Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: roger hollander, Palestine, racism, israel, gaza, likud, gideon levy, irgun, menachem begin, intifada, israeli settlements, hannah arendt, albert einstein, stanley heller, herut, seymour melman, eritreans, prawer
By Stanley Heller (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/5/2013 at 12:48:38
On Dec. 4, 1948 Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and 26 others had a letter published in the New York Times warning about the then new “Herut” Party in Israel that was beginning a major fund raising drive in the United States. Herut has since morphed into the Likud, which runs the government now and has been the dominant party in Israel for over 35 years.
(image by Wikicommons)
The letter pulled no punches. It described the party as “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” Realize this was just 3 years after World War II and you see the power of the accusation. It explains that the party was based on the former “Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.” It warned Americans to avoid the tour of party leader Menachem Begin (and later Israeli prime minister) so as not to support “Fascism” in Israel. The letter writers warned that the party pretended to stand for freedom and democracy, but “until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state.” The letter explained that the party in its actions was “terrorist” and related its part in the massacre of hundreds that spring in Deir Yassin and its beatings and shooting of Jews in Palestine that stood in its way.
The letter writers had a warning for labor leaders. “Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions.”
It concluded by explaining that the signers felt they had to send the letter because “the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.”
While very progressive on the whole the letter is not above criticism. In criticizing the followers of Herut the letter says, “They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity.” We know full well now about the settlements built by the Zionist “Left” generally built on land taken from Palestinians and almost universally restricted to “Jews only”.
Ten years ago I interviewed Columbia professor and social critic Seymour Melman(pp. 5-7) who then was one of the last surviving signers of the letter. He said the letter was largely composed by Zelig S. Harris and members of a group of Zionists that supported a “bi-nationalist” country. (At the time it was also called anti-state Zionism.) Einstein was friendly to the group.
I asked Melman about the effect of the letter. He said it “torpedoed much of their PR activity” and led to the cancellation by a major speaker at the Carnegie Hall event, John F. Kennedy.
When asked to talk about the Likud, the successor to the Herut, Melman said it had the “unmistakable stamp of a fascist party”. He said, “Israel is not fascist, but the Likud is fascist.”
Certainly Israel is not fascist in the old mold with one dictator ruling for life. It’s closer to the apartheid model of South Africa with the privileged “race” being allowed to vote for a multi-party parliament. Yet to the victims the racism and violence of modern Zionism the distinctions are hardly important
Some of the newest outrages
Five teenagers face charges of attempted murder for throwing stones at cars and could be imprisoned for life
Israeli forces swept into the home of Muhammad al-Majid seeking to arrest him. The youth is four years old. In the same article on the Electronic Intifada it was noted that Muslim Odeh had been arrested 10 times and physically abused by Israeli occupation forces. Odeh is 12 years old.
The Israelis and the Egyptian regime have been smashing up the tunnels from Egypt that have provided the Gaza Strip with fuel. The result is the only power plant on the Strip has closed. The sewage plant closed and in some areas raw sewage water has leaked into streets and paths. Recently the lack of fuel has caused all the garbage trucks in the Strip to stop running. A Gaza school teacher said, “Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubbish now litter Gaza’s streets,”
On November 28 Nour Afaneh , suffering from pneumonia, died in an ambulance on her way to a hospital in Ramallah. The ambulance had tried to get through the “Container” checkpoint near Bethlehem, but found it closed.. She was 14 years old. Israel has several hundred permanent and temporary checkpoints separating one part of Palestinian populated areas from another part of Palestinian area.
There were race riots against black Africans in Tel Aviv in May 2012. As a result Israel has built a new wall along its Egyptian border to keep out all Africans seeking asylum. As a result the number of Africans making it into Israel in the start of 2013 has declined 99% over the number in the same part of 2012. As of July 1,000 Eritreans were being kept in a detention center in a desert and are being sent back to Eritrea.
Even though they are Israeli citizens some 40,000 to 70,000 will be thrown off their land in the Negev through the Prawer plan now pending in the Israeli parliament. 35 “unrecognized” Arab villages are to be destroyed to be replaced by Jewish-only settlements. (There were wide scale protests in Israel and in other countries the last weekend in November)
In July 2011 the Israeli Knesset made it illegal for an Israeli to call for Israeli goods to be boycotted and gave those supposedly affected easy ways to sue those calling for boycott.
