Archive | August 28th, 2014

Oslo years, a view from the ground


I was sent to the Occupied Palestinian Territories on the day the Accords were signed, and got to spend the Oslo years in uniform.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. president Bill Clinton, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat at the signing of the Oslo Accord (photo: Vince Musi / The White House)


Twenty years ago I was in the final section of “advanced training” in my infantry unit, five months into my mandatory service in the IDF. We were about to go to Gaza – our first taste of active military assignments. The massive protests of the First Intifada had ceased by then, and service in the occupied territories was considered a relatively easy and risk-free mission. The real attention was given to southern Lebanon, where units like mine were sent for longer tours, and saw soldiers killed every now and then.

Most of the soldiers in my platoon were leftists, and there was a sense of discomfort during the night before our departure, mainly due to the decision of Private A. – arguably the most popular person among the soldiers and our commanders alike – to refuse to go to Gaza. A. was an emotional and friendly type, the kind of guy who would volunteer for duty after a long night of training when everybody was exhausted, and only few hours of sleep remained. He said that he could not be part of a mission that is aimed at taking away people’s freedom.

A. was subsequently put under enormous pressure by our commanders – a combination of heart-to-heart conversations, lectures on the value of “having the most sensitive, moral soldiers take on the toughest assignments” (a common line against refusal), and blunt threats of a long prison term, expulsion from the unit and reassignment to the worst positions in the army, far away from all his friends. Eighteen-year-old A. was told what refusal and military prison would mean – something he would need to explain for the rest of his life.

Around 2 a.m., A. broke down and was sent back in tears to our tent. Our company – including A. – arrived in Gaza around noon. We were assigned under the command of the Druze regiment. We did patrols and flying checkpoints. It happened to be a unique moment: during that week in Gaza, the Oslo Accords were signed. The Palestinians were smiling at us, saying that we would probably leave soon. We thought so too. One of the first things that changed was that the order to take down any visible PLO flag was cancelled, and the streets were filled with red-green-white. Our commanders couldn’t stop ranting about it.

One of those mornings, the Druze patrol was attacked and the soldiers in it were killed. Our entire camp rushed to the street corner were the attack took place but I was among the few left to guard the camp. In the evening, when everyone got back, they told us that the friends of the killed soldiers took locals out of their home and beat them in the streets. I wasn’t there so I can’t confirm or deny it took place.

My four-and-a-half years of service were the Oslo days. I served in Bethlehem, near Nablus, a full tour in Gaza (near the then-settlement of Kfar Darom) and half a year in Hebron (in between there were also two tours in southern Lebanon). The army was moving out of the Palestinians cities and many of our assignments had to do with guarding the settlements and the roads leading to them.

A. and I graduated from the officers’ academy together in 1995. A year-and-a-half later I was standing a few dozen meters from a Jewish settler who opened fire on Palestinians in a local market. An officer who stood next to him was able to quickly disarm him – there were no fatalities. A few days later I was the last officer stationed in the Glass Junction in Hebron when parts of the city were being evacuated by IDF forces. Sometime after midnight, as we were taking the Israeli flag down, I was telling my soldiers that we are taking part in an historic moment. Again. They didn’t say a word. Many of the soldiers under my command were national-religious (some of them belonging to one of the most extreme Yeshiva in the occupied territories), and I knew they viewed things differently than I did. I felt that maybe our commanding officers were right, and that it is important that who believe in peace serve. But it was just a brief moment, and the service in Hebron pushed my political opinions further to the left. Shortly after, I declined the standard offer to extend my professional service and was released in the summer of 1997. By then, the diplomatic process was rapidly going downhill.

Over the years I read many reports and analyses on the failure of the Oslo process; most of them analyzed the diplomatic dynamics, the nature of the agreements and so on. I experienced Oslo in service, and this is how it looked to me as a young soldier and officer on the ground: the occupation never ended. It’s as simple as that. I entered the OPT on the day of peace, and as the years passed, I spent more and more time there. Following every “historic” evacuation there was some other assignment on a nearby hill or at a new checkpoint.

The nature of our presence changed – at the beginning I was patrolling in the cities, mainly on foot, and with time we manned more and more permanent roadblocks and did patrols on vehicles. But we were still there, almost everywhere. There were also more settlements (this is well-known and well-documented), and the army became closer to the settlers, a gesture that was mentioned in the orders we got.

The main difference we noticed and felt was the presence of a new element – the Palestinian Authority officials (who passed through our checkpoints in black cars) and their police force, which was more like a very light military. The interaction with them was always very strange, including elements of collaboration and mutual suspicion at the same time, and there was always this turf war over who is authorized to do what, or who controls this corner or that road. It wasn’t enough that the IDF remain effectually in control, demonstrating this fact was a standing order. In my final tour to Gaza, the most important mission was a weekly drive between the two settlements located on the sides of Khan Yunis. Part of the rational was “to show them that we are still here.”

The control of the Palestinian population (often called “keeping peace and order” or some other euphemism) was the army’s main mission both prior to and after Oslo. It remains so today.

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Two state vs. one state debate is a waste of time, political energy


 Your favorite pastime is a part of the occupation. 

A partly constructed portion of Israel’s separation wall, in Walaja, December 7, 2010. Israel is a de-facto one-state, with different rights to the non-Jewish minority population under its control (Anne Paq/


Arguably the most popular political debate on Israel/Palestine is the one taking place between supporters of the two-state solution and those who support a one-state idea. A piece by Professor Ian Lustick in the New York Times won a lot of attention recently, and it’s not surprising: from our own modest experience here at +972 Magazine, I can state that we have noticed long ago that pieces based on the idea that “the two-state solution is dead/not dead” or “the one-state solution is possible/impossible” win a lot of attention and get many comments.

However, my own feeling these days – which is also based on my own contributions to this debate – is that this is a false question, a waste of time and political energy, which currently serves to prevent any form of a just and peaceful solution.

The whole line of thinking on “the death” of the two-state solution is a bizarre abstraction. How can one determine when an idea has become impossible to implement? What makes a certain threshold – say, number of settlers – an absolute tipping point, beyond which it is impossible to divide the land into two?

In real life, the probability of an idea being implemented is a question of political circumstances and political power. Under certain political circumstances, it is impossible to evacuate a handful of settlers, while under others, we can imagine not 100,000 (which has become the new “possible” threshold in recent years) but one million leaving their homes – the way the French settlers left Algeria after one-and-a-half centuries there.

Therefore, it is not surprising that “the death of the two-state solution” argument appears as a sort of political Fata Morgana – it is always a few steps ahead of us, yet we never seem to get there. But if we haven’t yet arrived at the “death of the two-state solution moment” when the 500,000th Israeli Jew is moved east of the Green Line, or when the Palestinian Authority is broken into two entities, I suppose we are able to continue speaking about this moment for many more years.

More importantly, the conversation vis-a-vis both solutions is meaningless, as these two labels – “one state” and “two states” – only seem final and coherent in nature. In reality, however, the people using them hold extremely varied interpretations. The two-state solution proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu is very different – in everyaspect – than the two states described by the Geneva Initiative or the two-state solution that some Palestinians consider. Again, the two-state solution will never die because we can always reinvent the notion of what a Palestinian state is.

The entire conversation over “the coming death of the two-state solution,” phrased in future terms, serves a single purpose – to prevent a fact-based discussion on what we have had for a very long time now: a single, united regime on the entire land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, where roughly half of the population (Jews) have full rights, while non-Jews are allocated more limited legal rights, according to a complicated mechanism of citizenship and residency (some have almost as many rights as Jews, while some have close to none). This is not an abstraction nor a judgment – it is the political reality. Yet describing reality this way carries very serious moral and political implications, which many people and organizations have a serious problem with. Thus, they prefer to deal with imaginary abstractions – talking about what could or couldn’t be rather than what is.

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Things are not less abstract when people discuss the one-state solution (though supporters of this idea are less inclined to delude themselves about the current state of affairs). My general impression is that when the Israeli Right speaks about the one-state solution it is referring to a Jewish state, not unlike Israel today, with a larger Palestinian minority. Furthermore, when most Palestinians speak of a one-state solution, they imagine a Palestinian state with many Jews. As any visitor to the country might have noticed, both societies are extremely nationalistic – you only find consistent post-nationalism in intellectual and elite circles, which is kind of expected.

My feeling is that people argue about solutions because it is (a) easy; (b) fun, especially for intellectuals; and (c) helps them avoid tough political choices. For example, Israeli supporters of the two-state solution tend to see their country as a democracy which will cease to remain at the moment (which never comes) the two-state solution is no longer possible. You won’t ever get a J Street or Peace Now statement saying “Israel is not a democracy, but it could become one if it evacuates the Palestinian territories,” even though such a statement is just as correct (and in my opinion more so) – than one which states that Israel is a democracy, but one day could cease to be so. For one-staters, the debate is a useful distraction from having to deal with real on-the-ground trends in both societies that seem all-the-more consumed by the project of securing their very nationalistic models.

So please, no more one-state vs. two states. An honest approach to politics, I believe, must begin with a real evaluation of the current reality on the ground (de facto one state, albeit not a very democratic one), and the creation of political force for change. Since every person and party speaks of a different solution anyway (even when they use the same labels), we should only scrutinize actual plans set forth by the political parties. In other words, both communities on the ground will need to evaluate and approve real agreements when they are reached.

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What is the Jewish Nazi Right’s one-state vision?


With the collapse of the peace talks and the Oslo process, prominent settlers and right-wing Israelis are once again mulling the idea of a one-state solution. What will it look like, and what are the chances of it being implemented?

