Tags: aipac, episcopal church, gaza, goldstone, gunter grass, israel, israel nuclear, james m. wall, methodist church, Middle East, natanyahu, Palestine, presbyterian church, religion, roger hollander
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by James M. Wall, www.wallwritings.me
A stunning new poem by German novelist Gunter Grass, has “broken the silence” on Israel as a nuclear power.
Western journalists and politicians have long enforced that silence by unspoken and unwritten common agreement.
The silence was successfully imposed for two reasons: The Holocaust and the fear of being called anti-Semitic.
Gunter Grass (pictured above) has broken that silence with his poem, Was gesagt werden muss (What must be said).
Grass is a major figure in German literature. He speaks with considerable authority through his extensive and innovative writing. He is considered one of Germany’s major novelists.
The press release announcing his 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature begins:
When Günter Grass published The Tin Drum in 1959 it was as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction.
Within the pages of this, his first novel, Grass recreated the lost world from which his creativity sprang, Danzig, his home town, as he remembered it from the years of his infancy before the catastrophe of war.
Here he comes to grips with the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them.
In 1979, The Tin Drum reached a world audience through a film of the same title, by German Director Volker Schlöndorff. The novel, which was brilliantly reproduced in the film, was praised by the Nobel Committee because of the way in which it:
Breaks the bounds of realism by having as its protagonist and narrator an infernal intelligence in the body of a three-year-old, a monster who overpowers the fellow human beings he approaches with the help of a toy drum.
The unforgettable Oskar Matzerath is an intellectual whose critical approach is childishness, a one-man carnival, dadaism in action in everyday German provincial life just when this small world becomes involved in the insanity of the great world surrounding it.
It is not too audacious to assume that The Tin Drum will become one of the enduring literary works of the 20th century.
Now, over a decade into the 21st century, Gunter Grass decides that Israel must be stopped from self-destruction before it is too late.
Through this deep concern, Grass wrote his poem, This Must Be Said, breaking decades of silence. Grass, now 84, says in the poem that he wrote with his “last ink”.
The entire poem may be read, and should be read, in its entirety. Click here for an English translation, or scroll down to the Comment section for the full text of the poem.
Here, as an introduction, are the first three sections of the poem:
Why have I kept silent, silent for too long over what is openly played out in war games at the end of which we the survivors are at best footnotes.
It’s that claim of a right to first strike against those who under a loudmouth’s thumb are pushed into organized cheering— a strike to snuff out the Iranian people on suspicion that under his influence an atom bomb’s being built.
But why do I forbid myself to name that other land in which for years—although kept secret— a usable nuclear capability has grown beyond all control, because no scrutiny is allowed. . . .
Later in the poem, Grass writes that the country with a nuclear arsenal that “has grown beyond all control, because no scrutiny is allowed”, is the modern state of Israel.
That lack of scrutiny of Israel’s nuclear arsenal has provided Israel with carte blanc to occupy Palestinian land, and to literally imprison the Palestinian people, all under the pretense of a need for the “security” of a nuclear armed Israel.
This same lack of scrutiny has also given Israel the freedom to function “behind the scenes” to shape the foreign policy of the West, a policy implemented by successive American governments trapped in the vise-like control of Israel’s two sacrosanct iron fists: The Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
How has Israel responded to Grass’ poem? It has followed their usual pattern, reacting with classic Israeli paranoid rhetoric.
First out of the box was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Israel will not tolerate anyone with credibility and a public platform, who exposes the truth of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Only he does not say it that way, for that would be an admission of the unsayable, that Israel does indeed have such an arsenal.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned German Nobel laureate Gunter Grass for his “shameful moral equivalence”.
“Gunter Grass’s shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel, says little about Israel and much about Mr. Grass,” Netanyahu said.
This reaction is the classic Israeli response when a cover story is exposed as false: Never deny, always attack and divert.
Netanyahu cannot deny the truth of Grass’ poem, so he attacks the messenger, first by condemning him, and then declaring him persona non grata in Israel, a country which Grass says in his poem, is a country “to which I am and will remain attached”.
Grass also has his supporters. Jakob Augstein, a columnist for the leading German newspaper, Der Spiegel writes:
The brief lines that Günter Grass has published under the title “What Must Be Said” will one day be seen as some of his most influential words. They mark a rupture.
It is this one sentence that we will not be able to ignore in the future: “The nuclear power Israel is endangering a world peace that is already fragile.”
It is a sentence that has triggered an outcry. Because it is true. Because it is a German, an author, a Nobel laureate who said it. Because it is Günter Grass who said it.
And therein lies the breach. And, for that, one should thank Grass. He has taken it upon himself to utter this sentence for all of us.
The New York Times reported the story entirely from Israel’s perspective. In the story on the poem, the Times ignored the truthfulness of the poem and focused instead on the “controversy” it stirred up.
Why should we expect anything different? It is the Times, after all, that has been a major player in the “protect Israel’s narrative” campaign.
We have seen before how Israel manipulates any story it deems a threat.
In 2009, the Goldstone Report revealed the details of Israel’s massive slaughter of citizens in Gaza, a three week assault carried out in the name of Israeli security.
In the initial report from a UN panel chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone an eminent South African jurist experienced in tackling war crimes cases and himself an avid Jewish Zionist, concluded “that Israel had committed multiple war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during its 2008-09 invasion.”
Did Israel deny the Goldstone Report? Of course not. The evidence was too overwhelming. Rather than confront the truth of Goldstone’s findings, Judge Goldstone was hauled off to South Africa, his native land, where he held personal meetings with rabbis there.
Soon, Judge Goldstone had second thoughts. He wrote a Washington Post op ed in which he famously said
“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
The Palestine Chronicle examines further the aftermath:
Goldstone does not with any clarity explain what he means by this sentence. Paradoxically and shamefully for the judge, the more we know about the Gaza massacre, the more accurate the Goldstone Report appears – not less.
We may never know why Goldstone changed his position – it is certainly not the result of new revelations refuting the report’s validity, irrespective of what he implied in his article.
We know that he had been the subject of an international smear campaign of unprecedented dimensions and nastiness. Maybe the pressure was simply too much for him.
But even in this case, it is hard to understand why he caved in now. In fact, attempts to discredit the Goldstone Report themselves been been discredited over the past year.
Did Goldstone succumb to pressure or threats? No one knows.