There was a brave column by Gideon Levy in an Israeli paper on November 30th of this year saying the case of Iran shows that sanctions do work and explaining there was no reason to limit boycotts to settlement products in the West Bank. He could be sued.
Things were bad enough under the apartheid building Israeli Labour party. Thirty-five years rule of Israel by a “fascist” party have made the situation for worse and far more naked in the amount of open racism.
Postscript: For those who want to fight the Prawer Plan see the campaign being mounted by J ewish Voice for Peace (jewishvoiceforpeace.org)
Posted by rogerhollander in War, Iran, Nuclear weapons/power.
Tags: roger hollander, Iran, israel, iran nuclear, aipac, nuclear weapons, journalism, likud, new york times, judy miller, iaea, rogert naiman, atomic energy, nuclear capabilities
It’s deja vu all over again. AIPAC is trying to trick America into another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on behalf of the Likud Party’s colonial ambitions, and the New York Times is lying about allegations that said country is developing “weapons of mass destruction.”
In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4 (“Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil “), this paragraph appeared:
The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign. [my emphasis]
The claim that there is “a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective” is a lie.
As Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on December 9,
But the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.
Indeed, if you try now to find the offending paragraph on the New York Times website, you can’t. They took it down. But there is no note, like there is supposed to be, acknowledging that they changed the article, and that there was something wrong with it before. Sneaky, huh?
But you can still find the original here. Indeed, at this writing, if you go to the New York Times website, and search on the phrase, “military objective,” the article pops right up. But if you open the article, the text is gone. But again, there is no explanatory note saying that they changed the text.
This is not an isolated example in the Times‘ reporting. The very same day – January 4 – the New York Times published another article, attributed to Clifford Krauss (“Oil Price Would Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz “), that contained the following paragraph.
Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons [my emphasis].
At this writing, that text is still on the New York Times website.
Of course, referring to Iran’s “development of nuclear weapons” without qualification implies that it is a known fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But it is not a known fact. It is an allegation. Indeed, when U.S. officials are speaking publicly for the record, they say the opposite. As Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on December 9,
This is what the U.S. director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March: “We continue to assess [that] Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
To demand a correction, you can write to the New York Times here. To write a letter to the editor, you can write to the New York Times here. To complain to the New York Times‘ Public Editor, you write him here.
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: roger hollander, Obama, Middle East, israel, foreign policy, congress, neoconservatives, aipac, lieberman, likud, israel lobby, obama administration, Dennis Blair, kadima, daniel luban, jim lobe, charles freeman, nic, intelligence council, israel government, neo-conservatives, america israel public affairs, schumer, mark kirk, israel labor party, settlement movement, anti-freeman, broder, mearsheimer, stephen walt, pat lang
Published on Friday, March 13, 2009 by Inter Press Service
WASHINGTON – Although the successful campaign to keep Amb. Charles “Chas” Freeman out of a top intelligence post marked a surface victory for the pro-Israel hardliners who opposed him, the long-term political implications of the Freeman affair appear far more ambiguous.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair had said he was standing by the appointment of Charles Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council. (AP PHOTO)
Freeman’s withdrawal has provoked growing – if belated – media scrutiny of the operations of the so-called “Israel Lobby”, and aroused protests from a number of prominent mainstream political commentators who allege that he was the target of a dishonest and underhanded smear campaign that, among other things, accused him of shilling for the governments of Saudi Arabia and China.
For the neo-conservatives who led the charge against Freeman’s appointment, his withdrawal may therefore prove to be both a tactical victory and a strategic defeat.
At the same time, the Freeman affair has highlighted the yawning disconnect between the career professionals in the intelligence and diplomatic communities, from whom Freeman enjoyed strong support, and political leaders in Congress and the White House, none of whom came to his defense publicly.
Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who has been a vocal critic of Israeli policies in the occupied territories, withdrew from consideration as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) on Tuesday. He did not go quietly into the night, however, releasing a statement in which he struck back at his critics.
“I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country,” Freeman wrote.
“There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel.”
The motives for the anti-Freeman campaign are themselves a matter of debate. Virtually all of his chief attackers were neo-conservatives, whose views generally reflect those of the Israel’s right-wing Likud Party, and other reflexive defenders of Israeli government policies. Many observers viewed it as self-evident that their hostility to him was based on his often bluntly-spoken belief that U.S. and Israel’s interests in the Middle East were not necessarily convergent.
