INDEX (stories follow)
ZIONISM = RACISM
from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by firstname.lastname@example.org (Democracy Now!)
- U.S. Forces Kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan
- Eleven People Killed as Taliban Announces Spring Offensive in Afghanistan
- Libya: Son of Gaddafi Killed in NATO Strike, Preschool for Down Syndrome Children Bombed
- Scores Killed in Syrian Security Crackdown, Hundreds Arrested in House Raids
- Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh Refuses to Sign Resignation Deal
- Israel Withholds $90 Million in Tax Revenue Owed to Palestinian Authority
- Left-Leaning Party Threatens Conservative Power in Canadian Election
- U.S. Tornado Death Toll Tops 350
- Thousands Call for Immigrant and Labor Rights in Nationwide May Day Protests
- Egypt Celebrates International Workers’ Day for First Time Since 1952
- San Francisco Newspaper Accuses Obama Administration of Intimidation
- Militant Cuban Exile Orlando Bosch Dies at 84
Here is Saree Makdisi on Democracy Now!
And because I do think this is generally a good thing, here’s Queen Latifah with the title cut.
Moti Fogel, whose older brother Udi was murdered in Itamar with his wife and children a few weeks ago, plans to speak at an alternative commemoration of Israel’s Yom Ha-Zikaron alongside a bereaved Palestinian woman, Siyam Abu Awad. Abu Awad’s brother, Yousef, was killed by IDF fire in 2000 in a village near Hebron.
The event is sponsored by the Israeli NGO Combatants for Peace, whose members are veterans who’ve fought on both sides of the conflict. They will be joined in the ceremony by Israeli and Palestinian families who’ve lost loved ones to the fighting, along with artists from both sides. Fogel hopes that he can move forward the goals of dialogue, reconciliation and non-violence for both Israelis and those living under the PA.
Combatants for Peace leader Asher Wishnitzer says that the purpose of its commemoration is to transform the suffering and loss experienced by those living with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that we can struggle with it together. Usually the bereavement builds walls, close off and distance people from one another. But we want to deal with this together. War is not something fated, but rather a human choice.
Abu Awad denounced the killings in Itamar and called them a “crime.” She called for non-violence in pursuing the claims on both sides, and added that while the IDF soldier who killed her brother is not welcome in her home, she would invite him to meet her brother’s orphaned children and the rest of his family to determine whether the shots that killed him were appropriate or not.
I’m overcome by emotion and gratitude that Moti Fogel is able to overcome his grief and reach out in such a constructive way to both Israelis and Palestinians alike. It cannot be an easy thing he is doing.
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I’m copying it out as it appears on page 10 of the 2 May 2011 edition because the letters aren’t available on line:
Nonviolence among Palestinians is not new.The recently released book Popular Resistancein Palestine, by Mazin Qumsiyeh, documentsover 100 years of everyday acts of resis-tance, with suicide bombings and rocketattacks as the exception. The world needsto hear more about these courageous acts.Peggy Vander Meulen,GRAND RAPIDS, MICH, US.
The book is available from Pluto Press.
Israeli TV Exposes Suppressed Video of Botched Prison Inspection, Which Resulted in Death and Maiming
**for the English subtitles, watch the video on Youtube and click on the Closed Caption icon located to the right of the Flag icon.
The Only Democracy in the Middle East™ has yet another event (Hebrew) for which it should be proud tonight. Channel 2 news has exposed a shattering video recorded by Israeli Prison Service personnel of a 2007 riot in Ketziot Prison, which its own staff initiated during a surprise inspection. The operation, which the prison warden admits was done primarily to “raise morale of prison staff,” so frightened the sleeping prisoners–who must’ve thought from the sounds of weapons being fired that they were under attack–that they rioted, igniting fires in their prison units.
At that point, the operation went from being one confined to inspecting a single unit for contraband, to suppressing a major riot in the entire facility. At a key juncture, soldiers are seen outside a row of tents in which prisoners have confined themselves and refused to exit. As a soldier attempts to negotiate in Arabic with a leader of the prisoners, another soldier shoots wilding and blindly directly into the tents housing the prisoners. When the prisoner negotiator returns to speak with his fellow inmates about surrendering, he too is shot and wounded.
Finally, a soldier shoots another round into a tent and wounds a prisoner with a head shot. A soldier is seen commanding the man, clearly incapacitated and under a blanket, to arise and walk. We learn that this prisoner, Mohammed Ashkar, severely wounded, was transferred unconscious to a hospital where he was handcuffed to his bed and died, still manacled to his bedpost. He had not participated in any way in the rioting of the other prisoners. He had been in prison on a several month sentence, which he would’ve completed within a few days. An pointless, unnecessary death.
To this day, no one knows what type of ammunition was used that caused the death and other wounds. Former prisoners show the scars from these wounds on their back to the camera. Even the warden of the prison says he’s “not allowed to know” what weapons caused them.
No one faced any disciplinary action for this botched operation. The prison warden at the time is still warden at Ketziot. A commander in the prison service, questioned by an interviewer, rates the operation a “10,” saying:
Though the operation ended in tragedy, there was no intent that this should be the result. And now such night searches are a routine tool to maintain prison security.