What we do know for sure is that a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks has Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that Israel was facing “three principal threats: Iran’s nuclear [programme], missile proliferation and the Goldstone Report.”
The Goldstone Report was the 2009-10 du jour “threat to Israel”.
Today the du jour “threat to Israel” is Gunter Grass and his poem, What Must be Said.
The threat is always there to Israel. The threat changes as Netanyahu, or whoever governs Israel at the time, sees a new threat to Israel’s long-protected narrative of why Israel is never wrong.
Any sign that anyone is breaking ranks on the silence surrounding that narrative, which has long included development of a nuclear arsenal in Dimona, Israel, must suffer personal attacks.
Israel is all that matters to Israel, regardless of the consequences to others. Unfortunately, thanks to AIPAC and its army of strong-armed warriors assigned to control US government officials and church leaders, the silence is rarely broken in US domestic politics.
Three US Protestant denominations, the United Methodists, Presbyterian Church, and the Episcopal Church, in that order, will hold national decision-making conferences between April 24 and mid-July.
These denominational leaders will attend to church business, budgets, reports, and honoring their retirees, that sort of thing. This year each body will also take up the matter of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
The United Methodists and Presbyterians will consider resolutions which are both the result of many years of conversation and study, and will then ask officials to agree to divesting church funds from three corporations which have refused church requests to stop providing products that enable the Occupation to continue.
The Episcopal Church is about five to eight years behind the United Methodists and Presbyterians. All they are asking this time around is for Episcopalians to consider how Palestinians are suffering under Occupation. And of course, to celebrate the importance of Jewish/Christian relations.
Even that is too much for the Episcopalians, which seem thus far to be following the leadership of their Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has encouraged her constituents to have conversations and break bread with their local Jewish neighbors.
What has rankled Episcopalians, however, is that in their mild resolution on Israel/Palestine, a special Episcopal version of a study book entitled Steadfast Hope, is recommended for local church study.
Steadfast Hope has something positive to say about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) strategy. It does not call for adopting that strategy. It simply suggests BDS be studied.
For more on this discussion, see this recent posting from Wall Writings. I especially urge readers to scroll down for the follow-up comments.
I believe Gunter Grass, without knowing it, was speaking to all those gullible Protestants who still believe that the tactic of a nonviolent protest of divesting church funds from corporations that support the Occupation, is not good for Israel.
BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is also not a threat to the “fragile interfaith” relationship between Protestants and Jews.
Delegates to the upcoming church decision-making conferences should read Gunter Grass’ poem. He is speaking truth to you, just as he is speaking truth to Israel.
Like Sampson of old, Israel is agitating to have the US join with it to pull down those pillars and destroy huge sections of this planet in a nuclear holocaust.
Grass chose to break his own self-imposed silence because he believes Israel needs an “intervention”, a process whereby people who truly love their spiritual homeland, will persuade Israel that it is currently embarked on a suicidal course of action, harmful to itself and to others.
An “intervention” is designed to save that which we love. At the moment, Israel is veering dangerously close to the Sampson Option.(See Seymour Hersh’s 1991 book of that name.
Grass does not want to see a nuclear-armed Israel destroy itself and threaten further the already “fragile” world peace.
Neither should we. A nonviolent step like BDS is the least we can do to play a role in Israel’s “intervention”.
Correction: Earlier versions of this posting described Grass as Jewish. He is not. This error has been corrected in the version above. I regret this error. JMW
Tags: aipac, atomic energy, iaea, Iran, iran nuclear, israel, journalism, judy miller, likud, new york times, nuclear capabilities, nuclear weapons, roger hollander, rogert naiman
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It’s deja vu all over again. AIPAC is trying to trick America into another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on behalf of the Likud Party’s colonial ambitions, and the New York Times is lying about allegations that said country is developing “weapons of mass destruction.”
In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4 (“Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil “), this paragraph appeared:
The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign. [my emphasis]
The claim that there is “a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective” is a lie.
As Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on December 9,
But the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.
Indeed, if you try now to find the offending paragraph on the New York Times website, you can’t. They took it down. But there is no note, like there is supposed to be, acknowledging that they changed the article, and that there was something wrong with it before. Sneaky, huh?
But you can still find the original here. Indeed, at this writing, if you go to the New York Times website, and search on the phrase, “military objective,” the article pops right up. But if you open the article, the text is gone. But again, there is no explanatory note saying that they changed the text.
This is not an isolated example in the Times‘ reporting. The very same day – January 4 – the New York Times published another article, attributed to Clifford Krauss (“Oil Price Would Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz “), that contained the following paragraph.
Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons [my emphasis].
At this writing, that text is still on the New York Times website.
Of course, referring to Iran’s “development of nuclear weapons” without qualification implies that it is a known fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But it is not a known fact. It is an allegation. Indeed, when U.S. officials are speaking publicly for the record, they say the opposite. As Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on December 9,
This is what the U.S. director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March: “We continue to assess [that] Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
To demand a correction, you can write to the New York Times here. To write a letter to the editor, you can write to the New York Times here. To complain to the New York Times‘ Public Editor, you write him here.
Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy. Naiman has worked as a policy analyst and researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. He has masters degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of Illinois and has studied and worked in the Middle East. You can contact him here.
Obama Throws Palestine Under the Bus September 25, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: aipac, hanan ashrawi, israel, israel lobby, israeli occupation, jewish settlements, jim lobe, netanyahu, obama politics, Palestine, palestine statehood, roger hollander, west bank
Published on Sunday, September 25, 2011 by Inter Press Service
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON — The right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could not be more pleased.
Not only did the allegedly most “anti-Israel” president ever repeat, for the nth time, that “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable,” but also made crystal clear that Washington will veto any Palestinian application to the U.N. Security Council for statehood in his speech this week to the U.N. General Assembly.
Not once did he refer to Jewish “settlements” on Palestinian lands; nor did he even use the word “occupied” – or any declension of that word – to describe those lands and their people in an address that was largely, if ironically, devoted to celebrating this year’s Arab struggles to end autocratic rule in their region.
Nor was there a word about the plight of the still-besieged population of Gaza, or about the “1967 borders” as being the basis for any eventual two-state solution, a formula to which Netanyahu and his U.S. allies vehemently objected much to the consternation and exasperation of the White House only four months ago.
