Categorized | Middle East




How many lies can Alan Dershowitz tell in 60 seconds?

Oct 19, 2010

David Samel 

How many lies can Alan Dershowitz tell in 60 seconds? There have been several posts concerning the recent debate between Dershowitz and Susan Abulhawa at the recent Boston Book Festival. Many have noted the dramatic contrast between the calm Abulhawa and the manic Dershowitz. A full dissection of Dershowitz’s falsehoods over the full hour of video would be too time-consuming, but let’s take a look at a single minute of his rantings, from about 34:15 to 35:15.

Denouncing the allegation of a massacre in Jenin, the Dersh lectured:

The massacre was the massacre of 55 Jewish people sitting at a Seder in the Park Hotel just before [the Israeli incursion into Jenin], and Palestinian terrorists from Jenin went in and murdered 55 Israeli family members having a seder. Israelis responded not from the air which they had the right to do but from the ground. . . There was no massacre in Jenin,. . it didn’t happen. There was a battle in Jenin in which fewer people died than were killed at the Park Hotel. This is total fiction, total false fiction. You must learn the facts.

Let’s leave aside the bigger picture of whether Israel’s actions constituted a “massacre,” “human rights violations,” or “war crimes” under various definitions of those terms. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen called the destruction “horrific beyond belief” and said it was “morally repugnant” that Israel denied access by emergency workers in for 11 days. Let’s just focus on Dershowitz’s smaller lies:

1) The Park Hotel suicide bombing claimed 30 lives, not 55.

2) The bombing was carried out by a single terrorist, not multiple terrorists.

3) The single bomber was from Tulkarem, not Jenin.

4) The victims were not all members of one family.

5) The Palestinian death count in Jenin was 52, greater than the number actually killed at the Park Hotel, but less than the number Dershowitz falsely claimed were killed.

6) Israel had no “right” to respond to the bombing by bombing Tulkarem or Jenin from the air, at least not under international law or under any widely accepted moral or ethical code. (Israel’s “right” to indiscriminately bomb any Palestinians for the actions of some does have many precedents, however. For example, in the aftermath of the Munich Olympic deaths of 11 Israelis, Israel bombed refugee camps in southern Lebanon and Syria, killing anywhere from 60 to hundreds of people unconnected with the Munich operation but guilty of the crime of being Palestinian.)

Not bad for one minute. Not a Dersh personal record, but not bad. I do love the end of this monologue, when Dershowitz says, with complete conviction and passion: “You must learn the facts.”

This is a pogrom (first they demolished the shepherd’s house, then they came to his tent and kicked his sheep, causing ewe to abort)

Oct 19, 2010


and other news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers/Land, property & resource theft and destruction/Ethnic cleansing

Settler suspected in hit-and-run
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian was injured Tuesday after he was struck down in the Bethlehem village of Tuqu’ on the main road.  Locals said a settler is suspected of driving into Rafat Ibrahim Suleiman, 25, as he walked on the main road, then fleeing the scene.  A Palestinian car then pursued the settler’s car, writing down its license to transfer the information to the Israeli police.  Suleiman was transferred to hospital in an Israeli ambulance.

Shepherd made homeless, his water cistern destroyed, son in prison
Al-Khalil (Hebron) – Noah El-Rajabi is a shepherd, with two hundred sheep and goats. He lives in Bani Na`im,17 kilometres from Hebron. He is married, and has seven children. Bani Na`im is under Israeli military and civil control.  Ten weeks ago the Israeli military demolished his house. His wife and younger children now live in two rented rooms in Hebron. Noah and his oldest son lived in a tent supplied by the Red Cross, so that Noah could continue to work with his flock.   On Monday 11th October, at 8.00 a.m. the Israeli military arrived without warning and destroyed his water cistern, his tent, and a small wooden structure Noah used for cooking and storage.   His oldest son, aged 14, who was with Noah, protested at the soldiers` action, and was arrested. His son is accused of assaulting two soldiers. Noah reports that soldiers kicked and beat some of the animals and that one pregnant ewe aborted.

Settlers torch crops in Bethlehem village
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian crops on farmland in the Husan village in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem, burning vast areas of olive groves before firefighters were able to control the blaze, locals said.  Locals said Israeli residents of the nearby illegal Betar Illit settlement obstructed Palestinian firefighters from accessing the site of the blaze, causing the fire to spread extensively.  A local village council source said grape and olive groves were damaged in the arson, largely in the Ein At-Taqa area, adding that bare-footed farmers were unable to extinguish the fire and that several sustained light burns as a result.

Israeli Settlers Invade al-Makkam Near Nablus
On Monday after midnight, Israeli settlers invaded al-Makkam village near Nablus, in the northern West Bank. The sources added that settlers invaded the outskirts of Nablus under the protection of the Israeli army who occupied the roofs of Palestinian buildings and surrounding schools. Clashes occured among residents of Balata Refugee Camp and the Israeli military, which, an eyewitness said, fired tear gas.

Clashes Between Hebron University Students and Settlers
Muhannad al-Adam – Hebron – PNN – Dozens of Hebron University students clashed with settlers from the Hebron area outpost of Susya this morning after helping local farmers harvest their olive trees. Musa’ab Bahis, an activist with the university’s youth movement, said they were helping out with the harvest when they were assaulted by settlers. The story is developing.

JNF plants trees to uproot Bedouin
The Electronic Intifada contributor Arwa Aburawa spoke to Ra’ed al-Mickawi from Bustan, a green Bedouin organization, and Alice Gray an environmental expert based in the West Bank to find out more about the role of greenwashing in the Israeli occupation of the Naqab desert.

Settlers not punished for ‘damaging Palestinian trees’ (AFP)
AFP – Jewish settlers who vandalise Palestinian trees are not being brought to justice, with police inquiries repeatedly failing to lead to prosecutions, a human rights group said on Tuesday.*

Netanyahu still wary of razing six West Bank outposts slated for demolition in 2004
High Court to deliberate state refusal to raze six West Bank outposts; Netanyahu: Demolition carries political implication.

Amnesty International Statement a Reminder of Human Cost of Settlements, Alex Kane
Talk of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is often centered on questions of legality, statehood and the “peace process.”  All of the settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law, and they control about 42% of land in the West Bank–land that has been viewed for decades as part of a Palestinian state.

‘Israel’s new housing units decision violates int’l law’
UN slams Israel’s refusal to extend W.Bank settlement freeze; UN representative says “we have brief, crucial window to overcome current impasse. If door to peace closes, will be very hard to reopen.”

Israel rebuked at United Nations. Will Security Council take action? (The Christian Science Monitor)
The Christian Science Monitor – Israel’s approval last week of 238 new Jewish housing units in Arab East Jerusalem provoked widespread condemnation in a United Nations Security Council session Monday focused on the stalemated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.*

Palestinians plan UN resolution calling for settlement evacuation
Initiative comes in place of an earlier idea of seeking Security Council recognition for a Palestinian state within pre-1967 lines.

China expresses “regret” over Israel’s new settlement plan
BEIJING, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) — China said Tuesday it regretted Israel’s plan to build new housing units in East Jerusalem, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.  China is deeply concerned about the ongoing stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and hopes that Israel will take a responsible attitude and careful action to create conditions for pushing forward the peace talks, Ma Zhaoxu told a regular news briefing.

Official: Israel seeks de facto recognition of east Jerusalem’s illegal annexation
RAMALLAH, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) — Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday accused Israel of seeking a de facto recognition of its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem by hosting the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conference in the city.  Erekat said in a press statement emailed to reporters that the Palestinians thanked the countries that have decided to withdraw their attendance to the OECD Tourism Committee Summit to be held in Jerusalem on Oct. 20.

Netanyahu plays down new construction in settlements (Reuters)
Reuters – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played down on Monday new Israeli construction on land Palestinians seek for a state, urging them to return to peace talks halted over the resumption of settlement building.*

Rabbi: Insult to say Jerusalem ‘illegally occupied’
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The World Jewish Congress vice-president said it was an “insult to all of us to accuse us of illegally occupying [Jerusalem],” a statement issued Tuesday read.  Rabbi Marc Schneider’s comments were made at the 8th Doha Conference of Inter-Faith Dialogue in Qatar, which opened on Tuesday and will be convening during the course of the week.

Congressional chairman to Palestinians who live in the capital of the Jewish people: Drop dead
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, issued the following statement today concerning the Israeli construction in Jerusalem. AIPAC is tweeting happily about it. “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It is not a settlement.  “As such, the resumption of construction in Jerusalem is not a justification for a crisis, a showdown, a meltdown or even a hissy fit. Ramot and Pisgat Zeev are going to be part of Israel in any conceivable final status deal and to pretend otherwise is pointless.

New Israeli Report: Israeli Banks are Principal Beneficiaries of the Illegal Settlements
According to a new report by Who Profits, a research project that exposes Israeli and international corporate involvement in the occupation: “The banks are well aware of the activities carried out with their financial assistance.”  A report published today by Who Profits exposes the financial support provided by Israeli banks to illegal Israeli settlements and the direct involvement of Israeli banks in control over the Palestinian banking market. The report, “Financing the Occupation,” investigated the involvement of  Israeli banks in the economy of occupation.

‘60 Minutes’ marks the end of the two-state solution, Adam Horowitz
Last night’s 60 Minutes story on Silwan and the “City of David,” marks the dawning recognition that the two-state solution is no longer possible. Lesley Stahl’s opening was a subtle introduction to the idea that the supposed solutions of the past, no longer fit today’s reality.

60 Minutes Reports On Silwan, East Jerusalem, Joseph Dana
Silwan is a dangerous neighborhood. Not only because of the simmering political tensions between the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers occupying houses in the city, but also because the neighborhood is one of the centers of the drug trade. But of all the cities and villages in the West Bank, the Palestinians of Silwan have a reputation as being on the forefront of resistance to Israel’s steady takeover of Palestinian land. In fact, they often proclaim that the third intifada will begin in Silwan regardless of what is happening in the rest of the West Bank.

