphans:

“Fifty-three orphaned children were literally dumped along the wall of the Old City, where they were found by Miss Hind Husseini and brought behind the American Colony Hotel to her home, which was to become the Dar El-Tifl El-Arabi orphanage.”

A segment of McGowan’s Link article is also posted on Deir Yassin Remembered, the website of the organization McGowan established to continue his desire to educate both non-Palestinians and Palestinians on this significant event.  Deir Yassin Remembered begins:

“Early in the morning of April 9, 1948, commandos of the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village with about 750 Palestinian residents. The village lay outside of the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish State; it had a peaceful reputation. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Deir Yassin was slated for occupation under [Israel’s] Plan Dalet and the mainstream Jewish defense force, the Haganah, authorized the irregular terrorist forces of the Irgun and the Stern Gang to perform the takeover.”

In 2011, Miral, a motion picture based on the orphans who were raised under the care of  Hind Al-Hussein, received world-wide distribution. I wrote about it for Wallwritings, a posting that may be read here.

A preview clip of the film is shown below. Miral is a fictional representation of one of the orphans.  Hind Al-Hussein is realistically portrayed as the head of the orphanage and the school she formed.

The film contains an interesting tension between Miral, who wants to take action against the occupation, and Hussein, who is placing her faith in education.

At one point in the film, Hussein tells a class of girls that what is happening “is what they call the intifada”. Miral tells a classmate, “it means, stand up straight”. She got that right.

In the picture at top, Jerusalem’s chief rabbi Shlomo Amar shakes hands with an imam as leaders from the Christian and Muslim communities gathered outside Kehilat Yaakov Synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. (photo credit: From the Times of Israel by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).

Posted in Israel, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Movies, Netanyahu, Palestinians, Religious Faith | 8 Comments

Updating JFK In Berlin: “Ich Bin Ein Palestinian”

by James M. WallTomer Applelbaum Ha'aretz

When President John F. Kennedy told the world on June 26, 1963. “Ich bin ein Berliner”, he was asserting his solidarity with Berliners separated by a wall. 

Thomas Putnam, director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, wrote in the Atlantic blog:

“Other than “ask not”, [“Ich ein bin Berliner”] were the most-famous words [Kennedy] ever spoke. They drew the world’s attention to what he considered the hottest spot in the Cold War.”

Barack Obama, the current successor to John F. Kennedy, has not stepped forward to update JFK by saying, “Ich bin ein Palestinian.

Kennedy’s personal solidarity with walled-in Berliners, Putnam writes,  “endures because of the pairing of the man and the moment. John F. Kennedy’s defense of democracy and self-government stand out as a high point of his presidency”.

After it was built in 1961, the Berlin Wall became a world wide example of the futility of dictatorial repression,  The wall finally fell on November 11, 1989, 26 years after Kennedy’s speech. A full text of the speech is available on line.

This past November 11 was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall. On that significant anniversary, speaking  before a large  Berlin crowd, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the fall of the Berlin Wall was “an inspiration for oppressed people everywhere”.

Finnian Cunningham points out a notable omission in Merkel’s speech:

“An obvious and strange omission from Merkel’s list of oppressed people were those in the Occupied Palestinian territories who live in the shadow of the Israeli concrete separation wall. This barrier, which violates international law, is taller and longer by hundreds of kilometres than the Berlin Wall ever was.” 

U.S. President Barack Obama is guilty of the same omission as German Chancellor Merkel.

JFK Life not pubBarack Obama has two more years in which to find his “pairing of the man and the moment”. His presidency has been badly marred by his unwillingness to denounce the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and people.

The inhumane blot of the occupation cries out for Obama action.

At the outset of Obama’s final two years as president, Israel not only continue to enforce  the occupation, but every day it moves even further into internal actions affecting Palestinians that are racist to the core.

In the most recent example, on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “he would push forward a draft law specifying that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people”. A vote on this draft law was scheduled for a vote at the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, later on Sunday.

Netanyahu told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, “The justice system, which recognizes the democratic nature of Israel, will also have to recognize its nature as the national state of the Jewish people:

“We will advance the nation state law today, and while it will go through many changes, at the end of the day we will be able to make clear that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, along with a guarantee of equal rights for all of its citizens.” 

Ha’aretz reports that

“The current iteration of the bill — Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People — is sponsored by coalition whip MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), and is considered the most extreme of a series of similar legislative proposals that have been raised this year.

