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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem

Chair of West Midland PSC


Dear Friends,

The 7 items below run the gamut from Holocaust survivors to the U.S. congress.

Item 1, “Seven levels of hell” accuses Israeli governments of using reparations intended for Holocaust survivors for other purposes.  This is a known fact.  The government continues not to worry about locating survivors and seeing to it that they receive the properties belonging to them, but there is now a company that does.  Ever hear of the Holocaust industry? While Israel’s leaders use the Holocaust to squeeze tears and money from all, it leaves the victims who survived to live out their lives in poverty.  Nice, no? No, not nice.  But this is Israel.

Item 2 reveals the “real reason” for racism in south Tel Aviv: fear that if Arabs and people whose skins are not white are allowed to live on the block, it will lower property value.

Al Jazeera in item 3 relates ways in which Israel restricts the Arab minority.

Item 4 is a story about a Jerusalem boxing club in which Arabs (or at least a few Arabs) and Jews participate.  On the one side, this touching piece shows that we can all live together and would very likely do well in a single democratic state with a separation of religion from state.  On the other side, the story makes things sound as though normalcy reigns in Israel.  It does not, not even for Israeli Jews, but much less so for Palestinians in the West Bank. East Jerusalem, and Gaza!

In item 5 a Haaretz editorial insists that “Israel must let Palestinians to protest in peace.”  The editorial is too little too late. But, as the saying goes, better late than never.

In item 6 Shlomo Shamir warns Israel’s right wing government and politicians not to be overly optimistic about Republican support in Congress for Israel.  Interesting idea.  We shall see whether or not he is correct soon enough.

In a sense item 6 is a possible answer to item 7 which asks if there is “Any Respect for International Law Left in The US Congress?” and summarizes

The support that Israel enjoys from Congress, notwithstanding Israel’s attack on Gaza, notwithstanding Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara, for instance.

Quite a bit of reading, but worth your effort.

All the best,



1. Haaretz,

January 04, 2011

Seven levels of hell

Let’s admit the truth: For almost 60 years, it was the State of Israel that refused to restore Holocaust victims’ assets to their heirs.

By Orly Vilnai

When the Foreign Ministry is talking about appointing a special ambassador for the restitution of Holocaust assets even as we are tut-tutting about the state comptroller’s findings on the company for restituting Holocaust assets here, some soul-searching is in order. For while one can complain about the company and criticize its actions, it is equally possible to view what is going on there as an inheritance from the state’s decision-makers throughout its history.

Let’s admit the truth: For almost 60 years, it was the State of Israel that refused to restore Holocaust victims’ assets to their heirs. For some reason, all its leaders reared up on their hind legs and refused to follow in the footsteps of European countries. They refused to pull out the lists and free assets that clearly belonged to those who perished in the Holocaust from the crushing embrace of giants like the Jewish National Fund, the Israel Land Development Corporation, the custodian general, and above all, the banks.

Just look at what a tortuous path former MK Colette Avital had to pursue to get the ball rolling with the parliamentary committee on asset restitution that she chaired. For five overly long years, she and her colleagues battled all the interested parties that refused to see the survivors, the murdered and their heirs as people with rights. Only at the end of this process was an agreement reached to create the restitution company – initially as a government company, but later as an independent entity.

So now we’re surprised that something isn’t working there? How can it work when company employees are forced to invest the bulk of their time and energy in long, exhausting struggles with, for instance, Bank Leumi, whose executives still refuse even today to agree on the amount they have to return to the heirs? The parliamentary committee strove for five years, another two years were wasted on the work of the committee that calculated how much Holocaust-era deposits would be worth today, and Bank Leumi still hasn’t budged.

Moreover, how is it possible to function when the Justice Ministry is considering a plan to “renationalize” the company by shuffling its board of directors so that Holocaust survivors will no longer have a majority?

A preoccupation with bookkeeping and battles against powerful economic forces may not be an excuse for the company’s sluggishness in locating the heirs, but it certainly explains its conduct from a psychological standpoint.

There are plenty of problems with the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets, but it is also virtually the only body that has lived up to the decision to transfer a significant chunk of the proceeds from unclaimed assets to the needy survivors who dwell among us. It is also virtually the only body that hasn’t made them pass through all seven levels of hell to obtain the money: It just gave it.

When one hand is fighting the banks and the other is giving money to the needy, it seems we ought to be able to try to forgive the rest.


2.  Haaretz,

January 04, 2011

The real reason for racism in south Tel Aviv

If the residents of south Tel Aviv had wanted to fight to improve the looks of their neighborhoods, they would have joined forces with the refugees for real social change.

By Vered Lee

“In the corners of the living quarters of the Africans … you will find the filth, card games played for money, residents getting drunk, and prostitution. … The Africans bring this way of life with them when they migrate, and it is no wonder that crime in the country is on the upswing. Young women and even young men are again not safe going out on the streets alone after dark.”

These harsh statements were not written about African refugees who recently arrived in Israel. They were written by Haaretz journalist Aryeh Gelblum on April 22, 1949, and referred to the Jews who had immigrated from North Africa, many of the same immigrants who either themselves or whose descendents now populate south Tel Aviv and who are now spouting similar rhetoric against newly arrived refugees from Africa.

Residents of south Tel Aviv who have suffered for years from poverty, crime and prostitution have been working for some time to get the refugees expelled from their neighborhoods. The rhetoric they employ has succeeded in misleading and blinding many people who in more clearheaded times would label such talk as pure racism.

It is precisely during these dark times, however, during which the level of hate is rising, that the duty exists to state clearly that the hostility in south Tel Aviv neighborhoods towards the refugees is pure and simple racism. The residents of these neighborhoods are hiding behind a rhetorical artifice based in part on the argument that their neighborhoods are teetering on the edge and the refugees impose additional difficulties on them.

