Short answer. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad did NOT call for Israeli Jews to be annihilated. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel’s Shas party, HAS called, more than once, for the Palestinians (and, in fact, all Arabs) to be exterminated.
As reported by the mainstream Western media, Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”. What that meant, it was asserted, was the destruction, the driving into the sea, of Israel’s Jews.
What Ahmadinejad actually called for was the de-Zionization of Palestine. His actual words were to the effect that he wanted the Zionist state to disappear as the Soviet Union had done. In other words, there would be a place in a de-Zionized Palestine for all Jews who wanted to stay and live in peace with their fellow Arab citizens.
As has been widely and accurately reported, Rabbi Yosef called on 27 August for the Palestinian Authority, its President Mahmoud Abbas and “all these evil people” (the occupied and oppressed Palestinians) to “perish from this world.” How was this to happen? “God should strike them with a plague.”
And what if God doesn’t act in the way Rabbi Yosef wishes?
He gave his own answer to that in 2001 when his subject was the Arabs. He said: “It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You (the Israeli government and the IDF) must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.”
But let us give credit where credit is due. Rabbi Yosef, unlike most others in Israel’s political, military and spiritual leadership, is being honest. I mean only that he dares to say in public what he really thinks.
Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania is the latest to take heat from the Israel Lobby, mainly because he once attended a meeting with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and also refused to sign a letter written by AIPAC. So they created a TV ad that tries to tie him to terrorism. Never mind the fact that Sestak acted on his conscience in both instances—anybody who flaunts the dictates of the Israel Lobby has to be punished.
The people who are promoting this latest experiment in intimidation are pretty open about what they’re doing, and why. “We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” exults neo-con godfather William Kristol. So here’s the crazy part—we’re not supposed to acknowledge that there’s an Israel Lobby, even though its main players talk openly about their activities! No, as Abraham Foxman pointed out in his book “The Deadliest Lies,” the existence of an Israel Lobby is a scurrilous falsehood made up by anti-Semites.
Got that? There’s no Lobby, but you’d better do what the Lobby says.
To help readers with this Orwellian dilemma, I offer these “12 Commandments of the Israel Lobby,” to be memorized if possible in a venue featuring the theme song of “The Twilight Zone” in the background.
1. The Israel Lobby does not exist. In those cases where it does exist, its conclusions cannot be questioned.
2. All criticisms of Israel are false. They are invented by anti-Semites, self-hating Jews, and terrorists. Also by crypto-Nazis, apostates and liars.
3. All critics of Israel must be punished by extracting a public apology. Some offenders may be required to apologize more than once, if they do not grovel sufficiently the first time around.
4. Those who criticize Israel and do not publicly apologize must be endlessly harassed, and fired from their jobs if possible. In academia they must be denied tenure.
5. Any Arab or Muslim that criticizes Israel is a terrorist, and deserves to die.
6. To praise anybody who ever criticized Israel is the same thing as criticizing Israel. Just as all things Israeli are good, anybody that criticizes Israel is bad.
7. In any conflict involving Israelis and Palestinians, the Israelis are always the victims. If an Israeli hurts a Palestinian, the Israeli is still the victim because the Palestinian is trying to make the Israeli feel bad.
8. Israel/Palestine is never debated. That implies another side to the issue, and there is only one side. Therefore debate is suppressed or disrupted.
9. The United Nations, the World Court, the various UN agencies, every human rights organization and non-governmental organization in the world that isn’t approved by the NGO Monitor [an Israeli screening operation] is anti-Semitic. That is because these organizations are likely to criticize Israel’s human rights record—and as any fool knows, that means they’re anti-Semitic.
10. The interests of the US are exactly the same as the interests of Israel. If they aren’t, the interests of Israel take precedence.
11. Any war that the US is likely to be involved in must be evaluated from the point of view of its helpfulness to the current government of Israel.