When the interviewer asks whether it is worthwhile initiating such a operation solely to boost morale, the commander again answers evasively:
A prison warden needs to understand that his job is important, that he protects the homeland in the way he performs his role. Any attempt to show conciliation to the other side is received by them as an opportunity to achieve more of their own goals.
The most chilling dialogue occurs at the end of the report as soldiers are filming the prison on fire with shrieks of prisoners echoing in the background along with explosions or shots fired. The videographer and another soldier have the following “colloquy:”
Isn’t this lovely! Film it, film it [soldier laughs loudly]. It’s a real model home believe me.
Yes, yes, you’re right.
Come closer. Let’s get a better shot of the fire so people will see what happened here.
[Another soldier begins singing a song commenting ironically on the riot] “They say they had a good time here before I was born.”
The narrator interjects his own ironic comment at this point, noting that the goal of the operation was achieved in elevating the morale of the staff, as the following dialogue confirms:
A good time, eh? Today is a good day.
This is what I wanted.
Sure, bro. It’s great!
The news report documents that Yaara Kalmanovich of the Public Committee Against Torture was the first to become involved in this case. She discovered that an unconscious dying prisoner had been handcuffed to his bed, which is a clear violation of the man’s civil liberties even as a security prisoner. Smadar Ben Natan (Dirar Abusisi’s former lawyer) became involved when she worked with Ashkar’s family to investigate the cause of his death. She helped mount a court challenge demanding release of the document. No less than the ominously named Minister for Internal Security himself, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, forbade the release of the material on grounds that it endangered the security of the state. The Israeli censor believed just the opposite and never made such a finding. The Beersheva regional court agreed with the minister and frustrated every attempt by the TV channel to release the materials.
It then turned to the Supreme Court and after a time the State prosecutor told the station that the minister had decided to remove the seal on the document and release it to the media. However, Ben Natan’s private case brought on behalf of the victim’s family to release the entire film (not just the excerpts aired) to them is still pending. It seems likely that the State will agree to release to the family only those portions already aired on TV, which in effect means that the victim and his family have rights that are only derived from the Israeli media and have no independent rights of their own as human beings.
The video footage, however, is a powerful piece of evidence for a civil suit by the family against the government. One hopes that they will at least bring a financial reckoning to the State even if there is no moral one.
In case one ever needs proof about why its vital to have an NGO community inside a country to monitor and expose violations of human rights and democratic values, this provides yet another example. It also offers proof of why the Israeli far-right hates people like Kalmanovich and Ben Natan and would just as soon expel them from the country as traitors if they could.
In its review, Haaretz wrote about this report:
Prisons are the repressed subconscious of society. We don’t want to know what happens there and from our perspective–let ‘em burn. Even moreso the security prisoners who those same citizens of the state would be just as happy if they could be fed to mad dogs, or lacking that–to a special unit of the Israeli prison service…
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Rotem Cohen and Lian Ram have created a powerful short documentary film addressed to Judge Benny Sagi, who granted a gag order protecting the identity of accused rapist, Yoav Even, being disclosed in the Israeli media. Yulie Cohen wrote this powerful note to the judge in her own blog:
I turn to you in this personal way because it seems that lately you’ve taken up a case which features a charge of rape. Due to the gag order, very little is known to me. But I have a growing fear that the file might be closed by you without the public having any idea why. I would like to trust that you do fulfill your responsibilities faithfully toward men and women alike. But I’d like to remind you that most of the women who suffer sexual violence do not report it because they know that the likelihood that justice will see the light of day is low.
Please, your honor, in your decisions, call upon the women of Israel to continue to file such complaints and not to fear that a man does not see their pain.
Thanking you in advance,
Yulie (a woman and mother of two young girls)
My friend, Dena Shunra has translated the Hebrew captions for the documentary. If Yulie or someone can add these captions to the video itself it would make a very powerful statement for English-speaking viewers:
1979: CEDAW – Israel ratifies the Convention for the Eradication of Discrimination Against Women, in any form
1999-2005 Approximately 54,630 calls were made to the help hotlines relating to sex crimes
Only 33,871 sex crime cases were opened by the police during those years
Only about 22% of those who contact the help hotlines go on to file a complaint with the police.
Which indicates a number of attacks which is double that reflected in police data
1996-2005: 46,790 sex crimes cases were opened by the police.
Of these, only 6,986 ended up with a conviction.
This means that only about 15% of the cases opened end up with convictions
The Israeli justice system convicts about 98% of cases prosecuted
Thus, nearly 85% of sex crime cases do not come to trial
Of every ten women hurt – two get to bring their case before a judge
[Chart] Rape cases in Israel, 1999-2005
Convictions, police complaints, contacts with help hotlines
At this time, our lips our sealed in solidarity
With those who cannot shout out the reckless strategy taken by the State with their own cases
Find us on FaceBook and join us in a silence that speaks volumes.