The residents also argue that the refugees pose a threat to their personal safety, try to pick up their young women and sow crime in the streets. A third contention relates to the refugees’ way of life: They crowd into small apartments and degrade the cleanliness of the neighborhood. Finally, it is argued, that their growing numbers pose a demographic threat.

Any attempt to point out the racist rhetoric that they are creating is rebuffed with pretentions of total innocence, which quickly turns into anger, rejecting the right of those who don’t live in the neighborhood to judge.

Nonetheless, the negative labeling, the stereotypes and the fear of those who are different, who, they say, will change the social fabric are clear hallmarks of racism.

Anyone who tries to whitewash the hate-drenched efforts of the residents of south Tel Aviv on the contention that things are more complicated is falling into the trap laid by the racist rhetoric and is giving support to these efforts.

Surprisingly, in recent years, residents of south Tel Aviv have not come out against the real reason for the collapse of their neighborhoods, the real threat to themselves and their children, which is the drug trade that brings with it crime and feeds prostitution in the area.

The residents, however, have learned to react apathetically to the decline posed by drug addicts, to the crime around them, to the trafficking in women which seeps unhindered onto their streets. They are apathetic to the prostitutes loitering in their apartment stairwells, to the thriving escort services and to the dirty needles scattered in public parks and in the yards of the neighborhood.

If the residents of south Tel Aviv had wanted to fight to improve the looks of their neighborhoods, they would have joined forces with the refugees for real social change. They would have been able to engage in productive discussion with residents of the various communities and bridge the cultural divide. Together they could demand the intervention of municipal and national government officials for the benefit of the entire population of the area.

The attempt to denigrate the refugees and accuse them of crime and to scorn the overcrowding in their small apartments while ignoring their suffering and poverty reveals the real motive for the racism of south Tel Aviv’s residents: fear of living in proximity to a Muslim population. And the biggest concern of all: That the value of the residents’ homes will go down.


3.  Al Jazeera

02 Jan 2011

Restricting Israel’s Arab minority

Legitimacy of Israeli democracy threatened as racism increases under discriminatory laws against Palestinian minority.

Mel Frykberg

Israelis who have continued to rent homes to Palestinians, despite a religious ruling by rabbis forbidding it, have received threats and have been publicly shamed by right-wing organisations [EPA]

A number of recent incidents discriminating against Israel’s Palestinian minority has prompted Israeli Knesset (parliament) members to debate whether Israel is becoming increasingly racist.

Ronit Sela from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri) has no doubts. “Israel’s democracy is under threat as an increasingly large racist element raises its collective head. A number of racist occurrences have taken place in a climate conducive to racism. This wouldn’t have happened prior to the current right-wing Israeli government,” Sela said.

Recently an organisation called Jews for a Jewish Bat Yam (a suburb near Tel Aviv) held a protest against “assimilation of young Jewish women with Arabs living in the city or in nearby Jaffa.”

“It’s a local organisation of Bat Yam residents, because the public is tired of so many Arabs going out with Jewish girls,” explained one of the organisers, Bentzi Gufstein. “In addition to the protest, we will hand out pamphlets explaining the situation.”

For all the fear of “being swamped by the Arabs”, the amount of social, political and public interaction between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Palestinian minority remains restricted.

Prof. Shlomo Hasson from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem argues that relations between the two communities are largely influenced by social and economic interaction.

“There is very limited integration between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens. Unemployment amongst Israeli-Arabs is much higher than amongst Jewish citizens,” said Orna Cohen from Adalah, The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

“In the public sector Arab employment is basically limited to the health and educational sector where they work with fellow Arabs. There is some integration in the private sector where Arabs are employed and they are also hired for private services,” Cohen said.

“There is also some mixing in mixed residential cities such as Haifa. But there are many Jewish communities where Arabs are refused the right to live and not allowed to buy land,” added Cohen.

“I don’t know the extent to which Arabs and Israelis are inter-dating, but that really is irrelevant.”

Several weeks ago Knesset members hotly debated an earlier development when a number of leading Israeli rabbis signed a religious ruling forbidding renting homes to gentiles, specifically aimed at Palestinians living in the Israel town Safed, while studying at a local college.

“We don’t need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel,” said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Beit El settlement. He stated that Jews looking for apartments should be given preference over gentiles and that the growing number of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship were becoming a nuisance.

Israelis who have continued to rent to Palestinians have received threats and been publicly shamed by right-wing organisations who have drawn up lists.

According to Israeli daily ‘Y Net’, a recent survey shows 41 percent of secular Israelis support municipal religious leaders’ call not to rent apartments to non-Jews, as do 64 percent and 88 percent of Israel’s traditional and Haredi Jews, respectively.

Haneen Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset who participated in the ill-fated Mavi Marmara attempt to break the siege of Gaza in May, expressed outrage that some Israeli parliamentarians were feigning shock at recent developments.

“Three months ago the Knesset approved a law that villages with populations smaller than 500 residents could remain Jewish to ‘maintain their cultural identity’. Furthermore, there have been approximately ten laws passed during the last year aimed against the Arab minority,” Zoabi said.

“Israel has double standards. Some Knesset members accused the rabbis of being racist despite the loyalty oath they supported and passed several months earlier. This calls for the Israeli citizenship of the Palestinian minority to be dependent on swearing allegiance to Zionism and Israel’s Jewish character despite this conflicting with their rights as an ethnic minority,” she said.

“These rabbis authored the letter despite the fact they are Israeli public servants and on the government payroll. We wrote to the justice minister and got a legal injunction asking the minister to look into the matter. We have received no reply and nothing has been done about it,” added Sela.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not rebuked the rabbis. The fact that public servants are able to incite to this degree, despite there being no major changes in Israel’s judiciary in the country’s 62-year history, speaks volumes about the current political climate in Israel,” Sela said.

