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Imploding the Myth of Israel November 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Racism.
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Roger’s note: Chris Hedges always writes with passion and sometimes hyperbole.  This article is a comprehensive and powerful indictment of today’s Israel.  You will have to decide for yourself how accurate it is; but on the whole it rings true to me.  A very sad and tragic truth.

 

Posted on Nov 4, 2013

 

 

By Chris Hedges, www.truthdig.com

 

Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.

 

And yet, the hard truths about Israel remain largely unspoken. Liberal supporters of Israel decry its excesses. They wring their hands over the tragic necessity of airstrikes on Gaza or Lebanon or the demolition of Palestinian homes. They assure us that they respect human rights and want peace. But they react in inchoate fury when the reality of Israel is held up before them. This reality implodes the myth of the Jewish state. It exposes the cynicism of a state whose real goal is, and always has been, the transfer, forced immigration or utter subjugation and impoverishment of Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories. Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bare the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.

 

There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality. This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse.

 

I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, including months in Gaza and the West Bank. I lived for two years in Jerusalem. Many of the closest friends I made during my two decades overseas are Israeli. Most of them are among the Israeli outcasts that Blumenthal writes about, men and women whose innate decency and courage he honors throughout his book. They are those who, unlike the Israeli leadership and a population inculcated with racial hatred, sincerely want to end occupation, restore the rule of law and banish an ideology that creates moral hierarchies with Arabs hovering at the level of animal as Jews—especially Jews of European descent—are elevated to the status of demigods. It is a measure of Blumenthal’s astuteness as a reporter that he viewed Israel through the eyes of these outcasts, as well as the Palestinians, and stood with them as they were arrested, tear-gassed and fired upon by Israeli soldiers. There is no other honest way to tell the story about Israel. And this is a very honest book.

 

“Goliath” is made up of numerous vignettes, some only a few pages long, that methodically build a picture of Israel, like pieces fit into a puzzle. It is in the details that Israel’s reality is exposed. The Israeli army, Blumenthal points out in his first chapter, “To the Slaughter,” employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped inside its open air prison just above starvation; a government official later denied that he had joked in a meeting that the practice is “like an appointment with a dietician.” The saturation, 22-day bombing of Gaza that began on Dec. 27, 2008, led by 60 F-16 fighter jets, instantly killed 240 Palestinians, including scores of children. Israel’s leading liberal intellectuals, including the writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, blithely supported the wholesale murder of Palestinian civilians. And while Israelis blocked reporters from entering the coastal Gaza Strip—forcing them to watch distant explosions from Israel’s Parash Hill, which some reporters nicknamed “the Hill of Shame”—the army and air force carried out atrocity after atrocity, day after day, crimes that were uncovered only after the attack was over and the press blockade lifted. This massive aerial and ground assault against a defenseless civilian population that is surrounded by the Israeli army, a population without an organized military, air force, air defenses, navy, heavy artillery or mechanized units, caused barely a ripple of protest inside Israel from the left or the right. It was part of the ongoing business of slaughtering the other.

 

“Unarmed civilians were torn to pieces with flechette darts sprayed from tank shells,” Blumenthal writes. “Several other children covered in burns from white phosphorous chemical weapon rounds were taken to hospitals; a few were found dead with bizarre wounds after being hit with experimental Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) bombs designed to dissolve into the body and rapidly erode internal soft tissue. A group of women were shot to death while waving a white flag; another family was destroyed by a missile while eating lunch; and Israeli soldiers killed Ibrahim Awajah, an eight-year-old child. His mother, Wafaa, told the documentary filmmaker Jen Marlowe that soldiers used his corpse for target practice. Numerous crimes like these were documented across the Gaza Strip.”

By the end of the assault, with 1,400 dead, nearly all civilians, Gaza lay in ruins. The Israeli air force purposely targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, including power plants, to reduce Gaza to a vast, overcrowded, dysfunctional slum. Israel, Blumenthal notes, destroyed “80 percent of all arable farmland in the coastal strip, bombing the strip’s largest flour mill, leveling seven concrete factories, shelling a major cheese factory, and shooting up a chicken farm, killing thirty-one thousand chickens.”

“Twelve [years old] and up, you are allowed to shoot. That’s what they tell us,” an Israeli sniper told Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass in 2004 at the height of the Second Intifada, Blumenthal writes. “This is according to what the IDF [Israel Defense Force] says to its soldiers. I do not know if this is what the IDF says to the media,” the sniper was quoted as saying.

The 2008 murderous rampage is not, as Blumenthal understands, an anomaly. It is the overt policy of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who advocates “a system of open apartheid.” Israel, as Blumenthal points out, has not lifted its state of emergency since its foundation. It has detained at least 750,000 Palestinians, including 10,000 women, in its prisons since 1967. It currently holds more than 4,500 political prisoners, including more than 200 children and 322 people jailed without charges, Blumenthal writes, including those it has labeled “administrative detainees.” Israel has a staggering 99.74 percent conviction rate for these so-called security prisoners, a figure that any totalitarian state would envy.

Blumenthal cites a survey of Jewish Israeli attitudes on the Gaza bombing, known as Operation Cast Lead. The survey, by Daniel Bar-Tal, a political psychologist from Tel Aviv University, concluded that the public’s “consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians, and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal tells Blumenthal “these attitudes are the product of indoctrination.” And Blumenthal sets out to chronicle the poison of this indoctrination and what it has spawned in Israeli society.

The racist narrative, once the domain of the far right and now the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream, demonizes Palestinians and Arabs, as well as all non-Jews. Non-Jews, according to this propaganda, will forever seek the annihilation of the Jewish people. The Holocaust, in which Israeli victimhood is sanctified, is seamlessly conflated with Palestinian and Arab resistance to occupation. The state flies more than 25 percent of Israeli 11th-graders to Poland to tour Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps a year before they start army service. They are told that the goal of Arabs, along with the rest of the non-Jewish world, is another Auschwitz. And the only thing standing between Israelis and a death camp is the Israeli army. Israeli high schools show films such as “Sleeping With the Enemy” to warn students about dating non-Jews, especially Arabs. Racist books such as “Torat Ha’Melech,” or “The King’s Torah,” are given to soldiers seeking rabbinical guidance on the rules of engagement. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, the authors of the 230-page book, inform soldiers that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and may have to be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “If we kill a gentile who has violated one of the seven commandments [of Noah] … there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira and Elitzur write. The rabbis claim that under Jewish law “there is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”These narratives of hatred make any act of deadly force by the Israeli army permissible, from the shooting of Palestinian children to the 2010 killing by Israeli commandos of nine unarmed activists on the Turkish boat the Mavi Marmara. The activists were part of a flotilla of six boats bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The Israeli propaganda machine claimed that the small flotilla was a covert terror convoy. Never mind that the Mavi Marmara was in international waters when it was attacked. Never mind that no one on the boat, or any of the five other boats, was armed. Never mind that the boats were thoroughly searched before they left for Gaza. The Israeli lie was trumpeted while every camera, video and tape recorder, computer and cellphone of the activists on board was seized and destroyed—or in a few cases sold by Israeli soldiers when they got back to Israel—while those on the boats were towed to an Israeli port and detained in isolation. The ceaseless stoking of fear and racial hatred—given full vent by the Israeli government and media in the days after the Mavi Marmara incident—has served to empower racist political demagogues such as Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, a camp follower of Meir Kahane. It has also effectively snuffed out Israel’s old left-wing Zionist establishment.

“In Israel you have three systems of laws,” the Israeli Arab politician Ahmed Tibi observes in the Blumenthal book. “One is democracy for 80 percent of the population. It is democracy for Jews. I call it an ethnocracy or you could call it a Judocracy. The second is racial discrimination for 20 percent of the population, the Israeli Arabs. The third is apartheid for the population in the West Bank and Gaza. This includes two sets of governments, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers. Inside Israel there is not yet apartheid but we are being pushed there with … new laws.”

As Blumenthal documents, even Israeli Jews no longer live in a democracy. The mounting state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents has reached the proportions of U.S. Homeland Security. The overtly racist cant of the political elite and the masses—“Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches—has emboldened mobs and vigilantes, including thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu, to carry out indiscriminate acts of vandalism and violence against dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and the hapless African immigrants who live crammed into the slums of Tel Aviv. Israel has pushed through a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that eerily resemble the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law, for example, permits “small, exclusively Jewish towns planted across Israel’s Galilee region to formally reject applicants for residency on the grounds of ‘suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.’ ” And all who denounce the steady march of Israel toward fascism—including Jewish academics—are attacked in organized campaigns as being insufficiently Zionist. They are branded as terrorists or collaborators with terrorists. As a headline in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz read: “The settlers are the real government of Israel.”

“Woody [a law school graduate from New York] became my initial liaison to Tel Aviv’s radical left, introducing me to a loose-knit band of a few hundred anarchists, disillusioned ex-soldiers, disaffected children of ultra-Zionists, queers, academics, and generally idealistic and disillusioned young people who came of age during the Second Intifada when the liberal Zionist ‘peace camp’ closed ranks with the militaristic right wing,” Blumenthal writes. “This tiny band of social deviants comprised the only grouping of people I met who sincerely embraced multiculturalism and who took concrete action against the discriminatory foundations of their country’s political apparatus. Right-wingers and many Jewish Israelis who considered themselves part of the social mainstream referred to members of the radical left as smolinim, which simply means ‘leftists,’ but the word carried a deeply insulting connotation of an unacceptable caste, an Other. As branded social outcasts, inflexible in their principles, disdainful of ordinary politics, and brazen in their racial liberalism they resembled nothing so much as the pre-Civil War abolitionists.”

The late Amnon Dankner, the former editor of Maariv, one of Israel’s major newspapers, Blumenthal notes, denounced “neo-Nazi expressions in the Knesset” and “entire parties whose tenor and tone arouse feelings of horror and terrifying memories.” David Landau, the former editor-in-chief of Haaretz, has called on Israelis to boycott the Knesset “to stand against the wave of fascism that has engulfed the Zionist project.” And Uri Avnery, a left-wing politician and journalist, says: “Israel’s very existence is threatened by fascism.”

The disillusionment among idealistic young immigrants to Israel dots the book. As one example, Canadian David Sheen is recorded as saying that everything he had known about Israel and Palestinians was, in Blumenthal’s words, “a fantasy cultivated through years of heavy indoctrination.” But perhaps what is saddest is that Israel has, and has always had, within its population intellectuals, including the great scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who sought to save Israel from itself.Leibowitz, whom Isaiah Berlin called “the conscience of Israel,” warned that if Israel did not separate church and state it would give rise to a corrupt rabbinate that would warp Judaism into a fascistic cult.

“Religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism,” said Leibowitz, who died in 1994. He understood that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war that captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, was dangerous and would lead to the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state and any hope of democracy. “Our situation will deteriorate to that of a second Vietnam, to a war in constant escalation without prospect of ultimate resolution.” He foresaw that “the Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.” He warned that the rise of a virulent racism would consume Israeli society. He knew that prolonged occupation of the Palestinians would spawn “concentration camps” for the occupied and that, in his words, “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”

But few, then or now, cared to listen. This is why Blumenthal’s new book is so important.

 

 

Two-State Solution or Illusion? An Analysis September 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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ROGER’S NOTE: THE TWO STATE SOLUTION IS THE ORTHODOX POSITION FOR LIBERALS AND PROGRESSIVES, BUT FOR SOME TIME I HAVE DOUBTED THAT IT WOULD BE A TRUE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM.  THIS ARTICLE, WHILE REFLECTING A GREAT DEAL OF PESSIMISM, IN MY OPINION TAKES A REALISTIC LOOK AT THE SITUATION.

 

 

 (22 September 2013) by Lawrence Davidson
(about the author)

 

http://www.tothepointanalyses.com/

 

 

israel-takeover-jpg_79840_20130921-406 

 

Part I – The Two-State Solution

 

 

 

Peter Beinart is a “liberal Zionist” who has written a piece in the New York Review of Books of 26 September 2013 entitled “The American Jewish Cocoon.” In this essay he laments, “The organized Jewish community [is] a closed intellectual space.” By this he means that most American Zionist Jews (it is important to remember that not all Jews are Zionists) know little or nothing about those who oppose them, particularly Palestinians. They also seem to have no interest in changing this situation. For these Zionists the opposition has been reduced to an irredeemably anti-Semitic “them.”

 

 

 

Beinart goes on to tell us that such is the political clout of the organized Zionist community that this know-nothing attitude has come to characterize the “debate about Israel in Washington” and the opinions offered in the mass media as well. While Mr. Beinart does not say so, I can tell you that this has been the basic situation since the early 1920s. Beinart does note, however, that over time this situation has led Palestinians and those who support them to show less willingness to dialogue with Zionists, most of whom they consider irredeemably racist.   

 

 

 

Beinart thinks this prevailing ignorance is a disaster. Why so? Because he feels that Jews betray the lessons of their own past by failing to understand the meaning of the “dispersion and dispossession” of the Palestinians. They do not seem to care that this particular people has had its “families torn apart in war – [continue] to struggle to maintain [their] culture, [their] dignity, [their] faith in God in the face of forces over which [they] have no control.” This sort of situation, according to Beinart, is something “the Jews should instinctively understand.” 

 

 

 

Be this as it may, achieving such an understanding is, for Beinart, a means to an end. That end is realizing a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian struggle. For this to happen the Zionists have to essentially feel the pain of the Palestinians and the Palestinians have to understand their no-win situation so that everyone agrees to a Palestinian mini-state on “22 percent of British mandatory Palestine” along with “compensation and resettlement [for the] people whose original villages and homes have long ceased to exist.” 

 

 

 

Part II – The Two-State Illusion

 

 

 

An important question is whether Mr. Beinart’s two-state solution does not itself represent a goal whose practicality has “long ceased to exist”? That certainly is the opinion of Ian Lustick, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. In the Sunday Review section of the New York Times of 15 September 2013, he published an op-ed piece entitled “Two-State Illusion.”

 

 

 

According to Professor Lustick, the two-state idea has become something of a fraud behind which lies opportunistic political motives. For instance, the Palestinian Authority (PA) keeps this hope alive so that it can “get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidizes the lifestyle of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers and civil servants.” The Israeli government keeps this hope alive because “it seems to reflect the sentiments of the Jewish Israeli majority and it shields the country from international opprobrium, even as it camouflages relentless efforts to expand Israel’s territory into the West Bank.” Finally, the U.S. government maintains the hope of a two-state solution to “show that it is working toward a diplomatic solution, to keep the pro-Israel lobby from turning against them and to disguise their humiliating inability to allow any daylight between Washington and the Israeli government.”

 

 

 

Lustick believes the two-state solution is an impossible hope that has produced periodic negotiations which have always been “phony” and have prevented new ideas for positive change from being seriously entertained. This long-term stifling has also set the stage for possible “sudden and jagged” events that can send the conflict off in catastrophic directions. Oddly enough Lustick finds this prospect of heightened conflict a necessary one.   

 

 

 

He tells us that only when the “neat and palatable” two-state solution disappears – and with it the PA and its policies of collaboration – will we get the “mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel,” along with the subsequent withdrawal of unconditional U.S. support for the Zionist State. At that point 

 

 

 

“Israeli leaders may then begin to see, as South Africa’s white leaders saw in the late 1980s, that their behavior is producing isolation, emigration and hopelessness.” Then, finally, they will become reasonable, and something new and acceptable (a one-state solution?) will be possible. 

 

 

 

Lustick’s necessary scenario happens to be Peter Beinart’s nightmare and in the latter’s essay it is called “civil war.” Beinart’s call for greater mutual understanding is designed to prevent this violence. One can assume that, for Professor Lustick, things have gone too far for this understanding to suddenly prevail. “Peacemaking and democratic state building require blood and magic,” he tells us. Delaying the inevitable with false hopes will only make things worse.  

 

 

 

By the way, Lustick is not alone in his view that the two-state formula is a dead end. One of Israel’s very best historians, Ilan Pappe, who now is the director of the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Palestinian Studies, believes that this prospect has been dead for over a decade. What killed it, and what keeps it dead, are “Zionist greed for territory and the ideological conviction that much more of Palestine [beyond the 1967 borders] is needed in order to have a viable Jewish State.” It is worth noting that it is just this ideological conviction that renders Peter Beinart’s plea for more understanding of the Palestinian position by American Zionist Jews a nonstarter. Any ideology that can justify incessant ethnic cleansing has to make its adherents incapable feeling their victims’ pain.

 

 

 

Part III – Conclusion

 

 

 

If Beinart’s hope for mutual understanding is naive, Lustick’s hope that more “blood” will lead to the “magic” of a positive outcome is not at all assured.

 

 

 

One might ask just how much disaster is necessary before the hard-line Zionists who have long controlled Israel will compromise their ideological commitment. Keep in mind that the Israeli political elites, right and left, have always been expansionist. Even Peter Beinart is not pushing for a return to the 1967 Green Line and an evacuation of illegal settlements, as far as I can tell. In the past, the Israeli elites have judged their terror and brutality to be justified. They will do so in the future as well. Some of them will interpret any increase in Jewish emigration (a process already ongoing) as a weeding out of weak elements. Militarily the Israelis can probably maintain superiority over their neighbors even in the face of reduced American aid, and as far as world opinion is concerned, most of them care little about it. If this assessment has any validity, the Israelis could go on ethnically cleansing for a very long time. 

 

 

 

In my view, the only viable weapon against such vicious stubbornness is a worldwide comprehensive economic boycott on the South Africa model. However, even this may not be the last page in the drama. Such an economic boycott may prove strong enough to undermine the will of some Israeli ideologues, but not all of them. And then, unlike South Africa, you may need an intra-Israeli Jewish civil war to finally bring the curtain down on the tragedy of Zionism.

Christian Zionism: The Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace August 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion, Right Wing.
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Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

By Rev Dr Stephen Sizer

At least one in four American Christians surveyed recently by Christianity Today magazine said that they believe it is their biblical responsibility to support the nation of Israel. This view is known as Christian Zionism. The Pew Research Center put the figure at 63 per cent among white evangelicals. Christian Zionism is pervasive within mainline American evangelical, charismatic and independent denominations including the Assemblies of God, Pentecostals and Southern Baptists, as well as many of the independent mega-churches. It is less prevalent within the historic denominations, which show a greater respect for the work of the United Nations, support for human rights, the rule of international law and empathy with the Palestinians.The origins of the movement can be traced to the early 19th century when a group of eccentric British Christian leaders began to lobby for Jewish restoration to Palestine as a necessary precondition for the return of Christ. The movement gained traction from the middle of the 19th century when Palestine became strategic to British, French and German colonial interests in the Middle East. Proto-Christian Zionism therefore preceded Jewish Zionism by more than 50 years. Some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates were Christian clergy.

Christian Zionism as a modern theological and political movement embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism. It has become deeply detrimental to a just peace between Palestine and Israel. It propagates a worldview in which the Christian message is reduced to an ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.

Followers of Christian Zionism are convinced that the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the capture of Jerusalem in 1967 were the miraculous fulfillment of God’s promises made to Abraham that he would establish Israel as a Jewish nation forever in Palestine.

Tim LaHaye’s infamous Left Behind novels, together with other End Times speculations written by authors such as Hal Lindsey, John Hagee and Pat Robertson, have sold well over 100 million copies. These are supplemented by children’s books, videos and event violent computer games.

Burgeoning Christian Zionist organizations such as the International Christian Embassy (ICEJ), Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) wield considerable influence on Capitol Hill, claiming a support base in excess of 50 million true believers. This means there are now at least ten times as many Christian Zionists as Jewish Zionists. And their European cousins are no less active in the Zionist Hasbarafia, lobbying for Israel, attacking its critics and thwarting the peace process. The United States and Israel are often portrayed as Siamese twins, joined at the heart, sharing common historic, religious and political values.

Pastor John Hagee is one of the leaders of the Christian Zionist movement. He is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church, a 19,000-member evangelical church in San Antonio, Texas. His weekly programmes are broadcast on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks into an estimated 99 million homes in 200 countries. In 2006 he founded Christians United for Israel admitting,

“For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the evangelical community over television. The Bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits ‘I believe the Bible,’ I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have the Christians over a barrel, you might say.”

In March 2007, Hagee spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. He began by saying:

“The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened. There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the State of Israel…”

As the Jerusalem Post pointed out, his speech did not lack clarity. He went on to warn:

“It is 1938. Iran is Germany, and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. We must stop Iran’s nuclear threat and stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East… Think of our potential future together: 50 million evangelicals joining in common cause with 5 million Jewish people in America on behalf of Israel is a match made in heaven.”

Christian Zionists have shown varying degrees of enthusiasm for implementing six basic political convictions that arise from their ultra-literal and fundamentalist theology:

  1. The belief that the Jews remain God’s chosen people leads Christian Zionists to seek to bless Israel in material ways. However, this also invariably results in the uncritical endorsement of and justification for Israel’s racist and apartheid policies, in the media, among politicians and through solidarity tours to Israel.

  2. As God’s chosen people, the final restoration of the Jews to Israel is therefore actively encouraged, funded and facilitated through partnerships with the Jewish Agency.

  3. Eretz Israel, as delineated in scripture, from the Nile to the Euphrates, belongs exclusively to the Jewish people, therefore the land must be annexed, Palestinians driven from their homes and the illegal Jewish settlements expanded and consolidated.

  4. Jerusalem is regarded as the eternal and exclusive capital of the Jews, and cannot be shared with the Palestinians. Therefore, strategically, Christian Zionists have lobbied the US Administration to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem and thereby ensure that Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of Israel.

