Archive | April 28th, 2010



Israelis have an un-American view of democracy

Posted: 28 Apr 2010 09:58 AM PDT

Imagine reading this report in an American newspaper:

More than half of white Americans think human rights organizations that expose immoral behavior by the United States should not be allowed to operate freely, and think there is too much freedom of expression here, a recent survey found.

The pollsters surveyed 500 white Americans who can be considered a representative sample of the adult white population.

They found that 57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by the United States should not be allowed to operate freely.

Slightly more than half agreed that “there is too much freedom of expression” in the US.

The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the US military.

Another 82 percent of respondents said they back stiff penalties for people who leak illegally obtained information exposing immoral conduct by the military.

In reality, the views related in the fictitious article above are not those of white Americans but come from Jewish Israelis and pertain to their own state, military, and press. The results of the poll commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, are reported by Haaretz.

During his recent visit to Israel, Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the “unbreakable bond borne of common values” shared by America and the Jewish state.

What the Israeli poll makes clear is that Jewish Israelis and Americans, far from having an unbreakable bond of common values, actually have significantly different views about how democracy works. As Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at Tel Aviv university said: “The public recognizes the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic.”

Of course, even my attempt to contrive some kind of ethnic symmetry by juxtaposing the dominant ethnic group in the United States with that in Israel, is itself a tenuous parallel. We now have a non-white president but for as long as Israel remains a Jewish state it will surely never have a non-Jewish prime minister.

Most Americans understand that the separation of Church and State protects both democracy and religious freedom. In this era, we know that if any single ethnic or religious group were to assert a “right” to control this country, the United States would cease to be a democracy. The principle of equal rights does not come in different ethnic flavors.

This is cross-posted at Woodward’s site, War in Context.

In Doha, I struggle with my elitism

Posted: 28 Apr 2010 09:00 AM PDT

On Saturday night I flew business class to Qatar for the Doha debates. I always fly economy, but as the saying goes, I could get used to this fast. The seats on the Boeing 777 folded down to make a full bed and I was next to a guy from Cesar Pelli’s architectural firm. At the Four Seasons in Doha, I sent my wife an email. “They have Occitane soap in the bathroom.” “Life is good,” she responded. A BMW took me to and from the souk.

The debate was over the proposition, Obama is too weak to bring about Middle East peace, and I argued the affirmative along with a guy from American University of Beirut named Ahmed Moussali. He was unshaven and chain-smoked and kept the other side off balance in the green room by making fun of their clothing and telling scatological jokes.

They were both courtly men, Roger Cohen of the New York Times and Sami Abu Roza of the Palestinian Authority. Abu Roza had longish hipster hair and a German-inflected accent from a youth in Europe. Cohen has an English accent and opened the debate by speaking with fervor about Obama’s character and strength. Moussali promptly undercut him by saying the question was not about whether we love Obama or don’t love him.

He and Cohen clashed a lot during the debate. It wasn’t just a difference in manners, but in world views.

Moussali talked about the right of return. He said Arabs were made to pay the price for European crimes of World War II, and 1 million Russians moved to Palestine when people who were born there cannot visit their former village. He said that Palestinians ended up with less than 22 percent of the land. Cohen was dismissive of that view.

He said we cant keep dwelling on history and trying to outvictimize one another. Cohen had just been in the West Bank. He said to Moussali, When is the last time you have been in the West Bank? He spoke about how much progress the Palestinians were making economically with reduced checkpoints, and he said that Salam Fayyad says the Palestinians are trying to build something and go forward. Cohen was saying that Moussali and I are stuck in the past.

Before the debate Cohen and I had met in the Four Seasons lobby and both regretted that we were on opposite sides. He’s been a leader in American mainstream journalism; and I have several times celebrated him here, for saying that he was ashamed of Israel’s conduct in Gaza, for his personal courage in Iran last year, for attacking neoconservatives on the craziness of the idea of attacking Iran. 

Still I don’t know how a liberal can say that it is a good thing for people who are denied basic political rights and human rights to accept a hot lunch of economic progress. The Boston tea party was about that. Palestinians want freedom, to come and go, and not to live with separate roadways for Jews who are steadily taking more of their land.

I talked about East Jerusalem and the creation of ethnically-cleansed Jewish neighborhoods that memorialize Israel’s annexation of an international city, a violation that happens not in the past but under our noses.

Strategizing that afternoon over espresso at the Four Seasons, Moussali had told me to tell the audience that this debate doesn’t happen in the U.S. There is not a panel that pitted Cohen and Abu Roza on the right and me and Moussali on the left. Indeed, later this week Cohen will be debating a neocon at the American Jewish Committee on the vital question of Iran (the same debate Cohen won handily at a synagogue in New York last year), but no American stage explores the difference between his views and mine, between his attachment to the two-state solution and my own strong feeling that Israel, a democracy that denies leadership to 20 percent of its population, must be reformed.

Between his concern for the civil rights demonstrators murdered in Iran, with endless attention in the US, and my concern for the civil rights demonstrators murdered by Israel without a squeak from our press. 

It was a foregone conclusion that our side would win, 58-42. Moussali told me if the debate were held in Syria it would have been 90-10.

I sat up late at the Four Seasons talking with friends from Saudi and Palestine, both highly educated and well off. The Saudi had lately given me the book, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson’s classic about nationalism, and the Palestinian had read it in grad school. He told me that the negotiating team for the Palestinians always gets along with the Israelis, because “elites always get along with one another.”

I thought about that bit of wisdom for the next day. Of course elites do. When you are at the Four Seasons and discussing the history of nationalism, you get along. And as a Jew, I am accustomed to thinking in such terms. I’m a member of an elite. Israel’s Reut Institute says frankly that Israel needs to personally cultivate the “entire [American] elite” in culture, arts, politics and academia to maintain its status.

And Fayyad is the elite of Palestinian society. Roger Cohen and I both went to fancy schools and lead privileged lives in the US, and surely some of his love for Iran had to do with the education levels of the protesters. 

On the trip back I rolled my seat down, drank Bourdeaux, and watched Avatar till it got too boring. I saw it as others have, a parable for the US relationship to the Arabs– its glorification of an indigenous people tied to the land (the Nabi) and of the American “grunt” hero who is up against the pencil-necked elites. A Jew couldn’t write a movie from the vantage point of a jarhead, I thought. Well I couldn’t.

But during the debate I had been the most forceful on the issue of Palestinian conditions, about life in East Jerusalem and Gaza. On my left I saw Sami Abu Roza nodding his head in agreement. We’re both good guys. Somehow I think the Palestinians also need others to represent them.

Goldstone bar mitzvah saga exposes moral decadence of Jewish leadership– and burgeoning universalism in the grassroots

Posted: 28 Apr 2010 08:39 AM PDT

A great post at Open Shuhada Street does the tick-tock on the Goldstone bar mitzvah story. And absolutely nails the divided political culture of the Jewish community between neoconservative leaders and the burgeoning grassroots. Boy the internet gets me excited.

Many South African Jews went to synagogue on Friday evening 16 April knowing that their rabbis would address the Goldstone barring. Their relatively coordinated message seems to have been two-fold:

(1) Goldstone should not be barred from his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and according to the communal leadership might not actually have been, and

(2) nobody should forget that he is a traitor to the Jewish people. A good example is the sermon given by Rabbi Yossi Goldman, President of the SA Rabbinical Association, at Sydenham Shul in Johannesburg. Rabbi Goldman said he would “defend [Goldstone’s] right as a Jew to come to shul”.

However he said that Goldstone “may not be counted to a minyan (the quorum of ten Jewish men required for certain prayers)” and indicated that he would possibly have denied Goldstone an Aliyah (the honour of being called to the Torah), explaining that this “one can forfeit such privilege by inappropriate behaviour”. He also denounced Goldstone saying he had not only betrayed Israel and the Jewish people, but also his own grandmother.

…It was at this point, on 19 April, when most other communal bodies seemed to be in full retreat that SAZF [South African Zionist Federation] Chairperson Avrom Krengel made clear that his organisation would in fact protest if Goldstone decided to attend the bar mitzvah. This put to rest any lingering doubts that the situation was being misrepresented in the press.

[Activist Zackie] Achmat, still waiting for a lawyers letter from the Chief Rabbi, immediately issued the following short statement:

It is reported that the SAZF is still threatening to protest at the Sandton Shul if Justice Richard Goldstone changes his mind and dares to attend his grandson’s barmitzvah.

I call upon the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr Warren Goldstein to publicly denounce this fascist threat by the SAZF.

The Chief Rabbi did not denounce the SAZF threat, but it was reported soon thereafter he had withdrawn his threat to sue. 

Two days later, now a week into the crisis, on 21 April, the Chief Rabbi attempted to recover lost ground by writing an op-ed piece in South Africa’s Business Day newspaper in which he wrote of the “ancient and sacred principle: open synagogues”. He said Goldstone was welcome to attend the bar mitzvah, but reiterated his criticisms of Goldstone, who, he claimed, “has done so much wrong in the world.”

This was to backfire almost as badly as his threat of legal action against Achmat. 

The following day, as reported on the front page, Goldstone finally broke his silence through a letter to the Business Day, in response to the Chief Rabbi’s piece. In it he remarked that the Chief Rabbi’s “rhetoric about “open synagogues” simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated”.

He went on to say: “I must state that at no time whatsoever has the chief rabbi reached out to my family.” And concluded by stating: “The questionable and unfortunate approach of the chief rabbi, in all the circumstances, makes it less, and not more, possible for me to do so.”