Uri Elitzur, who was Netanyahu’s chief of staff during his first term as prime minister, wrote a nice article discussing the necessary steps Israel should take to end the occupation. Elitzur is an important figure – he has written a few speeches for the Prime Minister’s Office in recent years, and this week he was appointed editor-in-chief of Makor Rishon (which is now owned, along with the “NRG” news site, by Sheldon Adelson). Under the headline, “There is a solution: A Jewish State and Israeli citizenship for the Palestinians,” Elitzur writes:

“… we are left with two options: to continue the present state of affairs longer and longer, or to annex the entire [West Bank] and give its Arab residents full equal rights […] today already we control the lives of the Arab population while holding them as second-class citizens. True, they have their own authority and they vote for their own parliament, but this regime depends on the IDF and is not really the sovereign, not to mention that most of the territory designated for the future Palestinian state is held by us in its entirety and we do everything in our power to keep it that way

[…] I also don’t believe in various types of half-measures and ideas like a part-autonomous, part-Jordanian regime, or any other idea that means we get what we want but pay nothing in return. Nothing is free in this world, and the Palestinians and the Jordanians need to accept such solutions for them to work, which they won’t.

There is obviously something impressive in the straightforward manner Elitzur describes the situation in the West Bank. To his credit, he has been saying the same things for quite some time. In 2008 he published a piece in important settler magazine Nekuda calling on Israel to annex the West Bank and gradually give citizenship to the Palestinians. A couple of years later, MK Tzipi Hotoveli from the Likud, adopted his ideas and in return, became the target of a lot of mockery from the Left and Right alike.

In 2010 I wrote a cover piece on right-wing public figures who support the one-state solution for Haaretz’s weekend magazine. I sat for a long interview with Hotovely and with Rubi Rivlin, who was the Knesset speaker at the time. I also spoke with Elitzur, with journalist Emili Amerousi, former minister Moshe Arens and Hannan Porat, one of the most famous leaders of Gush Emunim.

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Elitzur was the most blunt of all of them. He was the only one who put reservations and smokescreens around his ideas, detailing all the “ifs” and “whens” that need to take place for the one-state solution to be implemented. Hannan Porat, who has since passed away, was at the other extreme – his much-conditioned support for giving the Palestinians their rights was phrased in theological and even racist terms.

I also spoke with right-wing figures who opposed Elitzur’s ideas, among them former heads of the Yesha Council Dani Dayan and Adi Mintz, and MK Danny Danon (Bennet was out of politics at the time). I was most impressed by Dayan. He was the only one who avoided clichés and red herrings, and simply said that there is no solution – that we need to upgrade the personal freedoms of the Palestinians but not give them political rights within Israel. This story got more comments than anything else I’ve ever published. It is available here.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin ( (Jstreet CC BY NC SA 2.0)

The right-wing figures and settlers I spoke to have some different nuances among them, but generally, their one-state solution would look like this: gradually and unilaterally, Israel would annex the West Bank (different time frames were given for this process – from five to 25 years); beginning with Area C and then moving to B and A. Barring security clearances (and according to some – loyalty oaths), all Palestinians will end up having blue Israeli identity cards with full rights. The army will return to dealing mostly with national defense, and the police will take over civilian policing duties in the annexed territory.

Constitutional measures that will define Israel as a Jewish State would take place in advance (some mentioned passing a basic law defining Israel as a Jewish State, something Netanyahu is already promoting). Palestinian refugees will not be allowed back. Gaza will not be annexed, and will turn to a fully independent region, separated from the State of Israel. Except for Rivlin, who floated the idea of a dual parliament system (which actually makes his one state closer to a confederative model), none of the others mentioned major changes in the electoral system and they expected Palestinians to vote for the Israeli Knesset (which might have to become slightly bigger, but this is of little importance).

Separating Gaza from their model is necessary for right-wing one staters in order to maintain a Jewish majority in the unified state. For the same reason, they rely on the demographic calculations of Yoram Etinger, who puts the total number of Palestinians in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) at 1.5 million. The formal numbers are much higher.

Elitzur, Hotovely and Rivlin understood the criticism they might face. They predicted that the world will not accept a “solution” that leaves Gaza or the refugees out, and that Israel would be under considerable pressure during the implementation phase. They were aware of the faults in their plan, but they nevertheless thought that the two-state solution had bigger holes in it. They believe that if a Palestinian state is ever to be established, it will necessarily be hostile to Israel – if not immediately then with time – and that the inevitable security deterioration will force Israel to reoccupy it, leaving the country in a deeper hole and with basically the same problem.

This small land is simply un-dividable, they concluded. This, more than the fault of any side in negotiations, is the real reason that the process has failed.

Some of the people I talked to spoke in terms you rarely hear in Israel, and not just on the Right. Knesset Speaker Rivlin spoke of the real unified Jerusalem – the one that existed before 1948. Moshe Arens, a true democrat, brought up an interesting reservation to his plan: he was troubled by the fact that Israel treats its minority of Arab citizens so badly that it wouldn’t do right by the new millions it absorbs either. Hotovely’s criticism of the two-state solution was well argued, and I felt that her not-so-serious public image at the time was unjustified.

The worst responses to the piece came from the Center and the center-left. Not only were the speakers I quoted mocked – that was to be expected – Haaretz and I were attacked for providing them with a platform, for not making them face tougher questions, and so on. Palestinians I talked to were far less intimidated. “Talks of an Israeli ID don’t scare me,” said Saeb Erkat. “Give me Israeli citizenship and we’ll see what happens.” Erkat was pointing to something both advocates of the plan and their critics tended to miss – that once the Palestinians get their political participation, they will be able to achieve many of their goals regardless of what the Jews declare the character of the state to be. Leaving Gaza or the refugees out will not be part of any endgame.

The piece led to the creation of a short-lived forum, in which some prominent settlers sat with radical lefty intellectuals and even a couple of serious representatives of the Palestinian community in Israel, and discussed the one-state solution. All participants agreed to secrecy, so I will not reveal their names here.

* * *

Is the support for a one-state solution among settlers serious? Can it be translated to a political platform or program that would bring together the (Israeli) Right and Left, Jews and Arabs? These questions have been on my mind in recent years. Right now, I tend to think that the answer to both is “no.”

The reason is not the obvious holes in the plan. Every idea for a solution – two states, a single state, a confederacy – has lots of holes in it. There is no perfect solution and the real meaning of every plan is hidden in the fine print – where will the border lie, does it discuss the right of return, and so on. Under certain circumstances all plans could work, and in others, they might all fail. This is why I don’t call myself either a two-stater or a one-stater.

The problem is political. The status quo in the West Bank is the common denominator of the Israeli political system. This is what the public wants, and the politicians realize that. I advise readers not to allow themselves to be too impressed by the occasional poll stating most of the Jewish public still supports the two-state solution. This is the result of a choice between one state and two states. In the rare cases when respondents to a poll are faced with a third option – maintaining things as they are while avoiding international measures against Israel – the majority migrates to the status quo option. The consensus over the status quo is what allows Lapid, Bennet and Livni to maintain their coalition, and it is the reason Netanyahu – a man who has taken the idea of keeping things as they are and turned it into an art form – has been able to maintain power for so long.

Until Israel faces serious internal or external pressure – and by internal, I mean another Palestinian uprising – I don’t think that we will ever see a dramatic change in the preferences of the Jewish public or its elected officials. Most Israelis understand that the occupation is a bad choice, but simply prefer it to the alternatives. As I have argued before, on a pure cost/benefit level, it’s a reasonable decision.

As bringing an end to the occupation remains part of an intellectual debate and not something the state is actually planning to do, the Right can promote the one-state solution, just as the Left has been speaking for years about the two-state option but in practice taking part in maintaining and even deepening the occupation. But once there is enough pressure for change on Israel, I assume that most of the Jewish public will move quickly to adopt the two-state solution, because it would rather keep 100 percent of the assets on 78 percent of the land, as opposed to keeping 50 percent of power and assets on 100 percent of the land. At such a moment, the center – people who voted for Lapid, Livni, Liberman and even Likud – would rather confront the settlers than share a single state with the Palestinians.

The two-state solution looks dead because the Jewish public chose the status quo and because the diplomatic process has collapsed, but given the right pressure, Israel might still commit to it. I am not sure that there will be a willing partner on the other side (the Palestinians are also migrating from the two-state solution and they won’t have a reason to return to it), and I am pretty sure that Jerusalem won’t continue to enjoy the favors of negotiators like Secretary Kerry and special envoy Indyk, but that is a matter for a separate post.

* * *

I also think that unlike the two-state solution, which suffers from over-planning and lack of execution (there is something absurd in all those think tanks producing new maps every year, whose border lines will never exist on the ground), the one-state solution remains amorphous enough for anyone to attach to it whatever meaning he or she prefers. The Israeli Right thinks of it as a Jewish state with a large Arab minority, while many Palestinians envision a Palestinian state with a large Jewish minority, and intellectuals discuss models that have little support on the ground.

To the credit of all those advocating the one-state solution, I should say that they understand the unified, single-state reality on the ground better than anyone else. The attempt to present a solution that would divide the country – including a system of tunnels, bridges and winding borders – seem more desperate with every passing day. Other “solutions” the Israeli center mulls, like Bennett’s redeployment plan or the Jordanian option, are so disconnected from reality there is little point in discussing them seriously here. Looking back, Dani Dayan was right: as far as the Jewish public is concerned, the status quo is still the solution.

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Jewish Nazi right-wing politician: ‘Annex territories, grant Palestinians citizenship’


Israeli right-wing politician and former IDF general Efi Eitam has made remarks that few would have expected to hear from him.

Former IDF general and politician Efi Eitam is known for his extreme right-wing views and sharp tongue. From calling Arabs a “ticking bomb” to a “cancer,” Eitam has never shown much warmth for his neighbors.