  5. Christian Zionists offer varying degrees of support for organisations such as the Jewish Temple Mount Faithful who are committed to destroying the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the Haram Al-Sharif (Noble sanctuary of Al-Aqsa).

  6. Christian Zionists invariably have a pessimistic view of the future, convinced that there will be an apocalyptic war of Armageddon in the imminent future. They are deeply sceptical of the possibility of a lasting peace between Jews and Arabs and therefore oppose the peace process. Indeed, to advocate an Israeli compromise of “land for peace” with the Palestinians is seen as a rejection of God’s promises to Israel and therefore to support her enemies.

Within the Christian Zionist worldview, Palestinians are regarded as alien residents in Israel. Many Christian Zionists are reluctant even to acknowledge Palestinians exist as a distinct people, claiming that they emigrated to Israel from surrounding Arab nations for economic reasons after Israel had become prosperous. A fear and deep-seated hatred of Islam also pervades their dualistic Manichean theology. Christian Zionists have little or no interest in the existence of indigenous Arab Christians despite their continuity with the early church.

In 2006, I drafted what became known as the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism signed by four of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem: His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch, Jerusalem; Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem; Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East; and Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. In it they insisted:

“We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organisations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of world.

We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!

We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state and peace and security in the entire region.”

The patriarchs concluded:

“God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.” The prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

It is my contention after more than 10 years of postgraduate research that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

The closing chapter of the New Testament takes us back to the imagery of the Garden of Eden and the removal of the curse arising from the Fall: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb… On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2) Surely this is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his followers to act as Ambassadors of peace and reconciliation, to work and pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.

The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer is the Vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water and the author of Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (InterVarsity Press, 2004); Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (2007) and In the Footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles (Eagle, 2004). For more information see www.stephensizer.com

Source: Middle East Monitor

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The Unmaking of the Palestinian Nation March 16, 2010

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Published on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 by Salon.comby Juan Cole

On March 10, I posted on the humiliation heaped on Vice President Joe Biden by the Israeli government of far-right Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Biden went to Israel intending to help kick off indirect negotiations between Netanyahu and Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Biden had no sooner arrived than the Israelis announced that they would build 1600 new households on Palestinian territory that they had unilaterally annexed to Jerusalem. Since expanding Israeli colonization of Palestinian land had been the sticking point causing Abbas to refuse to engage in negotiations, and, indeed, to threaten to resign, this step was sure to scuttle the very talks Biden had come to inaugurate. And it did.

The tiff between the U.S. and Israel is less important that the worrisome growth of tension between Palestinians and Israelis as the Israelis have claimed more and more sites sacred to the Palestinians as well. There is talk of a third Intifada or Palestinian uprising.

As part of my original posting, I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.

 

Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light.

The map is useful and accurate. It begins by showing the British Mandate of Palestine as of the mid-1920s. The British conquered the Ottoman districts that came to be the Mandate during World War I. (The Ottoman sultan threw in with Austria and Germany against Britain, France and Russia, mainly out of fear of Russia.)

But because of the rise of the League of Nations and the influence of President Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about self-determination, Britain and France could not decently simply make their new, previously Ottoman territories into simple colonies. The League of Nations awarded them “Mandates.” Britain got Palestine, France got Syria (which it made into Syria and Lebanon), Britain got Iraq.The League of Nations Covenant spelled out what a Class A Mandate (i.e. territory that had been Ottoman) was

Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

That is, the purpose of the later British Mandate of Palestine, of the French Mandate of Syria, of the British Mandate of Iraq, was to ‘render administrative advice and assistance” to these peoples in preparation for their becoming independent states, an achievement that they were recognized as not far from attaining. The Covenant was written before the actual Mandates were established, but Palestine was a Class A Mandate and so the language of the Covenant was applicable to it. The territory that formed the British Mandate of Iraq was the same territory that became independent Iraq, and the same could have been expected of the British Mandate of Palestine. (Even class B Mandates like Togo have become nation-states, but the poor Palestinians are just stateless prisoners in colonial cantons).

The first map thus shows what the League of Nations imagined would become the state of Palestine. The economist published an odd assertion that the Negev Desert was ‘empty’ and should not have been shown in the first map. But it wasn’t and isn’t empty; Palestinian Bedouin live there, and they and the desert were recognized by the League of Nations as belonging to the Mandate of Palestine, a state-in-training. The Mandate of Palestine also had a charge to allow for the establishment of a ‘homeland’ in Palestine for Jews (because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration), but nobody among League of Nations officialdom at that time imagined it would be a whole and competing territorial state. There was no prospect of more than a few tens of thousands of Jews settling in Palestine, as of the mid-1920s. (They are shown in white on the first map, refuting those who mysteriously complained that the maps alternated between showing sovereignty and showing population.) As late as the 1939 British White Paper, British officials imagined that the Mandate would emerge as an independent Palestinian state within 10 years.

In 1851, there had been 327,000 Palestinians (yes, the word “Filistin” was current then) and other non-Jews, and only 13,000 Jews. In 1925, after decades of determined Jewish immigration, there were a little over 100,000 Jews, and there were 765,000 mostly Palestinian non-Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. For historical demography of this area, see Justin McCarthy’s painstaking calculations; it is not true, as sometimes is claimed, that we cannot know anything about population figures in this region. See also his journal article, reprinted at this site. The Palestinian population grew because of rapid population growth, not in-migration, which was minor. The common allegation that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority at some point in the 19th century is meaningless. Jerusalem was a small town in 1851, and many pious or indigent elderly Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere retired there because of charities that would support them. In 1851, Jews were only about 4 percent of the population of the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine some 70 years later. And, there had been few adherents of Judaism, just a few thousand, from the time most Jews in Palestine adopted Christianity and Islam in the first millennium CE all the way until the 20th century. In the British Mandate of Palestine, the district of Jerusalem was largely Palestinian.

The rise of the Nazis in the 1930s impelled massive Jewish emigration to Palestine, so by 1940 there were over 400,000 Jews there amid over a million Palestinians.

The second map shows the United Nations partition plan of 1947, which awarded Jews (who only then owned about 6 percent of Palestinian land) a substantial state alongside a much reduced Palestine. Although apologists for the Zionist movement say that the Zionists accepted this partition plan and the Arabs rejected it, that is not entirely true. Zionist leader David Ben Gurion noted in his diary when Israel was established that when the U.S. had been formed, no document set out its territorial extent, implying that the same was true of Israel. We know that Ben Gurion was an Israeli expansionist who fully intended to annex more land to Israel, and by 1956 he attempted to add the Sinai and would have liked southern Lebanon. So the Zionist “acceptance” of the UN partition plan did not mean very much beyond a happiness that their initial starting point was much better than their actual land ownership had given them any right to expect.

The third map shows the status quo after the Israeli-Palestinian civil war of 1947-1948. It is not true that the entire Arab League attacked the Jewish community in Palestine or later Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. As Avi Shlaim has shown, Jordan had made an understanding with the Zionist leadership that it would grab the West Bank, and its troops did not mount a campaign in the territory awarded to Israel by the UN. Egypt grabbed Gaza and then tried to grab the Negev Desert, with a few thousand badly trained and equipped troops, but was defeated by the nascent Israeli army. Few other Arab states sent any significant number of troops. The total number of troops on the Arab side actually on the ground was about equal to those of the Zionist forces, and the Zionists had more esprit de corps and better weaponry.

The final map shows the situation today, which springs from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and then the decision of the Israelis to colonize the West Bank intensively (a process that is illegal in the law of war concerning occupied populations).

There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ “original sin” was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.

The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.

Goldberg, according to Spencer Ackerman, says that he will stop replying to Andrew Sullivan, for which Ackerman is grateful, since, he implies, Goldberg is a propagandistic hack who loves to promote wars on flimsy pretenses. Matthew Yglesias also has some fun at Goldberg’s expense.

People like Goldberg never tell us what they expect to happen to the Palestinians in the near and medium future. They don’t seem to understand that the status quo is untenable. They are like militant ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand while lashing out with their hind talons at anyone who stares clear-eyed at the problem, characterizing us as bigots. As if that old calumny has any purchase for anyone who knows something serious about the actual views of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, more bigoted persons than whom would be difficult to find. Indeed, some of Israel’s current problems with Brazil come out of Lieberman’s visit there last summer; I was in Rio then and remember the distaste with which the multi-cultural, multi-racial Brazilians viewed Lieberman, whom some openly called a racist.

© 2010 Salon.com

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

Koffler Centre persecutes Jewish artist May 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Canada, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

http://canadian-firebrand.blogspot.com

On May 8, the Koffler Centre for the Arts issued a press release announcing that they are “disassociating themselves” from an art exhibition by Toronto artist Reena Katz which is being installed at Kensington Market later this month. They are rejecting Katz not for the content of her work but because of her personal political beliefs, namely “Reena Katz’s public support for and association with Israel Apartheid Week.” This is nothing less than blacklisting and the Koffler Centre should be ashamed of itself, particularly when one considers not only the number of Jewish artists and performers who suffered due to McCarthyist blacklisting in the 1950s but also the generations of Jews, in the arts as well as in the professions and various trades, who were denied employment not because of the quality or content of their work but because of their personal beliefs.

According to the Koffler Centre’s press release “As a Jewish cultural institution, an agency of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Koffler Centre of the Arts will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state. The Koffler considers the existence and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state to be one of its core values.” Katz replies in an article in today’s Toronto Star saying, “I have said that I’m an anti-Zionist Jew. So they are conflating the state of Israel with Zionism. I’m speaking to an ideology when I speak about Zionism. They’re speaking about a Jewish state.”

Partisans of the UJA, CJC and B’nai Brith like pretend that Jewish critics of Israel are either assimilated Jews who reject their heritage and only speak out against Zionism so they can gain acceptance from the non-Jewish left or are, worse, apostates, the fact is that opposition to Zionism within the Jewish community is as old and as established as Zionism itself and that the most adamant of Zionism’s Jewish opponents base their opposition on religious grounds. Others do so based on Jewish philisophical traditions of humanitarianism and universalism.

Reena Katz is one of the most Jewish people I’ve met. Her work is infused with Jewish sensibilities and themes. She is not only a visual and sonic artist but a musician who fronted the Klemzer band Promegranate for a number of years. She describes her upcoming exhibit as a(n) homage to my Jewish roots and the Jewish roots of Kensington Market.” The Koffler Centre recognized this as well. According to their now removed write up of the event (still available online thank’s to Google’s cache feature):

each hand as they are called reflects on Toronto’s Kensington Market as the vibrant site of multiple public cultural histories, layered with personal stories and fragmented by the movement of time. Katz approaches the culture of the Market through the lens of her own memory and experience of Kensington, coming out as a young, politically engaged, queer woman. Taking the ephemeral nature of experience in urban space to heart, through a series of solo and collaborative performances, temporary installations, community projects and public posters, Katz works with the notion of transition and movement. each hand as they are called captures the spirit of the Market on any given day, filled with passing but memorable vignettes.