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment

Erdogan to boycott Mediterranean conference if Netanyahu shows
Turkish PM slams Israel over IDF raid on a Gaza-bound ship in which nine Turkish activists were killed, says he doesn’t want to talk to a PM who supports such actions.

Turkish PM Says Will Not Talk With Netanyahu
ATHENS (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan does not want to talk with his Israeli counterpart and will not attend a climate change conference in Athens on Friday if Benjamin Netanyahu is there, he told Greece’s Skai TV on Monday.

OECD delegation to skip E. Jerusalem sites to avoid conflict
Tourism minister says he doesn’t want this week’s OECD conference to become political; Palestinians urge OECD members to boycott the meeting.

Lifeline 5 to leave this evening for Al-Arish seaport
The fifth aid convoy Lifeline for Gaza will leave Tuesday evening for the Egyptian seaport of Al-Arish after a delay in its departure due to financial problems with the cargo ship’s owner.

Israeli forces await Viva Palestina’
The Israeli forces are awaiting the arrival of the fifth Gaza-bound aid convoy, sent by the UK-based charity Viva Palestina, a source with Israel’s military says.

Alternative Information Center, “8,000 Demonstrate in Tel Aviv against Racist Laws and Population Transfer Exercises”
Some 8,000 people marched through Tel Aviv to the Ministry of Defense on 16 October 2010, in protest against the racist laws being promoted by the Israeli government and the Israeli security forces’ population transfer exercises. A long list of organizations, movements, and political parties participated in the demonstration, including the Hadash Party, Hithabrut-Tarabut, and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, amongst others.

Just another futile Friday in Bil’in? – Greg Wilkinson
Business as usual? Weekly ritual? Sporting event? A bit of all three, but more than that.  Nobody injured, nobody killed, this week. Mercifully. No ground lost or gained, but nearly 100 people walking, talking, shouting singing in the sun, behind a Palestinian flag toward a boring line of metal fence – no Great Wall of Israel, just a stupid obstacle to little things like justice, peace and people’s land.  What’s the message of this march? Get out, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Free our prisoners, and one in particular this week. Abdullah Abu Rahmah was jailed for a year three days ago. His daughter is somewhere in the crowd, with a picture of her dad. Abdullah in prison, Bassem dead … same family.

Norway artist angry as works withdrawn from Syria show
DAMASCUS — Two paintings by Norway’s Haakon Gullvaag that show an Israeli flag have been withdrawn from an exhibition at the French Cultural Centre in the Syrian capital, the artist said on Monday.  His “Terra Sancta” exhibition contains works about the Israeli offensive against the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.  Two of the works in which the Israeli flag features were removed from the show on Saturday, an angry Gullvaag told AFP by phone from Oslo, adding the French embassy in Damascus “explained to us that it was their decision.  “This was done without contacting the artist, the curator or the Norwegian embassy. I have never experienced something similar in my entire life.”  The artist said the French embassy said it had concerns about a hotel near the cultural centre which normally has many Iranian guests.  “They were afraid that the Iranians would misunderstand the motifs as being Israel-friendly. Then the cultural centre claimed that some students have complained about showing the Israeli flag at all,” Gullvaag said.

Remembering Furkan Dogan
Furkan Dogan was an American, a young American of only 19 years when on 31 May a hail of Israeli bullets ended his life on the Mavi Marmara Turkish humanitarian aid ship

#BDS: SJP Press Release: Students denounce demonization of student activism by Anti-Defamation League On campuses around the country, groups promoting Palestinian freedom respond to attack by the Anti-Defamation League
UNITED STATES (October 17, 2010) – Representing campus organizations at over 60 campuses around the country, university students promoting Palestinian freedom have responded to a vilifying report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) listing “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) and a variety of other American organizations as the “Top 10 Anti-Israel Groups in America.” The report was released the same day the ADL honored Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns Fox News Network.

ADL’s demonization of student activism denounced
As members of several student groups working for justice in Palestine, we affirmatively state that the ADL’s characterization of our campus educational efforts and activism about Israeli injustices against Palestinians as “biased” is a disingenuous and misguided attempt to vilify students who criticize Israel’s occupation, which denies Palestinian human rights and self-determination.

#BDS: ‘Why Israel only’ is tired and hypocritical
Robert Fine’s piece “Blame Game won’t lead us to peace” (October 8), commenting on the rather tepid University of Jo’burg senate resolution to the call by (now more than 270) South African academics, including the vice-chancellors of three South African universities to end its apartheid-era relationship with Ben Gurion University, raises some interesting points.  Desmond Tutu is indirectly, but not so subtly, accused of anti-Semitism because he warns that those who support the severance of ties may lose research funding and, at the same time, urges Jews not to forget their own past as victims of discrimination.

Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Rights Violations/Restriction of Movement

The Children Of Balata: Putting Faces To Statistics
According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Balata’s 0.25 sq km area is home to more than 23,600 registered refugees, although the true population could be much higher.  The camp was formed in 1950, designed for 5,000-7,000 people. For it’s 23,000+ occupants, the camp has one food distribution center, one women’s program center and one community-based rehabilitation center. The camp is plagued by water shortages and sewage treatment problems that cause hygiene problems and lengthy droughts.

Gaza govt says Israel barring entry of olives
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Gaza government’s Ministry of Agriculture said Monday that Israeli forces were disrupting the entry of olives from the West Bank into Gaza.  Israeli forces are forbidding truckloads of olives to enter to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing even though there is security coordination, the enclave’s crossings authority said.  Israeli authorities are allowing only one shipment each day rather than five, officials said, and holding back shipments for longer than 48 hours at a time, which affects quality.

Racism & Discrimination

MKs seek ban on East Jerusalem Arabs guiding in the city
Proposal sponsored by Gideon Ezra and seven other MKs, says tourists should get Israeli viewpoint.

Netanyahu wants loyalty oath bill to include Jews as well
PM instructs Justice Minister to draft a bill extending the loyalty oath, in which non-Jews are required to pledge allegiance to ‘the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,’ to Jewish immigrants as well.

Knesset debate: Stop Lieberman’s fascism
Group of lawmakers, intellectuals hold special conference to discuss ‘racist’ loyalty oath, which they claim threatens ‘very foundation of Israeli democracy.’ Kadima MK Molla warns against ‘flood’ of racist legislation.,7340,L-3971723,00.html

Yediot poll notes threat of fascism in Israel
Richard Silverstein – Tikkun Olam – What stands out in the results is the absolutely schizoid nature of the Israel polity. It makes one understand the psychology at work historically in societies that turn to fascism, even while retaining the illusion that they are still at least marginally democratic.


Five peaceful protesters wounded by Israeli military in Silwan
Israeli soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and gas bombs at dozens of Palestinian protestors in Silwan town, in occupied East Jerusalem. At least five residents were wounded and twelve detained.


Israeli Soldiers Kidnap a Citizen From Beit Umar
The Israeli military abducted, on Tuesday morning, Ayyad Bregheth, 20 years old, from the town of Beit Umar, located between Bethlehem and Hebron.

Israeli Army Abducts Four Citizens From Hebron
The Israeli military abducted, on Monday morning, four Palestinian citizens from different areas in Hebron, surrounded a mosque and errected many barriers in the region.

Israeli army raids Tubas, detains 7
altRamallah, October 18, (Pal Telegraph) Israeli occupation forces arrested last night seven citizens in the occupied West Bank, claiming they were “wanted.”  According to Israeli public radio that Israeli occupation forces transferred seven detainees to the security authorities for investigation.  According to local sources in Jenin, Israeli occupation forces stormed in the early dawn hours today “Tubas” town and arrested a citizen and took him to an unknown destination.  Local sources added that more than ten Israeli military vehicles stormed the town at dawn today and set up a sudden checkpoint at the entrance of the town and closed the road leading to it.,-detains-7.html

Prisoners advocate says detainee’s life in jeopardy
TUBAS (Ma’an) — The detainees’ center in Tubas called human rights organizations and the Red Cross to intervene and save a sick detainee whose as his illness progresses in detention at Israel’s Ramon prison.  Imad Al-Masri was detained 20 years earlier when he was sentenced to life in prison. Detainee advocates have accused the Israeli Prison Service of failing to offer adequate treatment for the undisclosed illness.  The head of the detainees’ center Mahmoud Sawafta said Israel was responsible for the man’s life.

Freed Prisoner Kifah Afaneh: Full-body Searches Routine for Female Prisoners
Recently released prisoner Kifah Afaneh said in an interview that female detainees like her often risk being strip-searched in prison. They fear the interrogation room, she said, where they are stripped in front of hidden cameras as part of procedures at the central prison.  Afaneh added that female prisoners, like other Palestinian detainees, first faced military courts before being transferred from one prison to another. Female jailers then demand that they remove all their clothing piece by piece before examining them thoroughly, often provoking or insulting them in the process.

Israel’s Arab Helper

Egypt seizes arms, ammunition at Rafah border area
RAFAH, Egypt, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) — Egyptian authorities seized on Monday a large amount of ammunition and arms in a security campaign at the border city of Rafah.  Four bags packed with around 600 kg of TNT and a small number of hand grenades, landmines and machine guns were found in caches in an area called El-Sarsoureya, north of Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza, a security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Palestinian Authority Traitors Serving Israel, Steve Lendman
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ duplicitous treachery exposes him as an enemy, not ally, of his people. An earlier article on him quoted Jeffrey Blankfort calling him a “double agent (serving) his Israeli and US masters in plain sight.” In June 2003, Edward Said called him “Israel’s sheriff,” saying he’s “colorless, moderately corrupt, and without any clear ideas of his own, except that he wants to please the white man,” his Washington and bosses. Access the article through the following link.