Adalah, has meticulously documented the discrimination against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

This includes over 30 laws ranging from the law of return applying only to Jews; the ease with which Palestinians can be stripped of their citizenship; under-representation in the judiciary and politics; under-funding of Arab education and social services; higher rates of unemployment; and inadequate access to land and planning rights.

A version of this article first appeared on the Inter Press Service News Agency.


4.  Washington Post,

January 04, 2011

Jerusalem boxing club unites Jews and Arabs in and out of the ring

By Joel Greenberg

Washington Post Staff Writer

January 4, 2011

JERUSALEM – In a converted bomb shelter in a low-income Jewish neighborhood, Ismail Jaafari, a Palestinian boxer from across town, bobbed and weaved in the ring, trading punches with an Israeli opponent.

They were sparring at a local boxing club that is something of an anomaly in this ethnically divided city: a place where both Jews and Arabs pursue a shared passion. Palestinians from East Jerusalem have earned their boxing credentials at the club, training with Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants, bearded yeshiva students and settlers from the West Bank.

Presiding over it all is Gershon Luxemburg, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who learned boxing as a boy to repel anti-Semitic assaults and later became a champion boxer in Uzbekistan and several times Israel’s light heavyweight champion.

An unabashed nationalist who was jailed more than 20 years ago on charges of stockpiling arms, allegedly for attacks on Arabs, Luxemburg, 66, now preaches tolerance. He accepts all comers to his club, which he says is meant to provide a healthy outlet for youths in troubled neighborhoods.

On a recent evening, Jaafari led a warm-up session, jogging around the gym, trailed by aspiring boxers who ranged in age from young boys to a man in his 60s, and also included two young women. Luxemburg, who shares coaching duties with his brother Eli, a former Soviet champion, barked orders as the boxers went through their paces.

“Before I started coaching, I thought the Arabs were an obstacle for us in this country and that we couldn’t live together,” Luxemburg said. “But it’s hard to believe what sports has done, how it has brought people here together; they’ve become friends, helping each other out, inviting each other over.”

Jaafari, a 36-year-old truck driver, said he had trained at the club for 13 years under Luxemburg’s tutelage. “We’re more than friends,” Jaafari said. “He’s like my father.”

After Palestinian bombing attacks in Jerusalem, Jaafari recalled, he would stay away from the club to avoid awkward encounters with Israeli club members. Luxemburg would call him, insisting that he show up. “He would tell me: ‘Who cares about the political situation outside! We’re here, and you’re like family.’ “

Ramzi Srour, an 18-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem who has trained at the club for eight years, said that the conflict on the streets never disrupted the atmosphere in the boxing gym. “Down in the club, we don’t pay attention to the problems upstairs,” he said. “This is sports, and we’re like brothers.”

Luxemburg, who in his day job works as a building superintendent, has taken his Jewish and Arab club members on road trips together to boxing matches, cooking them food and taking them on sightseeing trips. “There were people here who had never even met an Arab, and only saw them on TV throwing stones,” Luxemburg said. “Suddenly they’re sitting together, talking to one another as human beings.”

Urged by Luxemburg to create an alternative to street life for youngsters in his own community, Jaafari opened a boxing and karate club in his East Jerusalem neighborhood, and its members regularly travel to the Jewish side of town for sparring matches in Luxemburg’s gym. Boxers trained by Jaafari have taken top places in Palestinian championships in the West Bank, and one traveled to Jordan as a member of a national squad.

Jaafari, who has competed in Israeli championships, said that “sports crosses borders.” “Politics is a dirty business that should be put aside,” he added. “We get along fine.”

For the Israeli boxers in Luxemburg’s club, the presence of the Palestinians is completely unremarkable.

“They’re my friends,” said Yotam Mirzai, who lives in the Israeli settlement town of Maaleh Adumim in the West Bank, near Jerusalem. “In the ring we’re all just people, and in competitions it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”

The distinction between the political and the personal, Luxemburg says, is the key. He recalled how, at the height of Israeli-Palestinian violence several years ago, he would regularly bring clothes, food and money to a Palestinian from the West Bank who had worked for him but could not reach his job because of Israeli border closures.

“There are enemies, and there are friends,” he said. “Whoever comes at you with a weapon should get what he deserves, but a friend is a friend. There’s war, and then there’s life, and we can manage.”

Greenberg is a special correspondent.


5. Haaaretz Editorial,

January 04, 2011

Israel must allow Palestinians to protest in peace

The IDF should allow the demonstrations at Bil’in to take place. It should act only when there is danger to life and property.

Haaretz Editorial

Jawaher Abu Rahmah, a 36-year-old kindergarten teacher, was killed over the weekend after she choked on tear gas while watching the weekly demonstration at her village. Residents and human rights activists from at home and abroad demonstrate against the separation fence that was built on village land. Abu Rahmah died less than two years after her brother Bassem was killed by a tear-gas canister fired directly at his chest at a similar protest. A third brother, Ashraf, was caught on camera as he was shot by Israeli soldiers while he was handcuffed.

The demonstrations at Bil’in, which have been going on since work to build the fence on village land began in February 2005, are entirely legitimate. The residents have the right to protest the theft of their land for the giant settlements set up around their village. More than three years ago, following such demonstrations, the Supreme Court ordered that the fence’s route be moved to give the village back some of its land – about 700 dunams. The defense establishment has yet to carry out this ruling.

Since the demonstrations against the fence began in the West Bank, 21 protesters have been killed, according to Palestinian sources. This is a chilling statistic that should greatly trouble every Israeli. So should the death of Abu Rahmah. According to the demonstrators, the Israel Defense Forces used particularly large quantities of gas on Friday. An Israeli doctor who takes part in the protests, Daniel Argo, told Haaretz that some tear gas is less dangerous than the kind used by the IDF. So it’s not clear why the army chooses to use the more dangerous type.

