INDEX (stories follow)
ZIONISM = RACISM
The Arab spring has finally had an impact on the core issue of the region, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It came in the form of a draft agreement between Fatah and Hamas which took everyone by surprise. There are three chief reasons why, after four years of bitter and violent conflict between the rivals, Fatah acceded to all of Hamas’s political conditions to form a national unity government.
The first was the publication of the Palestine papers, the secret record of the last fruitless round of talks with Israel. The extent to which Palestinian negotiators were prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate Israel surprised even hardened cynics. The Palestinian Authority found itself haemorrhaging what little authority it had left. The second was the loss to the Palestinian president, Abu Mazen, of his closest allies in Hosni Mubarak and his henchman Omar Suleiman. While they were still around, Gaza’s back door was locked. But the third reason had little to do with either of the above: Abu Mazen’s faith in Barack Obama finally snapped. For a man who dedicated his career to the creation of a Palestinian state through negotiation, the turning point came when the US vetoed a UN resolution condemning Israel’s settlement-building. In doing so, the US vetoed its own policy. To make the point, the resolution was drafted out of the actual words Hillary Clinton used to condemn construction. Fatah’s frustration with all this has now taken political form.
Israel’s politicians reacted darkly to the news of reconciliation. From right to left, they shared an assumption which is out of date. It is that they retain the ability – and the right – to dictate what sort of state Palestinians will build on their borders. Having spent years fashioning the environment, the penny has yet to drop that a future environment composed of free Egyptians, Jordanians and even possibly Syrians could well fashion Israel’s borders. Even after Mubarak fell, the consensus was that Cairo was so preoccupied with internal problems that it lacked the energy to make foreign policy.
Not so. Yesterday foreign minister Nabil al-Arabi announced that Egypt would shortly be lifting the siege of Gaza. These events pose a direct challenge to the status quo that Israel, the US and the EU have fashioned. Do they now subvert the will of the Egyptians they claim to champion? Does the US do what it did the last time Fatah and Hamas reconciled at Mecca, and pull the plug on the unity government? Do the Quartet threaten to withdraw the PA’s funds, because, as is very likely, Salam Fayyad will no longer be there to disburse them? The US could twist Fatah’s arm, but Fatah might just sign on the dotted line all the same.
Comments are still open. I wouldn’t say they’re free, but they are still open.
The perilous art of choosing a film on Palestine for an international audience may appear fraught with elephant traps. Weighted down by more than 40 years of military occupation and 60 years of dispossession, and comprising the largest refugee population in the world, Palestine is a touchstone for passion and political engagement across the world. Is a film about it inherently too political, too ideologically rigid to enlighten, or indeed entertain? Do the unhappy politics of the place trump any chance of critical engagement on a film’s artistic merit, or allow room for happy accident and serendipity in choosing a film?The long-running London Palestine film festival, established at London University more than 20 years ago and held annually at the Barbican since 2005, arrived at a highly unexpected and bold solution to this challenge. It somehow manages to transcend this traditional dilemma by holding fast to a few simple but radical aims: to constantly push boundaries, disrupt our conventional understandings, make us see it all anew, and open it up for us once more. With each screening, discussion, roundtable, photography exhibit, director’s conversation and artist’s event, the world of Palestine is seen yet again, as if for the first time.Under this mandate, a serious but ebullient festival has emerged. In order to keep shaking things up, a key premise was to universalise Palestine. Although we are in the midst of a wave of Palestinian film talent, they forgo the confines of a traditional “national cinema” series for an unmistakably internationalist one. This year’s festival showcases 30 works by artists working in 12 different countries, and across genres from video art to biopic, puts up work for UK premieres (16 this year), and shows cutting-edge documentaries such as Mahmoud al Massad’s mesmerising This Is My Picture When I Was Dead.It also regularly celebrates archive gems, this year showing the recently restored Far from Vietnam (1967), on which Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda, Claude Lelouch, Alain Resnais and Joris Ivens all worked. The