Roaming, live vocal performances insert an experimental soundtrack of assimilation, anachronism and hybridity into the urban landscape of the Market. Based on the jazz-fusion music of Yiddish speaking sister duos from the 60s, Katz’s haunting compositions are a combination of popular music, Yiddish classics and jazz, composed backwards for female duets. The resulting absurdist vocals create a hybrid language of calls and beckoning within the Market streetscape.

A community-based component of the project involves Katz working with residents from the Terraces at Baycrest and grade eight students from Ryerson Community Public School. Together, their working process will highlight Kensington as the important meeting point of Jewish and Chinese culture through the game of Mah Jongg, a game originating in East Asian communities which migrated and was popularized with North American Jewish women during the 1920s. The project culminates in a public day of inter-generational Mah Jongg in the Market’s Bellevue Park on June 7 (rain date: June 14).

In addition, Katz performs solo against the backdrop of Kensington Market’s tense relationship to urban development. At odd and unexpected hours, she will be seen working on temporary structures, building and deconstructing scaffolding in previously undisclosed locations. Katz’s scaffold performances gesture to the incredible labour history of the area, positioning the act of construction as obstruction and to memory itself as construct.

While each of Katz’s performative and social gestures are ephemeral, each hand as they are called will have a constant presence in the market through a series of interrelated street posters, designed by Katz in collaboration with award winning designer and artist Cecilia Berkovic. The posters provide additional context for the project while inserting a distinct visual presence amongst the eclectic mix of band-posters, announcements about lost pets, and other posted ephemera populating the Market.

Reena Katz isn’t being blacklisted because her views on Israel somehow make her anti-Semitic (they don’t), she’s being blacklisted because she is too Jewish for the Koffler Centre and the United Jewish Appeal.

To complain about this outrage email the following people: lstarr@kofflerarts.org, ceckert@kofflerarts.org, thewer@kofflerarts.org, tliederman@kofflerarts.org, ishohat@kofflerarts.org, etauben@kofflerarts.org,

This is what Reena has to say on the matter:

Dear friends, family, comrades and colleagues;

Most of you know that I’ve been working on a site-specific commission for the Koffler Gallery in Kensington Market, set to open on May 20th. Kim Simon is an independent curator, who found me and proposed my work to the Koffler last year. She has been my main creative (and now political) ally in the process.

Today, at 9am Kim and I were informed by Lori Starr (Koffler executive director) and Mona Philip (Koffler curator) that the Koffler is disassociating from the exhibition: removing their name and URL’s from any further outreach materials, exhibition posters and press.

Why?
Their Board of Directors, along with their major funder – The UJA of Greater Toronto – has decided that they “will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state”.

In our meeting with Lori and Mona this morning, it was made clear that their decision is based on my involvement specifically with Israeli Apartheid Week. Lori was explicit that it isn’t me they object to, but the public statements I’ve made on behalf of specific organizations. Seeing this as a moment of potential change, I proposed a meeting with their Board, in which I would explain the true mandate of Israeli Apartheid Week, CAIA, and the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation – now known as Women in Solidarity with Palestine.

Why now?
A year ago, Kim asked Mona directly if Koffler would have a problem showing my work considering my solidarity with Palestine. Mona was clear that since the project didn’t deal with the issue, Koffler would stand behind it. Indeed, after a year of having access to my website, CV, Facebook page and any Google search results, it wasn’t until this week that they chose to look at my Facebook page, and found a link to Israel Apartheid Week.

What the?
This weekend, I am working with Kim Simon, the independent curator on the project to respond to Koffler’s press release (click on it to link there) with our own press release in response. It’s evident they are acting out of fear. Fear of critique of Israel from within the Jewish community, fear of the repercussions of standing by an artist who is affiliated with justice for Palestinians.

Nu, so, what now?
They have offered to continue the project’s $20,000 funding – without attaching to it institutionally in any way. An interesting proposal indeed. The project is quite extensive, and involves youth from Ryerson Community Public School, Seniors from Baycrest Centre, The Element Choir, solo vocalists and a number of stores, homes and cultural institutions in Kensington Market. Of course, I don’t want to cancel the project but feel very uncertain at this time of how I want to proceed with it. Kim and I are putting thought to this, and plan to have a decision on Sunday. I am interested in taking this up politically, and strategizing around the best way to do that.

Until then, I would greatly appreciate your support in sending the Koffler messages. This is clearly an attempt by a mainstream Jewish institutions to stifle dissent within our community, and the art world in general. Please cc me on anything you send. Also, talk about it to anyone you know – especially arts organizations and their members. I’ll be in touch soon with our press release.

With love and justice,
Reena

And here is an excellent letter from activist Henry Lowi:

To: lstarr@kofflerarts.org
Subject: Reena Katz unfairly targetted by Koffler Centre
Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 22:28:12 +0000

Lori Starr,

Executive Director, Koffler Centre of the Arts

Dear Ms Starr:

I read your announcement about the Reena Katz exhibition.[i]

I have known Reena Katz since she was a teacher in a Jewish Sunday School. I consulted her many years ago about violin lessons for my daughter. She referred us to the best violin teacher in Toronto.

I am well aware of Reena’s activism in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine. I know that Reena is motivated by an acute consciousness of the history of Jewish suffering and persecution (and culture!), and a commitment that “Never Again!”, to anyone, anywhere.

Despite the Koffler mandate, [ii] you are taking sides in a political issue. Your position is symptomatic of a kind of panic that is overtaking pro-Zionist organizations. Your panic is based on the painful awareness that you have placed yourselves on the side of injustice and oppression, an uncomfortable position for a Jew to inhabit.

The atrocity committed recently by the State of Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has drawn the attention of the whole world. It is well documented. [iii] It has been compared to the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.[iv] The whole world has seen how the Palestinians — virtually unarmed, isolated, and poorly led — are being systematically massacred by a well-armed military power that enjoys unlimited military, political and economic support.[v] Strong feelings of solidarity have been aroused.

You are untouched by those feelings of solidarity.

Most Jewish community organizations remained silent in the face of the atrocities and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately for you, all decent people, all lovers of humanity noticed the silence of the Jewish organizations. Fortunately, all also noticed that Jewish dissidents — Righteous Jews, upholders of our traditions of struggle against injustice — spoke out.[vi][vi(b)]

Reena Katz is one of those Jewish dissidents.

The Jewish community is split. The split will deepen. On one side, you will find those who uphold the values of solidarity, decency, culture, and human rights. On the other side will be the supporters of murder, racism, and apartheid. All will have to choose their side,

You have chosen your side.

By dissociating yourselves from Reena Katz’s artistic work, for political reasons, you are engaging in a form of cultural boycott. As you know, progressive Palestinian grassroots popular organizations have called for a boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions.[vii] Peace-seeking Israelis support the boycott.[viii][viii(b)] Solidarity-minded Canadians, like author Naomi Klein, support the boycott.[ix] Faced with the boycott, Zionist apologists howl about “singling out Israelis because they are Israelis”, “anti-Semitism”, and the like.[x] They lie.

The Zionists lie, but they are in a panic. Fewer and fewer people are impressed by Zionist lies. More and more are impressed by the inevitable parallels between Israel’s genocidal conduct and the conduct of other oppressive regimes.

Solidarity with Palestine will grow, while disdain for Zionism and its supporters will grow.

You are singling out Reena Katz because she is a decent human being who speaks out against the oppression of fellow human beings. You have done so very publicly, making it very clear where you stand, and with whom you stand.

Reena Katz’s Israeli and Palestinian comrades pay a heavy price for their activism.[xi],[xii],[xiii],[xiv] They know that justice is on their side. They will win. Palestine will be free. Arts and culture will flourish. Jews and Arabs will live together, in peace, as equals.

Regards,

Henry Lowi

And go see the show at Kensington Market beginning May 20!

Avoiding World Conference on Racism Shows Obama’s Disrespect For Blacks April 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Racism.
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durbanby BAR executive editor Glen Ford
President Obama’s “fawning, damn near servile behavior when accommodating Zionist demands” to boycott and sabotage the Durban II conference on racism “should have been a deal breaker” in his relations with African Americans. But what passes for Black leadership accepts any and all insults from Obama, who naturally treats them like the spineless creatures they are. Meanwhile, the White House keeps “Jewish leaders” up to date with conference calls on how Obama is protecting Israel from charges that it is an apartheid state, and also ensuring that the United States is not compelled to make amends for its racist past and present.

 

 