The IDF should allow the demonstrations at Bil’in to take place. It should act only when there is danger to life and property. And even then it should act as security forces do in democratic countries when there are demonstrations. Just as the settlers’ protests against the Gaza disengagement passed without deaths, so should the Palestinian protests against the fence pass. There are enough ways to break up demonstrations, if this is at all necessary, without risking the lives of the participants.

Abu Rahmah died in vain. She didn’t endanger anyone. There’s no need to mention the countries where the regimes kill people who demonstrate against them. Israel must not become one of them.


6.  Haaretz,

January 04, 2011

Israel’s right should be wary of U.S. conservatives

Those who ought to be worried about the impending situation in the United States – a sweeping Republican majority in the 112th House of Representatives, which begins its term this month – are first and foremost people on the Israeli right.

By Shlomo Shamir

Those who ought to be worried about the impending situation in the United States – a sweeping Republican majority in the 112th House of Representatives, which begins its term this month – are first and foremost people on the Israeli right. Those who should be especially worried are the prime minister and anyone else convinced that the strong Republican presence on Capitol Hill ensures enthusiastic support for Israel over the next two years that will serve as a brake and counterweight to the chill emanating from the White House.

For the current Republican majority is characterized by a large and demonstrative contingent of the vocal, activist, demanding right. This fact gives today’s Republican majority special significance that was absent during previous terms when the Republicans controlled Congress.

The impressive achievements of President Barack Obama, who managed to pass revolutionary legislation during the two weeks of the last Congress’ lame-duck session, refutes the assessment that has gladdened Israeli rightists’ heart: that the rout the Democrats suffered in the November elections punished and weakened the president. Now, the Israeli right should expect a less pleasant surprise.

Israel’s rightist coalition will discover that the presence of a large right-wing faction within the Republican majority, a faction with no parallel in the houses of the last several years, not only does not guarantee support for its policies but even carries the potential for aggressive opposition to its conduct of the peace process.

The new Republican right is in large part unfriendly. This is a new kind of right, which was hastily formed, developed outside the establishment and grew on the margins of local politics in response to the feelings of anger and depression that swept large portions of the public due to the economic recession and ongoing unemployment. Most of the new Republican members of Congress are angry local activists who view Washington as the source of many of the problems currently weighing down America.

The Tea Party representatives who were elected are aggressive radicals on social issues. To the degree that foreign policy and relations with countries across the ocean interest them at all, they tend toward isolationism. So far, this tendency has been hesitant and constrained. But with time, as they grow accustomed to the feeling of power conferred by being in the majority, their isolationism will presumably strengthen and erupt in full force. As one analyst for National Public Radio noted recently, this is a right that will show no mercy toward countries that challenge the United States.

What these new representatives of the Republican Party’s right wing deem far more critical is the lethal economic situation of many American states, some of which are on the brink of bankruptcy. Ensuring funding for schools and fire departments in peripheral areas of the country, or bolstering welfare services and community projects in large cities, top the list of priorities they will seek to advance in the new Congress.

Washington pundits predict that Tea Party representatives will try to cut foreign aid to other countries, including America’s closest allies. A major newspaper in Dallas, viewed as representative of the Republican Party’s right wing, recently published an editorial urging a cut-off of economic aid to Israel due to its refusal to accede to the administration’s demands in its efforts to advance the Middle East peace process.

For the first time in years, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives will not all be cut from the same cloth and will not act as a disciplined, unified bloc. Thus far, it has been the Democrats on Capitol Hill who suffered from internal strife and disagreements among the party’s various factions and interest groups; its leadership was forced to navigate the activity of its congressional representatives rather like an internal coalition. But the results of November’s election for the first time made the Republican Party’s representatives in Congress ideologically diverse, turning the faction into an arena for various forces and interests that will not always fall in line behind the leadership’s views.

“The majority leader in the House of Representatives will have a very hard time imposing discipline on his colleagues,” one Washington pundit said. This assessment, too, does not bode well for Israel’s right.



[The piece below has been forwarded by Paula Clariste, who asks “What can the American people, and the rest of us,  do about it?”  What Americans and others can do is to find and distribute arguments to show that Israel is a liability not an asset to the United States, and to argue loudly and clearly that the present economic situation makes it is shameful for the US to support Israel with $3 billion annually in military aid while neglecting her own at home.  Any argument is acceptable that will help make the American people realize that the United States in supporting Israel is behaving criminally .  So long as Congress fears to run counter to AIPAC’s and Christian Zionist’s principles, we have to work at the grass roots level to bring Congress and the President around to our view of things.  Additionally, we should all whole-heartedly support BDS.]

Tuesday 04 Jan 2011

Any Respect for International Law Left in The US Congress?

Readers Number : 3388

Exclusive to Al-Manar

Franklin Lamb


This week marks the second anniversary of among the most savage criminal slaughters of human life in long memory. The 522 hour indiscriminate carnage, “Cast Lead”  that killed 1,417 Palestinians, mostly civilians, 352 of them children, injuring for life more than 5,300 , indicts  Israel as well as those countries that continue to supply it weapons, diplomatic cover and to enforce Israel’s  illegal siege on sealed Gaza.

The US administration, as revealed in a State Department cable posted by Wikileaks, has been working overtime with Israel to parry further condemnation of  Israeli crimes documented in the Richard Goldstone and Richard Falk Reports, among others. These investigations established massive violations of human rights and international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity while refuting claims by Israel that it acted according to the limited international right of self-defense. Goldstone, Falk and others have demonstrated that it was both the victims of Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara who alone possessed the right of self-defense in light of Israel’s agressions, not Israel.