result is a carnival of cinematic styles and concerns that transcend and unite the historical, the aesthetic, and the political in film, and that is why it works so well. Each film and event challenges – either obliquely or directly – our thinking around Palestine today.The festival also plays a major role as the platform for introducing Palestinian films and film-makers to UK audiences. Since its inception in 1998, more than 320 works have been shown, nearly half by Palestinians. The festival’s focus on Palestinian work unites established and emerging artists. This year’s festival opens with Zindeeq (pictured), a remarkable work of sublime beauty. Bold, dangerous and difficult, it is the latest work of pioneering Palestinian auteur Michel Khleifi. But it also contains a body of work from a new generation of film-makers such as May Odeh, Rima Essa and Abdallah al Ghoul.This year the programme highlights pressing contemporary issues, as well. Vibeke Løkkeberg’s astonishing Tears of Gaza offers a searing account of the human impact of the 2008-09 war in Gaza, while a triple-bill on 7 May focuses on the tunnels that furnish Gaza’s precarious lifeline. And this year includes the rare chance to see Heiny Srour’s 1984 feminist masterwork, Leila and the Wolves (co-presented with Birds Eye View film festival), as well as the UK premiere of Dahna Abourahme’s groundbreaking documentary on the women of Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp in south Lebanon, The Kingdom of Women. Breathtaking, uplifting, heartbreaking, inspiring: welcome to Palestine.The London Palestine film festival runs from 29 April to 11 May. Details:palestinefilm.org
Yoav Yitzhak reports (Hebrew) in News1 that despite a police appeal for dismissal of the gag order in the case of Yoav Even, Channel 2 TV news reporter accused of brutally raping a women at the end of February, the judge has extended it. Noteworthy in his decision, which balances the need for “respecting the good name of the suspect” against the public’s right to know, is the omission of the interests of the victim. Which of course leads one to the conclusion that she has none, at least in the eyes of the court and this judge.
The judge, Benny Sagi, also makes clear that he is troubled by the fact that the suspect may, somehow, not have understood clearly the wishes of the victim. This somehow works to Even’s favor and creates a need, in the judge’s mind, to protect the suspect’s identity:
The central claim of this case is rape. The damage likely to occur to the accused if such an accusation is published is of the gravest sort. In noting the strength [i.e. “weakness,” he just didn’t want to use the political incorrect word] of the evidence to which I related in my decision to free the suspect, I do not think such damage is warranted.
Yoav Even: what is it about a man and his armored personnel carrier that is so damned sexy?
In other words, this judge has implied he is so troubled by the issues raised by the defense (that the victim was allegedly “sexually aggressive,” liked “rough sex,” and had two drinks offered by the accused) that he thinks the defendant might not be convicted. For this reason, he continues to protect him.
And let it not be said that Sagi protects dashing journalists accused of rape alone. He also, and again against the will of the police, offered a senior Israeli attorney, accused of embezzling massive sums from businessmen, a similar gag order. In this case, the judge accepted the defense’s argument that publishing the lawyer’s name would break the very heart of his ailing 84 year-old mother. Let it not be said that Israeli justice shows any deference to the rich and well-connected.
I continue to be deeply disturbed by the underlying sexism expressed in both the judge’s language above, and the clamoring of an almost universally male Israeli audience for maintenance of the gag. I find it astonishing that the judge makes no reference whatsoever in his decision to the victim. It’s as if she doesn’t exist. If she doesn’t exist for the judge, imagine how much less so she might exist for the police, prosecutor who will have to bring the case to trial, or for the alleged rapist on the night of the attack.
Further, the judge appears to be judging, even before a decision on whether to try the case or not, what is the likelihood that Even can be convicted. And this seems to be the sole criteria he uses to extend the gag and protect him. Funny, now I thought judges were meant to hear all the evidence before determining guilt or innocence. I think basically, Sagi is telegraphing to the prosecution that he thinks they have a losing case. Would it be any wonder if the State drops the case? Though let’s hope it will not.
I also note the judge has confirmed that Hadas Shtaif’s claim that the case has been dropped is wrong. The judge made clear that the case is now with the prosecutor who will make the decision on whether to prosecute.