At this point a second wave of opinion pieces, blogs, speeches and letters appeared. A small selection would include Tony Karon’s piece in the Nation, Larry Derfner’s scorching article in the Jerusalem Post, Judge Albie Sachs’ talk at the Cape Town Press Club, Judge Dennis Davis’ further rebuke of the Chief Rabbi, and  Zapiro’s brilliant cartoon (top of this article) in the Mail & Guardian, an invitation to hold the bar mitzvah in California, and a letter signed by US Rabbis in support of Goldstone.

…Jewish leaders often claim to be concerned, above all else, with anti-semitism. The echoes of anti-semitism inherent in their targeting Goldstone, in a place of Jewish worship, for being a traitorous Jew, obviously eluded the mainstream Jewish leaders.

Nor were they hindered by the damage to Judaism’s reputation caused by their actions. But the SAUPJ statement, picked up in various media, including the Citizen, Sowetan and Cape Times, was important in confirming for observers that the Jewish community is not monolythic in its intolerance.

In fact, the groundswell of backlash against the actions of the SAZF, SAJBD, Chief Rabbi, Beth Din and Sandton Shul point to the underlying, and underestimated, tolerance of the majority of Jews.

A statement also emerged from the Cape Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, stating that it “has registered its deep regret that a religious milestone has been politicised and disagrees with the manner in which this matter has been handled.” Although this statement was reported on in the JTA on 20 April, it was only e-mailed out to the Jewish community on 23 April, indicating, perhaps some trepidation.

This was the first, and it seems still only, public criticism by a major organ of the SA Jewish community of this affair. Albeit late and weak, it is nevertheless important. Generally however, there was no moral leadership offered by official Jewish leaders.

…On 24 April it was widely reported that the South African Jewish leaders had reached Goldstone, assured him that no protests would take place, and that on that basis he had declared his intention to attend the bar mitzvah. Such interest had been generated in the story that the news was carried by, amongst others, CNN, the New York Times, Haaretz, the Mail & Guardian, Eye-Witness News and further publicised by the World Jewish Congress

On publicising this, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies made the somewhat authoritarian-sounding request that “all parties immediately desist all public activities on this matter”. This is of course unlikely. 

As noted above various Jewish institutions seem to have conducted themselves disgracefully in colluding in an “agreement” that Goldstone would not attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and thereafter, when the story broke and an outcry ensued, they seem to have lied to the public. 

Nobel Laureates: ‘We are all peace makers, and we believe that no amount of dialogue without economic pressure can motivate Israel to change’

Posted: 28 Apr 2010 06:26 AM PDT

Support for divestment continues to grow. Here is the latest amazing statement urging the University of California to divest:

To the ASUC Senate,

We the undersigned Nobel Women Peace Laureates support your courage and call on you to reaffirm the ASUC Bill in Support of UC Divestment from War Crimes. We stand united in our belief that divesting from companies that provide significant support for the Israeli military provides moral and strategic stewardship of tuition and taxpayer-funded public education money.

We are all peace makers, and we believe that no amount of dialogue without economic pressure can motivate Israel to change its policy of using overwhelming force against Palestinian civilians. Last year’s nearly 400 women and children casualties in Gaza, and thousands more injured and killed, were all victims of a well armed military machine allowed to operate unchecked.

A delegation of us went to Gaza and saw firsthand the evidence of wholesale killing and destruction. Our hearts grieve for Gaza and we demand that there be no more Gazas. We urge the UC system to take the lead in this direction as has been its tradition, and commend the students who are working to achieve this goal.

We reject the portrayals of this action as anti-Semitic, and maintain that it does not make a choice between Palestinians and Israelis, but between universal freedom and oppression.


Shirin Ebadi, Iran, 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate
Mairead Maguire (Corrigan), Ireland, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Guatemala, 1992 Nobel Peace Laureate
Jody Williams, USA, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate

Israel has been ‘Arizona’ all along

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 05:12 PM PDT

I am encouraged by the wave of justified indignation, and spontaneous boycott movement, against the new Arizona law. Indeed, requiring citizens and legal resident to carry proof of their status at all times, and encouraging police to profile passersby who “look suspicious”, runs counter to the soul of democracy. The bigots who put together the Arizona law should be made to pay. And hopefully it will be declared unconstitutional.

This is also a teaching opportunity, to explain to fellow Kossacks why the country I come from, Israel, has never really lived up to its “Middle East’s Only Democracy” (TM) branding.

See? In Israel, laws like the Arizona one – and worse – have been in effect ever since independence. No, I’m not talking about the Occupation, but inside Israel proper.

Any resident sixteen years of age or older must at all times carry an Identity card, and present it upon demand to a senior police officer, head of Municipal or Regional Authority, or a policeman or member of the Armed forces on duty.

And guess against which ethnic group this requirement is enforced most often…. some more details and some personal anecdotes below.

In Israel, one of the rites of passage is going (sometime after your 16th birthday) to the Interior Ministry and getting your first ID card. And yes, you do tend to carry it with you at all times when leaving the home.

What happens it a police officer asks you for it and you don’t have it? Well, in principle they could arrest you and you might spend a night (used to be a couple of nights) in jail. In practice, to Jewish-Israeli citizens who look and sound Jewish-Israeli, this rarely happens. Very rarely. I mean, they might get in trouble with the police if they engage in wrongdoing, but almost never they would be booked just for not carrying an ID.

Things slightly change if you are a non-Jewish Israeli. In 1988 I boarded the night bus from Tel Aviv to Eilat (extreme south of the country). Two Bedouin-Israeli youth were about to board, when a policeman came and started questioning them.

They got smart and talked back. I know that in America you never talk back to police, but in Israel it is more common and socially acceptable, and Jews would usually get away with it. But being Bedouin, the policeman got mad and asked them for their ID’s. They didn’t have ID’s on them. They didn’t get to board the bus, instead they seemed to have gone on a field trip with the policeman.

Now, this goes on all the time. If you walk a typical Israeli downtown, especially in Jerusalem, you will always see police officers or soldiers “chatting” with some Arab-looking men and checking their ID’s. The police are acting completely within their rights. See, that’s the beauty: in Israel citizens don’t really have inherent rights because there is no Constitution.

There have been some “Basic Laws”, including a “Human Rights and Dignity Law”, representing an attempt to cobble together a quasi-Constitution. Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak has invented for them the self-serving, completely blown-out-of-proportion brand-name “the Constitutional Revolution”. Truth be told, these laws are subject to change or cancellation by a 61-member majority of the 120-member Knesset – and they have been changed countless of times. Much worse: all these laws have gaping loopholes left in them for “security considerations” and “security measures”, which allow all security forces to continue business as usual, including routine profiling and ID checking (see below for a partial list of these “security measures”).

Recently I’ve become sick of hearing – either from Israelis or from right-wing Americans – how the rest of the world should learn from us if they want, say, to improve travel security while retaining convenience. A couple of weeks ago we returned from a home visit in Israel.

Our inspection was the most lax I encountered anywhere in recent years. They couldn’t care less if we have liquids and how many. Simple reason: they profile and are proud of it. We are immediately recognized as typical middle-class Jewish Israeli family. Free pass. If we were something else (say, a typical middle-class Palestinian family), the story would have been much different.

They claim you can’t argue with success. But consider this:

  1. From a mathematical perspective, Israeli security only has to deal with the n=1 problem. The vast majority of their effort is spent profiling, questioning and strip-searching a single target group: Palestinians. Most other security services have more “suspect” ethnic groups to deal with, or they must intercept risks not immediately evident from appearance or other profiling.
  2. The Israeli “solution” – i.e., profiling and collectively punishing anyone who looks like, or is affiliated with, a Palestinian – is simply anti-democratic. Dictatorships can adopt it (well, actually, dictatorships don’t really wait for the Israeli example, this is how dictatorships operate in the first place). But democracies cannot afford to do so and remain democracies. Israel is fortunate (or rather, unfortunate) that most of its citizens are raised to believe that we are a democracy, but never really care to check what this term entails.

Ironically, Israel’s ID law originates from the British Mandate’s 1945 Emergency Defense Regulations, enacted to counter… a wave of organized Jewish terrorism. The suite of regulations, all still in effect and used mostly against Palestinians – citizens, residents and Occupied – also includes the authority to demolish homes, arrest without trial (nowadays euphemised as “administrative detention”), to court-martial civilians, to censor the press, etc.

Which does bring us to the Occupied Territories. In the West Bank, a Palestinian caught by our soldiers without an ID is liable to immediate imprisonment, which might last 18 days without trial. And yes, they will be arrested if they don’t have an ID on them.

Since the lot of Jewish-Israelis is so much easier – meaning, the authorities don’t see a point in enforcing the ID law on us – most Israelis are quite complacent with all this. They also err to think they live in a democracy, and mistake their nationality-related privileges for inalienable rights. Not.

They are privileges in both senses: we get more freedoms than other groups in Israel-Palestine get. And the authorities, when push comes to shove, see these as privileges, which they reserve the full right to withdraw when they see fit.

And most Israelis call us progressives “suckers”. We at least know what the real game is.

One last aspect, or irony: if all the above wasn’t enough, until 2003 the ID included an explicit “Nationality” designation, with the options being “Jewish”, “Arab”, “Druze”, “Circassian” (the last two being small minorities who generally cooperate with the Jewish majority).

Mine for example, issued 1994, says “Jewish”. Again, no one cared much about kind of “democracy” this is where a police officer can demand this document from you and ascertain which ethnic/national group you belong to.

But then, a group of Reform-converted Jews, for whom the Interior Ministry denied the “Jewish” designation to preserve the Orthodox monopoly over conversions, appealed to the High Court to be registered “Jewish”, and won. The fundamentalist Interior Minister decided to respond by removing the “Nationality” designation altogether. He’d rather remove it, than admit that Reform-converted Jews are formally “Jewish” in Israel.