Anti-Palestine Task Force Gala Wednesday Night: Self-Respecting Arabs Need Not Attend
The Fifth annual gala of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), the public relations firm of the Vichy regime in occupied Ramallah, will be this Wednesday night.   Ziad Asali and Hussein Ibish have their tuxedos ready, and are spending the last day prior to the gala honing their social etiquette skills.  We at Ikhras thought you might be interested in knowing the names of the “esteemed members” of the honorary host committee.  According to our count the committee includes 27 “Honorables”, 15 “Excellencies”, and 2 “Royal Highnesses.”

PA police detain 3 in Salfit
SALFIT (Ma’an) — Palestinian Authority police operating in Salfit detained three residents they described as “wanted” by the Palestinian court, a statement read.  Police said the three had fled from police and were accused of failing to pay “huge amounts” of debts.

War Criminals

Turkish PM describes Israel flotilla raid “state terrorism,” demands apology
Turkey’s prime minister has again accused Israel of “state terrorism” and called on the Jewish state to apologize and compensate victims of a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Political Developments

Mishaal to meet a delegation of the Elders
Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of Hamas, is to meet with a delegation of the Elders in his office in Damascus on Tuesday, Ezzet Al-Resheq announced on Monday.

Hamas insists on holding next meeting with Fatah in Damascus
Hamas informed Fatah faction that it was adamant on holding the next round of dialog talks in Damascus on Wednesday as previously agreed upon between the two movements in their latest meeting.

Hamas’ Mesh’al lays out new policy direction
Since 1996, Khaled Mesh’al has been the Chairman of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) Political Bureau. After the assassination of Hamas leader Abdul ‘Aziz Rantisi in 2004 by Israeli forces, Mesh’al became the movement’s overall leader. He lives in exile in Damascus, from where he oversees the movement’s activities both within Palestine and outside.  The most recent interview with Mesh’al was conducted by the Jordanian Arabic-language Al-Sabeel newspaper in July 2010. In it, Mesh’al laid out the policy direction of Hamas on a number of critical issues: negotiations with Israel, recognition of Israel, resistance, Jews, Christians, women, among other issues. In the Arab world, the lengthy interview is being viewed as highly significant, and is regarded as a clear indication of positions that Hamas wants to pursue, especially with regard to its future attitude towards Israel. The Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) translated the interview into English and publishes it here to make it accessible to a wider audience, and to allow for greater understanding of the political and other perspectives of a movement which has become one of the most important role-players in the Middle East today. It is an important piece articulating, in its own words, the perspectives of Hamas’ leadership, and is critical reading for observers of the Middle East, and policy-makers for whom the Middle East is important.

Only ‘brief window’ open for new Mideast talks: UN official (AFP)
AFP – International powers must quickly bring Israel and the Palestinians together for new talks to avoid a new Middle East crisis, a top UN official told the Security Council on Monday.*

Palestine: Ambassador Warns That Time Is Running Out for Two-State Solution, Robert Dreyfuss
Maen Areikat, Palestine’s ambassador to the United States, said this week that he is hopeful about the current effort to reach an accord between Israel and the Palestinians, but he warned that time is short, and that perhaps only two years remain before all hope for a two-state solution vanishes.

Other News

Report: Barghouthi to be freed in Shalit deal
MEDINA, Saudi Arabia (Ma’an) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to release Fatah strongman Marwan Barghouthi in a prisoner swap deal for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit when finalized, a Saudi Arabian newspaper reported Tuesday.  According to Al-Madina, quoting sources, the German mediator told Hamas that Barghouthi would be freed but other prisoners on the Islamist movement’s list would not.  Barghouthi’s wife Fadwa told a German anti-nuclear war delegation visiting Ramallah that she too had also received word that her husband would be released in the prisoner swap deal.

Palestinian armed group cracks down on unauthorised attacks (AFP)
AFP – The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said on Monday it would dismiss any member who attacked Israel without authorisation or under the banner of a rival faction.*

Jihad denies firing members for attacking Israel
GAZA, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) — The Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip denied Tuesday that it dismissed members who attacked Israel on their personal capacity.  Jihad said that some “untrue and non-objective” reports had attributed claims to an unidentified source about the dismissal of militants who shoot at Israeli targets individually.  The denial is contrary to a September incident, in which the movement refused to back funeral ceremonies of three fighters killed in an Israeli airstrike while firing rockets towards communities to the east of Gaza.

Netanyahu: Hamas has obtained anti-aircraft missiles [Do they ever tire of lies?]
Israel’s aerial freedom has been compromised by new weaponry in Gaza, presumably smuggled through tunnels connected to Egypt, PM tells Likud members for the first time.

Report: Suspect in Dubai Hamas assassination arrested in Canada
Detainee connected to another main suspect who was caught on surveillance footage with Hamas official Mabhouh inside an elevator in the hotel where he was killed, according to UAE newspaper.

Israel invites Chilean miners for a ‘spiritual’ Christmas in the Holy Land
Tourism minister invites the 33 rescued miners and their spouses for a week-long all-expense paid sightseeing tour of Christian holy sites.

Life-size model of Israel’s Sharon in a coma aims to provoke (AFP)
AFP – A life-size model Israel’s Ariel Sharon lying comatose in a hospital bed is to be unveiled in Tel Aviv later this week in a art exhibit portraying the political inertia gripping the Jewish state.*

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest

A Place for Mr. Meshaal
No one wants the leader of Hamas at the Mideast peace table. But everyone needs him there.  Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, turns away in disgust from the big flat-screen television in his heavily guarded office in Damascus. He’s been following the news bulletins for weeks, ever since the initial announcement that President Obama had set up face-to-face talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Hamas leader certainly wasn’t looking for any breakthroughs from the meetings, and he was scarcely surprised when Netanyahu brushed off Abbas’s demand that Israel extend its 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank. But Meshaal is visibly annoyed by news that an Arab League summit has advised Abbas not to walk out on the negotiations, and instead to accept a one-month recess. “It will not solve the problem,” Meshaal complains. “It will just postpone the problem.”

Accommodating Israeli abuse: the Palestinian Authority’s perspective, Alaa Milbes
Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO’s Ambassador to the United States will be at Columbia to speak about the most recent phase of peace negotiations from the “Palestinian Perspective.” However, many Palestinians challenge and criticize Mr. Areikat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) for their participation in “peace talks”. Furthermore, the world has proved time and time again that the opinion of Palestinians is of no significance. Each time Palestinians have participated in these “peace talks” they have lost more control of their land, homes, and everyday life.

The PLO and the Crisis of Representation, Mazen Masri
Today, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is experiencing an internal dilemma. Long viewed as the “legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian People”, many years of failed negotiations with the Israeli government, a growing democratic deficit and alienation of its grassroots base have inexorably lead to a crisis of legitimacy for the organization.

The international community’s final test, Mustafa Barghouthi
Negotiations between two unequal parties cannot succeed. Success in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations requires a reasonable balance of power, clear terms of reference and abstention of both sides from imposing unilateral facts on the ground. None of that existed in the talks that were re-initiated in September.

Arab Israelis in no man’s land
The fateful choices Arab Israelis would be forced to make if peace talks established a Palestinian state would fracture a facade of unity among them. This 20% block of Israel’s population cannot be ignored by either side. And with the strongest Arab-Israeli interests resting in preserving the status quo, it may hold a key to success or failure of the negotiations.

Who made Netanyahu the leader of the Jewish people?, Tony Karon
‘Next, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will insist that he can’t make peace with the Palestinians until they recognise the Jews as the Chosen People.” That was the sarcastic tweet of one Jewish-American analyst on Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognise it not only as a “Jewish state”, but as “the national home of the Jewish people”.  Those two phrases don’t mean the same thing: only around 39 per cent of the world’s Jewish population live in Israel; the other 61 per cent have freely chosen other countries as their home (more that two thirds are in the US). So, Mr Netanyahu is demanding not only that the Palestinians recognise the right of Israel’s Jews to maintain their dominance over the country’s non-Jewish minority, but also to recognise Israel as the patrimony of the majority of the world’s Jews who do not live there.

Leave no stone unclaimed, Adam Horowitz
Lynn Pollack submitted the above photo to the Israel Project’s “Best Shots of Israel” contest along with the note: “I shot this in Nov. 2008, right after the truce broke. Somewhere near Tel Aviv, if I recall correctly. I guess Israel didn’t want to take any chances that a Palestinian might decide to claim this rock. Leave no stone unturned, I guess.”

About that sticker, Ali Gharib
After an excellent string of blog posts and articles from Israel and Palestine, Matthew Yglesias has “come a long way,” Weiss writes. Despite the patronizing language about his younger, blogging colleague, Weiss is right. But, with due respect to an excellent journalist whom I admire, I’d say he hasn’t come all the way just yet.  That last leg, though, is a tough one, raising questions about liberal support for a state that requires one to constantly signal his or her ethnicity and religion in order to be comfortable and have a sense of belonging.

Mainstreaming the Extreme Rightwing, Ralph Nader
The strong case that Eric Alterman’s book What Liberal Media? made in 2003 against the propaganda-style claim by rightwingers, that the mass media has a liberal bias, is an expanding understatement. Just read recent issues of The Washington Post and The New York Times to see the most extreme reactionaries getting the kind of coverage their publicists love.  Just last Sunday in the October 10, 2010 New York Times, two very lengthy features appeared on the rancid Ann Coulter and the blogger Pamela Geller—a grotesque anti-Semite against Arabs who flaunts her sweeping bigotry as a badge of pride. Geller even called herself a ‘racist-Islamophobic-anti-Muslim-bigot’. One veteran reporter called the sprawling two page feature, with all of twenty color photos “an advertisement.”

How propaganda is disseminated: WikiLeaks Edition, Glenn Greenwald
This is how the U.S. government and American media jointly disseminate propaganda: in the immediate wake of some newsworthy War on Terror event, U.S. Government officials (usually anonymous) make wild and reckless — though unverifiable — claims. The U.S. media mindlessly trumpets them around the world without question or challenge. Those claims become consecrated as widely accepted fact. And then weeks, months or years later, those claims get quietly exposed as being utter falsehoods, by which point it does not matter, because the goal is already well-achieved: the falsehoods are ingrained as accepted truth.


