Categorized | Middle East




‘New York Times’ is clueless

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

“New York Times execs visit West Bank city

“Publisher, senior editors of influential American newspaper given tour of Ariel as part of Yesha Council PR campaign”

Those are Ynet’s headlines. NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Bill Keller and other editors visited a West Bank settlement two days ago as guests of Yesha, a settlers’ organization…

I wonder–in good faith– what the Times brass is doing in the West Bank; are they going to report on it? Well, then–oh my, this is like visiting Selma with Bull Connor– why did they go at the behest of a group and leader, Dani Dayan, that have pushed for illegal colonization? Why not with Jeff Halper or some anti-settlement group?

Why not with the modern day Martin Luther Kings who are fighting Jim Crow and need oxygen to continue this noble battle? Dr. Rateb Abu Rahma who is trying to defend Bil’in from continuing encroachment? Or Dr. Mazim Qumsiyeh who has been jailed for trying to do the same in Walaje? Or why not with some of the Israelis who are leading an artistic boycott of the Ariel settlement?

Do these guys have a clue? No. Ynet:

New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and the influential daily’s executive editor Bill Keller visited the West Bank city of Ariel on Wednesday.

According to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the American executives were given a tour of a number of settlements as part of a PR campaign launched by the Yesha Council.

During their 24-hour stay in Israel, Sulzberger, Keller, the editor of the New York Times’ editorial page and the paper’s foreign desk editor met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart Salam Fayyad. As part of their tour of the West Bank, Sulzberger and the editors visited the Barkan Industrial Park, which is an important source of employment for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Following a meeting with Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan, the New York Times executives continued to the Ariel University Center of Samaria, where Chancellor Yigal Cohen-Orgad spoke to them about the Arab students who are enrolled in the institution. Some 160 opinion leaders from all over the world have visited the West Bank over the past six months.

Exclusive excerpt from the important new book A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives

Oct 29, 2010

Alia Malek 

We are excited to share the following excerpt from A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives by Alia Malek. The book provides a necessary, and long overdue, service by inserting the Arab-American experience into the American narrative of the last 50 years. This passage tells the story of Omar Dajani‘s arrival at Northwestern University after growing up in Tyler, TX, his introduction to campus, and identity, politics during the outbreak of the first intifada, and his process of coming to understand his own history and culture .

Malek ppbk jktOmar arrived at Northwestern University in the fall of 1987 with three major goals: 1) becoming a confident, cool, urban intellectual—a person with culture, wit, and interesting liberal friends from places like New York; 2) falling deeply in love with a beautiful and sophisticated girl; and 3) becoming a liberal political advocate.

Nearing the end of the fall quarter, he hadn’t had so much luck yet on the girlfriend, nor with becoming a liberal political advocate, mostly because he still wasn’t really sure what that meant, though over the summer he had attended a demonstration in Washington, D.C., against nuclear weapons and actor Martin Sheen had been there too!

But on the friends front, he couldn’t have been happier. At the center of his new group were Jen and Lissy. They were from Philadelphia and Cleveland, respectively, which for Omar were closer to New York than Tyler was ever going to be, and he was completely charmed by them.

Jen told hysterical stories about her grandparents Rudy and Adele that made Omar cry from laughing while Lissy told them about her warring parents and how her sarcastic mother needled her father. At the core of their stories, of who they were, was a self–deprecating yet whole-hearted embrace of their being Jewish—idiosyncrasies and all. The girls talked about what being Jewish meant, and subsequently the group would discuss ethnicity. They were curious and asked people, “Where is your family from?”

Omar had never had such conversations back in East Texas; in Tyler, there was “black,” “white,” and “Mexican.” There was no category for him. At Robert E. Lee High School, the black kids were bused in and were never in the gifted classes to which Omar was assigned, and there were barely any Hispanic kids in his school. Everyone around Omar was white, so he just tried to fit in with them. But the whites in Tyler were blond and had straight hair, unless it was permed, and they had names like Tiffany, Mandy, and Jason unless they were Oh-mar or the Indian girl in his grade, Indu. In Tyler, Omar had no notion that there were different ways to be white.

The world of curly–haired Jen and Lissy, on the other hand, could accommodate other categories. To see white people possessing the warmth he associated with Arabs, behaving with foibles, having grandparents who also bought smelly foods, did crazy things, and seemed “not so American” in the Tyler sense of the word, was really familiar to Omar. And yet, they were so exotic.

There was something a bit thrilling in being around the people—Jews—whom modern history had made Arabs’ “Other” and whom Omar vaguely understood to have been part of his family’s own tragic history. He had some understanding that Palestinians had been displaced by Jews. He knew that his father’s family—who had centuries–old roots in Jaffa—had been forced to flee by fishing boat to Syria in April 1948, subsequently losing their lands and home with the founding of Israel. So meeting Jewish Americans was charged for Omar. It was electric in part because there was a taboo in it, but mostly because Omar didn’t expect the connection to feel so powerful, to feel bonded to these friends on so many levels.

For Omar, it didn’t seem that his being Arab was an issue or constrained their friendships. While everyone in the group identified as Democrats, the group was not particularly political. The fact that they were each connected to peoples who had been locked in conflict for the last century was just fodder for jokes, like when Omar first met his roommate. Kent, who was also Jewish, had been raised in Indiana and knew much more about basketball than about Judaism or Israel. Together, they decided to decorate their door in the colors of the Arab–Israeli conflict and jokingly named parts of their dorm room the Gaza Towel Rack and the West Closet. It was their shtick, and they used it when they introduced themselves to everyone the first few weeks of school.

So Omar was caught off guard when, in December after returning home to Tyler for winter break, Palestine intruded on his life, and he found himself actually paying attention. On December 8, 1987, an Israeli army tank transporter ran into a group of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing four and injuring seven.

The thirty–mile–long, six–mile–wide strip where 650,000 Palestinians were packed, many in impoverished refugee camps where sewage passed through open troughs in the street, was a powder keg ready to be lit. Since the initial four deaths, the Palestinians had been demonstrating against the Israeli Occupation daily, and each day a few more were being killed.

At home, Omar watched the daily violence with his father. The last time Omar had seen his father this engrossed by the events over there had been when he had sat tensely in front of the TV watching coverage of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.

Omar now was taken by the images that he saw. Young kids were throwing rocks at armed Israeli soldiers—with only the strength of an arm or aided by a slingshot—taunting the soldiers to “Kill us all! Come and kill us all or get out!”

The soldiers often answered with real or rubber bullets, and Omar was struck by the sound of gunfire ricocheting off the stone edifices that were Palestinian homes, schools, churches, mosques, and offices.

When he returned to campus for the winter quarter, he continued to follow the events, most closely in the Daily Northwestern, the school paper. He found himself getting more and more angry. The paper ran AP wire stories from the region on a daily basis, and in addition, staff reporters covered a protest of Palestinians at the Israeli consulate in Chicago. A staff photo showed the image of a little boy on the shoulders of a teenager, flashing a peace or victory sign and brandishing a toy gun. Four days later, the Daily published a letter from a fellow student, the president of the Northwestern Israel Public Affairs Committee (NIPAC). In it, Jonathan Barrish wrote:

The picture that you published in the Daily on Friday, Jan. 8, is an excellent illustration of the problem Israel faces in solving the Palestinian issue. The picture showed a child attending a rally who was making the victory sign with one hand, and holding a toy gun in the other. Until the attitude of violence on the part of the Palestinians (as exemplified by the toy gun) is replaced by one of peace, there will never be a solution to this vexing problem.

Omar read the letter and thought, how manipulative! To seize on a little kid and his toy gun when it was Palestinian kids being shot at! He sat down and immediately penned a letter, hoping it would at least get published.

The letter ran the following day.

Omar had directed his letter toward both the staff of the Daily and the NIPAC president. In it he wrote:

As an American of Palestinian origin, I am both appalled and offended by the bias with which your newspaper has dealt with the Palestinian issue.

Throughout this last week, items have appeared highlighting Arab rioting and stone–throwing. However, only once, and then in passing, did you mention the reason for this rioting. Is it not significant that Israel is actively and forcibly deporting a great number of Palestinian people from the only home they have ever known? How many Americans, faced with a similar situation, would not react in much the same manner? This issue surpasses, or should surpass, national or ethnic loyalties; this is a matter of human rights.