Indeed, President Barack Hussein Obama, as his right-wing and Islamophobic critics like to call him, said nothing to which even the most right-wing faction of Netanyahu’s government could object.
“I congratulate President Obama, and I am ready to sign on this speech with both hands,” enthused Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right – some say proto-fascist – Yisrael Beiteinu party, while Netanyahu himself called Obama’s address to the U.N. General Assembly “a badge of honor”.
“Listening to him, you would think it was the Palestinians who occupy Israel,” Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian stateswoman, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, noting what even the New York Times suggested seemed to be the “hypocritical” nature of Obama’s enthusiasm for Arab democracy movements.
“He presented a double standard when he disassociated the Arabs’ fight for their freedom in the region from the Palestinian freedom fighters, who deal with the occupation for 63 years,” she said.
“What we heard is precisely why we are going to the U.N.,” she added, sounding a theme that has been taken up all week by many Middle East specialists: By siding so ostentatiously with Netanyahu and against the Palestinian bid for statehood, Obama has forfeited Washington’s 20-year exclusivity as broker of the clearly broken “peace process” between the two parties – a point made implicitly by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status to a non-member state.
“Witnessing Netanyahu’s stubborn rejectionism and President Obama’s inability to move the ball forward, President Sarkozy appears to be acting on Obama’s prediction last May at AIPAC (the annual meeting of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee) – that … if there is no credible peace process, then others, including Europeans, will lose patience, and pursue alternatives to direct negotiations, including at the U.N.,” according to Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator now based at the New America Foundation here.
Such alternatives will likely become more urgent, he noted, as a result of the “post-Arab Awakening era, one in which Arab democracy will be less tolerant of Palestinian disenfranchisement than Arab autocracy ever was.”
So why did Obama, who, speaking at the same podium exactly one year ago, set a deadline of this week for an agreement on Palestinian statehood, capitulate so abjectly to Netanyahu and the Israeli right?
While his administration’s defenders claim it has everything to do with keeping the “peace process” alive and minimizing the chances of a new round of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, the answer is politics, or, more precisely, the perceived power of the AIPAC-led “Israel Lobby” in an election year.
“Once again, the transformational Obama has been sold out by the political Obama,” wrote David Rothkopf, a national security expert at the Carnegie Endowment, on his foreignpolicy.com blog early in the week.
Given his fading approval ratings and an economy that shows no signs of substantial improvement any time soon, the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill appear increasingly panicked over their re- election prospects in November 2012.
They will do nothing that risks alienating key constituencies, particularly Jewish voters in a couple of key “swing states”, but most especially Jewish donors who account for an estimated between 40 and 50 percent of all contributions to national Democratic campaigns.
Since the beginning of this year, but particularly since Netanyahu’s May visit where he was rapturously received at the AIPAC conference, his Republican – and some Democratic – allies have deliberately and repeatedly promoted the notion that Obama’s alleged pressure on Israel to freeze settlements and take other steps to advance the “peace process” was souring Jews, nearly 80 percent of whom voted for Obama in 2008, on the president and his party.
When, on the eve of this week’s U.N. meeting, a Tea Party Republican, who was endorsed by former Democratic Mayor Edward Koch to protest Obama’s allegedly anti-Israel policies, defeated a Jewish Democrat in a heavily Jewish New York City Congressional district that Democrats had held for nearly 90 years, that meme was transformed into conventional wisdom, thus setting the stage for Obama’s speech – or surrender – this week before the General Assembly.
In fact, however, only seven percent of the mostly Orthodox Jewish voters in that election said Obama’s policies toward Israel affected their vote, according to exit polls.
And, while there has indeed been a substantial erosion in Jewish approval of Obama’s performance, it has not been disproportionate to the loss of confidence in his leadership by the public at large, according to a recent Gallup poll.
That survey, undertaken from Aug. 1 to Sep. 15, found that a 54- percent majority of Jewish respondents still approve of Obama, 13 percentage points higher than his overall 41 percent approval rating, and similar to the average 14-point gap between Jews and the general public seen throughout his term in office.
“It’s really about donors, not about votes, except perhaps in Florida (where Jews make up about five percent of the electorate),” according to M.J. Rosenberg, a veteran Israel analyst at Media Matters who worked for years at AIPAC and on Capitol Hill where AIPAC wields its greatest influence.
“The surrender we’ve been watching lately is all about the money,” he said.
“What AIPAC and other key groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee do successfully is to convince both the White House and Congress that every dollar that comes from someone Jewish is about Israel, when, in fact, most Jewish donors are contributing because of a host of liberal causes they believe in – from social security and gay marriage to the environment,” he told IPS.
“But I’m sure that President Obama believes that his financial support from the Jewish community is heavily contingent on his backing for Netanyahu,” according to Rosenberg. “And right now, everything he does is motivated by his desire for a second term.”
© 2011 Jim Lobe
Jim Lobe has served as Washington DC correspondent and chief of the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service (IPS), an international news agency specializing in coverage of issues and events of interest to developing countries, from 1980 to 1985, and again from 1989 to the present.
Throw a shoe at Obama’s betrayal May 24, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Democracy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: 1967 borders, aipac, democracy, gaza, ilan pappe, israel, Middle East, nakba, Obama, Palestine, palistinians, protest, resistance, roger hollander, tahir, west bank
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At 4:17pm GMT on Sunday, I threw a shoe at my television screen, aimed at US President Barack Obama, precisely at the moment he began to explain that the reference in his Thursday speech at the State Department to the 1967 borders was in accordance with the Israeli interpretation of these borders.
Not that I was thrilled with that speech either but it was at least as meaningless as his previous speeches on the topic. But at 4:17 he said there will be “no return to the borders of June 4, 1967” and the thousands who attended the AIPAC convention cheered wildly. Annexation of Israeli settlement blocs built illegally in the occupied West Bank and the creation of a small Palestinian bantustan in the spaces in between was the essence of Obama’s real vision for peace.
It was a soft shoe and all it did was to bounce off the screen. Being such a harmless weapon it was also directed at my Palestinian friends who since Friday explained, publicly, how unusual and important was Obama’s speech at the State Department.
It is tough enough to know that in the White House sits someone who betrayed not only the Palestinians, but all the oppressed people in the world and in the US he promised to engage and represent.