Alas, Even’s Facebook page is no more. But an enterprising Rotter member appropriated these images from it before the account expired. The caption for another image (not displayed here) of Even in cut offs drinking a brew with a tall comely blond wench by his side said:
At the birthday party for one of the finest blondes…
Photos do not convict anyone of a crime. But clearly the man thinks highly of himself, his body, his magnetic charm, and his way with the ladies.
- Court Proceedings in Rape Case Under Gag Revealed, Israeli Journalist Excoriates Timidity of Press in Combatting Secrecy Well-known Israeli journalist Yoav Yitzhak, writing at News1, attacks the…
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Calling the IDF practice of siccing K-9 attack dogs on undocumented Palestinian workers (Hebrew) a “terror policy,” the Israeli NGO B’Tselem is appealing against its use to the army senior command. It should be noted that the victims are not security suspects, but rather day laborers seeking to enter Israel to find work and who do not have the proper permits to do so (which are practically non-existent anyway). According to B’Tselem:
The incidents took place in the area of a-Ramadin, southwest of Hebron. Most of those injured attempted to enter Israel to work, and one, to receive medical treatment. Two of them were arrested by soldiers and remain in custody. In some of the cases, the laborers told B’Tselem that the dogs did not respond to their handlers’ order to stop, and the handlers had to use an electric-shock device to calm the dogs.
…M [a Palestinian victim] also stated that, while fighting with the dog, a soldier filmed the incident on his cell phone. Soldiers then stunned the dog with an electric-shock device. The dog stopped the attack and his mouth was covered with a muzzle
In one case, the injured worker filed a complaint with the police and was arrested on suspicion of entering Israel illegally…Y, who is 22 and lives in a village next to a-Dhahiriya, was with a group of Palestinians trying to sneak into Israel. He told B’Tselem that…a dog jumped on him and bit him from behind and on his left hand. He managed to push the dog away and get into the waiting car, and they entered Israel. Later that day, he returned to the West Bank and went to the government hospital in Hebron, where the doctors found he had a torn tendon in one of his fingers. Three days later, when he went to the police station in Hebron to complain about the attack, he was detained on suspicion of entering Israel, disturbing a public official in the course of carrying out his duty, and fleeing…
…Furthermore, in the cases documented by B’Tselem, the soldiers apparently released the dogs at groups of Palestinian laborers attempting to cross the fence, and the dogs bit laborers who did not manage to flee…
Apparently, the IDF also shoots Palestinians for doing nothing more than trying to feed their families. And then to cover up the crime they imprison them so the victim is out of reach of NGOs or journalists who might conceivably embarrass the army by exposing its egregious conduct:
On 25 April, K, a 45-year-old resident of al-Burej, Hebron District, tried to enter Israel illegally. During the attempt he apparently was wounded by gunfire and was bitten by a dog and was taken to Soroka Medical Center, in Beersheva. A few hours later, K was taken from the hospital and is now in the army’s prison at Ofer. Since he is incarcerated, B’Tselem presently [is] unable to obtain further details on the incident.
In its defense, the army claims the dogs only attack those attempting to damage the Wall and that they receive permission before unleashing the dogs. This is disproven by the fact that dogs have attacked Palestinians even before they cross the Separation Wall while still inside Palestinian territory. Also, it defies common sense that a Palestinian laborer seeking work in Israel would endanger his chances of crossing the barrier by damaging the Wall.
I’m reminded of the attitude of the beloved Prof. Amos Funkenstein, who passed away tragically some years ago, toward dogs. Since he was a child of survivors, he always disliked canines and used the derisive term hund to describe them. Do we not remember why Jews of that generation hated dogs? Because the Nazis used them in precisely the same way the IDF is using them on Palestinians. The only difference is that the Jews ended up gassed and the Palestinians ‘only’ end up maimed. At least they have their lives.