Nasrallah aims to debunk STL’s evidence
BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is to hold a news conference to demonstrate the unreliability of any tribunal indictment based on telecommunication records, if parties fail to reach a breakthrough over the issue of false witnesses in the Cabinet, informed sources told The Daily Star Monday.

Report: Israeli company to begin new gas drill near Gaza
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli company has received license to drill for gas in two areas in the Gaza-Israel border on Tuesday, a day after drilling began at a controversial offshore site in the north, Israel Radio reported.  Energtek Inc., a leader in hi-tech natural gas solutions and Adsorbed Natural Gas (ANG) technology and run by former Israeli MP Modi Zanderberg is currently raising funds at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in order to commence drilling, the station said.  The company said the geological survey in the Sa’ad and Nir Am kibbutz near the border revealed that there is an estimate 26 million barrels of producible oil at the site at a depth of 1.8 to 2 km underground.  The drilling could generate $2 billion for the company at the site, but the survey also found a 15 percent probability rate of finding oil at the site. The report follows news Monday that a US-Israeli exploration group began drilling at the Leviathan natural gas prospect in the eastern Mediterranean, which Lebanon has laid claim to.

Syrian worker dies of gunshot wound in Baalbek
BEIRUT: An unidentified Syrian worker was murdered Monday in Baalbek. The worker was found inside his home suffering from a gunshot wound and was taken to the Dar al-Amal Hospital for treatment. Efforts to save the victim failed and he died at the hospital. Security forces seized the murder weapon and launched probes into the incident.


Bombing of police official’s home kills 11 in Iraq (Reuters)
Reuters – Bombs destroyed the home of a senior Iraqi police commander on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people in the northern city of Tikrit, the hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein, police said.*

Monday: US Soldier, 10 Iraqis Killed; 22 Iraqis Wounded
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in Tehran garnering support for his claim to another term as premier while at least 10 Iraqis were killed and 22 more were wounded in new violence back home. Also, one U.S. soldier was killed in a non-combat event in southern Iraq.

Roadside Bomb Kills Baghdad Official
The explosion, which also wounded eight people, is the latest in a stream of small, targeted attacks on police and government officials.

US plays down importance of Maliki visit to Iran (AFP)
AFP – The United States on Monday played down the importance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s visit to Tehran, but urged Iran to be a better neighbor to Iraq.*

Iran’s Khamenei calls for Iraqi government formation (Reuters)
Reuters – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on political factions in Iraq to reach a consensus on forming a new government, state television reported on Monday.*

How Iran brokered a secret deal to put its ally in power in Iraq
Tehran’s influence in Baghdad politics described by western official as ‘nothing less than a strategic defeat’ for US.

U.S. won’t support a Maliki-Sadr alliance
Washington said it would no longer back incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unless he breaks ties with Moqtada Sadr, a source said.

White propagandaU.S. now urges Iraqis to take their time in forming government
The change in approach comes as an anti-American occupation cleric’s political faction agrees to support Maliki, a deal that would run counter to U.S. interests and risk f”urther destabilizing the country”.,0,2366226.story

Iraqi refugees regret going home, UNHCR survey finds
GENEVA, Oct 19 (Reuters) – A majority of Iraqi refugees who have returned from exile to Baghdad regret their decision, saying they face insecurity, a lack of jobs and inadequate health care, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.  Some 61 percent of those interviewed were sorry they had left Syria and Jordan, while one in three was unsure of staying in Iraq, according to its recently-completed survey of 2,353 Iraqis who returned to the capital between 2007 and 2008.


Turkey: NATO’s anti-missile system should not single out Iran
NATO says system intended to defend alliance, at odds with Iran over its suspicions Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.

Iran confirms its planes were being refused fuel in Europe
Iran has played down impact of international sanctions, previously said reports that Iran airlines were having problems refueling abroad were part of ‘psychological war.’

US says China ignoring Iran sanctions
The United States believes some Chinese firms are helping Iran improve its missile technology and develop nuclear weapons, and has asked Beijing to prevent such activity, The Washington Post reported late on Sunday.

World Powers Bolster Trade with Iran despite Sanctions
The trade exchanges between Iran and the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) has witnessed a 12% increase during the past six months despite the UN Security Council sanctions and the West’s so-called unilateral boycotts against Tehran.

Chavez Due in Iran Monday
During his stay, Chavez will meet with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials.

U.S. To Monitor Venezuela’s Relations
With Nuclear Nations: The United States on Friday reacted with caution to the reports that in addition to talks with Iran and others, Venezuela has reached an agreement with Russian Federation to build the first nuclear plant in Venezuela.

U.S. Other Mideast/World News

Israel takes center stage in Illinois election campaign
In fight for Congress seat in Illinois – a struggle between two Jewish candidates – Israel has made its way to the top of the political agenda. The contest: Who does more to protect the Jewish interest?,7340,L-3970773,00.html

Blackwater contractor will not be indicted for killing Iraqi guard in 2006
A former security contractor for Blackwater USA will not be indicted in the killing of an Iraqi guard in 2006, federal prosecutors said Monday. According to a congressional report, Seattle resident Andrew Moonen was wandering drunk around Baghdad’s Green Zone after a Christmas Eve party in 2006 when he encountered and fatally shot Raheem Saadoun, a 32-year-old guard for Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi.

Pentagon asks media not to publish war leaks
Pentagon asks media not to publish leaked war files, cites national security The Pentagon on Monday asked media organizations not to publish any classified war files released by the WikiLeaks Web site, as the U.S. braces for the potential disclosure of hundreds of thousands of secret Iraq war documents.

Report Shows Drones Strikes Based on Scant Evidence,  Gareth Porter
New information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan directly contradicts the image the Barack Obama administration and the CIA have sought to establish in the news media of a programme based on highly accurate targeting that is effective in disrupting al Qaeda’s terrorist plots against the United States

Monday: US Kills Another 6 People In Pakistan
“The identities of those killed in the strike is not yet known,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

US understates civilian casualties in Pakistan, makes no amends
An American NGO working to raise awareness of the civilian victims of conflict has argued, in an extensive report, that the number of civilians killed or injured because of US airstrikes using unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” is larger than the US government admits.

WikiLeaks: Iraq War Documents Dump Not Coming Today, But ‘Soon’
Contrary to commonly held rumors, WikiLeaks will not be releasing 400,000 secret military documents relating to the war in Iraq, AFP is reporting. But that doesn’t mean the Pentagon can breathe a sigh of a relief quite yet.

Sweden denies WikiLeaks founder Assange residence permit
Sweden’s immigration authority on Monday rejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s request for residency, a potential setback in his efforts to gain protection from Swedish press freedom laws.

CIA paid Liverpool buyout tycoon millions…to use his jet for ‘torture’ flights
A jet owned by a senior executive in the US firm which has bought Liverpool Football Club was chartered by the CIA and used in flights allegedly linked to the rendition of terror suspects.–use-jet-torture-flights.html

Questions over US contractors role in war zones
US troops numbers have increased since President Barrack Obama took office. But they are still outnumbered by private companies that have been hired to carry out some US operations. A recent US Senate report found many of these private contractors are funneling funds to Afghan warlords. Tom Ackerman reports on how the contractors themselves view their future.

Court won’t review appeal of mentally impaired man sentenced to death  [What about Iran?]
Supreme Court won’t review case of Texas death row inmate who may be mentally impaired The Supreme Court won’t review a claim by a Texas death row inmate who says his mental impairment should prevent his execution. The court said Monday won’t hear an appeal from Michael Wayne Hall.

Widespread Fraud Is Seen in Afghan Elections
Afghan and Western officials indicate that fraud was pervasive and that nearly 25 percent of the votes are likely to be thrown out.

Former Spanish PM: Obama is the least European president ever
Barack Obama is less interested in the U.S.-European relationship than any president in American history, according to the former Spanish prime minister.  “Europe is not a priority for this administration because the Atlantic system is not a priority for this administration,” said Jose Maria Aznar, who led the Spanish government from 1996 to 2004. “We can be useful sometimes, but it not a priority. The priority is China, the Muslim world, the relationship with Russia.”

NGO: Free ‘disobedient’ Saudi daughter
RIYADH: A Saudi rights group Monday called on King Abdullah to intervene to free a woman who was sent to prison for disobeying her father. Human Rights First Society (HRFS) accused Riyadh of “outrageous illegal detention” in the case of Samar Badawi, who was thrown in prison six months ago without official charge or trial by a Jeddah judge.

Amnesty International:  Dozens detained in Egyptian pre-election crackdown on opposition
Authorities urged to immediately release, or charge with a recognizable criminal offence, over 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood group.  Amnesty International today called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release, or charge with a recognizable criminal offence, more than 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood group arrested this week. More than 150 people have been arrested since the Muslim Brotherhood chairman, Mohamed Badie’, said on 9 October that the group will put up candidates in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for 29 November.

‘US Boat to Gaza’ to join efforts from Switzerland, Turkey, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Malaysia & the Netherlands to form the Freedom Flotilla II in March 2011

Oct 19, 2010

Adam Horowitz 

The following update was just sent out by US to Gaza:   We are writing with an exciting update report on the plan to send a U.S.-flagged ship as part of the next Freedom Flotilla sailing to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.  Representatives from the US BOAT TO GAZA have just returned from Geneva where an important meeting took place with representatives from Switzerland, Turkey, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Malaysia, the Netherlands and The Free Gaza Movement.

US TO GAZA has joined the steering committee of the Freedom Flotilla II and we are now deeply involved as part of the international team planning for the next mission which will be leaving at the end of March 2011.  First, about the timing: after much discussion, the decision was made by the international group to wait until Spring of 2011 to sail.  This is in response to the outpouring of people who want to join this effort from more countries, to have more boats and more of civil society participating. The international movement is growing and voices of condemnation against illegal Israeli policies are stronger now than ever before.