As Professor Falk instructs us, Israeli actions in both cases:

“Are certainly  acts of aggression under the UN Charter, and an act of war by reference to customary international law. Whenever force is used in situations other than in situation where a proper claim of self-defense is made, the undertaking is unlawful, and if as here, it is an instance of flagrant non-defensive force, the attacker is engaged in criminal conduct and both the offending state and the perpetrators acting on behalf of the should be held responsible, and to the extent international crimes took place, held accountable.”.

Rather than hold Israel to the “single universal human rights standard that applies to every country”, as Hilary Clinton crowed on Human Rights Day during an appearance before the Brookings Institute, the Obama administration claims others have ‘rushed to judgment’ and it has refused to condemn Israel’s  May 31, 2010 murder of an American citizen on the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid boat, 19 year old Furkan Dogan.

Rushing to judgment and ignoring International law in Congress

Maybe it requires the moral clarity of 19 year old Layal, and her teen aged friends huddled in a damp, candle lighted, cold subterranean hovel in Shatila Palestinian Refugees camp this New Years in Beirut, to speak the naked truth.  In their make shift ‘classroom’ the teenagers tutor  camp kids  on the three R’s  after  the youngsters double shift ‘short day’ and too early daily dismissal  at  Shatila’s overcrowded and undersupplied and understaffed, UNRWA Ramallah and Hemeh schools.

Wrapped in a woollen shawl for warmth, and discussing a planned commemoration of the second anniversary of the 22 day Gaza Massacre, Layal suddenly blurted out, “you know what?  The Star of David  and Israel’s flag has replaced the Nazi Swastika as today’s symbol of  ethnic cleansing, racism and oppression.” She explained to her colleagues, “ Israel will remain a pariah state as long as its laws and its policies continue to violate the basic human  rights of  Palestinians. Israel has no right to exist as an exclusively Jewish State, any more than Hitler’s Reich had a “right to exist for Aryans only.  We Palestinians will return. Liberty and justice will be achieved. Jews and Arabs can again live together in peace.”

As never before. the international community, increasingly appalled and angered by Israeli crimes is pulling back from supporting or trying to justify Israel’s actions and are shifting attention to the rights of Palestinians to live in their own country, to return from their Nakba  caused refugee “sanctuaries”  in more than 60 countries and to recognize the State of Palestine.  This as some in the international community prepare to  escort Israel before the bar of international justice.

But not in the US Congress which is some ways has become a grotesque  caricature  of what James Madison and the founding fathers wanted and,  perhaps naively, as it has turned out, believed they had created.

As the Israel lobby and the Jerusalem Post have been claiming recently, and even as Israel’s most ardent apologists struggle to justify its actions and Israel’s position becomes increasingly untenable, nearly five dozen senators and over 180 members of the House of Representatives have by now issued statements since Cast Lead and the attack on the humanitarian aid boat the Mavi Marmara. Almost all of them overwhelmingly supportive of Israel while ignoring well established international law.

·    In the Senate, former presidential candidate and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (DMA), who repeatedly claims he wants to reach out to Iran and other Middle East countries said that “Israel has every right in the world to make certain that weapons are not being smuggled into Gaza after the thousands of rockets that have been fired on it. It is not just Israel conducting this blockade; it is Israel and Egypt. So you begin that Israel has this right to protect itself and its claim to a right of self-defense is rock solid.”

·    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted that “Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens and therefore has a clear right under international law to prevent weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists determined to target them. Israel indicated it was willing to put in place a process to ensure that legitimate humanitarian relief reached Gaza. Unfortunately this offer was rejected”

·     Israel has pledged to carry out a transparent and thorough investigation of this incident, and I look forward to its findings.”

·    Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said, “We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self-defense.” Lieberman added that  he appreciates “the way in which the Obama administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”

·    Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) added that “Israel is at war. Each and every day thousands of its innocent men, women and children face the threat of lethal rocket attack from the terrorists.” “ Israel is not a liability to the United States,” Brown said. “There is no greater US ally in the critical area of the Middle East and perhaps no better strategic partnership in the world.”

·    Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated, “Israel – rightfully so – invoked its right to self-defense in Gaza and on the Mavi Marmara.”

·    Said Rep. Gary Ackerman (DNY): “I strongly condemn the action of those who assaulted the Israeli troops and made the use of violence by Israeli troops absolutely necessary and justified in self-defense”.

·    Republican whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) noted, “ I commend the administration for its steadfast support of Israel in resisting another Goldstone-style UN investigation. These types of kangaroo courts have one goal, and that is to strip democratic nations of their rights to defend their citizens from terrorism. The United States must not lend its authority to any UN action to discredit our democratic ally and set back prospects for peace in the region, and I hope the Obama administration remains committed to that principle.”

·    New Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R-OH) said, “Israel has every right to defend itself against terrorists which threaten its very survival.”

And the list goes on…and on……..

Of course our American problem is  not just our  Congress.

The Israel lobby picked and packed Executive Branch is not much more supportive of American values and international norms. To the shame of the US State Department, its spokesman, Robert Wood sullied and humiliated America when the hapless fellow refused to answer even a simple media question whether the United States considered pasta i.e. macaroni, spaghetti, fettuccini noodles items denied to Palestinians under Israel’s illegal blockade of  Gaza–a “dual-use item.”  The American people are better than this and must demand better from our officials.

Currently, there is only a faint hint that Members of Congress, 83% of whom rely on  Israeli lobby or arms industry political action committee money to keep their seats and sinecures, have the gumption to advocate a U.S. policy, consistent with American notions of substantial justice or which upholds Palestinian rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Franklin Lamb is doing research Lebanon and can be reached c/o


  1. C. Hazakyah Hardy Dia says:

    Will revolution stop at Israel’s borders?
    Squeezed by dire need and increasingly louder calls for radical change within Israel’s borders and spreading scenes of massive and deadly protests in surrounding states, Haifa’s internationally noted culturally mixed Masada Street Artist Community — an excellent representational microcosm of wider society in Israel — has taken action to focus social unrest toward national reconciliation and stave off social upheaval

    By C. Hazakyah Hardy Dia

    Haifa, Israel (1 March 2011) — While violent revolutions and calls for immediate and sweeping change across the Arab world dominate the news, the so called “winds of change” blowing through North Africa and the Middle East are having an impact here in Israel as well. Two of the clearest lessons coming from the contagious turmoil being broadcast 24 hours a day all over Israel from its neighboring states is that oppression has a limit and that when the aspirations of the oppressed masses are no longer checked by fear of reprisal, social unrest can easily translate into social upheaval.

    Squeezed by dire need and increasingly louder calls for radical change within Israel’s borders and spreading scenes of massive and deadly protests in surrounding states, Haifa’s internationally noted culturally mixed Masada Street Artist Community — an excellent representational microcosm of wider society in Israel — has taken action to focus social unrest toward national reconciliation and stave off social upheaval by organizing an unprecedented national event under the banner of “a people’s mosaic conference and festival” at Yeroham Lake in the Negev Desert city of Yeroham, scheduled for September 6-8, 2011.

    Although months away, the reconciliation work has already started; “It’s the path to the festival that’s going to make the difference”, says event director Michal Rosenbaum, an accomplished educator, multi-media artist, and poet. “September is when we will all come together to celebrate our accomplishments.”

    According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, “…Israel’s society, numbering over seven million people, forms a mosaic of different religions, cultures and social traditions…” What the website doesn’t mention is the fact there is very little meaningful interaction, communication or cooperation between Israel’s mosaic of people or that at least half the population is cut off from full-participation in society because of an impenetrable wall of racism and religious discrimination. The Masada Street Artist Community is an exception.

    According to Ms. Rosenbaum, a Haifa native and Masada Street Artist’s Community pioneer, “Masada Street is a promising intersection of cross-cultural interaction and cooperation; an established hub for multicultural art, music, and social justice activism. It is intentionally open, inclusive and progressive. It’s a special place where Israel’s ‘mosaic of different religions, cultures and social traditions’ mix easily together in both work and play as a part of the daily routine.” As such, Masada Street is a credible starting point for national reconciliation in Israel.

    “Festival” documents show that the Masada Street Artist Community intends to bring all the “pieces” of Israel’s mosaic “puzzle” of peoples together in order to“meet and learn about each other, to share and enjoy the best of each other’s culture, and most importantly, to discuss and establish concrete ways to collectively work for the common good. Everyone with a stake in Israel’s future is invited and encouraged to attend…”

    The organizers of the “festival” made clear that given the deeply divided nature of Israeli society and the backdrop of unprecedented Middle East revolution, in order to inspire and actually achieve the radical change of direction needed in Israel requires something more than just an “emotionally charged politically correct ethnic music festival and a bunch of people with interesting titles doing interesting things sitting around talking while everyone else listens.”

    “The shared multi-cultural music, art, food, and practical activities along with the intimate open and honest human interaction on a festive, interesting and important occasion are certainly important to achieving national reconciliation, but it’s not enough by itself”, explained Ms. Rosenbaum. “The festival we envision is more like a wedding engagement party where the families finally come together to meet and celebrate with each other and get to know the people they have to work with to achieve a common good: their collective well-being and their children’s future.”

    “What is also needed, and what we’ve started, is a formal national grassroots conversation about Israel’s future. It’s time to stop talking at and about each other. People across Israel want to be heard. And if they have a stake in Israel’s future they should be heard”, says Ms. Rosenbaum. A key element in the success of this event, according to “festival” organizers “will be the opportunity and willingness to frankly discuss what’s in the way of the peace and mutual prosperity we all say we want, and how to get past it.”

    Although there is a collective national desire for change in Israel, there is little to no national consensus on anything else. Yet given the alienating and unsustainable nature of official Israel’s policies and practices, the tsunami-like tide of revolutionary change overwhelming the Arab world is destined to breach Israel’s borders soon. As Aluf Benn of Israel’s Haaretz News pointed out (16.02.11) “Netanyahu is beginning to resemble his friend Mubarak [however] unlike Mubarak, [Netanyahu] does not face hundreds of thousands of demonstrators demanding his departure, but the political atmosphere here [in Israel] is oppressive.” Given the “advance warning” of imminent change, the violence, death and destruction taking place in neighboring states can and should be avoided.

    Haifa’s Masada Street Artist Community believes that the classic state struggle now underway throughout the region: the “divide and conquer strategy” of the elite class vs. the “unite to throw off oppression” strategy of the majority, can be won by the people here in Israel without violence if the right steps are taken now.

    The Community got it right in choosing to take preemptive action to focus social unrest toward national reconciliation and by choosing frank and inclusive public discourse over stark public uprising as one of their tools. Moreover, by their willingness to cross religious lines and choosing to stay away from political issues, the group will avoid the usual problems which arise in discussions about Israel world-wide.

    The upcoming “festival” was inspired by an internationally-published article I wrote entitled “The Future of Israel”, and is in response to a warning which appeared at the end of it: “Either we walk through the double-hinged door that leads to change and fashion something of our own making, or change will soon burst through the door from the other side and then we will have to cope with whatever it imposes.” Jewish and Israeli blog bloggers and commentary: The Future of Israel

    When I wrote the article, about a week after Tunisia’s upheaval was triggered by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, not very many people, if anyone, would have predicted where things are today geo-politically across the Arab world. The world’s security services were certainly caught flat-footed about the people-powered revolutions and have been playing catch up ever since as they continue to spread, toppling one government after another, and forcing desperate political moves and radical political change across the region. The question facing Israel today is will revolutionary change stop at Israel’s borders? Most of Israel’s populace hopes not. It’s only the violence, death and destruction that people want to keep at bay.