Mitpakdot: We Stand Up and Are Counted
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A new expose of Israeli police brutality and torture exploded yesterday with reports that a member of a special Border Police unit, Shani Sivilia, had been accused of torturing a Palestinian boy in March 2010, by cocking and pretending to fire her pistol into his head at close range, all in response the ‘deadly’ act of his possessing three firecrackers. While the charges brought against her were shocking enough, even worse was the discovery by Israeli journalist, Ido Kenan, of her Facebook page, which is replete with the feverish product of what Ido cinematically calls “Dangerous Mind.” Kenan has published a version of this in Yediot.
Yesterday, I wrote about the specific charges brought against her by the police special affairs unit. Today, we’ll examine the contents of her formerly publicly accessible Facebook page (now private). There are a number of interesting themes running through this material which it’s worth paying close attention to. First, Sivilia is a Mizrahit. As such, she clearly feels a profound need to separate herself from the Palestinians who, if she saw her own image in the mirror, she would resemble. But there is a desperate need among some Israeli Jews of Arab origin to say: “We’re not like them. We’re better than them.” This is phenomenon, of course, not restricted to Israel. This happens in all societies in which there are waves of immigration and the penultimate ethnic newcomer seeks to distinguish itself from the most recent wave, which is at the very bottom of the social status pyramid.
Sivilia clearly hates Arabs and leftists. But she reserves her greatest scorn and most intense anger for the phenomenon of Jewish women dating Arab men. The language she reserves for such women is the harshest of all you’ll see in her Facebook profile. In this, she is embracing the campaign of far-right nationalist rabbis against racial mingling between Jews and Arabs including the field of sexual relations, commerce (no employment of Arab men by Jewish businesses), and housing (no renting to Arabs).
It doesn’t seem that Sivilia herself is religious (after all, one of her Facebook “likes” is The Land of Milk, Alcohol, Honey and Drugs”). But her own prejudices overlap quite comfortably with those of the nationalist religious right and therefore it’s comfortable for her to take up religious imagery and phrasing in her comments. As a Mizrahit, she considers herself not religious, but “traditional.” In other words, someone for whom religion is comfortable without it turning into full-fledge Haredi-style religious observance.
In September 2010, she writes in Facebook:
Happy [Yom] Kippur to all. Surely, all the kids are going to the main drag (or “downtown”) to throw stones at Arabs.
In November 2010, Sevilia is released from her army service (which she appears to have served in the Border Police if I’m correct). This commendation to her from a friend sounds much more ominous in light of the accusations levelled against her:
At this wonderful time, the citizens and State of Israel thank you for your service and the sense of security you provided us.
In December 2010, the accused torturer writes on her Facebook page:
Fuck the world, another incident in which two Arabs stabbed [Jewish] girls, right by my house! Fuck your mothers you sons of whores!! Sons of whores…them and anyone who likes them. May God repay them.
When a Facebook Friend writes:
Any [Jewish] girl who goes out with Arabs should die.
Sivilia replies (and again keep in mind the acts of torture she’s being charged with):
You just now figured this out?? They should flay the skin from their bodies and cast them in the Dead [Salt] Sea.
In January 2011, the accused transfers to a private (civilian) company used by the Israeli State to provide security in the Territories. Here she will continue with the same duties she performed while in the Border Police. She completes a special course, is equipped with a weapon and writes the following:
Completed the special course. Now back to the Territories with a vengeance!
In February 2011, Sivilia is still consumed with matters of love and death between Jewish girls and Arab men. She recommends that a documentary created by an Israeli group which warns that the Arabs are using sex as a weapon to overwhelm Israel’s Jewish population. She declares the video should be distributed as widely as possible through social networking sites:
Every daughter of a whore who goes out with Arab men, they should torture her body!
I have no more curses left in me. The most important thing is that they [Jewish women] should suffer before they kill them.
On February 27th, the security contractor writes of her pride in being called a “Nazi” while doing checkpoint duty:
Yesterday, someone called me a ‘Nazi.’ From my point of view, ‘good job!’
On April 27th, she curses the Sheikh Jarrah activists because they disrespected her:
God take [kill] these leftists.
When a friend responds that even God doesn’t want them. Sivilia says well, “He promised me that he would consider it.”
In his article, Ido Kenan notes that the investigation against her had no bearing on the security work she performed. Just a day before charges were filed against her she was about to take an IDF fitness test, which she presumably needed to pass in order to perform her duties. Just a week before charges were filed she’s still doing duty at checkpoints.
She notes that the company she works for is called Civilian Intelligence (Modiin Ezrahi), one of several Blackwater-like Israeli companies with whom the Israeli government contracts to provide security in the Territories. This is part of the increasing privatization of the Occupation, which allows Israelis to see it as less a formal function of the State and its military, and instead as a more normal, day-to-day civilian process.
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Humpf, Eden Abergil thought she was tough. Fuhgedaboudit. She’s got nothin’ on Shani Sivilia, the new queen of IDF torturers. Eden is a Girl Scout by comparison. Seems Shani’s been charged not just with pretending to abuse Palestinians as Abergil did in her Facebook photos, but the real thing. She put a gun to a Palestinian boy’s head and pulled the trigger, all the while screaming he was an “Arab whore.” Now that’s what I call torture!
And of course, Sivilia isn’t in the IDF as Abergil was, she’s a member of the truly brutal police unit known for dehumanizing Palestinians on a massive scale, the Border Police. IDF soldiers are pikers by comparison.
