Categorized | Middle East



Poor schmuck Harvey Pekar– gets to be censored on Israel posthumously!

Posted: 22 Jul 2010

Harvey Pekar was the bard of Cleveland, the famously-difficult author of comic books who died on July 11. An anonymous friend writes:

He was very much a part of Jewish-American leftist culture. A couple of books are coming out posthumously. One is a comic collection he helped edit with Paul Buhle coming out soon called “Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land,” about Jewish-American history (per editor Charles Kochman, in comments here). I had heard that another Harvey Pekar book would be a critical look at Zionism and Israel. According to this interview with his publisher, they have decided to “turn it into a debate” because of his “harsh” views, after his death.

The interview is in Eric Herschthal’s piece on Pekar’s death, in the New York Jewish Week.

“I think he relished the opportunity to do some explicitly Jewish work,” Abe Socher told me last week. Socher is the editor of The Jewish Review of Books, a Cleveland-based quarterly that Pekar began contributing to earlier this year, when the magazine debuted. 

…Socher mentioned that Pekar talked a lot about Yiddish authors, too. He loved Yakov Glatsein, and hated I.B. Singer. When Pekar came around the magazine’s office two weeks ago to pick up the newest issue with his work, just 10 days before his death, he told Socher he was watching the recent fight over Chaim Grade’s papers particularly closely as well. 

But Pekar could be just as stubborn in his opinions as he was [famously] on Letterman’s show, Socher added. Pekar has been quietly working on an illustrated history of Israel with JT Waldman, a young Jewish illustrator. Waldman told me that he still plans to publish it, but since Pekar’s views on Israel were particularly harsh, they turned the book into a sustained debate between Pekar and Waldman, who holds less critical views. 

Which is not to say he was un-self-critical. Quite the contrary, Socher suggested. His self-loathing was perhaps his most identifiable trait.

‘Debate’ in PA Senate race is over who loves Israel more

Posted: 22 Jul 2010

The dueling ads for the Senate race in Pennsylvania by J Street and neo-conservative outfit the Emergency Committee for Israel, headed by William Kristol, has media outlets talking about a “proxy fight over President Obama’s Middle East policy, for the right and the left.” The Forward described the two groups as “trading barbs and pointed advertisements” over Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel, and quotes conservative writer Michael Goldfarb of the committee as welcoming this “debate.”

What the ads really tell us, though, is that there is no debate going on amongst political candidates when it comes to Israel and that the Israel lobby’s line is still reigning supreme in American politics. It is a demonstration of how little room there is to have a candid discussion on the United States’ policy towards Israel/Palestine.

After the Emergency Committee for Israel aired a menacing ad accusing Sestak of being affiliated with a “front group for Hamas”–a reference to the Council on American-Islamic Relations–and for apparently not being sufficiently supportive of Israel, J Street hit back, sort of.

J Street falls all over itself to point out that Sestak is indeed pro-Israel: “Sestak consistently votes for aid to Israel,” the J Street ad says, and as an admiral in the Navy, Sestak “helped strengthen Israel’s defenses.”

This is anything but a debate over Israel. It’s a narrow discussion encased in a box between one group that supports sanctions on Iran (J Street) and another that just wants to bomb Iran.

Sestak is indeed pro-Israel–he voted in support of the Israeli assault on Gaza, which eventually killed some 300 children, and signed onto the recent letter in the aftermath of the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla that signals support for the blockade, saying that it “was instituted to stop terrorists from smuggling weapons into Gaza to murder innocent civilians.”

But is it really a good thing for Sestak to support Israel when it massacres 1,400 people during “Operation Cast Lead” and commits war crimes?  Shouldn’t we be having a debate over Israel’s destructive policies of war, blockade, occupation and colonization that we fund?

The day when candidates can truly debate whether we should be funding Israeli war crimes is certainly something that I want to see. The Pennsylvania Senate race, though, with J Street defending a candidate that is firmly pro-Israel, isn’t going to be it.

As Australian-Jewish writer Antony Loewenstein recently commented, “if this is the way to move the debate forward in the US, we’re in deep trouble.”

Hitchens rails against Occupation

Posted: 22 Jul 2010

Christopher Hitchens was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt. He frames the matter in the most simple, honest way: half the people in Israel/Palestine are being ruled without their consent (and it’s on a racial basis). The question I have here is how much of the Western battle against “religious barbarism” is driven by Western investment in Israel? If the Israel/Palestine issue were resolved, how quickly would theocratic nuclear aggression disappear as a concern? Just asking. Hitchens:  

In order for Israel to become part of the alliance against whatever we want to call it, religious barbarism, theocratic, possibly thermonuclear theocratic or nuclear theocratic aggression, it can’t, it’ll have to dispense with the occupation. It’s as simple as that.

It can be, you can think of it as a kind of European style, Western style country if you want, but it can’t govern other people against their will. It can’t continue to steal their land in the way that it does every day. And it’s unbelievably irresponsible of Israelis, knowing the position of the United States and its allies are in around the world, to continue to behave in this unconscionable way. And I’m afraid I know too much about the history of the conflict to think of Israel as just a tiny, little island surrounded by a sea of ravening wolves and so on. I mean, I know quite a lot about how that state was founded, and the amount of violence and dispossession that involved. And I’m a prisoner of that knowledge. I can’t un-know it.

Message to Israelis who oppose BDS – go to Bil’in and see for yourself

Posted: 22 Jul 2010 12:55 PM PDT


The first time I stepped into a settlement was during my military service. I did a job that let me go home every night, but every now and then we were required to do something they called AVTASH, or SetSec: settlement security. I was a guard in Ganim, in Kadim, in Homesh and in one other settlement whose name I do not recall. Every one of those settlements has been removed since then, as part of the Disengagement. We’d travel there in a military jeep. Somewhere near the city of Afula the officer who rode with us said we had entered Area A, and that we had to load our weapons. With our ridiculous guns we traveled through the car-part stripping facilities of Jenin, along ragged roads, until we came to the settlement. These were “quality of life” settlers and were quite nice, in a superficial acquaintance. I remember Homesh in particular. We were guarding in the winter, and the guard booth was covered with perennial fog that had a metallic aftertaste. Around us were mountains, Arab villages, and rock rabbits. I loved those guarding shifts.

The next time I would enter a Palestinian area would be on the way to a demonstration in Bil’in. I took a rideshare bus which left from Tel Aviv’s central bus station. It was odd to be there without a loaded weapon, to hope that the soldiers wouldn’t stop me at the checkpoint. It was even stranger to see the Palestinian Authority flag. Not strange – frightening.

Israelis don’t know Arabs. Left-wingers don’t, either. I met one at the university, another at work. I have never witnessed a meeting between an Arab and a right winger, but I find it hard to believe that it would be as amusing as a meeting between a left-winger and an Arab. They do a special dance at one another. And it’s mostly the left-wingers. They use a careful series of gestures to make it abundantly clear they are ok, and that they carry all of the right opinions. Having taken part of this very dance at least once I can tell how very embarrassing and inarticulate it can be. Arabs are not exempt of this, and perhaps they are even more committed to it. A meeting between a Jew and an Arab, even when it is full of good intentions – especially when it is full of good intentions – has explosive potential. The embarrassment remains with you thereafter, and you wonder if the problem is yours or if you just don’t like the person.

Relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel are so very charged that I had a hard time even writing the actual word “Arab”. In such a situation, where an entirely reasonable word has already been linked to a euphemism of its own – they’re called “minorities” in the Israeli discourse – it is something of a shock to enter Bil’in. These are not “Israeli Arabs” but Palestinians, and the village looks exactly as you’d expect a Palestinian village to look like, just like the ones in the press photos. I came to the demonstration after Bassam Abu Rahmeh died. Old cars were driving down the main street, covered with pictures of him and Palestinian flags. A kid rode his bike with a Bassam poster waving in front of his face, blocking his field of vision. Suddenly when you’re there, afraid, you understand just how many layers separate you from this experience, just how much a Palestinian still seems to be a creature of evil intent. You’re still there, with your weapon loaded.

Looking back it seems to me that this was an important demonstration. My criticism of the radical left was much sharper. Today I can’t even remember what it was. In his essay on nationalism Orwell described a condition of reverse-nationalism – the automatic, instinctive revulsion at one’s own country. Currently I have to double-check myself twice a day that that’s not where I’m at. Before Bil’in that was one of the things that infuriated me about the radical left, i.e. the demonstrating left.

I’m not sure this is a positive condition, but it does seem to be a relevant one, and to encompass more than just my own personal experience. You have to be there, and go there yet again, to see how a Palestinian flag can suddenly be taken for granted, almost as if you’ve come to a safe harbor. If you’re a left-winger there is no doubt that Bil’in is safer than the nearest checkpoint or settlement. Your identification framework shifts.

I think that most of us cannot understand the craptacular extent of the situation here. Keren, a friend of mine, phrased it well: for us, everything works. If we see cops down the street, they will obviously not harass us; we’re not afraid of a security guard or of a soldier on the bus. That’s not how it is for Arabs or, in some cases, for Mizrahi Jews. A young woman I know once told me about the calculus of stepping into a taxi: an older driver will try to lay you; a young driver will try, but only hesitantly; an Arab driver will try. This stunned me: the fact that entire chunks of my existence and hers were so radically different. A man doesn’t engage in this calculus, he doesn’t even know it exists. And what’s true for women is even more so about other populations. I am not sure that I can imagine how an Arab in this country perceives authorities, what it means to know that if you have a beer outdoors and a cop goes by, he’ll likely pour it out. As Keren put it, he’s entitled to, of course, but I don’t think this would happen to me.