But I have turned on my TV set and moved to Puerta del Sol in Madrid — there where thousands of young people were reformulating the powerful message that came from Tahrir Square in Cairo and which was also heard on the borders of Palestine on Nakba Day and in London’s Trafalgar Square during recent student demonstrations.
It was a call of defiance against such political discourse and its poisonous effects. Yes, they say in Madrid as they did on Palestine’s borders, our lives are ruled and affected by smug, cynical and indifferent Western politicians who hold immense power to maintain the unjust world for years to come, but we have had enough of this and will resist it.
Wherever one is affected by this political and economic Western elite, one faces two options. Either to accept fatalistically that the only thing one can do is retire to small, personal gardens of Eden and try to ignore them as much as one can and sustain oneself without them, within the limits of what is possible. Or if one does not possess this inclination or luxury, one can instead join all those who are unwilling to succumb and are telling this elite that its world and agenda is not theirs.
In some places the authorities shoot at massive demonstrations carrying such a message; in others they just ignore them. These are early days to judge the failure or success of such endeavours but it is clear that so far the protest is expanding. It defies the hegemonic political dictates of governments and it displays growing impatience with, and resentment toward, the manipulative corporate games and macro-economic ploys.
The people of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were a victim of such politics and economics under the guise of the so-called peace process. However, recently, in Palestine, the local politicians have at last heeded the popular demand for unity and assertiveness after years of ignoring it.
As a result, the support for the people’s effort in commencing a new phase in the popular resistance against the Israeli occupation is galvanizing the global Palestine solidarity movement with the similar energy generated before by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The regaining of the initiative by the common people in the Arab world and Europe should help us to avoid sinking too deeply into paralysis and inaction in the face of such cynicism. So much can still be done, in total disregard of the hegemonic discourse and inaction of western political elites on Palestine. So much has already been done in the continued resistance against the Israeli destruction of the land and its people.
One can continue to boycott Israeli goods and cultural representatives in France, even if there is a new law against it. If Palestinians in Israel can defy Israeli laws against Nakba commemoration, insidious European laws and regulations should be ignored as well. One can curb any academic institutional connection between British universities and Israel despite the embarrassed Foreign Office’s and official academia’s position on it. And finally, one can continue to spread through the alternative media the truthful and expanded picture despite the shameful way in which “liberal” American and European media is portraying the reality on the ground.
The world after Obama’s two speeches is a bizarre place. The gap between Obama, Berlusconi, Netanyahu, Cameron, Merkel and their ilk has disappeared. For a while there was a danger that one could count some Palestinian leaders within this undignified group of western leaders. But hopefully this danger has waned.
Very much as in the case of Israel, so it is in the case of the western political systems, the option of change from within the political systems is doubtful and vesting too much energy in it may be useless. But everything which is not there — churches, mosques, progressive synagogues, ashrams with a worldview, community centers, social networks and the world of nongovernmental organizations — indicate the existence of an alternative.
A relentless struggle against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine will continue outside the realm of the western corridors of power. What we learned from Egypt and Tunisia, even if we are not sure what would be the endgame there, is that struggles outside corridors of power do not wait for leaders, well-oiled organizations and people who speak in other people’s names.
If you are part of that struggle be counted today and do what you can regardless of the unfortunate Obamafication of our world.
Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter. His most recent book is Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel(Pluto Press, 2010).
Tags: aipac, arab revolution, arab spring, bahrain, brian becker, democracy, egypt, gaza, golan heights, human rights, Iran, isreal-palestine, mara verheyden-hilliard, Middle East, middle east democracy, middle east dictatorship, middle east oil, mubarak, obama administration, roger hollander, saudi arabia, Syria, war, west bank
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By Brian Becker and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
President Obama took to the airwaves today to discuss
the revolts and conflicts spreading throughout the Middle East. The U.S.
dominance over this strategic and oil-rich region has been the pivot of U.S.
foreign policy for decades. Utilizing a system of proxy and client regimes, in
addition to its own vast military forces in the region, the United States has
supported a network of brutal dictatorships and the Israeli regime for decades.
Now that system of imperial control has been shaken
by the popular risings that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt and
elsewhere, the Obama administration spoke today at the U.S. State Department as
part of an effort to reassert U.S. leadership over the swiftly changing
Using the rhetoric of democracy and freedom to mask
the responsibility of U.S. imperialism in the enduring oppression and suffering
of the peoples of the Middle East, President Obama’s speech was a demonstration
of profound hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy: President Obama said that
the “greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the
talent of its people.”
Reality: The U.S. strategy is based
on control of the Middle East’s most coveted resource: two-thirds of the world’s
known oil supply. The U.S. government has given billions of dollars and armed
the most brutal dictatorships in the Middle East for decades, a practice fully
continued by the Obama administration. The U.S. government never cut funds to
the Mubarak dictatorship even while the regime murdered more than 850 peaceful
protestors. More than 5,000 civilians in Egypt have been convicted and jailed
since Jan. 25 following trials conducted by the Egyptian military. The United
States continues to provide massive funding to Egypt’s military in spite of the
ongoing repression against the people.
Hypocrisy: President Obama stated,
“it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region,
and to support transitions to democracy.”
Reality: The only governments in the
Middle East that have been targeted for invasion, economic sanctions and
overthrow by the U.S. government are those that pursue policies that are
independent of U.S. economic, political and military control. The U.S. never
imposed economic sanctions on the Mubarak dictatorship and only came out
publicly against Mubarak when the tide of revolution had become irresistible.
Likewise, the U.S. supports the brutal Saudi monarchy.
Hypocrisy: President Obama
championed for the people of the Middle East the “basic rights to speak your
mind and access information,” stating, “the truth cannot be hidden; and the
legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed
Reality: The Obama administration
has gone out of its way to punish those who would inform the public by shedding
light on the activities of the U.S. government. Bradley Manning remains jailed
with the threat of life in prison, having been held in brutal conditions that
caused the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture to seek an investigation. The
Justice Department is working at full speed to find a way to prosecute Julian
Assange of Wikileaks for disclosing government documents to the public, many of
which expose the U.S. role in the Middle East. The Obama administration has
undertaken a major campaign more aggressive than any prior administration to
criminally prosecute whistleblowers who expose the truth of illegal government
Hypocrisy: President Obama stated:
“The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people
of the region.”