Let’s let Ynet tell the story:
…In March 2010, [a Palestinian] minor was detained at the Rockefeller checkpoint near Jerusalem. A search revealed that he was carrying three firecrackers. After the search, police claim that Ben Ozeri [another Border Policeman] grabbed the minor’s shirt, took him behind a nearby parked bus, beat him in the jaw and kicked him in the knee.
The indictment further suggests that the victim was then handcuffed and turned over to Sivilya and another officer named Zion Benishti. The two put the minor into a squad car and during the drive to the police station Sivilya tightened his cuffs and pulled them down in order to hurt the teen.
When they reached the station, Sivilya and Benishti took the elevator with the minor where Sivilya covered his head with the coat he was wearing.
When they got out of the elevator, Sivilya kicked the teen on his behind and threatened him, saying: “Ten more minutes and you’re dead”…The two officers led the Palestinian to an empty room at the station where they lowered him to his knees with his hands still tied behind his back and his head covered.
At this point, Sivilya took out her personal weapon, cocked it, and pointed the unloaded weapon to the victim’s neck, while she counted down from 10 to one. The teen is then alleged to have screamed “no, no” after which, when she finished her countdown Sivilya pulled the trigger while yelling “Death to Arabs” and “All Arabs are whores”. During the incident Benishti urged Sivilya to stop, but she refused.
Later Sivilya took the coat off the Palestinian’s head, took one of the firecrackers found on his person and put it back in his pocket and covered his head again. She then used a lighter to make noises and scare him into thinking she was going to light the firecracker in his pocket.
Sivilya allegedly hit the victim and slapped him on the head. As a result, the teen suffered a split lip, bruises on his hands and pain in his leg. The Police Internal Investigations Department claims that Sivilya’s actions were motivated by racism.
Wandering through Sivilya’s Facebook page reveals these salient facts about her tastes and prejudices:
Activities and Fields of Interest
Hat tip to Ido Kenan who brought this story to my attention.
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Yesterday in Manhattan and LA, protests were held at the Museum of Tolerance in each city. The occasion was an event to honor the Freedom Riders, brave civil rights activists who put their bodies on the line in the 1960′s in the struggle for equality for African-Americans in the U.S.
The Museum of Tolerance has taken a position against the Park 51 mosque near Ground Zero, has helped foment Islamophobia in the U.S., and is building its museum–for tolerance!– on the site of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem. While the Museum is celebrating the work of those fighting for civil rights decades ago, why does it not speak out for the equal rights of Muslim Americans today?
This is the question asked at today’s protests, sponsored by Jews Against Islamophobia in New York (whose members include JVP-NY, Jews Say No!, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and American Jews for a Just Peace) and JVP-LA and Code Pink in LA.
Dinu Ahmed, of Women Against Islamophobia and Racism, was one of the featured speakers at the rally in New York. We thought her beautiful, powerful speech was worth reprinting in its entirety:
April 6, 2011
Press Conference in front of the Museum of Tolerance
Thank you so much for having me here and thanks to all of you for coming out in solidarity with members of the Muslim community. Today, the Museum of Tolerance honors the courageous Freedom Riders who put their beliefs about dignity and civil rights into practice. It is an incredible history of honorable people who stood up for a community under attack that the Museum of Tolerance pays tribute to today, a history that has profoundly affected the lives of Americans across the United States.
If I may, I’d like to share a story with you now. While briefly working as a community organizer up in Harlem, I co-facilitated a workshop on Islamophobia. Many of our members at this workshop had experienced race-based discrimination in the 1960s. We were talking about hate crimes and arson attacks on mosques taking place in the present day, when an older African-American who was not Muslim spoke up. Her voice was trembling and she had tears in her eyes, as she said, “I thought this period was over. I can’t believe people are still dealing with the struggles we dealt with and thought were behind us.” We saw in each other, in the intimacy of that moment – that the roots of injustice against people because of the identities they carry in this world are really just the same.
The thing about a civil rights movement is, it is a struggle that must continually be engaged in. The communities that encounter aggressive scrutiny and discrimination may change, but the struggle remains the same.
Today, the Museum of Tolerance is setting up a videoconference so that high school youth can engage with Freedom Riders. As a youth worker, I wonder if the Museum of Tolerance has considered the impact of their stance against the right of Muslims to worship in Lower Manhattan upon young Muslims in America. After worshipping at Park 51 some months ago with my 14-year old sister and her friend, a man hurled obscenities at us and told us to leave this country and go home.
Sadly, this is an occurrence that is happening to young Muslim Americans everywhere. They are being told that they are not wanted, that there are neighborhoods in this city that are off-limits, and the Museum of Tolerance, in their public stance against our right to worship in Lower Manhattan, holds responsibility in furthering such xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. It has to be understood that the hate discourse around this one center has created a ripple effect around the city and the whole country, leading to zoning challenges around mosques in over a dozen states, hate speech and violence. The Museum of Tolerance has played a role in this by condemning the Muslim community. Their hate is playing out not only in New York, not only in the U.S., but across the world in Jerusalem, as they plan to build a site upon the remains of Muslims. The question remains – why does the Museum of Tolerance want to erase our presence, our heritage, our institutions here in New York and Jerusalem?