So the fundamentalist, anti-democrat politician ended up inadvertently nudging Israel’s draconian ID a bit towards equity and democracy, in order to counter the boutique, spoiled, NIMBY, narrow concern of otherwise-fully-privileged Reform Jews (whose American counterparts often see no other evil in Israel except for the discrimination against Reform Jews). A little story that summarizes the many ironies of public life in Israel.

This post originally appeared on the Daily Kos.

Assaf Oron (b. 1966) is an Israeli human-rights/anti-Occupation activist (also holding US citizenship) and an applied statistician currently living in Seattle.

Which has the better punchline?

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 05:00 PM PDT

The joke:

or the apology:

I wish that I had not made this off the cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it. It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct.

Orientalism and Double Standards

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 12:00 PM PDT

Here’s yet another attack on Muslims for being too sensitive about seeing the Prophet Muhammed depicted or caricatured in the press, along with the usual indictment of the West for caving in and “self-censuring.”

But when was the last time you saw the Pope, or Jesus, cartooned or ridiculed in a big newspaper or on a major TV program?  I remember back in the 1970s when Boston magazine published what it thought was a humorous article about the city’s cardinal, Humberto Medeiros.  The public uproar was tremendous, and the editor-in-chief lost his job.

Of course freedom of the press is a primary value.  But Western editors do have red lines, and they try not to pointlessly offend their publics.  Why do they think they can treat Muslims differently?


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Washington Post considers the argument for racial division in Palestine

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 08:04 AM PDT

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting on another corporate media moment of ignorance and bias:

The headline of this Washington Post piece today (4/26/10) is certainly not promising:

“Sharing a West Bank Highway Proves a Tall Order for Israel, Palestinians”

The highway in question was built by the Israeli government on occupied Palestinian territory. Since 2000, Israeli authorities have barred Palestinians from using the road. They are now offering to open just two on-ramps for use by Palestinians, who would be searched upon entering the road. And the highway would still not provide access to the crucial Palestinian city of Ramallah.

So what would justify the notion that Palestinians, like Israelis, aren’t doing their part to “share”? Nothing. This is the only explanation of any sort that the Post’s  Janine Zacharia offers:

“The debate over Highway 443 illustrates a fundamental rub in the West Bank: If the Israelis and Palestinians can’t agree over how to share nine miles of pavement, how will they ever resolve the far more complex issues that divide them?

“From an Israeli viewpoint, allowing Palestinians on the road increases the risk of violence and adds traffic. To Palestinians, the road is another example of Israel’s reluctance to make life easier for them in occupied areas.”

Perhaps segregationists in the United States lodged similar complaints about overcrowding too.

A view of the UN from Latin America

Posted: 27 Apr 2010 07:55 AM PDT

Miguel D’Escoto, former president of the United Nations General Assembly and former foreign minister of Nicaragua, tells Democracy Now!:

Palestine has not been given statehood. And when the split of Palestine for a Jewish state and an Arab state, when that was decided upon—not really decided upon, when that decision was imposed, with all kinds of arm-twisting and the threats and the intimidations that the United States calls “negotiations”—you have to change your lexicon. When they say “democracy,” it usually means somebody who is very obedient to whatever they say. Then they give you the good housekeeping of approval, and they put “democracy.” If they don’t like you, then they say you are radical, and then they escalate the term to show—so it’s very difficult.

The United States claims that it has the right to rule the world, because it did so much to save the world from—in the Second World War. I don’t know how many Americans died in that war, but I imagine it’s infinitely, infinitely less than the 20 million people of the Soviet Union who died, more than 20 million. But regardless of that, the war was a great economic boom for the United States. The New Deal did not pull the United States out of its economic crisis; it was the war. And war has been, on many occasions, a business. They are very much into the business of death.

And that’s why, one time, when you talked to me over the phone many years ago, and President Reagan had died, and I never will forget that you said to me, “What do you think?” Well, you know, President Reagan is a human being. He’s got his wife, and he’s got his people who love him. And I feel sorry when people die, no matter who they are. And I pray to God that he receives them, in spite of the fact, I said, that he was the butcher of my people, a pathological killer. But in the United States, they are accustomed not to recognize their killers.

Iranian autocrats will have a harder time blocking material

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 11:20 PM PDT

Whenever any repressive regime tries to censor online content, rest assured somebody somewhere will find a way around it (Western governments also take note):

While the Iranian government has intensified its aggressive efforts to expand Internet filters, Austin Heap, a young programmer in the U.S., says he has developed software that would enable Iranians to evade their censors.

In response to the widespread crackdown following Iran’s June 2009 presidential elections, the San Francisco-based Censorship Research Centre (CRC) developed a programme that provides unfiltered, anonymous Internet access.

Called Haystack, it uses a sophisticated mathematical formula to hide the user’s real Internet identity while allowing access to widely-used networking websites blocked by Iran’s government, such as YouTube, Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter.

“Now we can launch our efforts to help those in Iran access the Internet as if there were no Iranian government filters,” Austin Heap, CRC’s executive director, told IPS.

America wants to send weapons above the atmosphere

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 07:27 PM PDT

We’re seen the future and it’s militarised space:

The Pentagon’s test launch of two unmanned space vehicles this week have highlighted the efforts being made by the United States to develop a new generation of high-altitude weapon systems.

The United States Air Force (USAF) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) test launched a space plane – the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), known as the Falcon, at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

One part of the program aims to develop a reusable, rapid-strike Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV), and the other is for the development of a launch system capable of accelerating a HCV to cruise speeds, as well as launching small satellites into Earth orbit.

Defense analysts believe that the Falcon is part of the Pentagon’s effort to develop the capability to strike anywhere in the world with a conventional warhead in less than an hour – known as Conventional Prompt Global Strike.

Meanwhile, the USAF’s secretive X-37B robotic space plane took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a mystery mission that is expected to take months testing new spacecraft

The X-37 is an unpiloted demonstration spaceplane built by Boeing Phantom Works that is intended to test future launch technologies while in orbit and during atmospheric re-entry.

“The X-37B has been in development for more than 10 years and had a tumultuous history. So, it’s great to see the X37 finally get to the launchpad and get into space,” The Washington Times quoted Gary Payton, U.S. Air Force Deputy Under Secretary for Space Programs, as saying.

The spacecraft will be placed into low Earth orbit for testing, following which it will be de-orbited for landing.

What is happening in the West Bank away from clueless journalist’s eyes

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 07:21 PM PDT

Day in and day out the sight of armed Israeli soldiers in the West Bank protecting settlers and destroying Palestinian land, all illegal under international law, continues. Most of the world’s media refuses to show these images. Poor, little Israel must be protected.

Joseph Dana, an American Jew living in Israel, continues to blog about these activities (and we worked together in Israel and Palestine last year). I salute him.

Here’s a video he posted a few days ago:

Non violent resistance to the occupation is beginning to spread to villages across the West Bank. In addition to the regular weekly protests in Nilin and Bilin this weekend, Nabi Salih, Walage and Beit Umar held non violent protests against the Wall and the crippling occupation. Below is a video shot by Israel Putermam from Walage. Be sure to note the violent arrest of an Israeli protester at the end of the Walage video:

The Israeli boxer from the former Soviet Union (but don’t feel patriotic)

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 06:50 PM PDT

Heard about the Orthodox boxing champ Yuri Foreman, studying to be a Rabbi, soon to fight in Yankee Stadium?


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Bob Higgins

Ghandi and Martin Luther King Live in Modern Non-Violent Civil Rights Protest

U.S. taxpayers continue to invest their hard earned 10 billion dollars a year in direct aid and defense contracts for Holy Land peace yet our investment continues to be squandered on bulldozers that knock down homes of the indigenous and build apartheid walls to separate causing anger and harm in the theaters of war.

Fresh from Jerusalem, please watch this important revealing video of an American made-bulldozer driven by military state soldiers get stopped in their tracks by brave indigenous peoples who would make Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King proud.

Is this what we are investing in? Is this what Americans stand for?  How did we get on the bulldozer side of justice?  Is this how we want our money spent? You decide!

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By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER/Senior Editor

How do we define greatness in leaders?  Simple, we look around us find none of it and use that as a definition.  Is it that great men (and women) are gone or that we simply don’t deserve any better than we get?  If you ask many Americans, they still believe Reagan to have been a “great president.”  Myth makers try to hang the “fall of communism” on Reagan or some idea of an economic surge based on conservative values. 

In truth, the Soviet Union collapsed, only to reemerge more powerful, an economic giant beyond our reckoning and a real look at “Reaganomics” shows little but fraud, big government, debt and a race into poverty for a hundred million Americans, a race continuing to this day in his honor. 

Was Reagan responsible?  No, not hardly!  He was out of his depth, surrounded by con men, thieves and phonies.  If he could have been great, because of some power in his soul or special humanity, we will never know.  When the myth makers dragged out his corpse to justify the creating of a police state and kleptocracy, the America we know today of wiretapping, secret prisons and a massive propaganda machine spewing Orwellian trash 24 hours a day, was born.  Reagan will remain a mystery.  For years, including most of his presidency, he told stories of his life to those around him, such as when, during WW2, he took part in the liberation of a German concentration camp.

These stories were from movies he played in, perhaps from some he had only seen.  How should we feel about this?   Should we be sad for him, ourselves or angry at those who traded weapons for drugs while American children went hungry?

At best, we look for “the common touch,” a feeling of underlying decency.  What we buy are packaged buffoons, malignant narcissists and weaklings sold to us as synthetic humans.  We buy them because we want them.  We admire them.  We are building a history of America that can’t even be described as a “decline.”   The world is entering a new “golden age” of pollution, poverty, extremism and war, all fueled by a select and powerful few, always in the shadows.  No “conspiracy” could ever come close to the truth.