Avoiding World Conference on Racism Shows Obama’s Deep Disrespect For Blacks
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model.”
On Tuesday, April 14, according to the Huffington Post, the White House placed a conference call to American “Jewish leaders,” all but assuring them the U.S. would not show up for Durban II, the international conference on racism, in Geneva, Switzerland. President Obama’s close adviser Samantha Power, of the National Security Council, said the event’s revised draft document “met two of our four red lines frontally, in the sense that it went no further than reparations and it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language. But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”
Translation: although the document, under relentless U.S. pressure, has been watered down to the point of irrelevance, it remains unacceptable because it reaffirms declarations of the first World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. There is virtually no chance President Obama will reverse his decision to boycott Durban II, April 20-24.
We must first ask: Why is the White House reporting to “Jewish leaders” on an issue that is of interest to all Americans, most especially people of color? Has Obama arranged such briefings on Durban II for “Black leaders,” “Latino leaders,” or “Native American leaders” – representatives of constituencies that have suffered genocide, slavery, discrimination, forced displacement and all manner of racist assaults right here on American soil? No, he has not. Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will. Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.
Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will.”
Several weeks ago, popular Sirius Radio Black talk show host Mark Thompson (“Make It Plain”) wondered aloud if Obama’s threat to boycott Durban II should be a “deal breaker” – a “last straw” offense against Black interests and sensibilities. It should have been. The Obama administration’s fawning, damn near servile behavior when accommodating Zionist demands – and I use the word “demands” quite purposely – was a lesson in how Power responds to constituencies it favors, fears, or at least, respects. Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model. Less than nothing, as the unfolding Durban outrage demonstrates.
Obama has done more damage to the Durban process than George Bush, who pulled out of Durban I after the conference had begun. Important language survived the 2001 disruption, such as:
“We acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian.”
Urges States to adopt the necessary measures, as provided by national law, to ensure the right of victims to seek just and adequate reparation and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to design effective measures to prevent the repetition of such acts”
As University of Dayton, Ohio law professor Vernellia R. Randall has pointed out, pressures from the Obama White House caused revisions in the Durban II draft that
withdrew  language related to reparations;
removed  the proposed paragraph related to the transatlantic slave trade being a crime against humanity;
removed proposed paragraphs designed to strengthen the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and, 
overall weakened the efforts related to people of African Descent.
And of course, language related to Palestinian rights and Israeli racism was totally eviscerated. (Samantha Power: “..it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language.”) But none of that was enough to satisfy the Zionists, who hope to utterly destroy Durban II, and erase Durban I from the record. (Power, on remaining U.S. objections: “But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”)
Durbin II should have been a deal breaker.”
George Bush’s walkout at Durban I provided a sour ending for the event, but allowed participants to make some important statements and carry out additional work over the next eight years. The United States and other countries were to report to Durbin II on residential segregation, criminal justice, police brutality, felony disenfranchisement and Katrina displacement. That cannot happen if the official American delegation is not in Geneva. Samantha Power told her Jewish leadership friends, who don’t want Durban II to occur, at all, not to worry. “In order for us to participate in the negotiations, to sit behind the placard, to be involved in a frontal way, much more would need to be done. And all four of our red lines will need to be met.”
Israel and the White House speak of “red lines” that they will not tolerate being crossed in politics and diplomacy. But where are the “red lines” that so-called Black leaders will not allow to be breached? Where Barack Obama is concerned, such lines do not exist – which is why he is permitted to walk all over Black folks, with impunity.
Yes, Durbin II should have been a deal breaker. Instead, it was mostly cause for sniveling lamentation and words of “concern” or wishful predictions by Black notables that Obama would change his mind (after the damage had already been done!) and attend the conference.
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), although initially registering “profound disappointment” (oh, my!) with Obama’s boycott of Durbin II, cheerily added, “we are confident that your Administration will be reversing its decision in time to participate in the conference and its remaining preparatory meetings….” That was on March 27, by which time Obama’s vandals had caused the shredding of almost every word of value in the documents. The Black lawyers’ “Open Letter to President Barack Obama” was signed by an impressive list of many scores of prominent organizations and individuals – but in its determined, concentrated meekness, should never have been expected to have any impact on the White House. And of course, it had none.
Where are the ‘red lines’ that so-called Black leaders will not tolerate being breached?”
The likes of the NCBL would be flattered to have Obama’s people string them along – any attention would do. But Samantha Power and her boss won’t even bother, understanding perfectly well that the meek inherent nothing but contempt. In her thorough and collegial report on Durban to Jewish leaders – who are anything but meek – Power said: “We will make our decision [to attend] up closer to the date of the conference, we want to show good faith to our allies and the people who are working hard to improve the text… But we are also not interested in being involved or associated with fool’s errands.”
Obama’s White House has not seen fit to show the slightest glimmer of good faith to Black people (at least, those not in his immediate family or employ), and seems to consider salvaging Durbin II a “fools errand.” You know what color the “fools” are.
TransAfrica chairman Danny Glover placed an article in the April 8 issue of The Nation magazine that read like a letter to President Obama. “This should be a moment for the United States to rejoin the global struggle against racism, the struggle that the Bush administration so arrogantly abandoned,” wrote Glover. “I hope President Obama will agree that the United States must participate with other nations in figuring out the tough issues of how to overcome racism and other forms of discrimination and intolerance, and how to provide repair to victims.”
Let’s see if Glover calls Obama “arrogant” when the president finishes sabotaging Durbin II. My bet is, “disappointed” is about as strong as Glover will muster. Obama sucks the spine out of Black people.
And as long as Black notables (let’s drop the “leadership” charade) turn into invertebrates at the mere thought of Barack Obama, so long will he treat the entire group as inconsequential, harmless ciphers.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

A Toxic Force Rises in Israel February 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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by Jonathan Freedland

The search for silver linings in the murky cloud of yesterday’s Israeli election requires a great effort of the will. There is not much to go on. You could draw comfort from the fact that Likud’s Bibi Netanyahu, who thought he was such a dead cert to win a matter of weeks ago, was rejected, albeit narrowly, in favour of the woman he so consistently patronised, Tzipi Livni of Kadima.

Or you might take solace in the notion that the near tie between Bibi and Tzipi would most easily be resolved by the pair rotating the premiership between them, each taking a two-year turn, following the precedent set by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir after they fought each other to a dead heat in 1984. The virtue of such an arrangement could be the exclusion of the ultra-nationalist hardman Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Beytenu – Israel our Home – party surged to third place on Tuesday.

Or you might assume that the likeliest coalition will be unambiguously of the right, given that – even though Likud itself fell short – the parties of the self-styled “national camp” won a convincing victory over the centre-left bloc. Bibi’s motivation will be to expose Kadima to the chill of opposition for the first time in its short life, where, Bibi hopes, it will wither and die. The result will be the most rightwing government in Israel’s history. Good, one longtime peace campaigner told me yesterday. “Let the right have power and live with the consequences.” They will soon be on a collision course with Barack Obama’s Washington. Under US pressure, they will unravel, the right’s limitations will have been exposed and the pendulum will swing back leftwards.

Even if that is too hopeful, some on the Israeli left see a value in the country having a full-bloodedly rightist government. “Maybe we’re like the alcoholic who needs to touch bottom before we can start the climb back up,” was how one put it. Perhaps there has to be a crisis before there can be a recovery.

If these sound like heroic attempts at self-consolation, that is because they are. The truth is, the clouds are much clearer to see. The hawkish camp thumped the centre left on Tuesday, and that’s even when you generously count Kadima and Labour – co-authors of operation Cast Lead – as the centre left. But this is about more than a victory for the right. Something else happened and its face belongs to Avigdor Lieberman, the kingmaker whose 15 seats are essential if either Bibi or Livni are to govern without each other.

He does not fit straightforwardly on the Israeli right wing. For one thing, he is avowedly secular. Indeed, much of his appeal was to anti-religious voters who liked his demand for civil unions, thereby breaking the orthodox rabbinate’s current monopoly on state-sanctioned marriage. Talk of liberalising the sale of pork products proved too much for at least one religious party, whose spiritual leader warned that a vote for Lieberman was a vote for Satan. The result is that Bibi may find assembling a coalition that includes both the religious parties and Lieberman impossible.

Even more striking is the kingmaker’s stance on the defining issue of Israeli politics: territorial compromise. The hard right have always opposed the very idea, clinging to the notion of Greater Israel. But Lieberman – who lives in a West Bank settlement – has said he would be prepared to give up even his own home. Unlike some of his fellow settlers, he does not regard the land as sacred soil that can never be conceded.

Make no mistake, this is not because Lieberman is some kind of crypto- ­peacenik. The opposite is true: I saw him give a victory speech on Tuesday in which he declared his refusal to join any government that would allow Hamas to remain in power: “Our first goal is clear, to destroy Hamas, to take it down.”

What separates Lieberman from the traditional Revisionist Zionists that formed Likud is that his goal is not holding on to the maximum amount of land but governing over the minimum number of Arabs. To put it concisely, he would prefer a smaller, ethnically pure Israel to a larger, binational one. To that end, he would give up heavily-populated Palestinian areas of the West Bank and – much more controversially – seeks to redraw the border so that Arab areas of pre-1967 Israel become part of a Palestinian state. In other words, those who are now Palestinian citizens of Israel will find themselves living in their same homes – but under the jurisdiction of another country. Whether their consent will be sought for this move is left vague.

But it’s not this idea which has made Lieberman such a toxic force. For that you have to look to the slogan that drove his campaign: “No loyalty, no citizenship.” He would insist that every Israeli swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state: anyone who loses will lose his citizenship.

Israel Beytenu denies this is racist, insisting that every Israeli will have to swear the oath, Jewish or Arab. It is true that plenty of ultra-orthodox Jews who don’t accept the authority of a godless secular state may also refuse. But the target is clearly Israel’s 1.45 million Arabs. If they will not swear their allegiance, explains Lieberman deputy Uzi Landau, “They will have residency rights but no right to vote or be in the Knesset.”

It is a truly shocking idea. I asked several Israel Beytenu luminaries if they could name a single democracy anywhere that had removed citizenship from those who already had it. I asked what they would make of demanding that, say, British Jews, swear an oath of loyalty to Britain as a Christian country on pain of losing their right to vote. I got no good answers.

There was a time when such a poisonous idea would have been confined to the lunatic extremes of the racist Kach party, led by Meir Kahane (of whose youth wing Lieberman was once a member). Twenty five years ago Kahane was banned from the Knesset. Now his heir is courted by the two main parties, desperate for his support. Kadima is untroubled by the loyalty oath scheme; Bibi says he agrees with it.

Who is to blame for this? Israel Beytenu puts the blame on the Israeli Arab leadership for flaunting their “disloyalty”, especially during January’s Gaza offensive when several prominent Israeli Arabs proclaimed their solidarity with Hamas. They say no democratic society could tolerate such a fifth column, cheering on a mortal enemy.

The Israeli left bear some indirect responsibility here too, at least for the idea of reassigning Palestinian villages inside Israel to Palestine. For years, the left has couched its opposition to the occupation in demographic terms: ruling over millions of Palestinians would eventually imperil Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Lieberman is simply extending that logic beyond the 1967 borders. In this sense Lieberman is the bastard child of the Israeli peace movement.

Above all, it is Israeli society that has to take a hard look at itself. For so long, it has lived inside a bubble in which it can only see its side of the story: they hit us, so we hit back; we are under siege from hostile forces, we are the victim. In this mental landscape, even a Moldovan-born immigrant stripping people born in their own land of their citizenship can come to seem acceptable. What’s needed is not just a change in the electoral system that would allow “strong government” of the kind Lieberman yearns to implement. What’s needed is for Israelis to step outside the bubble, to begin to see the causes of their current predicament, instead of dealing again and again, ever more ineffectively, with the symptoms. Tuesday’s election prompts no confidence that that is about to happen.

Israel Pounds Gaza: Shells Crowded Hospital, UN Compound and Building Housing Media Organizations January 15, 2009

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www.democracynow.org, January 15, 2009 

AMY GOODMAN: We go directly to the Middle East to Gaza. Juan?

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Israeli forces are continuing to pound Gaza City, hitting civilian targets, including a UN building, a hospital and a building housing several media organizations, in some of the heaviest shelling in nearly three weeks. Israeli troops, backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns, have pushed deeply into densely populated neighborhoods. Thousands of Gaza City residents are fleeing their homes.

The Palestinian death toll now stands at at least 1,045, at least half of them civilians. Another 4,860 have been injured. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, including four by friendly fire.

 

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Gaza to speak with Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, a retired physician. He lives in Gaza City.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Tell us where you are and what’s happening right now, Dr. El-Haddad.

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, I am in Gaza City itself. What’s happening is a state that is almost impossible to describe. The Israeli army has escalated the attack on civilians since last night. I did not have a single minute of sleep for the last probably eighteen hours. There have been bombardment every day, every minute, all night long. My house was rocking all the time.

 

And this morning, when the sun rose, we could at least look from the window, and I could see, as you probably have seen on the TV, smoke coming out buildings, civilian buildings, apartment buildings. Actually, two hospitals were bombarded this morning, the Al-Quds and the Al-Wafa Hospital. Al-Wafa Hospital is a hospital for handicaps, by the way, and old people. A media apartment was also hit this morning not far from my house. That’s Abu Dhabi news agency.