12. Anybody who threatens to make sense while criticizing Israel must be immediately shouted down. If shouting doesn’t work, screaming and crying are recommended. As a last resort, one must declare that criticisms of Israel are making one feel “unsafe.”
These rules, while meant to be humorous, reflect a reality that is petty, tiresome and essentially undemocratic. Thereore let us answer them by answering the call from Palestinian civil society for international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli apartheid. The purpose is to end the longest and most brutal military occupation of our time, and in so doing resolve the one issue most likely to cause religious war. But there is another reason to support BDS. The Israel Lobby operates as a thought police, spending millions of dollars to stop anybody in public life who would have a candid discussion of American interests in the Middle East. For this reason, we must counter the intimidation of the Israel Lobby in order to restore free speech and freedom of association to American discourse.
* IFN is circulated nationally, and is the largest Muslim newspaper in the US.
The Zionist Power Configuration Defeats Big Oil, the Military Industrial Complex, the White House and the Pentagon
Bush’s Twenty-Billion Dollar Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia
The debate on which forces determine US Middle East policy has cut across the usual political spectrum: On one side most neo-conservative and progressive writers, academics and journalists argue that the military-industrial complex and Big Oil interests are the most influential forces shaping US policy. On the other, a small group of conservative and leftist writers and a few academics have identified what some call the Israel or Zionist Lobby and others refer to the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) as the prevailing influence in deciding US strategic policies in the Middle East.
While the debate rages over who and what interests got us into the Iraq war and the escalating confrontation with Iran, there is no better test of conflicting positions than the proposed US sale of $20 billion dollars of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.
The Pentagon led by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agreed to the sale; it was backed by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and at least tacitly by the entire executive branch, including the National Security Council. All of the biggest US, European and Asian multi-national petroleum companies, refiners and importers were in favor of upgrading the military defensive capacity of the world’s biggest oil producer, since hundreds of billions in commercial and financial profits are transacted there every year. The US Middle East Command (CENTCOM) with major air bases and strategic logistic support systems in Saudi Arabia could not but support Saudi acquisition of a defensive high-tech air reconnaissance system.
Saudi Arabia is the most reliable and biggest single supplier of petroleum to the US world-wide. Saudi Arabia has been a staunch ally of the US – more like a client state — in all the US military and surrogate wars and interventions from the co-financing of anti-Soviet Muslim fundamentalist in Afghanistan, the attack on Yugoslavia and support of break-away Bosnia and Kosovo, to the two Gulf Wars and present confrontation with Iran, to its opposition of each and every Arab nationalist or leftist regime over the past 60 years. From the perspective of US imperial interests, dominance and influence in Asia, the Balkans and especially the Middle East, one would think that a military sale worth $20 billion dollars to the Saudi monarchy would be automatically and overwhelmingly approved by the US Congress.
This is especially the case because a $20 billion dollar sale will generate thousands of new jobs and will lessen the huge trade deficit. At the recent OPEC meeting, the Saudis strongly opposed dumping hundreds of billions of depreciating dollars they currently hold as foreign reserves – or even discussing the matter.
There is no greater contrast from the point of view of costs-benefit in comparing Saudi Arabia to Israel. The latter is subsidized by the US, which has given over $120 billion dollars over the last 30 years while it competes, as the second largest arms exporter, with the US-military industrial complex thus costing American jobs and supplies absolutely no strategic materials to the US economy. Indeed Israel has direct access to the most up-to-date US funded military technology, which it then sells to its clients. This is in stark contrast to Saudi Arabia’s servile relation with the US. Israel has constantly demanded and received US support and financing for its wars, its illegal colonization of Palestinian land and has unwavering US support for its repudiation of international law and numerous violations of United Nations mandates. While Saudi Arabia supports the US economy and is a strategic supplier of petroleum, Israel drains the US economy and secures its petroleum from it. Beginning in early 2007, the entire Zionist power configuration (ZPC) mobilized to block the US arms and military technology sales to Saudi Arabia. Zionist pressure was so intense and its control over Congress was so evident to the White House and Pentagon that Defense Secretary Gates did not even try to counter the ZPC’s campaign in the US Congress. Instead he went straight to the ZPC’s control center in Israel and not with empty hands. He pleaded with Israel to call of its American attack dogs in exchange for a ‘donation’ of over $30 billion dollars in US military handouts to Israel over the next ten years. Olmert accepted Gates offer: The US had paid the price but still the ZPC did not turn over their hostage Congress. President Bush and Secretary Gates were convinced that Israel would muzzle the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations to allow the Saudi sale to go through. This did not happen. Why should it? President Bush could not withdraw the well-publicized pay-off to Israel; it was already in the legislative books. He could not retaliate – the ZPC-controlled Congress would oppose any and all counter measures.