At the table in Geneva were experienced, dedicated Palestinian rights activists, many of whom had participated in the last flotilla. It is significant to realize that the previous mission was, in fact, the first and only large international flotilla to attempt to break the siege of Gaza by sea. Those on board Freedom Flotilla I, as we all know, were brutally and fatally attacked by the Israeli military in international waters.

Freedom Flotilla II will be the next mission to attempt to break the illegal Israeli naval blockade following this attack. Those on board the ship and all those standing in solidarity with this effort are defying the brutality of the Israeli regime by the determined measure of returning again to reach the shores of Gaza. We will not be deterred by illegal acts of violence, similar to what the people of Palestine face every day. In fact we are even more motivated to act, in the same way the people within the borders of this brutal occupation march to the walls and barriers to their freedom through tear gas and bullets again and again, or stand in the path of bulldozers, the Israeli weapon of occupation, or rebuild and rebuild the destruction wreaked upon them without pause.

The Israeli military, with impunity, carries on committing the crimes of occupation. Arrogantly and shamelessly officials from the Israeli government recently made public statements, threatening to attack the next flotilla with sniper fire and attack dogs. It is unconscionable to deliver public pronouncements of planned, unprovoked violence against unarmed people, civilians and press who will be on board.  As these statements get issued from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, U.S. government officials remain silent, failing to uphold international law and bring Israeli government and military officials to account for their crimes.
We must not be deterred by the violent adventures Israel embarks upon and the complicit silence of our governments. 

THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, the U.S. Boat to Gaza will sail this Spring, bringing human rights advocates from civil society, supported by international law, to the shores of Gaza.  In this country we will be on board, whether sailing on the deck of the boat, or standing on the platform this campaign creates speaking against U.S. foreign policy that supports Israel’s abuse of power perpetrated against the people of Palestine and their supporters in the struggle for the Palestinian people’s freedom and dignity, their human rights and for justice.

We need your help.  Over the next few months we need you to help spread the word about the mission of the U.S. BOAT TO GAZA through your lists and sites and link people in your network to  We will be planning several events leading up to and including the launch of THE AUDACITY OF HOPE and we want you and people in your networks to participate. Most importantly we need you to be the voice and to help create the unique profile of THEAUDACITY OF HOPE  by speaking on behalf of this mission as it relates to your work in the struggle for Palestinian rights.

Please get in touch if you can take an active part of this campaign in the next phase.
We look forward to hearing from you!


Harvard student government condemns Peretz fund and calls for an investigation on the decision to honor him

Oct 19, 2010 01

Adam Horowitz 

From a student press release:

Harvard’s Undergraduate Council voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favor of a bill calling on President Drew Faust “to establish a commission of concerned faculty, students and administrators to investigate” the decision to honor Martin Peretz. The Undergraduate Council is the representative body of Harvard’s more than 6,700 undergraduate students.

The “Student Response to Peretz Fund Act,” passed by a vote of 26-7-4, was presented to the student government by the Harvard Islamic Society, the Black Students Association, Latinas Unidas, the Society of Arab Students and the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

Leaders of these groups met with Harvard President Drew Faust earlier this month, and requested that the administration investigate the decision to honor Peretz. When Faust made clear that she was not willing to investigate the decision, student leaders decided to bring the matter to the Undergraduate Council.

After gaining the support of the UC President and Vice President, the bill passed two council committees before reaching the floor. Students gathered at 7:00pm EST in Emerson 305 to show support for the legislation.

Last month, the Social Studies committee inaugurated a fund in Peretz’s name despite widespread opposition from students, faculty and alumni. Peretz made the now-infamous remarks that “Muslim life is cheap, especially to Muslims” and that Muslims are not worthy of First Amendment protection.

Peretz also wrote that “Latin societ[ies]” enjoy “characteristic deficiencies” such as “congenital corruption” and “near-tropical work habits.” Regarding African Americans, Peretz wrote that “So many in the black population are afflicted by cultural deficiencies” and that “in the ghetto a lot of mothers don’t appreciate the importance of schooling.”

New tourism law shows the more the Israeli narrative gets challenged, the greater need there is to enforce it

Oct 19, 2010

Elinor Amit 

A proposal for a new law has been submitted to the Israeli parliament which states that only Israeli citizens would be permitted to serve as tour guides in Israel (does “Israel” includes the occupied territories? That’s not clear from the law), when the tour involves non-Israeli citizens. In essence, this law would put hundreds of East Jerusalemite tour guides out of work. The sponsors of the law explained their motivation and I think it speaks for itself:

“….Israel is investing a great effort in order to improve it’s image as a modern, western, democratic and free country… it is therefore important to assure that in order to avoid a damage to this investment, only those that had gone through an appropriate training and got license would be allowed to serve as guide tours.”

Apparently, according to the parliament members who introduced the law, Israeli citizenship is a necessary part of the training a person should go through in order to be qualified for this position.

The explanation goes on:

“There are numerous touristic sites in Israel… often there is a dispute on the way they should be presented in terms of history, religious, culture and more. The city of Jerusalem is an example for a site on which such a dispute exists. Some people that are Israeli residents, such as the residents of East Jerusalem, have many times a “double loyalty”, due to the fact that they vote for the Palestinian Authority. Those residents present some times anti-Israelis views to tourist.

In order to assure that those foreign tourists would be exposed to the Israeli national views, it is suggested that the organizations that arrange tours will make sure that those tours would be accompanied by a guide tour who is an Israeli citizen, that has loyalty to the state of Israel. The need to protect the national interest of presenting Israel in an appropriate way is more important than (protecting) other interests.”

Thus, it seems that presenting Israeli as a Western democracy is more important to the law’s initiators, than actually making it one. Moreover, nobody seems to care or even to notice the sharp irony. In fact it looks like Israelis want to eat the cake and still keep it full: occupy the West bank, banish the Palestinians from their land, continue building in the West Bank, expel Palestinians that are Israeli citizens, define Israel as a Jewish state, and demolish the freedom of speech; but still be perceived as acting out of self defense, still be called a democracy, still continue the “peace talks” with the Palestinians, and still be part of the Western world.

The current law proposal is only one example for this dangerous trend. Other examples are the law of the Nakba, the boycott law, and the citizenship law. The picture that emerges from this collection is that Israel is on a slippery slope to becoming a totalitarian nationalist country, with limited freedom of speech, and racist transfer laws.

Even more concerning is the silence of the majority of Israelis that learn about those laws in the morning news. Last Saturday there were 6,000 people in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, protesting against this new fascist trend. This is indeed an impressive number of protesters, but a negligible minority whose views are far left from the average. Just to demonstrate how far left they were, it is important to note that one of the tour guide law’s initiators was Illan Gilon – a member of the “leftist” Meretz party (although he later withdrew his endorsement). Apparently, this law does not seems extreme at all to the Israeli ear, even if the ear belongs to a left party.

Notably, here, as in the other proposed laws, the major concern seems to be the image of Israel in the world, and it’s potential exclusion from the “Western democracies”. An interesting question is, why this concern emerged suddenly?  Few years ago, when Mordechai Vanunu was released from prison, after serving long 20 years due to exposing the nuclear secrets of Israel, he was ordered not to speak with the foreign press. Vaanunu, in return, decided to speak only in English. As a result, he was sent back to prison. Sending Vanunu back to prison was, of course, not in order to achieve any concrete purpose — the foreign press did not need Vanunu to speak in English in order to know what he said. Not to mention that Vanunu did not have any new information to reveal about Israel’s nuclear power.

Sending Vanunu back to prison was a desperate act to protect the belief in the lies Israelis have been telling themselves for over 60 years – about being the just, weak “David” that only protects itself from evil “Goliaths”. Thus, it is an internal action of protecting the self-image, as much as it is an external action of protecting the image of Israel in the world. The new law, just as sending Vaanunu to prison, expresses the realization that it is getting harder and harder to keep believing in this lie – and therefore there is a growing need to enforce it.

Elinor Amit is a post doctoral student in the psychology department at Harvard University. She moved to the US from Israel in 2008.

Guilty of being Muslim: A review of ‘Entrapped’

Oct 19, 2010

Anthony Alessandrini 

The new documentary “Entrapped,” which was aired as a special report by Democracy Now! on October 6 and is due to be released on DVD by Big Noise Films, is that rare documentary that not only informs us about an issue, but in doing so, actually transforms our understanding of this issue.

“Entrapped” is a thirty-five-minute documentary that encapsulates months of investigations and interviews by the filmmakers — Anjali Kamat, a producer at Democracy Now!, and Jacquie Soohen, a member of the Big Noise Films collective — involving cases of government surveillance aimed at Muslim communities in the U.S. While it draws on and references a much larger body of examples, the film focuses in particular upon three recent cases: the case of the “Fort Dix Five,” in which five men from suburban New Jersey were convicted last year of conspiring to kill American soldiers at the Fort Dix Army base; a 2006 case in Albany, New York, in which a pizzeria owner and the imam of a local mosque were convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to support terrorism; and the ongoing case of the Newburgh Four, in which four men from Newburgh, New York, are charged with plotting to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community center in the Bronx (at the time I write this, the jury is deliberating in this case).

All three cases were reported by the media, in full-blown fear mode, as examples of “terror plots” (or, to use the more recently-coined and strangely botanical term, “homegrown terror”). However, the three cases have more in common: in all three cases, the men who were arrested (and, in the first two cases, convicted) were Muslim. In all three cases, no terrorist crime was actually committed.

Most important, from the point of view of the filmmakers, all three cases rest upon fake plots concocted by the FBI and rely heavily upon hundreds of hours of surveillance video and audio secretly recorded by a paid government informant. In fact, the same informant, Shahed Hussain, who had been central to the case in Albany, was used again by the FBI in the Newburgh case.

This use of paid informants becomes the main focus of “Entrapped,” and the filmmakers make a convincing case that there is a pattern at work here. The narrative put out by law enforcement, and dutifully gobbled up by the media, is that in each of these cases, the government successfully infiltrated “terrorist cells” in order to thwart deadly plots. A closer look at the cases suggests something quite different: paid informants sent purposefully into Muslim communities, seeking out vulnerable individuals, and then working very hard to convince them to take part in fake plots concocted by the FBI — “terror plots” that can then be “broken up” by the same law enforcement agencies that set them in motion.