You don’t need a “New World Order” or “Illuminati” to run the planet into ruin.  We have our own governments, the United Nations, the World Bank and IMF.  Who needs comic book villans when those tasked with helping keep the world in order make Genghis Khan or Caligula seem “unimaginative.”


There is no question, John Kennedy was the last American leader, the last man to stand up to the military, to the Israeli lobby and the economic thieves that had begun the rape of America’s economy,  the one completed so thoroughly under the miserable shirker, George W. Bush.  Was Kennedy murdered to justify the insanity of Vietnam or because of his demand that Israel end it’s nuclear program?  Those are your choices.  Maybe it was both.  His threat was that he would do what was right for America no matter the cost.  He was killed for it.  When his brother tried to carry forward his honor and values, he was murdered too.

Both were murdered by our own government, or what claims to be a government.  No one has stood up to take their places and the rats and roaches that scurry about so publicly now have worked tirelessly to murder any memory we might have of hope or decency.  Think about the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute when you think cockroach.

Since that time, nobody strong and decent has been able to survive the financially driven electoral system in America.  Millions of Americans are fearful that the independent sounds beginning to come out of President Obama may not be an act.  What if he really means to protect Americans against the Wall Street thieves and the gangsters pulling so many strings from the sewers of Tel Aviv?  Don’t tell me any of you would be surprised to hear of an assassination, followed by a “commission” and some moron found hanging in his cell, another “lone gunman.”


Look around the world for a leader, for anyone?  Is Gordon Brown more useless than Tony Blair?  Who picked out Germany’s Merkel?  Who is she working for, certainly not Germany.  Circle the globe, does anyone stand out?  How could be know?  It doesn’t take a genius to look past our own news to see how easy a target America has become.  Painting us as the “axis of evil” with our oil and drug wars, our kidnap gangs and continual reports of one atrocity after another, year in and year out, no decent leader would want anything to do with us.  How could a real human being sleep at night having to turn his or her back on the crimes we commit, the crimes we allow and the suffering we cause?

Is this too harsh?  Is this anti-American propaganda?  Isn’t America (and Israel) the shining light of freedom?  

Even if we didn’t have numbers, not 6 million mind you but certainly more than one million dead, not all thrown into ovens but dead just the same, cluster bombs, tortured to death, veterans dying of neglect or the thousand overdosing on the tons of heroin America is shipping around the world, we would still be as guilty as any nation we have damned in the past.  It is almost as though we having a war between factions, those who saw Hitler as an example and those who are looking for something purer, closer to Satan.

Now, every election carries the rhetoric, each camp tying the other to the Prince of Darkness.  Even a fallen angel would be offended.

The numbers climb hourly, 2 or three members of a family may have died in Afghanistan, shot at a checkpoint run by Americans “Mafia” Afghan National Police or overdosed in Moscow from some of the crops I have been told are currently being harvested in Helmand this week, a plague worse than ten Al Qaeda’s, even if such an organization did exist.  We don’t really know if it does, actually.  We made it all up.  Hey, maybe it does exist now.  If it does, we can take credit.  Perhaps the CIA is franchising it.


I was in Pakistan with my good friends Raja and Jeff earlier in the spring.  We met with Imran Khan, perhaps Pakistan’s best known celebrity and leader of a minor political party, a man famous for being one of the least successful politicians in the world.  Khan is a great man, it is impossible to miss.  One of that “other world’s” greatest athletes, a cricketer, tireless worker for the underclasses, outspoken critic of evil and exuding charm, charisma and humanity, meeting him was a joy.  Everything about Khan said “Jack Kennedy.”

Jeff and I are cynical American political hacks, used to seeing politicians kiss babies they would just as easily throw under a train to save their skin.

We looked at each other that night, walking out of Khan’s party headquarters.  Simultaneously, “We could get that guy elected president in a minute!” 

Then Jeff said, “Gordon, what if he actually means what he says?”  I turned to Jeff, “Yup, soon as they saw he wouldn’t play their game, he would be dead as a doornail.”

Remember when George H.W. Bush visited a grocery store for the first time.  He was amazed to see a checkout scanner and food in packages.  He had never seen those things before.  Ah, the common touch.


Today, going through the minds of American “elitists,” not necessarily the educated but the intellectually honest, the kind of people who can be patriotic and decent at the same time, is the Obama question.  If he means what he says, why hasn’t he closed the prisons, why is Dick Cheney out of prison, why are we still killing and dying for the lies Obama says he opposes? 

You can’t watch news in America without knowing you are being conned.  It seems, at times, the only politically motivated Americans are the lunatic fringe shilling for Wall Street and AIPAC.   “Normal” people are so disgusted with corruption and lies, now decades of little but, that they feel being involved in politics is like swimming in sewage.  The lunatics are immune to the smell and those who are in politics, especially those “up and coming” reformers are, as we all tell ourselves, going to become tomorrow’s thieves and liars like those who have gone before them.

Why do we know this?

Even without the scandals and corruption, at least 50 politicians a week, from city councilmen to senators are arrested for crimes, on TV shows at least.  One of the main themes Hollywood has saturated our nightly entertainment with is public corruption, crooked cops, crooked judges, everyone being paid off, everyone being blackmailed, hiding money, ordering killings, everything but, well but what?


I have seen the CIA run drugs in 2 dozen films, I have watched intelligence agencies plan and execute terror attacks and murder political leaders.  I have seen this so many times that the plots have become tiring.  Read the credits.  Check to see who the producers are, the network management and the corporations controlling both the news and “entertainment” in broadcasting, now really one in the same.  Then look at the plots you don’t see.

Are we being drowned in corruption and scandals in fiction so we are immune to the real thing?  Did video games make a generation of American children immune to killing?  Do movies and TV sell, not just smoking and drinking but anger and divisiveness as well? 

Remember those psychological tests, the “word association” ones.  I say “priest” and you say “sex abuser.”  I say “politician” and you say “crooked.”  In fact, y0u should try it yourself.  Think of anyone in a position of trust or respect and try out “crooked.”  Does it fit?  “Crooked librarian?”  No.  “Crooked building inspector?”  Yes.

America’s Supreme Court is, perhaps, the biggest scandal in the country today.  Several recent decisions, starting from a rigged presidential election to the utterly corrupt 5/4 opinion making massive political bribery not only legal but mandatory, are just part of it.

It isn’t just the Supreme Court.  You should look at how the Bush appointees on the Veterans Court of Appeals have done.  I can’t even describe it and it is never reported.  

Doors are kicked in without search warrants, judges allow any imaginable abuse of human rights and the real protections of the Constitution are thought of by most Americans as radical and unAmerican.  “They,” the same “they” that do our TV shows, do our news.  The “talking heads” tell us that the Constitution is all about homosexuals and illegal aliens.  I keep asking how 65 billion dollars in drug money leaves Afghanistan, a country with fewer than 6 ATM machines.

Get elected, ask that question and duck.  Famed White House correspondent has asked every American president in the last 40 years if they know of a Mideastern country with nuclear weapons.  None have ever answered.  President Obama looked visibly fearful. 

Israel has had nuclear weapons for 50 years, now a massive arsenal.  Not one American politician will publicly say it, though everyone knows it, in fact Israel makes no attempt to deny it.

What does this tell you about the kind of people we have in Washington or London?


Posted in UncategorizedComments Off on WHY ARE TODAY’S LEADERS ALL ‘ SMALL’





By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER/Senior Editor

Back in 2000, when the Bush machine was attacking John McCain for having fathered an inter-racial child and for being a homosexual, we had thought politics had reached the lowest levels possible.  This was Karl Rove’s work.  Ted Sampley, former Green Beret tells of Rove pushing him to expose McCain for wrongdoing while a POW.  Sampley, no longer with us, laughed about Rove and thought of him as a “weasel.”

With years of personal venom against the Clinton family and attacks on President Carter’s daughter Amy, not unlike those against Chelsea Clinton, nobody was safe from criticism, nobody but Laura Bush, daughter in law of former CIA director, George H. W. Bush.  However, the real problem wasn’t payoffs or destroying reputations.  The real problem was murderous thuggery.  Ronnie Moffit Karpen is an early example of how brazen “these people” are.

Think about what Lee Emil Wanta could tell about the Bush family.  Oh, you never heard of him either?  There is so much that never got out.  “Ratting out” Bush family crimes leads to unpleasant consequences sometimes.  If the truth about Wanta were to surface, the world’s financial structure would be shaken to its roots.

Ever hear of Henry Kok?  You aren’t likely to meet him.  Nobody will tell you why.  The list of people like this, these are names any journalist has, names like Jeff Gannon or Victor Ashe.  There are quite terrible things tied to these names and so many others.  Do we talk about Mike Connell or Jake Horton?  There have never been more timely plane crashes, except maybe for Ron Brown.  Why was Sibel Edmonds silenced by the Attorney General of the United States for years?   Why would reliable testimony of dozens of Bush officials being involved, not only in spying and drug dealing but in terrorism as well be silenced?

Anyone want to talk to Enron’s John Clifford Baxter?  Oops, he is gone too.

General James Rose could tell you how dangerous it is to have handled Bush military records.  He and several others could but are no longer with us.  We could ask Steve Kangas about it but he is gone as is Danny Casolaro.  People think war correspondents have a dangerous life, trying looking at the Bush family.

This goes so much further than corruption.  When I think about this and getting Warren Buffet and other stooges to run the Swift Boat ads, all proven lies.