So Bush and Gates went ahead and sent the bill to Congress authorizing the $20 billion sales to Saudi Arabia, a trillion dollar economy with a two-bit military wholly dependent on its US military protector.
Immediately the ZPC rounded up its automatic 190 members of the House of Representatives to sign a letter opposing the sale. The ZPC formulated the position embodied in the letter and oversaw its draft with the collaboration of its co-religionists in Congress. Zionist Congress members Shelley Berkeley and Anthony Weiner teamed up with Michael Ferguson. The Zion-Cons claimed justifiably that they could mobilize over three quarters of the Congress on any issue affecting Israel’s ‘security’. Zionist lawmakers claimed, “the sale would undermine Israel’s superiority in the region”. Every major independent military think tank would dispute this argument since Israel is the only nuclear power in the region, has the biggest and most technologically sophisticated air force and missile system, while Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf States have trouble even controlling local ground level bomb throwers.
There are two likely outcomes both demonstrating categorically that it is the ZPC that dictates US policies in the Middle East:
The military sales will not fly.
The military sale will be approved on conditions that Israel is privy to all its details and can modify or omit any part of the agreement.
The ZPC was even able to strong arm the Congress-people who have made a lifelong career out of aggressively promoting the interests of Big Oil (BO) and the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) to switch sides and vote against the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia – BO’s strategic partner and the MIC’s best overseas customer. Congress members from BO states like Texas and states with large military industries like California endorsed the ZPC letter prejudicing their constituents and big campaign financers. The feeble ‘lobbying’ by BO and the MIC in favor of the White House were crushed by the ZPC Congressional juggernaut.
The major trade unions of the AFL-CIO, like the steel workers, machinists, oil and chemical workers, electrical workers – whose members’ jobs were at stake, did not protest, let alone challenge the ZPC, demonstrating the high degree of Zionist influence over the trade union bosses. The obvious point is that the Congress and the ZFL-CIO are both Zionist colonized institutions.
The issue is not whether the US should or should not sell arms to Saudi Arabia (I oppose all arms sales and the MIC and BO around the world). The fundamental issue is whether we, the citizens, the elected representatives and the trade unionists in the United States, can be free of foreign colonization to decide the issue. The issue is whether we are or can be a free and independent nation or a subject of a tiny powerful elite acting for a foreign power.
The narrative on the US proposed multi-billion dollar arms sales to a wealthy third rate military power demonstrates once again that Israeli interests have priority over US trade, jobs and geopolitical interests. Secondly the narrative confirms that the Israeli state dictates US political relations in the Middle East through its US conduit – the ZPC. Finally it refutes the Zionist geo-politicians and ‘oil’ and ‘military experts’ who cover up for the ZPC by falsely blaming Big Oil for policies they oppose because it prejudices their strategic partnership.
By blackmail and deceit, the Israelis got their additional $30 billion dollars over the next ten years and they double-crossed ‘their’ president by unleashing their Fifth Column to block his military sales to the Saudis. And if Bush dares a complaint, he will be added to the list of ‘anti-Semites’ – the only honorable list in his entire 8 years in office.