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Thanks to Rotem Cohen for creating a collage of gagged mouths which dramatizes the impact of Judge Benny Sagi’s continuing gag against reporting the rape charge brought against Israeli journalist Yoav Even. The judge in this case has sealed the media’s mouth, and sealed the ears and eyes of every Israeli who may not hear of this case and make judgments for him or herself about its importance for their lives.
While Israeli lower courts tend to side with powerful defendants in protecting their prerogatives and privilege, higher courts tend to look on such gags more skeptically. I hope and urge an Israeli journalist to appeal Sagi’s ruling.
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Ethan Bronner and other Zionist American reporters never coverage racism in Israel (perhaps because they subscribe to that racism)
Yehoshua starts by putting forward a phony question, “Why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict refuses to be resolved“? As if conflicts have mind and agency and can be blamed for not resolving themselves. (Mind you, if only that poor conflict could be subjected to two or three sleepless weeks in a Shabak dungeon, I am sure it would have cried uncle already. But the famous efficiency of Israel’s security services only works on flesh and blood subjects.)
With the question thus framed, all matters of (criminal, ideological, historical) responsibility can be summarily executed, and their place filled with metaphysical cant and Hasbara. First comes the Hasbara. “There is no precedent for a nation that lost its sovereignty 2,000 years ago, was scattered among the nations, and later decided for internal and external reasons to return to its ancient homeland and re-establish sovereignty there.” Indeed, there is no precedent because it never happened. No nation lost its sovereignty 2,000 years ago because the concept of a sovereign nation didn’t exist then. Second, it didn’t happen because it can’t happen. A nation is a metaphysical concept, not an entity capable of making decision. Herzl, Rupin, Weitzman, Ben Gurion, etc., were not the elected representatives of a trans-historical Jewish polity stretching back in time 2,000 years. They were a tiny organized minority of European Jews who developed a Jewish nationalist ideology drawn on contemporary Eastern European models, based on a reading of the Bible adapted from German Protestantism, and using a concept of the relation of European Jews and the Ancient Hebrews that was first articulated by a the German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder. Not that there is anything inherently bad about borrowing ideas from Herder, but he did not live 2,000 years ago.
In addition, the whole argument is a non-sequitur. The story of Zionism is indeed “unprecedented”, in the sense that all historical narratives are unique. No country except Australia was forged on the basis of a former penal colony, and no country except Haiti was the first ever state established by liberated African slaves. The unique way each country came to be is of course of great importance, but nothing follows from that uniqueness itself. It is important to distinguish between, on the one hand, the trivial sense in which every history is unique, and, on the other hand, the Zionist claim to uniqueness, which is a preemptive strike against the comparative method of historical inquiry, and therefore completely bogus.
Let’s continue with the Hasbara.
“The Jewish people…did not want to expel the Palestinians, and certainly not to destroy them.” Surprisingly, that is almost true. “The Jewish people”, having neither agency nor will, did not indeed “want to expel the Palestinians”. For that very reason, “the Jewish people” did not in fact expel the Palestinians (contrary to what Yehoshua’s sly negative construction implies). It was the militaristic Zionist cadres, the Histadrut, the JNF, the Hagana, the Palmach, etc., that indeed wanted, planned and executed the expulsion. It is very chivalrous of the High Priest of the Third Temple Yehoshua to assume responsibility for the Nakba on behalf of “the Jewish people.” It’s a priestly tradition.
“Moreover, there was no attempt here to impose a colonial regime, since the Jews had no mother country that had sent them on colonial conquests, as in the case of Britain or France.” The idea that Zionism isn’t colonial would have shocked Herzl, Rupin, Nordau, Jabotinsky, and practically all the Zionists who lived before the area of decolonization, when “colonialism” become a dirty word. The sophistry is breathtaking, not unlike that of the Israeli lawyers who argue with a straight face that the Geneva conventions do not apply to the OPT. For information, here is a classic definition of settler colonies from “key concepts in post-colonial studies”:
In settler colonies “the invading Europeans (or their descendants) annihilated, displaced and/or marginalized the indigenes to become a majority non-indigenous population”.