Reality: The United States under
Obama is involved in the invasion, occupation, and bombings of four
predominantly Muslim countries simultaneously: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and
Pakistan. Moreover, the head of state who has been the single biggest violator
of the basic human rights of Arab people and the perpetuator of violence in the
region is George W. Bush, whose illegal invasion of Iraq cost the lives of more
than one million people. The March 19, 2003, invasion was a war of aggression
against a country that did not pose any threat to the United States or the
people of the United States. The invasion and occupation of Iraq led to the
deaths of more Arab people than have been killed by all the dictatorships in the
region combined. President Obama today called Osama Bin Laden a mass murderer.
September 11, 2001, was indeed a great crime that took the lives of thousands of
innocent working people, but measured in order of the magnitude of victims
killed, Bush’s crime of mass murder in Iraq is unmatched. George W. Bush has not
been arrested for the mass killings of Iraqi people but is treated honorifically
by the Obama administration.
Hypocrisy: In an effort to appease
Arab public opinion, President Obama’s speech made it appear as if the United
States was insisting that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders. Obama stated,
“precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth:
the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a
Reality: Israel’s war against the
Palestinian people would be impossible without U.S. support, which continues
unabated. The single biggest recipient of U.S. foreign aid is the state of
Israel, which uses the $3 billion it receives annually to lay siege to the
people of Gaza, continue the illegal occupation of the West Bank and prevent the
return of the families of the 750,000 Palestinians who were evicted from their
homes and villages in historic Palestine in 1948. The United Nations in various
resolutions has condemned the 1967 Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza, the
West Bank, and Syria’s Golan Heights. Far from imposing economic sanctions,
President Obama has promised Israel a minimum of $30 billion in military aid
over the next 10 years, thus functioning as a partner in the occupation. Obama’s
speech also made it clear that the United States would support Israel retaining
vast swaths of the West Bank. This is what he meant by referring to “land
swaps.” In the coming days, Obama will have private meetings with Benjamin
Netanyahu and will be a featured speaker at the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) conference. He will undoubtedly reinforce the strong
U.S.-Israeli military ties and U.S. financial support.
Hypocrisy: President Obama stated:
“We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the
freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women
under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you
live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran…. [W]e will continue to insist that
universal rights apply to women as well as men.”
Reality: While the U.S. government –
along with Britain and France (the former colonizers of the Middle East and
Africa) – are bombing Libya with the latest high-tech bombs and missiles in the
name of “protecting civilians” and “promoting democracy,” the Obama
administration offered the most tepid pro-forma criticism of the Bahrain
monarchy as it and the Saudi monarchy kill and imprison peaceful protestors in
Bahrain. No sanctions have even been hinted at for Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. The
Saudi monarchy is the ultimate negation of democracy, depriving women of all
rights, depriving workers of the right to form unions and depriving all sectors
of the population of any right to free speech, assembly or press. There has
never been an election in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi monarchy functions as a
client of the U.S. government and, as such, is not targeted for economic
sanctions or “regime change” as are the governments of Syria and Libya. The
Bahrain monarchy likewise functions as a U.S. client and allows the U.S. Fifth
Fleet to use Bahrain as its home port, which is why he referred to the monarchy
as “a long-standing partner.”
Hypocrisy: President Obama denounced
the Iranian government, stating that “we will continue to insist that the
Iranian people deserve their universal rights,” and condemned what he called
Iran’s “illicit nuclear program.”
Reality: He failed to mention that
it was the CIA along with its British counterpart that staged the overthrow of
Iran’s democratic government in 1953 and reinstated the Shah’s monarchy. They
overthrew Iran’s democracy when Iran nationalized its own oil from AIOC/British
Petroleum. The U.S. only broke relations with the Iranian government when the
Shah’s dictatorship was overthrown by a populist national revolution. Regarding
nuclear weapons, the Israeli government has refused to sign the nuclear
non-proliferation treaty and has accumulated 200 “illicit” nuclear weapons. Of
course, the United States has thousands of nuclear weapons and remains the only
country to have used nuclear weapons, destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Hypocrisy: President Obama told the
world that the United States shares the goals of the Arab revolution, that
“repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is
endowed with certain inalienable rights.”
Reality: The U.S. government,
whether it is led by Democrats or Republicans, views the oil-rich Middle East
through the lens of empire. Operating through a network of proxy regimes
including Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, the Shah of
Iran until his overthrow in 1979, and other regimes in the region – and
supplemented by tens of thousands of U.S. troops positioned in U.S. bases
throughout the region and on aircraft carriers – the United States aims to
dominate and control a region that possesses two-thirds of the world’s known oil
supply. It has and continues to finance a network of brutal client
dictatorships, and it has funded the Israeli war machine and staged repeated
invasions, bombing campaigns, and occupations against the people of the region.
One big bust of a speech May 19, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: roger hollander, Syria, Middle East, Palestine, israel, aipac, jewish settlements, two-state solution, obama speech, bahrain, arab spring, justin elliott, israel policy, isreael=palestine, 1967 borders
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President Obama just finished what was sold as a major speech on the Middle East and the “Arab spring,” and here’s the takeaway: The president managed to use 5,400 words and spend a solid hour speaking without announcing any significant new policy initiatives.
This is the sort of soaring rhetoric that characterized the entire speech, which was being edited right up until he delivered it (starting a half hour late):
“That is the choice that must be made – not simply in this [Israel] conflict, but across the entire region – a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past, and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.”
In terms of policy, here’s the bottom line from the speech: The Obama administration will continue to get tougher on the Assad regime in Syria, while not doing much (if anything) in response to Bahrain’s violent crackdown on protesters. It wants to see an Israel-Palestine settlement, but U.S. policy remains the same as ever, and there will be no new push for negotiations. The administration supports a set of universal values. But U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, one of the most persistent human rights violators in the region, was not mentioned in a single time in those 5,400 words.
In short, Obama felt he needed to play the role of world leader by delivering a big response to the popular Arab protests, but he doesn’t want to actually do much.
In one section early in the speech, Obama waxed poetic about those crying for freedom in the region:
A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.
In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”
In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”
In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”
In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”
What’s conspicuously missing from that list? Yup, Bahrain. The pass given on Bahrain’s continuing crackdown on protesters (the latest from the Gulf kingdom is the prosecution of newspaper editors) has been a consistent policy.
But later in the speech, Obama did swing back to Bahrain and address the situation head on:
Bahrain is a long-standing partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law. Nevertheless, we have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.