As Alicia McCollum, the aunt of David Williams, one of the Newburgh Four, puts it near the end of the film: “This is entrapment. You’re going to send an informant into an impoverished community, the most impoverished county, to do your trickery. You ain’t stumbled upon a cell. Nobody ain’t tell you that someone was plotting to do anything. You created a crime!” Or, as Columbia University Law Professor Daniel C. Richman put it in another context regarding another recent case of alleged FBI entrapment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: “Most of these cases, the inducement part is pretty straightforward, there is inducement.”

The questionable nature of the use of informants in alleged terrorism cases is echoed by the two experts interviewed in the film: Karen Greenberg, Executive Director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security, and James Wedick, a former FBI agent who spent thirty-five years in the field. As they both note, the use of paid informants is nothing new, but the FBI’s reliance on them, particularly in terrorism investigations, has grown more pervasive.

More disturbing, as Wedick notes, is that the FBI seems to be going against its own long-standing conventions regarding informants: while it is common to employ people who have been accused or convicted of crimes, those whose convictions betrayed a history of lying were considered unfit to serve as informants, for obvious reasons. This basic principle seems to have gone out the window: Shahed Hussain, the informant in the Albany and Newburgh cases, had been brought up on fraud charges for running an illegal driver’s license scheme, and Mahmoud Omar, one of the two informants in the Fort Dix case, had been convicted of bank fraud.

As a result of these and other elements of entrapment and fabrication in recent “counterterrorism” sting operations, Wedick concludes: “I’ll venture to say ninety percent of the cases that you see that have occurred in the last ten years are garbage.”

The most extensive sets of interviews featured in the film are with relatives and friends of the men who have been accused and convicted in these cases. It is impossible not to be moved by these interviews. The strongest impression, however, is a sense of total bewilderment in finding their husbands, sons, and brothers the objects of such situations in the first case.

In some cases, the family members seem to be struggling to understand precisely what it is that their loved ones have been accused of doing. This provides further support, if any was needed, for the documentary’s argument that the FBI is targeting vulnerable individuals and fabricating cases, rather than “uncovering” plots: while we would expect the families of the accused men to defend them under any circumstances, it would be impossible to feign this sort of total bewilderment about the very accusations being made against them.

My own reaction to “Entrapped” may suggest something about the way this film might transform our larger understanding of these and similar cases. On a first viewing, I found myself growing impatient a few minutes into the film. The interviews with family members were, as I say, emotionally affecting, and one felt sympathy for the men who had been imprisoned, but something seemed to be missing. Then I realized that I was waiting for what we’ve become accustomed to expect from documentaries such as this one: I was waiting for the film to reveal evidence that would convince us that these men were, in fact, innocent.

Part of the transformative shock of the film is precisely the realization that such evidence will not be forthcoming. This is the difficulty in dealing with these cases, for legal experts and indeed for all of us concerned with the erosion of civil liberties, especially the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, under the “War on Terror.” For in the strict legal sense, the film suggests, crimes were committed, plots were made (although it needs to be reiterated, especially given the severity of the sentences handed out, that in all three cases, no terrorist crime was actually committed — in fact, no one was killed or injured in any of the cases).

Thus, the film cannot advocate for the “innocence” of any of the men accused. What it can do — and what it does, chillingly and effectively — is force us to face the very real possibility that our government is literally creating and staging fake terrorist plots which can then be triumphantly foiled, like a firefighter who’s an arsonist on the side.

This is why the argument regarding entrapment becomes so absolutely crucial, both in the legal sense and in the realm of the public sphere as well. What becomes clear, in each of the three cases (and in many similar cases) is that the “plots” involved would never have existed without the instigation of paid informants and the machinations of law enforcement. The motives for staging and then foiling such crimes is obvious: as journalist Petra Bartosiewicz, who has been following these sorts of cases since 2005, puts it, a terrorist conviction “adds to the Justice Department’s statistical scorecard in the war on terrorism.” In the process, however, the very notions of “guilt” and “innocence” are being perverted in new and frightening ways.

As Bartosiewicz notes, in the closing arguments of the Newburgh Four case, one of the prosecutors, in trying to establish that the defendants were predisposed to commit these crimes (rather than being induced or entrapped), asked the court to consider the question, “Are these defendants innocent-minded?” This is, in the most literal sense, an Orwellian scenario; the documentary persuades us that this is the territory into which the U.S. government has ventured in these cases.

In the process, the film also gives us some sense of the almost unbearable pressures being brought to bear against Muslim communities in the U.S. There has been some focus, of late, on the general question of Islamophobia in U.S. society, but not enough analysis of what we can only call an official policy of government-enforced Islamophobia, as found in these cases.

In this regard, the most affecting, and infuriating, of the cases covered in the film involves the two Albany men, Mohammed Hossein and Yassin Aref, convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to support terrorism and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Neither man had any previous criminal record. Hossein is a Bangladeshi immigrant whose family owns a pizzeria; Aref, a Kurdish Iraqi who received political asylum after fleeing from Saddam’s regime, is the imam of the local mosque.

Hossein was the object of a relentless campaign by the government’s informant; eventually, with his business failing, he was persuaded to accept a loan of $45,000 and a gift of $5,000 from a man who he believed to be a Pakistani businessman (as Kamat notes in her narration, at a few points, the informant told Hossein and Aref that he was a member of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, and claimed that the money was related to weaponry — although it is unclear how much the men understood that the money for the loan had been allegedly laundered from weapon sales to a terrorist group). Aref did nothing more than witness the loan, a common role for an imam to play for a member of the community.

Again, the instigation to commit the crime on the part of the government’s informant is clear. As Fatima Hossein, wife of the imprisoned man, says in the film, the informant, who was a frequent visitor to the pizzeria, “was saying, ‘Brother, I am your brother. If you need some money, maybe you can borrow from me and give it to me.’” Hearing the facts of the case, it is impossible to imagine either of the two convicted men voluntarily taking part in any such plot. It seems not unfair to suggest that Mohammed Hossein is in jail for being a poor man with a failing business, and Yassin Aref is in jail for being an imam. Or simply: both men are in jail largely because they are Muslims.

“Entrapped” ends with scenes of family members taking part in protests on behalf of the accused and convicted men in these cases. We are told that this is an example of their ongoing struggle, but we can’t help but notice (and this is clearly intentional on the part of the filmmakers) that these protests are sparsely attended, to say the least. The viewer can only be left with a sense of shame at this sight, since it indicates the isolation being experienced, not just by these families, but by Muslim communities more generally as they find themselves subject to government surveillance and entrapment. This isolation needs to end. This film, and the information and inspiration it provides us, is a crucial step in that direction.

Anthony Alessandrini is an assistant professor of English at Kingsborough Community College-City University of New York in Brooklyn. This review first appeared on Jadaliyya.

Abulhawa: ‘As Palestinians, we are facing our own extinction’

Oct 19, 2010

Susan Abulhawa 

The other day at the Boston Book Festival, novelist Susan Abulhawa did what few have achieved over the years, and reduced Alan Dershowitz to a small pile of feathers. She did so by sticking to the truth of her own experience, keeping calm under his assaults, pointing out the infantile character of his insults, and even twitting him for his constant interruptions. He must be afraid of what I have to say, she said. And just what did she have to say? Abulhawa, the author of Mornings in Jenin, recounted the ordeal of the occupation in a forthright manner. Here are the author’s opening remarks at that discussion:

In his Nobel prize acceptance speech, John Steinbeck said, “literature grows from the human need for it”. Reflecting on another Nobel before him, he said that William Faulkner, more than most men, knew that the understanding and resolution of fear are a large part of the writer’s reason for being. 

Ultimately, this is the underlying motivation for writing Mornings in Jenin. To me, literature is a place where we can all meet to rediscover our common humanity. And this becomes more critical when it involves a people, like the Palestinians, who are so demonized and dehumanized in this country, that few even think of us as anything more than a collection of miscellaneous crazy, irrational Arabs.

In truth, I come from an ancient people who are native to Palestine, who had lived in that land and cultivated it for centuries, if not millennia. We are Muslim, we are Christian, and we are Jewish. Some of us, as Mr Dershowitz points out in his book, are atheist Marxists. The Palestinian culture from which I come is beautiful, rich, intricate and complicated. It is a hospitable, generous, and distinct society, with its own unique dialect, food, traditions, and clothing.

Like every society, we have our scoundrels and our saints; our immoral and moral; our mothers, spinsters, gossips, and whores; our violent and our pacifists; we have our thugs and loafers as we do our artists, dancers, writers, and musicians. We have children, whom we love and adore and for whom we wish to create a decent life.

This is the reality I know, that I wanted to convey through Mornings in Jenin. And this reality is incomplete without the reality that we are a people who are slowly being wiped off the map. A people who have and continue to be systematically expelled to be replaced; who live under one of the cruelest military occupations in the world. This is the reality that has mostly been written about Palestinians. And these narratives exist mostly in the realm of history texts – Like those by Israeli historians like Benny Morris and Illan Pappe, whose books I used as resources in my research for Mornings in Jenin. It’s the reality that continues to be featured in human rights reports, UN Resolutions, and UN investigations. Some of these are even quoted in Mornings in Jenin.

But a novel goes beyond these non-fiction narratives. It is where we can find each other in the fullness of our humanity, in both its wretched and noble manifestations. And so, Mornings in Jenin is a story for anyone who wants to know what the creation and ongoing expansion of Israel has meant to the native Palestinians.

I conceived of this novel when a massacre occurred in the refugee camp of Jenin; and so, part of this book was inspired by the people of that camp and the stories that emerged from there in April of 2002.

As far as how much of this is autobiographical, I think for a story to be authentic, a writer can only really write what he or she understand not just on an intellectual level, but also on a visceral level.