In closing, I have to say that it dishonors the meaning of what those before us have contributed to the civil rights movement if we cannot relate their fight to the civil rights movement of today. History is not like a dusty album we lay up on our shelves and appreciate once in a blue moon. The struggles of yesterday bleed into the struggles of today, and it is our responsibility to be ever conscious of the patterns of oppression, and stand on the right side of the fight for dignity and civil rights for all, here and now. Thank you.
When, at the start of this year, Palestinians around the world marked the anniversary of the 2008-09 Israeli war on Gaza, few could see any hope. The Gaza Strip was still under siege, Palestinian reconciliation seemed out of reach, the Arabs were useless and the US unable, or unwilling, to broker a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestine National Authority (PNA).Then came the Arab popular revolutions, and the mood among Palestinians switched from desperation to euphoria. Soon after the fall ofHosni Mubarak I visited my old friend, the Hamas leader Khalid Mish’al, in Damascus. He told me he was sure the change in Egypt, which he expected would be followed by similar changes in other Arab countries, meant that it would not be too long before Palestine was free.My friends in Gaza would tell me the same thing, and so would my relatives in Hebron and the diaspora. They all believed that the Mubarak regime was an impediment to the Palestinian struggle for freedom; once the Egyptian people were free, a genuine democracy in Egypt would support the Palestinians.At the very least, in the short term, Palestinians believed that post-Mubarak Egypt would not take part in the siege of Gaza, which would all but collapse if Egypt were to open the Rafah crossing between Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Indeed, last Friday Egyptian foreign minister Nabil al-Arabi told al-Jazeera that, within seven to 10 days, steps will be taken to alleviate the “blockade and suffering of the Palestinian nation”.Palestinians monitored the Israeli reaction to the collapse of the Mubarak regime. It did not surprise them to see Israel immensely worried. Mubarak was an ally who contributed to Israel’s security in a very hostile Middle East. The neutralisation of Egypt, and the minimisation of its role in the Palestinian cause since President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1978, constituted Zionism’s greatest success since Israel was created 30 years earlier. Rather than spearhead the struggle to liberate Palestine, Mubarak’s Egypt led the so-called Arab moderate camp, an alliance of pro-Israel and pro-US Arab states that included Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, the PNA and the United Arab Emirates.Palestinians began to imagine what would happen if a popular revolution in Jordan were to bring about a similar change; then one in Saudi Arabia; and perhaps Morocco. Israel would have lost its most important allies in the region and the PNA would be isolated, having been fatally wounded by revelations in al-Jazeera and the Guardian about the concessions its negotiating teams offered in secret to the Israelis.But although the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions did inspire Arabs to demand political reform or regime change, it was not Jordan, Morocco or Saudi Arabia that saw this the most. There were a few demonstrations, but demands were generally for political reform rather than a change of regime. Instead it was Yemen, Libya and Syria that witnessed the more dramatic protests, which soon escalated into armed struggle in Libya and calls for regime change in Yemen and Syria.When I saw Khalid Mish’al in February, he did not expect a popular uprising in Syria. He believed the regime was less vulnerable because of its support for resistance in Lebanon and Palestine, as well as its anti-imperialist stance. But solidarity with the Palestinian or Lebanese resistance was not enough to protect any autocratic regime. This worried some Palestinians, and they rushed to express support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime; but Hamas remained silent, to the regime’s displeasure.While the euphoria created by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions has been dampened by the Libyan experience, seen by many in the Arab region as a revolution gone drastically wrong as a result of armament and western intervention, most Palestinians still believe a new era is coming. The more Arab dictatorships that are replaced by genuine democracies, the closer Palestine will be to liberation. Democracies representing the will of the Arab peoples can only be anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian.One immediate fruit of Mubarak’s removal and the uprising in Syria has been the revival of Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Responding to grassroots pressure, both Hamas and Fatah met in Cairo and decided to work for the formation of a unity government and the resolution of disputes over security and elections. Fatah is anxious that it may lose favour with Egypt, while Hamas is anxious it may soon lose Syria as a safe haven. Unsurprisingly, Israel threatened to take action against the PNA if Fatah went through with the deal with Hamas.For many years Israel claimed to be the only democracy in the region. And yet Israeli politicians appealed to the US to intervene in Egypt to prevent Mubarak’s fall, and campaigned for him to remain in power. Israel clearly believes it can count on Arab dictators who are more interested in power and personal wealth than in serving their nations, let alone serving the Palestinian cause.Despite its claims of superiority, Israel appears to suffer from the same symptoms that plague Arab dictators; the failure to learn that they need to change before it is too late. It’s been too late for Mubarak, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Assad, Muammar Gaddafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh. Israel has oppressed the Palestinians for so long, and has incurred the wrath of the Arab masses whose revolutions are bringing hope to Palestinians.Whichever way one looks at it, the Arab revolutions are the best news the Palestinians have had for decades.
Comments are still open.
