Archive | January 23rd, 2012

IsraHell demographic-cultural barriers to peace


By Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery considers the relationship between Israel’s demographic-cultural blocs and its domestic politics, especially attitudes towards peace and the Arabs. He argues that before peace can take root, the barriers between the blocs, especially the deeply ingrained racism of the Oriental and Russian Jews, must be broken.

”When the Jews from Muslim countries started to arrive en masse in Israel, they were steeped in Arab culture. But here they were received by a society that held everything Arab in total contempt… So, the immigrants were required to shed their own culture and traditions, their accent, their memories, their music. In order to show how thoroughly Israeli they had become, they also had to hate Arabs.” (Uri Avnery)

“Israel has no foreign policy, only a domestic policy,” Henry Kissinger once remarked.

This has probably been more or less true of every country since the advent of democracy. Yet in Israel this seems even truer. (Ironically, it could almost be said that the US has no foreign policy, only an Israeli domestic policy.)

In order to understand our foreign policy, we have to look in the mirror. Who are we? What is our society like?…

Demographic-cultural blocs

Israel is … a kind of federation of several major demographic-cultural blocs which dominate our social and political life.

Who are they? There are (1) the old Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin); (2) the Oriental (or “Sephardi”) Jews; (3) the religious (partly Ashkenazi, partly Oriental); (4) the “Russians”, immigrants from all the countries of the former Soviet Union; and (5) the Palestinian-Arab citizens, who did not come from anywhere.

This is, of course, a schematic presentation. None of the blocs is completely homogeneous. Each bloc has several sub-blocs, some blocs overlap, there is some intermarriage, but on the whole the picture is accurate. Gender plays no role in this division.

The political scene almost exactly reflects these divisions. The Labour party was in its heyday the main instrument of Ashkenazi power. Its remnants, together with Kadima and Meretz, are still Ashkenazi. Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beytenu consists mainly of Russians. There are three or four religious parties. Then there are two exclusively Arab parties, and the Communist party, which is mainly Arab, too. The Likud represents the bulk of the Orientals, though almost all its leaders are Ashkenazim.

The relationship between the blocs is often strained. Just now, the whole country is in an uproar because in Kiryat Malakhi, a southern town with mainly Oriental inhabitants, house owners have signed a commitment not to sell apartments to Ethiopians, while the Rabbi of Safed, a northern town of mainly Orthodox Jews, has forbidden his flock to rent apartments to Arabs.

But apart from the rift between the Jews and the Arabs, the main problem is the resentment of the Orientals, the Russians and the religious against what they call “the Ashkenazi elite”.

Since they were the first to arrive, long before the establishment of the state, Ashkenazim control most of the centres of power – social, political, economic and cultural. Generally, they belong to the more affluent part of society, while the Orientals, the Orthodox, the Russians and the Arabs generally belong to the lower socio-economic strata.

The Orientals have deep grudges against the Ashkenazim. They believe – not without justification – that they have been humiliated and discriminated against from their first day in the country, and still are, though quite a number of them have reached high economic and political positions. The other day, a top director of one of the foremost financial institutions caused a scandal when he accused the “Whites” (i.e. Ashkenazim) of dominating all the banks, the courts and the media. He was promptly fired, which caused another scandal.

The Likud came to power in 1977, dethroning Labour. With short interruptions, It has been in power ever since. Yet most Likud members still feel that the Ashkenazim rule Israel, leaving them far behind. Now, 34 years later, the dark wave of anti-democratic legislation pushed by Likud deputies is being justified by the slogan “We must start to rule!”

The scene reminds me of a building site surrounded by a wooden fence. The canny contractor has left some holes in the fence, so that curious passers-by can look in. In our society, all the other blocs feel like outsiders looking through the holes, full of envy for the Ashkenazi “elite” inside, who have all the good things. They hate everything they connect with this “elite”: the Supreme Court, the media, the human rights organizations, and especially the peace camp. All these are called “leftist”, a word curiously enough identified with the “elite”.

How has “peace” become associated with the dominant and domineering Ashkenazim?

That is one of the great tragedies of our country.

Zionism and the culture of hating Arabs

“Jews have lived for many centuries in the Muslim world. There they never experienced the terrible things committed in Europe by Christian anti-Semitism. Muslim-Jewish animosity started only a century ago, with the advent of Zionism…”

Jews have lived for many centuries in the Muslim world. There they never experienced the terrible things committed in Europe by Christian anti-Semitism. Muslim-Jewish animosity started only a century ago, with the advent of Zionism, and for obvious reasons.