Nowhere is it part of the definition of colonialism that the settlers must be agents of their own metropolitan nation state. The formulation “sent them for colonial conquests” is a trap for the unwary. To take just one example, Britain didn’t send the Puritans to “colonial conquests” in North America. It persecuted them. This is typical. Settlers in all settler colonial formations were drawn from the marginal elements of their metropoleis. They were persecuted religious and ethnic minorities, destitute economic refugees, criminals and demi-monde, etc. The case of Zionism is unexceptional. The beauty of the argument that subtracts Israel from colonialism is that, not only it is willfully blind to the self-understanding of early Zionists, who clearly thought of themselves as colonizers, but it also reinvents what colonialism means to suit itself. What makes Zionism colonialist is the relation between European settlers, supported by Western powers, and Southern indigenous people. That Jews didn’t come to Palestine from a country called Judonia is irrelevant.
Thus far, I scooped the hors d’œuvre (and left enough hanging Hasbara fruits for others to pick). It is time to get to the pièce de resistance.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a question of territory, as in the case of many historical conflicts between nations, but a battle over the national identity of the entire homeland.
Now, the homeland in question, isn’t that presumably that land between the river and the sea? Namely, a territory? And isn’t the battle about the future of that land? About the right of people to live there and to determine that future? Yehoshua argues that a battle over the future of a territory, over the rights to be in that territory, is not “about territory.” Odd, but let’s try to decipher.
There are conflicts that are “about territory” but do not implicate the “national identity of the entire homeland”. Examples would be Alsace, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, etc. Of course, from the perspective of the people who live there, it is hard to argue that their identity and future is not deeply at stake. But who cares about people anyway? Yehoshua’s distinction only makes sense from a nationalist perspective that treats land as possession of the abstract nation, not as the lived world of flesh and blood people. Thus the fate of Gibraltar would be purely a “territorial” matter, a property dispute between “Spain” and the “UK” in which the national identity (of the diplomats, not of the residents) is not at stake. Yehoshua cannot apply that framework to Palestine. Perhaps because he really lives there. And as obtuse as he is, he cannot fail to see that the future of that place and the people who live there cannot be reduced to his beloved abstractions.
But he tries nevertheless, tying himself in knots. First, he blames the uniqueness of Jewish history. But surely, the struggle in South Africa, In Northern Ireland, in Algeria, were just as much “not a question of territory” according to this distinction, at least not from the perspective of those in the thick of it. There must be something else.
For both sides, and mainly for the Palestinians, the size of the nation confronting them is not clear – whether it consists only of Israeli Jews or the entire Jewish diaspora. And the Israelis don’t know whether they are confronting only the Palestinian people or the entire Arab nation. In other words, the demographic boundaries of the two sides are not clear either. This is therefore a fundamental conflict that constantly creates primal and profound mistrust between the two peoples, preventing a possible solution.
One could point out that there is hardly any party to a conflict that knows exactly the size of what confronts it. What confronts the democratic revolt in Bahrain? The royal family of Bahrain? Sunnis? Saudi Arabia? The GCC? Arab reactionary governments? The US? The world? But lets stay on topic. That Palestinian nationalism has a relationship with Arab nationalism (and also with other identities, for example Islam), and that Israeli national identity is bound with Jewish identity (as well as other identities, for example, Europe), these are trivial observations about both Jews and Palestinians. Identity is fuzzy and relational, with multiple, fluid, opposing components operating at different levels, changing over time and in response to circumstances. First year psychology students get that. What Yehoshua makes of these elementary facts which he imagines world shattering discoveries makes little sense. First, if Israeli Jews are part of the Jewish nation and Palestinians part of an Arab nation, then, according to Yehoshua’s own logic of nationalistic abstractions, this should have made the future of Palestine a mere “territorial conflict”, with Arabs and Jews fighting over Palestine the way Argentinians and Brits fought overs Las Malvinas. It should have simplified things, not complicated them. Isn’t it a staple of Zionist cant that Arabs have already 22 (or 23, or 24) states to choose from? It doesn’t work like that because the basic logic is nonsense.