A fascinating discussion of the Arab reaction to the holocaust between Gilbert Achcar and Tom Segev, hosted at the Jewish Book Week. Achcar is at his best. Tom Segev however disappoints. He is an extremely generous writer, but every time I hear him talk I am disappointed. The Zionist defensiveness that he holds back when he writes returns in his on stage persona. You can hear him looking for imaginary opportunities to challenge Achcar for being “soft” on antisemitism. Worse is his recycling of Zionist historical disinformation, like the disturbing claim that Nasser wasn’t ready to make peace with Israel. It is unimaginable that he doesn’t know the truth. Achcar was very considerate in holding back on the history of the alliance between Zionism and the most pro-Nazi and reactionary Arab figures. I prefer more confrontation.
One point that Achcar makes that was never mentioned in the video is that the emblematic status of War World II as the supreme “good war” and the holocaust as the ultimate evil is a uniquely Northern perspective. It is not widely shared in the South and for goods reasons, as so many other atrocities compete on the imagination. That is something Jews need to hear from scholars like Achcar. Because by acknowledging Christian Europeans for their acknowledgment of the holocaust, Jews pay for their social mobility with a subtle form of holocaust denial themselves, the denial that the holocaust was not an isolated event, but the culmination of a history of European racism that is still far from over, even when Jews are no longer its victims.
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Last Tuesday, this site offered a personalized, signed copy of the new paperback of Andrew Bacevich’s bestselling book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War to any reader willing to contribute $75 (funds that help keep this website afloat). Many thanks to those of you who generously sent in donations! For those of you who meant to but haven’t yet, just click here to go to our donation page and find out more. Should anyone want a personalized, signed copy of my book, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s, it’s also available. Tom]
Recent uprisings and rumblings across North Africa and the Middle East from Tunisia and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Yemen have shone a bright, unflattering light on long-time U.S. allies in the region — despotic kleptocrats whom we supported sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars, or in some cases multi-billions of dollars, for decades. After an era of relative silence, the media has finally begun paying a modicum of attention to the company the U.S. has kept in that part of the world. Through it all, however, one Middle Eastern ally has flown under the radar, despite the fact that, for years, it was often deemed the only country in the region really worth covering.
I’m speaking, of course, of Israel which, in this months-long burst of headline coverage, has much of the time shrunk from the Middle East’s giant to near invisibility, which is perhaps a kind of relief. Israel is, after all, a small (if powerful) nation in a far larger world. Despite that, like the other Middle Eastern lands that have been our semi-clients, Israel deserves to have a bright light shone on it, too. While we disabuse ourselves of various Middle Eastern myths, including myths about thenature of Islam, it might be time to do a little disabusing when it comes to the encrusted mythology about Israel in this country — and the place to start, as TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus suggests, might be with the myth of Israeli insecurity.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Washington in late May at the invitation of House Majority Leader John Boehner to give a “peace speech,”Americans viewed him and his version of “peace” with something closer to the skepticism they would now bring to anything said by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Chernus discusses what to make of American attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom
Three Myths of Israel’s Insecurity
And Why They Must Be Debunked
By Ira Chernus
Here are the Three Sacred Commandments for Americans who shape the public conversation on Israel:
1. For politicians, especially at the federal level: As soon as you say the word “Israel,” you must also say the word “security” and promise that the United States will always, always, always be committed to Israel’s security. If you occasionally label an action by the Israeli government “unhelpful,” you must immediately reaffirm the eternal U.S. commitment to Israel’s security.
2. For TV talking heads and op-ed pundits: If you criticize any policies or actions of the Israeli government, you must immediately add that Israel does, of course, have very real and serious security needs that have to be addressed.
3. For journalists covering the Israel-Palestine conflict for major American news outlets: You must live in Jewish Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv and take only occasional day trips into the Occupied Territories. So your reporting must inevitably be slanted toward the perspective of the Jews you live among. And you must indicate in every report that Jewish Israeli life is dominated by anxiety about security.
U.S. opinion-shapers have obeyed the Three Commandments scrupulously for decades. As a result, they’ve created an indelible image of Israel as a deeply insecure nation. That image is a major, if often overlooked, factor that has shaped and continues to shape Washington’s policies in the Middle East and especially the longstanding American tilt toward Israel.
It’s often said that the number one factor in that tilt is the power of the right-wing “pro-Israel” (more accurately, “pro-Israeli-government”) lobby. That lobby certainly is a skillful, well-oiled machine. It uses every trick in the PR book to promote the myth of Israel as a brave little nation constantly forced to fight for its life against enemies all around who are eager to destroy it, a Jewish David withstanding the Arab Goliath. The lobby justifies everything Israel does to the Palestinians — military occupation, economic strangulation, expanding settlements, confiscating land, demolishing homes, imprisoning children — as perhaps unfortunate but absolutely necessary for Israel’s self-defense.
No matter how slick any lobby is, however, it can’t succeed without a substantial level of public support. (How powerful would the National Rifle Association be without the millions of Americans who truly love their guns?) Along with its other sources of power and influence, the right-wing Israel lobby needs a large majority of the U.S. public to believe in the myth of Israel’s insecurity as the God’s honest truth.