In addition to giving Israel’s nation-state status for the Jewish people the force of constitutional law, it specifies that Jewish law is to be a source and “inspiration” for new legislation and judicial rulings.”

One previously dropped clause in the proposed draft, now restored to the draft, declares “the Arabic language would no longer be an official language of the state”. Instead Arabic would enjoy “special status,” whatever that could possibly mean.

Many Knesset members point out that there is little likelihood of the bill ever passing in its present form.  Ha’aretz explains the process, which sounds suspiciously like the process followed by the U.S. Congress. 

“The cabinet ministers of the right have discovered that it is possible to kill two birds with one stone,” said one cabinet minister who is a member of the ministerial committee. He was speaking to Haaretz on condition of anonymity.

“Both to support a controversial proposal in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and also to make sure one of the moderate ministers later appeals it.

That is how they win points with their voters, while knowing there is a safety net” that will prevent such proposals from being passed into law in the end,” he said.

Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have both said in the past that they would block the current version of the bill from advancing.”

In the final analysis, it does not really matter if the law passes.  Just by having the bill introduced and debated, the right wing of the Knesset makes its point, which is, that Israel is not a democracy; it is a Jewish state that represses non-Jews. 

President Obama knows this and he must also know that to declare his solidarity with the Palestinian people living under such repression, his statement, “Ich bin ein Palestinian”, would be the moment for which his presidency will be remembered. 

The photo in this posting of Benjamin Netanyahu is from Ha’aretz. It was taken by Tomer Applebaum. 

The picture of President Kennedy overlooking the Berlin Wall in November, 1963, is from the Atlantic. It is an Associated Press picture. 

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama | 6 Comments

“The Genius of Israeli Evil: It Poses as Concern”

by James M. WallElon Moreh Nablus AP

Amira Hass is a Jewish journalist who has worked since 1993 as Ha’aretz’ correspondent in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Born in Jerusalem in 1956, Hass has been with Haaretz since 1989. She has lived in the West Bank city of Ramallah since 1997.

Prior to 1997, Hass was posted to Gaza for three years, an assignment which led her to write her book, published in 2000, Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege, essential reading for understanding the impact of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

One comment on her book may still serve an accurate description of Amira Hass’ current Ha’aretz columns, all written from within the Palestinian Occupied Territories:

Full of testimonies and stories, facts and impressions, Drinking the Sea at Gaza makes an urgent claim on our humanity. Beautiful, haunting, and profound, it will stand with the great works of wartime reportage.

Hass wrote extensively about Israel’s latest invasion of Gaza. She is widely acclaimed and just as widely disdained within Israel, for her honest reporting on her country’s actions in the occupied territories. 

One recent column is entitled, The Genius of Israeli Evil: It Poses as Concern and Compassion.  

Hass begins this particular column with the flat statement that “Israeli evil is not at all banal”, evoking the memory of the emotional debate over Hannah Arendt’s 2006 bookEichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, in which Arendt described Eichmann’s evil as banal conduct derived from personal ignorance and indifference to, the suffering of the millions of Jews who died under his command.

For Amira Hass, there is nothing banal about Israel’s current evil. This is evil performed not from ignorance but under the pretense of “concern and compassion”.

 Hass explains:

Abundant in inventions and innovations as well as in age-old techniques, [the evil Israel embodies] trickles like water and bursts out from hidden places. But unlike floods, it does not reach an end, and it affects some while being invisible, undetectable and non-existent for others. The genius of Israeli evil is in its ability to disguise itself as compassion and concern.

Hass has written extensively, and movingly, about the impact of Israel’s occupation on the Palestinian village of Deir el-Hatab, which had a population of 223 in 1922. The most recent census, in 2007, reported, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, that Deir al-Hatab had a population of  2,213 inhabitants.

Those residents had a peaceful existence, one that depended largely on farming, a rural  existence where families lived close to their land. The peace was shattered, however, with the arrival of religious extremist Jewish settlers who began looking for land to settle in the early 1970s. 

Their conduct was illegal under international law and, depending on the whims of the Israeli government of the moment, also illegal under Israeli law.

As  illegal settlements spread, the settlers’ political power grew, which caused the Israeli government to shift on what was legal. 