Which is why it was surprising to read reports from the national religious websiteSrugim, quoting Eitam as saying the following remarks in a panel held last night to commemorate Berl Katznelson:

The State of Israel should annex Judea and Samaria and grant full citizenship to all Palestinians. Demography is not a numerical predestination, it is an expression of the joie de vivre of the nation. When a nation is happy, its number of children grows, that’s why I’m not scared of demography. Whoever can’t live with Arabs is not a partner of mine.

I trust the Arab public in Israel, it has proved itself. I have no fear of a bi-national state, the solution is not B-class citizens nor high fences. It is a simple and humane solution, Palestinians must be granted full rights and should vote for the Knesset. Whoever truly wants peace, should agree to accept more Arab citizens to his state, and whoever is part of the State of Israel whose borders need to be between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea for many reasons, needs to be a citizen with full rights and obligations.

Now, I’m not that naive to believe everything coming out of Eitam’s mouth. The bi-national state he talks about is probably not exactly what we think it is. But since there are more and more voices on the right talking about one state, it’s important to listen, find the nuances, and try to understand where these people really stand.

Is the right going through a major shift in ideology – or is this a different way of reaching the same target? My money’s on the latter, but… never say never?

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Marketing Death: How US Is Using Foley and McCain to Sell War

People hold a photograph of James Foley, the freelance journalist killed by the IS group, during a memorial service in Irbil, 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq
© AP Photo/ Marko Drobnjakovic

Another American citizen has been killed in Syria in the past week, albeit under completely different circumstances. Douglas McAuthur McCain was killed by ‘Free Syrian Army’ militants during a gunfight while fighting for Islamic State (IS), becoming the first American Islamist to die in Syria. This comes as the world is still reeling from the beheading of reporter James Foley, which was first broadcast last week. The deaths of Foley and McCain back-to-back provide the US with different justifications for the same objective – the bombing of Syria.

The Foley Factor

To begin with, Foley’s beheading last week drew global attention to the brutal tactics of IS, in an opportunity that was quickly seized by the US government. The presence of another American reporter, Steven Sotloff, and an unnamed female humanitarian activist in IS’s hands has added urgency to Obama’s promise that the US would “do everything we can to protect our people”. If it wasn’t for the notoriety of Foley’s violent execution, Americans would not be as concerned about the fate of their compatriots in Syria. Now, however, the Foley Factor has been pushed by US strategic communicators to argue that America must militarily intervene in Syria in order to destroy IS and save all American hostages in the country. This ‘humanitarian intervention’, despite the collateral civilian losses that it would likely entail, appeases both American and European liberals who are trumpeting war on supposed humanitarian grounds.

The McCain and al-Awlaki Connection

Douglas McCain’s death has thrown fuel on the fire for fans of the planned US bombing of Syria. The idea being established is that American extremists in Syria present an impending threat to the Homeland, as they can use the tactics they acquire in the battlefield to spread terror back home. The presence of foreign fighters in Syria is nothing new, however, as Damascus has been saying for years that thousands of them have flocked there from over 80 different countries, including Western ones. Using the publicity over McCain’s death, it is anticipated that the US will argue that it must strike against all other Americans currently in the warzone there, which would fulfill the desires of American conservatives and militant NATO hawks.

A precedent for this has already been established in 2011, when Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, both American citizens, were assassinated by American drones in Yemen. Although his son’s killing was supposedly unintended collateral damage in a later strike, the US strongly maintained that al-Awlaki was a pressing threat to the US, despite only being engaged in Al-Qaeda propaganda operations at the time. One must keep in mind that Obama must sign off on every drone strike that occurs, and that his administration has defended the killing of American citizens abroad, such as al-Awlaki, as being legal under anti-terror justifications. Thus, if al-Awlaki could be killed for disseminating propaganda, then the US, following this logic, would obviously target Americans like McCain that are armed and actively partaking in jihad, especially on behalf of IS.

Constructing a new ‘Coalition of the Willing’

Foley and McCain’s deaths are increasingly forming the cornerstone of Washington’s new ‘Coalition of the Willing’ (COW), with each fatality attracting different constituent members. Folely’s death has been described as providing the impetus for a COW ‘humanitarian intervention’. Nations whose citizens are being held hostage by IS (such as the Turkish nationals that were captured in Mosul in June) have an interest in joining on these grounds. It can also soon turn out that the Turkish hostages have been transferred from Iraq to Syria, thus guaranteeing Turkish involvement in any future war against the country. IS or another related terrorist group could also provoke an incident in the Golan Heights, take a soldier hostage, and bring them into Syria, likely Damascus. This could invite the Israelis to bomb Syria with the same ferocity as they have been doing in Gaza. Additionally, it has been learned since Foley’s death that abductions are not always publicized in the media, so there could potentially be many more foreign citizens held hostage by IS that the world doesn’t know about. Pertinent information, whether real or fabricated, in these regards can be selectively released to justify the inclusion of various other members in the COW.

McCain’s death has prompted different nations to support the creation of a COW, specifically those who have nationals already waging jihad in Syria. If the US takes the lead in saying that it will kill its citizens fighting with IS in Syria, then the UK and France (which have seen many more of their citizens join terrorist forces there) will quickly jump aboard the campaign. This is a salient point because the three strongest NATO members would then be unified against Syria, which wasn’t the case during last year’s military standoff. As the military engines of the alliance, their support for war is crucial in transforming decisions into decisive action.

The Importance of International and Regional ‘Allies’

The US has underscored that it will only strike Syria if it has the support of its international and regional partners. This shouldn’t be understood as holding out hope that the US can be deterred, however, but should instead be seen as a force multiplier for any war that the US will launch, should it choose to, regardless of how many states join the COW. Internationally, this COW will likely encompass the same NATO states and more that have already been arming and equipping Iraq’s Kurds in recent months, such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Canada, and Albania, thus making any war in Syria primarily another NATO war of conquest.

On the regional front, the US is all but assured the support of Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and the Gulf States, which are all rabidly opposed to Syria’s democratically-elected government. These countries are also close military partners of the US with a certain degree of interoperability, thus allowing the Pentagon to better ‘Lead From Behind’ (a slogan from the 2011 Libyan War) in any future war against Syria.  Israel may not even get actively involved, but Turkey and perhaps Jordan very well could. Qatar and the UAE could even assist with bombing runs in Syria, considering that both already have experience doing so in the region. Qatar bombed Libya during the 2011 war and the UAE is suspected of having done so last week. This demonstrates that both Gulf States have the ability and will to strike targets far away from their borders in pursuit of their national interests, and it is expected that the Saudis and Jordanians would open their airspace to facilitate this. Also, the Jordanians may even send a Bay of Pigs-like force towards Damascus if IS or the COW closes in on the capital from the north, in a classic flanking maneuver.

Concluding Thoughts

Foley and McCain’s deaths have been seen as a blessing by Washington’s decision makers, as they now enable its mouthpieces to attempt to justify a War in Syria using supposed ‘moral’ and ‘military’ reasons. The arguments are that the Foley incident shows that the US has an obligation to save the other Americans being held hostage in Syria, while McCain’s participation demonstrates that Americans fighting for IS must be assassinated before they bring their terror tactics back to the Homeland. These humanitarian and anti-terror arguments are attractive in assembling a new COW, and the US is expected call upon its NATO and Gulf allies to join it in attacking Syria. Ultimately, the entire episode of dead Americans in Syria is a tragic stroke of irony that shows how death is being marketed to beget even more death.

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The Israeli assault on Gaza has taken a terrible toll in human lives, mostly Palestinian civilians, many of them women and children.  In the end, it is not only Palestinians who have been victimized, but Jewish moral and ethical values as well.  The moral integrity of Judaism is threatened by the focus the organized American Jewish community places on Israel and its blind support for whatever policies the government of that country pursues.  For many, it seems, Israel has become a virtual object of worship, replacing God.  This is a form of idolatry, similar to that described in the Bible with regard to the golden calf.

Sadly, in the case of Gaza, the organized community fully embraced this attack, held rallies in its defense and raised money for the Israel Defense Force.  The indifference to the loss of innocent civilian life has shocked many Jews who lament the manner in which, for the Jewish establishment, Israel has become “central” to their idea of Jewish identity and meaning.  Narrow nationalism, not religion, has become their focus.

Rabbi Henry Siegman, president of the U.S./Middle East Project and for many years national director of the American Jewish Congress, states:  “When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we’re watching on television, that is really a profound, profound crisis—and should be a profound crisis in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and its success.”

Responding to Israel’s claim that its assault was necessary because no country would tolerate rocket fire from Gaza, he notes that, “What undermines this principle is that no country and no people would live the way the Gazans have been made to live.  Couldn’t they (Israel) have done something that did not require that cost?  And the answer is, yes, they could end the occupation.”

Little Sympathy For Victims

Within the organized American Jewish community, and in Israel, there has been little sympathy expressed for the more than 2,000 victims.  The strident voices of support for the assault on Gaza are instructive with regard to what the Jewish establishment holds dear.

At a pro-Israel rally of 10,000 people in New York on July 28, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, an executive of the New York Board of Rabbis, suggested that Palestinians who voted for Hamas —even though they are civilians—should be considered combatants who deserve to be targeted by Israel.  He said:  “When you are part of an election process that asks for a terrorist organization which proclaims in word and deed that their primary objective is to destroy their neighboring country…you are complicit and you are not a civilian casualty.”

The crowd cheered, and Kirshner went on to say that the Israeli army is “the most moral army in the history of civilization.  Philip Weiss, reporting on the event in “Mondoweiss,” points out that, “The rabbi did not make clear how he would sort out Palestinians who voted for Hamas. In the last election in Palestine, in 2006, Hamas got 440,000 votes—44% of the electorate.  Fatah won 410,000, the FLP 42,000.  Elsewhere in the speech the rabbi identified himself wholly with the Israeli government, saying that, ‘We gave them freedom nine years ago,’ referring to the end of the settlement program in Gaza.”