With the family history of “accidents,” it is no mystery that Laura gets to make her confession decades later and in a self serving and convenient way.  There is an air of “Confessions of a Mafia Princess” about this.  Laura may have been a perfect match for Bush, tied early in life to Yale “fratboy” hazing that got out of hand, to the point of torture, a theme that would stick around for a long time.  Laura Bush was hardly a First Lady dedicated to anything other than, well, we don’t really know.  Perhaps her attemtps to “spin” the past might reveal something.

There is another version out there that puts the accident into a diffent light:

 Multiple accounts, including an unauthorized biography of Laura Bush, have quoted classmates or simply referred to Douglas as an ex-boyfriend.

After the police report was finally released to the Associated Press in 2000, Jim Vertuno wrote as his lead sentence, “At 17, Laura Bush ran a stop sign and crashed into another car, killing her boyfriend who was driving it, according to an accident report released to The Associated Press on Wednesday.”

From Snopes:

There has always been speculation about the nature of his relationship with Laura Welch. One rumor asserts the two had never dated, but that Laura had been romantically interested in him. Another claims he had been Laura’s boyfriend when he died, and another that he had once been her boyfriend but the couple had subsequently broken up. (The latter theory is advanced in the 2002 biography of the Bushes, George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage, which states Laura Welch and Michael Douglas had dated throughout early and mid-1963, but by the fall of that year Michael was going out with Regan Gammon, one of Miss Welch’s closest friends.)

… according to Gerhart’s book, “The police accident report notes that the pavement was dry and the visibility excellent on the night Laura flew through the stop sign at 50 miles per hour.”

The photos in the police file show an intersection bisecting the flat Texas landscape, a stop sign unobscured by buildings or shrubs, nothing but utility poles marching toward the horizon. They show the violence of the impact: Mike Douglas’s ‘62 Corvair looks like one of those carcasses police departments put by the side of the road to scare people off drinking and driving. Its metal hood and right front side panel are crumpled like a ball of paper, its entire chassis wrenched out of shape.

Gerhart notes Laura Bush “was not charged, not even ticketed for running through the stop sign, although Douglas’ death was the second fatality at that intersection that year. The police reportedly found no evidence of drinking or excessive speed, although the report is inconclusive as to whether she was tested for alcohol.”

The Washington Post writer speculated, “Perhaps Mike Douglas’s parents, who lived out in the country and weren’t part of the more affluent set in town, didn’t have the right connections to press for a more vigorous investigation.”

Journalists knew of Laura Bush’s fatal car accident long ago but it was never reported.  We were told anyone publicly talking about it would “have an accident” or plane crash.  The story that was out there was not so similar to the one we are hearing now, decades later.  Keeping this out of the news involved death threats and payoffs and a massive cover-up.  Keeping the Bush name clean and shining meant hiding arrest records for drunken driving, cocaine charges, classifying military records and silencing lots of people.  With the Webster Tarpley biography of dad suppressed and Hatfield, the ex-felon who dug up a ton of verified information on Bush drug arrests, crooked business deals and worse, only to have his books pulled off the shelf and burned, giving any member of the Bush clan a free ride for a self serving confession is undeserved.

There is so much more to confess than a very edited version of a teenage error.  There are the threats and lives ruined covering it up and the years spent as the wife of the “Fortunate Son.”  Was Laura a “beard” for “W,” long suspected of being a homosexual?

What is it like being married to a torturer and war criminal?  Are these harsh terms?  Whenever I hear from a member of Dr. Aafia’s family, I think of Laura Bush.

Dr. Aafia is Pakistani national, PhD from MIT in microbiology, a scientist of some real esteem who, at the “secret orders” of George W. Bush, was kidnapped with her small children, bought from a criminal gang in Pakistan to spend years of torture in an illegal prison.  After 5 years of rape and torture, Aafia is put on trial, not for any crime, but for trying to murder those who were torturing and raping her, 7 of them.  Do you think Laura woke up every morning feeling guilt because of rape and torture ordered by her husband, written off by the two of them as though it were all a college prank.

Laura Bush was silent on this and the fate of over a million Iraqis killed by her husband.  I wonder if she ever asked him where he spent his time in the military during the Vietnam War?  Records show Bush failing a drug test and simply disappearing.  Those records will never be released but the math is simple, not AWOL, but deserter.  “Daddy, what did you do during the war?”

Aafia, the 100 pound, wheelchair bound hellion who had to be shot twice in the abdomen by her “translator” to keep her from murdering her “interrogators”….

Now wait a second.  They speak English in Pakistan.  Aafia lived in the US for years and has a doctorate from MIT.  I would bet any amount that she speaks English much better than George W. Bush, in fact so much better it isn’t funny.  In fact, this isn’t speculation, but a fact.  How many innocent Muslims were kidnapped and thrown into the Gulag when President Bush sent out a “casting call” for dupes to be thrown into the CIA gulag, nobody in particular, just “numbers” so Ashcroft and Gonzales could claim “terrorist suspect” arrests.

Torture, prisons, cover-ups, the Katrina disaster, the Iraq invasion, the incredible mishandling of Afghanistan and, of course, the financial collapse of America into a sea of debt, debt for the poor while the wealthy and powerful, especially our Israeli-American contingent raked it in, cover provided by the White House, cover like the plane loads of Israeli agents and bin Laden family members flown out of the US “secretly” after 9/11.

The real story on Laura, what is it?  This is 2010 and a fact in evidence for decades, something that might have been used unfairly against her is now released, her version.  What’s wrong with this?

With decades of acrimony and hate in every aspect of American politics, with Limbaugh and Rove orchestrating personal attacks on family members of any democratic politician, does anyone believe that terrible things weren’t done to keep this out of the news?

If Laura is going to tell a story, it should go like this:

“My husband’s father used to run the CIA.  His family, though now tied at the hip with Christian Zionists and Israeli extremists, were close business partners with the people who planned and executed the holocaust.  In fact, our family is one of those most complicit in the holocaust, were even cited for it during WW2.  In fact, calling us Nazis is about as accurate as you can get.

We love torture.  We even proved it was legal.  Thousands were tortured, many simply disappeared.  Very few ever came to trial you see, not everyone stands up well to torture and sometimes, OK, more than 90% of the time, we were torturing the wrong people.  Sorry about that.  Family habit.

There isn’t a disaster that has befallen America that our family wasn’t involved in.  We have been in business with the bin Ladens for decades.  9/11 and the strange and inexplicable aftermath, invading 2 wrong countries and years of calculated failures that brought America into bankruptcy and disrepute are our legacy.  Think of the money we saved America by cutting funding for veterans and having their records destroyed by the car load?  We do some good.  In fact we did this and so much more for veterans, so much it would take a stack of books to cover it all.

Because of this good work, we don’t have as many veterans to worry about anymore.  Veterans are boring, little people, unimportant people, not worth the time to write about.

When Saddam was buying anthrax and botulism, who do you think was involved?  When our “enemy,” Iran bought American weapons illegally, who do you think planned it?  When the world’s largest heroin dealer, a Pakistani received a secret pardon, who do you think signed it?  Ah, but I digress, I could go on forever.  This is all about a traffic accident and me talking about how upset I have been.  I won’t be talking about how this was kept out of the news for decades or what was done and who it was done to.

Maybe I can save this for another book.”


If this had been anyone but Laura Bush, can you imagine the media frenzy?  Half a dozen private investigators, funded by Swift Boat supporters would have been pushing cash all over Texas in an attempt to buy a murder charge.  You would Google “Laura Bush drunk murder boyfriend” and get thousands of websites.  Bloggers who carried the story would get free trips to Israel like hundreds of our members of government and the military.  I love hearing about these trips.  I picture a scene from a James Bond movie.  Bond opens the hotel door and, there, draped across the bed, naked, a:

  • Young girl
  • Young boy
  • Farm animal
  • Transvestite
  • Kidnapped and shackled Muslim waiting to be tortured
  • Any 2 or 3 of the above

would be waiting, a helpless look.

Instead, there is decades of silence.  How was that silence paid for?  Was it money or blood or simply power and fear?

And so it goes.

Posted in UncategorizedComments Off on THE LAURA BUSH ‘ CONFESSION’ FAR FROM HARMLESS



 by Michael Leon

Peace will have to forced on to the region through some combination of divestment, international pressure and who knows what else. But the United States remains as much of the problem as Israel, and Noam Chomsky is not optimistic about the prospect for peace though this is what the overwhelming citizens of the world wish for. [Editor’s Note: Noam Chomksy’s new book, Hopes and Prospects, can be ordered via Chomsky’s site.]

Via TomGram:

A Middle East Peace That Could Happen (But Won’t) 
In Washington-Speak, “Palestinian State” Means “Fried Chicken”

By Noam Chomsky

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange.  For many of the world’s conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement. 

 In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders — with “minor and mutual modifications,” to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s. 

The basic principles have been accepted by virtually the entire world, including the Arab states (who go on to call for full normalization of relations), the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran), and relevant non-state actors (including Hamas). 

 A settlement along these lines was first proposed at the U.N. Security Council in January 1976 by the major Arab states.  Israel refused to attend the session.  The U.S. vetoed the resolution, and did so again in 1980.  The record at the General Assembly since is similar.

There was one important and revealing break in U.S.-Israeli rejectionism.  After the failed Camp David agreements in 2000, President Clinton recognized that the terms he and Israel had proposed were unacceptable to any Palestinians.  That December, he proposed his “parameters”: imprecise, but more forthcoming.  He then stated that both sides had accepted the parameters, while expressing reservations. 

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001 to resolve the differences and were making considerable progress.  In their final press conference, they reported that, with a little more time, they could probably have reached full agreement. 