It is for this reason that the debate about recent cancellation of performances in Israel make me tired, more than anything else. Because I don’t think it can actually, truly be explained. Singer Ninette Tayeb, Israel’s rags-to-riches darling, phrased it well in response to the cancellation of the Devendra Banhart performance: “why would you mix politics, which is the height of filth, with the purest thing, music, in the first place? I find it hard to understand this, I am quite agitated. What’s happening here is most upsetting.” How can you even explain to her that it’s not politics, that it’s people? She won’t understand. For her to start understanding she has to go through a checkpoint, and she’ll never-ever do that, because she does not understand.

And it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a left-winger, because even as a left-winger, the number of times you butt heads with the state is very low, if ever you do. Because, even as a left-winger, you don’t really understand how extensive the occupation is, how much it trickles into every part of your life. The Israeli rage about the boycott of products from the settlements demonstrates a bit of that. The left likes to mention the economic price of the occupation and of the fact that we don’t actually have any clue about the budgets being diverted to the settlements. That’s true, of course, but to be fair, the occupation also yields profits. The boycott of settlement products concerns the regime for a good reason – the Palestinians are a market, and apparently a serious one. Journalist Amira Hass suggested that the prohibition on conveying coriander, cardamom, cumin, and hummus is in place in order to make Israel a monopoly in the field. In other words, it is quite possible that Israeli companies enjoy the siege of Gaza and support its continuation. Our lifestyle here, the economic growth, the tax income, the very existence of some Israeli companies – these all require that Palestinians be kept in conditions of starvation.

Ninette could not even say the word “occupation”. As far as she’s concerned, that’s politics. Her music can only remain pure, absent any politics, if Ninette can refrain from seeing the occupation. Orwell once wrote about the rough people, the ones who do the dirty work so the decent folks can sleep well at night. In Israel there is a whole army that does that work, and the decent folk can still live their lives without seeing it for even a moment.

I have no issues with apolitical art. Quite to the contrary. But our fear of the politicization of art does not pertain to aesthetic considerations. It is merely the simple fear of knowing that our lives here are political. A band cannot visit Israel today without making what looks like a political declaration. “We tried to make it clear that we are coming to share a human and not a political message, but it seems that we are being used to support opinions that we do not share”, said Devendra Banhart. He is wrong. There is no need for an agent to use him. Performing here [in Israel] is a political statement, and it is the wrong political statement.

Israelis like to claim that boycotting Israel only pushes Israeli discourse to the extreme. It is likely that they’re right, to a certain extent. But it seems to me that after 43 years, thousands of administrative detentions, thousands of casualties, and tens of thousands of homes demolished, Israel has lost the right to ask to be left to solve this problem alone. In fact, I am not sure that there is anyone who seriously believes that Israel is capable of doing so. This is why the cancelled performances gladdens me. Because it is only the beginning. When this snowball starts seriously rolling, and sanctions are imposed, Israel will no longer have any option but to make a decision. That keeps me optimistic. And I know this text will make many Israelis loathe me, and I know they will not understand. But, really, you’ve got to be there, by the Palestinian flag, with tear gas all around you, to start understanding. There is no other choice.

Itamar Sha’altiel is an Israeli blogger and an ex-journalist. While he should been writing about literary theory and cognitive studies, in which he majored, living in Israel compels him to engage mainly with politics and human rights. This article originally appeared in Hebrew on the Friends of George blog, on June 16th, 2010, here. it was translated by Dena Shunra []

Inside the Cosmetics convention, Ahava boss denies the Occupation

Posted: 22 Jul 2010 09:41 AM PDT


On Monday, July 19th, Jodie Evans of CODEPINK and supporter Zissa went to the Cosmetics Professionals (COSMOPROF) Convention at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas to confront Ahava North America CEO Michael Etedgi for the second year in a row. Last July, Jodie and another woman did a bikini and mud protest in the Ahava booth at the convention. This year they were hoping to have a dialogue with Etedgi and to educate more cosmetics professionals about the illegal practices of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories.

The two women picked up their credentials, and then handed out Stolen Beauty AHAVA boycott fliers to conference attendees (as Jodie related to me later). They subsequently entered the convention hall, and as they walked towards the Ahava booth, Ahava’s CEO Michael Etedgi immediately recognized Jodie. Etedgi greeted Jodie by saying, “We know who you are. You are CODEPINK. You disrupted this booth last year and I have to ask you to leave.” The four-man security detail at the booth grabbed Jodie and Zissa, pulling the two women by their arms. As this was happening, Jodie looked Etedgi in the eyes and said, “I am not disrupting. I came to have a conversation with you.”

Etedgi called off security, and he and Jodie had an exchange that lasted for about ten minutes. Jodie asked him why Ahava wasn’t moving its factory out of the Occupied Territories so that they would no longer be violating international law. He claimed that what he was doing was perfectly legal. In his opinion, the factory was in Israel. Jodie said that she had visited the West Bank, and the factory was clearly north of the internationally recognized Green Line that demarcated Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Every government in the world—including that of the United States and with the exception of Israel’s—recognized this land as occupied.

Etedgi argued that they were not “occupied” territories but rather “disputed” territories. He went on to claim that the dispute would be over when peace came and this question would be resolved because the land would all belong to Israel and there would no longer be a problem. He refused to answer any questions about the violations of rights of the people in the Occupied Territories. Etedgi stated that the factory was going to stay put. And then he threatened to bring legal action against CODEPINK and the Stolen Beauty campaign because we were defaming his company.

During this interchange in the Ahava convention booth, the crowd watching the debate was growing, Zissa was chanting Stolen Beauty slogans, and when it was apparent that the dialogue was at an impasse, Etedgi finally told security to haul the two women away. They loudly objected to being ejected, and continued chanting “Ahava, you can’t hide, we can see your dirty side” at the main entrance until two building security guards escorted them outside and unceremoniously stuffed them into a taxi. Jodie and Zissa instructed the driver to take them around the building to the hotel’s main entrance.

Jodie changed clothes, and headed back to the entrance of the convention hall, where she spent an additional two hours handing out over 1,000 fliers, giving out 500 STOLEN BEAUTY stickers, and educating passersby about Ahava’s illegal practices.

Despite Etedgi’s pretense to the contrary, the factory is in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on land that belonged to the Palestinian village of Arab et Ta’amira. Additionally Ahava excavates mud from the shores of the Dead Sea near the Israeli settlement of Kalya. This is exploitation of occupied natural resources by an occupying power, a practice that is explicitly forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. Finally, Mitzpe Shalem and Kalya, two Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank, collectively own 43% of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, meaning that the company’s profits are subsidizing Israel’s illegal settlement project, which has been globally recognized as an impediment to a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Ahava Cosmetics: Made by Israeli profiteers in Occupied Palestine.

Nancy Kricorian is a writer and activist in New York, she is the campaign manager for CODEPINK‘s Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott.


Today in Palestine: Palestinian attacked for talking to a Jew

Posted: 22 Jul 2010 08:12 AM PDT


And other news from Today in Palestine:

Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Israeli forces demolish Palestinian homes, shops
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli authorities have demolished eight structures belonging to Palestinians in a residential area northwest of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.  Al-Gharbi mayor Ghassan Abu Salem said more than a dozen military vehicles carrying armed soldiers arrived mid-morning Wednesday with military equipment to carry out the demolitions.  “They immediately began tearing down the structures,” Abu Salem said. “They were homes and shops right on the main street, but the army said they were illegally built in ‘Area C’,” which falls under Israeli control.

Israel demolishes fruit stands in Jenin
Jenin, July 22, (Pal Telegraph) Israeli occupying forces demolished today 10 fruit stands near a checkpoint considered as the only crossing of Jenin to the occupied Palestinian lands of 1948, a few days after giving of their owners notices of demolition.  Witnesses said: “The bulldozers swept the fruit stands on the street of Jenin – Nazareth near the crossing north of the city under the pretext of its proximity to the checkpoint.  Mahmoud Abu Farha,  a community activist in the village, said that the Israeli militant bulldozers demolished those fruit stands under the protection of Israeli soldiers who ransacked its contents and confiscated some of them.

Israeli forces destroy stables north of Jenin
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces tore down 10 animal stables in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, onlookers said.  Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers accompanied by military personnel took down the structures south of the Al-Jalama checkpoint in the Jenin district and destroyed a row of fruit and vegetable stands nearby.

Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment

Criminalization of Popular Struggle Continued; Abdallah Abu Rahmah Sentenced
Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s first trial from 2005 had reached conclusion yesterday, with his sentencing to two months of imprisonment and a six months suspended sentence for participating and organizing demonstrations and for walking the streets of his village during a curfew designed to prevent a demonstration. A verdict in Abu Rahmah’s main case for which he is already in jail since December is expected soon.   