 

So, wherever, it’s extremely unsafe now, even inside our homes, smoke everywhere. I could see cluster bombs being fired this morning, and the phosphorus bombs now are used freely on the civilians. I’m sure you have seen it on the TV.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. El-Haddad, we heard that white phosphorus was dropped on the UN compound, that hundreds of people, families were there taking refuge. We discussed white phosphorus yesterday with Human Rights Watch. Can you talk, as a doctor, about the effects of the burning? For example, they say it can’t be put out, the fires that it creates, just by pouring water on it. In fact, that exacerbates it.

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: No, no, no. You cannot, actually. If you pour water on it, it gets worse, if you get this burn. Number one, those people who get exposed to white phosphorus get severe respiratory distress. They can hardly breathe, and then the exposed skin gets burned. If you put water on it, the burning increases, becomes worse. So you cannot really do much about it. And if the affected area was exposed too much for white phosphorus, it burns the skin, muscles and deep to the bones. So, eventually, a lot of these patients will lose some of their limbs.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Doctor El-Haddad, we’ve just been joined by Christopher Gunness. He’s the spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Can you tell us, Chris Gunness, what has happened to the UN compound in Gaza?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, this morning, there were three rounds of white phosphorus which landed in our compound in Gaza. That set ablaze the main warehouse and the big workshop we have there for vehicles. At the time, there were 700, also, people displaced from the fighting. There were full fuel tankers there. The Israeli army have been given all the coordinates of all our facilities, including this one. They also knew that there were fuel tankers laden with fuel in the compound, and they would have known that there were hundreds of people who had taken refuge.

 

The Israeli Defense Minister apologized to the Secretary-General for this, but, for us, we need deeds, not words. We have to get on with our humanitarian task. Amazingly, our operations are continuing today, and I have to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery and commitment of our staff in Gaza. We’re continuing with our food distributions. We’re picking up humanitarian goods from the crossings, and we are doing healthcare as best we can.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: And from this latest strike, were there any casualties in your compound?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: There were at least three, and that’s when I was last able to talk to office, but it’s possible there are more. But for the moment, three people injured. And it, again, tragically illustrates that when you have this [inaudible] on and off, the military machine, when you have rockets flying out of Gaza, humanitarian workers and innocent civilians are going to get caught in the crossfire. Of course, we condemn the rockets that come out of Gaza.

But the world has been revulsed by the pictures that have come out of Gaza, which is why today we’ve, on the ground, utterly endorsed and backed the call of the world’s top diplomat, Ban Ki-moon. [inaudible] he’s the conscience of the world. He’s come here with a Security Council resolution, which says stop the fighting. And those parties on the ground who are continuing to fight are doing so in defiance and in isolation.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this use of phosphorus munitions, your response to that?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, I’m not a military person, but a colleague of mine said to me in Gaza today, who, you know, has a military background and knows these things, it looks like white phosphorus, it smells like white phosphorus, and it burns like white phosphorus. We weren’t able, initially, to put the fighting out, because we had only conventional fire extinguishers. White phosphorus needs sand, and we didn’t have sand in quantities. But I’m pleased to say that the Red Cross fire services have managed to make [unintelligible] a compound and are now fighting the blaze.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Chris Gunness, in addition to the three people you say that were wounded there, what about the thousands of tons of supplies? Is that right? Food, medical supplies, other aid in this building?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Yes, I don’t have a handle on exact quantities, but there’s no doubt that aid was destroyed, aid paid for with your tax dollars and mine. It’s a tragic piece of symbolism that the very pallets that we deliver humanitarian assistance on are on fire in Gaza. You know, what more tragic symbolism could there be of the situation that we find ourselves in today?

 

AMY GOODMAN: Ehud Barak said this was a mistake, the attack on the UN compound. Your response?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, we want deeds and not words. Our workers and, indeed, the civilians in Gaza have come in harm’s way too many times. This on-off with the pause, so-called, is not good enough. It’s woefully inadequate, because, of course, we have to preposition our aid before the actual pause takes place, where—there’s heavy fighting where I am—the booms—anyway, which is slightly distracting. There are—you know, we have to preposition our aid at our food distribution centers. We have to get our medical supplies to hospitals, which we are doing our best to supply. We have got to get fuel to hospitals, because most of the hospitals in Gaza today are running twenty-four/seven on emergency generators, so babies on life support systems, patients, the dying, the elderly, the sick, who need electricity, are in a life-threatening situation.

 

So, we are continuing with our work, but we say, “Please, will the parties on the ground listen to the call of the world’s top diplomat today?” On his first day of his peace mission to Israel, he has, again, endorsed the call of the Security Council for an immediate ceasefire. And this terrible attack on the United Nations headquarters is another tragic illustration of what happens when you don’t have a ceasefire. There has to be a permanent ceasefire.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, who is still on the line with us—

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Yes.

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: —the Israelis say that they keep notifying the population to flee areas that they are attacking. What does this mean to you? Where could you possibly go to flee to safety?

 

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, number one, let me tell you that I’ve heard from many people whose houses have been demolished, bombarded, that no warning has been given. Some people were given warnings through the Red Cross, but many people were not warned. So, those who leave their houses, they just go out to shelters, UNRWA shelters—you know, it’s not actually shelters; it’s schools and—or to their relatives.

 

But let me just add a comment to what Mr. Ehud Olmert said, that he apologized, that it was a mistake. If that was one mistake—and I tell you right now on the air—that they have committed hundreds of mistakes during the last three weeks. You know, what about all these apartment buildings that only civilians occupy? Children and families are trapped in elevators and under the stairs. Children and women bleeding in the streets, and the Israeli Army tanks are not allowing Red Cross or humanitarian aid to go and help them. The ambulances are not allowed to go in. They bleed for hours. And we can hear them on the radio asking for help and somebody to come and help them and take them. Dead bodies are in the streets down in our area in the southwest of Gaza. It’s—I’ll tell you, this is a disaster on humans. This is a human disaster in the twenty-first century. And everybody is looking.

I’m a—as a physician, I am telling you. You know, even now, you know, I just hope they stop this, whatever you want to call it, massacre or what. But I hope that they just stop it [inaudible]. And even if they do, there will be, years to come, people suffering psychologically, handicap people. You know, we already started seeing things like this. So, I don’t know how long we have to take until this thing stops. And I just hope that Mr. Bush is enjoying his time playing with his cat or dog right now.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Doctor Moussa El-Haddad, we’d like to ask you to stay on with us. We’re going to go to break. But Christopher Gunness, if you haven’t left us yet, spokesperson for UNRWA—

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: No, I’m here.

 

AMY GOODMAN: —just a comment on UNICEF. It’s rare that it speaks out. Ann Veneman is the head of UNICEF, used to be the head of Department of Agriculture here in the United States. But UNICEF has condemned the Gaza attack. In a rare statement, it urged an immediate ceasefire, calling the deaths of children tragic and unacceptable. Final comments, Christopher Gunness?

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Well, it is entirely unacceptable. And, of course, we’re very gratified and welcome the statement by Ann Veneman. Too many innocent children, too many babies, too many women have been killed. And, of course, in Israel too, there have been rockets which we condemn. The pictures have revulsed the world, and Ban Ki-moon has come here as the conscience of the world. He’s expressing the revulsion of the world and is calling for the rockets to stop and for the fighting in Gaza to stop. Enough innocent civilians have been killed. It has to stop.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Gunness, thanks for being with us, spokesperson for UN Relief and Works Agency.

 

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS: Thank you very much.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. El-Haddad will stay with us. When we come back from break, we’re joined by Rabbi Michael Lerner, an open letter to Barack Obama. Rabbis have taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times to make a statement about Gaza. Stay with us.

[break]

JUAN GONZALEZ: A coalition of American rabbis and other religious, cultural and community leaders bought a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for President-elect Barack Obama to convene an international Middle East peace conference. The initiative was led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine. Lerner said the group had to buy ad space because the nation’s major newspapers are not giving room for this perspective.

AMY GOODMAN: Rabbi Michael Lerner joins us in San Francisco.

Welcome to Democracy Now! You’ve been listening as we spoke to Christopher Gunness, UN Relief and Works Agency, as well as Dr. El-Haddad, who is trapped in his house in Gaza, observing what is happening outside. Rabbi Lerner, talk about your message, who put out this ad and what it says.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, it was put out by Tikkun magazine, and we are actually trying now to get other liberal and progressive people around the country to help us. Go to tikkun.org, so that we can reproduce this in the Washington Post and in other major media. Unfortunately, the media, except for Democracy Now! and Pacifica and a few other places, are obliterating the message that many, many American Jews and other religious leaders, spiritual leaders and just American citizens are outraged at the immorality of what is happening.

So we’re demanding an immediate ceasefire, but we’re also asking for President Obama to take an immediate leadership in convening an international conference, because the direction that was laid out by Senator Clinton yesterday, that she said Obama and she agreed on, which would call for—would say that there are no negotiations with Hamas until Hamas recognizes the state of Israel, which, of course, is not going to happen—Hamas is going to be agreeable to a ceasefire, and maybe a long-term ceasefire, twenty or thirty years, but it’s not going to recognize Israel, so this policy is a non-starter. It’s a stupid policy. And it’s exactly in reverse of what Obama said he would do during the elections, when he was saying he would negotiate with people, including Iran and Syria, despite the fact that he abhorred their policies.

Why, in Israel, do we have the one time when he won’t negotiate, won’t talk to Hamas? Well, of course, the answer is obvious. It’s that the Israel lobby, combining extremely right-wing Jews in this country with a powerful Christian Zionist movement, have blocked out of public discourse all of the moral sentiments of the American public, which would be outraged at what’s going on in Gaza at this moment and, more generally, understand that the best interests of Israel and Israeli security lies in reconciliation with the Palestinian people, not in trying to wipe them out.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Rabbi Lerner, in your open letter to Barack Obama, you raise your concern that, having met him several times in the past, that you saw a great hope in terms of the Middle East in his policies, but that you were concerned, starting with the election campaign last year, that you saw a change in his direction. Could you elaborate on that?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, you know, in my conversations with Obama—Obama came to a Tikkun conference in 1996, and I spoke to him about these issues in 2006. And he was very much aligned with the Tikkun perspective, which is a perspective that says that the best interest of Israel lies in peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people.

But the pressures that have been brought upon him during the campaign and now afterwards are immense. You cannot underestimate the amount of push that is going on all around him. And remember that last week the Senate voted overwhelmingly—that is, unanimously—to support the Israeli position, and the House voted—I think it was 405-to-five in support of the Israeli position.