What about on Israel-Palestine, what Obama referred to as “another cornerstone of our approach to the region.” Here’s the key statement of policy:
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
And it will certainly be interesting to compare Obama’s rhetoric today to his remarks before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday.
Challenging AIPAC’s Abuse of US Taxpayers Money May 14, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: aipac, arab revolutions, arab spring, ben-ali, democracy, egyptian revolution, gaza, israel, israel democracy, Middle East, mubarak, omar barghouti, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, tunisia, west bank
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The Arab democratic spring, striving to end authoritarian rule and establish freedoms and social justice, has not been welcome by all. Israel and its main lobby in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), for instance, appear to have been caught off guard and visibly disturbed by the seemingly irreversible transformations that these uprisings promise to bring about in the Arab world and, to an extent, the world at large.
Having stood on the wrong side of history during the Tunisian and then the Egyptian revolutions, supporting the despots and authoritarian regimes against the people, Israel has a lot to lose from the democratic winds of change in the region. When Hosni Mubarak was about to be overthrown by the people’s revolution in Egypt Israel launched a diplomatic campaign to convince key Western capitals to support him lest stability is lost and Israel’s other tyrannical friends in the region feel abandoned.
In Tunisia, as well, the vaunted electronic surveillance apparatus of the former dictator Ben-Ali was run in close cooperation with Israel, as exposed by Tunisian civil society organizations. With more of Israel’s friends in the region being dethroned, it is becoming abundantly clear how much Israel and its Western partners have invested in safeguarding and buttressing the unelected, autocratic regimes in the Arab world, partially to make a self-fulfilling prophecy of Israel as the “villa in the midst of the jungle” — the myth often repeated by AIPAC. The impact of debunking that myth cannot be overstated. Israel has, for decades, extracted billions of dollars, not to mention diplomatic, political, and scientific support from the U.S. and European states partially based on this misleading image of Israeli democracy, and despite all the evidence to the contrary. A state that has been imposing an occupation regime for almost 44 years on Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, that has denied on racial grounds millions of refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return home, and that is regularly condemned by its chief benefactor and ally, the U.S. government, for its “system of institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its own Palestinian minority carrying Israeli citizenship cannot reasonably be regarded as a “democracy.”
The fact is, U.S. citizens have been bankrolling Israel’s system of occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic human rights to the tune of billions of dollars annually without knowing what they were funding and why. AIPAC is the main culprit in this process of defrauding the American people, while one cannot ignore the fact that the U.S. military and oil establishments have also stood to gain from Israel’s colonial expansion, endless bloody wars of aggression, and role as the police of the region, preventing popular revolt from threatening the pillage of its vast strategic resources.
For many years AIPAC has falsely advertised Israel as a democratic state that best serves U.S. interests in a turbulent and unpredictable part of the world, covering up Israel’s suppression of human rights and its very nature as a state premised on fanatic militarism, racial segregation and injustice, contrary to the supposed “shared values” with the “West” that AIPAC has fed to the American public so effectively with its well-oiled media machine and its unmatched power of intimidation as well as suppression of debate and dissent by anyone who dares to slightly step out of line and question the “Israel-first” agenda.
But given that Israel in the last few years, especially since the start of the recent Arab revolutions, has largely and quite demonstrably failed in hindering the outbreak of popular uprisings and democratic transformations in the Middle East, leading pundits have started to raise serious doubts about the taken-for-granted mantra of convergence between Israeli and American interests.
Furthermore, at a time when average Americans are losing jobs, benefits and hope, should the U.S. be spending billions to help Israel maintain its regime of oppression and violations of international law? When schools and hospitals in the U.S. are being closed, and when hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers are mired in endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere, where they sow mass destruction and death among the populations of these countries, while they themselves suffer increasing casualties, should U.S. taxpayers continue to fund this immoral war agenda? Should Israel and its lobby groups be allowed to pull the U.S. into more wars or to continue to justify Israel’s own brutal and patently illegal wars of aggression, as the one against Palestinians in Gaza in 2008-09 and on Lebanon in 2006?
If members of the U.S. Congress dare not ask these critical questions for fear of AIPAC’s wrath – perceived and carefully marketed as invincible – and an almost certain loss of career, shouldn’t the working people of the U.S. pose them and demand accountability and, indeed, democratic regime change?
It is in this context that one cannot but highly admire the courage, creativity and resilience of human rights and advocacy groups in the U.S., like CODEPINK, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace and many others that insist on challenging AIPAC’s domination of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond and its detrimental and deeply corrupting influence over U.S. decision making in general. The CODEPINK-led campaign to “expose AIPAC and usher in a new foreign policy,” to be launched in Washington, DC in May is a badly needed and truly inspiring effort that should be widely supported by all those who care about the cause of justice and peace in the U.S. and, by extension, the entire world.
Take action by attending Move Over AIPAC, a gathering in Washington DC from May 21-24, 2011, to expose AIPAC and build the vision for a new US foreign policy in the Middle East! More information can be found at www.MoveOverAIPAC.org.
As a Holocaust Survivor, AIPAC Doesn’t Speak for Me April 29, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: aipac, democracy, hedy epstein, holocaust, holocaust surviror, human rights, israel, israeli occupation, Middle East, Palestine, Palestinians, protest, roger hollander, war, west bank
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At the end of one of my first journeys to the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 2004, I endured a shocking experience at Ben-Gurion Airport. I never imagined that Israeli security forces would abuse a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor, but they held me for five hours, and strip-searched and cavity-searched every part of my naked body. The only shame these security officials expressed was to turn their badges around so that their names were invisible.
The only conceivable purpose for this gross violation of my bodily integrity was to humiliate and terrify me. But it had just the opposite effect. It made me more determined to speak out against abuses by the Israeli government and military.
Yet my own experience, unpleasant as it was, is nothing compared to the indignities and abuses heaped on Palestinians year after year. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is based not on equal rights and fair play, but on what Human Rights Watch has termed a “two-tier” legal system – in other words, apartheid, with one set of laws for Jews and a harsh, oppressive set of laws for Palestinians.
This, however, is the legal system and security state AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) will defend from May 22-24 at its annual conference. And, despite this grim reality, members of Congress will converge to hail AIPAC and Israel. The Palestinians’ lack of freedom is bound to be obscured at the AIPAC conference with its obsessive focus on security and shunting aside of anything to do with upholding fundamental Palestinian rights.