Israel releases British rapper detained at airport
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli airport authorities have released a British-Iraqi rapper who was held for half a day at Ben Gurion International Airport, the musician’s fan page reported Wednesday.  Lowkey was detained Tuesday upon arrival in Tel Aviv en route to play a number of concerts and hold a series of musical workshops in refugee camps in the West Bank as part of the Hip Hop Bus Tour, composed of members from the Existence is Resistance, The South West Youth Collaborative, and the University of Hip Hop Chicago.

TIAA-CREF divestment campaign finds strong support among shareholders, Adam Horowitz
At the meeting, those who have retirement accounts with the company can stand up and speak. We had a designated speaker delivering the postcards to TIAA-CREF management, and we knew a few other people, mostly professors and teachers, would get up and ask that their money not be invested in companies that profit from discrimination, death, and destruction, and push hope and peace ever further away.  But what happened was extraordinary. First 5, then 10, then 14 people, then more got up, one after another, to speak from the heart about why TIAA CREF must not profit from Israel’s occupation. These people weren’t just JVP members, but included TIAA-CREF shareholders attending the meeting for entirely different reasons, who were spontaneously moved to speak in support of our campaign.  Not a single person spoke to defend Israel’s occupation. Not one.In response, TIAA-CREF corporate leadership asked to meet with JVP, and they had their first direct talks today. JVP says the fund will respond if they hear from enough people, especially plan participants. You can find the petition to sign here.  Watch video here.

TIAA-CREF is the most ambitious divestment campaign yet, Pamela Olson
On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal under international law. Israel disregarded the Court’s decision and continued to build wherever it pleased. It was one of Israel’s many violations of international law that the international community failed to enforce, and it was the last straw.  A year later, on July 9, 2005, Palestinian civil society called for the international community—individuals, organizations, companies, and governments—to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights, believing it to be a powerful form of non-violent resistance to injustice.

Women Prepare to Set Sail Past Israel
BEIRUT, Jul 22, 2010 (IPS) – The ‘Maryam’, an all-female Lebanese aid ship, currently docked in the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli, is getting ready to set sail for Gaza in the next few days. The ship, which aims to break Israel’s siege on the Palestinian territory, will carry about 50 aid workers, including some U.S. nuns keen to deliver aid to the long-suffering women and children of Gaza.

‘Famous athletes on next flotilla’
Organizers of ‘Freedom Flotilla 2’ reportedly in talks with leading athletes to take part in sail against Gaza blockade. Potential participants include Spanish national soccer team captain Iker Casillas, tennis star Rafael Nadal.,7340,L-3923476,00.html

Gaza flotilla has roots in pro-Palestinian group (AP)
AP – The stream of ships heading to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s blockade reflects the success of a pro-Palestinian group that’s been creatively confronting Israel for years. High on victory, they are flush with new volunteers.*

Pro-Palestinian group sees its struggle as ‘Vietnam of our day’
Activists of the International Solidarity Movement have been feeling a sense of victory of late, flush with volunteers keen on breaking Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Indian Call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
All signs indicate that Israel is starting to take seriously the threat of Palestine solidarity activists, the types of people brushed off for so long by media and policymakers as marginal and irrelevant. Now, Israel is moving towards the criminal prosecution of those who advocate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as tools to press Israeli compliance with international law and norms in its Apartheid rule and occupation of the Palestinian people. As Indian writers and artists call for a boycott of Israel, it is clearly becoming a global movement.

PA sets deadline for banning settlement goods
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Economy in Ramallah announced 31 July as the deadline for merchants to clear their shops of settlement goods or face legal action.  The law prohibiting the sale and purchase of settlement goods was issued by President Mahmoud Abbas on 26 April 2010, with a penalty of two to five years in prison and a fine of no less than 10,000 Jordanian dinars or a combination of the two according to offense.

Rebuilding a Demolished Palestinian Home,  Ellen Davidson
Rubble covers the tile floor at the site of the demolished home we are beginning to rebuild in the East Jerusalem section of Anata, a Palestinian town divided between occupied “East” Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.  Activists from the United States, Britain, Germany, and Iran, reinforced daily by local Palestinian and Israeli activists, have gathered here for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions‘ eighth annual summer rebuilding camp.  They will spend two weeks rebuilding a Palestinian home that has been destroyed by the Israeli authorities.

The story of a people’s resistance told in “Budrus”
Director Julia Bacha pieces together a lovely film exploring the evolution of the West Bank village of Budrus’ resistance to Israel’s wall, and its reclaiming of its destiny. Jimmy Johnson reviews for The Electronic Intifada.

Silencing Dissent
Israel launches campaign to halt Lebanon Gaza-bound flotilla
Foreign Ministry instructs Israeli ambassadors to ask senior American, UN, EU and Egyptian officials to pressure Syria and Lebanon to stop latest planned flotilla from sailing from Lebanon to Gaza.

Israeli parliament passes first of three readings illegalizing boycott activism or advocacy

Violence and Aggression
Palestinian shot dead near settlement
Nablus – Ma’an – A Palestinian man was killed and a second injured by Israeli gunfire in the occupied West Bank on Thursday morning, Palestinian security officials said.  They told Ma’an that an Israeli force opened fire on the two at 4:30 a.m. at the entrance of the illegal Barqan settlement in the Salfit district, killing one man while the second was injured.

‘Arab man attacked for talking to Jewish girl’
Twenty-three year old rushed to hospital unconscious after being beaten with heavy metal object at Tiberias gas station, sustaining serious injuries. Suspect yet to be apprehended.,7340,L-3923576,00.html

The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian and Human Rights/Restriction of Movement
6 tunnel workers survive collapse
Gaza – Ma’an – Six workers survived a tunnel collapse Wednesday in Gaza, medics said.  Rescue teams lost contact with the trapped workers inside a tunnel along the Egypt-Gaza border in Rafah but were later able to help them navigate out, chief of ambulance and emergency services Muawiya Hassanein said.  Gaza officials have noted a drop in residents working in the tunnel industry, attributed to Israel’s slight ease of its four-year blockade that saw coriander and other products enter for the first time in years.

Four Iran MPs plan Gaza trip: reports (AFP)
AFP – Four Iranian lawmakers plan to make a trip to the blockaded Gaza Strip next week by travelling through Egypt, state news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday.*

Brazil donates $14 million for Gaza reconstruction
Ramallah – Ma’an – Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed a decision granting $14 million for Gaza reconstruction efforts, Palestinian officials announced.  During a visit to Brazil, a Fatah delegation headed by Central Committee member Nabil Sha’ath met with da Silva, who applauded President da Silva’s positions toward Palestine.   “The question of Palestine runs in the blood vessels of every Brazilian. I will continue to fight for a just peace leading to establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the president was quoted as saying.

Thousands of Palestinians still stranded on banks of the Allenby Bridge
The Palestinians were either travelling to Jordan or entering the West Bank from the bridge, which connects Jordan to Jericho of the West Bank.

Israel expels 178 Palestinians lacking permits
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained 178 Palestinians on Thursday morning for residing in Israel without a permit, security sources said.  Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are required to apply to Israel to gain work, study, family visitation, or religious worship permits, a process rights groups say is discriminatory.

War Criminals
Powerful rebuke of SA Chief Rabbi over Goldstone
The great, strongly anti-Apartheid South African journo Allister Sparks has penned a powerful rebuke of his country’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, over the latter’s strongly expressed criticism of Constitutional Court member Richard Goldstone, and Goldstone’s role in heading the UN’s fact-finding mission for Gaza.

IDF to Goldstone: We don’t have to promise not to hurt civilians
Second response to UN report includes list of rules of engagement that were altered. Many officers outraged, say report is exaggerated, unnecessary apology that will tie military’s hands in future.,7340,L-3923421,00.html

Rights group: Israel shielding war criminals
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel’s latest report to the UN on the 2008-09 Gaza war, which details Israel’s response to allegations of international law violations, proves that Israel has failed to fulfill its international obligations, a Palestinian human rights organization said Thursday.  The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said in a statement that Israel’s report, Gaza Operation Investigations: Second Update, “serves to highlight the inadequacies inherent in Israel’s investigative system” and demonstrates the flaws in Israel’s accountability system.

Political/Other Developments
Palestinian, Israel envoys talk past each other on peace (AFP)
AFP – Palestinian and Israeli envoys talked past each other in the UN Security Council Wednesday on prospects for resuming direct Middle East peace talks under US sponsorship.*

Hamas: US blocking unity deal
Gaza – Ma’an – US intervention in the region has made a unity deal between rival factions Fatah and Hamas “difficult now and in the near future,” the Islamist movement said Wednesday.  Ismail Radwan told Ma’an radio that “American intervention in the region, the issue of indirect talks, banning residents from receiving passports, and besieging them in Gaza” have all stalled efforts to ratify a reconciliation deal.  The spokesman said Hamas was “ready” to sign a deal but said the “continued imposed policies on the ground” is stalling efforts.

Abbas warns Fatah to get organized or die (Reuters)
Reuters – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned the Fatah party he leads that its days are numbered unless it puts its house in order.*

Palestinians say Israel wants to impose peace
Palestinian envoy to UN says total settlement freeze ‘essential’ before direct negotiations are launched. Israeli ambassador urges international community to prevent Lebanese ships from trying to sail to Gaza.,7340,L-3923365,00.html

Abbas signals will resist U.S. pressure for talks
* Abbas says to continue indirect talks until September
* Arab League committee to convene next week

When Rape is Actually Racist Zionism
Israeli Arab in rape racism row
An Israeli Arab who had consensual sex with a woman who thought he was a Jew is convicted of ‘rape by deception’ in Israel.