Liberal Rabbi Endorses Israeli Action

Rabbj Menachem Creditor of Berkeley, California is a well known liberal, an advocate of gay rights, abortion rights, gun control and granting refuge to illegal aliens.  He was named by “Newsweek” as one of America’s 50 most influential rabbis.  When it comes to Israel, however, he has defended the bombing of civilians in Gaza and declares:  “I am done trying to apologetically explain Jewish morality.  I am done apologizing for my own Jewish existence.”  Although ostensibly an American, he said, referring to Israeli soldiers, “I have lost 20 of my sons in the last 3 days.”

Even J Street, promoted as a “liberal” Zionist voice, has embraced Israel’s actions in Gaza.  In 2008, the group publicly opposed Israel’s assault on Gaza in Operation Cast Lead.  During subsequent crises, J Street has declined to criticize Israeli actions.  In the face of mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, J Street has joined the organized Jewish community in providing uncritical support.

In Israel itself, there has been almost unanimous support for the war on Gaza and some calls for even harsher steps to be taken.  Ayelet Shaked, a member of Knesset from the Israel Home Party, a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s governing coalition, issued on Facebook what amounts to a call to commit genocide by deliberately killing Palestinians, including women, children and old people.  “The entire Palestinian people is the enemy,” she posted.  “In wars, the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”  She went on to say that mothers of Palestinians should follow their dead sons to hell:  “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes.  Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

When Is Genocide Permissible

“The Times of Israel” (Aug. 1, 2014) published a blog by Yochanan Gordon with the headline, “When Genocide Is Permissible.”  Gordon contended that, “Nothing can be considered disproportionate…Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life.  What other way is there to deal with an enemy of this nature than obliterate them completely?”  In Gordon’s view, “…anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian…If political leaders determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”  (After objections, “The Times of Israel” withdrew the material, but the point was made).

According to the “London Daily Mail” (Aug. 4, 2014), Moshe Feiglin, Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, posted a message on his Facebook page calling for concentration camps in Gaza and “the conquest of the entire Gaza Strip and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters.”  He lays out a detailed plan for the destruction of Gaza, which includes shipping its residents across the world, in a letter he addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

In this letter, Feiglin details how he wants Netanyahu “to turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians.”  In 1948, Jaffa was a Palestinian town but there was an exodus of its Arab population when it fell to the fledgling Israeli army and Jewish militias.

Sympathy For Gaza’s Victims Is Unacceptable

When Hanoch Sheinman, a philosophy professor at the law school of Bar-Ilan University, an Orthodox institution, sent an e-mail to his second year law students expressing sympathy for all victims of Israel’s conflict in Gaza, he was chastised by the law school dean, Shachar Lifshits.  According to Lifshits, the sentiments expressed in the e-mail “contravene the values of the university and the law faculty…This constitutes the inappropriate use of the power given to a lecturer to exploit the platform given to him as a law teacher…that…seriously offended the students and their families.”

The offending e-mail contained instructions about the rescheduling of exams.  The e-mail began with a wish that it “finds you in a safe place, and that you, your families and those dear to you are not among the hundreds of people that were killed, the thousands wounded and whose homes were destroyed or were forced to leave their homes during or as a direct result of the violent confrontation in the Gaza Strip and its environs.”

Discussing the “offense” of sympathizing with Gaza’s victims, Professor Steven J. Zipperstein, who teaches Jewish Culture and History at Stanford, provides this assessment:  “There is no reason to doubt that Lifshits is telling the truth when he says that Sheinman’s e-mail offended.  And that’s the problem.  That he then goes on to say that the sentiments expressed in it conflict with the values of his university, an institution inspired by religious convictions, chills one’s bones.  And this from an institution, indeed a law school, that ought to be keenly attuned to what an inability to empathize with basic human rights can result in.  Yitzchak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, was a law student in  November 1995 at the time he murdered the prime minister.”

Zipperstein notes that, “Never before in an Israeli military conflict has the mere expression of empathy for Arab civilian dead and wounded been seen, beyond the political fringe, as akin to betrayal…Sheinman’s dean has asked him to apologize.  But it’s Lifshits who ought to offer an apology…”

Rabbi Steinsaltz Rejects Equal Rights For Palestinians

It is not only right-wing spokesmen in Israel who express contempt for Palestinians.  In an interview with “The Jerusalem Post,” the widely respected Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who after 45 years of work translated the entire Talmud from archaic Aramaic into modern Hebrew, said that the West Bank cannot be considered “occupied,” and, according to the “Post,” sees “no moral necessity to give Palestinians full political rights.”  With regard to the murder of Palestinian teenager Abu Khdeir, Steinsaltz said, “Killing this boy is a horrible thing,” but in his view the murder “should be condemned not principally because what they did was morally abhorrent…but because their despicable act endangered the lives of Jews by generating a backlash of Arab fury.”

Killing a Jew, Steinsaltz declared, is considered much more severe than killing a non-Jew according to Halacha, Orthodox Jewish law.  Interviewer Matt Wagner told Steinsaltz  he found this “immoral.”  Steinsaltz replied:  “I do not see things in your light…Morality is such an ephemeral phenomenon.”

There is growing evidence that the voices embracing the Israeli assault on Gaza from the organized American Jewish community do not represent the thinking of most American Jews.   Many other voices are being heard echoing the words of Tikkun’s Rabbi Michael Lerner (see article on Page 1) and Rabbi Henry Siegman.

Standing With Gaza Because No One Stood With Us

The widely read author Naomi Wolf, much of whose family was lost in the Holocaust, writes:  “I mourn genocide in Gaza because I am the granddaughter of a family half wiped out in a holocaust and I know genocide when I see it.  People are asking why I am taking this ‘side.’  There are no sides.  I mourn all victims.  But every law of war and international law is being broken in the  targeting of civilians in Gaza.  I stand with the people of Gaza exactly because things might have turned out differently if more people had stood with the Jews in Germany.  I stand with the people of Gaza because no one stood with us.”

Wolf reports that, “I went to synagogue last Friday night and had to leave because I kept waiting for the massacre in Gaza to be addressed…Nothing.  Where is God?  God is only ever where we stand with our neighbor in trouble and against injustice.  I turn in my card of faith as of now because of our overwhelming silence as Jews…I want no other religion than this, seeing rather than denying my neighbor under fire and embracing rather than dismissing those targeted with annihilation and ethnic cleansing.”

Author Lawrence Wechsler argues that, “…if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis…manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation;  and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, ‘How are you supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?’  A wonderfully convenient formula since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within might well be described as a concentration camp.”

Historical Backdrop of Conflict

Too few of those commenting on the conflict in Gaza have put these events in an historical context.  In an article, “Who Bears More Responsibility For The War In Gaza?” John Judis, writing in “The New Republic” (July 25,2014) provides this assessment:  “Israel is one of the world’s last colonial powers and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are its unruly subjects.  Like many past anti-colonial movements, Hamas and Fatah are deeply flawed and have sometimes poorly represented their peoples, and sometimes unnecessarily provoked the Israelis and used tactics that violate the rules of war.  But the Israeli government has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to rule harshly over its subjects, while maintaining a ruinous blockade on Gaza.”

In Judis’ view, “There is no moral justification for Hamas firing rockets against Israeli cities, but what initially sparked the current conflict was Israel’s determination to undermine the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.  By that agreement, Hamas actually subordinated itself to the Palestinian Authority and to a new government that was to be staffed by technocrats who had no affiliation to either party…That agreement could have served the interest of an Israeli government committed to a two-state solution.  But from the beginning, Israel set out to undermine it.  That was consistent with Israel’s denial of Palestinian self-rule and it helped to provoke the current conflict.”

American Jewish “support for Israel’s stance on the occupation has somewhat diminished,” concludes Judis.   “It would be nice to say that in the long run, justice will prevail and Israel will redeem its democratic promise and that the Palestinians will get their state, but looking backwards over the last century of protracted conflict, it doesn’t look at all promising.”

Jewish Chauvinism

Asking why the American Jewish establishment, which is largely liberal in its political outlook, has embraced the attack upon Gaza, M.J. Rosenberg, a former Zionist who was once a spokesman for AIPAC, answers that, “It’s simple, most Jews apparently are as chauvinistic as every other ethnic group.  If they saw any other army (including the U.S. Army) doing to kids what the Israeli army is doing, they would be appalled at the monstrous cruelty.  But it’s apparently okay when Jews are doing it, even buying into obscene propaganda (like something out of Berlin in 1942) that Palestinians are, in Netanyahu’s words, using ‘telegenitically-dead Palestinians for their cause.  They want—the more dead the better.’ Imagine believing Palestinians are picking out beautiful babies to die to advance their cause.  It’s obscene.”

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, a long-time Zionist, is dismayed with Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinians:  “I am a Zionist because the story of my forebears convinced me that Jews needed the homeland voted into existence by U.N. Resolution 181 of 1947.  What I cannot accept, however, is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, that has, for almost a half century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank;  that has led to the steady expansion of Israeli settlements on the very West Bank land of any Palestinian state;  that isolating moderate Palestinians in the name of divide-and-rule, that pursues policies that will make it impossible to remain a Jewish and democratic state…that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and then is surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates;  and then responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children.”

All of this, Cohen declares, “As a Zionist I cannot accept.  Jews, above all people, know what oppression is…No argument, no Palestinian outrage or subterfuge, can gloss over what Jewish failure the killing of children in such numbers represents…The Israeli case for bombardment of Gaza could be foolproof.  If Benjamin Netanyahu had made a good faith effort to find common cause with Palestinian  moderates for peace and been rebuffed, it would be.  He has not.  Hamas is vile.  I would happily see it destroyed.  But Hamas is also a product of a situation that Israel has reinforced rather than sought to resolve…This corrosive Israeli exercise in the control of another people, breeding the contempt of the powerful for the oppressed, is a betrayal of the Zionism in which I still believe.”