At least that is what I find is true for me. I don’t think that necessarily means that a writer would have to have lived the experiences that he or she writes about, but it does mean that we are or become wholly attached to our characters; I think it is important that we understand and/or love our characters and even more necessary, that we do not judge them or judge their actions. Or to ascribe artificial motivations to their actions that might be self-serving to the writer. This pre-requisite attachment to our characters and the visceral understanding of them, I think is what gives some narratives an inherent authority.

That said, while there are certainly some parallels between my life and that life of Amal, the main character, particularly her coming to the US and becoming a single mother of a daughter, she is still very separate from me as all the characters are separate from both myself and each other. There is, however, one chapter in the book that is entirely autobiographical. The chapter is called The Orphanage. I put the lead character, Amal, into my life for the three years that I spent in an orphanage for girls in East Jerusalem. This institution, by the way, was established by a wealthy Palestinian heiress from one of the oldest and most prominent Jerusalem families – The Husseinis, to whom so many of us girls in that orphanage owe a debt of gratitude.

This brings me to another important point about the role of literature and writers in depicting conflict, whether it is overt conflict among people or internal conflicts of the heart. I believe that a writer’s first and foremost loyalty should be to the characters. To tell their story with intellectual and emotional honesty because the reader deserves to be able to trust the author, even if what they are reading is a work of fiction. The truth of a character’s heart might not reconcile with the truth of another character or even with the reader. That does not make it less worthy of telling. Novels, by definition, are meant to narrate a story; and all stories are told through the subjective lens of each person’s experiences. Separate from this, however, are current and historical facts.

Although it may be inevitable that a writer might take liberties with some small or insignificant facts, like location, names of places, or names of people, I think a writer has a moral and ethical duty to present the larger facts of a conflict unblemished where they might arise in the backdrop or plot of a novel. Finally, and hopefully, a novel is told with an artistry unique to each writer, which provides a loftiness of language, and a human heartbeat to the story – these are things, in my opinion, that distinguish literature from other forms of writing, such that not all fiction can be considered literature, and not all literature is necessarily fiction.

Writing this novel has been a tremendous journey for me. One of the most satisfying rewards has been letters that I’ve received from readers of all walks of life and from all over the world in which they tell me how much this novel has impacted them. In most instances they relate to me Mornings in Jenin has opened their eyes and hearts and spurred them to do their own research – something I wholeheartedly encourage. I’m grateful and humbled by the reviews, which have mostly been laudatory. I’m also grateful for some of the criticisms, as they are also important and enlightening.

There has been, however, one criticism that I’ve heard from a few readers, which I do not accept, nor respect. And it is that this novel is one-sided, as if such a criticism has any validity in a novel. As Palestinians, we are facing our own extinction. It is our right to claim our own space in literature. After multiple mass expulsions and persistent confiscation of properties, home demolitions, evictions, the building of illegal settlements and bypass roads, what remains to us now are isolated Bantustans, which comprised less than 12% of our historic homeland.

And in those small Bantustans, the well-documented grinding and systematic oppression, humiliation, and daily violence against us – what the UN Commission for Human Rights described as “grave breaches of the 4th Geneva Convention by Israel in the Occupied Arab Territories constitute war crimes and an affront to humanity”. This occupation is what spurred the moral icon of our time, Nelson Mandela to declare that “We know too well, that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.

He made this statement in the same spirit that individuals, prominent and otherwise, organizations, churches, labor unions, municipalities, students, academics, artists and more who have joined the call to boycott and divest from Israel until it complies with international law and basic human rights. These are people of conscience. They include Christians, Muslims, Jews, Athiests, Agnostics, Buhdists, and Hindus. They include Nobel laureates and housewives; artists and writers and computer programmers. Holocaust survivors, intellectuals, European members of parliament and army colonels. They include young Israeli men and women who refuse to serve in Israel’s military in order to “expel, starve, and humiliate and entire people”.

And they include veteran Israeli soldiers, who have been spurred by their conscience to speak out, forming a group called “Breaking the Silence” where they detail the crimes they committed or witnessed. All of these put themselves at great risk to speak out against this grave injustice – this ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide. Because what Israel has and continues to do to our society is contrary to nearly all tenets of international law, human rights, and basic human decency. I believe it is also contrary to the fundamental teachings of Judaism, which I know to be noble. 

Jews are an important part of our history – not just our Palestinian history and heritage, but the history and heritage of every part of the middle east, including Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and even Iran. The middle east was the one place on earth where people of all three monotheistic religions lived in Harmony. I look forward to the day when the goal is to return to that ideal of pluralism, multi-culturalism, which had always been a reality in Palestine before we were expelled; our homes, history, and heritage usurped.

Throughout history, writers, artists and musicians – from Thomas Paine, to Breyten Breytenbach, to Gil Scott Heron and Bob Marley – have always played important roles in struggles for justice, for the endless struggle we continue to wage as human beings throughout the world to implement the concept of equity and lives of dignity for us all. I hope that Mornings in Jenin plays a role, however small, to help bring about understanding that leads to justice. Because, the path to peace is only ever through justice. To quote a letter to Israel from the acclaimed South African writer Breyten Breytenbach, “There can be no way to peace through the annihilation of the other, just as there is no paradise for the martyr.” 

In closing, I would like to address all the readers who have written such lovely letters to me, whether privately or through the guestbook on the book website; and to my countrymen in Palestine and Israel, I leave you with these words from a work of literature that is certainly Non-Fiction, called The Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela:

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling , but in rising every time we fall.”

Two state idea is over because U.S. was ‘repeatedly diddled by a client state’

Oct 19, 2010

Philip Weis 

This morning on his WNYC show, Brian Lehrer expressed some impatience with the Palestinian refusal to come to the table without any Israeli shift re settlements. Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestinian rep to the U.S., pointed out that negotiations have masked a continuous colonization of the territory on which Palestinians are supposed to make a state (on 1/5 of the original land of Palestine) and that these neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that Lehrer described as Israeli are illegally occupied. I wonder why these inequities are not as obvious as the nose on Netanyahu’s face, and disturbing to American liberals.

Below is Steve Walt at Foreign Policy. The emphasis is mine; it is a Harvard professor’s answer to Lehrer. When will the media begin to reflect this reality? Is Lesley Stahl’s investigation of East Jerusalem a starting point? Walt:

There is no evidence that anyone in the Obama team is committed to doing what it takes to actually get a meaningful deal, and so there won’t be one. Full stop. You’d have to fire the whole lot of them and start over, and  appoint people who were willing to get really mad when they were repeatedly diddled by a client state, and who didn’t think that the best way to negotiate was to give one side a lot of goodies up front (in exchange for very little), while expecting the other side to accept a lot of promises to be redeemed at some unspecified point down the road (and maybe never).  

Unfortunately, the odds that Obama will clean house and bring in a new team are about the same as the odds of my sprouting wings and flying to the moon.  And the result, as I’ve said before, will be not “two states” but one, with all the attendant difficulties that this outcome will produce for all concerned. So I guess [Mara] Rudman should be congratulated for having the good sense to abandon this charade. My question remains: Why hasn’t George Mitchell done the same?

Israel lobby group urges State Department to begin undercover manipulation of Palestinian websites

Oct 19, 2010

Philip Weiss 

A new report by the Israel lobbyist org Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (with help from the Dershowitz Group) monitored Palestinians’ use of the internet and found that Palestinians speak freely on internet forums, without “manipulation.” And these Palestinians believe that the two-state solution is dead and are generally opposed to the peace negotiations that the Obama administration is conducting, to the point that the authors of the report recommend that the Obama administration should basically forget about the negotiations and… start manipulating the online forums!

Note the frank discussion in the report about the degree to which Palestinian P.M. Salam Fayyad is autocratic and does not represent the popular will. Isn’t that the problem? This is a group that claims to favor democracy. Doesn’t that mean honoring Palestinian political agency? But the report teems with contempt for Palestinian opinion, which has to be engaged for any just resolution of the conflict to occur. Here are some excerpts:

[T]he online environment grants social media users unprecedented levels of anonymity and freedom of expression, and this is particularly the case in Palestinian society, where internet access is largely free of manipulation…..

Regardless of the exact number, Palestinian internet users are generally educated, have the ability to read and write classical Arabic, and have the means to access a computer. Palestinian internet usage—like that in the rest of the Arab world—is on the rise. However, unlike the majority of the Arab world, web access in the Palestinian territories is remarkably open….

It should come as no surprise, then, that news that Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations were resuming prompted a flurry of discussion on and other pro-Hamas sites. Users generally agreed that the return to peace talks did not reflect the will of the Palestinian people….

Fayyad is roundly revered in the West. Indeed, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman coined the term “Fayyadism” to describe his approach to Palestinian governance: basing legitimacy on transparent and efficient administration, rather than the rejectionism, personality cults, and security services that marked Arafat’s regime.20 Yet, online discussions indicate that Palestinians often regard Fayyad as a Western puppet. Newspaper articles appear to support the notion that this may also be the prevailing sentiment among the broader West Bank community.

…Moreover, the authoritarian context in which Fayyad operates robs his results of domestic legitimacy, and his successes are of “consolation only for those who mistake personalities for politics.” Fayyad’s efforts to halt corruption and improve security are a step forward, but the regular human rights abuses committed by the West Bank security forces are two steps backward. The promotion of security “is often synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas,” [Carnegie’s Nathan Brown writes, and the West Bank government’s opponents are frequently detained without charges.31

Brown also rightly notes that under Fayyad’s leadership, the Palestinian legislative branch is simply nonexistent. Laws are drafted by unelected bureaucrats behind closed doors and with little to no oversight or separation of powers….

The overall opinion of Israel across most of the forums was negative. This sentiment even extended to sites associated with Fatah, the faction engaging in diplomacy with Israel. For example, during one period, these forums propagated reports that Israel seeks to “separate Gaza from the West Bank” and thereby “liquidate the Palestinian national project.” Another popular posting in the online environment (re-posted on the Arabic blog aggregator and asserted that Israel is incapable of “unilateral” peace due to a lack of political will, and that the two-state solution is “on its deathbed”—meaning that Palestinians need to seriously consider a one-state solution to the conflict.