Arab ‘rape by deceit’ conviction in Israel defended
The crime of rape generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse. But an Israeli court has jailed an Arab man in the country for 18 months for “rape by deception” after having consensual sex with an Israeli woman. Sabbar Kashur had falsely introduced himself to the woman as a Jewish bachelor looking for a long-term relationship before they had sex. The woman accused him of rape after finding out he was Arab. Merav Mor, a director of resource development at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, defended the court sentencing in an interview with Al Jazeera. Speaking from Tel Aviv, she said that the sex between the two was not consensual because Kashur gave the woman false information. [July 21, 2010]

Israeli Court Calls Lying for Sex Rape, ROBERT MACKEY
A married Arab man who lied to a Jewish woman to get her to sleep with him — telling her that he was a single Jew interested in a long-term relationship — was convicted of rape in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday for the consensual sex the couple engaged in two years ago.

He impersonated a human, Gideon Levy
Now the respected judges have to be asked: If the man was really Dudu posing as Sabbar, a Jew pretending to be an Arab so he could sleep with an Arab woman, would he then be convicted of rape? And do the eminent judges understand the social and racist meaning of their florid verdict? Don`t they realize that their verdict has the uncomfortable smell of racial purity, of “don`t touch our daughters”? That it expresses the yearning of the extensive segments of society that would like to ban sexual relations between Arabs and Jews?

Racist patriarchy in Israel
This is an example of racist patriarchy. A man, Sabbar Kashur, has been imprisoned for doing nothing more than having consensual sex with a woman, whose name has not been disclosed. Both parties were of age, and no one alleges that the transaction took place without consent. Initially, this was not clear, as the original complaint suggested that there had been some coercion. But as the woman’s testimony in the course of the trial made clear, the only crime that the Kashur, now convicted of rape, committed was to have allowed the woman to believe that he was Jewish, when in fact he was an Arab. He did not even actively perpetrate a deceit, merely chatted the woman up and didn’t say “by the way, I am an Arab”. And that has earned him 18 months in prison, on the basis of a plea bargain. Judge Tzvi Segal explained…

In Israel, Miscegenation Equals Rape
WASHINGTON – July 21 – On Monday, Sabbar Kashur, a young Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for something called “rape by deception.” Apparently, Mr. Kashur had consensual sex with a Jewish Israeli woman after assuring her that he was also Jewish. When she found out that he had lied to her, she went to the police.  Imagine living in a society where you can say, “I wish I had never slept with you. I’m going to the cops.” Only it’s not funny because Sabbar Kashur will probably go to jail for a year and a half. Meanwhile, efforts to combat actual sexual violence are undermined by a cynical distortion of the term rape. The real crime here, of course, is miscegenation.

Petty Apartheid – Israeli style
Its amazing how hard Israel is trying to copy Apartheid South Africa.  Now an Israeli court has basically enacted a Zionist version of what used to be known in Apartheid South Africa as “Petty Apartheid“.

Other News
Gaza smugglers breach Egyptian barrier
Egyptian security official says underground steel wall built to prevent smuggling via Gaza Strip border breached hundreds of times; AP footage shows Palestinian cutting through barrier with blow torch. Smugglers say wall was never a serious obstacle.,7340,L-3923797,00.html

Yossi Melman / Iron Dome may not be as effective as the IDF thinks
Officials painted a rosy picture of the missile defense system after the recent successful test, but a number of unaddressed issues may shoot down their optimism.

Iron Dome a ‘historic’ success, but can it protect all of Israel?
The U.S. Congress passed Obama’s initiative to provide Israel with a $205 million grant to procure Iron Dome batteries, but defense experts say more funding is needed.

War Criminals Supporting Each Other:  Sri Lankan ambassador: We back Israel’s war on terror
Donald Perera, who served as Sri Lankan chief of staff during offensive that ended in Tamil rebels’ surrender after more than 30 years, is enjoying a change of pace in Israel. In interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, he recalls seeing body of rebel leader Prabhakaran, says IDF needs public’s support to successfully eradicate terror. ‘Citizens must realize struggle will exact a heavy price,’ he adds.,7340,L-3923309,00.html

Environmentalists urge closure of Jordan River baptism site over poor water quality
FoEME says Israel, Syria and Jordan are diverting 98% the Jordan and are discharging untreated sewage, agricultural run-off, saline water and fish pond effluent into it.

Egypt paper: Israel spreading lies about Mubarak’s health’
Editorial in Egypt’s state-run al-Gumhuriyya newspaper says Mubarak in good health, accuses Israel of spreading rumors ‘to evade its commitment to peace’.,7340,L-3923628,00.html

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest
Robert Fisk: Why Jordan is occupied by Palestinians
Just opposite the Al-Quds restaurant in central Amman is a dull, grey-stone building spattered with old bullet holes. In 1970, this was where the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine staged one of their last stands against King Hussein’s loyal Bedouin troops. In the resulting bloodbath, the “Black September” of Palestinian history, the Palestinian “fedayeen” were finally driven from Amman, their “state within a state” shifting from Jordan to Lebanon.

Non-violence or surrender, Hasan Abu Nimah
One major item on Israel’s menu for agreeing to talk to its enemies has always been “renunciation of violence”.  Under Yasser Arafat, the PLO had to commit to renouncing violence, in addition, of course, to other harsh conditions, before it qualified to exit Israel’s rejection list.  Among the many other conditions put by the so-called international community to Hamas nowadays is “renunciation of violence”. Because Hamas has refused so far to meet such a condition, it remains boycotted by almost every state regionally and internationally, including Arab states.  Currently Hamas is not engaging in any form of anti-Israel violence. In fact, the organisation that controls Gaza is strictly observing a unilateral ceasefire with Israel despite the siege and the sporadic Israeli air raids often killing innocent people and destroying private property. Hamas is now often blamed by its Fateh opponents for preventing other resistance groups from attacking Israel.

Is Israel an asset or a liability? Satloff vs. Freeman
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Robert Satloff and the Middle East Policy Council’s Chas W. Freeman, Jr., squared off Tuesday at the Nixon Center to debate whether Israel is really a strategic asset or a strategic liability for the United States. Here are some excerpts.

Challenging the Jewish National Fund
As owner of 13 percent of land in Israel, and the organization that appoints the largest number of people to the Israel Lands Authority board of directors (6 out of 13), the Jewish National Fund is the central pillar of Israel’s regime over land. Hazem Jamjoum analyzes.

Israel lobby targets another CNN correspondent, Philip Weiss
Another sign of despair, that the battle is now joined inside the castle gates: Israel lobby group Camera is taking on CNN senior Jerusalem correspondent Ben Wedeman, trying to do to him what was done to Octavia Nasr.

Loewenstein and Abunimah on GritTV
I was interviewed yesterday on leading independent American television show GritTV alongside Ali Abunimah. We discussed the “peace process”, Palestine, BDS, the role of Barack Obama and the importance of the web.

Beyond a ’strategic liability’–the special relationship has made the U.S. ugly, Scott McConnell
I received one of the coveted invitations to Tuesday’s Nixon Center’s debate between Chas Freeman and Robert Satloff over whether Israel is or is not an American strategic asset. It was a sign of the intense interest in the topic (and perhaps too in Chas Freeman) that, in the dog days of summer, it looked to be the most popular Nixon Center luncheon of the year. The guest list seemed almost scientifically balanced: in apparently equal number were representatives from the sturdy Arabist Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and several more or less like-minded organizations, as well as from AIPAC, the ADL, the JTA. But with one exception, the audience was exceedingly polite throughout.

New battleline: ‘Tablet’ calls 4 ‘anti-Israel’ blogs ‘agents of influence’, Philip Weiss
Tablet ran a piece today on 4 “anti-Israel” bloggers who are allegedly mainstreaming anti-Semitism so as to gin up the traffic numbers of “media companies”: Steve Walt, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald and me. Exalted company! The piece says that all four are Jew-baiters and “agents of influence,” and none is quoted– though commenters on a couple of the sites are, and Jeffrey Goldberg, too, saying that Walt is trying to marginalize Jews from American life. A truly vicious charge about a guy who I’m told has promoted diversity at every turn.

Why are there No Hammers on the Bus?, Joharah Baker for MIFTAH    
On my way home the other day in one of the larger Ramallah-Jerusalem buses, I noticed something that had apparently slipped passed me before. Plastered on some of the large windows of the bus were transparent stickers with red writing and a drawing of a hammer on broken glass – “In case of emergency, break glass” it said. Instinctively, my eye immediately searched for the hammer depicted on the sticker. But instead of finding it, I saw empty red holsters sitting lonely, without their host, screwed pointlessly on the panels between the windows.

Who’s Aiding Judaisation?, Nicola Nasser
Since 1860, when the American Jewish tycoon Judah Touro donated $60,000 — a fortune for that time — towards the construction of the first Jewish settlement outside the old walls of Jerusalem, public and private American funds have aided the creation and territorial expansion of Israel. Israel today is the foremost recipient of US aid. According to a USAID green paper, between 1946 and 2008 Israel has received more aid than Russia, India, Egypt and Iraq. In fact, the US has poured more money into Israel than it did into the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. However, a recent New York Times article adds a new dimension to the story. On 5 July, the Times reported that, over the last decade more than 40 American groups have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, indicating that the US Treasury is effectively aiding and abetting illegal settlement expansion and the Judaisation of Jerusalem.