Palestinian women walk past Israel’s wall in the West Bank. (Luay Sababa/MaanImages)
Israel began constructing the wall in June 2002 following its invasion of cities in the West Bank, which it dubbed “Operation Defensive Shield.” In retrospect, the invasion appears to have been a prelude to the construction of the wall and no one recognized the significance of the invasion’s code name at the time. The immense scale of the 2002 invasion — characterized by the destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, mass arrests, assassinations and massacres — ensured that the construction of the wall would commence with as little resistance as possible.
Accompanied by hundreds of military checkpoints, the wall solidified the dismemberment of the West Bank’s major population centers into Bantustans, separated from each other and segregated from occupied East Jerusalem. Israel’s actions were intended to enhance its control over the Palestinian people and block the establishment of a Palestinian state. The wall intentionally blurs the “Green Line,” the internationally-recognized armistice line between Israel and the occupied West Bank, thus overriding international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). Instead of relying on international law, Israel has substituted negotiations over “disputed” territories for which it sets the terms under an American shield.
Today, Israel’s “facts on the ground” clearly display the realities of its system of apartheid:
- The wall, which will reach 810 kilometers in length, isolates 46 percent of the occupied West Bank and divides it into three large cantons and 22 small Bantustans. It cements Israel’s control over 82-85 percent of Palestinian water resources in the OPT.
- A 1,400 kilometer road network is dedicated exclusively to Israelis and separated from Palestinian roads by 48 tunnels.
- Thirty-four military checkpoints control the movement of people and goods between the different cantons and the movement of commercial traffic with Israel and the outside world.
- Industrial zones, agricultural areas and crafts workshops have been established along the wall. These Israeli, joint and international ventures aim to transform the Palestinian people into a cheap labor force dependent on the Israeli economy. Raw materials and exports are entirely Israeli while the capital is international, Israeli and Palestinian.
Palestinian civil society’s response
Grassroots and peaceful resistance against the wall started three months after construction began. The delay was due in large part to the impact of the 2002 invasion on Palestinian society. Popular committees were formed in the villages and cities of the northern West Bank where the first stage of the wall was under construction. Activists organized events, documented damages and violations and organized international campaigns, communicating and coordinating with international solidarity activists who formed human shields at key areas around the West Bank. Dozens of rallies and activities were organized in the towns and villages across the northern and central West Bank. These protests occurred throughout the week and were coordinated with visits by international solidarity activists.
The demonstrations and other events attracted international attention. The images of the wall and its route, which clearly showed the extent of Israel’s theft of vast agricultural lands and water resources as well as the immense environmental and agricultural destruction, shocked observers around the world. However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) remained indifferent to these activities, angering many Palestinians. The PA’s silence was particularly glaring given the numerous letters and appeals by farmers, local councils and popular committees for a response. Eventually, the indifference of the elected leadership raised questions and cast doubts among Palestinians and two rallies were organized outside the prime minister’s office to protest this stance.
Following the 2003 conference convened by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in New York, the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign met with Nasser al-Qidwa, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) permanent observer at the UN. The Grassroots Campaign provided al-Qidwa with a detailed power point presentation about the wall and its consequences for the “peace process.” Al-Qidwa took action and coordinated with international organizations, seeking information from the committees, civil and formal institutions, and international institutions that monitored Israel’s violations in the OPT.
In December 2003, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to refer the case to the ICJ to seek its opinion about the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of the wall. Prior to the 14 February 2004 ICJ meeting, peaceful popular marches across the occupied West Bank increased and were met with violence and repression by the Israeli army. Five Palestinians were killed and hundreds were wounded in the villages northwest of Jerusalem, specifically from Beit Duqqu and Biddu. In anticipation of the ICJ meeting, Israel altered the route of the wall in Baqa al-Sharqiya in the Tulkarem Governorate and Beit Sourik and Qatana in the Jerusalem Governorate, restoring thousands of dunums of land it had previously confiscated (a dunum equals approximately 1,000 square meters). Meanwhile, the Israeli high court issued a ruling stating that the army should take the “human impact” of the wall on Palestinians into consideration.