When the Jews from Muslim countries started to arrive en massein Israel, they were steeped in Arab culture. But here they were received by a society that held everything Arab in total contempt. Their Arab culture was “primitive”, while real culture was European. Furthermore, they were identified with the murderous Muslims. So, the immigrants were required to shed their own culture and traditions, their accent, their memories, their music. In order to show how thoroughly Israeli they had become, they also had to hate Arabs.

It is, of course, a world-wide phenomenon that in multinational countries the most downtrodden class of the dominant nation is also the most radical nationalist foe of the minority nations. Belonging to the superior nation is often the only source of pride left to them. The result is frequently virulent racism and xenophobia.

This is one of the reasons why the Orientals were attracted to the Likud, for whom the rejection of peace and the hatred of Arabs are supreme virtues. Also, having been in opposition for ages, the Likud was seen as representing those who were “outside”, fighting those who were “inside”. This is still the case.

The case of the “Russians” is different. They grew up in a society that despised democracy, admired strong leaders. The “whites”, Russians and Ukrainians, despised and hated the “dark” peoples of the south – Armenians, Georgians, Tatars, Uzbeks and such. (I once invented a formula: “Bolshevism minus Marxism equals Fascism”.)

When the Russian Jews came to join us, they brought with them a virulent nationalism, a complete disinterest in democracy and an automatic hatred of Arabs. They cannot understand why we allowed them to stay here at all. When, this week, a lady deputy (though “lady” may be euphemistic) from St Petersburg poured a glass of water on the head of an Arab deputy from the Labour party, nobody was very surprised… For Lieberman’s followers, peace is a dirty word, and so is democracy.

For religious people of all shades – from the ultra-Orthodox to the National-Religious settlers, there is no problem at all. From the crib on, they learn that Jews are the Chosen People; that the Almighty personally promised us this country; that the goyim [gentiles] – including the Arabs – are just inferior human beings.

It may be said, quite rightly, that I generalize. I do, just to simplify matters. There are indeed a lot of Orientals, especially of the younger generation, who are repelled by the ultra-nationalism of the Likud, the more so as the neo-liberalism of Binyamin Netanyahu (which Shimon Peres once called “swinish capitalism”) is in direct contradiction to the basic interests of their community. There are also a lot of decent, liberal, peace-loving religious people. (Yeshayahu Leibovitz comes to mind.) Some Russians are gradually leaving their self-imposed ghetto. But these are small minorities in their communities.  The bulk of the three blocs – Oriental, Russian and religious – are united in their opposition to peace, and at best indifferent to democracy.

All these together constitute the right-wing, anti-peace coalition that is governing Israel now. The problem is not just a question of politics. It is much more profound – and much more daunting.

”How can the peace forces win?”

Some people blame us, the democratic peace movement, for not recognizing the problem early enough, and not doing enough to attract the members of the various blocs to the ideals of peace and democracy. Also, it is said, we did not show that social justice is inseparably connected with democracy and peace.

I must accept my share of the blame for this failure, though I might point out that I tried to make the connection right from the beginning. I asked my friends to concentrate our efforts on the Oriental community, remind them of the glories of the Muslim-Jewish “golden Age” in Spain, of the huge mutual impact of Jewish and Muslim scientists, poets and religious thinkers throughout the ages.

A few days ago, I was invited to give a lecture to the faculty and students of Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. I described the situation more or less along the same lines. The first question from the large audience, which consisted of Jews – both Orientals and Ashkenazim, and Arabs – especially Bedouins – was: “So what hope is there? Faced with this reality, how can the peace forces win?”

I told them that I put my trust in the new generation. Last summer’s huge social protest movement, which erupted quite suddenly and swept along hundreds of thousands, showed that yes, it can happen here. The movement united Ashkenazim and Orientals. Tent cities sprang up in Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva, all over the place.

Our first job is to break the barriers between the blocs, change reality, create a new Israeli society. We need blockbusters.

Yes, it is a daunting job. But I believe it can be done.

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Syria, the myth of Assad’s popularity and the media of disinformation


By Nureddin Sabir

Editor, Redress Information & Analysis

Nureddin Sabir views the misleading results of a flawed survey which suggests that more than half of the Syrian population want Bashar Assad to stay as president, and notes with dismay the uncritical coverage given to the survey by prominent mainstream and alternative media.

Could it be true that most Syrians are in favour of Basher Assad remaining president of Syria?

If Jonathan Steele of the Guardian newspaper is to be believed, the answer is yes. His counter-intuitive conclusion is based on a recent YouGov Siraj internet survey on Syria commissioned by Al-Jazeera’s Doha Debates, which are funded by the Qatar Foundation.

The claim

According to Mr Steele,

The key finding was that while most Arabs outside Syria feel the president should resign, attitudes in the country are different. Some 55 per cent of Syrians want Assad to stay, motivated by fear of civil war – a spectre that is not theoretical as it is for those who live outside Syria’s borders.