Redundant but Dangerous Language, Ramzy Baroud
Each time Israel fails to keep its ‘side of the bargain’, the Palestinian Authority responds with the same redundant language. The cycle has become so utterly predictable that one wonders why the Palestinian Authority officials even bothers protesting Israeli action. They must be well aware that their cries, genuine or otherwise, will only fall on deaf ears. They know that their complaints could not possible contribute to a paradigm shift in Israel’s behavior, or the US position on it.

So much collaboration, so little time
Housies™ (that’s a new term I just coined to conveniently refer to “House Arabs and House Muslims”) are usually prompt to voice their opinions regarding non-urgent matters, petty issues and non-newsworthy news. Behold the examples:  Without missing a beat and in spite of limited resources, ADC promptly expresses solidarity with other communities. For instance, it condemned an attack on a Holocaust museum the same day it occurred. “The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation‘s largest Arab-American civil and human rights organization, is appalled by the shooting that took place earlier today at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.” ADC also gave Ann Coulter a scolding within a mere 24 hours of her anti-Semitic remarks on CNBC.

Gunmen kill 4 in northern Iraq drive-by shooting (AP)
AP – Police say gunmen have killed four people in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul where insurgents remain active.*

Iraq car bomb kills 30 (AFP)
AFP – A car bomb killed 30 people and wounded 46 near a mosque in a predominantly Shiite area of the mixed city of Baquba, north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on Wednesday, security officials said.*

Wednesday: 16 Iraqis Killed, 32 Wounded
At least 16 Iraqis were killed 32 more were wounded in various attacks across the country. The worst violence collapsed a building in Diyala province, which has suffered several attacks in the last few days.

Car bomb kills 13 at market in Iraq’s Diyala province (Reuters)
Reuters – A car bomb exploded in a crowded market near the city of Baquba in Iraq’s northern Diyala province Wednesday, killing at least 13 people and wounding 26 others, police said.*

Fallujah children’s ‘genetic damage’
Cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality are all increasing in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, which saw fierce fighting between US forces and Sunni insurgents.

Qadisiyah Smoking Ban Meets Opposition
Residents say officials should prioritise services rather than anti-smoking initiative.

Restive Iraqi Province to Censure Clerics
Diyala authorities introduce controversial rules to rein in incendiary sermons.

Iraq needs $7 billion to rebuild industry: minister (AFP)
AFP – Improved security is allowing Iraq to rebuild its shattered industry but up to seven billion dollars is needed to help the sector recover from years of war and sanctions, the industry minister told AFP.*

Britain’s Clegg says Iraq invasion was “illegal” (Reuters)
Reuters – Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the 2003 invasion of Iraq as illegal on Wednesday, putting the new coalition government under pressure to clarity its position on the war.*

Sayyed Nasrallah Snatches Lebanon’s Attention Thursday Night
These are the words Lebanese newspapers and press outlets used a day after Hezbollah’s press confirmed that Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah will hold “an important press conference” on Thursday night at 8:30 (Beirut Time) at the Shahed school hall on the airport road.   It was reported that Hezbollah Secretary General will make a speech on July 25, followed by another address on July 30. But it seems that the events have been accelerating to a speed where his appearance on the Lebanese people today was indispensible.  Thursday newspapers were heavy with predictions and assumptions but all were on the main road, with minor differences.  As-Safir daily said that the Hezbollah secretary general will make a well-toned stance that could also include a “big surprise” for the Lebanese. It added he will unveil new information about the international tribunal and spy networks. As-Safir journalist Nabil Haytham wondered in his report where would the country go with an indictment against Hezbollah based on “false reports and witnesses”.

Five suspected Israel spies reportedly flee Lebanon
Rasan al-Jud, a former senior officer in the Lebanese Army, is thought to have escaped to Germany by commercial plane; security forces looking for four others who disappeared.

‘Lebanon to file UN complaint over alleged Israel espionage’
Lebanese media reports Beirut compiling comprehensive report on Israel’s alleged clandestine involvement in a state-owned telecom company.

Lebanon sentenced to death as Israel ‘spy’ (AFP)
AFP – A Lebanese military court on Wednesday sentenced a former school principal to death on charges of spying for Israel in 2008, a judicial official told AFP.*

Nasrallah, Jumblatt discuss furor over spies for Israel, Special Tribunal
BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah met Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt to discuss the latest political developments, particularly the ongoing debate over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination, a statement said Wednesday.

Lebanon allows work permits for Palestinians
The Lebanese government has amended one of its labor laws to allow Palestinians to work in areas previously forbidden to them.

Iran Says Scientist Was a Double Agent
The Iranian government claimed Wednesday that Shahram Amiri was sent to provide false information to American intelligence — a story they’re making in a TV movie.

Iran Tells Lawmakers to Respond to Fuel Sanctions
Iran’s parliament approved a law yesterday calling on the government to retaliate against any countries that inspect the Islamic state’s ships and aircraft or refuse to provide fuel to its aircraft as part of foreign sanctions, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

U.S. Revamps Its ‘Muddle East’ Policy
The foreign policy team of US President Barack Obama is undertaking a reassessment of its policy all over the Middle East, including Israel. No one has made or will make a public declaration about such a change, but a reassessment is nonetheless under way, and we can already detect the first products of this rethinking of policy.  The policy of keeping a distance from Israel, of picking fights with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, led nowhere. There was a nominal freeze of construction in the settlements. The settlement freeze was not important in the first place and Mr Obama has decided, as you could tell during his latest meeting with Netanyahu, not to make it the central issue anymore.

U.S. and other World News
Woman allegedly mocked during airport strip search
She said the women made her bend over a table, open her legs, and squat and cough. They asked her personal questions, like when she last had sex, Flynn said.

Gingrich: ‘No Mosque’
NEW YORK — Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich on Wednesday announced his opposition to a planned mosque near ground zero, becoming the latest Republican leader to place the project on the national political stage.  In a statement posted on his website, Gingrich, a potential 2012 presidential contender, said flatly, “No mosque.” And he criticized Muslim leaders for suggesting the mosque’s opponents are religiously intolerant.

Muslims in France feel the sting of discrimination
The relatively uncommon burka is just one of the issues making things tense. ‘It’s like the Jew before,’ one businessman says of the prejudice. ‘It’s dangerous.’,0,7443646.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmiddleeast+%28L.A.+Times+-+Middle+East%29

Beyond a ’strategic liability’–the special relationship has made the U.S. ugly

Posted: 22 Jul 2010

I received one of the coveted invitations to Tuesday’s Nixon Center’s debate between Chas Freeman and Robert Satloff over whether Israel is or is not an American strategic asset. It was a sign of the intense interest in the topic (and perhaps too in Chas Freeman) that, in the dog days of summer, it looked to be the most popular Nixon Center luncheon of the year. The guest list seemed almost scientifically balanced: in apparently equal number were representatives from the sturdy Arabist Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and several more or less like-minded organizations, as well as from AIPAC, the ADL, the JTA. But with one exception, the audience was exceedingly polite throughout. 

In his prepared remarks, Chas Freeman described succinctly all that the US does for Israel, financially and diplomatically, then noted that the it gets in return virtually none of the strategic benefits one typically receives from allies. Israel is so unpopular in its region that its participation in any joint project is sufficient to drive others away. For his part, Satloff claimed that Israel is America’s best bargain for ally ever. In manner, he was almost smugly confident and self assured. At the outset he talked about his reluctance at accepting the invitation, wondering whether his participation would “lend legitimacy” to a question which is out there “on the fringes, (though not only there)” . He stated that the issue of Israel’s strategic value was never debated “in the Situation Room” and nor by a “vast majority” of military leaders and national security specialists agree, across the political spectrum. I suspect if Satloff was so certain of this, he wouldn’t have bothered to come. 

Like David Frum, (but for different reasons) I found the debate interesting but slightly unsatisfying. I think Freeman’s points are unassailable, but there would be many who would also be persuaded that Israel proved itself as a Cold War ally, demonstrating the superiority of American avionics (in dogfights with Syria) and, through its military strength, weakening the Soviet foothold in the region. (Walt and Mearsheimer also wrote there was much to be said for Israel’s strategic value during the Cold War.) And I would acknowledge that these points in Israel’s favor were not anticipated by the early Cold War strategists who felt, initially, that American support for Israel would be incredibly costly in geostrategic terms, in the short and medium term. Satloff of course also emphasized Israel’s technical prowess, its success in devolping drones so Americans can strike Afghan targets from computer screens in Nevada, and its high tech industry. All very Dan Senor– though it’s never explained why Israel needs to occupy the West Bank and starve Gaza for its computer industry to thrive. Satloff seemed pleased to contrast the relative peace around Israel with the situation in the Gulf: See, Americans, for the cost of a mere $100 billion in aid, the Levant plus Egypt is relatively pacified, while the Gulf is full of war.

I think Freeman was excellent, but what I believe is his most salient point he expressed tangentially, and in segments, and in truth is not the kind of thing that can be argued well in debate, because it is grounded in sentiment and inference rather than cold facts. I would put it this way: that the nature of Washington’s alliance with Israel, and especially the extreme deference to Israeli sensibilities that seems inextricable from it, had pulled the United States into an ever expanding arc of conflict with the Muslim world, a conflict that is far from inevitable and in fact unnecessary—and that this conflict has made us a target of terrorism and has already eroded our constitutional liberties, as well as costing us hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of dead and wounded. Freeman noted that several terrorist operatives have mentioned American support for Israel as an important motivator for their actions, but they have other, also serious, reasons for their hatred. Would the United States have had troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, the residue of the first Iraq war, without Israel and its lobby? A case could be made either way. I don’t believe we would be at war with Iraq now without Israel, though the proponents of that war now work overtime to claim that no, Iran was always Israel’s preferred target. We certainly would not be working ourselves into a froth over the remote possibility of an Iranian nuclear deterrent without Israel’s prodding.

But how exactly do you quantify the cost of appearing as blatantly hypocritical (about democracy, about human rights) to hundreds of millions of Muslims? Satloff can and did claim that Arabs (quietly) support a war against Iran and say that when Arab governments complain about American support for Zionism, it is more or less meaningless. Perhaps it is; the governments are weak, autocratic, not very effective and hardly beloved by their own people.

The question period was slightly more expansive. Joe Klein (who I would depict as near neutral in this debate) asked in his signature fashion a pointed question to each figure. I asked Satloff whether his calculus might change if the two-state solution negotiation were to end (or to be generally acknowledged to be over) and Israel was seen, more clearly as a state denying political rights to four million people under occupation. His answer surprised me: there has been a two state negotiation going on since 1937 (the time of an early British partition proposal) and it’s still ongoing. He could not have made it clearer that Israel and its American spokesman enjoy the pretext of a peace process—it can go on forever!– while Israel, which got its state 62 years ago, continues to settle and seize the land it wants.

Satloff was full of condescending praise for the Obama administration for “correcting its error” of asking for a settlement freeze in Jerusalem as a prelude to negotiations. Indeed, he smugly noted that Obama had learned the error of his ways very quickly, so deserved double praise! Generally I found Satloff an interesting character, exuding confidence, expressing forceful talking points at every turn. And they all take a moment to unravel—yes, what he said is a kind of half-truth, and the other half is false. But if the statements come cascading out, expressed rapidly and cogently enough, it can work. I imagine that being in a room with Netanyahu has the same effect.

The one volatile moment came when someone with an Israeli accent (from the guest list I surmise it was Amitai Etzioni, but I’m not certain) challenged Freeman for claiming that one of the things America had learned from Israel was targeted assassination and torture. He was vehement, and mentioned (a good debating point) the Phoenix program in Vietnam. Freeman replied that he had heard first-hand from Israelis about Israeli assassinations and torture, Israelis who had grown repulsed by them. The element that isn’t revealed in the exchange is a complex one—what our interrogators have learned from Israeli ones, whether the entire Israeli colonizing discourse about Muslims, and sex and shame has fed into Abu Ghraib type atrocities. I believe it has, but connecting the dots can’t done in a debate.

In his post on this, David Frum says that Freeman didn’t play the part of coldly calculated realist. I think there’s something to this, and Chas, though he certainly has excellent realist credentials, does argue and think in terms of values as well. So do most realists I know. Coming away from the debate, I felt more strongly that the question of Israel in the United States is going to be decided on the basis of values, as much as strategic costs and benefits. That’s a realm where Israel as a democracy has an overwhelming advantage, and where Israel as an apartheid occupier has none whatsoever.

Presbyterian engagement on Israel/Palestine creates ‘new rules’ for relationship with the Jewish community

Posted: 22 Jul 2010

Last week we posted the first part of Mark Braverman’s report on how the Presbyterian Church dealt with the ongoing controversy over its position on Israel/Palestine at its General Assembly. Here is the second part.

There were two groups of Jewish attendees at the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Minneapolis early this month. One was composed of several members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and me. We were there at the invitation of the denomination’s Israel Palestine Mission Network to support passage of the Middle East Study Committee Report, “Breaking Down the Walls” and other Middle East-related overtures, including divestment from Caterpillar, recognition that Israel’s policies constitute Apartheid, and endorsement of the Palestine Kairos document. The other group was made up of people from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, and the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies. They were working closely with Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, a group of Presbyterian pastors and seminary professors that had formed for the purpose of opposing these overtures. The strategy they followed was to allow the Presbyterian group to lead the charge, with the Jewish organizations keeping a low profile. Blocking or gutting “Breaking Down the Walls” was the main objective of this ad hoc alliance. The alliance failed to accomplish either objective. I believe that they were surprised at this outcome – Jewish advocacy groups having the final say on Christian words and actions with respect to Israel and Zionism is a time-honored pursuit.  It has been rewarded with success for generations.

Sixty five years ago, the Christian world stood before the ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau and said, “What have we done?” Since then, Christian-Jewish relations have been driven by the Jewish desire for safety and protection on the one hand and the powerful Christian drive for penitence for millennia of anti-Jewish doctrine and behavior on the other. For Jews, the establishment of the State of Israel has provided the focus of this quest for physical security, dignity, and self-determination. For their part, Christians set about developing a revised theology that renounced the notion that Christians had replaced the Jewish people as God’s chosen, and that granted implicit and in many cases explicit theological justification for political Zionism. The result is that Christian-Jewish “interfaith” relations today follows clear rules – rules that serve to insulate Christians from any appearance of anti-Jewish feeling and that protect the Jewish community from any possible challenge – or even perceived challenge — to unconditional support for the policies of the State of Israel. These rules are playing out in the academy, in the pews, in interfaith relations on the highest levels, and in everyday encounters. They are rendered more powerful by never being stated or acknowledged.

The rules

Fundamentally, there are two rules:

1. “Sensitivity” to “the Jewish perspective” and Jewish self-perception (as defined for all Jews by groups who claim to represent the whole) is paramount. How an action or statement may make some Jews feel trumps all other considerations, values or objectives.

2. The superior right of the Jews to the land is never to be challenged.  One can nibble at the edges — talk about the rights of Palestinians, the need for the land to be shared, etc.  But don’t come close to violating rule #1 – you can’t make us uncomfortable, you can’t bring us too close to looking at the core reasons for the conflict, at the awful consequences of an ethnic nationalist project that has displaced an indigenous population and has created a system that meets the UN definition of the crime of apartheid.

Until recently, these rules have dominated the interfaith discourse in the United States and Western Europe. American Jewish advocacy organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-defamation League, the local and national Federations of Jewish Agencies, and the Jewish religious denominations have relied on these rules in mounting opposition to any actions of Christian denominations perceived to be anti-Israel. Through a combination of charging that the Presbyterian Church’s “anti-Israel” actions and statements are anti-Semitic and expressing outrage over the denomination’s “betrayal” of a historic friendship, these organizations have managed to bully the church into withdrawing or watering down efforts to take effective action in opposition to Israel’s policies and to our own government’s support of these policies.

What happened at the Presbyterian General Assembly early this month is an indication that the rules are no longer working.

“We will remain partners”

On Friday, July 9, 2010, by an 82% majority, the General Assembly approved “Breaking Down the Walls” — modified but still preserving its strong condemnation of Israel’s human rights violations.  That same day, the Jewish groups who had opposed the report, writing under the umbrella of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, issued a public letter. It reads, in part:  “In recognizing Israel’s security needs while striving to remain faithful to the church’s Palestinian Christian partners, the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has embraced a more thoughtful approach to Middle East peacemaking.” The letter noted that although several areas of “serious concern” remained, “the General Assembly has modeled a more inclusive voice on the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We fervently hope that the new Middle East monitoring committee will meet the GA’s charge for authentic balance in the study of and teaching about the complexities of the Middle East. We will remain partners in this pursuit.”

What a change in tone and tactics! The letter is almost conciliatory, markedly milder in tone than the statements that preceded the conference. Recall that in a website posting in March the Wiesenthal Center called the report a “poisonous document,” one that amounted to “nothing short than a declaration of war on Israel.” Prior to the General Assembly, the gloves had come off – in addition to the Christian Century article I described in Part 1 of this posting, the Middle East Study Committee report and other overtures had been subject to a barrage of attacks, including circulating an internet petition that asked signers to send the following message to Presbyterians: “I am deeply disturbed by the dangerous campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State and her supporters launched by a committee that is dominated by activists openly hostile to Israel. They are poised to place the policy of PCUSA on a collision course with Israel’s survival.” In December 2009, the Central Conference of American Rabbis characterized the Kairos document as a supercessionist and anti-Semitic, declaring that “those who would associate themselves with this document and the religious foundation upon which it is based would be erasing years of Christian soul searching and repentance as if they had not been. We expect more from our interfaith partners.”

Contemplating the July 9th JPCA letter, we might ask, where is the outrage, where is the demonization? What has happened to  the bullying, the ultimatums, the preaching, the threats of pulling out of the relationship? Where are the charges that the denomination is making war on Israel and delegitimizing Judaism itself? Reading the letter, one might assume that the church had performed major surgery on the report, removing any shred of language that could be seen as critical of Israel or that threatend its existence or the continued financial and diplomatic support of our country. Or we might assume that, somehow, any such language was now carefully balanced by equal language providing reassurance of support for Israel.

But in fact, the prophetic heart of the document remains. The reason for the change in tone of the American Jewish response is simply this:  the church didn’t back down.

What has changed?

Look at what has changed and what remains in the Middle East Study Committee report:

The report opens with a re-affirmation of previous General Assembly Policies & Statements, preceded by a preamble:

“Given the daunting and mounting obstacles to the viability of a “two-state solution,” and following from the above principles, the 219th General Assembly (2010) affirms with greater urgency our historic Presbyterian stances with specific regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for

  1. an immediate cessation of all violence, whether perpetrated by Israelis or Palestinians;

  2. the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and diversion of water resources;

  3. an immediate freeze both on the establishment or expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and on the Israeli acquisition of Palestinian land and buildings in East Jerusalem;

  4. the relocation by Israel of the Separation Barrier to the 1967 border;

  5. the withholding of U.S. government aid to the state of Israel as long as Israel persists in creating new West Bank settlements;

  6. continuing corporate engagement through the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment with companies profiting from the sale and use of their products for non-peaceful purposes and/or the violation of human rights;

  7. a shared status for Jerusalem;

  8. equal rights for Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel;

  9. the cessation of systematic violation of human rights by any party, specifically, practices of administrative detention, collective punishment, the torture of prisoners and suspects, home demolitions and evictions, and the deportation of dissidents;

  10. the immediate resumption by Israel and Palestine of negotiations toward a two-state solution.

In the section containing new recommendations, the following changes were made to two key recommendations (added text is in brackets, deleted text is in strikethrough):

f. [Endorses the Kairos Palestine document (“A Moment of Truth”) in its emphases on hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation; lifts the document up for study and discussion by Presbyterians; and directs the creation of a study guide for the document through the appropriate channel of the General Assembly Mission Council.] [Commends for study the Kairos Palestine document (‘A Moment of Truth’), and endorses the document’s emphases on hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation. We lift up for study the often neglected voice of Palestinian Christians. We direct the monitoring group for the Middle East to create a study guide for the document].”

b. Calls on the U.S. government to exercise strategically its international influence, including [the possible withholding of military aid as a means of bringing Israel to] [making U.S. aid to Israel contingent upon Israel’s] compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts.”

The report then proceeds with an introductory section titled “Rationale.” Here is an excerpt:

“We deeply value our relationships with Jews and Muslims in the United States, Israel, and the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East. Yet the bonds of friendship must neither prevent us from speaking nor limit our empathy for the suffering of others. Inaction and silence on our part enable actions we oppose and consequences we grieve. We recognize how great a burden past misguided actions by our government have placed on Christians throughout the Muslim world. We recognize that massive amounts of U.S tax money are feeding the various conflicts in the Middle East—including two current wars of arguable necessity and Jewish settlements in Palestine.

We also recognize that our concern to end support for both violence in all its forms and the ongoing occupation and settlement of Palestine places demands of integrity on how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) uses its own resources and investments. Let us be clear: we do affirm the legitimacy of Israel as a state, but consider the continuing occupation of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem) to be illegitimate, illegal under international law, and an enduring threat to peace in the region. Furthermore, we recognize that any support for that occupation weakens the moral standing of our nation internationally and our security.”

Another introductory section is comprised letters to five stakeholders, including fellow Presbyterians, American Muslim friends, Palestinian friends, and Israeli friends.  There is this from “Letter to Our American Jewish Friends:”

“For decades we have worked side-by-side in innumerable causes in our own nation for the sake of justice and human well-being. And yet, with the introduction of the corporate engagement process in 2004 (and the use of the word “divestment”), this relationship has been seriously tested.

We want to be sure to say to you in no uncertain terms: we support the existence of Israel as a sovereign nation within secure and recognized borders. No “but,” no “let’s get this out of the way so we can say what we really want to say.” We support Israel’s existence as granted by the U.N. General Assembly. We support Israel’s existence as a home for the Jewish people. We have said this before, and we say this again. We say it because we believe it; we say it because we want it to continue to be true.

And, at the same time, we are distressed by the continued policies that surround, sustain, and consolidate the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, in particular. Many of us come to this work out of a love for Israel. And it is because of this love that we continue to say the things we say about the occupation, the settlement infrastructure, and the absolute death knell it is sounding for the hopes of a two-state solution, a solution that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has supported for more than sixty years.

We also want to make it clear that what we say in moral criticism of policies and actions of the Israeli government should not be used as a battering ram against Israel’s right to membership in the community of nations nor to deepen anti-Semitism or any categorical blame of the Jewish people for the ills of the world. As those whose faith originated in the synagogues of the Fertile Crescent, our love of our common heritage is precious. Anti-Semitism has no place in faithful Christian expression.”

The above gives a sense of how disingenuous is the JCPA response. They are spinning a victory when in fact the most “poisonous” and “anti-Israel” recommendations remain in the report. What has changed is some nuance of wording in the recommendations concerning Kairos and U.S. aid to Israel, and the removal of the Jewish and Palestinian narratives that were judged to be “out of balance.” Read the language of the Letter to American Jews –this is the “poisonous document” that wants to make an end to Israel!  If it wasn’t good enough before its adoption by the denomination, why is it good enough now? Given this, one has to wonder about the meaning of the JPCA statement that “we will remain partners in this pursuit.” I believe that these organizations, having failed to achieve their objective, are more than ever determined to block denominational activism. Indeed, the denomination can expect a continuation of attacks and pressure.  Nothing has changed. This spinning of victory says one thing:  we lost this one.  We’ll be back.

But there is a profound change to be observed in the denomination.  Despite the enormous, organized and close to six-month effort of the organized American Jewish community to influence the voters at the General Assembly and to demonize the report, the denomination endorsed it. The modifications to the document were proposed not in response to Jewish lobbying, but because the committee liked the report – understood its value and importance — and made some changes in order to help ensure its passage. The resulting acceptance of “Breaking Down the Walls” shows that “the rules” no longer apply.

This is hugely important because of what it means for the future and continuation of denominational activism and how that will support grassroots efforts at the congregational and community levels. It means that the charge that principled criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitic no longer holds water.  It means that emotional blackmail about friendship betrayed no longer sends Christians scurrying to disavow offending actions or language. The charge that criticism of Israel stems from anti-Semitism was always nonsense — as was the obscene charge that language from Palestinian liberation theology that likens the oppressed of Palestine to Jesus on the cross is a revival of the charge of Christ-killers. Are there anti-Semites among us?  Certainly — but surely they are not steering the ship. When Presbyterians — of all people the most committed (many would say to a fault) to order and to considerate, thoughtful procedures — commission a group at great expense to spend two years studying the problem, including traveling to the region to see the situation with their own eyes, this is not done in an effort to “erase Israel.”  To accuse the denomination of being motivated by anti-Jewish feeling and a desire to destroy Israel just won’t wash.

What kind of partnership?


The JCPA letter talks about the partnership continuing – but what kind of partnership?  What does this “partnership” have to do — to use the language of the Study Committee report — with breaking down the walls that divide people?

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Wiesenthal Center, who was present at the General Assembly, published an article in the Jewish on July 13, five days after the JPCA letter, entitled “Lessons One Rabbi learned from Presbyterian Church (USA).” His tone to the Jewish readership is different than that of the JCPA letter. In the article Rabbi Adlerstein divides Presbyterians into “friends” – those who worked to get rid of what were in his view the “worst” parts of the report — and the unfriendly “heavily pro-Palestinian Middle East Study Committee.”  He accuses the report of accepting the “Arab” narrative and “ignoring” the Israeli, and of blaming everything on Israel’s – here the quotation marks are his — “occupation.” Characterizing the Palestine Kairos document as “a template for anti-Israel activism in churches on both sides of the Atlantic” (it is not), a document that justifies suicide bombing and supports replacement theology (it does neither), the Rabbi takes the General Assembly to task for not repudiating this “notorious” document but instead recommending it for study in churches. Reading this article by Rabby Adlerstein, we have a glimpse of how this “partnership continues.”

The Middle East Study Committee report passed because of Presbyterians’ faithfulness to justice. It passed because the Assembly believed the heart of the report — that justice was being violated. Presbyterians are working to break down walls – between Israelis and Palestinians, between Jews and Christians, and yes, between Christians and Christians – “that stand in the way of the realization of God’s peaceful and just kingdom.”  But as fast as the Presbyterians are breaking down walls, Rabbi Adlerstein is working to throw them back up. In the Jewish Journal piece he issues a call for more “friends” who will continue to battle against all those who seek to “erase” Israel. His world remains a world divided between “pro-Israel” and “anti-Israel.” He closes the article speaking about how the “most painful” part of being at the General Assembly was “listening to Jews who came to passionately endorse every anti-Israel initiative. Our community needs to work harder to understand how to retrieve Jews who today stand at the forefront of delegitimizing Israel [sic] efforts.”

Rabbi Adlerstein is referring to Jeff Halper, the JVPers, and me. He doesn’t get it. We are no more anti-Israel than are the overtures themselves. We were in Minneapolis to support the report and the other overtures because, like the Presbyterians who invited us, we fervently wish for a future of dignity and freedom for Palestinians and for security and peace for the citizens of Israel. We were there because we wish for a time when we as a people can tear down the walls that we have built to separate us from humankind and that cut us off from a recognition of the suffering that we are causing.

Is there a future for a Presbyterian-Jewish “partnership?” Will the wide range of American Jewish organizations listed in the JCPA letter follow the lead of the Wiesenthal Center and continue to adopt an “us and them” attitude? Will they continue to fight the growing movement, at the grassroots and at the highest levels, to bring an end to the illegitimate and destructive policies of Israel? If the Presbyterians are to have true partners in their pursuit of social justice, perhaps they can be found among  the 30 American rabbis who wrote to Judge Richard Goldstone when he was blocked from attending a family Bar Mitzvah in South Africa. Or perhaps the church can be joined by by the Jewish writers and artists who brought out the public letter to protest the San Francisco Jewish Federation’s attempt to establish an “anti-Israel” blacklist, or by the 100+ Jerusalem Jews who wrote in outrage to Eli Wiesel when he claimed Jerusalem exclusively for the Jewish people. (For links to these documents, go to “Signs of Hope from the Jewish community.”) Perhaps the denomination could reach out to those Jewish Israelis who, in a cry for help to save them from their own government’s policies, are calling on the world to support the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (LA Times, August 20, 2009, “Boycott Israel”).

These are potential “Jewish partners.”  But I put the term in quotations as a strong caveat. Seeking out “Jewish partners” should not be confused with engaging in “interfaith dialogue.” The struggle for justice in Palestine is not an interfaith project. It is not about repairing the damage of 2000 years of Christian anti-Jewish behavior and maintaining vigilance about anti-Semitism – although these are important and valid activities. Confusing the pursuit of justice in historic Palestine with interfaith reconciliation has provided the basis for “the rules” for over six decades. The struggle for justice in Palestine is, rather, about building a universal community to confront the full range of urgent issues facing humanity and the planet. We are standing before the prophetic work that must unite us—the fact of being Christian, Jew, or Muslim is not important. (But while we’re on it, what about the potential Muslim partners?  See my friend Jim Wall’s recent blog where he takes up this question.)  What matters is whether we are for triumphalism or community, for exploiting the poor or freeing them from poverty, for despoiling the earth or honoring and preserving it.

That’s the partnership I’m interested in. We find it amply described in the Old and New Testaments, the Kur’an, and the Dhammapada. The call for social justice is one that rings out in all our traditions, and it is a call that the Presbyterian Church (USA) answered in Minneapolis. It is the call issued by Reverend Martin Luther King almost 50 years ago from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama:

“…the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”

King was lifting up a time when the church was “not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” Recall that King was responding to an appeal from fellow clergy to back off from civil disobedience. They were asking him to him to work through channels and existing relationships with the white community, arguing that this would yield better results than nonviolent resistance. In his letter King was speaking to the church, but his message went out to all of America – reaching across faith communities and eventually transforming the entire society. For the civil rights movement, the church was the bellweather. It was the organizing force at the grassroots that changed the political wind and brought about the change that politics had failed to achieve.

All of us – Presbyterians, Jews (of all persuasions), Muslims –felt that wind blowing in Minneapolis. Moisten a finger — put it in the air – and you will feel it too.

Mark Braverman is the author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. His website is

TIAA-CREF is the most ambitious divestment campaign yet

Posted: 22 Jul 2010

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal under international law. Israel disregarded the Court’s decision and continued to build wherever it pleased. It was one of Israel’s many violations of international law that the international community failed to enforce, and it was the last straw.

A year later, on July 9, 2005, Palestinian civil society called for the international community—individuals, organizations, companies, and governments—to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights, believing it to be a powerful form of non-violent resistance to injustice.

Amid a growing global effort to heed the call of Palestinian civil society, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is asking TIAA-CREF, one of the largest financial service institutions in the US, to divest from the Israeli occupation. One of the most ambitious divestment campaigns so far, it is not a direct boycott of Israel but rather a call for divestment from five major corporations—three American, one French, and one Israeli—that profit from Israel’s violations of international law.

These violations include building segregated roads and rail systems that entrench violations of international law, constructing illegal settlements on Palestinian land, destroying Palestinian homes as acts of collective punishment or ethnic cleansing, severe daily oppression, and wildly disproportionate attacks that devastate civilian areas and regularly kill women and children.

TIAA-CREF was chosen for three main reasons. First, they care about socially responsible investment. Their motto is “Financial Services for the Greater Good,” and they have a “social choice” account for people who wish to invest only in companies that are certified as being socially responsible. They have already divested from four companies that profited from the genocidal policies in Darfur.

Second, it is huge—the largest fund of its kind in the world. Its holdings in the five targeted companies—Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, Motorola, Veolia, and Northrup Grumman—total more than half a billion dollars. A successful campaign would not only be a heavy financial and public relations burden for these companies, it would also set an important precedent for others to follow.

Finally, TIAA-CREF has 60 offices in the US and 15,000 client institutions in the academic, research, medical, cultural and nonprofit fields. You can find networks of TIAA-CREF participants almost anywhere you go, and each has a voice in where they wish their money to be invested.

It will undoubtedly be a long and arduous campaign, but it is already moving faster than anyone anticipated. JVP publicly announced the campaign and sent a letter to TIAA-CREF earlier this month. A representative got back to them quickly, declining to divest and explaining, “Our responsibility to earn a competitive financial return on the retirement savings entrusted to us by 3.7 million participants obliges us to invest in a diverse line-up of companies across all sectors of the global economy.”

They went on, “We believe that concerns about the situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are best addressed by U.S. foreign policy and lend themselves less to using one’s shareholder status to influence portfolio companies,” and stated that divestment from the Sudan had been in accord with US foreign policy whereas divestment from Israel’s occupation is not.

The arguments they put forth—that the bottom line is more important than social responsibility, and that they will not undertake actions unless they fall in line with US foreign policy—lend themselves to easy repudiation. The first directly contradicts TIAA-CREF’s motto while the second implies that divestment from South African Apartheid was wrong as long as the US government had friendly relations with that government. It effectively neuters the free will and conscience of any individual, organization, or company that disagrees with any aspect of US foreign policy.

JVP never expected them to agree to divestment on the first salvo. But the letter was encouraging in that it arrived so promptly, and that they took the campaign seriously enough to feel the need to justify their investment choices. TIAA-CREF also agreed to meet with representatives of the campaign, including Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Law, Barbara Harvey of JVP-Detroit, and Valerie Hoenin of the Sisters of Mercy, on July 21.

The meeting took place a day after the CREF annual shareholder’s meeting, in which nearly ninety percent of concerns raised by members revolved around divestment from the occupation, with strong audience support. JVP also delivered 1,300 postcards signed by people who support divestment. The board seemed surprised and impressed by the depth and breadth of the campaign. Not a single audience member voiced opposition to it, which indicates changing tides indeed.

JVP is circulating a petition of support for their campaign, which 15,000 people have already signed. Interested individuals can view the petition and sign it here. If successful, this campaign, which has barely begun and already has tremendous momentum and support, might be looked back upon as a turning point in the global effort to delegitimize Israel’s occupation.

Pamela Olson was a journalist based in the West Bank for two years and is now living in New York writing a book about her experiences called Fast Times in Palestine.

TNR: Neoconservatives are liberals

Posted: 22 Jul 2010  

Adam Kirsch, a literary critic who is also published in the New York Review of Books and Tablet, has a semi-whitewash review in the current TNR on the history of neoconservatism in foreign policy. The good old polemical word “cabal,” going back to 17th c. England, is once again said to be essentially anti-Semitic. The word Israel appears briefly, and in a parenthesis.

Kirsch is honest that neoconservatism comes out of the Jewish community, and he says that neoconservatives have sometimes gone too far, they were wrong about how the Iraq war would go. But people of good will must “sympathize with neoconservative aspirations and anxieties.” They care more than most about freedom, and why not? The freer the society, the more Jews thrive. 

It is now pretty widely agreed that the invasion of Iraq was a failure, and that this failure discredited the neoconservatives….

This is one reason why American Jews tend to be patriotic: America has the most durable and deep-rooted liberalism of any country in the world. The desire to defend and to extend American freedoms is what leads many Jews to be left-liberals; but it is only a different interpretation of what that same defense requires, and who freedom’s enemies really are, that leads some Jews to be neoconservatives.

This is an expression of Jewish selfishness. Michael Otterman tells me that there are 5 million refugees in Iraq, 2.7 internally, 2.5 outside the country. So an Arab society is demolished, 20 percent of its population is uprooted, surely including the educated/privileged; imagine such a thing happening in the U.S.– 60 million people? But Kirsch can dispose of this rapidly as a “failure” of liberalism. It’s not liberalism. It’s an ideology informed by militant Zionism, and therefore indifferent to Arab refugees, Arab souls.

I notice in Robert Kaplan’s tricky/snarky book The Arabists that he repeatedly ignores the Palestinian refugees and describes Israel’s creation as a triumph of American liberalism.

Well I am a liberal Jewish American, and I sympathize with Arab “anxieties” in the face of unending violence.


  1. colo blast says:

    would it be possible to translate your website into spanish because i have difficulties of speaking to english, and as there are not many pictures on your website i would like to read more of what you are writting


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