There is nothing coming from the other direction. And that’s why those of us who really care about the security of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people need to stand up and speak very loudly at this time and to ask President Obama to intervene, to intervene directly, and to not listen to all those forces that are saying to him, “Forget about the Israel thing. Don’t risk your political capital on Israel-Palestine. Turn to other issues.” Now, this is happening—as you see and you beautifully demonstrated, this is happening, this moral outrage, this violation of human rights, is happening on a daily basis right now, and we need leadership right now.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with Dr. Moussa El-Haddad back in Gaza, retired physician living in Gaza City, as best he can right now. Dr. El-Haddad, why don’t you leave your home? How far are the Israeli troops from your home?

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Why don’t I leave my home?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: Well, number one, there is nowhere to go. As you know, all the borders are closed. And if I leave, all the places are unsafe now. As we mentioned in the beginning, the civilians are trapped into this, between—this is a game being played between the politicians, and the civilians are paying the price. Number one, all the borders of Gaza Strip are closed. As you know, also the sea is closed. You cannot leave.

And as a human being, I would like to leave when I want and where I want. I don’t want to leave because Israel wants me to leave.

So the Israeli army now is pretty close to me, the tanks. Nobody is safe in this area. And as you know, more than 300 children have been killed so far, and some of them are as young as five months old. Can you believe it?

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, the program is ending now. I want to thank you for being with us—

DR. MOUSSA EL-HADDAD: That’s my pleasure, dear.

AMY GOODMAN: —and wish you safety, a retired physician living in Gaza City. His daughter, Laila El-Haddad, is the journalist who we’ve interviewed who writes the popular blog “Raising Yousuf.” Yousuf is Dr. Moussa El-Haddad’s grandson.

Spiegel Online Interview with Boutros Boutros-Ghali January 14, 2009

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The Israeli military strike in Gaza will have “unforeseeable consequences” for the region, warns former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he discusses the short-sightedness of Israeli politicians, Egypt’s role and his muted hopes for peace.

 

A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed Hamas security compound after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City.
AP

A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed Hamas security compound after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City.

 

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Has Israel’s current offensive against the Gaza Strip put a final end to the Middle East peace process?

Boutros-Ghali: We will know very soon. But it is already clear at this point that Israel’s attack on Gaza has been a catastrophe. This military operation has given a boost to fundamentalists not only in Palestine, but also in every other Arab country. I have a hard time believing that Israel hasn’t noticed this. In their attack on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the Israelis must have learned the lesson that actions like these only strengthen the position of the integrists. During that period, Hezbollah increased its influence and grew to become the strongest political forces in Lebanon.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But couldn’t Lebanon be considered a special case?

 

Boutros-Ghali: No. The war in Gaza strengthens the position of radical Islamists in the entire Arab world in the same way that the war against Hezbollah did two years did. Moreover, it also weakens the position of Abu Masin (Mahmoud Abbas), the president of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the moderate parties in Arab countries and Israel who have been calling for dialogue and genuine peace negotiations. 

SPIEGEL ONLINE: That sounds very pessimistic. Hopes for peace can’t just disappear overnight.

Boutros-Ghali: Today, I would prefer to defer that judgment to God.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are you truly unable to see any silver lining on the horizon?

Boutros-Ghali: A genuine improvement in the general situation will probably only be seen by future generations. If I were to paint a rosy picture, I wouldn’t be telling the truth.

 

ABOUT BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI

DPA

Boutros Boutros- Ghali, 86, served as the secretary- general of the United Nations from 1992 to 1996. Boutros- Ghali also served in several Egyptian governments in posts that included the minister of state for foreign affairs. He was the architect of the 1979 Israel- Egypt Peace Treaty.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why do you have such a negative view of the future — especially you, who have earned a reputation for being a person of hope in stormy times? Right after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when no one wanted to believe in the possibility of peace, you helped former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to sign a peace accord with Israel at Camp David, a pact which continues to be honored to this day. 

Boutros-Ghali: It is different this time. The current decision-makers in Israel, who ordered this attack on Gaza, haven’t thought about the future. That was a mistake of momentous consequence.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What has led you to this conclusion?

Boutros-Ghali: Israel has a habit of closing its eyes to hard facts. In geographical terms, the Gaza Strip represents almost exactly 2 percent of the total area of Palestine. There is no getting around the fact that this area would have to be greatly expanded as part of the scope of a genuine peace agreement. An additional fact on the ground, which the Israelis prefer to forget about, is the 1.3 million Arab Palestinians who remained in their villages and cities when the state of Israel was founded in 1948 and who make up about one-fifth of Israel’s current population. By around 2060, the Palestinians will account for roughly half — if not more — of the inhabitants of Israel and the areas occupied by Israel.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: According to that theory, this demographic development will put an end to the dream of having a state with a majority Jewish population, something which greatly concerns the Israelis. But does it have any bearing on the current conflict?

Boutros-Ghali: The growing imbalance between Jews and Arabs in the area controlled by Israel is of decisive importance for the near future of the Jewish state. Already today, you can see that the Zionist idea of having a purely Jewish state is not going to work out and that this (demographic) development renders the idea no longer tenable. The fuse is already lit. Emigration from Israel is already on the rise — and not just in the wake of crisis situations. More and more parents are losing faith in the future and want to spare their children from having to live a life marked by constant fear and a lack of peace. But Israel’s current leadership appears to be solely motivated by a concern for election tactics. Given the scale of the damage that has already been done, that is irresponsible.

 

PHOTO GALLERY: THE BLOODY WAR AGAINST HAMAS

Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (19 Photos)

 

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Israel wants to put an end — once and for all — to the rocket attacks carried out by Islamist militants.

Boutros-Ghali: What the military is currently doing is causing a hundred times more damage and will have unforeseeable consequences for the entire region as well as, of course, for the Israelis.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamist hardliners — not to mention Arab nationalists — have been accusing Egypt of abandoning the Palestinians. Is that a correct accusation?

Boutros-Ghali: Egypt’s borders are open day and night to all Palestinians who are sick or have been wounded. Egypt is sending all sorts of aid into the Gaza Strip.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Still, Hamas is calling on Cairo to open its borders to all Palestinians.

Boutros-Ghali: Humanitarian aid, food, medicine, teams of doctors, fuel supplies, treatment for the wounded and ill in Egyptian hospitals — all of that is already being offered. But there is no doubt that having borders that were completely open and no longer controlled would lead to the infiltration of armed terrorists. Memories of the bloody attacks on tourist hotels in Sharm al-Sheikh and other Sinai vacation destinations are still fresh in our minds.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Some have demanded that the Egyptians withdraw from their peace agreement with Israel.

Boutros-Ghali: Calls like that are senseless. Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel has helped all Arabs. What other Arab country besides Egypt can have credible contacts with Israel and negotiate the opening of borders and an incremental lifting of the blockade? Calling off the peace with Israel would have terrifying consequences for all Arabs and the Israelis; our children and grandchildren would curse us.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Will US President-elect Barack Obama do something decisive to bring an end to the conflict in the Middle East?

Boutros-Ghali: The Americans are completely preoccupied with the global financial and economic crisis. The new administration will devote 50 percent of its activities to these issues. Likewise, American engagement will also be called for in other global crises in Latin America, Africa and Asia as well as perhaps in conflicts in Somalia, East Africa, eastern Congo, India, Pakistan and the Caucasus.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And in the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well?

Boutros-Ghali: Not much has changed in the United States since my term as secretary-general of the United Nations. The American public is not particularly interested in the Arab world, and the pressure exerted by the Jewish lobby is as strong as ever. However, it is unfortunately the case that Israel only responds to pressure if it is coming out of Washington. Given the current disaster in Gaza and the absolute split between Palestinian camps into that of the Islamist Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, which continues to be open to negotiations, Washington will do nothing over the next three or four years to facilitate the resumption of peace negotiations. Events in Gaza have set us all back by years. Unfortunately, to hope that the Europeans might play an effective role is just wishful thinking.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is the Arab world already so divided that it can’t muster itself into a strong, united position?

Boutros-Ghali: Working together, the Arabs put a good peace plan on the table that envisioned recognizing Israeli sovereignty within the pre-1967 borders in return for an independent Palestinian state within these borders. Israel made the mistake of ignoring this offer.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you foresee as happening in 2009?

 

Boutros-Ghali: I anticipate across-the-board changes for the worse for all countries in the Middle East. In the Arab world, religious extremists will become even more popular, particularly given the fact that over half the population is made up of easily influenced teenagers. In Israel, the extremists who are set on continued violence will gain ground. The extremes are getting more extreme; and, in the short term, all-or-nothing politicians will be viewed as heroes. But the innocent masses will suffer more than they did before. 

SPIEGEL ONLINE: As a former secretary-general of the United Nations, what conclusion have you drawn about this conflict, which you once tried to solve?

Boutros-Ghali: For the foreseeable future, I don’t see an era promising happiness. It’s true that the curse of the colonial era disappeared half a century ago, and the Cold War is behind us. Millions of people expected a world that was better, more socially just and marked by technological progress. However, the unfortunate result has been that the age-old ills of mankind — growing social disparity, inflammatory national and religious ideologies, cultures closing themselves off to outsiders — have once again foiled these hopes. It is a shame that I will surely not live to see the dawning of a truly better world.

Interview conducted by Volkhard Windfuhr. Translated from the German by Josh Ward.

Leading Israeli Scholar Avi Shlaim: Israel Committing “State Terror” in Gaza Attack, Preventing Peace January 14, 2009

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Democracynow! January 14, 2009

AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli assault on Gaza is entering its nineteenth day, with no end in sight. Israeli warplanes are continuing their bombardment, launching over sixty air strikes overnight. Meanwhile, Israeli troops have edged closer to the heart of the densely populated Gaza City and are engaged in street fighting with militants.

 

Since Israel’s offensive began on December 27th, nearly 1,000 Palestinians have been killed. More than 4,400 have been injured, and an estimated 90,000 have fled their homes. Thirteen Israelis have died over the same period, ten of them soldiers, including four by so-called “friendly” fire.

 

As the war continues, humanitarian concerns are mounting. The chief UN aid official for Gaza, John Ging, has appealed to the international community to protect Gaza’s civilians, calling it a “test of our humanity”.

 

Meanwhile, a UN watch group has accused Israel of showing a “manifest disrespect” for the protection of children in Gaza. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, more than 40 percent of those killed in Gaza are women and children.

 

On Tuesday, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Gaza and said what he saw was shocking. ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger said, “It is unacceptable to see so many wounded people. Their lives must be spared and the security of those who care for them guaranteed.”

 

Despite a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the military operation will continue.

 

Our next guest is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Arab-Israel conflict. Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. He is now a professor of international relations at Oxford University. In an article in The Guardian newspaper of London, he says he has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. But he says its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions. Professor Avi Shlaim is the author of a number of books, most notably The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. His latest book is Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace. Avi Shlaim joins us today from Oxford University in Britain.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

AVI SHLAIM: Thank you. I’m happy to be on your program in these very sad times.

AMY GOODMAN: As you look at what’s happening in Gaza from your vantage point, well, many miles away in Britain, can you talk about the kind of trajectory your evaluation has taken, where you started in your thoughts about Israel and where you are now?