Before the ICJ was due to announce its ruling in July 2004, then member of the Israeli Knesset Dr. Azmi Bishara organized a sit-in in cooperation with the Grassroots Campaign. A tent was erected at the northern entrance to Jerusalem and stood for ten days, attracting hundreds of solidarity delegations and popular committees from across historic Palestine as well as foreign and international organizations, diplomatic missions and dozens of media outlets. The tent was packed with hundreds of people around the clock and lectures and presentations were organized. However, the PA abruptly and violently shut down the tent. The PA claimed that the tent was no longer needed after the ICJ passed its ruling on 9 July 2004. In reality, the tent was becoming a source of embarrassment to the PA because it was attracting attention in the media and the public.
The ICJ opinion and its implications
The ICJ’s advisory opinion was a great boost to the Palestinian people, particularly those living in the villages, cities and communities closest to the path of the wall.
The ICJ also found — by a vote of 13-2 — that the international community was obliged not to recognize the situation resulting from the construction of the wall or to provide assistance to maintaining the status quo. It is interesting to recall that a similar conclusion over three decades ago with regard to South Africa’s occupation of South West Africa led to sanctions against the apartheid state.
In addition, the court called for all parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to compel Israel to implement its decision and reaffirmed the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the OPT. By a vote of 14-1, the ICJ called on the UN to “consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall and the associated regime.”
After it was referred to the UN, an overwhelming majority of members of the UN General Assembly endorsed the ICJ’s opinion. However, over six years later, the UN Security Council has yet to review the advisory opinion.
The advisory opinion has had implications at both the official and popular levels. In spite of the victory at the ICJ, PA officials have deliberately disregarded the advisory opinion. Each year they justify their negligence by maintaining that the political circumstances are unfavorable and that the Europeans and the Americans would not support their request to resort to the UN Security Council. While it is evident that there is considerable pressure from Israel and the US, the PA has not utilized the advisory opinion as an effective bargaining chip. Instead of relying on international law it has continued to bet on the negotiations sponsored by successive American administrations. Thus, the PA is caught in a vicious cycle: the very negotiations that they rely on for international recognition are used by the US and Israel to pressure them to abandon Palestinian rights.
The PA’s approach has had implications internationally. Because it represents the “official” Palestinian position, no nation — however friendly to the Palestinian people — is able to advocate forcefully on behalf of the Palestinians or its leadership. In other words, they cannot be “more Palestinian than the Palestinians.”
By contrast, the popular position has been and remains well ahead of the official position. From the earliest days of the wall’s construction, the Palestinian public recognized it as a colonial and racist project aimed at imposing a new geopolitical and security reality on the ground that would dramatically alter the West Bank and tighten Israel’s grip. Therefore, the strategy underpinning popular action was based on resisting Israel’s goals on the ground, creating broad international support with solidarity movements, and demanding the enforcement of international law and resolutions.
That popular resistance soon included moves toward boycotting Israel. Since 2003, civil society activists, including the Grassroots Campaign and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have worked for an international boycott against Israel. The ICJ’s advisory opinion not only reinforced the Palestinian boycott efforts but also enabled Palestinian civil society to continue pressuring the PA to challenge Israel in international forums. Moreover, international solidarity movements began to base their demands for dismantling the Wall and settlements and ending the occupation on the ICJ’s advisory opinion.
On the first anniversary of the ICJ opinion the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was launched by 171 Palestinian coalitions, associations, trade unions and organizations within and outside historic Palestine. This call, which is the first Palestinian consensus document since the founding of the PLO, seeks to boycott and impose sanctions against Israel to ensure its compliance with international law. Over the past five years, the BDS movement has grown in size and strength around the world and has become the international reference point for all solidarity initiatives and movements globally. The BDS call has been followed by subsequent declarations such as the 2009 Kairos Document issued by a coalition of Palestinian churches that called on churches around the world to boycott Israel. Moreover, these actions by Palestinian civil society were welcomed by international solidarity groups who were eager for a nonofficial Palestinian grassroots initiative.