In the media, the campaign against Freeman was waged mainly by neo-conservative organs, such as the Weekly Standard and the National Review, and by The New Republic, a generally liberal weekly that, however, routinely attacks Israel’s critics.
In Congress, it was led by politicians such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and Rep. Mark Kirk, all of whom have strong ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful lobby group whose members range from far-right supporters of the militant settlement movement in Israel to more moderate factions sympathetic to the relatively centrist Kadima and Labor Parties.
Freeman’s critics sought to portray their attacks on him as rooted not in his criticisms of Israel but in his allegedly compromising ties to Saudi Arabia and China, including his leadership of a think tank that was partially funded by a member of the Saudi royal family and his service on an advisory board of China’s largest oil company.
In the mainstream media, however, few seemed to buy into these claims. The most widely read U.S. newspapers, which had all but ignored the controversy as it raged in the “blogosphere”, attributed his withdrawal to the unacceptability of his views on Israel policy – in the process going further than ever before in putting the Israel lobby in the national spotlight.
The New York Times headlined its story “Israel Stance Was Undoing of Nominee for Intelligence Post”, while the Washington Post confirmed that AIPAC, which had insisted it had no position on Freeman’s appointment, had indeed quietly provided critical material about him to inquiring reporters.
A Los Angeles Times editorial explicitly referenced “the Israel lobby” as the force behind Freeman’s withdrawal, adding, “We do not believe that Israel should be immune from criticism or that there is room for only one point of view in our government.”
And while the Post’s editorial page, like the neo-conservative Wall Street Journal, had hosted anti-Freeman op-eds early in the campaign against him, its veteran political columnist, David Broder – long viewed as the embodiment of Washington centrism – praised the former ambassador as “an able public servant” and wrote that “[t]he Obama administration has just suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the lobbyists the president vowed to keep in their place.”
Broder was not the only prominent centrist to react harshly to the anti-Freeman campaign. Others included the Broder’s fellow Post columnist, David Ignatius, The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan (who called the campaign “repulsive”), Time’s Joe Klein (“assassination”), and Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf (“lynching-by-blog”). Freeman has also been invited as the guest of Fareed Zakaria, a regular columnist for Newsweek and the Post, on his regular Sunday CNN program on foreign policy, “GPS.”
In the end, the attempts by Freeman’s critics to make the story about anything but Israel may have backfired. Instead, discussion of the role of the Israel lobby in forming U.S. foreign policy appears to have acquired more mainstream legitimacy than ever before.
The long-taboo subject became a matter of public debate in 2006, when two prominent political scientists, the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer and Harvard University’s Stephen Walt, published their article “The Israel Lobby”, later expanded into a book. The two argued that a powerful lobby, centered on but not limited to AIPAC, exerts a “stranglehold” on U.S. foreign policy debates and stifles any criticism of Israeli policies, to the detriment of both the U.S. and Israel.
Mearsheimer and Walt’s thesis was instantly controversial. Critics accused them of perpetuating age-old anti-Semitic tropes about the covert Jewish domination of politics. Mainstream critics of Israel have been reluctant to align themselves with the two, even when they have reached some of the same conclusions.
In the wake of the Freeman affair, however, Mearsheimer and Walt appear to be getting a new hearing. The Los Angeles Times went so far as to suggest that the attacks on them may have been overstated.
“[T]he battle over Freeman…seems to have exposed more sympathy for a Walt/Mearsheimer view of U.S.-Israel relations than one might have expected to be out there,” wrote Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard, one of Freeman’s harshest critics. “People like Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan are now fairly indistinguishable from Stephen Walt.”
Goldfarb intended the comment as an insult, but it may nonetheless have contained a kernel of truth.
While the Freeman affair may have shifted the parameters of debate on Israel policy, it has also exposed fissures and resentments between the national security bureaucracy and the U.S. political leadership.
Some veteran observers, such as the “Nelson Report”, an influential private newsletter, compared Freeman’s treatment to the McCarthy era when long-time government Asia experts were deemed responsible for “losing China” to the Communists and hounded out of the foreign service by the so-called “China Lobby”.
Col. Pat Lang, the former top Middle East analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who signed a letter of support for Freeman, told IPS that the saga had caused a “tentative feeling of disappointment” about the new administration within the intelligence community.