Ironically, that myth gets plenty of criticism and questioning in the Israeli press from writers like (to cite just some recent examples) Merav Michaeli and Doron Rosenblum in the liberal newspaper Haaretz, and even Alon Ben-Meir in the more conservative Jerusalem Post. In the United States, though, the myth of insecurity is the taken-for-granted lens through which the public views everything about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Like the air we breathe, it’s a view so pervasive that we hardly notice it.
Nor do we notice how reflexively most Americans accept the claim of self-defense as justification for everything Israel does, no matter how outrageous. That reflex goes far to explain why, in the latest Gallup poll matchup (“Do you sympathize more with Israel or the Palestinians?”), Israel won by a nearly 4 to 1 margin. And the pro-Israeli sentiment just keeps growing.
Our politicians, pundits, and correspondents breathe the same air in the same unthinking fashion, and so they hesitate to put much pressure on Israel to change its ways. As it happens, without such pressure, no Israeli government is likely to make the compromises needed for a just and lasting peace in the region. Instead, Israel will keep up its attacks on Gaza. In addition, if the Palestinians declare themselves an independent state come September, as many reports indicate might happen, Israel will feel free to quash that state by any means necessary — but only if Washington goes on giving it the old wink and nod.
If American attitudes and so policies are ever to change, one necessary (though not in itself sufficient) step is to confront and debunk the myth of Israel’s insecurity.
Three Myths in One
Israel actually promotes three separate myths of insecurity, although its PR machine weaves them into a single tightly knit fabric. To grasp the reality behind it, the three strands have to be teased apart and examined separately.
Myth Number 1: Israel’s existence is threatened by the ever-present possibility of military attack. In fact, there’s no chance that any of Israel’s neighbors will start a war to wipe out Israel. They know their history. Despite its size, ever since its war of independence in 1948, the Israeli military has been a better equipped, better trained, more effective, and in virtually every case a successful fighting force. It clearly remains the strongest military power in the Middle East.
According to the authoritative volume, The Military Balance 2011, Israel still maintains a decisive edge over any of its neighbors. While the Israeli government constantly sounds alarms about imagined Iranian nuclear weapons — though its intelligence services now suggest Iran won’t have even one before 2015 at the earliest — Israel remains the region’s only nuclear power for the foreseeable future. It possesses up to 200 nukes, in addition to “a significant number” of precision-guided 1,000 kg conventional bombs.
To deliver its most powerful weapons, Israel can rely on its 100 land-based missile launchers, 200 aircraft armed with cruise missiles, and (according to “repeated press reports”) cruise-missile-armed submarines. The subs are key, of course, since they ensure that no future blow delivered to Israel would ever lack payback.
Israel spends far more on its military than any of the neighbors it claims to fear, largely because it gets more military aid from the U.S. than any other Mideast nation — $3 billion a year is the official figure, although no one is likely to know the full amount.
The Obama administration has continued a long tradition of guaranteeing Israel’s massive military superiority in the region. Israel will, for example, be the first foreign country to get the U.S.’s most advanced fighter jet, the F-35 joint strike fighter. In fact, Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently complained that 20 of the promised planes aren’t enough, though he admitted that his country “faces no imminent threat” that would justify upping the numbers. Israel is also beginning to deploy itsIron Dome mobile air-defense system, with the U.S. funding at least half its cost.
In sum, none of the nations that Israel casts as a threat to its very existence can pose an existential military danger. Of course, that doesn’t mean all Jewish Israelis are safe from harm, which brings us to…
Myth Number 2: The personal safety of every Jewish Israeli is threatened daily by the possibility of violent attack. In fact, according to Israeli government statistics, since the beginning of 2009 only one Israeli civilian (and two non-Israelis)have been killed by politically motivated attacks inside the green line (Israel’s pre-1967 border). Israelis who live inside that line go about their daily lives virtually free from such worry.
As a result, the insecurity myth has come to focus on rockets — the real ones launched from Gaza and the imaginary ones that supposedly could be launched from a future Palestinian state in the West Bank. Purveyors of the insecurity myth, including the American media, portray such rocket attacks as bolts from the blue, with no other motive than an irrational desire to kill and maim innocent Jews. As it happens, most of the rockets from Gaza have been fired in response to Israeli attacks that often broke ceasefires declared by the Palestinians.
Those rockets are part of an ongoing war in which each side uses the best weapons it has. The Palestinians, of course, have access to none of the high-tech Israeli guidance systems. Their weaponry tends to be crude and often homemade. They shoot their rockets, most of them unguided, and let them fall where they may (which means the vast majority harm no one).
Israel’s weapons actually do far more harm. Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza that began at the end of 2008, killed far more civilians than all the rockets Palestinians have ever launched at Israel. Despite (or perhaps because of) its grievous losses, the Hamas government in Gaza has generally tried to minimizethe rocket fire. When Hamas calls for all factions in Gaza to observe a ceasefire, however, the Israelis often ramp up their attacks.
Jewish civilians do run some risk when they live in the West Bank settlements. In the most recent horrific incident, a Jewish family of five was slaughtered at the Itamar settlement. In response, Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon showed clearlyhow the deaths of individual settlers are woven into the myth of Israel’s “existential insecurity.” “This murder,” he declared, “reminds everyone that the struggle and conflict is not about Israel’s borders or about independence of a repressed nation but a struggle for our existence.”