    One reporter, Bradley Burston of Israel’s Haaretz News (23.02.11) had this to say: “In Israel, the revolution has already begun. This new revolution aims not only at the end of occupation, but at the beginning of a new Israel. Not for settlers, this time, but for Israelis. This revolution has only now begun. It will be waged in cyberspace and in city streets, in occupied areas and in Israel proper, in American synagogues and, in the end, the entire Jewish world. This revolution aims not only at the end of occupation, but at the beginning of a new Israel. Not for settlers, this time. For Israelis.”

    On the surface, Masada Street itself, lined with an array of art galleries, coffee houses, pubs, ethnic restaurants, and a variety of other small shops and ample graffiti, is reminiscent of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and Detroit’s Plum Street, both hubs for 60s and 70s era anti-Vietnam War and social activism in the US. The atmosphere along the Masada Street is hip, lively, welcoming, friendly and inspiring.

    For the most part, the people that make up the Masada Street Community are anything but naïve idealists. Everyone seems aware — and the overall environment is intentionally remindful — of the “conflicts, controversies and contradictions” that create the “shadow” over Israel’s future mentioned in an article by Linda Heard (Arab News, 21 June 2010) which stated that “The future of the Jewish state does not look healthy… international lawyer and author Franklin Lamb told Press TV of the existence of a CIA study that predicts Israel may not survive for more than 20 years.”

    There are a wide range of secular, religious, political and social ideas and positions represented in the Masada Street Community, and there is significant anger, resentment, frustration and pessimism hovering just below the surface. However, there seems to be some type of unwritten — and collectively supported — agreement by the Community that Masada Street is not the place for unreasonable or violent expression of one’s ideas, yet any subject is fair game for conversation or debate. Cooperation and collective action are hallmarks of the relatively close-knit community.

    Thankfully my article “The Future of Israel” generated more interest than it did controversy, and as things turned out in the region, it proved to be a timely and effective wake-up call for Israel. In the end, my article inspired an important, eagerly anticipated, and unprecedented peaceful gathering; not a plan for social upheaval. And this is good for us here in Israel because we can be sure the televised revolutions will not stop at Israel’s borders, however the Masada Street Artist Community believes — and has proved — that reconciliation is a possible, and that revolutionary change can happen without violence.

    The hope is that all of the stakeholders in Israel’s future will share their ideas and add their voices to this important discussion now taking place nationwide at the grass roots level about “the future of Israel” as the nation works toward reconciliation first at home and then with neighboring states. The time is right and the need is clear. As I stated before the overthrow of Tunisia’s dictator Ben Ali: “Global realities — Israel’s geopolitical reality in particular — dictate that our impending date with change will not be put off for much longer.” Moreover, as Yoel Marcus of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper pointed out (25 February 2011): “Path of peace is Israel’s only choice in new Mideast.”

    About the author:
    C. Hazakyah Hardy-Dia, a Jewish Israeli with African-American roots, is a recognized scholar, veteran educator, accomplished performing and recording artist, and former journalist whose news articles were a prominent feature in the US “Black press” in the 1980s. Raised Catholic, he converted to Judaism in 1987, and immigrated to Israel in October 2004. He currently resides in the Northern Israeli port city of Haifa, where he teaches English and regularly performs as a guitarist on the famed Masada Street.


  2. C. Hazakyah Hardy Dia says:

    The Future of Israel
    By C. Hazakyah Hardy-Dia, M.A.

    What a country Israel is! The fact that any reputable person anywhere could come to sincerely believe that they have enough evidence to publicly compare Israel, the so called “Middle East’s only democracy”, with anything related to Apartheid South Africa, should be enough of an indictment to spark some serious introspection here in Israel, given the fact that we call where we live: “The Holy Land”. South Africa like or not, one thing is certain: Israel is one of the most problematic national entities in the entire history of nations. Any conversation about the future of Israel should begin with a clear picture of what the present looks like.

    In full view of everyone, the government, the Rabbinate, the business sector, the media, the security services, the mayors of the cities, the settlers, the religious, the secular, you, me. In full view of all of us, and with the cooperation and silence of too many, the Israel I live in today is a country where at least half the population is cut off from full-participation in society because of an impenetrable wall of racism and religious discrimination; where political, white-collar, and all other forms of corruption have become the day-to-day national norm; where front-line educators have ceded defeat when it comes to reforming a national education system that can, at best, only predictably produce unquestioning and willing soldiers; and where all citizens (except maybe those with viable plans to leave or new immigrants who are getting off a plane even as I write) have all dug in, and resigned themselves to living in a country adamantly committed to perpetual war with its neighbors.

    What I have written so far is just a glimpse of present-day Israel. A more unvarnished look at the country would have to include the nation’s other shameful and indefensible day-to-day issues such as the country’s thriving industries in: organized crime, pornography, human trafficking, drug trafficking and abuse, and more; along with widespread and entrenched poverty, Holocaust survivor neglect (I live right next door to several), well-organized state censorship and repression of dissent and dissenters, and more still here as well.

    On top of all of this, add in world-renown espionage, subterfuge, state-sponsored assassination, and covert arms dealing and you will get a somewhat clearer picture of what this self-designated “Jewish” state looks like today. This is the Israel I surprisingly found myself living in when I made Aliyah (immigrated) almost seven years ago.

    Israel is indeed “The Holy Land”. This is exactly what inspired me to write this. We should all be ashamed of what this country is today. One quiet evening spent on Google can get anyone updated on any of these matters. All the killing being done in our name; to secure our borders while half the population inside our borders live with insecurity everyday, completely cut off from full participation in society. And if you live here you know it and see it everyday.

    And then there is the racism. Racism is alive and well in all aspects of Israeli society. I learned about it by showing up “Black” everywhere I went and by watching the news. It all plays out in the light of day. No secret here. But don’t ask anyone about it. When I bring the subject up it’s like I might have put a snake on the table. Everyone jumps back. Not me. Not me. But the crushing racist machine that Israel is keeps turning.

    For marginalized Israelis (Palestinians, Bedouins, anyone “Black”, the countless poor and un/under employed, et. al.), watching “Israel” play out in the media, is like having season tickets and balcony seats to quintessential theatre of the absurd and then being compelled to attend the daily matinee, the evening show and all the rehearsals: Likud vs. Kadima, Shas vs. anything, 67 borders or something else, Jerusalem, stalled peace talks, “a spokesman for the government said…”, Gaza, Hamas, settlements, “Israel denied any involvement…”, settlers, terrorism, “Israeli troops shot several suspected terrorist today…”, etc. Those of us who live here should be familiar with the script.

    The primary issue that needs to be put on the table when discussing Israel is not “the peace process”, rather this: Why do so many Jewish Israelis cooperate with — or turn a blind eye to — how our government conducts its business? Peace and just relations with our neighbors will not precede peace and just relations within our borders. A signed “peace” treaty or the cessation of combat should not be misconstrued with peace itself. Modern Israel, as a nation, has never known peace.

    As the government goes about the smoke and mirrors process of “seeking to revive the peace talks”, in well-secured buildings and offices all over Israel, official plans are being made and approved as to the next very-frightening-and-often-deadly-middle-of the-night house raid in the West Bank, as to the updating of bomb targets in Gaza, as to updating the official assassination list, as to where the next “fence” will be put up, as to which Palestinian or Bedouin home is scheduled to be bulldozed, as to where the next checkpoint will be set up, as to how many more fighter jets and tanks are needed, and of course, as to which Israeli citizen needs to be taught a lesson or two about the consequences of not towing the official line.

    As the dead and maimed Palestinian bodies continue to stack up under the headline: “Israel retaliates…”, and world leaders farcically debate the prospects and plans for peace, millions of systemically marginalized Israelis sit in their back row balcony seats and watch re-run after re-run of the same show. Only the actors change from time to time. Everything else: the producer, the director, the underwriters and the audience, stay the same. Nothing to applaud here!

    Where is the inspiration, guidance, support and protection of the religious leaders of Israel? Are Jewish religious leaders spiritually bankrupt and unable or unwilling to organize and lead a campaign for rudimentary social change within Israel? What about the promise Democracy is suppose to deliver on: freedom, justice, equal rights…? The future is bleak because the present is bleak. It seems wise that we would do something now, in the present, so we can guarantee the peaceful and prosperous future we all say we want.

    By choice, I’m not proposing here any scenarios of what an ideal Israel would look like. I have chosen first to focus on trying to map out some of the many problems that beg to be addressed. But I’m confident some viable ideas could be gathered from the ranks of the millions of Israelis whose faces are officially unrecognized (except maybe in a wanted poster) and voices officially ignored (except that one might complain to loudly).

    Admittedly, it might be is easier for me to speak out then many of my Israeli sisters and brothers, because as an African-American Jew, I don’t benefit, as enough people obviously do, from Israel’s well-choreographed dysfunction. Maybe if I did, I would be as uncomfortably silent as many of my fellow citizens. However, Israel’s national policies and practices, thankfully, all but guarantee that I will never get the chance to find out.

    Personally, I can’t say what South African style apartheid was like. I didn’t experience it. What I did experience was Detroit (USA) style apartheid: “a social policy or racial segregation involving political and economic and legal discrimination against people who are not Whites”. Such a policy, unwritten as it may have been, was as equally ugly and hurtful to non-whites as it was unsustainable. The practice (remember the policy didn’t exist on paper anywhere), eventually led to the notorious 1967 popular uprising in Detroit, one of the deadliest and most destructive “riots” in American history. The federal government was only able to put down the uprising by calling in some of its best regular army troops. I grew up in the midst of all of that. When the smoke cleared there was forty-three dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed.

    The Israel I live in today is eerily reminiscent of pre-riot Detroit in so many ways. However, Israel’s geopolitical realities dictate that the end point of where the country is headed won’t be a riot (like a kettle boiling over, small-scale riots happen all the time in Israel). Without an immediate and radical change of course, this country is headed for the trash heap of nations, period.

    My belief in the basic goodness of mankind won’t allow me to embrace the idea that there might be a single Jew on the planet who would try to defend any of these things. However, my submission to reality keeps me conscious of the fact that enough Jews will deny all of it. And the strength of their denial, you can be sure, will be commensurate with the denier’s level of investment in and rewards received from any dysfunction I have mentioned. How else could things continue as they somehow manage to do?

    An indictment such as this, being brought against such a powerful state, would probably get more traction if it were brought by someone less vulnerable to personal attack than myself. My only comfort in all of this is that mine is not a lone voice. A less than healthy amount of commentators and activists are — and have been — sounding the alarm; putting out a call for action. My hope is that none of my readers allow themselves to be sidetracked by the age old and highly effective diversion: busy dissecting the messenger, the message goes unattended.

    Either we walk through the double-hinged door that leads to change and fashion something of our own making, or change will soon burst through the door from the other side and then we will have to cope with whatever it imposes. Global realities — Israel’s geopolitical reality in particular — dictate that our impending date with change will not be put off for much longer.

    About the author:
    C. Hazakyah Hardy-Dia, a Jewish Israeli with African-American roots, is a recognized scholar, veteran educator, accomplished performing and recording artist, and former journalist whose news articles were a prominent feature in the US “Black press” in the 1980s. Raised Catholic, he converted to Judaism in 1987, and immigrated to Israel in October 2004. He currently resides in the Northern Israeli port city of Haifa, where he teaches English and regularly performs as a guitarist on the famed Masada Street.



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