Eager to give the survey credibility, Mr Steele reminds us that the poll’s funders are no friends of the Assad regime:

Qatar’s royal family has taken one of the most hawkish lines against Assad – the emir has just called for Arab troops to intervene – so it was good that the Doha Debates published the poll on its website.

And he laments the fact that the survey was “ignored by almost all media outlets in every Western country whose government has called for Assad to go”.

But there is good reason why the YouGov Siraj survey on Syria was ignored. It turns out that the 55 per cent of Syrians wanting Assad to remain president are in fact 53 internet users!

The survey

According to Brian Whitaker, the survey asked just over 1,000 people across the Arab world about their opinion of Assad and an overwhelming majority –  81 per cent – thought he should step down. However, Al-Jazeera says the picture inside Syria is different: “Syrians are more supportive of their president with 55 per cent not wanting him to resign.”

But a closer look at the survey’s methodology reveals a different picture. Writing on his personal blog, Mr Whitaker’s says the methodology

shows that 211 of the respondents were in Levantine countries and that 46 per cent of those were in Syria. In other words, the finding is based on a sample of just 97 internet users in Syria among a population of more than 20 million. It’s not a meaningful result and certainly not adequate grounds for such sweeping conclusions about national opinion in Syria.

Fifty-five per cent of a sample of 97 is 53. That is, 53 of the 97 Syrian internet users surveyed wanted Assad to remain president.

Besides, as Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, says in a letter to the Guardian, how can any survey in Syria be taken seriously when every telephone, email, Facebook account and conversation is liable to be bugged?

The propagandists and peddlers

What about the propagators of this insidious myth?

We have little to say about Jonathan Steele, other than that a journalist of his seniority and experience should know better than base an argument on a superficial and uncritical reading of a statistically unsound internet survey.

Other peddlers of the myth, however, are more colourful. As Mr Whitaker reveals in another blog posting, one of these is Aisling Byrne, who has been rather busy trying to delegitimize the Syrian uprising by denying its authenticity and attributing it to an imaginary “Zio-American” plot, to use a phrase popular with the Syrian regime’s propagandists. She is projects coordinator for the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum, a body with contradictory stances whose director is a former British intelligence officer called Alastair Crooke.

According to the Conflict Forum’s website, “While facing increasingly intractable problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan and elsewhere, we [the West] immobilize ourselves by turning away from the homegrown political forces that have the power to resolve these crises.” It’s a pity, then, that the Conflict Forum is strangely reluctant to engage with the “homegrown political forces” in Syria.

As Mr Whitaker says:

There’s an inconsistency and selectivity here that is also apparent among sections of the more traditionalist left. Pro-Western dictators like Ben Ali and Mubarak are considered fair game, but when it comes to toppling contrarian dictators like Gaddafi and Assad there’s lingering sympathy for them.

In Syria’s case this is further complicated by viewing the uprising through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For instance, a briefing paper on Conflicts Forum’s website examining Hizbullah’s continuing support for the Assad regime says:

“Just as Hizbullah viewed the 2009 protests in Iran as a ‘bid to destabilize the country’s Islamic regime’ by means of a US-orchestrated ‘velvet revolution’, the protests in Syria are branded a form of ‘collusion’ with outside powers who seek to replace Assad’s rule with ‘another regime similar to the moderate Arab regimes that are ready to sign any capitulation agreement with Israel’…

“Echoing Hizbullah’s stance on the Iran protests is Nasrallah’s characterization of the US role in the Syrian uprising as an extension of the July war [2006] and the Gaza war [of 2009-10]. Since the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine had foiled the ‘New Middle East’ scheme in both these military aggressions, Washington was ‘trying to reintroduce [it] through other gates’, such as Syria.

“With this in mind, attempts to overthrow the Assad regime are considered a ‘service’ to American and Israeli interests.”

Such views are not confined to Hizbullah, however. But how realistic are they? Many neocons hoped the invasion of Iraq would deliver a pro-Israel government there. It didn’t, and instead it strengthened Iran.

Tunisia is no more favourably disposed towards Israel than it was under Ben Ali. Nor is Libya. Nor is Egypt – if anything, less so. And a democratic Syria would still have the same territorial issues with Israel – the occupied Golan Heights, etc – that it has now. In any case Israel seems an odd reason for denying Syrians a chance to determine their own future.

The alternative media

As campaigners for justice, it is our position that the likes of Aisling Byrne and Alastair Crooke are beyond redemption because they have knowingly chosen to adopt a stance that is at variance with the truth.

However, the positions adopted by others in the alternative media towards the Arab Awakening, especially as manifested in Syria and Libya, are harder to understand.