AVI SHLAIM: As you mentioned, I did national service in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. And in those days, Israel was a small state surrounded by enemies, and the nation was united in face of the surrounding Arab states. We all felt total commitment to the state of Israel and to the defense of the state of Israel. The Israeli army is called the Israel Defense Forces, and it was true to its name.

But 1967, the war of June 1967, was a major turning point in the history of Israel and the history of the region. In the course of the war, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and Sinai from Egypt. After the war, Israel started building civilian territories in the occupied territories in violation of international law. So Israel became a colonial power and an imperial power.

And I, for my part, have never questioned the legitimacy of the Zionist movement. I saw it as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Nor did I ever question the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I reject, what I reject totally, absolutely and uncompromisingly, is the Zionist colonial project beyond the 1967 borders. So we have to distinguish very clearly between Israel proper, within its pre-1967 borders, and Greater Israel, which began to emerge in the aftermath of the June ‘67 war and has completely derailed the Zionist project.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, specifically talk about Gaza, how it has developed and where it is today, right now under assault by the Israeli military.

AVI SHLAIM: In a long-term historical perspective, I would begin with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. I wrote a book, which you mentioned in your introduction, called The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. It is a history of the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1948. It’s a very long book, but I can summarize it for you in one sentence, that throughout its sixty years, Israel has been remarkably reluctant to engage in meaningful negotiations with its Arab opponents to resolve the dispute between them and only too ready to resort to military force in order to impose its will upon them. And the current vicious Israeli onslaught on the people of Gaza is the climax of this longstanding Israeli policy of shunning diplomacy and relying on brute military force.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to Professor Avi Shlaim. He is professor of international relations at Oxford University, served in the Israeli military. His latest book is called Lion of Jordan. He is one of the world’s leading scholars on the Arab-Israel conflict. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest right now is Oxford University Professor Avi Shlaim. He teaches international relations at Oxford University. He’s speaking to us from Oxford right now, leading authority in the world on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

We’ve had a number of debates here on Democracy Now!, Professor Shlaim, over the past weeks about what’s happening in Gaza and those who support the Israeli military continually say that in 2005, three years ago, Israel pulled out of Gaza entirely. You have a different picture of what happened under Ariel Sharon in August of 2005. Explain how you see the withdrawal of Israeli military at that time.

AVI SHLAIM: President Bush described Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. I’ve done a great deal of archival research on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I can honestly tell you that I have never come across a single scintilla of evidence to support the view of Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. He was a man of war, a champion of violent solutions, a man who rejected totally any Palestinian right to self-determination. He was a proponent of Greater Israel, and it is in this context that I see his decision to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza in August of 2005.

The withdrawal was officially called the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza. I would like to underline the word “unilateral.” Ariel Sharon was the unilateralist par excellence. The reason he decided to withdraw from Gaza was not out of any concern for the welfare of the people of Gaza or any sympathy for the Palestinians or their national aspirations, but because of the pressure exerted by Hamas, by the Islamic resistance, to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. In the end, Israel couldn’t sustain the political, diplomatic and psychological costs of maintaining its occupation in Gaza.

And let me add in parentheses that Gaza was a classic example of exploitation, of colonial exploitation in the postcolonial era. Gaza is a tiny strip of land with about one-and-a-half million Arabs, most of them—half of them refugees. It’s the most crowded piece of land on God’s earth. There were 8,000 Israeli settlers in Gaza, yet the 8,000 settlers controlled 25 percent of the territory, 40 percent of the arable land, and the largest share of the desperately scarce water resources.

Ariel Sharon decided to withdraw from Gaza unilaterally, not as a contribution, as he claimed, to a two-state solution. The withdrawal from Gaza took place in the context of unilateral Israeli action in what was seen as Israeli national interest. There were no negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on an overall settlement. The withdrawal from Gaza was not a prelude to further withdrawals from the other occupied territories, but a prelude to further expansion, further consolidation of Israel’s control over the West Bank. In the year after the withdrawal from Gaza, 12,000 new settlers went to live on the West Bank. So I see the withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005 as part of a unilateral Israeli attempt to redraw the borders of Greater Israel and to shun any negotiations and compromise with the Palestinian Authority.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, Israel says the reason it has attacked Gaza is because of the rocket fire, the rockets that Hamas is firing into southern Israel.

AVI SHLAIM: This is Israeli propaganda, and it is a pack of lies. The important thing to remember is that there was a ceasefire brokered by Egypt in July of last year, and that ceasefire succeeded. So, if Israel wanted to protect its citizens—and it had every right to protect its citizens—the way to go about it was not by launching this vicious military offensive, but by observing the ceasefire.

Now, let me give you some figures, which I think are the most crucial figures in understanding this conflict. Before the ceasefire came into effect in July of 2008, the monthly number of rockets fired—Kassam rockets, homemade Kassam rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip on Israeli settlements and towns in southern Israel was 179. In the first four months of the ceasefire, the number dropped dramatically to three rockets a month, almost zero. I would like to repeat these figures for the benefit of your listeners. Pre-ceasefire, 179 rockets were fired on Israel; post-ceasefire, three rockets a month. This is point number one, and it’s crucial.

And my figures are beyond dispute, because they come from the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But after initiating this war, this particular table, neat table, which showed the success of the ceasefire, was withdrawn and replaced with another table of statistics, which is much more obscure and confusing. Israel—the Foreign Ministry withdrew these figures, because it didn’t suit the new story.

The new story said that Hamas broke the ceasefire. This is a lie. Hamas observed the ceasefire as best as it could and enforced it very effectively. The ceasefire was a stunning success for the first four months. It was broken not by Hamas, but by the IDF. It was broken by the IDF on the 4th of November, when it launched a raid into Gaza and killed six Hamas men.

And there is one other point that I would like to make about the ceasefire. Ever since the election of Hamas in January—I’m sorry, ever since Hamas captured power in Gaza in the summer of 2007, Israel had imposed a blockade of the Strip. Israel stopped food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching the Gaza Strip. One of the terms of the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the blockade of Gaza, yet Israel failed to lift the blockade, and that is one issue that is also overlooked or ignored by official Israeli spokesmen. So Israel was doubly guilty of sabotaging the ceasefire, A, by launching a military attack, and B, by maintaining its very cruel siege of the people of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel calls Hamas “terrorist.” What is your definition of “terror”?

AVI SHLAIM: My definition of “terror” is the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. And by this definition, Hamas is a terrorist organization. But by the same token, Israel is practicing state terror, because it is using violence on a massive scale against Palestinian civilians for political purposes. I don’t hold a brief for Hamas. Hamas is not a paragon of virtue. Its leaders are not angels. They harm civilians indiscriminately. Killing civilians is wrong, period. That applies to Hamas, and it applies equally to the state of Israel.

But there are two points I would like to make about Hamas, and that is—the first point is that it was elected in a fair and free election in January 2006. It was an impeccable election, monitored by a number of international observers, including President Jimmy Carter. So it is not just a terrorist organization. It is a democratically elected government of the Palestinian people and the representative of the Palestinian people in Gaza, as well as the West Bank.

And the second point that I would like to make is that since coming to power, Gaza has moderated its political program. Its charter is extreme. Its charter denies the legitimacy of a Jewish state. The charter calls for an Islamic state over the whole of historic Palestine. The charter has not been revived, but since coming to power, the leadership of Hamas has been much more pragmatic and stated that it is willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the state of Israel for twenty, thirty, forty, maybe even fifty years.

Thirdly, Hamas joined with Fatah, the rival group, the mainstream group, on the West Bank in a national unity government in the summer of 2007. That national unity government lasted only three months. Israel, with American support, helped to sabotage and to bring down that national unity government. Israel refused to deal with a Palestinian government which included Hamas within it. And shamefully, both the United States and the European Union joined in Israel in this refusal to recognize a Hamas-dominated government, and Israel withdrew tax revenues, and European Union withdrew foreign aid, in a shameful attempt to bring down a democratically elected government.

So, I do not defend Hamas, but I think that it hasn’t received a fair hearing from the international community, and Israel has done everything to sabotage it all along.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Shlaim, you say it’s done everything to sabotage it, except at the beginning, when you say it supported Hamas to weaken Fatah, which it now supports.

AVI SHLAIM: Indeed. Israel has always played the game of divide and rule. This is a very good tactic in times of war, to divide your enemies and pick them off one by one. No one can complain about that. But divide and rule isn’t a good tactic in times of peace. If your aim is to achieve peace with the Arabs, then you should want unity among the Palestinians and unity in the Arab world. But Israel continued to play this game of divide and rule.

Hamas emerged in the course of the First Intifada in the late 1980s. It is the Islamic resistance movement. The mainstream movement, Fatah, was led by Yasser Arafat. And Israel gave tacit encouragement and support to the Islamic resistance in the hope of weakening the secular nationalists led by Yasser Arafat. It was a dangerous game to play, because the end result of this game was that Hamas emerged as the strongest Palestinian political party.

And Israel helped Hamas inadvertently in another way, because Fatah signed the Oslo Accord with Israel in 1993. It expected the Oslo Accord to lead to a two-state solution. And yet, Israel, after the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, reneged on the Israeli side of the deal. So, the Oslo Accord, the Oslo peace process wasn’t doomed to failure from the start. It failed because Israel, under the leadership of the Likud, reneged on its side of the deal. So that left the Palestinians with nothing but misery and poverty and frustration and ever-growing Israeli settlements on the land. And it was this context that led to the success of Hamas at the last elections. So Israel has a lot to explain in the rise to power of the Hamas movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, we only have a minute, but I want to ask you where you see the solution at this point. Barack Obama will be president on Tuesday in just a few days. Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State.

AVI SHLAIM: The solution—this is a political conflict, and there is no military conflict to—there is no military solution to this conflict. The only solution lies in negotiations between Israel and Hamas about all the issues involved. President-elect Obama is a very impressive man and a very intelligent man and a very fair-minded man. He hasn’t demonstrated any courage in the course of this crisis. He hasn’t taken any position. He hasn’t called for an immediate ceasefire. So the first step is an immediate ceasefire, and the next step would be negotiations between all the sides about restoring the ceasefire and then moving on to stage two, which is a political settlement to this tragic hundred-year-old conflict.

AMY GOODMAN: And Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, who said in her confirmation hearing yesterday she wouldn’t negotiate with Hamas?

AVI SHLAIM: Yes, but there are other signs from the Obama campaign that they would be willing to consider low-level, indirect contacts with Hamas. And one has to be grateful for small mercies, so small, minor, low-level contacts with Hamas could lead to a proper dialog in due course. So I remain optimistic that sanity and rationality would take over in American foreign policy after the dreadful last eight years.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, thank you very much for being with us. Professor Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, served in the Israeli military—among his books, Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace—known as one of the leading authorities in the world on the Israel-Palestine conflict and Arab-Israel conflict. Among his other books, The Iron Wall.

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