Several years ago near Der Beilut in the West Bank, I saw the Israeli police turn a water cannon on our nonviolent protest. As it happened, I recalled Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 and wondered why an ostensibly democratic society responded to peaceable assembly by trying, literally, to drown out the voice of our protest.
In Mas’ha, also in the occupied West Bank, I joined a demonstration against the wall Israel has built, usually inside the West Bank and occasionally towering to 25 feet in height. I saw a red sign warning ominously of “mortal danger” to any who dared to cross in an area where it ran as a fence. I saw Israeli soldiers aiming at unarmed Israelis, Palestinians and international protesters. I also saw blood pouring out of Gil Na’amati, a young Israeli whose first public act after completing his mandatory military service was to protest against the wall. I saw shrapnel lodged in the leg of Anne Farina, one of my traveling companions from St. Louis. And I thought of Kent State and Jackson State, where National Guardsmen opened fire in 1970 on protesters against the Vietnam War.
So as AIPAC meets and members of Congress cheer, I hold these images of Israel in my mind and fear AIPAC’s ability to move US policy in dangerous directions. AIPAC does a disservice to the Palestinians, the Israelis and the American people. It helps to keep the Middle East in a perpetual state of war and this year will be no different from last year as it keeps up a steady drumbeat calling for war against Iran.
AIPAC pretends to speak for all Jews, but it certainly does not speak for me or other members of the Jewish community in this country who are committed to equal rights for all and are aware that American interventionism is likely to bring further disaster and chaos to the Middle East.
Israel, of course, would not be able to carry out its war crimes against civilians in Lebanon and Gaza without the United States – and our $3 billion in military aid – permitting it to do so. At 86 years old, I use every ounce of my energy to educate the American public about the need to stop supporting the abuses committed by the Israeli government and military against the Palestinian people. Sometimes there are people who try to shout me down and scream that I am a self-hating Jew, but most of the time the audience is receptive to hear from someone who survived the Holocaust and now works to free the Palestinians from Israeli oppression.
The vicious discrimination brought to bear against Palestinians in the occupied territories deserves no applause this week from members of Congress attending the AIPAC conference. Instead, they should raise basic questions with Israeli officials about decades of inferior rights endured by Palestinians both inside Israel and the occupied territories. As for me, I will be across the road at an alternative convention called Move Over AIPAC. To sign up and join me, visit www.MoveOverAIPAC.org.
International Attention Focused on Berkeley Divestment Vote April 14, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: aipac, allie bidwell, anti-defamation, asuc, berkeley, daily cal, desmond tutu, divestment, gaza, General Electric, israel, israel apartheid, israeli millitary, lebanon, naomi klein, Noam Chomsky, Palestinians, roger hollander, uc berkeley, united technologies, university california, west bank
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(Roger’s note: as a former elected member of the ASUC Executive Committee (1961 -1962), a precursor to the current Senate, I take special pleasure in posting this item on my blog. The main argument for the apologists of Israeli apartheid, that it is unfair to single out Israel as a violator of human rights, is specious. When addressing a particular political problem, one is not obligated to include all others. Of course there are other governments worthy of condemnation (none more than the government of the United States of America); but the genocidal policies of past and present Israeli governments with respect to the Palestinian peoples, and particularly the Gaza massacre, represent major violations that neither can nor should not be ignored.)
International attention will descend on the ASUC Senate meeting tonight as senators consider upholding the passage of a controversial bill urging the student government and the University of California to divest from two companies that have provided war supplies to the Israeli military.
The bill names two companies-United Technologies and General Electric-as supplying Israel with the technology necessary to attack civilian populations in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The bill originally passed the senate March 17 by a 16-4 vote following about six hours of discussion. A two-thirds majority, or 14 votes, is needed in order to override the veto.
Senators have received more than 13,000 e-mails, roughly split between both sides of the controversy.
Prominent figures including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, activist Naomi Klein and leftist MIT professor Noam Chomsky have spoken in support of overriding ASUC President Will Smelko’s March 24 veto of the bill. Local and national pro-Israel groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-an influential Washington, D.C. lobby organization-Berkeley Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League have each stated the bill is divisive and unfairly targets Israel.
Supporters of the bill say divesting from the two companies would make a powerful statement against Israeli actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which supporters have compared to apartheid-era South Africa.
In a recent letter to the UC Berkeley community, Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts opposing apartheid in South Africa-said he endorsed the bill and urged senators to uphold the original vote, which he compared to similar efforts at UC Berkeley to divest from South Africa in the 1980s.
He said in an e-mail Tuesday that he had a message for ASUC senators.
“I salute you for wanting to take a moral stand,” he said in the e-mail. “(Your predecessors) changed the moral climate in the U.S. and the consequence was the Anti-Apartheid legislation, which helped to dismantle apartheid non-violently. Today is your turn. Will you look back on this day with pride or with shame?”
Wayne Firestone, national president of Hillel-a Jewish campus organization-released a statement last month condemning the bill. The statement stated that the bill is “one-sided, divisive and undermines the pursuit of peace” and ignores human rights violations of other countries.
“The ASUC bill will not contribute a whit to the advancement of peace in the Middle East and will only serve to divide the Berkeley community,” Firestone said in the statement.
Pro-Israel activist organization J Street U, joined 18 other organizations-including Berkeley Hillel, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, the Jewish National Fund and StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel-in crafting an April 5 letter to UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer stating that they felt the bill was dishonest and misleading.
Among concerns listed in the letter was that the bill “unfairly targets” Israel while marginalizing Jewish students on campus who support Israel.
“Though it states that the ‘ASUC resolution should not be considered taking sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict,’ the exclusive focus on Israel suggests otherwise,” the letter states.
Critics of the bill have said senators cannot make a proper judgement of an issue as complicated as the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Student Action Senator Parth Bhatt, who voted against the bill, said he felt the ASUC should not take a stance on such an issue because it marginalizes one community on campus.
“I don’t think the ASUC should put any student in that position,” Bhatt said. “The conflict is very complex and something I don’t think our senators know enough about to vote on.”
But CalSERVE Senator Ariel Boone said she supported the bill because she felt compelled to defend human rights.