Indeed, it is with sadness, dismay and considerable revulsion that we observe websites that have traditionally stood for justice and the truth peddling false information and questionable arguments about the Arab Awakening.

For many years, activists and campaigners for justice unhappy with the mainstream media’s flawed and lopsided reporting, especially where Israel or big business are involved, have looked to the alternative media as potential means of redressing the balance of news and information available to the voting publics.

Far from it. At least as far as Syria and Libya are concerned, some of the holy cows of the alternative media, websites such as CounterpunchCountercurrents and Information Clearing House, have opted instead to take the side of the oppressors and against the Arab people – people who are seeking nothing more than the civil and political rights that are taken so much for granted in the West.

This is not only painful but also hard to fathom. One likely explanation is ignorance: those in the alternative media who support Assad and Gaddafi understand little about Syria or Libya and therefore are blind to the contradiction of supporting fascist dictators on the one hand and the downtrodden and oppressed on the other.

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Have IsraHell’s “inner circles” discussed assassinating President Obama?


By Alan Hart

Alan Hart says that brainwashing by American Zionists, and the anti-Obama hate campaign conducted by Israel’s stooges in the Republican Party, are creating an environment where the prospect of assassinating the US president to make way for a more pro-Israel president is no longer unthinkable.

One man who apparently thinks Israel’s “inner circles” have discussed assassinating President Barack Obama is Andrew Adler, the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times. (By the time this article of mine is posted will he be the former owner and publisher?)

In his weekly newspaper Adler listed three options for Israel “to counter Iran’s nuclear weapons”. (Never mind that, unlike Israel, Iran does not possess nuclear weapons and that the latest assessment of Israel’s intelligence community – an usually honest assessment – is that Iran has not yet taken a decision to go nuclear for weapons).

Murdering Obama

“…what is happening in America on the Republican side of the fence has about it the smell of what happened in Israel in the countdown to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a Zionist fanatic.”

Option 1, according to what Adler wrote, “is to launch a pre-emptive strike against Hamas and Hezbollah”.

Option 2 “is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities”.

Option 3 is to give the go-ahead for US-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice-president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.

To make sure his readers got the message, Adler added this:

Yes, you read “three correctly”. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If you have thought of this Tom-Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles?

Adler has since apologized for what he wrote. “I very much regret it,” he told the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

That was not enough to prevent an avalanche of American Jewish condemnation of him and his article.

Sound and “fury”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Atlanta declared that his proposals were “shocking beyond belief”. Dov Wilker, Director of AJC Atlanta, said:

“With the exception of Ron Paul, the Republicans who want to be president are creating an atmosphere of contempt for if not hatred of Obama on the grounds that he is ‘too hard on Israel [what a joke!] and not tough enough with its enemies’.”

While we acknowledge Mr Adler’s apology, we are flabbergasted that he could ever say such a thing in the first place. How could he even conceive of such a twisted idea? He surely owes immediate apologies to President Obama, as well as to the State of Israel and his readership, the Atlanta Jewish community.

But the biggest blast of condemnation came from Abe Foxman who, as National Director of the so-called “Anti-Defamation League”, leads the Zionist campaign to smear all who criticize Israel as anti-Semites. He said:

There is absolutely no excuse, no justification, no rationalization for this kind of rhetoric. It doesn’t even belong in fiction. These are irresponsible and extremist words. It is outrageous and beyond the pale. An apology cannot possibly repair the damage. Irresponsible rhetoric metastasizes into more dangerous rhetoric. The ideas expressed in Mr Adler’s column reflect some of the extremist rhetoric that unfortunately exists – even in some segments of our community – that maliciously labels President Obama as an “enemy of the Jewish people”. Mr Adler’s lack of judgment as a publisher, editor and columnist raises serious questions as to whether he’s fit to run a newspaper.

Environment for murder

I have two thoughts to offer Mr Foxman.

The first is that what is happening in America on the Republican side of the fence has about it the smell of what happened in Israel in the countdown to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a Zionist fanatic. What do I mean?

There is today general agreement, even in Israel I think, that Rabin’s assassin was driven at least in part by an atmosphere of hatred for Rabin that was created by his political enemies led by Binyamin Netanyahu. With the exception of Ron Paul, the Republicans who want to be president are creating an atmosphere of contempt for if not hatred of Obama on the grounds that he is “too hard on Israel (what a joke!) and not tough enough with its enemies”. By obvious implication the Obama of Republican campaign rhetoric is or could be a threat to Israel’s existence.

The second thought I have to offer Mr Foxman is this. The answer to Wilker’s question of how Adler “could conceive such a twisted idea” is simple. He is brainwashed by Zionist propaganda.

As for my headline question, the answer is another question. Who knows?

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Arab Tyrants’ Number One Priority



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