 Israel called off the negotiations prematurely, however, and official progress then terminated, though informal discussions at a high level continued leading to the Geneva Accord, rejected by Israel and ignored by the U.S.

A good deal has happened since, but a settlement along those lines is still not out of reach — if, of course, Washington is once again willing to accept it.  Unfortunately, there is little sign of that.

Substantial mythology has been created about the entire record, but the basic facts are clear enough and quite well documented.

The U.S. and Israel have been acting in tandem to extend and deepen the occupation.  In 2005, recognizing that it was pointless to subsidize a few thousand Israeli settlers in Gaza, who were appropriating substantial resources and protected by a large part of the Israeli army, the government of Ariel Sharon decided to move them to the much more valuable West Bank and Golan Heights.

Instead of carrying out the operation straightforwardly, as would have been easy enough, the government decided to stage a “national trauma,” which virtually duplicated the farce accompanying the withdrawal from the Sinai desert after the Camp David agreements of 1978-79. 

In each case, the withdrawal permitted the cry of “Never Again,” which meant in practice: we cannot abandon an inch of the Palestinian territories that we want to take in violation of international law.  This farce played very well in the West, though it was ridiculed by more astute Israeli commentators, among them that country’s prominent sociologist the late Baruch Kimmerling.

After its formal withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel never actually relinquished its total control over the territory, often described realistically as “the world’s largest prison.”  In January 2006, a few months after the withdrawal, Palestine had an election that was recognized as free and fair by international observers. 

Palestinians, however, voted “the wrong way,” electing Hamas.  Instantly, the U.S. and Israel intensified their assault against Gazans as punishment for this misdeed.  The facts and the reasoning were not concealed; rather, they were openly published alongside reverential commentary on Washington’s sincere dedication to democracy.  The U.S.-backed Israeli assault against the Gazans has only been intensified since, thanks to violence and economic strangulation, increasingly savage.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, always with firm U.S. backing, Israel has been carrying forward longstanding programs to take the valuable land and resources of the Palestinians and leave them in unviable cantons, mostly out of sight. 

 Israeli commentators frankly refer to these goals as “neocolonial.” Ariel Sharon, the main architect of the settlement programs, called these cantons “Bantustans,” though the term is misleading: South Africa needed the majority black work force, while Israel would be happy if the Palestinians disappeared, and its policies are directed to that end.

Blockading Gaza by Land and Sea

One step towards cantonization and the undermining of hopes for Palestinian national survival is the separation of Gaza from the West Bank.  These hopes have been almost entirely consigned to oblivion, an atrocity to which we should not contribute by tacit consent. Israeli journalist Amira Hass, one of the leading specialists on Gaza, writes that

“the restrictions on Palestinian movement that Israel introduced in January 1991 reversed a process that had been initiated in June 1967. Back then, and for the first time since 1948, a large portion of the Palestinian people again lived in the open territory of a single country — to be sure, one that was occupied, but was nevertheless whole.…

The total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is one of the greatest achievements of Israeli politics, whose overarching objective is to prevent a solution based on international decisions and understandings and instead dictate an arrangement based on Israel’s military superiority.…

“Since January 1991, Israel has bureaucratically and logistically merely perfected the split and the separation: not only between Palestinians in the occupied territories and their brothers in Israel, but also between the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and those in the rest of the territories and between Gazans and West Bankers/Jerusalemites. Jews live in this same piece of land within a superior and separate system of privileges, laws, services, physical infrastructure and freedom of movement.”

The leading academic specialist on Gaza, Harvard scholar Sara Roy, adds:

“Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers.… Gaza’s subjection began long before Israel’s recent war against it [December 2008].

The Israeli occupation — now largely forgotten or denied by the international community — has devastated Gaza’s economy and people, especially since 2006…. After Israel’s December [2008] assault, Gaza’s already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible.

“In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza’s agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border.

Most productive activity has been extinguished.… Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population.

Yet, despite a March [22, 2009] decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need. Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006.”

It cannot be too often stressed that Israel had no credible pretext for its 2008–9 attack on Gaza, with full U.S. support and illegally using U.S. weapons. Near-universal opinion asserts the contrary, claiming that Israel was acting in self-defense.

That is utterly unsustainable, in light of Israel’s flat rejection of peaceful means that were readily available, as Israel and its U.S. partner in crime knew very well. That aside, Israel’s siege of Gaza is itself an act of war, as Israel of all countries certainly recognizes, having repeatedly justified launching major wars on grounds of partial restrictions on its access to the outside world, though nothing remotely like what it has long imposed on Gaza.

One crucial element of Israel’s criminal siege, little reported, is the naval blockade. Peter Beaumont reports from Gaza that, “on its coastal littoral, Gaza’s limitations are marked by a different fence where the bars are Israeli gunboats with their huge wakes, scurrying beyond the Palestinian fishing boats and preventing them from going outside a zone imposed by the warships.”

According to reports from the scene, the naval siege has been tightened steadily since 2000. Fishing boats have been driven steadily out of Gaza’s territorial waters and toward the shore by Israeli gunboats, often violently without warning and with many casualties.

As a result of these naval actions, Gaza’s fishing industry has virtually collapsed; fishing is impossible near shore because of the contamination caused by Israel’s regular attacks, including the destruction of power plants and sewage facilities.

These Israeli naval attacks began shortly after the discovery by the BG (British Gas) Group of what appear to be quite sizeable natural gas fields in Gaza’s territorial waters. Industry journals report that Israel is already appropriating these Gazan resources for its own use, part of its commitment to shift its economy to natural gas. The standard industry source reports:

“Israel’s finance ministry has given the Israel Electric Corp. (IEC) approval to purchase larger quantities of natural gas from BG than originally agreed upon, according to Israeli government sources [which] said the state-owned utility would be able to negotiate for as much as 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Marine field located off the Mediterranean coast of the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip.

“Last year the Israeli government approved the purchase of 800 million cubic meters of gas from the field by the IEC…. Recently the Israeli government changed its policy and decided the state-owned utility could buy the entire quantity of gas from the Gaza Marine field. Previously the government had said the IEC could buy half the total amount and the remainder would be bought by private power producers.”

The pillage of what could become a major source of income for Gaza is surely known to U.S. authorities. It is only reasonable to suppose that the intention to appropriate these limited resources, either by Israel alone or together with the collaborationist Palestinian Authority, is the motive for preventing Gazan fishing boats from entering Gaza’s territorial waters.

There are some instructive precedents. In 1989, Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans signed a treaty with his Indonesian counterpart Ali Alatas granting Australia rights to the substantial oil reserves in “the Indonesian Province of East Timor.”

The Indonesia-Australia Timor Gap Treaty, which offered not a crumb to the people whose oil was being stolen, “is the only legal agreement anywhere in the world that effectively recognises Indonesia’s right to rule East Timor,” the Australian press reported.

Asked about his willingness to recognize the Indonesian conquest and to rob the sole resource of the conquered territory, which had been subjected to near-genocidal slaughter by the Indonesian invader with the strong support of Australia (along with the U.S., the U.K., and some others), Evans explained that “there is no binding legal obligation not to recognise the acquisition of territory that was acquired by force,” adding that “the world is a pretty unfair place, littered with examples of acquisition by force.”

It should, then, be unproblematic for Israel to follow suit in Gaza.

A few years later, Evans became the leading figure in the campaign to introduce the concept “responsibility to protect” — known as R2P — into international law. R2P is intended to establish an international obligation to protect populations from grave crimes.

Evans is the author of a major book on the subject and was co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which issued what is considered the basic document on R2P.

In an article devoted to this “idealistic effort to establish a new humanitarian principle,” the London Economistfeatured Evans and his “bold but passionate claim on behalf of a three-word expression which (in quite large part thanks to his efforts) now belongs to the language of diplomacy: the ‘responsibility to protect.

’” The article is accompanied by a picture of Evans with the caption “Evans: a lifelong passion to protect.” His hand is pressed to his forehead in despair over the difficulties faced by his idealistic effort. The journal chose not to run a different photo that circulates in Australia, depicting Evans and Alatas exuberantly clasping their hands together as they toast the Timor Gap Treaty that they had just signed.

Though a “protected population” under international law, Gazans do not fall under the jurisdiction of the “responsibility to protect,” joining other unfortunates, in accord with the maxim of Thucydides – that the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must — which holds with its customary precision.

Obama and the Settlements

The kinds of restrictions on movement used to destroy Gaza have long been in force in the West Bank as well, less cruelly but with grim effects on life and the economy. The World Bank reports that Israel has established “a complex closure regime that restricts Palestinian access to large areas of the West Bank… The Palestinian economy has remained stagnant, largely because of the sharp downturn in Gaza and Israel’s continued restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement in the West Bank.”

The World Bank “cited Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints hindering trade and travel, as well as restrictions on Palestinian building in the West Bank, where the Western-backed government of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas holds sway.” Israel does permit — indeed encourage — a privileged existence for elites in Ramallah and sometimes elsewhere, largely relying on European funding, a traditional feature of colonial and neocolonial practice.

All of this constitutes what Israeli activist Jeff Halper calls a “matrix of control” to subdue the colonized population. These systematic programs over more than 40 years aim to establish Defense Minister Moshe Dayan’s recommendation to his colleagues shortly after Israel’s 1967 conquests that we must tell the Palestinians in the territories: “We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.”

Turning to the second bone of contention, settlements, there is indeed a confrontation, but it is rather less dramatic than portrayed. Washington’s position was presented most strongly in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s much-quoted statement rejecting “natural growth exceptions” to the policy opposing new settlements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with President Shimon Peres and, in fact, virtually the whole Israeli political spectrum, insists on permitting “natural growth” within the areas that Israel intends to annex, complaining that the United States is backing down on George W. Bush’s authorization of such expansion within his “vision” of a Palestinian state.