The settlers seeking a permanent home near the Palestinian city of Nablus, were part of the Gush Emunim “Bloc [of the] faithful”, an Israeli messianic, right-wing activist movement committed to establishing Jewish settlements in what they call Samaria and Judea.

The current location of Elon Moreh (a contemporary picture is shown above) was established in February 1980, with the help of the Israeli government which declared the land Elon Moreh desired, to be “state land”, “essential” for Israeli security.

The name Elon Moreh, is derived from the name of Abraham’s altar location (Genesis 12: 6). The settlement and its outposts dominate, Hass writes, “about half of [Deir el-Hatab’s] 12,000 dunams (some 3,000 acres)”.

Because the heavily armed and hostile Jewish settlers are living so close to the village of Deir el-Hatab, the Israeli army enforces strict access to farming areas, which includes many dunams of ancient olive trees. 

Hass writes in Ha’aretz:

Because of the proximity to the settlement, the village’s farmers are not permitted to cultivate about 6,000 dunams of their land, nor are they permitted to walk there, graze flocks, rotate crops, plow, weed, watch birds or transmit their family’s accumulated knowledge to the young generation. They may go there only two or three days a year to pick the olives that Allah made to sprout with his rain and that unknown Israelis did not manage to steal.

It is this militarily-enforced control over the daily lives of the Palestinian residents of Deir el-Hatib, a control driven by the religious zeal of the Orthodox Jews of the “Bloc of the Faithful”, that Hass identifies as the embodiment of evil in Israel’s occupation.

Put everything together and you get another innovative technique from the producers of Israeli evil: How to murder human beings without using an explosive or a knife, how to empty them from within, how to steal from workers of the land the thing they hold most dear – not only their livelihood and their children’s future, but also the deeply-rooted relationship of love they have with their homeland. 

Hass offers additional examples of Israel’s “innovative techniques” of repression, and then concludes her column with these searing words:

To keep our blood pressure down, we have not touched on the evil embodied in the killing of children by Israeli troops, the evil of Israel’s collective disregard of the inevitable wrath that builds up with the burial of each bullet-riddled child, the evil that exists in the evasive wording imposed by so-called objective traditions of news reporting.

Killing? Israeli soldiers shoot at Palestinian children because that is the job of soldiers who are sent to protect, with self-sacrifice, the colonialist enterprise and the benefits that it provides to the master nation. Is it any wonder that so few Israelis are emigrating abroad?

President Barack Obama has responded to worldwide criticism of Israel’s excessive military assault on Gaza’s civilian population this summer. His words of condemnation were more forceful than those he used during the assault..


Certainly Obama’s criticism of Israel was considerably stronger than the message  from Obama’s top military leader, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey. (right)

The General “went against the Obama administration’s own line when he said Thursday that the Israeli military acted ‘responsibly’ and went to ‘extraordinary lengths’ to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties during Operation Protective Edge last summer”.

Dempsey made his remarks at a Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs conference in New York on Thursday of this week..

In response to General Dempsey, a State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said Friday during a daily press briefing in Washington “that the administration still believes ‘Israel could have done more to prevent civilian casualties’ during the offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Her remarks were in response, according to Mondoweiss, to a question that referenced both the general’s declaration and the State Department’s condemnation of Israel’s August 3 shelling of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school in Rafah.

Psaki issued a statement after that attack, saying that the US was ‘appalled.’ She described it as ‘disgraceful. Psaki added:

“The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces, The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians. We call for a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schools.”

Israel’s right wing Jerusalem-based news outlet, Times of Israel, praised Dempsey for his remarks, reporting that in his speech General Dempsey praised Israel, who, according to the general, ‘went to “extraordinary lengths’ to prevent civilian casualties during this summer’s conflict in the Gaza Strip.”

The Times of Israel also reported (via Reuters), that Dempsey defended Israel by saying, “In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties.”

The general is following the Israeli script to the letter, which is not a surprise. But as the politicians kept telling us during  the just-completed national election, “We can do better.”

President Obama has two years left to start “doing better”. He could start by finding a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a better understanding of evil. 

The header at the top is from a larger picture on line, of Palestinian-made crafts at the The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) Online Store, a source for seasonal gift shopping.

The picture at top of this posting is by AP and appeared in Ha’aretz. It shows the Jewish settlement Elon Moreh in the foreground, with the Palestinian city of Nablus in the distance. The Palestinian village of Deir el-Hatab, is not shown. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments