Categorized | Middle East




PLO urges Yale president to speak out on ‘anti-Arab hate-mongering’ conference
Aug 30, 2010

Philip Weiss

Last week we reported on a disgraceful 3-day conference at Yale that described criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. Today Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO Representative to the United States, sent a letter to Yale President Richard C. Levin, objecting to the conference. It follows:

August 30, 2010

Dear President Levin,

I write to express my deep dismay over the contents of a recent conference held at Yale entitled “Global Anti-Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity”.

The conference, which was organized in cooperation with the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), opened with a speech from an official from the Israeli embassy and featured seminars such as “The Central Role of Palestinian Antisemitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity”, “The Jihad Flotilla to Gaza: Provocative – Antisemitic – Not Humanitarian”, and “Lawfare, Human Rights Organizations and the Demonization of Israel”.

Amongst the “experts” leading these seminars were retired Israeli army officer Jonathan Fighel, Anne Herzberg of NGO Monitor (whose mission is to suppress criticism of Israel by undermining the credibility of human rights organizations), and an Israeli settler named Itamar Marcus.

In addition to being the head of a shady propaganda outfit known as “Palestinian Media Watch”, Mr. Marcus also lives in the West Bank colony of Efrat in violation of international law. Mr. Marcus – who, as a settler, has a vested interest in preventing the realization of the two-state solution – has spent much of his life attempting to “prove” that Palestinians are unwilling or unable to make peace, thereby justifying Israel’s continued military occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands. Mr. Marcus is also closely tied to an organization known as the Central Fund of Israel, which funds some of the most extreme and violent elements of Israel’s settler movement.

It’s shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views, and it is deeply ironic that a conference on antisemitism that is ostensibly intended to combat hatred and discrimination against Semites would demonize Arabs – who are Semites themselves.

As Palestinians, we strongly support principles of academic freedom and free speech, however racist propaganda masquerading as scholarship does not fall into this category. 

I urge you to publicly dissociate yourself and Yale University from the anti-Arab extremism and hate mongering that were on display during this conference.


Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat

PLO Representative to the United States

Rocket Redux, the Israeli fiction

Aug 30, 2010

David Samel

A few months ago, I authored a post on the fiction that when Israel withdrew from two decades of military occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah responded with thousands of rockets rained down on Israeli communities. At the time, I cited false statements to that effect made by Michael Oren in a NY Times op-ed and Ethan Bronner in a Times article (links provided in that post). Unsurprisingly, Bibi Netanyahu has now joined in, quoted in today’s Ha’aretz:

“We will not allow the firing of thousands of rockets and missiles from Palestinian territories into Israel as was the case when we pulled out of Lebanon and Gaza.”

This is not an insignificant “mistake” but a concerted effort to convince the world that Israeli withdrawal is perversely punished by renewed Arab violence against civilians. Bibi, who has no desire to see the talks succeed, whatever that means, is clearly trying to set the stage to sabotage the negotiations with refusal to withdraw and/or unreasonable demands for retaining control after withdrawal. This is how history gets rewritten.

Writers Oz, Yehoshua, Grossman back artists’ boycott of Ariel settlement
Aug 30, 2010

Philip Weiss 

Where are the liberal American Zionists on this one? What will J Street do? Important news:

Ynet learned on Monday that prominent Israeli authors A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman and Sami Michael are supporting a long line of actors, playwrights and artists who announced they would refuse to perform in the new culture auditorium in Ariel, which is located outside the Green Line.

 “The show does not have to go on,” read a letter drafted by the authors. “We, the signatories, express our support for the people of the theater who refuse to perform in Ariel. The Israeli occupation has recently entered its 43rd year. Legitimizing the settlement enterprise and coming to terms with it severely harm Israel’s chances of reaching a peace agreement with its Palestinian neighbors.”

Stuck inside of Cairo with the Gaza blues again
Aug 30, 2010 

Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson is a Doylestown, Pa., grandmother with two volunteer gigs in Gaza waiting for her. She’s written about her big trip earlier this summer.

And here I sit in Cairo, exhausted and disappointed. I have been denied entrance to Gaza twice! I’m amazed I’m not angry and ready to give up, even though I’m discouraged.

My trip began August 24 with my flight from JFK being delayed for two hours. Arrival in Cairo though three hours late was simple; purchasing a visa, exchanging money, processing through passport control, collecting bags, walking out of the terminal into the blast of Egyptian heat and relief upon seeing “Susan Johnson” in the midst of the driver’s signs.

I knew not speaking Arabic would be a disadvantage…boy was I correct! Mohammad, my driver, speaks some English which is a relief. The ride into Cairo was wild. I’d forgotten the traffic going at break-neck speeds, no traffic lights, horns blaring and turns being made in all directions. It’s amazing!

Mohammad invited me to his home for Iftar, the meal breaking the fast during Ramadan. It gave me my first experience in sharing the culture, not just observing it….one of the main reasons I’m here. We had chicken, rice, salad, a fantastic soup with bay leaves, whole cloves and other spices I couldn’t name. Mohammad’s wife was the cook; his mother having relinquished the role to her daughter in law. Mohammad’s family is Palestinian, moving to Egypt in 67. His father couldn’t imagine why I wanted to go to Gaza and kept saying no, no good. I tried to explain but his English is very limited…he only does well when trying to sell telephones, calculators, watches, etc. 

No matter where I go I’m asked “WHY” when people learn I’m going to Gaza.

They see no point in me going, especially the Egyptian-Palestinians. On the other hand, Palestinians in the US are excited and supportive. In fact they’ve been fantastic; I’ve received phone calls and emails from them since I’ve been here.

After the meal it was off to my hotel. Most of the shops are closed until sundown during Ramadan and then open until after midnight. Throughout our drive there was a carnival atmosphere; stores were open, hundreds of people of all ages walking the streets, shopping and visiting. Groups of men reclined on grassy spots. They looked like old friends but that’s not necessarily the case. Strangers are welcomed and just join in the conversation. The only place that might happen in the States is during a sporting event but without the intimacy.

Saturday we made the five hour drive to the Rafah border crossing, leaving at 4:00 am. The drive was long and exciting. Again, the cars and trucks race along, at times at 90 mph. When a car wants to pass they blow the horn and the “offending” car, truck, motor scooter or donkey cart moves over. Only saw one case of road rage…. The donkey carts were usually driven by women and sometimes loaded with goods for market. As Rafah drew closer the women were more conservatively dressed, many with all but their eyes covered. Workers were packed into vans and trucks with people hanging onto the back. Small houses made of concrete blocks dot the desert, some with a tin roof held down with rocks, others had no roof at all; most of the windows didn’t appear to have glass or shutters, There were also large houses, partially built in with the first floor finished and the metal supports for the second floor installed. There’s an enormous amounts of building every where; from Cairo all the way to Rafah. El Arish appears to be booming with new homes apartment buildings, industry and shops. I wonder if the US aid has something to do with it.

Goats and camels grazed in the desert, on what I don’t know. Small herds of goats, un- attended, wandered in village streets and even in El Arish. In a deserted area a large wooden camel marked the entrance to a camel farm. That was about the only commercial evidence I saw for live stock.        

As the border crossing appeared before us, I began to feel anxious about the process but had no real worry about being denied entry. A large ornamental gate encloses the actual gate and the head man has a room with typical glass window. I cheerfully went and presented my documents, which he examined with a puzzled look. I was motioned to go– go somewhere out of his sight. Once again I was the only woman present except for three women selling almonds and dates…they were covered with only their eyes exposed. Plastic chairs were placed under the only shade tree and occupied by men. I took a chair and moved it away from the group but was not going to sit in the sun. My driver, Mohammad sat with the men and I believe he put in a good word for me.

Periodically I would walk over to the man with the power, checking the progress on my request….Not yet…go sit…Not yet, go sit.

My buddies under the tree offered encouragement with thumbs up, big smiles and laughter. As for Mr. Power, at times he had four or five soldiers in his room…Once I arrived at the window finding everyone asleep. Who was working on my request? Or even taking it seriously? Mr Power said he was phoning the Embassy, it would take ten minutes, then, come back in 15 minutes, it will take another 10 minutes, five minutes. Each time I’d go sit down under the tree, wait and then  walk the long short distance to the window.

Finally I said I’d call if I could use the phone…Mr Power proceeded to tell outside, only inside call. That caused my mood to blacken..Then how could you call the Embassy? You aren’t being honest! All of the sudden he knows no English. I receive the same response when I ask for his name. I resumed my place under the tree…my buddies are sending signs of encouragement but I’m sure they knew way before I that I was denied entry to Gaza. The game had been played for five hours and it didn’t dawn on me until about 4 hours 55 minutes into it that I wouldn’t be crossing into Gaza.

The driver and I prepared for departure and my buddies under the tree waved good-bye. I was a bit discouraged about my failure but was quite excited and happy with the cultural experience. That was successful even though the border crossing wasn’t.

That night I stayed in El Arish. I kept asking the driver to take me to the Sinai Sun  Hotel… He conveniently didn’t understand English and took  me to an Egyptian hotel located in a semi-residential area. As we opened the door I saw a group of about eight men gathered around the front desk. By the time we made it up the three stairs to the lobby they had disappeared. Once again, I was the only woman within sight. This time it felt strange… I couldn’t help but wonder if there weren’t women hidden away somewhere.

I had a difficult time explaining I didn’t want my room service dinner delivered until after sunset. Finally I said Ramadan; made motions of eating then put my hand across my mouth and shook my head no. Understanding at last! I’d decided to try participating in the Ramadan fasting out of respect and good will. Most people, especially Muslims, discouraged me from fasting adding that I wouldn’t be expected to fast. Makes no difference to me; I’m fasting but need to drink water because of medications. This is my fourth day!

Looking out my hotel window I could see desert in the distance and up close, small enclosed back yards…about the size you’d find behind row houses in an American city. Amazing sights…a small herd of goats in one, chickens and small hutches similar to ones used for rabbits in another; one with a lovely outdoor seating arrangement, clothes drying on bushes in another; even a roof top chicken yard.

The next day, Sunday, it was back to the border and more of the same…only it wasn’t as much fun; still fun but not as much as the day before. I decided to try waiting by the window while Mr Power did nothing with my papers. He was in a terrible mood, screaming and hollering at the police, soldiers and “porters”. Once or twice tempers gave way to shoving matches. Who knows what caused the upsets but they certainly weren’t there the day before.

Must mention the “porters” who are really gangs of teenage boys hell bent on carrying your baggage. It’s a bit like throwing corn on the sidewalk and being overtaken by pigeons. They jump into cars grabbing suitcases before the passenger can get out. They work in teams and there’s some system that allows certain boys to carry baggage through the gate into “no man’s land” and put it on carts. The scene is wild but everyone appears not to notice….except me. The first time we arrived at the border and were overtaken by the helpers I was terrified. That’s the only fear I’ve experienced here. 

To make a long day, short; once again I was denied entry to Gaza. It didn’t feel good! Thankfully the ride back to Cairo was an adventure, making up for some of my disappointment. The driver was from El Arish and spoke no English. As the hours passed we developed some communication…usually involving humor. Mohammad (the original taxi driver) kept calling and it became a joke…as soon as the phone rang we’d say “Mohammad” and begin laughing. 

The big adventure was having dinner at a truck stop. There was an indoor area that contained the kitchen and what appeared to be a shop. There was a small room set off to one side for prayers. All the seating and a large elaborate home made grill were outside. Once again I was the only female…don’t know what the thoughts were about my sitting at the same table with Amed. The food was delicious and rather fancy for a truck stop. I ordered grilled meat, which turned out to be beef, served on a bed of greens. I’d already begun to eat with my fingers when someone appeared with a fork. We had two kinds of salad, mangoes in a syrup, an amazing soup beyond description, pickled something, I know I’m leaving out things…and lots of pita! Amed called for a hookah and after having it refilled twice finished his smoking and we hit the road again for another wild ride. 

Today I’m afraid I’m no closer to entering Gaza than I was yesterday. I can’t seem to make any progress. Getting in touch with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry is more difficult than contacting god. The emails sent to address listed on their website are returned. Phone calls to numbers I’ve been given to use in an emergency are not in service. I finally reached a person at the Ministry who spoke a tiny bit of English. She gave me two phone numbers for someone who handles Palestine. One turned out to be a fax number, the other was never answered. She also gave me the Foreign Ministry’s address. First thing tomorrow morning I’ll take a taxi to that address. If I have any luck it will be the correct address and someone will be able to help me. I really do want to go to Gaza!  

40 percent of Palestinian prisoners from Jenin are denied family visits–
Aug 30, 2010


and other news from Today in Palestine:

Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Israel won’t extend settlement freeze ahead of direct negotiations

The Israeli cabinet will not vote on extending a partial freeze in West Bank settlement construction before the start of the peace talks in Washington on September 2, a senior cabinet minister told Reuters on Sunday, a decision that could threaten to derail a recently re-launched peace process.

Abbas: Obama knows West Bank building will ruin talks

Hours before leaving for Washington for peace talks, Palestinian president says he notified US, international officials that Israel will bear sole and full responsibility should talks collapse due to settlement building. ‘Israel’s security can’t continue to be excuse for continued occupation,’ he says.,7340,L-3945664,00.html

Abbas: No peace talks with settlement building (AP)

AP – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Sunday that he will not back down from his threat to pull out of new peace talks with Israel if it resumes construction in West Bank settlements.*

Abbas: Israel to bear sole responsibility for talks collapse due to building

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that direct talks with Israel will be based on the Mideast Quartet’s demand, as he puts it, to end the 1967 occupation, including in east Jerusalem.,7340,L-3945638,00.html

The Purpose Of Israel’s Settlements Is To Be Difficult To Remove

I had to read Fred Barnes’ new Weekly Standard piece “In Defense of Settlers” a few times to be sure that Fred wasn’t actually putting us on. It appears he isn’t.  Things go awry beginning with the very first paragraph, in which Barnes writes, “When direct talks begin next week between Israelis and Palestinians, the fate of Jewish settlers in the West Bank — tens of thousands of them — will be a major issue in the negotiations. But the settlers themselves won’t be part of the discussion.”

For Arabs in Israel, a house is not a home

Three representatives of Hamas have been forced to seek sanctuary at the Red Cross compound in East Jerusalem — charged not with terrorism, but with “disloyalty” to the state. Edward Platt on a strange case of exile inside Israel.

Photos of expulsion plastered to Jewish Nat’l Fund wall reveal a society in crisis, Philip Weiss

Something that made me feel great today: a report from Israel that activists have plastered the sides of the Jewish National Fund building, the organization that for over a century has bought up land for Jews, with photographs of JNF’s work: the recent destruction of the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib. Here is the original Hebrew report, with photos of the Al-Arakib pictures on the side of the JNF building in Tel Aviv. Here is the report from Haaretz.

Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment

Two international activists arrested and five injured at Ma’sara demonstration

August 29th, 2010– The weekly protest commemorated nine years since the assassinated by Israel of the Palestinian leader Abu Ali Mustafa as well as the 23rd anniversary of the assassination of the Palestinian political cartoonist Naji al-Ali.

Facing jail, the unarmed activist who dared to take on Israel

Donald Macintyre–The protest by Lady Ashton, who was yesterday accused by Israel`s foreign ministry of “interfering” in the country`s judicial process, follows mounting concern by Western diplomats over the severity of measures taken by Israeli security forces against the mainly rural protests. Officials from several European countries, including Britain, were present for the verdict in the Ofer military court on Monday.–

Irish groups to buy ship for new Gaza aid flotilla

DUBLIN, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Pro-Palestinian groups in Ireland launched a fundraising drive on Monday to buy a ship for a second attempt to breach Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza.  The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign aims to send between 30 and 50 Irish people, including public figures, journalists and activists, to join a flotilla taking aid to people in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

50 set to join Gaza aid flotilla

Up to 50 Irish campaigners are expected to join a coalition of pro-Palestinian supporters on a second aid flotilla to Gaza, it has been revealed.  Seven groups have come together to bring public figures, members of the media and activists on cargo ships and passenger boats in late autumn.  Campaigners say the sea mission is a second attempt to end the four year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Palestinian traders clear shops of settlement goods

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestinian traders have submitted 25,000 applications for a Dignity medal to certify their compliance with the government ban on trading in settlement produce, an official said Sunday.  National Dignity Fund director Omer Qabaha said 8,000 traders have already received the medal, following inspections to check their stores are free of settlement goods.

SHOULD PEOPLE BOYCOTT ISRAEL?: Omar Barghouti explains the aims of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement

“Once winter’s over, the sun will shine”

When Israel’s construction of the wall began in their village May 2008, the people of Nilin embarked on a campaign of unarmed grassroots resistance against the theft of their land. They have followed a philosophy of direct action, cutting through the electronic fence and razor wire on an almost weekly basis. Jody McIntyre interviewed Mohammed Amireh, a leader of the Nilin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements for The Electronic Intifada.

Art as resistance: “Against the Wall” reviewed

London-based journalist and photographer William Parry’s Against the Wall serves as both a political and aesthetic document, perhaps exemplifying the German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s famous thesis that “[t]here is no document of culture that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”


Amira Hass / Who’s suppressing opposition rallies in Ramallah?

They carried photos of Abbas, but the PA president’s office says he had nothing to do with the hundreds of young men who prevented an opposition conference from taking place in Ramallah.

Censorship in Ramallah mini-republic-under-occupation

A reader who does not want to be identified sent me this–he/she fears retribution.   “You might be interested to know that the Arabic translation of the recent book\interview with George Habash (Al-Thawriyyun la Yamutun Abadan, published by Dar A-Ssaki 2009) is possibly censored in the Palestinian Authority. While I was reading the copy I bought in Ramallah I discovered that page 258 was all blank. I thought it was normal since it was surely a bootleg edition. But when I found a copy from a street vendor in Jerusalem I opened on page 258 which  did exist in this one; it was the only page where Habash refers to the Palestinian Authority and the corruption there (Israel, of course, did not bother to censor it; by the way, it happens quite often that Palestinians in West Bank ask Palestinian Jerusalemites or Palestinians 48, who are under direct Israeli occupation, to bring them books the PA prohibit in its territories).”

Netanyahu: Israel won’t fund boycott efforts from within

Prime Minister slams boycott staged by theater personnel, who refuse to take part in performances in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Israeli universities condemn ‘witch hunt’ by right-wing groups

In a joint statement released by Israel’s largest and most prominent universities, the academic leadership challenged a foreign-funded campaign to undermine academic freedom in the name of Zionism, led by radical Israeli rightists and Christian fundamentalists.

The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian/Restriction of Movement/Human Rights/Racism

Gaza worker killed in tunnel collapse

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A 16-year-old worker was killed Sunday when a tunnel under the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip collapsed, a medical official said.  Abed Al-Latif Abu Tuyur was taken to Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital, Gaza Health Ministry emergency chief Muawiya Hassanein said.  Since Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza, the tunnels have transferred goods, construction material and food into the Strip, providing a lifeline to residents. Israel says they are also used to transfer weapons.

Israel refuses to lift ban on family unification

Jerusalem-born Firas al-Maraghi has been holding a hunger strike outside the Israeli embassy in Berlin, Germany, since 26 July, protesting a decision by the Israeli government to prevent his newborn daughter from being registered as a Jerusalem resident. Al-Maraghi, who is married to a German citizen, temporarily moved to Berlin to accompany his wife as she completed her doctoral thesis, and was informed by the Israeli embassy that the couple’s daughter, Zeinab, would not be granted the identification and residency papers needed to live in their home when the family moved back to Jerusalem.

Hamas delivers 1 million shekels to poor families

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas officials in Rafah said Monday they distributed one million shekels among the poorest families in the southern Gaza Strip district, a statement read.  Hamas said it was able to hand out thousands of food parcels, financial aid and iftar meals to the families under the One Body campaign, which was donated by party members.  The Islamist movement thanked its supporters for the success of the campaign and vowed continued support for families in need to strengthen Palestinian steadfastness “in the face of the siege.”


IOF opens fire towards fishermen in Rafah

Gaza, August 29, (Pal Telegraph) Israeli gunboats stationed off the coast of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, opened fire towards Rafah shores using its heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades against Palestinian fishing boats without reported casualties among fishermen.

IOF raids houses in Bethlehem

Bethlehem, August 29, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) – Israeli occupation forces raided Sunday number of houses in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.   Security sources said that the occupation forces raided a house in Al-Shwawra village while notified other to visit the Israeli intelligence for questioning.  The occupation forces raided Taqua town and stayed in it for hours, the sources added. The sources confirmed that Israeli occupation forces raided Hosan and Bter towns and searched number of houses.
Jerusalem teenager says constantly harassed by police

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — A 17-year-old resident of occupied East Jerusalem, who was detained Sunday, said he faces constant harassment from Israeli police.  Na’im Al-Banna, from Silwan, said he was with friends when police detained him and and took him to a police station in the city. He was searched and questioned, and released later the same day.

Brigade: Clashes after bulldozers enter south Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades said violent clashes followed an Israeli military incursion east of Rafah, southern Gaza, overnight Sunday, a leader said.  Abdul Muntaser Omar said the entering force was attempting to bulldoze land in the An-Nahda neighborhood. Brigade members and Israeli forces exchanged fire, forcing the troops to retreat, he added.


Jerusalem man charged with contacting Hamas

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem has been indicted for contacting Hamas operatives during his studies in Cyprus, reportedly agreeing to gather intelligence on Israel, Israeli media reported Monday.  The indictment, filed by the Jerusalem District Prosecution, said Ahmad Awad, 22, became acquainted with two Hamas-affiliated people from Gaza, with one, identified as Hamad Asham, introducing him to the Jerusalem Muslim Brotherhood, Israeli news site Ynet reported.

IOF detains 2 Palestinians in Hebron

Hebron, August 29, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) – Israeli occupation forces raided Sunday Dora and Al-Zahria in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank where they detained two Palestinians, local sources reported.   Security sources said that the occupation forces raided number of houses in Al-Zahria and detained Eyad Al-Jabrin. Besides, they detained Reyad Harbyat after raiding his house in Dora.  The occupation forces searched number of houses and stayed in the city till the early hours of today, the sources added.  The sources confirmed that Israeli occupation forces searched the houses of Husian Amro’s sons in Dorah.  Israeli forces raid the West Bank cities on a daily basis under the pretext of searching for what they call “wanted Palestinians”.

Hebron: IOF detains 2 Palestinians

Hebron, August 30, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) – Israeli occupation forces raided Monday Saer village in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank where they detained two Palestinians, local sources reported. Security sources said that the occupation forces raided the house of Zedan Al-Frokh and then detained him. Besides, they detained Eyad Mojahed after raiding other areas in the city.  The occupation forces roamed the city and notified other three citizens to visit the Israeli intelligence for questioning, the sources added.  The sources confirmed that Israeli occupation forces raided Bait Amra and Kraz villages in south of Hebron.

40% of Jenin prison population denied family visits

The IPA is fully denying more than 40% of the Jenin prison population the right to family visits against 30% who are denied partial visits, the Palestinian Prisoner Society reported.

Political/Flotilla Developments

Palestinian rivals crack down harder on opponents (AP)

AP – The rival Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have clamped down harder on opponents and critics in recent months — deepening a nasty split that could prevent Palestinian statehood even if peace talks with Israel kicking off this week succeed against long odds.*

Abbas is a man in exile, even among his own

The Palestinian president appears increasingly out of touch with his own people for accepting a US invitation for direct talks with Israel in Washington.

Fayyad: PA will be prepared to establish state in a year

Palestinian PM says second year of his plan will focus on separation of powers, transparency, strengthening rule of law, fighting corruption; calls on public to back necessary measures before establishment of ‘our own state’.,7340,L-3946281,00.html

Arab League chief doubts US-led talks will succeed

BLED, Slovenia: Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Sunday he had little hope that direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine, which are due to start on Thursday, will be successful. He also said he will not seek re-election as secretary general of the Arab League after his second mandate expires in March.

Jordan’s Islamists condemn direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations

AMMAN, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) – Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF) on Monday urged the Arab states to withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel normal ties with the Arabs, ahead of direct Palestinian-Israeli talks scheduled to start in Washington on Thursday.  In a statement posted on its website, the IAF, the political arm of Muslim Brotherhood, called for giving up negotiations and urged the Arab regimes to withdraw the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, describing it as “useless.”

Level of US role in peace talks key to success: experts (AFP)

AFP – The Obama administration will relaunch direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks next week, ready to intervene as needed in what analysts hope will mean unprecedented US engagement and pressure.*

Security tops Israeli-Palestinian talks

Security, is one of the key issues for Israel in the upcoming peace talks. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister has already said Israel’s security demands will come first before any discussions on borders and final status issues. Among Israel’s security concerns is the Jordan valley. This is an area that was occupied in 1967 and is meant to be part of a future Palestinian state. Israel, however, wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley to make sure it remains a buffer zone protecting Israel from any external threat. It insists that any future Palestinian state must be ‘demilitarized’ which raises the question for whom will the Palestinian state be providing security Palestinians or Israelis? Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from the West Bank.

UN investigators to probe Gaza flotilla raid (AFP)

AFP – A UN human rights inquiry into Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla started on Monday a probe in Jordan where investigators interviewed four Jordanian activists.*

Israel’s Mossad chief urged to clarify agency’s role in flotilla raid

JERUSALEM, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) — A commission probing an Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla wants Israel’s Mossad ( intelligence) chief to detail any involvement in the military operation, an official statement said on Sunday.  The Turkel Commission, an independent public commission set up to investigate the commando raid on May 31 which killed nine pro- Palestinian Turkish activists, has already heard testimony of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and top Israel Defense Forces officials concerning the decision-making process that preceded the raid.

Other News

Despite Israeli protests, Russia won’t halt arms sale to Syria

Haaretz reported on Friday that PM Benjamin Netanyahu had asked Russian PM Vladimir Putin to cancel the sale of long-range surface-to-sea cruise missiles to the Syrian Army.

Intended chief-of-staff must be investigated

Maj. Gen. Galant’s appointment as IDF chief of staff must be preceded by an investigation of his responsibility for suspected violations of human rights during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, which he commanded as GOC Southern Command.

U.S.: Rabbi’s ‘offensive’ remarks harm peace efforts

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley condemns Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ‘inflammatory’ statement that all Palestinians should perish.

Foreign legalists to defend Israel abroad?

Foreign Ministry conference attended by 170 legal experts from 32 countries aims to fight de-legitimization against Jewish state.,7340,L-3945991,00.html

Palestinians prepare to battle ‘Zionist editing’ on Wikipedia

Association of Palestinian Journalists chairman calls on Palestinians to prepare for ‘PR war’ on Israel.

Look how casual Israeli racism is in their media

“An American businessman who travels often to the Persian Gulf (where he removes his kippah) recently told me that leaders of the ruling families in the oil empires are setting their sights on Israel with great desire to cooperate with the Jewish State. Jewish brains and Arab money – what could be better?”  Yes, Arabs don’t have brains, only Israelis are born with them.

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest

Siun and Philip Munger say FDL has offered a platform for criticism of Israel, Philip Weiss

My post yesterday on Firedoglake suppressing criticism of Israel has hit a nerve; even neocon Eli Lake has commented on it. I’m going to respond later but in the meantime, I wanted to post two sharply-critical comments that we’ve received from two longtime contributors to FDL, the blogger Siun and the composer Philip Munger. Their responses are in the comment thread, but this is an important conversation on the left (as Alex Kane notes); and it feels right to highlight these criticisms from the FDL community. On a defensive note, I’d add that Jane Hamsher, FDL’s founder, has been tweeting that I’ve been in favor of McCarthyite tactics. That’s not me. She is referring to a post by Jack Ross about blacklists. Yes I like Jack’s independent mind, which mingles anti-Zionism and libertarianism; and we post a lot of stuff I don’t personally agree with but find interesting.

For Jerusalem, True Devotion, Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

This was the first Friday in Ramadan that I happened to see the Qalandiya checkpoint in the early morning hours and I was shocked at the scene in front of me. On my way to the Allenby Bridge for a short trip abroad, I was already on the West Bank side of the crossing but needed to go around it towards the Jericho road. As soon as the taxi approached the Qalandiya refugee camp about half a kilometer away from the actual checkpoint, the traffic began to pile up. Literally dozens of buses were lined up on the side of the roads filled with determined and faithful Muslims who most likely showed up at the crack of dawn for a chance to reach the coveted Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday Ramadan prayers. At the actual checkpoint – which Israeli soldiers close off completely to traffic on Fridays in the holy month – there were even more people. Throngs of men, women and children stood under the hot sun, parcels in hand and waited for Israeli soldiers barring the way to let them through.

Israel Today Is Tomorrow’s South Africa

By: Mitri I. Musleh – The mind boggling events in the Middle East are unfolding at a faster rate than the speeding bullet. To better comprehend such events, one must critically view and analyze every political behavior concerning peace or war in the Middle East. The United States, the Quartet and the European Union ‘EU’ have decided that the Palestinians and the Israelis must hold direct talks on September 2, 2010 and within one year, should conclude their discussion with the proposed Two-State solution, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and harmony.

Worst show on TV

“His attitude is patently patronizing — he is distributing largess from the donor-supported Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, to the poor Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. [They are definitely poor — a bill was passed in the Lebanese Parliament only last week, that finally allowed Palestinian refugees who have in Lebanon for over 30 years or more to be able to seek work, although they have no residency status and no official papers.]  The money comes from the Palestine Investment Fund [!].  Tonight’s episode was filmed in Beddawi refugee camp. One lady said she was from “Bared” — and the journalist quickly asks her if she was from Nahr al-Bared, which was in part destroyed during a Lebanese Army assault several years ago on militants who were said to be part of a group called “Fatah al-Islam”, which the Palestinian representative in Lebanon quickly denounced. That lady said that she and her large family were still being sheltered in a garage. “What can we do?”, she asked plaintively.”

Personal Reflections About Kairos Document

By: Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D. – Palestinian Christian leaders have issued the timely Kairos Palestine Document  calling on Churches around the world “to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”  ( My most personal thoughts about the Kairos Document  is that it immediately reflects  the continued steadfastness witness of the Christian community in the land of the Mother Church. It gives our Christian voice a spiritual and psychological renewal to have finalized such a document promoting peace, justice and reconciliation.

Palestine Betrayed – Book Review, Jim Miles

Palestine Betrayed. Efraim Karsh. Yale University Press, London, 2010.  Was Palestine betrayed? Of course it was, by the British, the United States, France, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the remnants of the Ottoman empire, all of the regional Arab countries, and by certain elites and powerful of Palestine itself. Efraim Karsh makes the latter two the main if not the sole responsible for the nakba – the disaster – that occurred in 1947-48 with the announced partition of Palestine followed by the declaration of the state of Israel. “Palestine Betrayed,” as portrayed by Karsh, is the story of the connivances of the Arab leaders in the region along with the elites of Palestine while the Jewish population continually offered peace and coexistence with their brethren and encouraged them to stay in their villages and towns to become partners in the new state enterprise.


Report: Hezbollah, Syria to join forces in future clash with Israel

Kuwait’s al-Rai daily says Lebanon-based group, Syrian army have created a joint military command, dividing potential war fronts.

Hariri: State won’t be intimidated

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed Sunday that threats of strife would not intimidate the state from assuming its responsibilities in preserving the country’s national security. Later Sunday, Hariri left for Damascus following an invitation by President Bashar Assad to attend a souhour meal in the Syrian capital.

LEBANON: Palestinians still dissatisfied despite labour law changes

BEIRUT Monday, August 30, 2010 (IRIN) – Recent amendments to Lebanese law grant work permits to Palestinians in the private sector, and some welfare benefits, and are an important step in the right direction, according to the UN’s agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), but many Palestinians say they fall short of what they had hoped for.


Sunday: 7 Iraqis Killed, 18 Wounded

Although the country is expecting an increase in violence this week, so far it has been relatively quiet. Today, at least seven Iraqis were killed and 18 more were wounded in light violence. Other news from Iraq dealt with formation of the new government, the aftermath of the drawdown and the huge waste of resources on the part of the United States.

Iraqis say war “not ending” despite U.S. drawdown (Reuters)

Reuters – President Barack Obama’s message this weekend that Iraq would “chart its own course” may have been welcome news for war-weary Americans, but it has fueled anxieties about the future among Iraqis.*

Iraq army to remain dependent on US

While the combat troops have pulled out of Iraq, the country’s army will continue to depend on the US military for training and maintenance. Rebuilding its military from scratch, Iraq has also been purchasing sophisticated American weapons, a dramatic departure from Saddam Hussein’s soviet-era equipment. Thus even after full withdrawal, an enduring relationship will likely lock the Iraqis and the Americans in a long-term partnership Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh reports from Iraq.

ANALYSIS-Iraq no pushover in regional power struggle

* Iraq more robust, but still prone to foreign meddling
* Iran can’t call all the shots even as U.S. combat ops end
* Turkey emerges as counterweight, champions Sunni inclusion

Ashour: Al Iraqiya might boycott the government

Al Iraqiya List advisor Hani Ashour affirmed in a statement to Alsumaria that all options are possible before the list including boycotting the government if no agreement is reached on Al Iraqiya’s right to form the government.

Baghdad slams ‘illegal’ RWE gas deal with Iraqi Kurds (AFP)

AFP – Iraq on Sunday slammed as “illegal” an agreement between its autonomous Kurdistan region and the German energy firm RWE that is expected to help supply the planned Nabucco gas pipeline to Europe.*

‘Every Corner in the Region Is Frightened

Ayad Allawi: Iraq’s former and possibly future prime minister, discusses the withdrawal of US troops, the power struggle in Baghdad and the “very high possibility” of a new war in the Middle East.,1518,714363,00.html#ref=rss

As U.S. withdraws, Iraqis still live in crisis (Reuters)

Reuters – Kareem Hassan Abboud’s family of seven share a two room house in a makeshift squatter camp in the mainly Shi’ite district of Chukook in northwestern Baghdad. Sewage muddies the dirt road outside.*

Inside Iraq – Pulling out of Iraq

The withdrawal of the US combat troops has begun and by the end of August there will be fewer than 50,000 US troops in Iraq. But is their mission accomplished?

Politicians blamed for growing Iraq unrest

The official end of US combat operations in Iraq is fast approaching. On August 31, troops hand over control of Iraq’s internal security to local forces. But violence remains a concern, after national elections failed to create a unified government. Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna reports from Baghdad.

Iraqi Shiites suffer from violent sectarianism

The second of a five-part series Mixed neighbourhoods in which Shiites once lived are now a thing of the past.

Iraq’s troubled young hearts

A decimated healthcare system cannot meet the need for pediatric heart surgery. In all the waiting list is above 20,000.

Iraq recovers 90 percent of US computers: customs (AFP)

AFP – Iraq’s top customs official on Sunday said 90 percent of a multi-million dollar batch of US-purchased computers destined for schoolchildren but allegedly sold off on the cheap had been recovered.*

The sculptures made out of Iraqi weapons

Zahim Jehad is doing his bit to get rid of weapons in Iraq. So why is he in trouble with the authorities?  On a blistering day last month, Zahim Jehad was fossicking around a scrap yard in Basra amid hundreds of live artillery shells. After photographing rusting rounds he took the pictures to Iraq’s environment ministry, buoyed by hope he could once again start transforming the lethal relics into sculptures.

Cost of Iraq’s ‘new era’

The US government has said that the change of military strategy in Iraq is a “new era” for the country. Operation Iraqi Freedom will become Operation New Dawn from Wednesday. This means fewer soldiers in the country, but more diplomats who will be living in the world’s biggest embassy in Baghdad. The embassy stretches across 2km and and 104 acres of land – six times the size of the UN headquarters and bigger than the Vatican. Along with four new regional offices it will house nearly 2,500 diplomats, protected by as many as 7,000 private security guards. For travel anywhere outside of the embassy, the diplomats have a new fleet of armoured cars, trucks and special aircraft. All this will cost the US $2.5bn next year, over and above the costs of maintaining a military force of 50,000 American soldiers. Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna reports.


Larijani: Iran ready for nuclear talks

As the US expresses optimism about future talks on Iran’s nuclear program, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says Tehran has never refused nuclear talks, Press TV reported.

Maariv: Israeli a significant importer (and re-exporter) of Iranian goods

This is a fairly wide-raging, if shallow, review. I found the section the section describing a botched attempt by an Israeli company to re-export Iranian marble to the US interesting. Particularly insightful was the justification for an Israeli double standard on this issue, as articulated by Danny Catarivas, head of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations in the Manufacturers Association of Israel.

MJ Rosenberg: Pro-Bombing Iran Is Anti-Israel

In his Atlantic piece designed to elicit an Obama endorsement of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Jeff Goldberg undermines his case by realistically predicting what the effects of an attack would be.  He predicts thousands of deaths – not only Iranians but also many Israelis and probably Americans. Oil prices would skyrocket, Jews in the diaspora would come under attack, the United States would be embroiled in the worst Middle East crisis ever, and Israel would become the “leper of nations.”  Pretty horrible.


Afghans protest killing of civilians

Over 500 protesters condemned the killing of two Afghan civilians by mercenaries in the region, a Press TV correspondent reported on Saturday.

The Listening Post – Reporting the Afghan war

This week on The Listening Post – reporting the Afghan war: Time magazine’s shocking cover story walks the thin line between editorial and editorialising. And we lay out the pros and the cons of embedded journalism coming to us from the battlefields of Afghanistan.

U.S. and Other World News
Who is watching you?

Spy satellite use in the U.S. : Video report.

Inside Top Secret America

A major investigation reveals the extent of America’s vast and heavily privatized military-corporate-intelligence establishment.

Saudis demand government jobs in rare protest

RIYADH: Some 200 unemployed Saudi university graduates staged a rare protest in the capital Riyadh demanding the Gulf Arab state give them jobs, Saudi media said on Sunday. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is an absolute monarchy that has no elected parliament and usually does not tolerate public displays of dissent.

Saudi judge scraps dissident’s lawsuit over detention

RIYADH: A judge on Saturday threw out a dissident’s lawsuit over his three-and-a-half-year detention without trial, saying the government had finally filed its charges against the pro-democracy activist.

Jordanians battle teen marriage

Women rights activists in Jordan are trying to overturn a legal clause which allows girls as young as 15 to be married off. They say the teenage brides are missing out on education, and many suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives. Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from Amman, the Jordanian capital.

In Egypt, more people call for civil instead of religious marriage

Controversial cases in Egypt have spotlighted a legal system that leaves regulation of marriage and divorce to religious institutions, limiting individuals’ freedom to make personal decisions.

Gadhafi gives lesson on Islam to young Italian women in Rome

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave a lesson on Islam and copies of the Koran to a few hundred young Italian women on Sunday as he arrived in Rome to mark a friendship treaty with Italy.  It was the second time the Libyan leader – who travels with female bodyguards and fancies himself a self-styled feminist – had staged such an event for Italian women, who were recruited by a modeling agency and paid an undisclosed sum to attend.  Michela, who asked that her last name not be used, told Associated Press Television News that three of the participants converted to Islam on the spot.  “It was a really beautiful meeting and went very well,” she said. “He is very easygoing and he gave us a copy of the Koran. Three girls converted themselves to Islam during the ceremony. It was a beautiful event.”

Silencing Spencer: Taqiyya and Kitman are part of Judeo-Christian Belief

Part of the grandiose anti-Muslim conspiracy theory espoused by Islamophobes today includes the idea that Muslims are, in the words of Robert Spencer, involved in “large scale deception campaigns today.”  Spencer dedicates chapter 6 of his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) to convince his readers that Islamic law allows for and even encourages lying “if it fosters the growth of Islam.” In this manner, moderate Muslim-Americans are cast away as “stealth jihadists”, who are simply using deception to further their belligerent faith.  Any Muslim who says otherwise is accused of lying.  When moderate Muslims express their peaceful views, these are dismissed as “deception campaigns.”  On the other hand, when extremist and fundamentalist Muslims express their belligerent views, these are accepted as being “real Islam.”

Islam in America
Exhibit seeks to reshape view of Muslim heritage with history of advances

ISTANBUL (AP) — For generations, the lore of “One Thousand and One Nights’’ helped shape Western notions about Muslim culture. The collection of tales described an exotic world of harems and flying carpets, Sinbad and monsters, Aladdin and the jinn, Ali Baba and the 40 thieves.  Now an exhibition about innovation in Muslim civilization seeks to highlight what organizers say is an overshadowed period of history, a “Golden Age’’ in which advances in engineering, medicine, and architecture laid groundwork for Western progress from the Renaissance until modern times.

There is no struggle between Islam and America, imam says

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf says opposition to the plan to build an interfaith centre near Ground Zero was being led by a “tiny, vociferous minority”.

N.Y. imam: Ground Zero mosque debate spurred by nearing U.S. vote

Feisal Abdul Rauf Rauf compares plight of U.S. Muslims to past religious-based prejudices and attacks against Jews and Roman Catholic immigrants.

Rev. Wright criticizes those who think Obama is Muslim

The comment by Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor, comes in the wake of a recent poll that found 18 percent of Americans incorrectly believe that Obama is a Muslim.

Obama: Muslim Rumors Not A Concern (VIDEO)

NEW ORLEANS (Associated Press) – President Barack Obama said Sunday he isn’t worried about a recent poll showing that nearly one-fifth of Americans believe he is a Muslim. “The facts are the facts,” said Obama, who is a Christian. In an interview broadcast on “NBC Nightly News,” the president blamed the confusion over his religious beliefs on “a network of misinformation that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly.”

‘Arson’ at Tennessee mosque site

‘Successful’ attempt at terrorizing Muslim community takes mosque controversy ‘to whole new level,’ mosque spokeswoman says A fire started Saturday morning at the site of a controversial mosque expansion in a Nashville suburb is being ruled an arson, CBS affiliate WTVF reports.

How moderate Muslims in Africa view NYC mosque debate

Senegal is a critical junction for US dialogue with the Muslim world. Reaction there to the NYC mosque debate has potentially far-reaching implications for the battle against Al Qaeda.

Tea Party Reveals Real Reason Behind Mosque Opposition Frenzy

Privately, however, there seems to be little such confusion. The reasons there are given clearly, and it turns out it is precisely what many of us have argued all along: opposition organizers are motivated by an ideological belief that “Islam is evil and must be stopped; America is Judeo-Christian.”

Anti-mosque sentiment rages far from Ground Zero, Glenn Greenwald

One of the most under-reported political stories is the increasingly vehement, nationwide movement — far from Ground Zero — to oppose new mosques and Islamic community centers.  These ugly campaigns are found across the country, in every region, and extend far beyond the warped extremists who are doing things such as sponsoring “Burn a Quran Day.”

The Muslim Mosque New York City

The precise location in New York City of a new community center that includes a Muslim mosque is becoming an important national campaign issue for the Republican Party as the Nov. 2 Congressional and state election draws closer.  GOP politicians, their Tea Party warriors and the right wing in general are livid about plans to situate the facility two blocks from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed in a terrorist attack nine years ago this Sept. 11.  This calculated Republican tantrum over an essentially trivial placement of an Islamic-associated community center seems to have hoodwinked a majority of Americans — over 60% — into opposing a project intended to improve relations between different faiths in the U.S., and “in particular between the Muslim world and the United States,” according to its backers.

Could Ground-Zero Mosque’s Backers Be Worse Than AIPAC’s?,  Grant Smith

Former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffer M.J. Rosenberg told the Israel lobby to “pull the plug” on activities fanning the “anti-Muslim explosion that has seized this country over the past month.” The former insider charges organizations such as AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and assorted neocon outfits with having “set the stage” for hysteria by demonizing Muslims in the name of “advancing their Middle East Agenda.” This strategy has been decades in the making.

America’s Holy Crusade against the Muslim World, Michel Chossudovsky

We have reached a decisive transition in the evolution of US military doctrine. The “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) directed against Al Qaeda launched in the wake of 9/11 is evolving towards a full-fledged “war of religion”, a “holy crusade” directed against the Muslim World.  US military dogma and war propaganda under the Bush administration, was predicated on combating Islamic fundamentalism rather than targeting Muslims. “This is not a war between the West and Islam, but .. a war against terrorism.” So-called “Good Muslims” are to be distinguished from “Bad Muslims”:

NYT Op-Ed offers tiresome dichotomy of good Zionists vs bad religious settlers

Aug 30, 2010 

Matthew Taylor 

Gadi Taub’s NYT oped on the coming negotiations is so problematic, ahistorical, Israeli-centric, and rife with elisions, it reads like… well… a lot of other stuff cluttering the pages and electrons of said publication.

It leads off with the rhetorical question, “Will Israel remain a Zionist state?” – as if this is the most important issue to be tackled at the talks. Not “Will the systematic and willful oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people finally come to an end?” (Which all sane observers are doubtful will be the result.) Then he sets up the Zionist left’s desperate, tiresome good guys vs. bad guys frame: the pious seculars vs. the evil religious nuts.

The secular Zionist dream was fundamentally democratic. Its proponents, from Theodor Herzl to David Ben-Gurion, sought to apply the universal right of self-determination to the Jews, to set them free individually and collectively as a nation within a democratic state.

David Ben-Gurion and his allies also orchestrated what can only be described as a “fundamentally democratic” ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of indigenous Palestinians, which “set them free” from their home, their lands, their lives….

Taub contrasts his Ben-Gurion good guys with the loathsome bad guys:

This dream is now seriously threatened by the religious settlers’ movement, Orthodox Jews whose theological version of Zionism is radically different…. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, later focused his father’s theological ideas around a single commandment: to settle all the land promised to the ancient Hebrews in the Bible.

Wait a second… The colonization of the West Bank has been a national project of every government of Israel for decades.

Whether Likud or Labor, so-called “left, “center,” or “right,” all Israeli governments have devoted massive financial, military, and human resources to the expulsion of Palestinians, confiscation of their farmlands, demolition of their homes, and construction of illegal settlements. But that’s an inconvenient fact for Taub, who wants to blame the religious kooks. He then glorifies the secular Zionists some more:

Herzl never doubted that Israeli Arabs should have full and equal rights. For religious settlers, Arabs are an alien element in the organic unity of Jews and their land.

Notice he doesn’t mention Ben-Gurion here. Ben-Gurion never doubted that his militias must expel the multitudes of indigenous Arabs in order to fulfill his dream (their nightmare) of an artificial Jewish majority.

Palestinians inside Israel have never had “full and equal rights.” From day one Israel has treated Palestinians as second class citizens if that — see, for example, the Association of 40 unrecognized Palestinian villages inside Israel that still, 60 years later, seek recognition and basic social services like garbage collection. Several Palestinian orgs inside Israel are trying to get the country to (finally) adopt a constitution to protect their rights.

On the subject of apartheid, Taub’s op-ed rambles on about how there’s no apartheid now, but there will be someday soon if the pernicious religious settlers get their way. What, I’d like to ask Taub, do you anticipate the settlers would do that they aren’t doing already, that would get you to call it apartheid? No doubt, you will return to the NYT and write a new oped entitled “Now it’s finally apartheid, and it’s all the fault of the religious settlers — but not the government of Israel of course.” Taub also claims that if (?) Israel becomes an apartheid state, “Israel will betray the beliefs it was founded on.” Maybe Martin Buber’s beliefs, but certainly not Ben-Gurion’s, who insisted on Israel as a de facto apartheid state from the very beginning – how else to describe the impact of ethnic cleansing on those who are not allowed to return to their homes, not recognizing Palestinian villages, differing social services, etc.?

Predictably, Taub busts out that time-worn line of hasbara about how Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was an anti-settlement move, ignoring of course that it was a ploy to solidify Israel’s hold on the West Bank, as Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass proudly proclaimed.

But the most outrageous elision above all elisions is that Taub skips a chance to report some real news in his oped, about how far senior religious settler leaders have gone: calling for genocide of the Palestinians.

[Israel’s former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party], said during his weekly Shabbat sermon that the Palestinians, namely Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, should perish from the world. Yosef, a founder of the Shas Party, also described Palestinians as evil, bitter enemies of Israel.

“All these evil people should perish from this world … God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians,” Yosef said.

Taub wraps it all up with the desperate plea of liberal self-absorbed Zionism, which I translate as “Please, please stop the occupation and the settlements now that they appear to be a threat of my dream of a militarily-enforced Jewish majority state existing in perpetuity”:

The religious settlement movement is not just secular Zionism’s ideological adversary, it is a danger to its very existence. Terrorism is a hazard, but it cannot destroy Herzl’s Zionist vision. More settlements and continued occupation can.

Never once in the entire piece does Taub mention the suffering of the Palestinian people. For shame!

From where I sit, the only Zionist vision that ever has been worth saving and ever will be is Martin Buber’s. Humanists (non-tribal, post-tribal) should read Buber’s book, and try to imagine how much different and better life would be today for Israelis and Palestinians alike if the Zionist project had followed Buber’s humanistic path of equality and cooperation instead of Ben-Gurion’s “secular” path of military conquest, ethnic cleansing, and domination.

What Lebanon can teach the U.S. about religious tolerance

Aug 30, 2010

David Samel

In Beirut, a recent event, under-reported in the United States, provides a dramatic contrast with the New York controversy over Park51, an Islamic cultural center planned for lower Manhattan. According to Ha’aretz, Lebanon’s largest Jewish synagogue has been saved from the wrecking ball and beautifully restored to its past glory.

The Magen Avraham synagogue had fallen into disrepair during the Lebanese Civil War of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Located in the city center, the synagogue was in danger of being demolished in favor of urban renewal. However, Beirut’s tiny Jewish population decided to save and renovate the structure, and received the approval not only of the Lebanese government but specifically of Hezbollah. The Islamic party, announcing its support, proclaimed: “We respect divine religions, including the Jewish religion.”

There was no public outcry, demonstrations, or even controversy. The contrast with the proposal to build the Islamic Center two blocks from the World Trade Center site could not be more stark. There have been increasingly strident and even frightening demonstrations against Park51, and the protesters cannot be dismissed as isolated fringe elements. Some public opinion polls have shown a majority of Americans, even a majority of New Yorkers, against the “Ground Zero Mosque,” which has become the unofficial, doubly inaccurate shorthand for the nearby cultural center. Politicians and media pundits have been divided, but many prominent conservatives, and even a significant number of prominent Democrats, such as Anthony Weiner and Harry Reid, have voiced various degrees of opposition.

It would be difficult to reconcile the dramatically different reactions in Beirut and New York. Of course, Park51 is in close proximity to the site where terrorists, supposedly acting in harmony with their interpretation of Islam, committed a heinous atrocity. The principal argument against the cultural center is that the wounds of 2001 are still too fresh to erect any Islamic symbol in the neighborhood. (Of course, anti-mosque fervor has spread to other states, including Tennessee, Wisconsin, and California, where proximity to “hallowed ground” cannot be considered a factor.)

But similar circumstances exist in Beirut as well.

The Lebanese are divided on many issues, but there is overwhelming agreement condemning Israel’s 2006 military campaign that took well over a thousand lives and destroyed residential areas of Beirut and other population centers throughout the country. A generation earlier, Israel’s 1982 invasion had a far higher death toll and began an 18-year military occupation of a wide swath of southern Lebanon. While this occupation featured frequent outbursts of lethal violence against the civilian population, the worst were in 1993 and 1996 when Labor Prime Ministers Rabin and Peres exhibited their “toughness” by randomly killing many civilians and panicking hundreds of thousands more into fleeing their homes.

Even those who might object to a comparison between the 9/11 attacks and Israel’s actions in Lebanon cannot reasonably dispute that Israel is about as unpopular in Lebanon as al-Qaeda is in the U.S. And just as the 9/11 terrorists cited Islam as their motivation, Israel acted as the self-proclaimed State of the Jewish People. Thus, the Lebanese had at least as much reason to oppose the Beirut synagogue restoration project as Americans have to oppose Park51.

But they did not.

The cooperation of the Lebanese, even Hezbollah, in the synagogue project demonstrates a degree of understanding that is sorely lacking in the U.S. The Lebanese did not allow their raw wounds from Israel’s repeated military assaults against their country to make them intolerant of Beirut’s remaining Jewish community and its symbols. Unfortunately, many Park51 opponents have a different view, holding New York’s Muslim population collectively responsible for the 19 individuals who hijacked not only airplanes but an entire religion. It seems that Americans and New Yorkers have a lot to learn about religious freedom and tolerance, and can take lessons from Beirut.

On a related note: Hezbollah’s approval of the synagogue renovation is entirely consistent with other statements it has made regarding distinctions between Jews and Zionism, e.g. “Our problem with them (the Israelis) is not that they are Jews, but that they are occupiers who are raping our land and holy places.” However, it is entirely inconsistent with the 2002 supposed quote of Hezbollah head Nasrallah that has been peddled as genuine by the likes of David Horowitz and Alan Dershowitz and CAMERA: “If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” This quote has gone viral, even finding its way into a New York Times book review, misleadingly cited by Dershowitz as the source for the quote, as if it had been reported in the Times rather than simply repeated by a book reviewer. Charles Glass, a journalist who actually was captured and held hostage by Hezbollah in 1987, has provided an excellent refutation of the quote, but it persists in hasbara lore because of its great value in portraying Arabs as motivated by genocidal Jew-hatred rather than resistance to Israeli aggression and occupation.

Back on TV due to popular demand…. ‘The Peace Industry’

Aug 30, 2010 

 Joseph Glatzer

A Happy Moment on the Set with Ban Ki-moon and Tony Blair

The Nobel Prize award winning show, “The Peace Industry” comes back for its 19th season on September 2nd, after an almost 2 year hiatus.  It is one of the longest running and most popular shows in TV history.

The pilot episode of the series premiered way back in 1991 in the exotic locale of Madrid, Spain.


There were a few highly rated one-off specials set in frigid Oslo, Norway, but the show wasn’t picked up for a full run until 1993. 

The Nobel Award winning cast in the glory days of the series

Critics say the picture below is proof that what used to be a natural and easy going chemistry among the cast members has now become something forced and awkward.


Expectations among critics are low this season. Even New York Times gossip columnist Ethan Bronner, who’s always strongly supported the Peace Industry, is expressing doubts:

…support for many of the settlements remains relatively strong in Israel. In other words, if this view holds, the Israelis have closed out any serious option of a two-state solution. So the talks are useless.

To add to the drama, some of the long running series’ most prominent Palestinian cast members are threatening to leave the show for good if their demands aren’t met. 

Abbas, who plays Abu Mazen on the show, is reportedly insisting that the plot pick up where it left off: the cliffhanger which left the gang stranded in Annapolis, Maryland.

The angry star, Mahmoud Abbas

Critics dismiss this as an empty threat, because similar statements over the years have never been followed through on.

While interest in the series has slumped among Palestinian and Israeli audiences as of late, several key European markets seem to never tire of the same old drama.

Germany expresses her undying love of the Peace Industry:

Germany’s Angela Merkel is excited

Merkel said feasible solutions to the key issues of dispute had already been drafted in earlier rounds of talks.

It was now up to the parties to demonstrate political willpower and the necessary willingness to compromise.

The Peace Industry has drawn comparisons to Law and Order because the casts of both shows have changed constantly over the years; but you never really notice the difference.

One of the most exciting new faces this year is a fresh faced youngster (and the show’s historic first black character) Barack Obama.  He’s reportedly been heard on the set muttering to himself, “I’ll succeed where all else have failed!”

“We’re counting on him to add a much needed new direction to the Peace Industry,” series regular, Mahmoud Abbas

There’s also a spinoff of the Bill Clinton character from the 2000 season: Hillary Clinton.  She’ll be joining the rest of the fictional peace processors in the Quartet. 

The Quartet: Not really a team of peacemakers, but they play one on tv

 After a long absence, returning to the cast is everyone’s favorite right wing hothead who just can’t seem to do anything right: Bibi! 

Bibi, in a characteristic outburst of anger

This is a controversial choice because Bibi was previously kicked off the show after a brief stint in the Peace Industry in 1999.  But he’s been brought back due to popular demand from Israeli fans! 

The Peace Processors insist the Peace Industry will reach its long promised conclusion this year. 

Having heard this promise for the last 20 years it’s hard not to see the whole thing as just another tragic comedy.

More on the ‘Firedoglake’ controversy

Aug 30, 2010 

Philip Weiss

A few more thoughts on the Firedoglake controversy I initiated. First the mea culpas.

My post on Saturday lacked context. I should have mentioned Siun’s fine work on Israel/Palestine, including the Al-Arakib demolition. I should have mentioned Spencer Ackerman’s tough columns on Israel’s behavior. Both these writers have prominence on FDL. And as Philip Munger and CTuttle point out in comments on that post, they have had platforms at the site, to do work that is critical of Israel. I should have mentioned FDL founder Jane Hamsher’s own progressive stance on the issue, for instance this 2008 Gaza-war piece celebrating the fact that people were no longer getting fried on the third rail for criticizing Israel, and pointing to folks like Ezra Klein, J Street, Joe Klein, Glenn Greenwald and Matt Yglesias. 

If I had it to do over again, I would have been more positive, too. I would have congratulated FDL on its great record in progressive politics and its achievements, going back to Valerie Plame and Libby and on feminist issues too. They certainly deserve credit, notably Hamsher, notwithstanding the vicious character of many of her tweets in the last couple days.

But let me get to what I think was right about the post, and why I don’t regret it, and why this is such an important conversation.

First of all, the post dealt with a specific incident in which an FDL moderator sought to suppress a conversation about the media’s treatment of Israel.

The moderator, Rayne, went after Kathleen Galt– Leen– who considers the Israel/Palestine issue the most important issue in progressive politics and has pushed it at FDL. Rayne scolded Leen and accused her of a “harangue” for her suggestion that FDL is closing down the parameters of that discussion. Galt was already in bad odor because she had faulted Hamsher for not bringing up Israel-Palestine, not even “a whisper,” in a 45-minute-long Washington Journal appearance discussing progressive issues. In that first set-to, Leen had made her criticism politely, and Hamsher was high-handed with her. No one asked me about it, she said, re her C-Span appearance. As if being asked means you can’t bring up something that’s important. In her back-and-forth with the moderator, Rayne, Leen was also polite and persistent, and Rayne was censorious.

Yes, I should have framed this incident in all the good work FDL has done but I’m bad at my lines, and the key thing is, It was ugly. Leen was making a case for treating the Israel Palestine issue as a central piece of our politics, and she got a lot of stick about curbing her speech. As Leen has asked: “Why would the moderator start demanding definitions of terms used, like ‘Zionism,’ and not demand more defined definitions of ‘conservative’ Republican etc?” (You’ll find more of Leen’s commentary, as Kathleen, in the comments on this post about Firedoglake.)

The issue here is parameters and leadership. While it is true that FDL does a lot of good stuff on Israel/Palestine, it tends to follow the news and it does not give the issue particular prominence. We’ve seen what this site is capable of when it wants to put an issue on the progressive agenda, it leads and does a lot of digging. In this case it has tended to follow others. The parameters are clear, at the top anyway. Hamsher herself will enthusiastically support progressive Democrats like Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson and never hold them to account on their backward views on Israel/Palestine and Hamas. Weiner is the darling of the rightwing Zionist Organization of America. MJ Rosenberg once said that we’re only going to see change on this issue when liberal reporters start asking Jerry Nadler at press conferences how he can be so progressive domestically and say nothing about the abuse of Palestinians in the occupied territories (and in Israel as well). Hamsher won’t do that. Though yes, some voices on her site will.

Imagine enthusiastically supporting a candidate who was good on most of your issues but was fiercely anti-choice. For Galt and myself, that’s the point. 

That brings me to leadership. For many of us on the left and in the Realist camp too, this is The central foreign policy issue. It ties into 9/11 and Iraq and now Iran. You can’t oppose war on Iran without dealing with the Israel question in our politics, and you can’t deal with the Israel question without getting out a moral compass. Our policy there violates two great American liberal fighting traditions: all people are created equal, as Jefferson and then Lincoln reminded us, and the respect for the political self-determination of peoples, as articulated by Wilson 100 years ago. It was on such moral grounds that I.F. Stone got engaged in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and urged northerners to support the blacks who were taking on segregation. Give them political oxygen, he called out!

Well if you search FDL for Sheikh Jarrah or al-Masara or al-Walaja, the front line in the protests against the Israeli occupation, you find little. Walaja is a scene of desperate displacement of Palestinians by American-made bulldozers in the shadow of a hateful settlement. Well, I found one hit for Walaja— and it was by Kathleen Galt, whom Hamsher has described as a “mentally ill troll.” Galt is not a troll; for me, a person who is struggling with this issue every day and seeking the company of strong men and women who can guide me and support me and whom I can support in turn, she’s a leader.

And I’m not even talking about other progressive conversations people should be having– like What about the one state solution–isn’t the two-state-solution dead? Why are our politicians so blind to the reality on the ground in the West Bank? I don’t see that conversation being pushed at FDL. I see a circumscribed debate.

I don’t like this fight. I want the progressive community engaged on this question with moral fervor. I want Hamsher’s creative talents engaged head-on here. I want our progressive politicians to move on it. We need FDL, and I regret the tone of my first post and apologize for it.

But let’s be clear. Many of us on the left, and in the realist camp too, are going to take our stand on this issue. We are much like the abolitionists of the 1850s, in that we feel no allegiance to either existing political party when it comes to this matter. Firedoglake’s leadership doesn’t see it as a central issue, and that’s where we differ.

As my friend Annie writes, “There is no reason why this election season Israel and the lobby should not be front and center. Nothing the prez is doing in a foreign policy way (Iran or the ‘peace talks’) can conceivably be construed to be devoid of Israeli/American neocon manipulations, and we need to have a national dialogue about it, because it is huge and w/ elections coming up we all know there are going to be these damning scary sounding lobby commercials all over the place accusing people of not loving Israel enough.”

Much of the progressive base shares Annie’s view. Much of the rank-and-file at J Street is with us, too. They are tired of a political system both of whose parties validate the open prison that is Gaza and the denial of basic human and political rights to millions of Palestinians living under occupation. Educated Americans are beginning to question Israel’s ethnocentric policies and the strategic burden it represents for the U.S. across a volatile region. Even the New York Times is moving, publishing Glenn Loury on the Nakba and Ali Abunimah on the importance of Hamas. Progressives are going to have to get on board that train, or they will become irrelevant.

Handicapping Islamophobia

Aug 30, 2010

Scott McConnell

All of sudden two of the usually completely distinct spheres of my life are on the same highway, merging into the same lane. Two days ago my new golf friend Stephanie Wei posted this on her golf blog, calling out a woman golf luminary for posting Islamophobic comments on her facebook page. As I know her, Stephanie is not political, but no fan of bigots either. In the golf world her post was widely picked up. I wasn’t surprised, for there is no American sport whose top players are more Republican, and self-consciously Christian than the PGA tour. At the same time, golf has a (pretty well-deserved) self image as being a realm of fair play and decency in a fallen world. The issue of Islamophobia cuts right into that, teasing out all the contradictions and spinning them about.

As it happened, I was playing yesterday with Stephanie, my wife, and an old friend. Somewhere late in the round, Stephanie and I began talking about the mosque, and I was expounding on my own view that whatever I might have thought about the idea of an Islamic cultural center in that spot, the issue had morphed into the much bigger one of whether the United States would be “officially” anti-Muslim or not, and the world was watching.

Walking up the fairway, my old friend overheard us talking. He said, I don’t know how anyone could say that the United States is anti-Muslim, or what basis any Muslims have for thinking that. Wow, I thought. I replied that we had killed several hundred thousand Iraqis and made refugees of several million more. I added that we had given more aid to Israel than we had to all the countries of the world combined. (That’s a slight exaggeration, I think).

Are you saying we shouldn’t, he asked. Not if they keep preventing a Palestinian state, I said.

We fell silent. It seemed better to drop the subject and think about the approach shots we faced, and the next three holes.


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