Indifference To Slaughter

Even so strong a supporter of Israel as Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of “The New Republic,”  has expressed concern about the “indifference in the Jewish world” to the slaughter in Gaza as well as the wholehearted Israeli support for it.  He said that he found Israel’s failure to sort out militants from civilians “sickening,” and that he needs to distance himself from the Israel lobby and Israeli society.  He states:  “There are no concepts that can catch up with the murder of children.  After all, even Satan has not yet devised the proper vengeance for the death of a child.  I have been surprised by the magnitude of the indifference of the Jewish world to the human costs of Israel’s defense against the missiles  and the tunnels.  Some of the e-mails I have received have been lunatic in their lack of compassion.”

Rabbi Alissa Wise, co-director of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, reports that, “Every time Israel engages in high-profile repression of civilians, we get inundated.  But we have never seen anything like this.  Our mailing list grew by 50,000 in three weeks and we can’t keep up with the demand for new chapters.  This is the final straw for many Jews, who have decided that their silence implies consent.”

In Israel, there are also dissenting voices which we hear all too rarely.  Consider Uri Avnery, who will soon turn 91, and still writes a weekly column,  He has led an extraordinary life.  Born in Germany in 1923, his family fled the Nazis and moved to Palestine.  As a youth, he joined the Irgun Zionist paramilitary group, which he later quit to become a peace activist in Israel.  In 1950, he founded the news magazine “HaOlim Hazeh” and fifteen years later he was elected to the Knesset on a peace platform.  In 1982, he made headlines when he crossed the lines during the siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat, head of the then-banned PLO.  In 1993, he started the Gush Shalom peace movement.

As Long As The Occupation Lasts, There Will Be No Peace

In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now in the midst of the fighting in Gaza, Avnery said that, “The root of the matter is that Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories, the territory of the West Bank and the territory of the Gaza Strip.  As long as the occupation lasts, there will be no peace…In order to achieve peace with the Palestinian people, Israel must end the occupation, withdraw from the occupied territories, and enable the Palestinians to set up their own independent nation and state…That’s what it’s all about.  Everything flows from this basic problem.”

Recalling his youth, Avnery notes that, “I was a member of a terrorist organization when I was 15 years old.  I believe I understand the psychology of young people who join organizations which are called terrorist by their enemies, but which think of themselves as freedom fighters.  Hamas thinks it’s fighting for the freedom of Palestine.  One of the basic problems at this moment is that Israelis and Hamas do not talk to each other…I think Israel and Hamas must talk to each other…Hamas cannot and will not agree to a real cease fire if there is a blockade of the Gaza Strip.  It’s a tiny, tiny little territory.  You have 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip…It’s suffering from a blockade for at least eight years.”

Avnery reports that he and his friends, “…have demanded that our government start talks with Hamas.  Eight years ago, we ourselves met with Hamas leaders.  I found them people with whom I don’t necessarily agree, but people with whom I can talk.  I believe that even today we can come to an agreement with the Palestinian people, including Hamas…The government of Israel, which represents the extreme right, with some openly fascist elements in it…does not want to give up the occupied territories.  That’s the whole point.  If we are ready to give up this territory and allow Palestinians to set up their own nation and state of Palestine, then the problem is solved…The question is:  Do we agree to live side by side with an independent state of Palestine?  Yes or No?  If not, we shall have war again and again, till the end of time.”

Destroying Democracy From Within

Another respected Israeli dissenting voice is that of Idith Zertal, historian and author with Akiva Eldar of “The Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007.”  Zertal has taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and recently at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

In a recent interview in “Le Courier,” a Swiss French-language daily, Zertal declared that, “A country cannot claim to be a democracy and support such an extended military occupation without destroying itself from within.  Today, there are more than 500,000 colonists spread across the whole of the West Bank, counting those living near Jerusalem outside the internationally recognized borders of Israel.  Obviously, they (the Israeli government) would have liked to see Israel extend from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, and beyond.  But unless I am mistaken, they are quite satisfied with the current situation, which involves, on the one hand, daily expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands, which has become almost routine, and, on the other hand, a continuous expansion of the colonies.”

While the current Israeli government promoted the expansion of settlements, Zertal points out that, “There are thousands of Israelis militating every day against the occupation, who help the Palestinians in the occupied territory, but the question of the occupation is rarely discussed in public.”  Still, in her view, the right-wing colonists “are capable of anything to defend their cause.  They know no limits.  The heads of the intelligence services are quite blunt about it:  some of the colonists are ready to arrange the assassination of a new prime minister, just like what happened to Yitzchak Rabin…it is worth noting the poisonous role played by some of the racist rabbis who do not hesitate to declare kosher all methods, even the worst, in the colonists’ struggle…With the arrival of Ariel Sharon in the government at the end of the 1970s, the administration adopted the strategy of preventing the creation of a viable Palestinian state and the existence of a democratic Palestinian society.  Their objectives seem to have been achieved.”

Gazans Incarcerated As Criminals

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, now director of the European Centre for Palestinian Studies at the University of Exeter in England, says that, “When you listen to mainstream media coverage of the situation in Gaza you get the impression that it all starts with an unreasonable launching of rockets into Israel by Hamas.  The deeper historical context is the fact that ever since 2005, the Gaza Strip is being, or people in the Gaza Strip are being incarcerated as criminals, and their only crime is that they elected democratically someone who vowed to struggle against this ghettoizing or this siege.  Israel reacted with all its force.  One can solve this situation by lifting the siege, by allowing the people of Gaza to be connected with their brothers and sisters in the West Bank, and by allowing them to be connected to the world and not live under circumstances that no one else in the world seems to experience at this moment in time.”

Pappe laments the decisions Israel has made in recent years:  “I think Israel is at a crossroads, but it has already made its decision which way it is going from this junction.  It was in a junction where it had to decide finally whether it wants to be a democracy or a racist apartheid state and not a democracy, and it still hopes the U.S. would license this decision and provide it with the immunity to continue with the necessary implication of such a policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians, wherever they are.”

Another dissenting voice is that of Israeli author David Grossman, who lost a son in one of Israel’s earlier conflicts.  The anguish of the Palestinian people under attack stirs Grossman.  He states that, “If we put aside for a moment the rationales we use to buttress ourselves against simple human compassion toward the multitude of Palestinians whose lives have been shattered in this war, perhaps we will be able to see them, too, as they trudge around the grindstone right beside us, in tandem, in endless blind circles, in despair…There is no military solution to the real anguish of the Palestinian people, and as long as the suffocation felt in Gaza is not alleviated, we in Israel will not be able to breathe freely either.”

Palestinians Have Decided In Favor of Negotiations

Grossman declares that, “Mahmoud Abbas has already decided in favor of negotiation and against terrorism.  Will the government of Israel, after this bloody war, continue to avoid at least trying this option?…Will it keep dismissing the possibility that an agreement with West Bank Palestinians might gradually lead to an improved relationship with the 1.8 million residents of Gaza…I believe that Israel still contains a critical mass of people…Jews and Arabs, who are capable of uniting…to resolve the conflict with our neighbors…If we do not do this, we will all…continue to turn the grindstone of this conflict, which crushes and erodes our lives, our hopes and our humanity.”

In an interview with  the Israeli newspaper “Ha’aretz” (Aug. 13, 2014), Israel Prize laureate and renowned scholar Zeev Sternhal expressed fear that Israeli democracy was threatened, and compared the current atmosphere with that of 1940s France.  In September 2008, Sternhal opened the door of his home in Jerusalem  and was wounded by a bomb.  A year later, the police apprehended the perpetrator, Yaakov Teitel, a resident of a West Bank settlement, and one time informer for the Shin Bet Security Service.  In his interrogation, it turned out that his crimes included the murder of two Palestinians.

Born in Poland in 1935, Sternhal’s father died during World War II and his mother and sister were murdered by the Nazis.  It troubles Sternhal that as the attack on Gaza continued, “What we’ve seen here in the past few weeks is absolute conformism on the part of most of Israel’s intellectuals.  They’ve just followed the herd.  The role of the intellectual and the journalist is not to applaud the government.  Democracy crumbles when the intellectual, the educated classes toe the line of the thugs or look at them with a smile…We reached a crisis in this war, in which, without anyone asking them to do so, all kinds of university bodies are suddenly demanding that the entire academic community roll back its criticism.,

Erosion Of Enlightenment Values

Contemporary Israel, Sternhal shows, is turning away from Western values and is in the process of turning away from the Enlightenment:  “Israel is an extraordinary laboratory in which one sees the gradual erosion of enlightenment values…You see the negation, which always existed on the fringes, slowly impinging, until one day it dominates the center…Democracy ceased to exist in the territories long ago.  The Palestinians there have no human rights, you rule them by force.  The settlements are a cancer.  If our society is unable to muster sufficient strength, political power and mental fortitude to remove some of the settlements, that will signal that the Israel story is finished, that the story of Zionism as we understand it, as I understand it, is over.”

At the present time, notes Sternhal, “Israel is…the last colonial country in the West.  How long will that continue?  If not for the memory of the Holocaust and the fear of being accused of anti-Semitism, Europe would have long since boycotted the settlements,…The group led by Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel scares me—they and the right-wing branch of Likud are truly dangerous people, because they really don’t understand what democracy is, what human rights are, and they truly and deeply hate the Arabs in a way that doesn’t allow for coexistence here.”