In summary, despite the Obama administration’s recent push to bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and perhaps help the Palestinians declare a state, a sampling from the online environment indicates that the Palestinians are not on a peace footing. Rather, the language of rejectionism is prevalent.
Thus, despite Washington’s efforts to win the hearts and minds of Palestinians—both through new Obama administration policies and online engagement with Palestinians through a State Department initiative to explain those policies—the negative tone of Palestinian online forums suggests that those efforts may be failing….

he State Department’s efforts to influence the online discussions were largely ineffective. This may stem from the fact that the team is small in number, and cannot possibly challenge even a plurality of the views expressed on sites where sentiments run counter to U.S. objectives. However, it also may stem from a process whereby the engagement team has the odds stacked against it. Indeed, the Digital Outreach Team identified itself in every online interaction, which nearly always drew fire from users with a pre-existing bias against the United States.

To be effective, the outreach team must not advertise its presence. More importantly, it must launch a broader campaign to limit and discredit violent messages, expose Palestinian extremists on the Internet, and thwart their ability to gain credibility. This will require a more aggressive approach than the one currently employed. It may also require additional personnel.

The Digital Outreach Team should also be viewed as an important source of intelligence. Indeed, they regularly assess sentiments expressed online in the same way that Foreign Service Officers assess political sentiments on the ground. As such, they can add an additional window of understanding into the Palestinian political landscape. To this end, they could participate more actively in conversation threads and pose specific questions on a range of topics.

Lesley Stahl and the 7 pillars of conventional wisdom

Oct 19, 2010

Joseph Glatzer 

Lesley Stahl’s report from Sunday’s “60 Minutes” about the illegal Israeli colony “the City of David” is an unadulterated, albeit very sophisticated, piece of Peace Industry propaganda.  It is a case study for how the media sets the “appropriate” parameters of debate according to “conventional wisdom” of “serious people”.

She starts off the show with a cute intro about the holiness of Jerusalem:

Jerusalem is one of the holiest cities on Earth, for Jews, for Muslims and for Christians. It is also one of the most difficult issues at the negotiating table as Palestinians and Israelis struggle to continue the peace talks.

Conventional Wisdom #1: the current discussions between various members of the Peace Industry are a sincere/heart warming/Hallmark channel effort for peace.

What’s the challenge Lesley?

“The challenge is how to divide the city between the two sides. Back in 2000, then-President Clinton came up with some parameters for how to do it: areas populated mostly by Jews would remain Israeli; those populated mostly by Arabs would become the new Palestinian capital. That meant that for the most part East Jerusalem would go to the Arabs.”

Convention Wisdom #2: The challenge to peace is dividing Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israelis, and Clinton’s 2000 plan was the reasonable way to solve this challenge.

Conventional Wisdom #3: Acquisition of territory by aggressive force and settling a civilian population in occupied territory are OK if the US backs you. Only those who are un-serious outsiders could possibly expect the Geneva Conventions to be enforced.

Throughout the segment, Palestinians of Jerusalem are referred to as “Arabs” except when it is in reference to the Palestinian state. What’s insidious about the report is that even when seemingly criticizing Israel, the criticisms are only around the edges and they only serve to reinforce Peace Industry propaganda.

This brings in Conventional Wisdom #4: Palestinians are “Arabs” until they are lifted up as Proud Palestinians upon peacefully negotiating their way to their glorious state of Palestine.

 Another problem is an inconvenient truth: that biblical Jerusalem is not located in the western half of the city. It’s right under the densely populated Arab neighborhood of Silwan.

Silwan isn’t a Palestinian neighborhood, it’s an “Arab neighborhood”. Just like Baghdad, Beirut, and Amman are Arab neighborhoods.  Who can tell the difference these days?

But, when referencing a future Palestinian state, Palestinians get to be called Palestinians:

Palestinian Jawad Siyam was born in this “very, very special place” and says he can trace his roots there back 930 years. He’s pessimistic about the Palestinians ever having their own state. “What will happen to this village if there’s a two-state solution?” Stahl asked

Conventional Wisdom #5: Palestinians have an ancient heritage in East Jerusalem. As far as West Jerusalem goes, that’s the Israeli side, and Palestinians have absolutely no claims or rights on that land.

Here’s another passage loaded with conventional wisdom and brainwashing:

The Arabs say it’s a provocative thing to do. Devout Jews Yonatan and Devorah Adler live in one of the houses El’Ad bought. El’Ad has raised tens of millions of dollars, half from the United States, and buys the homes on land the Palestinians claim for a future state.

Conventional Wisdom #6: Palestinian land isn’t really Palestinian land. It’s only a “claim” among many competing claims. To assert that one claim has more validity than another is to “biased” and must never be spoken of.

Here’s Lesley Stahl talking to religious settlers living in the City of David colony:

“And yet, when you see those maps, it’s over in the Palestinian side,” Stahl pointed out.

“Yeah, well, maps are written on paper. This is written on our hearts,” he replied.

To the untrained eye, Stahl seems to be doing a good job of reflecting the insanity of the Zionist project. But take a second look. Criticism of Israel is allowed only if the underlying premise reinforces Peace Industry conventional wisdom.  In this case it’s that East Jerusalem is the “Palestinian side” (the as yet uncolonized parts) and West Jerusalem is the Israeli side.

“The government pays for the gun guards?” Stahl asked.

“It’s tax money. It’s, I pay it. Everyone who is paying taxes is paying it,” Jawad Siyam replied.

“You pay taxes and that money goes to pay for the guards to guard the settlers,” she remarked.

“Yes, of course,” Jawad said.

“So you’re helping guard the settlers,” Stahl remarked.

“Yeah, I’m a fan of the settlers and the gun guards,” he replied sarcastically.

Another seemingly positive exchange which shows that Palestinians of Jerusalem pay for their own oppression through their taxes. But, look closer. Are the Palestinians Israeli citizens? Then why do they pay taxes to the Israeli government? Was there some sort of illegal unrecognized annexation of East Jerusalem? Not for “60 Minutes” to say.

The implication given is that Palestinians living under the Israeli government is the natural state of affairs. It’s timeless and just is.  It would of course be biased to point out that East Jerusalem Palestinians have no political rights to vote in the governmen that they pay taxes to.

More he said/she said “journalism” comin atcha!

That feeling of Jewish encroachment has been heightened by the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, who is doing all he can to make sure East Jerusalem remains under Israeli sovereignty. He wants to create a Bible-themed garden and turn it into a tourist park adjacent to the City of David. But as with the dig, the local Arabs see this as another attempt to gobble up their side of Jerusalem.

Remember, it’s “Jewish encroachment” not land theft by a government which happens to call itself the “Jewish State”. The legitimate “Jewish-ness” of that State behind the green line is thus reinforced, yet again.

“Local Arabs” “see” a plan to build a tourist park right on top of their heads as an attempt to “encroach” upon their rightful and legitimate part of Jerusalem (and only that part, shut up about the parts your grandparents were kicked out of).  Who are these “local Arabs”? Are there also “local Jews”? Who knows if this is really a land grab.

“Building the mayor’s park requires demolishing 22 Arab homes in Silwan.”

Presumably “local” Arabs. Is there any context to the situation? Has the Israeli government demolished any Palestinian homes in the past? Not sure. Although it would be helpful in evaluating the validity of Israeli claims, context is biased so it mustn’t be spoken of. That would be taking a “side”.

“The mayor says that area is a slum in which the houses were built illegally and his plan will fix that. But the locals want to stay in their homes.” (pictures flash on the screen of Palestinian slums).

How did these areas get to be slums? Was it the result of extreme racism in allocating development funds for everything from trash collection to school buses? That’s a secret. Again with the “locals”. How local are they? Where are they locally from? Is this the locals’ indigenous “locale”?  I told you I don’t know, stop asking me silly questions.

Here comes my favorite part:

“The European Union, the United Nations has criticized this plan to get rid of these 22 homes. Public opinion, especially while the peace talks are underway, is looking at this and saying you’re trying to get rid, move Arabs out of Jerusalem,” Stahl said.

Is this plan illegal? Is it a war crime? Has it been Israeli policy for decades? What does the law say? I don’t know about that, but all I know is the EU and the UN “criticized” the plan during “peace talks”.

“But that’s the way it looks. And my question is, why not wait until the peace talks are settled?” Stahl asked.

Is this really a plan to “move out the locals”, or is it just the way “it looks” to Lesley Stahl? This is clearly not a relevant question. The only relevant question here is: WHY CAN’T HE JUST WAIT!?

Asked what she meant by “why now,” Stahl said, “Because it’s on the table at the peace talks. That’s why now.”

Does this mean Lesley Stahl believes it’s best to wait to wait and steal more Palestinian land til Abu Mazen formally surrenders Silwan to Israel in the fake state solution? And here comes the money shot:

“Settlements have been a stumbling block in peace negotiations of the past. And what your organization is dedicated to doing could become the stumbling block again,” Stahl told Doron Spielman.

Conventional Wisdom #7: Settlements are the obstacle to peace.  It’s nothing else. Not refugees’ unrealistic expectation to return, not discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel, and not babies born stillborn at checkpoints. The only obstacle to peace is a few religious crazies in Jerusalem screwing it up for everyone.

“We are looking, Lesley, to go down and uncover history,” he replied. “If coming back to my home after 3,000 years is a stumbling block to peace then I think that that is not a very good peace.”

If given the chance, a Palestinian would say, “If coming back to my home after 60 years is a stumbling block to peace then I think that that is not a very good peace.”

Why weren’t these dueling “rights of return” contrasted against each other? More importantly, why don’t I see the segment as a step forward for explaining the Palestinian plight, and why do I have to keep ruining the fun?  I guess I’m just a hopeless cynic.


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