The logic of the myth goes back to the premise of the earliest Zionists: All gentiles are implacably and eternally anti-semitic. By this logic, any attack on one Jew, no matter how random, becomes evidence that all Jews are permanently threatened with extinction.
Most Zionists have been unable to see that once they founded a state committed to regional military superiority, they were bound to be on the receiving as well as the giving end of acts of war. It is the absence of peace far more than the presence of anti-semitism that renders Israelis who live near Gaza or in the West Bank insecure.
However, according to the myth, it’s not only physical violence that threatens Israel’s existence. In the last two years, right-wing Israelis and their supporters in the U.S. have learned to lie awake at night worrying about another threat…
Myth Number 3: Israel’s existence is threatened by worldwide efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Early in 2010, Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin told the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that the country was not “suffering from terror or from an immediate military threat” — only to warn of a new peril: “The Palestinian Authority is encouraging the international arena to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.”
The “delegitimization” alarm was first sounded by an influential Israeli think tank and then spread like wildfire through the nation’s political and media ranks.
There are shreds of truth in it. There have always been people who saw the Jewish state, imposed on indigenous Palestinians, as illegitimate. Until recently, however, Israelis seemed to pay them little heed. Now, they are deemed an “existential threat,” as Yadlin explained, only because the old claims of “existential threat” via violence have grown unbelievable even to the Israeli military (though not to the government’s American supporters).
It’s also true that challenges to Israel’s legitimacy are growing rapidly around the world and that the specter of becoming a “pariah state” does pose a danger. The head of that think tank got it half-right when he warned that Israel’s “survival and prosperity” depend on its relations with the world, “all of which rely on its legitimacy.” Survival? No. After all, being a pariah state doesn’t have to be existence threatening, as North Korea and Burma have proved.
But prosperity? That’s at least possible. When the Israelis complain about “delegitimization,” they focus most on the boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims not to eliminate the state of Israel, but to use economic pressure to end Israel’s occupation and economic strangulation of Palestinian lands. (Nor is there any real evidence to back up the charge that this is some vast conspiracy coordinated by the Palestinian Authority.)
Were Israel to start behaving by accepted international moral norms, the BDS movement would fade from the scene quickly enough, ending the crisis of “delegitimization” — just as the rockets from Gaza might well cease. But here’s the reality of this moment: The only genuine threat to Israel’s security comes from its own oppressive policies, which are the fuel propelling the BDS movement.
So far, however, “effects on the Israeli economy are marginal,” according to a popular Israeli newspaper. The BDS campaign, it reports, “has been far more damaging when it comes to the negative image that it spreads.” A growing number of foreign governments are criticizing Israel, and some already recognize an actual Palestinian state. In diplomatic terms, Israel’s legitimacy rests on the good will of its sole dependable ally, the United States.
More than any military need, that political need offers the U.S. powerful leverage in moving toward a settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian crisis. The triple-stranded myth of Israel’s insecurity, however, makes the use of such leverage virtually impossible for Washington. Israel’s president put his country’s needs plainly in March 2010: “[Israel] must forge good relations with other countries, primarily the United States, so as to guarantee political support in a time of need.” So far, the U.S. has continued to offer its strong support, even though President Obama knows, as he recently told American Jewish leaders, that “Israel is the stronger party here, militarily, culturally, and politically. And Israel needs to create the context for [peace] to happen.”
But what if the American public knew the facts that Obama acknowledged? What if every solemn reference to Israel’s “security needs” were greeted not with nodding heads, but with the eye-rolling skepticism it deserves? What if Israel’s endless excesses and excuses — its claims that the occupation of the West Bank and the economic strangulation of Gaza are necessary “for the sake of security” — were regularly scoffed at by most Americans?
It’s hard to imagine the Obama administration, or any American administration, keeping up a pro-Israel tilt in the face of such public scorn.
Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writings on Israel, Palestine, and the U.S. on his blog. To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Chernus discusses what to make of American attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
Copyright 2011 Ira Chernus
“I am speaking from a Zionist standpoint,” Prof. Yehuda Bauer explained. “Zionism sets as its goal the preservation of a Jewish national home with a solid Jewish majority – this was the dream of people from the left, right and center of classical Zionism. But the continuation of the occupation guarantees the nullification of Zionism – that is, it rules out the possibility that the Jewish people will live in its land with a strong majority and international recognition. In my eyes, this makes [Israel’s] government clearly anti-Zionist.”
Bauer said that he sees the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders as the “realization of genuine Jewish nationalism that exists in peace in the region, and within the international community.”
Bauer and 16 other Israel Prize winners will join other prominent public figures in a historic signing of a document which recognizes a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. They will assemble on Thursday outside Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, where David Ben Gurion signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948.
I understand that there are readers who will be disappointed in Bauer’s articulation of his argument because he is clearly wedded to a Jewish majority state. But what’s important to me is that he and a number of Israeli luminaries are willing to get off their behinds and publicly recognize a Palestinian state in 1967 borders. To me, this is part of a rising tide of support, both international and domestic (inside Israel), calling for immediate recognition of a Palestinian state. This undercuts the position of the current Israeli government and even the current U.S. government, which is a good thing.
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