“It’s very disheartening for people who viewed Freeman’s appointment as the return to some standard of intellectual excellence or integrity”, he said, adding that Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Adm. Dennis Blair, who went to the Senate and strongly defended his appointee, may be the next target for Freeman’s antagonists as they push for alarmist intelligence on Iran.
“I’m concerned about what these characters are going to do about Blair, because Blair really stood up to them, and their general reaction to that is to wage a war of annihilation against people who do that,” Lang said.
Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.
Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Racism.
Tags: anti-arab racism, arab emgration, arab israelis, arab minority israel, arab transfer, Avigdor Lieberman, conn hallinan, ehud olmert, expel arabs, gaza war, israel, israel army roadblocks, israel occupied territories, israel racism, israel settlements, israel xenophobia, israeli extremists, jewish nationalists, jewish state, kach, kadima, knesset, likud, meir kahane, meretz, Middle East, national union, nteanyahu, palestinian state, roger hollander, shin bet, tzipi livni, west bank, yisrael beiteinu, Zeev Sternhell
By Conn Hallinan, AlterNet. Posted March 4, 2009.
There is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel its Arab citizens to either a Palestinian state or to Jordan and Egypt.
One of the more disturbing developments in the Middle East is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel — in the words of advocates “transfer” — its Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed Palestinian state or the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.
Such sentiment is hardly new among Israeli extremists, and it has long been advocated by racist Jewish organizations like Kach, the party of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as groups like the National Union, which doubled its Knesset representation in the last election.
But “transfer” is no longer the exclusive policy of extremists, as it has increasingly become a part of mainstream political dialogue. “My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red lines,” Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a group of Tel Aviv high school students last December, “and among other things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ‘ your national solution lies elsewhere.'”
Such talk has consequences.
According to the Israeli Association for Civil Rights, anti-Arab incidents have risen sharply. “Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy,” says Sami Michael, the organization’s president. Among the Association’s findings:
* Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say that the state should encourage Arab emigration;
* 78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose including Arab parties in the government;
* 56 percent agree with the statement that “Arabs cannot attain the Jewish level of cultural development”;
* 75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined to be violent. Among Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way about Jews.
* 75 percent of Israeli Jews say they would not live in the same building as Arabs.
The tension between Israeli democracy and the country’s Jewish character was the centerpiece of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party’s campaign in the recent election. His party increased its Knesset membership from 11 to 15, and is now the third largest party in the parliament.
Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement near Bethlehem, calls for a “loyalty oath” from Arab-Israelis, and for either expelling those who refuse or denying them citizenship rights. During a Knesset debate last March, Lieberman told Arab deputies, “You are only temporarily here. One day we will take care of you.”
Such views are increasing, particularly among young Jewish Israelis, among whom a politicized historical education and growing hopelessness about the future has fueled a strong rightward shift.
In a recent article in Haaretz, Yotam Feldman writes about a journey through Israel’s high schools, where students freely admit to their hatred of Arabs and lack of concern about the erosion of democracy.
“Sergei Liebliyanich, a senior, draws a connection between the preparation for military service in school and student support for the Right” Feldman writes, “‘ It gives us motivation against the Arabs. You want to enlist in the army so you can stick it to themI like Lieberman’s thinking about the Arabs. Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the rightwing Likud Party] doesn’t want to go as far.”
Feldman polled 10 high schools and found that Yisrael Beiteinu was the most popular party, followed by Likud. The left-wing Meretz Party came in dead last.
In part, the politicalization of the education system is to blame.
Mariam Darmoni-Sharviot, a former civics teacher who is helping implement the 1995 Kremnitzar Commission’s recommendations on education and democracy, told Feldman, “When I talk to a civics class about the Arab minority, and about its uniqueness in being a majority that became a minority, my students argue and say it’s not true that they [Arabs] were a majority.” She said when she confronted teachers and asked why students didn’t know that Arabs were a majority in 1947, the teachers become “evasive and say it’s not part of the material.”
In part, students reflect the culture that surrounds them.
“Israeli society is speaking in two voices,” says Education Minister Yuli Tamir. “We see ourselves as a democratic society, yet we often neglect things that are very basic to democracy. If the students see the Knesset disqualifying Arab parties, a move that I’ve adamantly opposed, how can we expect them to absorb democratic values?”