Yitzhak Beer of the Keshev Centre for The Protection of Democracy in Israel says that it has never been more difficult to voice dissent in a country that prides itself on being the only democracy in the Middle East.  He states that, “The extremist section of Israeli society has kidnaped the state of Israel.”

Administrative Brutality of Occupation

In an important new book, “Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories,” Ahron Bregman, a former Israeli soldier in Lebanon who is now an academic at King’s College London, describes the administrative brutality beneath Israel’s claim to “enlightened occupation.”  He describes how, in the aftermath of the 1967 conquest, Israel’s government trucked a quarter of Gaza’s residents to Jordan;  how General Moshe Dayan’s “Open Bridges” policy, which gave Palestinians a respite from occupation and the chance to travel to Jordan, opened only in one direction for many;  and how the Golan Heights were emptied of their 138,000 people, bar a few thousand Druze.  The more people Israel displaced, he states, the more land became available for Jewish settlements.

Bregman shows that for five decades Israel has sought to keep and colonize as much territory as its Western allies would permit.  He writes:  “Israel, helped by the Jewish diaspora, particularly in America, proved that nations which have suffered unspeakable tragedies of their own can act in similarly cruel ways when in power themselves.”

Indeed,  more than two hundred  Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genicide signed a statement which appeared as an ad in “The New York Times” (Aug. 23, 2014) which “unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation  and colonization of historic Palestine.”

Racist Dehumanization Of Palestinians

The Holocaust survivors and descendants state:  “We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation.  Genocide begins with the silence of the world.  We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch.  In Israel, politicians and pundits in the Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.”

Referring to an ad in which Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel defended Israel’s attack upon Gaza and blamed Hamas for the more the more than 2,000 casualties, including hundreds of children, the Holocaust survivors declare:  “…We are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history…to justify the unjustifiable:  Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children.  Nothing can justify  depriving people of electricity and water.  We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of

Palestinian people.  We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza.  We call for for the full economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel.  ‘Never Again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

Among the Holocaust survivors signing this statement were:  Hajo Meyer, Netherlands;  Henri Wajnblum, Belgium;  Jacques Glaser, France;  Lillian Rosengarten, U.S.;  Edith Rubenstein, Belgium;  Shimon Schwarzschild, Germany;  Eva Naylor, New Zealand;  Bernard Swierszcz, Poland;  Hedy Epstein, U.S., and Joseph Klinkow, Poland.

Jews Unwilling To Subordinate Ethical Standards

In distributing this statement of the Holocaust survivors and descendants, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of “Tikkun,” notes that, “While I do not agree that the appropriate response to Israel’s actions in Gaza is a blanket boycott of Israel (though I do support boycotting firms providing support for Israel’s  occupation of the West Bank and non-Palestinian firms that operate in the West Bank and help Israeli settlements there).  I believe that it is important to publicize the growing sentiment of revulsion at the consequences of the Occupation, the blockade of Gaza and the destruction of Gaza and its people among Jewish people who are unwilling to subordinate their ethical sensibilities to blind support for the policies of the current government of Israel.”

The number of Jews of conscience who have spoken out in behalf of traditional Jewish moral and ethical values, which they believe to be violated by Israeli actions, is growing.  David Harrison-Gershon,  author of “What Do You Buy The Children of the Terrorist Who Tried To Kill Your Wife,” writes that, “As A Jew living in America, the last week has changed me forever…I was mostly instilled with progressive values as a child.  Rather, I was instilled with progressive American values—particularly those which aligned with liberal Jewish ones.  A love for social justice, human rights, equality.  A disdain for racism, fundamentalism, colonialism.  Despite this, my early love for progressivism was accompanied by a love for the State of Israel.  I was naturally inclined to root for the underdog.  And at synagogue we were taught that Jews were the ultimate underdogs, miraculously surviving the Holocaust and a history of oppression to create a contemporary ‘light unto the nations’ which fought with dogged determination against evil…And I was taught that I was vulnerable, that there were people who wanted me dead, and that Israel was a safe haven, a beacon, a garden to which I could always escape.”

Palestinians, he recalls, “were portrayed as just one in a series of people who have risen up throughout history to destroy us, being painted as a caricature of evil.  As a boy, I nodded and understood.  Israel was not just good, it was necessary.”  At the liberal synagogue he attended, Harrison-Gershon remembers a youth group event which was described as a pancake supper:  “We were surprisingly herded into a multi-purpose room and sharply ordered to sit against the walls by masked men carrying plastic assault rifles.  Stale bread was thrown on the linoleum floor toward me and my friends…This is what the enemy is like, some teachers told us when it was over.  I nodded.  We were the good ones.”

Struggle Between Zionism and Progressivism

Now, for Harrison-Gershon things are not so simple:  “I’ve moved away from such naïveté  while holding on to both my Zionism and progressive leanings….despite the growing struggle for coexistence between the two…I’m a Jewish studies teacher at a day school, yeshiva-educated with a master’s degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  I’ve authored a memoir about my experience with terror and reconciliation…As an adult I’ve learned about the cleansing of Arab villages which took place from 1947-1949 to make way for the Jewish state.  I’ve learned about the ongoing settlement enterprise, the appropriation and bifurcation of Palestinian lands.  I’ve learned about the horrors of Israel’s decades-old occupation of the West Bank and about the suppression of basic human rights and the atrocities committed.  I’ve studied Israel’s use of indefinite detentions, home demolitions, restrictions on goods and movement and the violence visited on those being occupied.”

Knowing all this, Harrison-Gershon still held fast to his progressive Zionism, hoping Israel might still become the beacon of liberalism he was presented as a child. Recent events have caused him to wonder if he can any longer sustain the compromises of the past:

“I’ve watched…racism flourish and religious fundamentalism grow, watched Israel’s government build settlements at a record pace and make clear that it has little interest in peace…In order to continue supporting Israel as a Jewish state, with everything it continues to do, I must compromise my progressivism. However, the mind-numbingly horrific events of the past week have forced me, for the first time, to wonder whether such compromises can be sustained…I have begun for the first time to consider what a single bi-national state might look like, to consider that it finally end this madness.  And here’s the irony—Israel’s extreme-right leaders, embracing various one-state solutions, have forced me to do so….Israel just elected as its President a one-state proponent.  How can I not consider what that might look like?”

Gaza War Is Self-Defeating

British journalist Jonathan Freedland, who identifies himself as a “liberal Zionist,” believes that while Israel’s fears are real, its war in Gaza is self-defeating.  Writing in “The Guardian” (July 25, 2014) he provides this assessment:  “Israelis want security, yet their government’s actions will give it no security.  On the contrary, they are utterly self-defeating…More Israelis have died in the operation to tackle the Hamas threat than have died from the Hamas threat, at least over the past 5 years….To address the risk that hypothetical Israeli soldiers might be kidnaped, 33 actual Israeli soldiers have died…Before the current round of violence, the West Bank had been relatively quiet for years…An operation designed to make Israel more secure has made it much less.”

Discussing the toll of civilian deaths in Gaza, particularly children, Freedland argues that, “For every one of those Gazan children—their lives broken by pain and bloodshed three times in the past 6 years—will surely grow up with a heart hardened against Israel, some of them bent on revenge.  In trying to crush today’s enemy, Israel has reared the enemy of tomorrow.”

Real security, in Freedland’s view, requires more than walls and tanks:  “It requires alliances and support…Yet every day Israel is seen to be battering Gaza, its reservoir of world sympathy drops a little lower.  And that is to reckon without the impact of this violence on Israel’s own moral fibre.  After 47 years of occupation and even more years of conflict, the constant demonization of the enemy is having a corrosive effect:  witness the ‘Sderot cinema,’ The Israelis gathering in lawn chairs on a border hilltop to munch popcorn and watch missiles rain down on Gaza.   No nation can regard itself as secure when it’s ethical moorings come loose.  The only real security is political, not military, it comes through negotiation, not artillery fire.  In the years of quiet this should have been the Israeli goal.  Instead, every opening was obstructed, every opportunity spurned.”

With People Of Gaza Because of Jewish History

On August 9, demonstrations took place in many cities around the world in support of the people of Gaza.  In London, 19-year-old student and Jewish activist Barnaby Raine organized a “Jewish Bloc Against Zionism.”  At the London rally, Raine addressed the crowd:  “I am proud

to stand here today as a Jewish boy from North London in solidarity with the people in Gaza.  I’m not here today in spite of Jewish history.  I’m here because of Jewish history…I’m here today because my great grandparents knew what it meant to be excluded and to be the victims of racism.  They knew what it was like to be booted out of their homes and turned into refugees.”

In an interview with BBC, Raine asked, “Is that a conflict?  When people flee for their lives to U.N. shelters and then Israel attacks the U.N. shelters, is that a conflict? (No). No, No, BBC.  This is not a conflict, this is a massacre.  I am 19 years old.  What future awaits the 19 year olds of Gaza?…In the early 20th century, people all over the world, from all backgrounds who stood for the oppressed might have declared, I too am a Jew.  When apartheid besmirched the earth, people might have said, I too am a black South African.  Well, today, people from all backgrounds, from all walks of life, all over the world, come together and say in our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.”

Professor Marc Ellis, a leading authority on contemporary Judaism and the founding director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University, wrote an open letter addressed to Jewish journalists reporting on events in Gaza:  “Has Jewish history come to this?  What are Jews of conscience like you to do with what you are seeing?..Jews have never descended to this level of depravity before.  The end of Jewish history as we have known and inherited it—I think that’s what you’re witnessing.  Whatever ethical valves were present in our tradition—what both of us consciously or subconsciously draw upon—are gone.  Like, or with, the Palestinians, Jewish ethics have literally been blown away.”