Senior Netanyahu cabinet members have gone further. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced that “the current Israeli government will not accept in any way the freezing of legal settlement activity in Judea and Samaria.

” The term “legal” in U.S.-Israeli parlance means “illegal, but authorized by the government of Israel with a wink from Washington.” In this usage, unauthorized outposts are termed “illegal,” though apart from the dictates of the powerful, they are no more illegal than the settlements granted to Israel under Bush’s “vision” and Obama’s scrupulous omission.

The Obama-Clinton “hardball” formulation is not new. It repeats the wording of the Bush administration draft of the 2003 Road Map, which stipulates that in Phase I, “Israel freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).” All sides formally accept the Road Map (modified to drop the phrase “natural growth”) — consistently overlooking the fact that Israel, with U.S. support, at once added 14 “reservations” that render it inoperable.

If Obama were at all serious about opposing settlement expansion, he could easily proceed with concrete measures by, for example, reducing U.S. aid by the amount devoted to this purpose. That would hardly be a radical or courageous move. The Bush I administration did so (reducing loan guarantees), but after the Oslo accord in 1993, President Clinton left calculations to the government of Israel. Unsurprisingly, there was “no change in the expenditures flowing to the settlements,” the Israeli press reported. “[Prime Minister] Rabin will continue not to dry out the settlements,” the report concludes. “And the Americans? They will understand.”

Obama administration officials informed the press that the Bush I measures are “not under discussion,” and that pressures will be “largely symbolic.” In short, Obama understands, just as Clinton and Bush II did.

American Visionaries

At best, settlement expansion is a side issue, rather like the issue of “illegal outposts” — namely those that the government of Israel has not authorized. Concentration on these issues diverts attention from the fact that there are no “legal outposts” and that it is the existing settlements that are the primary problem to be faced.

The U.S. press reports that “a partial freeze has been in place for several years, but settlers have found ways around the strictures… [C]onstruction in the settlements has slowed but never stopped, continuing at an annual rate of about 1,500 to 2,000 units over the past three years.

If building continues at the 2008 rate, the 46,500 units already approved will be completed in about 20 years.… If Israel built all the housing units already approved in the nation’s overall master plan for settlements, it would almost double the number of settler homes in the West Bank.” Peace Now, which monitors settlement activities, estimates further that the two largest settlements would double in size: Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, built mainly during the Oslo years in the salients that subdivide the West Bank into cantons.

“Natural population growth” is largely a myth, Israel’s leading diplomatic correspondent, Akiva Eldar, points out, citing demographic studies by Colonel (res.) Shaul Arieli, deputy military secretary to former prime minister and incumbent defense minister Ehud Barak. Settlement growth consists largely of Israeli immigrants in violation of the Geneva Conventions, assisted with generous subsidies. Much of it is in direct violation of formal government decisions, but carried out with the authorization of the government, specifically Barak, considered a dove in the Israeli spectrum.

Correspondent Jackson Diehl derides the “long-dormant Palestinian fantasy,” revived by President Abbas, “that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees.” He does not explain why refusal to participate in Israel’s illegal expansion — which, if serious, would “force Israel to make critical concessions” — would be improper interference in Israel’s democracy.

Returning to reality, all of these discussions about settlement expansion evade the most crucial issue about settlements: what the United States and Israel have already established in the West Bank.

The evasion tacitly concedes that the illegal settlement programs already in place are somehow acceptable (putting aside the Golan Heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders) — though the Bush “vision,” apparently accepted by Obama, moves from tacit to explicit support for these violations of law.

What is in place already suffices to ensure that there can be no viable Palestinian self-determination. Hence, there is every indication that even on the unlikely assumption that “natural growth” will be ended, U.S.-Israeli rejectionism will persist, blocking the international consensus as before.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared a 10-month suspension of new construction, with many exemptions, and entirely excluding Greater Jerusalem, where expropriation in Arab areas and construction for Jewish settlers continues at a rapid pace. Hillary Clinton praised these “unprecedented” concessions on (illegal) construction, eliciting anger and ridicule in much of the world.

It might be different if a legitimate “land swap” were under consideration, a solution approached at Taba and spelled out more fully in the Geneva Accord reached in informal high-level Israel-Palestine negotiations. The accord was presented in Geneva in October 2003, welcomed by much of the world, rejected by Israel, and ignored by the United States.

Washington’s “Evenhandedness”

Barack Obama’s June 4, 2009, Cairo address to the Muslim world kept pretty much to his well-honed “blank slate” style — with little of substance, but presented in a personable manner that allows listeners to write on the slate what they want to hear. CNN captured its spirit in headlining a report “Obama Looks to Reach the Soul of the Muslim World.” Obama had announced the goals of his address in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

“‘We have a joke around the White House,’ the president said. ‘We’re just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.’” The White House commitment is most welcome, but it is useful to see how it translates into practice.

Obama admonished his audience that it is easy to “point fingers… but if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.”

Turning from Obama-Friedman Truth to truth, there is a third side, with a decisive role throughout: the United States. But that participant in the conflict Obama omitted. The omission is understood to be normal and appropriate, hence unmentioned: Friedman’s column is headlined “Obama Speech Aimed at Both Arabs and Israelis.” The front-page Wall Street Journal report on Obama’s speech appears under the heading “Obama Chides Israel, Arabs in His Overture to Muslims.” Other reports are the same.

The convention is understandable on the doctrinal principle that though the U.S. government sometimes makes mistakes, its intentions are by definition benign, even noble. In the world of attractive imagery, Washington has always sought desperately to be an honest broker, yearning to advance peace and justice. The doctrine trumps truth, of which there is little hint in the speech or the mainstream coverage of it.

Obama once again echoed Bush’s “vision” of two states, without saying what he meant by the phrase “Palestinian state.” His intentions were clarified not only by the crucial omissions already discussed, but also by his one explicit criticism of Israel: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” That is, Israel should live up to Phase I of the 2003 Road Map, rejected at once by Israel with tacit U.S. support, as noted — though the truth is that Obama has ruled out even steps of the Bush I variety to withdraw from participation in these crimes.

The operative words are “legitimacy” and “continued.” By omission, Obama indicates that he accepts Bush’s vision: the vast existing settlement and infrastructure projects are “legitimate,” thus ensuring that the phrase “Palestinian state” means “fried chicken.”

Always even-handed, Obama also had an admonition for the Arab states: they “must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities.” Plainly, however, it cannot be a meaningful “beginning” if Obama continues to reject its core principles: implementation of the international consensus. To do so, however, is evidently not Washington’s “responsibility” in Obama’s vision; no explanation given, no notice taken.

On democracy, Obama said that “we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election” — as in January 2006, when Washington picked the outcome with a vengeance, turning at once to severe punishment of the Palestinians because it did not like the outcome of a peaceful election, all with Obama’s apparent approval judging by his words before, and actions since, taking office.

Obama politely refrained from comment about his host, President Mubarak, one of the most brutal dictators in the region, though he has had some illuminating words about him. As he was about to board a plane to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two “moderate” Arab states, “Mr. Obama signaled that while he would mention American concerns about human rights in Egypt, he would not challenge Mr. Mubarak too sharply, because he is a ‘force for stability and good’ in the Middle East… Mr. Obama said he did not regard Mr. Mubarak as an authoritarian leader.

‘No, I tend not to use labels for folks,’ Mr. Obama said. The president noted that there had been criticism ‘of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt,’ but he also said that Mr. Mubarak had been ‘a stalwart ally, in many respects, to the United States.’”

When a politician uses the word “folks,” we should brace ourselves for the deceit, or worse, that is coming. Outside of this context, there are “people,” or often “villains,” and using labels for them is highly meritorious. Obama is right, however, not to have used the word “authoritarian,” which is far too mild a label for his friend.

Just as in the past, support for democracy, and for human rights as well, keeps to the pattern that scholarship has repeatedly discovered, correlating closely with strategic and economic objectives. There should be little difficulty in understanding why those whose eyes are not closed tight shut by rigid doctrine dismiss Obama’s yearning for human rights and democracy as a joke in bad taste.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of numerous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Hegemony or Survival and Failed States. His newest book, Hopes and Prospects, is out this week from Haymarket Books.

[Note:  All material in this piece is sourced and footnoted in Noam Chomsky’s new book Hopes and Prospects.]

Copyright 2010 Noam Chomsky

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Strengthening Those Who Belong to the Land: Mahmud from Susya, the Organic Farmer

(crossposted from The Villages Group Blog, where more pics can be found)

Mahmud from Susya got up one day from his depression, and built a very basic green house. With simple tools and techniques he succeeded to surprise us with excellent organic vegetables.

The vegetables are an essential addition to the family’s poor diet, based mainly on dairy products from the herd which is their main source of making a living. And while both herding and growing grains is restricted by the settlers/army, green-housing is a brilliant solution for growing food which does not require much land.

One day Mahmud discovered a vegetable disease on the leaves of his tomatoes. We could not help with the disease, but by suggested to finance for him an agricultural course.

When he returned from his two months’ course at al-Arroub College north of Hebron, he also built a beehive.  Then, he turned out to be also a guide for Ahmad, from another family in Susiya. He taught him and helped him to build his own green house. Meanwhile, since this area is a draught area, both by nature and by the Occupation (the regime prevents direct water supply), we supported 4 families in building 4 wells.

Recently we joined the building the first prototype home Bio-Gas system. The system was built by Yair Teller from the Arava Institute with our financial support.