All the major Israeli parties voted to remove two Arab parties, United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad, from the ballot because they opposed the Gaza war. Balad also calls for equal rights for all Israelis. Kadima spokesperson Maya Jacobs said, “Balad aims to exterminate Israel as a Jewish state and turn it into a state for all its citizens.” Labor joined in banning Balad, but not Ta’al.
The Israeli Supreme Court overturned the move and both parties ended up electing seven Knesset members in the recent election.
“The ultimate aim here,” says Dominic Moran, INS Security Watch’s senior correspondent in the Middle East, “is to sever the limited ties that bind Jews and Arabs, to the point that the idea of the transfer of the Arab-Israeli population beyond the borders of the state, championed by Yisrael Beiteinu, gains increasing legitimacy.”
This turn toward the Right also reflects an economic crisis, where poverty is on the rise and the cost of maintaining the settlements in the Occupied Territories and Israel’s military is a crushing burden. Peace Now estimates that the occupation costs $1.4 billion a year, not counting the separation wall. Israel’s military budget is just under $10 billion a year. According to Haartez, the Gaza war cost $374 million.
Some 16 percent of the Jewish population fall below the poverty line, a designation that includes 50 percent of Israeli Arabs.
“The Israeli reality can no longer hide what it has kept hidden up to now — that today no sentient mother can honestly say to her child: ‘ Next year things will be better here,'” says philosophy of education professor, Ilan Gur-Ze’ev. “The young people are replacing hope for a better future with a myth of a heroic end. For a heroic end, Lieberman fits the bill.”
Intercommunity tension manifests itself mainly in the Occupied Territories, where the relentless expansion of settlements and constant humiliation of hundreds of Israeli Army roadblocks fuels Palestinian anger.
This past December, settlers in Hebron attacked Palestinians after the Israeli government removed a group of Jewish families occuping an Arab-owned building. In response, the settlers launched “Operation Price Tag” to inflict punishment on Palestinians in the event the Tel Aviv government moves against settlers. Rioters torched cars, desecrated a Muslim cemetery, and gunned down two Arabs.
Settler rampages on the West Bank are nothing new, even though they receive virtually no coverage in the U.S. media. But a disturbing trend is the appearance of extremist settlers in Israel. Late last year Baruch Marzel, a West bank settler and follower of Kahane, threatened to lead a march through Umm al-Fahm, a largely Arab-Israeli town near Haifa.
“We have a cancer in our body capable of destroying the state of Israel,” Marzel told The Forward, “and these people are in the heart of Israel, a force capable of destroying Israel from the inside. I am going to tell these people that the land of Israel is ours.”
Arab-Israelis charge that settlers — some of them extremists re-settled from Gaza three years ago — played a role in last year’s Yom Kippur riots in the mixed city of Acre and forced Arab families our of their houses in the east part of the city. Arabs make up about 14 percent of Acre and 20 percent of Israel.
Rabbi Dov Lior, chair of the West Bank Rabbinical Council, has decreed, “It is completely forbidden to employ [Arabs] and rent houses to them in Israel.”
The Adallah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights is urging Israeli Attorney General Mernachem Mazuz to investigate “Wild incitement to racism against Arabs in general and the [Arab] residents of Acre in particular.”
On Oct. 15, three days after the Acre riots, two Arab apartments in Tel Aviv were attacked with Molotov cocktails. Seven Jewish men were arrested. The Arab residents of Lod and Haifa charge that they too are being pressured to move.
In the case of Lod, municipal authorities are open about their intentions. Municipal spokesman Yoram Ben-Aroch denied that the city discriminates against Arabs, but told The Forward that municipal authorities want Lod, to become “a more Jewish town. We need to strengthen the Jewish character of Lod and religious people and Zionists have a big part to play in this strengthening.”
However, the growing lawlessness of West bank settlers and Jewish nationalists has begun to unsettle the authorities in Tel Aviv. After rightwing extremists tried to assassinate Peace Now activist Professor Zeev Sternhell, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said the intelligence organization was “very concerned” about the “extremist right” and its willingness to resort to violence.
Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said “We are not willing to live with a significant group of people that has cast off all authority,” and called Operation Price Tag a “pogrom.”
So far, however, the government and Shin Bet have done little to rein in the rising tide of rightwing terror, which is aimed at Jews as well as Arabs.
Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Ta’al Party says that while Arab Israelis feel threatened by what Ben Gurion University political scientist Neve Gordan calls a “move toward xenophobic politics,” Tibi warns that, “It is the Jewish majority that should be afraid of this phenomenon.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: roger hollander, hamas, west bank, zionism, knesset, likud, tzipi livni, greater israel, jonathan freedland, israeli election, bibi netanyahu, kadima, shimon perex, yitzhak shamir, Israel Beytenu, Avigdor Lieberman, israel settlements, palestinian state, meir kahane, kach party
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.
© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: roger hollander, Middle East, Palestine, racism, israel, hamas, gaza, resistance, hezbollah, lebanon, ehud barak, likud, tzipi livni, rami khouri, ariel sharon, colonization, ehud olmert, islamic university
Many analogies are being made between the Israeli attack against Hamas in Gaza and the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Here are the most important ones.
The first is about provenance: Hamas and Hezbollah did not exist before 1982. They are the ideological stepchildren of the Likud party and Ariel Sharon, whose embrace of violence, racism and colonization as the means of dealing with occupied Arab populations ultimately generated a will to resist. The trio carrying on Mr. Sharon’s legacy – Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni – seem blind to the fact that the more force Israel uses, the greater the response in the form of more effective resistance.
The second analogy is about technical proficiency. Hamas and Hezbollah have both increased their ability to use assorted rockets to harass Israel. And they are better able to protect their launchers from pre-emptive Israeli attacks.
The number of Israeli dead in recent years is in the low hundreds, compared with the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel. But body counts are not the most useful criteria in this analysis. The real measure is the nagging Israeli sense of vulnerability and the Palestinian sense of empowerment and defiance.
It is a gruesome but tangible victory for Hamas simply to be able to keep firing 30 or 40 rockets a day at southern Israel, while Israel destroys much of the security and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.
The frustration in Israel is reflected in its bombing attacks on the Islamic University and the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza – symbols of the sort of modernity and democracy that Israel and the U.S. claim they seek to promote in the Arab world. Palestinians and Lebanese pay a high price for their “victories” – but until someone offers a more cost-effective way of dealing with Israel’s violence, we will see this cycle of warfare continue for some time.
The TV images of dead children in Gaza generate a tremendous will to fight among Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world. Israelis remain blind to the fact that Arabs respond to brutality the same way they do. A majority of Israelis polled this week supports the continuation of attacks in Gaza. Israelis seem to feel they have the right to respond to attacks by using indiscriminate violence against Palestinians – but Palestinians do not have the right to respond when attacked by Israel. A consequence of this attitude has been the ability of Hamas and Hezbollah to fight with enough proficiency to force Israel to accept a ceasefire.
The third analogy is about the convergence between religion, nationalism, governance and politics. In both Palestine and Lebanon, the secular political systems proved unable to protect society against Israeli aggression or domestic strife and criminality. Movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah developed in large part to fill this vacuum. They have achieved mixed results, with success in some areas but also an intensification of warfare and destruction in others.
Accusing these movements of using terrorism or cozying up to Syria and Iran will not discredit them. This is because of the structural manner in which they fulfill multiple roles that respond to the needs of their constituents in the realms of governance, local security, national defence and basic service delivery – responsibilities their secular national governments failed to fulfill.
The combination of these attributes makes it very hard for Israel to “defeat” Hamas and Hezbollah in their current configuration, regardless of how much destruction Israel rains on their societies. These two Islamist nationalist movements reflect a long list of mostly legitimate grievances that must be addressed if peace and security are ever to reign in this region.
Rami Khouri is editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star and director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War, Peace.
Tags: roger hollander, Obama, amy goodman, Palestinians, hamas, gaza, refugee camps, netanyahu, ehud barak, knesset, israelis, likud, democrcy now, tzipi livni, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, unrwa, israel military, danis moynihan
Jan 6, 2009, www.truthdig.com
By Amy Goodman
Israel’s assault on Gaza, by air, sea and now land, has killed (at the time of this writing) more than 600 Palestinians, with more than 2,700 injured. Ten Israelis have been killed, three of them, Israeli soldiers, killed by friendly fire. Beyond the deaths and injuries, the people of Gaza are suffering a dire humanitarian crisis that is dismissed by the Israeli government. There is, however, Israeli opposition to the military assault.
Israeli professor Neve Gordon is chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in southern Israel, the region most impacted by the Hamas rockets.