Weight of Jewish History

Professor Ellis concludes his letter this way:  “If only there was something hopeful I could share with you.  Nothing in my lifetime—perhaps in yours since you are much younger but I also doubt this—will set this aright.  Barring a strike from the heavens–a miracle of sorts–Palestinians will remain under Israel’s thumb.  You are witnessing a horror that is present-day but resonates with the Jewish past.  It’s defining our Jewish future.  Yes, you’re witnessing our future in Gaza–which has already arrived….The Jewish boots on the ground (in protest) are a sign of hope–the only hope we have–at the end.  So I have to choose my words wisely.  I also have to tell them the truth as I see it.  It wouldn’t be right to condescend to those who bear the weight of Jewish history, as it comes to an end.”

In his important 2009 book, “Judaism Does Not Equal Israel,” Dr. Ellis explains that the prophetic vision of Judaism is contrary to the “corrupting—and potentially fatal—identification with modern Israel…For Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt…both saw only danger in the attempt to normalize the Jewish situation through statehood.  Statehood would destroy everything.  The consequences of the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel, especially the cleansing of large numbers of Palestinians foretold disaster for both.  The early warnings of Buber and Arendt show how aware they were of the consequences of a politics of dispossession and power enshrined in the modern state.  These consequences included the failure of the Jewish ethical tradition, the quashing of internal dissent, and the positing of an exclusive right to narrate a univocal understanding of history…In sum, the consequences of statehood would be a disaster for Jews and Arabs.”

Before the creation of Israel, writes Ellis, “Jews were…primarily a people with a mission before and beyond the state.  The special language of the Judaic was found in sacred texts rather than in territory.  Jews guarded these texts, the Torah and the Talmud, and it was here that Jews would find their special destiny and contribute to the world.  Nation states come and go.  Moreover, they use violence to survive.”  Buber,  Arendt and others, “…warned that, once assumed, state power would propel Jews into an assimilation to violence and uniformity of thought.  This has been achieved in a way approaching totality…Jews of Conscience must re embrace the prophetic without Judeocentric superiority and rabbinic limitations.  This

reembracing is impossible within the Jewish establishment today…”

Returning His “Righteous Among The Nations” Medal

In August, Henk Zanoli, 91, went to the Israeli Embassy in The Hague, The Netherlands, and returned a medal he received honoring him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations—non-Jews honored for saving Jews during the Holocaust.

In 1943, Henk Zanoli took a dangerous train trip, slipping past Nazi guards and checkpoints to smuggle a Jewish boy from Amsterdam to the Dutch village of Eemmes.  There, the Zanoli family, already under suspicion for resisting the Nazi occupation, hid the boy in their home for two years.  The boy would be the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.  “The New York Times” reported that, “Seventy-one years later, on July 20, an Israeli airstrike flattened a house in the Gaza Strip, killing six of Mr. Zanoli’s relatives by marriage.  His grandniece, a Dutch diplomat, is married to a Palestinian economist, Ismail Ziadah, who lost three brothers, a sister-in-law, a nephew and his father’s first wife in the attack.”

Mr. Zanoli, whose father died in a Nazi camp, wrote a letter to the Israeli ambassador in which he described the terrible price his family had paid for opposing Nazi tyranny.  “My sister lost her husband, who was executed in the dunes of The Hague for his involvement in the resistance,” he wrote.  “My brother lost his Jewish fiancée who was deported, never to return.  Against this background, it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza.  Murder carried out by the State of Israel.”

“Jews Were Our Friends”

In an interview with “The Times” (Aug. 16, 2014), Mr. Zanoli said, “I gave back my medal because I didn’t agree with what the state of Israel is doing to my family and to the Palestinians on the whole.  This decision is a statement only against the state of Israel, not the Israeli people.  Jews were our friends.  I never publicly criticized Israel until I heard that my family was the victim.”

In his letter, Mr. Zanoli said that his family had “strongly supported the Jewish people” in their quest for a “national home,” but he had gradually come to believe that “the Zionist project” had “a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews.” He referred to the displacement of Palestinians during the war over Israel’s founding as “ethnic cleansing” and said Israel still occupies the West Bank and retains control over Gaza’s seafront, airspace and most of its borders.

He wrote:  “The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political rights and social and economic rights  and opportunities.  Although this will result in a state no longer exclusively Jewish it will be a state with a level of righteousness on the basis of which I could accept the title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ you awarded to my mother and me.”  In that event, he concluded, “be sure to contact me or my descendants.”

The Gifts of The Jews

At the present time, in the organized Jewish community, the Jewish moral and ethical tradition is threatened as nationalism has replaced faith.  We often forget how important that Jewish tradition is, not only to Jews, but to the larger world. In his book “The Gifts Of The Jews,” Thomas Cahill writes:  “Because of their unique belief—monotheism–the Jews were able to give us the Great Whole, a unified universe that makes sense and that, because of its evident superiority as worldview, completely overwhelms the warring and contradictory phenomenon of polytheism.  They gave us the Conscience of the West, and the belief that this God who is One is not the God of outward show but the still, small  voice of conscience , the God of compassion, the God who ‘will be there,’ the God who cares about each of his creatures, especially the human beings he created ‘in his own image,’ and that he insists we do the same.  Even the gradual universalization of Jewish ideas hinted at in the story of Ruth…was foreseen by Joel, the late prophet who probably rose after the return from Babylon:  ‘And it will come to pass that I shall pour out my spirit on all humanity.  Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old people shall dream dreams and your young people see visions.  Even on slaves, men and women, shall I pour out my spirit.'”

Judaism’s gift was not narrow nationalism, but a universal vision, meant for and available to men and women of every race and nation.  Cahill shows that, “Jews gave us the Outside and the Inside—our outlook and our inner life.  We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without being Jewish.  We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes.  Most of our best words, in fact—adventure, surprise, unique, individual, person, vocation, time, history, future, progress, spirit, faith, hope and justice—are gifts of the Jews…If one is ever to find the spirit of God in human affairs, one must find it here…Humanity’s most extravagant dreams are articulated by the Jewish prophets. In Isaiah’s vision, true faith is no longer confined to one nation  but ‘all the nations’  stream to the House of Yahweh ‘that he may teach us his ways ‘ and that we may learn to ‘beat our swords into plough shares.’  All who share this outrageous dream of universal brotherhood, peace and justice, who dream the dreams and see the visions of the great prophets, must bring themselves to contemplate the possibility that without God there is no justice.”

Preserving Judaism’s Moral Integrity

          Much of the early part of the Bible reflected an ancient worldview of tribal gods which were not the unique Jewish contribution to religion, but a holdover from the past.  Thus, in the Book of Joshua, God commanded the Israelites to put all Canaanites, the orginal inhabitants of Palestine, to death.  In the Psalms,  the poet regularly urges God to effect the brutal destruction of the poet’s enemies.  This is hardly the god of the Prophets.  In its early days, Reform Judaism stripped Judaism of those characteristics which served the idea of a separate “Jewish peoplehood.”  What remained was the Judaism of the prophets, a religion of universal and moral ethical laws from a God who was the God of all, not simply of the Jews.

      Now, the organized Jewish community seems to be embracing tribalism, thereby threatening Judaism’s moral integrity.  Judaism is about  applying moral standards equally to all, not defending whatever other Jews do.  The humane Jewish tradition can be seen in the many dissenting voices of Jews of conscience, some of whom have been cited here.  Will those voices be enough to counter an organized community which is committed to a far different enterprise?  Let us hope that their number will grow and that, in the end, Judaism will be rescued from those who have so threatened its very essence.


“Obese Intelligence”: The NSA Search Engine. “Over 850 Billion Records about Phone Calls, Emails, Cellphone Locations, and Internet Chats”


Global Research


The Intercept was already getting the intelligence community excited with its revelations that the National Security Agency had decided to mimic inspector Google. Through creating a search engine in the manner of those pro-transparency pioneers, the intelligence community was turning the tables on the very idea of searchable information. Why keep it the operating preserve of the public? The search engine has, as it stands, over 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats.[1]

The revelations have a few implications, the most obvious one confirming the seamless transition between intelligence work on the one hand, and the policing function on the other. The distinction between intelligence communities whose interests are targeting matters foreign to the polity; and those who maintain order within the boundaries of a state in a protective capacity, prove meaningless in this form. The use of ICREACH makes it clear that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are regular clients and users of the system.

A 2010[2] memorandum from the Chief of Liaison Support Group at the CIA titled CIA colleagues enthusiastically welcome NSA training speaks with praise about those NSA-ers embedded in CIAs workspaces. Indeed, it speaks very highly of the information sharing ethos of the NSA within the Intelligence Community, channelling Googles operating rationale within more secret spaces. Furthermore, in 2010, the relevant data base provided the NSA and second Party telephony metadata events to over 1000 analysts across 23 US Intelligence Community agencies.

Those keen on squirreling information into such a data base are no doubt thrilled by the prospects that it can be made available to the appropriate sources. ICREACH has become one of the largest, if not largest system for the internal processing and sharing of surveillance records within the United States. It is not, according to The Intercept, connected with the NSA database that stores data on Americans phone calls pursuant to s. 215 of the Patriot Act.

The difference between the two accumulated pools of data is one of scope: ICREACH is mammoth in reach, and positively defiant in its push against the law; the database gathered under s. 215 guidelines is minute in comparison, confined to the dangerously pertinent idea of combating terrorism and like threats. ICREACH exists outside the system of court orders, being a creature of Executive Order 12333. The document, instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was intended to add robustness to the intelligence gathering capabilities of the US intelligence community.

John Tye[3], formally of the US State Department, has wrestled with the way EO 12333 is used. He accepts its premise that it is primarily to target foreigners abroad, and collection happens outside the US. However, My complaint is not that theyre using it to target Americans, my complaint is that the volume of incidental collection on US persons is unconstitutional.