Next I would like to address Mr. Barrish’s contention of a Palestinian “attitude of violence.” His ludicrous basis for this assertion is a toy gun in the hand of a young boy. How many men on this campus or, for that matter, in this country can honestly say that they never possessed or played with a toy gun in their youth? Conversely, the headline “Violence no route to peace” should be a message to the Israeli army, which has just recently murdered more than 25 Palestinians. I have a difficult time believing that an 8-year–old boy or a 65-year–old man poses any sort of threat to one of the most powerful militaries in the world.

The United States government, as part of the United Nations, for the first time has condemned Israel for this inexcusable violence. It is beyond my comprehension how both the Daily and Mr. Barrish can so easily overlook it.

In January 1988, Omar finally lost his virginity to the prettiest girl in his dorm, realizing his goal of having sex before his eighteenth birthday.

Then shortly after his letter was published, Jonathan Barrish called Omar.

The fighting between Palestinians and Israelis had made its way further onto the Letters pages of the Daily. Some of the letters were addressed specifically to Omar, and during a service at the Hillel Center, a rabbi expressed concern about anti–Semitism on campus, naming Omar Dajani as an example.

Omar had been unprepared for the reaction.

Barrish had written an entire editorial in the Daily asserting that, being familiar with the Israeli political and social system, he knew that Israel had the resolve to put an end to the pointless bloodshed and hatred for peace. What was needed, he had written, was an Arab leader willing to follow Sadat’s example. According to Barrish, “History has shown us that when an Arab leader makes peace with Israel, she is more than willing to meet them halfway. The way I see it, the ball is now squarely in the Arab and Palestinian court, but unfortunately for humanity, the score has been deuce for a long, long time.” And then ten days later, the Daily had published another one of his letters to the editor about the situation.

Over the phone, Barrish told Omar he had read his letter and wanted to challenge him to a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One on one. No press.

Omar thought the bit about “no press” was funny—who would want to cover a debate between two college students?—but agreed to the duel.

As soon as he hung up the phone, he freaked out; he had basically exhausted his full knowledge of the situation in his letter and had not really relied on any scholarship but rather on emotion and the sort of rhetorical tactics he had learned in debate club. If he were to actually face this guy and not look or sound like an idiot, he needed to know way more about the story of Palestine.

Unlike other Arab–American or Arab families that Omar had encountered, his was not particularly obsessed with politics nor were they always talking about how much better “over there” was than “over here.”

His father had dreamed of coming to America even before being forced to leave Palestine. His desire grew stronger while he was in Syria, where he had landed after Palestine. There he had been denied access to the best opportunities because he was Palestinian and not Syrian. In America, he had been able to put himself through college working at a hospital in Chicago and had always believed that anything was possible in this country if one worked hard. Omar’s father once told him he had walked by a jazz club while visiting New York City, just after he had arrived in the States, and he had stopped and listened from outside. In that music, modern and exciting to his ears, he felt all the potential of this new country. And peering in at the elegant people—Americans—seated around tables covered with white tablecloths, he looked forward to being one of them.

When Omar’s mother arrived and joined her husband, she came to love the country immediately. In Chicago, they had a diverse group of friends, Americans and newly arrived immigrants. She always laughed telling her children that she had crossed the Atlantic in first class aboard an Italian ocean liner with forty pairs of shoes to come live in a tiny basement apartment for two years that were the best years of her life.

In addition, Omar’s mother was utterly distrustful of the Arab world after having gotten stuck for two years in Syria when she visited with her mother in Latakya with two of her American–born children. The Syrians had confiscated their passports and insisted they were “Palestinians.” Omar’s mother had left the States pregnant with twins, and when the stress had caused her to go into labor early, both babies had died as a result of the lack of optimal medical care in the small Syrian coastal town.

Yes, Omar’s parents loved America and believed their children’s future was here. They worried about Omar compromising himself by getting too wrapped up in the Palestinian cause. His father had explicitly told him, “If you want to contribute, become successful in America as an American, then you can try to make a difference in Palestine.”

Notwithstanding his parents’ concerns, Omar did not want to make an ass of himself at the debate. He reached out to his father’s old schoolmate from Jaffa, Professor Ibrahim Abu Lughod, chair of the political science department at Northwestern. The professor lent him a few books and explained to Omar the difference between cities and lands lost in 1948—like Jaffa, where his father came from—and lands occupied in 1967 after the June War.

Omar read and read and read. He became increasingly incensed,
thinking to himself, this can’t be real. Why hadn’t he known all this before?

His father had told him only the smallest part of the story—his family’s part—of leaving Jaffa in 1948 on a fishing boat, thinking they would ride out the fighting in safety. They had thought they were coming back; they had no idea they would be forced to leave it all behind. His family had set out for Lebanon but landed in Syria because her shores were sandier, settling on the coast in Latakya. There he had met and fallen in love with his wife. Now Omar understood the greater course of events to which his father’s history belonged.

Finally, Omar felt prepared to do battle. Then, the debate was canceled. The NIPAC president had contracted mononucleosis.

But Omar’s interest had already been piqued, and he continued to read about the past and follow the present on TV, in Newsweek, and in the Daily.

He found the Palestinian protesters to be brave and decent. These were not the gunmen and hijackers who had for so long personified the Palestinian cause. They were teenage boys and girls, professors and students, strong men and women. Omar felt thrilled and proud to be connected to them and felt a sense of movement; after years when it seemed that Palestine was a lost cause, suddenly there was something imperative about it. Something had to be done to stop the Israelis, now that the reality of their occupation had been revealed.

During his spring quarter, Omar watched a special episode of ABC’s Nightline, broadcast from the Holy Land and featuring four Israelis and four Palestinians. Like many Americans, Omar was introduced for the first time to Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian woman and professor from Bir Zeit University in the West Bank. He thought she was amazing, and he was thrilled that she—and not some “terrorist”—was being presented as the face and voice of Palestine. He thought that this was someone with whom he would be thrilled to be associated. Omar felt so hopeful—the story was getting out!

At the dining hall with his friends, Omar chatted excitedly about what he was learning. They had never talked about it all—being Arab, being Jewish, both implicated in events half a globe away—in a serious fashion, and Omar sensed some discomfort. The conversations once prompted Jen, who had family in Israel, to comment, “Oh, but that’s political, let’s not talk about that,” as if Omar had broken an unspoken rule that they wouldn’t invite topics that would divide them as friends. Since they had different views, it was better just not to talk about them.

Toward the end of spring quarter, at the age of eighteen, Omar decided to travel to the Middle East for the summer. He had not been since he was eight years old, and he hadn’t been particularly interested until now. His friends were super excited for him, and his parents were happy that he would be connecting with his family overseas.

He was also looking forward to having an adventure and expected he would have to rough it; he remembered being a kid in Syria and grossed out by not being able to flush toilet paper down the drain and having to put it in the wastebasket instead. But that would be more than made up for with seeing the pyramids and other remnants of the ancient world that existed across the Middle East.

To prepare for the trip, Omar bought several books and practiced his father’s elaborate system for avoiding pickpockets. It involved putting his money in a handkerchief and safety pinning it to the inside of his front pocket. He also went shopping with his girlfriend Mary to buy clothes for his trip. They decided to hit Banana Republic because, as Omar and Mary reasoned, the store would have appropriate attire for a safari, or a trek through the bush, or his trip to Egypt and Jordan.

They combed the racks and pulled aside khaki pants to buy. And they found the exact kind of shirts that they had come to the store seeking. One was the color of rust and another of a blue breathable material—perfect for an Arab summer—each with the -label’s characteristic gentlemanly adventurer epaulets buttoned at the slope of the shoulders.

From the plane circling above Cairo, Egypt looked to be color of pulverized red bricks. As soon as Omar walked off the plane, he smelled burning wood. Waiting for him in the airport was his cousin Basma, Tayeb’s sister. Their father, Omar’s uncle Ahmad Sidqi, had sent his car and driver to bring Omar back to the apartment building where -Omar’s uncle and grandmother lived.