Then there is the issue of “mistrust.” This term belongs to the language of the “peace process,” of which Yehoshua is a doyen. It lurks there together with “dialogue,” “confidence building measures,” “mutual understanding” and other such cant designed to create the illusion that the conflict is not a matter of power and dispossession, but a giant misunderstanding. According to Yehoshua, then, the conflict persists because Palestinians and Israelis do not trust each other. They do not trust each other because they cannot be sure of each other identity. And they cannot be sure of each other identity because they are not clear about the boundaries of their own identity.
Let’s note that the premise is pure cant. Palestinians have about one thousand reasons to mistrust Israelis apart from the fact that Israeli Jews and diaspora Jews have bonded over Zionism in recent decades. The history of violence, dispossession, deception and bad faith, for example? The elementary political truth that “trust me” is not a solution to powerlessness? On the Israeli side, the main reason Israeli Jews mistrust Palestinians is that they have lived three generations on a diet of an orientalist discourse that portrays Arabs as inherently untrustworthy and violent. I trust that Yehoshua knows that, as he himself made some contributions to that discourse.
But facts aside, one has to grasp the real thrust of this exposition. The next sentence of the essay discloses the goal post:
Is it still possible to resolve the conflict without ending up in the trap of a binational state?
The solution to the conflict, according to Yehoshua, is in the clear demarcation of identities. What does that mean, for Yehoshua, the supporter of withdrawal from the OPT, Jewish secularism, the apartheid wall, and the unrestrained use of military hardware against Palestinians? This is what I understand. If only Palestinians were clear about who they were, if they gave up their complex identities, memories, family ties, and saw themselves as members of an abstract Palestinian nation confined in a clear territory, say, the West Bank and Gaza, minus Ma’ale Edumim. If only Israeli Jews figured out that they alone were the true Jews, that being Jewish is not a question of tradition or religion but merely about holding sovereign power over a well defined Jewish territory, (like a “normal” nation) and therefore cut their umbilical cord to the various diasporas, stopped listening to Arab music, and stopped taking American Jewish political advice… Then everything would be simple. Then both Jews and Palestinians would become “normal” nations. A wall built roughly over the 1967 border, Palestinians over there, Jews over here. Done! Then Israel could be the dream of white European separatist racism that has always inspired Yehoshua, the dream of secular Zionism. And Palestine? Palestine would be that same dream, only upside down.
A coda, and a return to the title. I probably wouldn’t have noticed Yehoshua’s fart if it weren’t for Gilad Atzmon noticing it, and I wouldn’t have noticed the latter if it weren’t quoted by Philip Weiss on Mondoweiss.
Atzmon is moved by the “interesting insight” that “It is also far from being clear where the Israeli ends and the Jew starts.” Describing something that has been discussed ad nauseam for the last 60 years in every Jewish Israeli high school, summer camp and youth movement gathering as an “insight” is special. Atzmon, who, tragically enough, cannot let go of his IDF uniform, compliments Yehoshua for being “a proud Israeli Jew,” one assumes as opposed to those spineless diaspora “progressive Jews” who offend Atzmon so much. It is as shocking as drought in the Mojave Desert that two who share the same secular Zionist assumptions, the same dislike of the radical left, the same belief in the trans-historical agency of abstractions, and the same colonial/racial/sexual anxieties about the impure and the unformed diaspora Judaism, would find each other insightful. Possibly the only thing to say about sentences like “In the contemporary Jewish world there are no clear dichotomies. We are dealing with a spineless elastic metamorphic identity that shapes itself to fit every possible circumstances,” (aside from the sheer falseness), is that by the standards set by these two authors it isn’t particularly odorous.
As to why Philip Weiss finds that deep, one should ask him. Weiss confesses that he “generally avoids” Atzmon. But why does he avoid Atzmon? Is there some political consciousness there that is struggling to take shape. Or is it just fear of what those over-sensitive “progressive Jews” might say? I am not sure Weiss himself can tell, but time will tell.