The idea of restraining intelligence gathering to pertinent, specific targeting has gotten increasingly old fashioned in the information banquet of the modern NSA community. Farming modern metadata provides a diet positively rich in carbohydrates, a deficient diet when it comes to nutrition, but excessive when it comes to those fats a lean intelligence, and policing service, should avoid.

The true fat stripping agent here is the law, with its targeted formulae that keeps intelligence agencies focused and relevant in their activities. The most humble analyst will use the law as a tool for gathering, and analysing good data. The slothful gatherer will prefer the short cuts, including the magical search term that avoids as much as it captures. Bugger the law and type in the search term.

The progenitor of this system was retired NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander. In a 2006 letter to John Negroponte, then Director of National Intelligence, Alexander outlined his ideas of a search tool that would allow unprecedented volumes of communications metadata to be shared and analysed. To what end? Prizing open a vast, rich source of information. Superbly dim in a sense information is not knowledge; and knowledge is not, on its own accord, information. The glaring point here is that the higher ups in the intelligence community have gotten the wrong end of the stick.

In 2007, ICREACH was launched, its purpose being to deliver the first-ever wholesale sharing communications database within the US Intelligence Community. It became, as spokesman from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence Jeffrey Anchukaitis suggested, part of a fundamental pillar of the post-9/11 intelligence community the principle of sharing information between. Authorities, irrespective of legal distraction or distinction, could obtain data that would otherwise be stove-piped in any single office or agency.

The problems of such data-sharing processes is the mechanical presumption that they take place in a legal vacuum. On the one hand, members of the intelligence community are becoming the lounge lizards of bureaucracy. They hug metadata the way a viewer of cable channel television surfs the package of channels. Nothing is actually processed. What matters is having the package to begin with.

The other consequence is dangerous such sharing practices distribute sensitive material of citizens, both American and non-American, in a manner that mocks any legal restraint. According to Brian Owsley, who presided as federal magistrate judge between 2005 and 2013, there shouldnt be this buddy-buddy system back-and-forth. Time, it would seem, to burn the fat off the obese operator that is the modern US intelligence community.


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Results of MH17 Investigation to Remain ‘Classified’r

21st Century Wire says…We suspected this would be the case, so we prepared our own investigative report on July 25th regarding the downed Malaysian airliner over Donetsk in eastern Ukraine:

MH17 Verdict: Real Evidence Points to US-Kiev Cover-up of Failed False Flag

Now, in a recent report published by Global Research, it’s been confirmed that on August 8th,Ukraine, the Netherlands, Australia and Belgium signed a “non-disclosure agreement pertaining to data obtained during the investigation into the causes of the crash of Malaysian Airlines MH17.”

Our translation: The findings of the ‘official’ investigation into the MH17 disaster will likely remain classified.

This was confirmed at a news briefing in Kiev held by the office of the Prosecutor General Yuri Boychenko:

“In his words, the results of the investigation will be published once completed only if a consensus agreement of all parties that have signed the agreement prevails.”


IMAGE: Wreckage from a crash scene. Survey of MH17 evidence on the ground could take several weeks — and then what?Read more at Global Research

Listen to the audio report below as Patrick Henningsen of 21WIRE decodes mainstream media coverage, and unravels ‘official’ stories coming out of Kiev and Washington.

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Interview with St. Louis community leader Zaki Baruti


Zaki Baruti is the President-General of the Universal African People’s Organization. He sat down withLiberation for an interview last week.

Zaki Baruti of the Universal African People’s Organization leads a protest in Ferguson.

BB: People all over the world are watching St. Louis. How would you, as someone who has been centrally involved, characterize what is going on there?

ZB: I characterize it as justified, righteous outrage among many of the youth in the community, as well as the elders, at what happened to a young man, who was about to enter another new stage of his life and go to college. That’s a young man named Michael Brown who was brutally shot multiple times, over 8 times, by a killer cop whose identity we still do not have as of today.

That senseless murder has caused a major event that many of the authorities cannot put a complete handle on. I look at it as a righteous rebellion.

This Special Issue of Liberation is being distributed in Ferguson, St. Louis and around the country.Click to make a donation to support the costs of printing or order copies for your city.

Why do you think the rebellion has broken out?

ZB: The killing of Michael Brown is a small symptom of what is taking place across America where young Black man are brutalized by the police forces.

It’s also sad to say that in the city of Ferguson, in a city that is 63% Black, there are 53 commissioned officers and only 3 are Black. That speaks to a situation that is not peculiar to Ferguson — it is like that in many other cities. In the cities across America, our organization, the Universal African People’s organization, as well as the Coalition on Police Crimes and Repression, we say that the police forces should reflect the ethnic communities they patrol. But that’s not the case in Ferguson or St. Louis.

Ten years ago the Missouri General Assembly mandated that the Attorney General conduct yearly studies to see if we had an epidemic of DWB (Driving While Black.) And every year there are proven statistics that show that Black people are disproportionately stopped and arrested.

The frustrations of our youth are compounded by the fact of tremendous unemployment, poor educational system, families that have been split by the disproportionate incarceration of Black people — this is the country with the most prisoners in the world. We are also calling for financial investment, similar to what happened after World War II when they had the Marshall Plan to infuse dollars from the United States to rebuild the war torn cities in Europe. We’re saying the same thing has to be done for the cities here.

Are there organized forces taking the lead in St. Louis and Ferguson?

ZB: There are several key grassroots organizations that have consistently spoken truth to power and made efforts to organize our youth to address the issues of police brutality and harassment. In addition to the groups I represent, there is the Tauheed Youth Organization, led by a brother Anthony Shahid who has been working diligently. You have the New Black Panther Party on the ground there, Nation of Islam Mosque #28, the Organization for Black Struggle, the Moorish Science Temple.

But let me be clear: there are many spontaneous protests organized by youth who do not belong to any particular organization. Out of this struggle, we’re hoping to mobilize them into some form of organized movement in terms of attracting them to our organizations or any others that speak truth to power.

Why do you think building such organizations is so important?

ZB: To deal with the ills of this society people have to be organized. Therefore, our message is that everybody needs to belong to an organization — preferably one that is real strong and not afraid to deal with the issues of the day.

What is your message to people who are outside of St. Louis, and might be feeling powerless as to what to do?

ZB: One, we are planning a National Day of protest and support in the memory of Michael Brown. But not just him — also the brother Eric Garner who was just choked to death in New York, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo and so on. This will be a protest against police violence and we’ll be announcing a date soon.

We’ll be asking masses of people — 10,000 to 30,000 people — to come to the St. Louis area to support us in our just cause. And for those who cannot come to hold solidarity rallies in the communities where they live.

We also ask that people across the country search online for the office number of the St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, and bombard it with calls demanding that the officer be indicted and vigorously prosecuted with a conviction.

What has been the response of the prosecutor thus far?

ZB: At one of our demonstrations outside the St. Louis County Justice Center, where the prosecutor has his office, we were going to send a delegation of five people to meet with him. When he saw the list and saw my name on it, he said I could not come. Out of principle, the other people refused to meet with him also based on that. They cannot determine who is going to go and negotiated and represent our people.

For those who are hearing from the media that there is a looting and criminal element taking over at night in Ferguson, how would you respond to that?

ZB: It’s another falsehood. Although there was some of that — and I don’t call it “looting,” I call it the liberation of some of the goods that have been stolen from the people over the centuries — that has not been an ongoing situation. What has actually taken place is that a number of young people have come to the forefront daily, in the daylight and in the evening, to express their outrage. They have been by and large peaceful. All they have done is block the streets of the major thoroughfares, somewhat similar to what took place in Egypt at Tahrir Square and other places where there have been rebellions of the masses of people. The theme has been “enough is enough.”

As an elder, I’m in absolute agreement with it because it could as easily been my son or grandchildren. So we have to create an environment where these injustice do not occur any longer.

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Ferguson youth on the frontlines


After several days of violent protests and intense confrontations between local police  and protestors the police decided to pull back and allow the protestors to march peacefully and protest. The scene resembled a gigantic street party which was managed mainly by middle aged African-Americans who kept the traffic flowing. For most of the night the police were no where to be seen and the Ferguson public were able to both simultaneously protest and celebrate a small 'victory' of sorts.

One of the aspects of the uprising in Ferguson that is most striking to me is the determination of the protesters. The police arrived with armored vehicles and assault rifles, and the people kept fighting. Then a new cop was put in charge who tried to defeat the uprising with smiles and handshakes – and the people still kept fighting.

The National Guard arrived, and the rebellion continued. The National Guard left, and the rebellion continued. A curfew was imposed and lifted, but the community marched in their streets whenever they wished.

Of course, the entirety of the Black community in Ferguson and surrounding areas were represented, but a special role was played by youth. Why else would the ruling class media take so much time to slander and demonize young people as vandals and looters? “Everything was going fine,” the newspapers and networks say, “until a group of young troublemakers forced the police to step in.”

The reality is that the system is stunned and terrified at the heroic acts of self-defense carried out night after night by the youth of Ferguson. The ruling class can have all the guns and money in the world – Ferguson is proof that this can always be matched by the willingness of oppressed people to sacrifice.

This resistance has established the youth of Ferguson not only as a vanguard element in the struggle against white supremacy, but leaders of an entire generation of young people desperate to free themselves of a system that robs them of a future.

I’ve noticed that this is true in Philadelphia (and I suspect other cities) as well. At demonstrations and meetings to organize solidarity with the Ferguson uprising, young people – with crucial guidance by veteran activists and revolutionaries – are always the most eager to get started with the fight back. Even though the struggle for justice for Mike Brown continues and murderer cop Darren Wilson is still free, the rebellion has already won a key victory. Fear and cynicism have given way to confidence and hope among countless young people who are inspired by our leaders in Ferguson.

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