Omar was amazed when he noticed that the car had diplomatic plates. He knew his uncle was a member of the executive committee of the PLO, but he hadn’t thought of him as a diplomat, though now it made sense. Omar realized that, here, the PLO was regarded differently than in America, where the umbrella organization of all the different Palestinian political parties was associated only with Arafat, who was utterly despised. Here, as the representatives of a people, of a nation, the PLO deserved and had legitimacy, and someone was a diplomat, not a terrorist, for being affiliated with its leadership.

The driver, Abdelrahman, a Saidi from the south of Egypt, was positively horrified that Omar—the nephew of Ahmad Sidqi!—spoke no Arabic.

But no one spoke Arabic in Tyler, Texas. Omar’s parents only occasionally spoke it to each other, a decision they had made after his mother—newly arrived from Syria speaking Arabic and French, but not English—bought fifteen cans of tuna fish on sale at the grocery store. When she proudly showed them to her husband, he asked when they had acquired a cat, looking over the tuna–flavored cat food. They had agreed from then on to speak only English so she could learn the language. So Omar knew very little Arabic.

Abdelrahman drove the way Tayeb did, speeding through the crowded streets of Cairo to Heliopolis or Masr il-Gidida, New Egypt, a well–to–do neighborhood in the Egyptian capital.

Omar had last seen his grandparents in 1983, when they had come to visit; since then, his grandfather had died, during Omar’s senior year. When the news of his death had arrived in Tyler, Omar had petulantly demanded to be able to play tennis and not have to stay inside—he didn’t really know these people living across the world anyway. His mother had chastised him then, “Be considerate of your father’s feelings.”

Now when his grandmother saw him, she hugged and kissed him and immediately pulled him to the dining table to eat the meal she had prepared. She was a tough woman who ran a strict household. She had been illiterate into her forties, when she had her husband teach her how to read so she could read the Koran; through the force of her will all her children today had graduate degrees. But she spoke no English, so she and Omar used food as their dialogue. She would say, “Ahlan! Ahlan–wa–sahlan,” welcome, welcome, and Omar would respond with what he had learned was the correct response, “Ahlan fiki.” Then they would stare at each other and she would say again, “Ahlan! Ahlan!” and Omar would again repeat his line. Then she would ask him in Arabic if he were hungry. He would nod, and then with relief she would start laying out food and smile, beaming, as he ate.

She spent the next four weeks feeding him.

His cousin Mehdi took charge of his social program—he taught Omar how to ride horses, and they galloped around the pyramids at Giza at sunset. Mehdi introduced him to friends who had houses on the Nile, and all together they spent afternoons on the riverbank for long picnics. Behind their grandmother’s back, Mehdi would take him to KFC and -Chili’s for a break from her labored dishes like sayyadiyyah and ma’lubeh. He was surprised how cool his cousins were; both Mehdi and Basma had been student body president at the American University of Cairo. They took road trips outside of Cairo together, made jokes, and teased one another; Omar loved shocking them with alternative songs like Berlin’s “Sex.”

On his own, Omar spent hours wandering in Cairo with his guidebook. He was fascinated by the loud, crowded, layered city. He meandered through the labyrinthine alleys and bazaars of the Hussein district, the medieval city, learning its Fatimid and Mamluk history and comparing their architecture. He loved the ornamentation of the buildings of the Mamluks, the slave soldiers who had come to rule Egypt and Syria. The craftsmen of that era had chiseled the stone with unimaginable skill, rendering it to look as delicate as lace. He particularly adored the Sultan Hassan Mosque, which had been built in the fourteenth century. The massive walls that surrounded the sahn, a mosque’s courtyard, hid modern Cairo from sight, and for a moment it felt like being in another time. He could see how the mosque’s beautiful, silent simplicity underneath the open sky could move a heart toward the heavens.

He loved the shopping and bought the girls back at school silver necklaces and bracelets. He even began to hear beauty in the ever-present music that he had hated before. He began to appreciate Um Kalthoum—the original Arabic diva who always sang in her oversized dark glasses, waving her handkerchief as she sang to the entire Arab world for over fifty years. When he was younger and drove on family vacations to Florida, he would protest so when his father wanted to play her tapes in the car—Omar wanted Duran Duran. As a compromise, his father would play one of Omar’s songs and then one of his. The problem was, a Duran Duran song was four minutes long, while Um Kalthoum would go easily for an hour singing the same song.

Abdelrahman would drop Omar off and pick him up, shouting as he drove the Arabic names for things and pointing to them. Omar learned to answer with a smile Abdelrahman’s daily “Izzayyak?”—How are you?—with a very practiced and very Egyptian “Miya Miya!”—100 percent!

Egypt was nothing like the desert fantasy he had expected when he bought his safari gear from Banana Republic. But it was nonetheless seductive, with its crowds awake and out late at night; Omar found a whole region of late night people like himself. He loved the sweetness of the people—the way men touched each other unself–consciously, the endless little endearments like “ya habibi,” “ya hilu,” and “inta bitnawwirna”—oh my love, oh handsome, you light us up—that peppered the most casual of speech, and the hospitality, particularly among the poorest of the poor, who spared nothing to make him feel welcome.

What he loved best were the long walks he took with his uncle, arm–in–arm around the Merryland park beneath the apartment building where they lived. Unlike the conventional wisdom he had learned in Tyler, where one never talked about religion, politics, or sex, his uncle spoke as if they were all wrapped up in one. He was handsome—tall and slender with brilliant white hair. He was also a scholar and gentle, thoughtful, and interesting. He knew all the heads of the Arab states intimately and was much more involved in the Palestinian struggle than -Omar’s father had been. He also had met with many European leaders, including Pope John Paul, and -Omar’s mother kept a picture of their meeting on her vanity in Tyler.

With Arabic speakers, his uncle spoke only in Fusha, the classical Arabic of the Koran, and he spoke it to everyone from heads of states to shopkeepers to drivers. His Arabic was famous, and Omar finally understood who Tayeb had been trying to emulate.

Omar learned from his uncle about his family’s history—they had been judges, landowners, officials, and qadis in the religious courts in Jaffa. He had known that his father’s family, his family, had gone back centuries to Jaffa—he had looked through the book Before Their Diaspora, and had found the old pictures to be beautiful—but now his curiosity was aroused. His father had always lamented that when they left in the fishing boat they hadn’t even brought the photographs, and now Omar found himself grieving for them as well.

Omar’s uncle had broken with Arafat in 1984 and had never been a member of Fatah, Arafat’s party. Speaking to him completely shifted Omar’s understanding of the Palestinian movement, and the people involved in it. Instead of associating it with Arafat—who seemed to Omar as thoroughly unwholesome a face for the Palestinians as a person could imagine—he now thought of his uncle and his humanism.

From Egypt, Mehdi and Omar traveled to Jordan and stayed with relatives there. They were joined by family that came from the West Bank. Omar found it amazing to meet someone from his own family still living in Palestine! Even as he began to follow the events in the Occupied Territories, in his imagination Palestine had been almost fictional, with no form. He felt an incredible sense of family—they had come from all over the Diaspora, but they were all Palestinians, they all still knew who they were. He listened with anger as his cousin from the West Bank told him about life under the Occupation and how the Israeli soldiers—just kids themselves—treated Palestinians in their interactions.

Together they traveled to Petra—the ancient rose–red capital of the Nabataeans–and the Dead Sea. As they approached the lowest point on Earth, Omar noticed all the signs about security zones, and then before he knew it, he saw Jerusalem’s twinkling lights in the distance. Oh my God, he thought, there it is. There is the land of Palestine.

Northwestern seemed so far away, and Tyler even farther. But he couldn’t wait to tell Jen and Lissy and the others about it all. He had sent postcards to all of them and had bought gifts for each one. But most of all, he could barely wait to share with them when they all returned to Northwestern for the new fall quarter how great and idiosyncratic his world and his culture were as well.

Excerpted from Copyright A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA: Arab Roots, American Stories by Alia Malek © 2010 by Alia Malek Excerpted with permission by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Naked conspiracy: Ackerman says ‘first class team’ of 5 Jewish, pro-Israel congressional chairs has ‘major, major, major influence’ on Obama

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

The Forward’s Nathan Guttman has a fine piece of reporting up about how the Israeli right is hoping that the Congress will change hands next week. The best part of the piece is where the Congressional Democrats protest, Hey we love Israel just as much, even more! Read this with your eyes open. I know, that’s hard. The juice comes at the end.

And tell me, will Gary Ackerman have to eat his words, or lose his job, ala Rick Sanchez and Helen Thomas? Will Howard Berman, Henry Waxman, Sander Levin, or Barney Frank speak a word of criticism? Will the Obama administration?

And you ask why the Obama administration folded on settlements? Our politics are broken.

A Congressional Democratic staff member pointed also to the impact a switch to a Republican majority could have on coordination between the White House and Congress. Recently, the administration has worked closely on Iran sanctions legislation with Howard Berman, the Democratic chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. At the request of the White House, Berman delayed a vote on sanctions legislation, despite Republican pressure, until the administration completed international consultations that led to a United Nations resolution on this issue. It is not clear if Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is expected to chair the committee if her party wins the majority, would act in the same way.

Citing the sanctions bill as an example, New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, argued that Israel’s best bet for addressing any concerns about Obama’s policy would be for Democrats to retain power. “I’m not saying that if the Republicans take the House it would be doomsday for Israel, but if they want positive influence on the White House, that’s us,” said Ackerman, who chairs the subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Ackerman and other Jewish Democrats point to the forceful criticisms they conveyed to the White House when they thought that Obama was leaning too hard on Israel.

“If you need the president, you need us as chairs of the committees,” Ackerman said as he listed what he called the “first-class team” of Jewish pro-Israel Democrats who chair key House committees: Berman at Foreign Affairs, Barney Frank at Financial Services, Henry Waxman at the Energy and Commerce committee, Sander Levin at Ways and Means, and Ackerman himself in his role as head of the Middle East subcommittee. “We are all pro-Israel and we all have major, major, major influence in the executive branch.”

Cambridge debater set out to ‘nail’ others on his side

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

The other day we reported on a Cambridge University debate about whether Israel is a rogue state in which one of the students arguing the affirmative acted as a proponent for Israel. Well, the student, Gabriel Latner, has been banned from debating for life (who says the west doesn’t have fatwas) by Cambridge Union president James Counsel, according to the newspaper, the Varsity:

Gabriel Latner, a second-year Law student at Peterhouse, was handed the ban after he refused to apologize to fellow proposition speaker Lauren Booth for making a comment that was deemed inappropriate last Thursday at the Union debate, “This House believes Israel is a rogue state.”

According to Latner’s account, the incident began when he told Booth that he was Jewish and had volunteered with the Israeli Army. Latner believes this information contributed to Booth’s unease with him speaking for the proposition.

On Booth’s request, Latner was moved from first to second speaker for the proposition. Before getting up to speak, he turned to Booth and said, “I am going to nail you to the fucking wall up there.”

Booth later complained about Latner’s comment to Counsell, who then confronted Latner, and requested that he apologise to Booth. When Latner refused to do so, Counsell had Latner escorted off the premises and told him he was banned for life for disrupting a Union event and verbally abusing a guest on the Society’s premises.

Speaking to Varsity, Counsell said, “Gabe had ten minutes to address an audience of 800, during which time he was representing the Union and all its membership to our guests and the wider world watching. His decision to verbally abuse one of our female guests using sexual language has done enormous levels of harm to the reputation of our Union, as well as crossing all boundaries of basic human decency.

“I should remind our members that our speakers participate for free because of our reputation, and that anybody personally connected to Lauren Booth will now almost certainly avoid us like the plague. This includes, amongst many others, Cherie Booth and Tony Blair….”

Latner further told Varsity, “I’m not saying I acted without fault. Did I offend Ms Booth? I have no doubt that I did. But I don’t know if what Ms Booth found offensive was my (private) comment to her, or the fact that I actually ‘nailed her to the wall’ in my (public) speech. I can guess though.”

IDF bars Palestinian children from Tel Aviv film festival

Oct 29, 2010


And more news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers/ Land, Property, Resource Theft & Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Soldiers Deny Palestinians Access to Lands in Hebron
On Friday morning, the Israeli military prevented Palestinian farmers from working on their lands, adjacent to the separation wall, in the western part of the town of Beit Ula, northwest of Hebron.

Israeli occupation decide to banish Kabaha from his birthplace
Former Palestinian minister, Wasfi Kabaha, said that the Israeli occupation has decided to banish him from his birthplace, Bartaa al-Sharqeyya, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

Arab League report reveals that Israel’s Wall is almost all built on occupied land
Arab League report reveals that Israel’s Wall is almost all built on occupied landIsrael’s so-called “Separation Wall” is nearly all built on Palestinian land occupied by the Zionists state since 1967, according to a report produced by the Arab League. The more commonly-called Apartheid Wall is also “an overt violation of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice”, as well as international law which prohibits occupation forces from controlling occupied land by force.

Jordan slams UN official for urging Palestinian refugees to resettle in Arab states
Amman minister criticizes comment by UNRWA official, according to which Palestinian refugees must discard illusions they will return one day to their homes.

Israeli rights orgs demand action over settler vandalism
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Four human rights organizations collaborated on a project documenting settler vandalism during the 2010 olive harvest, reporting a total of 35 incidents of tree vandalism during the six-week season.  The organizations, all based in Israel, included The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights and Yesh Din. Following the documentation effort the group sent an urgent letter to senior Israeli military commanders, calling on the commanders to take all necessary steps to ensure that Palestinians and their properties were protected from violence and damage during the remainder of the season.

Netanyahu: Settlement building won’t affect final status peace deal
PM comment comes as Palestinians consider UN Security Council vote on unilateral declaration of statehood if Israel does not cease its recently resumed settlement constructing.

Rivlin: “Settlement Issue used by Palestinians as an excuse to End Peace talks”
On Thursday, Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin lambasted the Palestinian leadership, accusing them of using the issue of Israeli settlements as an excuse to end peace talks currently on hold in Washington.

Settler numbers rise at almost 3 times nat’l average
Central Bureau of Statistics figures show West Bank Jewish population at 303,900 in June 2010, up 7,200 in six months.

The War of the Olive Harvest: Palestinians vs. Settlers
It is ritual of autumn, like homecoming or leaf peeping in more decorous parts of the world: Come fall, Palestinians go out to harvest their olives. And Israeli settlers come down from the hilltops to stop them.  “There! There! All these olive trees were burned,” says Bureen mayor Ali Eid, with an angry gesture that takes in a hillside once colored with the dusty green of ancient trees, and now charred after the settlers had come through. “We have lost more than 16,000 olive trees by cutting or burning since 2005. Every year is worse than the year before.”,8599,2028009,00.html?xid=rss-world&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+time%2Fworld+%28TIME%3A+Top+World+Stories%29#ixzz13hY7wotD

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

Israeli Forces Suppress Al-Ma’sara Protest
Bethlehem – PNN – Israeli troops stopped the weekly protest march against the wall and settlements in the Palestinian village of al-Ma’sara.  Israeli troops broke up the protest with tear gas and sound bombs. One unnamed Israeli activist was beaten by police and taken away.  Villagers and international supporters were also commemorating the 54th anniversary of the 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre, in which Israeli troops killed 49 unarmed Palestinians.  The story is developing.

One Injured, Dozens Suffer Ffrom Gas Inhalation At Bil’in Weekly Protest
Ramallah – PNN – One Palestinian was injured and dozens were treated for tear gas inhalation after a confrontation with Israeli troops during the weekly march to protest the wall in the village of Bil’in.  The protestors shouted slogans against the wall and Israel’s settlement and detainment policies. When they reached the wall and tried to cross into the Palestinian land on the other side, the Israeli military shot rubber bullets, sound bombs, and tear gas canisters at them. Samir Barnat, 34, was injured when a tear gas canister exploded on his shoulder.  The march, organized by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was joined by Sten Rinet, a Norwegian member of parliament, and Toron Hovik, a member of the Norwegian worker’s party, as well as Bil’in villagers and dozens of Israeli and international peace activists.

Peace Group Director ‘Forced to Accept’ Plea Bargain On Spy Charges, Palestine Monitor
An Arab-Israeli political activist accepted a plea bargain on charges of espionage yesterday. Ameer Makhoul, head of the peace group Ittijah, was accused of spying for the Lebanese Hizbollah party. He admitted guilt for crimes that will see him serve seven to 10 years in exchange for more serious charges being dropped.

Take Action: Help Stop Delivery of CAT Bulldozers to Israel, Josh Ruebner
For more than five years, we’ve been working to hold Israel, Caterpillar, and the United States accountable for Israel’s misuse of Caterpillar bulldozers to commit human rights abuses of Palestinians. These bulldozers are provided to Israel as U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid.  Earlier this week, we learned from Israeli media that Caterpillar has decided to delay the delivery of tens of D9 bulldozers–the same kind that the Israeli military used to kill U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie as she nonviolently tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the occupied Gaza Strip in March 2003.  Together with the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), and Jewish Voice for Peace, we are pressing the Obama Administration to make sure that the delivery of these bulldozers does not go through.

#BDS: The Palestinian Civil Society Campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Marks 5 Years
In meeting rooms and conference halls, on high streets and university campuses, the Palestine solidarity movement is changing. In the dozen years following the signing of the Oslo Accords, few doubted the determination and resolve of solidarity campaigns, but there were fears that they were beginning to lose direction. Today, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law, a truly global movement is rapidly emerging whose concrete forms of solidarity is not only changing the discourse surrounding the Palestinian struggle, but are also achieving concrete results towards the isolation of the Israeli regime.


Jewish organizations debate BDS in online forum, Adam Horowitz
Zeek, a Jewish journal of thought and culture, has hosted a liberal Jewish exchange on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Jewish Voice for Peace speaks in favor of BDS, while the New Israel Fund speaks against. Below are two snippets of their arguments. Zeek is providing a great service in helping bring this debate out into the open, which helps illustrate the developing fault lines in American liberal Jewish thought.

NY Jewish group raises 15,000 signatures in support of Israeli occupation, Philip Weiss
Good coverage in the Forward, written by Joy Resmovits, of the Ahava boycott, which is led by Code Pink, which targets Ricky’s, Brooklyn store, which sells Ahava cosmetics, which steals Palestinian minerals in the occupied West Bank, which beat the dog, which bit the kid that my father bought for two zuzim. That’s a Jewish joke. Sorry. From a Passover song. Because my new theme here is to pound not just the Jewish establishment, but rank and file liberal Jews who support the occupation. Like the flock of Brooklyn Rabbi Andy Bachman, who urges people to buy from Ricky’s. Flock, tell me, if your rabbi really wants two states, he should be pushing Israel out of the longest occupation in recent history, right? (And not just leading demonstrations about  Darfur. Darfur Jews, finding a place to stand up for human rights. Charity begins at home.)

Siege/Rights Violations/Restriction of Movement
Gaza borders closed for weekend
GAZA (Ma’an) — Israeli crossings authorities operating on the Gaza borders informed their Palestinian counterparts on Friday that the borders would not be open for goods transport that day.  While crossings are scheduled to open on Friday, the Muslim holy day, Israeli officials have announced their closure every week since the August 2009, barring one where emergency fuel supplies were delivered at the request of officials. decided Friday to close all borders to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas-Fatah divide turns the lights out on Gazans
Deep distrust between Hamas and Fatah, which are due for another round of reconciliation talks next week, has led to a dispute over who should pay the electricity bill.

Gaza’s rubble collectors

Sun Deprived in Palestine, Robin Yassin-Kassab
Balata Camp started as tents in the fifties, grew cement blocks in the sixties, installed sewage and water in the seventies, and has stretched ever upwards until now. The camp boasts the densest population in the West Bank: at least 25,000 people in a couple of square kilometres (the inhabitants claim up to 40,000).

British clowns lift spirits in Gaza
ZAYTOUN, GAZA (Ma’an) — A troupe of six British circus performers are touring the Gaza Strip in an effort to lift children’s spirits in the besieged enclave.  The group, called Circus2Gaza, in the middle of a 10-day tour, doing performances in schools and community centers. On Thursday afternoon, the troupe performed in the Samouni compound, home to the family of the same name that lost 29 people in what became the most famous massacre of Israel’s 2009 attack on Gaza.


Lebanon’s refugee camps no better than those in Gaza – UNRWA official, One-third of school graduates unemployed, while others poorly paid, study finds
BEIRUT: The conditions of Palestinians living in and outside of Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps are equal to, or even worse, than those in Gaza, a top United Nations Refugee and Work Agency (UNRWA) official said Thursday.  “The situation in Gaza under full Israeli blockade is very difficult,” UNRWA Lebanon director, Salvatore Lombardo, said at the opening of the annual World Education Forum. “But the situation in Lebanon is far from acceptable.”

Teenager killed, three wounded in Beddawi blast
BEIRUT: A teenager was killed and three other people were wounded when a grenade exploded outside a scrap-metal yard in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Beddawi, the state-run National News Agency reported Thursday.  “13-year-old Mohammad Ashkar died in hospital of injuries sustained when a hand grenade exploded outside a scrap metal yard in the Beddawi camp,” 5 kilometers north of the port city of Tripoli, the Palestinian source told AFP.  “We believe the owner of the yard was sifting through his metal, found the grenade and tossed it outside where the children were standing,” the source added.

A refugee, single mother, worker, struggler
Seventy-year-old Amna Hammad managed to raise three children — now grown men — despite decades of separation from her husband and despite displacement and occupation in Gaza.

Racism & Discrimination

Shas spiritual leader may back ban on renting to Arabs
Former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef cites centuries-old interpretation of halakhic ruling barring the sale of land to non-Jews.

IDF bars Palestinian children from Tel Aviv film festival
Army West Bank villagers from entering Israel in time for children’s film festival in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

African refugees: We’re being sold
Human rights groups warn against Netanyahu’s plan to pay African states to absorb illegal migrants.,7340,L-3976311,00.html

Violence & Aggression

Israeli police shoot legislator as racists march in Arab town
Israeli police injured two Arab legislators on Wednesday in violent clashes provoked by Jewish right-wing extremists staging a march through the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.

Israeli Police Shoot ‘Hated’ Arab Legislator in Back, Jonathan Cook – Nazareth
Israeli police injured two Arab legislators yesterday in violent clashes provoked by Jewish rightwing extremists staging a march through the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.  Haneen Zoubi, a parliament member who has become a national hate figure in Israel and received hundreds of death threats since her participation in an aid flotilla to Gaza in the summer, was among those hurt. Ms Zoubi reported being hit in the back and neck by rubber bullets as she fled the area when police opened fire. In an interview, she said she believed she had been specifically targeted by police snipers after they identified her.

Israeli Navy Opens Fire at Palestinian Fishermen
Israeli Navy gunboats opened fire on Friday at dawn at several Palestinian fishing boats near the central district and Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.

Troops Invade Towns in Jenin
Israeli soldiers invaded, on Friday morning, the towns of ‘Araba and Yamoun in Jenin, in the northern West Bank.

Limited incursion into south Gaza reported
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli forces carried out a limited incursion into the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, onlookers said.  There were no reports of injury or damage.  Two tanks and a bulldozer drove 200 meters east of Rafah, where they bulldozed land while combing the area, witnesses said.  Also, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees said its Salah Ad-Din Brigades fired six mortar shells at an invading force in the same area.  An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army was unaware of either reported incident.


3 Palestinians detained near Nablus
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained three Palestinians Thursday near a Nablus checkpoint, officials said.  An Israeli military spokeswoman said they were carrying “a number of improvised handguns and pipe bombs” near the Huwara checkpoint.  The three unnamed Palestinians were taken for security questioning, she added.

Female Detainee on Hunger Strike for Third Day
The Mandela Institute in the Occupied Territories reported on Friday that detainee Linan Abu Ghalama, imprisoned at the Ha-Sharon Israeli prison, went on hunger strike three days ago demanding the prison administration to allow her to be joined with her detained sister.

Nafha detainees on hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Detainees at Israel’s Nafha prison began a hunger strike on Friday, protesting what representatives said were inhumane practices by prison authorities.  Attorney Buthayna Duqmaq with the Mandella Association told Ma’an that during a visit to the prison facility she had spoken with several detainees angered over a series of night raids on inmates cells.

War Crimes

Arabs mark Kfar Kassem massacre anniversary
MKs, Arab leaders and some Jews remember those killed by Border Police officers 54 years ago, call out against current government’s ‘racist discourse’.,7340,L-3976683,00.html

Political “Developments”

Egypt: No breakthrough in Mideast peace talks
Egyptian officials meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and confirm Egypt’s support for Palestinian demand that Israel freeze West Bank settlement construction before talks can continue.

Abbas: We’ll demand UN recognition within months
Following talks with senior Egyptian officials, Palestinian president says ‘Israel has been taking unilateral steps for decades.’ Abbas also blames Netanyahu government for not preventing ‘criminal settler violence’.,7340,L-3976494,00.html

Israel could lease Palestinian lands in exchange for Palestinian statehood: report
In exchange for a state of their own, Palestinians would lease Israel parts of the long-contested lands for the next 40 to 99 years, according to a report today in Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Hamas leader: Next unity talks in Damascus
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Hamas leader said Thursday that the next round of reconciliation talks would be held in Damascus, despite a recent dispute between President Mahmoud Abbas and Syria’s leadership.  Negotiations to reconcile the rival movements Hamas and Fatah came to a sudden halt this month when Fatah pulled out of scheduled talks in the Syrian capital after President Bashar Al-Assad criticized the Ramallah government.

Hamas warns Israel against launching new offensive on Gaza
Gaza – A Gaza-based high-ranking Islamic Hamas movement leader on Thursday warned Israel againts launching any new large- scale offensive on the Gaza Strip similar to the late 2008 ‘Cast Lead’ campaign.  “‘We seriously consider Israel’s threats to launch another war on Gaza, but we frankly say if Israel tries to enter Gaza, it will cost it a lot and it won’t be able to achieve its goals,’ said Mahmoud al- Zahar during a workshop in Gaza.

Hamas official: We were warned of possible Israeli strike
Sources in Gaza claim at least one Arab state warned Islamist group of possible Israeli attack if rearmament in Gaza continues.,7340,L-3976711,00.html

Netanyahu: Direct talks are only path to true Mideast peace
PM’s comment comes after Abbas says considering appeal to UN Security Council to approve unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

MK Ya’alon: Peace won’t happen if Jerusalem is divided
“Peace wouldn’t stand a chance if, god forbid, the control of parts of Jerusalem would be transferred to Muslim authorities,” Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon said during a book launch.  “Our experience in the Middle East proves that there is no religious tolerance from the side of the Muslim Arabs,” he added. “Not in Ramallah, not in Bethlehem, and not in neighboring countries. The only way to reach peace is by keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli control.”,7340,L-3976541,00.html

Is Clinton (Bill) poised to return to Mideast diplomacy?
Recent report claims former US president will return to politics in region in one capacity or another, may be involved in peace process.

Report: Israel slams UNESCO decisions as biased
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A week after UNESCO passed five resolutions on their work and mandate in Palestine, Israeli officials condemned the decisions as anti-Israeli.  An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman being interviewed on Radio Israel on Friday said UNESCO had accused Israel of conducting excavations beneath Rachel’s Tomb, cordoned off from Bethlehem and its surrounding Muslim cemetery by the separation wall in 2004.

Other News

Tens of thousands rally for Islamic Jihad in Gaza (AFP)
AFP – Tens of thousands of Palestinians turned out for a rally in the Gaza Strip on Friday to mark the 23rd anniversary of the founding of the hardline militant group Islamic Jihad.*

New York Times execs visit West Bank city
Publisher, senior editors of influential American newspaper given tour of Ariel as part of Yesha Council PR campaign.,7340,L-3976644,00.html

Virginia House candidates battle over Israel in final debate
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Republican Scott Rigell said NPR’s recent firing of news analyst Juan Williams is a sign America is falling into the “trap of true political correctness.”  During a debate Thursday, Rigell also took a stand against the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City and said Israel has a right to sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Minister backs segregated haredi housing
Housing minister says ultra-Orthodox sector will take over secular neighborhoods if haredi cities not planned. ‘I wouldn’t let my kids meet with secular youth,’ he notes.,7340,L-3976199,00.html

IDF commanders to get ‘haredi glossary’
What is glatt kosher? IDF commanders to receive 18-page booklet explaining long list of religious terms, as more haredim show interest in joining army; hundreds of ultra-Orthodox enlist for army service in recent years.,7340,L-3976475,00.html

US college president: Anti-Israel professor cannot be fired
Tenured Pennsylvania professor who questioned Shoah, referred to Israel as ‘hydra-headed monster’ cannot be fired, university president says; Pakistan-born lecturer gets green-light to express his opinions outside classroom.,7340,L-3976608,00.html

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest

Collaborator, Palestine Monitor
From Algeria to Cuba, national liberation movements have been plagued by informers. It is the dirtiest game of any occupation and Israel’s stranglehold on Palestine is no different.

Will the Palestinians Take Their Case to the U.N.?, Tony Karon – Skeptical of the Obama Administration’s peace effort, PLO leaders could appeal to international law. But political calculations are likely to hold them back.*

Israel Lobby’s Last Minute GOP Push, MJ Rosenberg
The usual suspects have been warning President Barack Obama almost since Inauguration Day that there would be a literal price to pay if he assumed the role of “honest broker” in the Middle East.  Following Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech and then his short-lived stand against Israeli settlements, Obama was warned by Democrats close to the lobby (including some inside the White House) that publicly disagreeing with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would offend donors.  That would harm the Democrats in 2010 and doom his re-election chances in 2012.

‘In my opinion, every Jewish town needs at least one Arab. What would happen if my refrigerator stopped working on a Saturday?’, Eva Smagacz
Asked David Rotem, chairman of Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee after said committee approved unanimously a law that allows communities to reject potential residents if they do not meet criteria of “suitability to the communities fundamental outlook” so that they are free to reject candidates on the grounds of age, sex, religion and socio-economic status.

Such is the Peace Process: Obama as a Salesman,  Ramzy Baroud
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim that the resumption of peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have thus far yielded nothing of value, at least not as far as settling the decades-long struggle.  For one, the media has paid the talks little attention, aside from the ceremonial coverage of the first round of talks in Washington on September 2. It barely noticed the following round in the Middle East nearly two weeks later. What did capture the media’s attention was US President Barack Obama’s attempt to minimize the damage he invited upon himself for merely pressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue a partial moratorium on settlement building (about 11 months ago), and then to extend the settlement freeze.

Democracy in Illinois: Pro-Israel Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Maidhc Ó Cathail
Helen Keller’s pithy observation about American democracy being little more than a choice ‘between Tweedledum and Tweedledee’ was never more true than in the upcoming midterm elections in the ninth congressional district of Illinois.  In a district which includes the affluent northern suburbs of Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan, the central issue is not the two wars—or is it now three?—the country is fighting, nor is it the tanking economy, in great part caused by those debt-inducing wars. No, the burning issue here is… who cares more about Israel?

Associated Press Hasbara: Palestinians of Israel ‘enjoy equal rights under Israeli law’, Alex Kane
An Associated Press article on yesterday’s clashes between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli police and extreme rightists marching through the the town of Umm el-Fahm states.

Wolfensohn: “no-one particularly likes the Jews, no-one particularly likes the Palestinians”, Antony Loewenstein
James Wolfensohn, former World Bank President and former head of the Middle East Quartet, was on Australian TV last night talking about Israel/Palestine and the message was clear; America is Israel’s lawyer.

Daoud Kuttab: Jewish or Israeli
I feel that it is problematic to erase differences between “Israeli” and “Jew.” It bothers me when Palestinians use these two terms interchangeably.

The art of sucking up, Philip Weiss
Elena Kagan goes skeet shooting with arch-conservative Antonin Scalia. Demonstrating that wherever she is, this woman orients herself toward the powerful. A lot here. The decline of the Jewish meritocracy, the decline of the Jewish liberal tradition, the decline of Jewish intelligence, the dissipation of Obama’s promise.

Living Simply At Age 108: Beautiful Memories From The Oldest Person In ‘Issawiya Village
Jersualem – Maysa Abu Ghazala – PNN/Exclusive – “It was a beautiful life. We ate what we grew and we drank the well water that we carried on our shoulders.” This was the simple life of Sarya Muhammad Alyan, now 108 years old and the oldest person in ‘Issawiya village.  She speaks about the early years of the last century, where there were no noisy cars, no complicated new technology, and no chemicals in the crops.  After she married her cousin in her thirties, Sarya had six children, three boys and three girls. The oldest of them is now 77. Between her children, grandchildren, and great-grand children, the number exceeds 200 people.

Winning the War in Afghanistan at $50 Million per Kill, NICHOLAS C. ARGUIMBAU
Michael Nasuti of Kabul Press recently published an article in which he calculated that killing each Taliban soldier in Afghanistan costs on average of $50 million to the US. The article, seemingly carefully. researched with all assumptions laid out so that anyone can examine them, is well worth reading. Nasuti, “Killing Each Taliban Soldier Costs $50 million.” He points out that at this rate, killing the entire Taliban forces (only 35,000) would cost $1.7 trillion, not a small amount for a country suffering from a severe economic downturn to spend on a war with no apparent purpose. And Nasuti’s number, of course, assumes that they coud not be replaced faster than they are killed, but it appears that they can, easily.

Gitmo’s Indelible Stain, SHERWOOD ROSS
Although U.S. officials have attributed the torture of Muslim prisoners in their custody to a handful of maverick guards, in fact such criminal acts were widely perpetrated and systemic, likely involving large numbers of military personnel, a book by a survivor suggests. Additionally, guards were responsible for countless acts of murder, including death by crucifixion, lynching, poisoning, snakebite, withholding of medicines, starvation, and bludgeoning of innocent victims. And the murders committed by U.S. troops numbered at least in the hundreds, according to reliable sources.

Mike Elk: Jon Stewart Rally Represents Elitism, Consumerism, and Disrespect for the Progressive Movement
Many Jon Stewart followers see his “Rally to Restore Sanity” on Saturday as a progressive rallying cry. Stewart claims on his website it is not, saying, “If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence… we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point.”  However, over 200,000 attendees, who mostly identify themselves as progressives have RSVP’ed for the rally on Facebook. The rally is being backed by major progressive forces like Arianna Huffington–who is paying to bus in 10,000 supporters from New York City to attend the rally. Stewart himself on his website compares the rally to major progressive events like Woodstock and the more recent Million Man March for civil rights. Whether or not Stewart intends the Rally to Restore Sanity to be a left wing political event, progressive activists throughout the country see it as an important political statement that counters the message of Glenn Beck and the Tea Party.


Hezbollah urges Hariri case boycott
Hassan Nasrallah warns against Lebanese co-operation with investigation into 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

US accuses Syria, Iran over Lebanon tensions (AFP)
AFP – The United States on Thursday accused Syria and Iran of fuelling tensions in Lebanon with arms supplies and other support for the Hezbollah militia in contravention of UN resolutions.*

Israel traded 52 prisoners for missing soldier’s gun: report (AFP)  [Guns are more important than Gilad Shalit?]
AFP – Israel traded 52 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners to the Hezbollah militia in exchange for the gun of an Israeli airman who went missing in southern Lebanon in 1986, a newspaper said on Thursday.*

The encounter in the clinic in the southern suburbs of Beirut
Talal, a comrade and friend who heads a division at a major medical center at well-known US university, sent me this regarding the “visit” by a Hariri tribunal team to the clinic of a Lebanese physician:  “Is it not interesting that the International Tribunal sanctions practices in Lebanon that would be banned in the native countries of its investigators and jurists? For example, they went into a clinic in the Southern district of Beirut asking to check on the names and files of a large number of women who attend the clinic. That would not fly in the USA. One cannot just come in, even with legal sanction, and check wholesale on the FILES (containing sensitive personal information) of ALL those that come through (they claimed to start with 17 names but it was made obvious that it was to be an open ended investigation with a free hand to investigate any file in the clinic). Such a act would constitute a serious violation of Medical Privacy laws, unnecessarily exposing not only their names of a large number of individuals but also the details of their medical conditions as well as other private information. This is ILLEGAL under any of a number of medical privacy laws. One is usually  presented with a court order to obtain information on a SPECIFIC person, and no other subjects so as to safe guard people’s privacy. I am amazed the Physician in question even let them in. She should have been the first to kick them out of the clinic, court order notwithstanding. Shame on the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Order of Physicians for providing cover for such a travesty to take place.” [end]

Squeezing Hezbollah,  FRANKLIN LAMB
Beirut is abuzz over some pretty bizarre events that have been unfolding the past few months concerning Hezbollah and the UN created International Tribunal for Lebanon, set up in 2007 to bring to justice those involved in the Valentine Day 2005 assassination of then Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.  One such event occurred yesterday morning, 10/27/10, at 9:00 am at  Dr. Iman Charara’s  street-level private obstetrics and gynecology clinic, here in Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah south Beirut neighborhood which is still recovering from Israel’s 33 days of carpet bombing in 2006 which destroyed pretty much everything including  more than 250 homes, scores of businesses, and much of the infrastructure.


Thursday: 4 Iraqis Killed, 19 Wounded
At least four Iraqis were killed and 19 more were wounded in the latest violence. Meanwhile, the Iraqiya party continues to use the Wikileaks Iraq reports to bolster their claim that the prime minister is unfit for a second term.

One million cubic tons of garbage dumped in Tigris River
The Tigris River which bisects Baghdad and several other major Iraqi cities has about one billion cubic meters of polluted materials dumped into it, according to a senior environment expert.  Kamel al-Saadi, Baghdad Province’s expert on environment, said pollution was surging in the river “at an alarming scale” and called for immediate measure to put a halt.  “The rate of pollution (in the Tigris River) has reached one billion cubic meters and is on the increase,” Saadi said.  He said the volume of pollution has been documented by a group of experts selected by the Province of Baghdad.\2010-10-28\kurd.htm

Chlorine blast sickens Iraqis (AP)
AP – Officals say more than 200 people were sicked by a chlorine gas explosion at a water purificiation plant in southern Iraq.*

Iraqi Kurdistan: Journalists Under Threat
(New York) – Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan who criticize the regional government have faced substantial violence, threats, and lawsuits in recent months, and some have fled the country, Human Rights Watch reported today.  Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government needs to ensure an independent and transparent inquiry into the killing of journalist Sardasht Osman in May 2010, that will lead to the identification and prosecution of all those responsible, Human Rights Watch said. An investigation by an anonymous committee appointed by President Masoud Barzani did not substantiate its findings, Human Rights Watch added.  “This secret investigation into Sardasht Osman’s murder is exactly the opposite of what’s needed,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Kurdistan government needs to get to the bottom of this killing with an open and independent inquiry that will include looking into allegations of government involvement.”

Iraqi TV personality takes on a perilous job: Giving a microphone to the masses, Leila Fadel
BAGHDAD – On a recent morning, as Minas Suheil and his crew set up their cameras in the working class area of Bab al-Sharji, people instantly swarmed the Iraqi television personality.

A new effort to preserve Iraq’s rich biodiversity, from mountains to marshes
As an international conference noted this week, the world’s biodiversity is threatened. Iraq is no exception – but before anything can be done, it needs Iraqis who understand the problems.


Iraq war logs: ‘The US was part of the Wolf Brigade operation against us’
Omar Salem Shehab tells of torture at hands of notorious Iraqi police unit and says US forces were involved in his capture.  During the foreboding months of 2005, one police unit struck more fear into Iraqis than the entire occupying US army. They were known as the Wolf Brigade.  Brutal even by Iraqi standards, their soldiers and officers seemingly answered to no one. They were seen as indiscriminate and predatory. The unit’s reputation had been known Iraq-wide and results of their numerous raids are still bogged down in Iraq’s legal system.

Iraq war logs: Prisoner beaten to death days after British handover to police
High-level diplomatic protests were made to Iraqi interior minister after death of Abbas Alawi while in custody of Basra police.  An Iraqi criminal prisoner was tortured and beaten to death within three days of being turned over to police in Basra by British troops. This latest detailed evidence of previously covered-up Iraq atrocities has emerged following the leak of a vast number of Iraq war logs compiled by the US army and containing hour-by-hour military field reports.

U.S. and other world news

Even though Obama’s latest offer to Iran revealed
Ali GharibIran has yet to respond to an invitation for the P5+1 talks that are now only a few weeks away, officials in the Obama administration are leaking details to the New York Times of an offer that could be on the table.

Guantanamo inmate Khadr ‘sorry’
Canadian-born detainee apologises to widow of US soldier he killed in Afghanistan in his first remarks to trial.

Security Tight At Bahrain Trial Of Shi’ites
DUBAI (Reuters) – The trial of 25 Bahraini Shi’ites accused of plotting to topple the Sunni-dominated political system began on Thursday with defendants saying they were tortured and police encircling the area to keep protests at bay.

Al-Shabab executes two girl ‘spies’
Somali armed group publicly execute by firing squad two teenage girls accused of spying “for the enemy”.

Exposing the infrastructure of anti-Muslim hate
The dismissal of Juan Williams’ from NPR once again exposes the difficulty America is having discussing Islam in a cool or rational manner. Williams’ exchange with Bill O’Reilly featured much of the usual ignorance, with both agreeing that, although undefined “good Muslims” do exist, all Muslims must be considered potential soldiers in an Islamic war against America. This ludicrous belief is not only a distortion of reality, but also poses a serious threat to the well-being and security of the United States. In adopting this position, Williams and O’Reilly were reflecting the climate of hatred against Muslims that is fueled by prejudice and lack of knowledge.

Tea Party Founder Judson Phillips Admits He Has ‘Real Problem With Islam’
Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, fortified a recent email encouraging Minnesotans in the 5th Congressional District to vote Rep. Keith Ellison (D) out — in part because he’s a Muslim — by stating that he, as well as most Tea Party members, had serious qualms with Islam.

Obama missed his chance to start a pullout from Afghanistan

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

A friend who has just finished Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward tells me, No review has reported the size of the opportunity Obama missed in late 2009 to start a pullout from Afghanistan. Here is Woodward’s diagram of forces:

ON HIS SIDE against more troops were Gen. Jones, Eikenberry, Biden, Gen. Lute, John Brennan, Colin Powell, half of Richard Holbrooke.

FOR ESCALATION: Petraeus, McChrystal, Mullen, Hillary Clinton, half of Gates.

Half of Gates on one side, half of Holbrooke on the other only means that both gave clear signs of doubt though they came out formally and at a certain distance for one tendency in the meetings, Gates a bit stronger pro than Holbrooke con.

Obama went with the latter group–or bent three-quarters in their direction.

Jones saw his role as running interference for Obama to prevent intimidation by the Pentagon. Obama didn’t use him. But Jones came around to support the 30,000 “compromise”–as they all did.

Obama has a hard time going against any powerful person he has once consulted if he takes that person to represent the conventional wisdom.

Is he a reliable narrator?

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

A year ago, Jeffrey Goldberg approvingly quoted a reader who said that the Jewish settlement of Gilo is part of Jerusalem:

First of all, Gilo is not a suburb of Jerusalem.  It’s a neighborhood in the city, i.e., within the city limits, forming the southernmost part of the city (not in “east” Jerusalem as a number of ignorant journalists have reported).

If you visit Gilo, you see that it is at the very least a suburb. It is on a hill a few miles south of Jerusalem and it is now gobbling up the lands of Walaje, a Palestinian village. There are demonstrations against this further illegal expansion all the time. Palestinian houses are being demolished, lands seized, farmers dispossessed. The unending narrative of 43 years of military-religious occupation.

And now we read in the Jewish Journal that

Goldberg forged his Jewish identity in response to some schoolyard anti-Semitism whose traumas left him longing for the so-called muscle Judaism represented by Zionism. As a teenager, he voraciously consumed Zionist literature by Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau and Vladimir Jabotinsky, and chose to go to a socialist Zionist camp in the Catskills, where summer games like “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising” and “Siege of Jerusalem” were imbued with historic seriousness [emphasis mine]

So you have a race man schooled in passion plays about Jerusalem. Is Goldberg a reliable narrator for Americans about what is or isn’t the occupation?

A certain type of namedropping

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

Dennis Ross, telling an AIPAC gathering about the Obama administration’s foreign policy achievements, in Florida, a week before the midterm elections:

As my colleague Stuart Levey from the Treasury Department circles the globe explaining sanctions measures to governments and companies, and highlighting the risks of doing business with Iran, we expect that more banks and more industries will continue to cut ties with Iran.

Does chosen mean unequal?

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

A Christian friend asked me to put out a call to religious scholars. He writes:

Did you see this statement from Abe Foxman of the ADL responding to the Catholic bishops gathering that called for an end to the occupation?

We write to protest the shocking and outrageous anti-Jewish comments made by Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros in connection with the final communique of the Bishops Synod on the Middle East. By stating that God’s Covenantal promise of land to the Jewish people, “was nullified by Christ” and that “there is no longer a chosen people,” Archbishop Bustros is effectively stating that Judaism should no longer exist. This represents the worst kind of anti-Judaism, bordering on anti-Semitism.

It seems to me that Christians ought to be able to say that they’re the equals of Jews and everybody else without being called anti-Jewish, and without being told that they’re saying Judaism should no longer exist. One can believe that Judaism should exist and can even believe that Jews regard themselves as God’s chosen people while believing that all people are equal. Bustros:

The advent of Jesus, he said, meant that Jews “are no longer the preferred people, the chosen people. All men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.” Bustros added that “sacred Scripture should not be used to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestine.”

If a non-Jew says that he or she is the equal of a Jew, surely that is not borderline anti-Semitism. And if one professes that he or she is chosen by God, surely that is not borderline anti-Semitism.

Foxman is simply putting words in his mouth when he indicates that Bustros said, “Judaism should no longer exist.”  In his angry letter to a cardinal protesting the statement, Foxman calls into question the equality of everyone else. Other religions can’t believe that everybody is chosen? “Archbishop Bustros contradicts decades of official Vatican and papal teachings which affirm God’s ongoing Covenant with the Jewish people at Sinai, and calls on Christians to appreciate the Jewish people’s religious self-understanding, including its spiritual attachment to the land of Israel.”

I wish some thoughtful religious scholars would weigh in on this to help unpack the remarks on both sides (while reminding all of the history of the enormous tension so clearly seen here). I simply fail to understand why a multiplicity of groups can’t believe they’re chosen by God and why there can’t be a real level of equality for everybody who chooses to worship (and for those who don’t as well). Well, perhaps I do understand it, but don’t grasp why people can’t simultaneously recognize that one’s own viewpoint may not be the same as a neighbor’s and that that’s okay.

Yes, perhaps I’m hopelessly naive, but Foxman seems to be pushing a dangerous line that implicitly exalts his religious group over others. Sure, I wish Bustros had said that Jews have every right to regard themselves as chosen, but that he believed something else. But what he did say doesn’t seem nearly as hard-hitting (and supremacist) as the response from Foxman which I read as saying Jews are God’s chosen people and that’s he’s not prepared to acknowledge that others may think that they too are chosen and equal in God’s eyes. If Foxman does believe that, I sure wish he had said it. I regard this Bustros-Foxman argument as important and suspect that most are terrified to address it and aware that they lack the words and historical grounding to weigh in with a full range of the facts and understanding of the relevant beliefs.

Apartheid South Africa’s big mistake: no t-shirts with slogans

Oct 29, 2010

Philip Weiss 

The JTA reports that the Israel lobby group Stand With Us is starting a website to help
“students counter anti-Israel activism on campus.”

It will provide tools for students looking to counter boycott and divestment campaigns at their schools…

The site provides general support, as well as outlines specific steps and strategies that students can use to head off or defeat divestment resolutions. It also offers T-shirts with slogans, posters and other publicity materials for pro-Israel campaigns, and access to a hot line to the StandWithUs office so students can strategize directly with the group’s leadership….

The site joins other new resources for pro-Israel students facing what many in the Jewish community fear will be a surge in anti-Israel activism on North American campuses this academic year.

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