This system, the first one to operate in the Middle East, turns animals’ feces into gas for cooking needs. The previous success of the solar and wind based electricity systems which we, with COMET-ME, first build in Susiya two years ago, has motivated us to build this first prototype in Susiya as well.

All the above are actual examples of our way of supporting – strengthening the strengtheners of each community, both personally and communally.
We offer many aspects of support; even when financial, it is always a result of personal contacts and long standing relationships.

In addition to Susya, we also maintain contacts with other communities in the region of south mount Hebron such as Umm Fakara, Umm al-Kheir, al-Tuwani, Tuba and others. The financial support for all the initiatives described above (in Susiya), was kindly provided by a family from London. We, members of the Villages Group and Susyans, thank them sincerely.

Erella and Ehud, the Villages Group

The Global Movement Spreads: New Wave of Protests in Hebron

By Avital Aboody

On April 24, 2010 at around 15:45 a group of approximately 50 Palestinian, Israeli, and International activists gathered in Hebron next to the checkpoint gate separating Shuhada Street from the Casbah.

The protest was organized by a Palestinian group in Hebron called “Youth Against Settlements” and the organizers hope to hold these protests every week with the intention of disrupting the army-accompanied settler tour that goes through the Casbah (Old City) every Saturday. The Casbah is within H2, an area that comprises 20% of the city of Hebron and is considered Zone B, meaning that it is receives Palestinian municipal services but is under Israeli military control.

Both Palestinians and Israelis can access the Casbah, but Palestinians are restricted from walking just a fewer meters further, beyond the imposing gate/checkpoint to the sight of the former marketplace, Shuhada Street.

The protestors stood in front of the gate where the settlers’ tour usually enters, holding signs and chanting slogans in Arabic, English, and Hebrew.; this continued for some time without any disturbance. Soldiers and Israeli police looked onto and videotaped the protest from pillboxes and rooftops nearby and eventually, when the settlers and soldiers never showed up, the protest was declared over.

However, within minutes, the protest was suddenly reignited with news that the settlers had managed to enter the Casbah through another entrance. The protestors then began to advance through the marketplace alleyways to where the tour was said to be but they were met by a line of soldiers who blocked their path.

They continued chanting and tried to push past the soldiers claiming that it should not be a crime to walk through their own city. Protestors also tried several times to run around to different entrances into the market to prevent the tour from progressing, but each time they were met by a chain of soldiers and the face-off /pushing began again.

Amidst the chaos of running back and forth, one Israeli activist was arrested for no apparent reason. When the protesters re-grouped at the original location alongside the checkpoint gate, they formed a human wall in front of the soldiers by linking arms.

The soldiers stood in front of the protestors, blocking them, in order to create a clear path for the settlers to exit the Casbah and pass through the gate back to Shuhada Street. Some Israeli protestors tried to speak with the soldiers, saying that this was not what they were raised to do and that they can refuse and join us.

The soldiers know very well that the settlers are fanatic and that the Palestinians have every right to be there, yet they too are trapped within this insane reality that effectively strips them of their ability to think and feel and act in the way that they know to be right.

I found myself standing mere inches from the young soldiers, looking directly into their eyes to catch a glimmer of their discomfort and their acknowledgment of both my humanity and that of the Palestinians who held my hands.

They could not return my gaze and continued to use their guns and thick vests to push us back and “do their job”. The police then arrived and arrested two more Israeli activists as well as a Palestinian activist and well-known resident of Tel Rumeida, Hebron. One of the arrests was particularly violent as the protestor, a former soldier who had himself served in Hebron during the second Intifada, was pushed to the ground and then dragged/carried away.

The protest ended shortly afterward; the Israeli arrestees were held for approximately 8 hours while the Palestinian arrestee is still being held in the Kiryat Arbah police station, nearly 24 hours later. The protestors will return to the scene again next Saturday and all the Saturdays thereafter until the occupation of Hebron ends and its residents are free to live without constant harassment.

Video of the protest:

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At bottom is a set of photos is from page 8 of this morning’s (April 28 2010) Haaretz (Hebrew edition only; download as PDF here.) Caption reads:

Pepper spray into the eyes of the Palestinian protester, at point-blank range

A 15 year-old Palestinian was arrested yesterday by Border Policemen during a demonstration against construction of the separation fence near the village of Wallaje, and was sprayed with pepper gas at point blank range during the arrest. About 60 demonstrators protested against construction of the fence south of Jerusalem.

According to one of them, at one point the teenager saw the the Border Policemen were documenting the event and panicked. “He jumped off the bulldozer, ran home and stumbled into a policeman by accident., He tried to continue running but the policemen jumped on him, beat him murderously and sprayed him with pepper gas, after they had got him under control.

The Border Police responded: “The arrest was made after the suspect disturbed the peace, attacked the policemen and even resisted arrest. During the arrest, pepper spray was legally used. In any case, the photo will be transferred to the Police [internal] Investigations Department [at the Justice Ministry] through the [police] Public Appeals Officer for further examination. (Liel Kyzer)

The photo is not very ambiguous: Point blank range is certain and it would be hard to claim that the protester was not incapacitated when the spraying occurred. I would be more skeptical if this was an isolated incident. It is not.

As Emily Schaeffer pointed out yesterday, unnecessary use of force by Israeli security forces in suppressing unarmed protest is the norm. A recent Coteret post asserted that the new term “Popular Terror” was useful in creating the dehumanization necessary for Israelis to accept this phenomenon.

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Israeli Nitwits come up with aquaculture plan for Gaza

This is too much. These five students are “concerned with resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Their method? Aquaculture. They want to use “creativity” to “resolve international tension” to “make the world better.” This is a beautiful sort of woolly commitment. Here is the thinking behind this project:

However, in recent years this industry has suffered tremendously due to high smuggling threats. Palestinian fishermen are very limited in fishing areas, directly affecting the quality and quantity of fish.

As a consequence, the average price of seafood has more than doubled in the past few years, thus, far fewer families can afford this important source of protein. With fish species being taken from the seas faster than they can regenerate, there is no alternative but fish farming. Fish farms, therefore, present an opportunity and fulfill a global need.

And sometimes a tremendous segment of the conflict appears in a picayune, surreal bit of well-meaning idiocy. The industry has not suffered due to “high smuggling threats.” If the Israeli navy wished to prevent boats from entering Gazan territorial waters from international waters–illegally–they could do so easily, as when they commandeer and ram Free Gaza ships.

The “limited” fishing areas are due to the desire to secure oil fields off the Gazan coast as well as due to the overall framework and thinking behind Israeli policy: tighten the blockade, destroy livelihoods, destroy independent economic development, and push the people living in Gaza into despondency and hopelessness, resulting, they hope, in atomization, paralysis, and abject dependency, the transformation of ~1.5 million people into beggars reliant on “essential” humanitarianism for survival.

The notion that this has a whit to do with “smuggling” is the type of non-sense that only idealistic idiots who think “creativity” is the appropriate solution to illegal blockade and siege could come up with.

Every night, I hear the explosive rat-tat of navy ships firing near Gazan fishing boats, the sounds echoing and bouncing off the Mediterranean, sometimes from miles up and down the coast, the sound waves eventually ricocheting into and through my thick windows. Sometimes these crackles are so loud they sound like small bombs. What is going on?

The Israeli navy is peppering Palestinian fishermen with bullets, sometimes shooting them in the head for daring to try to fish in their own water, riddling their boats with holes–destroying them. A friend just told me that often the Israeli navy waits until the fishermen have a small catch, then douses them with a water cannon laced with a chemical compound that mimics the smell of excrement, spoiling the catch too, and forcing the fishermen to dispose of whatever they’ve gotten from their efforts, usually under-sized immature fish because the couple kilometers off the coast in which the Israeli navy ostensibly refrains from property destruction, assault, and murder are over-fished. This is sadistic.

Instead of combating this, the University students engage in normalization: “there is no alternative” to illegality, so lets lubricate the illegality and thereby through a “well thought-out economic development plan” em-better the lives of “both Palestinian and Israeli citizens, and with time, resolve the regional tension.” Which stems from economics and not occupation. Neo-liberal business students end up being Stalinist, economic determinist Marxists with values perfectly reversed, anthropologically fascinating if totally despicable. You have to be wildly smart to come up with ideas that dumb.

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Jewish Voice for Peace

send a letter to
UC San Diego senators.

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In just a few days, nearly 6,000 people have signed the statement in support of the students pushing for divestment at UC Berkeley, and we will make sure you are represented in that room with the students and senators.

It has been just thrilling to see names pouring in from all over the country and even the world. Each of you taking the time to tell the courageous students of UC Berkeley, “We stand with you, we are here for you, and we believe in you.” Each of you saying that divestment from the occupation is the right thing, the moral thing, the loving thing and the just thing to do.

And now we are asking you to take a moment on behalf of students at UC San Diego who need your help.

This Wednesday, April 28, on the very night that we’ll be standing in support of UC Berkeley senators as they vote again on divestment, UC San Diego’s Students for Justice in Palestine will be making the case for divestment before their own student senate. Their bill, which you can read here, is very similar to the bill being proposed by UC Berkeley’s SJP. It calls for divestment from the very same two companies: General Electric and United Technologies.

The UC San Diego senators need to hear from you. Please send them a letter now. They need to know that Jews and our allies support divestment from companies that profit from the occupation.

They need to hear that we all stand proudly together:

With Palestinian student Ibrahim Shikaki and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein;
With countless student organizations representing every race and ethnicity;
With dozens of professors, Nobel prize winners, and rabbis;
With thousands of grandmothers and grandsons, Muslims and Jews, Christians and atheists, fathers and daughters,

They need to know that we  support their courageous vote to say “the Occupation ends with me.”

In gratitude,

Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

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