Speaking over the phone from Beersheba, Gordon said: “We just had a rocket about an hour ago not far from our house. My two children have been sleeping in a bomb shelter for the past week. And yet, I think what Israel is doing is outrageous. … The problem is that most Israelis say Israel left the Gaza Strip three years ago, and Hamas is still shooting rockets at us. They forget the details. The detail is that Israel maintains sovereignty. The detail is that the Palestinians live in a cage. The detail is that they don’t get basic foodstuff, that they don’t get electricity, that they don’t get water. And when you forget those kinds of details, all you say is, ‘Why are they still shooting at us?’ That’s what the media here has been pumping them with, then you think this war is rational. If you look at what’s been going on in the Gaza Strip in the past three years and you see what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, you would think that the Palestinian resistance is rational. And that’s what’s missing in the mainstream media here.”
Gordon attended a large peace march last weekend in Tel Aviv with more than 10,000 Israelis. Longtime Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery was there. He called the invasion “a criminal war, because, on top of everything else it is openly and shamelessly part of Ehud Barak’s and Tzipi Livni’s election campaign. I accuse Ehud Barak of exploiting the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers in order to get more Knesset seats. I accuse Tzipi Livni of advocating mutual slaughter in order to become prime minister.” Israel’s elections will be in February.
The assault strengthens right-wing Likud Party leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a foremost hawk and leading candidate for prime minister. While Netanyahu fully supports the attack on Gaza, his nephew, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, is an Israeli conscientious objector who was court-martialed and imprisoned for a year and a half. He spoke to me from Providence, R.I., where he is a student at Brown University.
“I’m speaking … not as anyone’s nephew but … as an Israeli, trying to speak out to Americans to tell them you don’t have to support Israel blindly. Not everything that Israel does is holy … sometimes you have to speak firmly to Israel and tell us, tell our government, stop doing this.”
Gideon Levy is a Jewish journalist with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He told me: “I think that Israel had this legitimacy to protect its citizens in the southern part of Israel … but this doing something does not mean this brutal and violent operation. … I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed. Immediately to send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs—just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this.”
But it is. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, in Gaza opened up schools to provide shelter, since Gazans, trapped in this narrow strip of land, have no place to flee. Christopher Gunness of UNRWA told me that they provided the coordinates of the schools to the Israeli military. Nevertheless, at least two schools have been hit by Israeli airstrikes in the past 24 hours. Three people were killed at the Asma Elementary school. More than 30 are reported dead and more than 55 injured at the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.
While Israeli planes drop pamphlets urging Palestinians to leave, the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, perhaps the most densely populated place on Earth, have no place to run, no place to hide. Calls for an immediate cease-fire are ignored by Israel and blocked by the U.S. government. It is not clear what the Obama administration will do—but the people of Gaza can’t wait until the inauguration. There must be a cease-fire now. And that’s just the beginning.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.
© 2009 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: roger hollander, Palestine, israel, hamas, resistance, gaza strip, israeli, palestinian, blitz, blitzkrieg, nazis, likud, benjamin Netanyahu
This will be brief. When I think of the current situation in the Gaza Strip, two images come to mind:
1) Israeli troops poised to invade inovoke the term: BLITZKRIEG.
2) When the Resistance killed a Nazi soldier, the Nazis would retaliate by murdering by ratio: ten, fifteen, fifty, what have you, to the one Nazi killed. There were times, I believe, when they wiped out entire towns in retaliation for one Nazi soldier kiled. The Palestinian to Israeli killed ratio in the current “conflict” is somewhere around 200 to 1. And that is not to mention the deaths caused by the blockade or the thousands seriously wounded.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: “So now the international community has a question, and I turn it back to the—to our critics, and I say you have to take a stand today. You have to tell the terrorists that this is an illegitimate operation. You cannot say both Israel and Hamas are symmetrically to blame. They’re not. One side is to blame, the side that targets civilians and hides behind civilians. That’s Hamas. The other side represents the rest of humanity. Now choose.”
Netanyahu, the head of the Likud Party and favorite to win the Israeli presidency, reminds us that Hamas “targets civilians and hide behind civilians.” He might add, “but don’t worry, we — the side that represents the rest of humanity — have no compunction about killing those civilians behind which they hide.”
One might also wonder how it can be considered “hiding” to reside in your own community.
Please note that I am of Jewish heritage and have been a life-long opponent of anti-Semitism. I do not support Hamas or their firing rockets into Israeli territory. All lives have equal value. I mourn every death.