“I went to Israel and had a really interesting time with Berkeley Hillel in January, and I have Holocaust survivors among my family,” Boone said in an e-mail. “I have never felt so uniquely qualified to speak on an issue.”
AIPAC has recently stated the need for a strategy to combat anti-Israel sentiments on U.S. university campuses.
“How are we going to beat back the anti-Israel divestment resolution at Berkeley?” said Jonathan Kessler, leadership development director for AIPAC, at a recent conference of the lobbying group. “We’re going to make sure that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote. This is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.”
But according to spokesperson Josh Block, the group did not take a position in the recent ASUC election.
“We don’t rate or endorse candidates,” Block said in an e-mail. “Of course we would always, publicly and consistently encourage pro-Israel students to be active in civic and political life.”
Read statements in opposition and in support of the divestment bill:
© 2010 The Daily Californian
US-Israel Rift Undermining Some Long-Standing Taboos March 15, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: aipac, David Petraeus, glenn greenwald, israel, israel lobby, Middle East, mike mullen, neoconservatives, netanyahuy, obama administration, roger hollander
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The rather extraordinary dust-up between the U.S. and Israel has, among other benefits, shined a light on two of the most taboo yet self-evidently true propositions: (1) our joined-at-the-hip relationship with Israel is a significant cause of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, fuels attacks on Americans, and entails a very high price for the U.S. on multiple levels; and (2) many American neoconservatives have their political beliefs shaped by allegiance to Israel.
As for the first: not only did Joe Biden tell Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel’s actions are endangering U.S. troops in the region, but — more important — as Foreign Policy‘s Mark Perry reports, both Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. David Petraeus within the last couple of months stressed the same causal connection to Obama officials: ”Israel’s intransigence could cost American lives.” It’s rather difficult to maintain the fiction that only fringe Israel-haters see the connection between our support for Israel and Muslim hatred toward the U.S. when two of America’s most respected military officials are making that case explicitly. Moreover, the Mullen/Petraeus alarm is almost certainly what accounts for the Obama administration’s sudden (and commendable) willingness to so publicly oppose Israel. As Perry says: ”There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers — and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military.”
As for the second point: I’ve previously noted the glaring contradiction among neoconservatives, whereby they simultaneously (a) tell American Jewish voters to vote Republican because the GOP is better for Israel and (b) insist that it’s anti-Semitic to point out that neoconservatives are guided by their allegiance to Israel when forming their political beliefs about U.S. policy. Obviously, anyone who does (a) is, by logical necessity, endorsing the very premise in (b) which they want (when it suits them) to label anti-Semitic. Neoconservatives constantly make political appeals to Jewish voters expressly grounded in the premise that American Jews are guided by allegiance to Israel (vote Republican because it’s better for Israel), yet then scream “anti-Semite” at anyone who points this out. When faced with this glaring contradiction, their typical response — as illustratively voiced by Commentary‘s Jennifer Rubin, after she argued in a 2008 Jerusalem Post column that American Jews should vote against Obama because he’d be bad for Israel — is to deny that “that the interests of the U.S. and Israel are antithetical” and insist that “support for Israel in no way requires sacrificing one’s concerns for America’s interests.” In other words: to advocate for Israel is to advocate for the U.S. because they’re interests are indistinguishable.
Yet here we have a major split between the U.S. and Israel, with key American military and political leaders explaining that the opposite is true: that Israeli actions are directly harming U.S. interests and jeopardizing American lives. And what is the reflexive, unambiguous response of virtually every American Israel-centric neocon? To side with Israel over the U.S. AIPAC, the ADL, Elliott Abrams, AIPAC-loyal Democrats in the House, Marty Peretz, Commentary, etc. etc. all quickly castigated the U.S. Government and defended Israel, notwithstanding the dangers to Americans posed by Israeli conduct and the massive price paid by the U.S. in so many ways for this relationship (by contrast, J Street called the administration’s anger towards Israel both “understandable and appropriate”). There’s nothing wrong with taking Israel’s side per se — one is and should be free to criticize one’s own government in its foreign policy — but incidents like this make it increasingly futile to try to suppress what is glaringly visible: that (as is true for numerous groups in the U.S.) a significant segment of the neoconservative Right (which includes some evangelical Christians and some American Jews) are guided in their political advocacy by their emotional, religious, and cultural attachment to another country, and want U.S. policy shaped in order to advance that devotion.
On a related note: there has been a long-standing effort to equate those who make this observation with anti-Israeli hatred or even anti-Semitism. Two widely-cited reports did exactly that with regard to me recently: this pseudo-scholarly report from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and this post on the blog of the American Jewish Committee, both of which hurl all sorts of ugly though trite accusations at me for daring to suggest that some American Jews are guided in their political advocacy by allegiance to Israel. I’ll just note that the author of both “reports” is someone named Adam Levick, who — with extreme, unintended irony — lists this as his biography on his Twitter account:
I’m an American who just made Aliyah (moved to Israel), and love America and my new country.
If you’re going to try to render unspeakable the observation that some American neocons are devoted to Israel, it’s probably best to have the crusade led by someone with a different biography. As I’ve said many times, there’s nothing wrong per se with harboring cultural affections for other countries — many individuals in the culturally diverse U.S. do — but stridently denying what is so obviously true, and smearing those who point it out, does more than anything else to make something innocuous seem nefarious.
Finally, the reason Israel engages in this conduct is because it believes (with good reason) that U.S. officials will never (and cannot) take any real action against it, and the Obama administration — as reflected by the excellent questions posed yesterday to David Axelrod by ABC News‘ Jake Tapper — at this point still seems far from ready to do so. Still, there’s no denying that the very public condemnation of Israel by the Obama administration is unprecedented at least over the last two decades, will produce benefits on its own (including sentiments like this and this being increasingly expressed even among those Obama supporters who don’t typically speak out about this issue), and will subject Obama officials to serious political pressure and attacks, from which they ought to be defended. It’s true that none of this will ultimately matter unless the administration is willing to back this up with meaningful action — i.e., serious threats to change policy — but this last week was an important and substantial first step toward that vital goal.
Many of the issues I write most about here — from civil liberties erosions and radical, lawless National Security State policies to the wars that justify them — have their roots in our involvement in the Middle East, and our self-destructive, blind support for Israel actions is a major (though not the only or even primary) factor in all of that. It’s impossible to care about the former without wanting to do something substantial about the latter.
© 2010 Salon.com
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.