The popular resistance embodied by the BDS movement and the weekly protests against the wall are the foundation upon which international solidarity is built. These grassroots efforts have pushed the confrontation with Israel’s occupation to a vital battleground: the international arena with its media, civil and official institutions, organizations, trade unions, activists, universities and even the private sector. The impact and implications of these efforts has not gone unnoticed. A recent report by the Reut Institute, an Israeli think-tank, argued that BDS represented a strategic threat to Israel.
These recommendations stem from the experience of the past eight years of struggle against the wall.
- The PA must end its compliance with US dictates and fully engage in the international battle against Israel as an occupying state, demanding that the UN Security Council and General Assembly implement the ICJ’s advisory opinion as well as other relevant resolutions.
- Greater coordination and organization of the BDS movement is needed internationally in order to maintain pressure on Israel.
- Within the Arab world, it is crucial to revive the Arab Boycott Committee, bringing more Arab grassroots organizations and unions on board with the BDS movement and pressuring the Arab League to withdraw its support for negotiations until the ICJ ruling is implemented in full.
- Grassroots resistance needs to be expanded to include all contact points along the wall and alongside Israeli settlements. At the same time all forms of formal and popular normalization must be stopped.
- The Palestinian citizens of Israel must resort to international judicial means to end the racism and discrimination they have been suffering for more than six decades.
- This is the way to end Israel’s occupation, dismantle the wall and destroy the deep-seated racist mentality of Israel’s leaders. This is the way to make Israel recognize that it is part of rather than above the international community.
Jamal Juma’ is a founding member of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange and the Palestinian Environmental NGO Network. Since 2002, he has been the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.
This article was originally published by Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network
Last Thursday and Friday (Aug. 26-27), police and military violently repressed public school teachers who have taken to the streets for almost 3 weeks to demand, among other things, that the Pepe Lobo regime return 4 billion lempiras – some 200 million dollars – that were taken from INPREMA, an institution that manages teachers’ pension funds, after the military-oligarchic coup against President Mel Zelaya on Jun. 28, 2009.
The 6 teachers’ unions that form the umbrella organization FOMH – representing 63,000 teachers nation-wide – believe that the funds taken from this institution were used to fund the military regime after the coup headed by Roberto Micheletti and General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, which repressed and terrorized the pro-democracy movement critical of the coup and its perpetrators.
The education system in Honduras has been in crisis for the last 4 months, particularly in August when university students occupied the National Autonomous University (UNAH) demanding the reinstatement of 180 workers fired from their positions and the resignation of the university director, Julieta Castrellano. Five fired workers remain on hunger strike on the university grounds, some now surpassing 126 days without eating.
During the occupation of the university, police attempted to enter the grounds and were run off by the protesters. The stand-off between the students and police occurred while the U.S. State Department’s Maria Otero was visiting Honduras to investigate the human rights situation, another attempt by the U.S. government to whitewash human rights violations such that Honduras might be readmitted to the Organization of American States (OAS).
Although the university students and the public school teachers have different immediate focuses and demands, they both claim that the form in which the Lobo regime is handling the teachers’ struggle and the education system in general reflects the oligarchic-governmental desire to privatize the public education system in Honduras.
This massive teachers’ strike converges with and complements the ongoing struggle of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) as well as the preparatory stages of a mass general strike involving the three major umbrella unions to which all unionized Honduran workers belong: the Unitary Confederacy of Workers of Honduras (CUTH), the Confederacy of Workers of Honduras (CTH),and the General Head Office of Workers (CGT).
Three days of harsh repression against the teachers
Last Friday, Aug. 27, teachers were violently evicted twice from the area around the National Pedagogical University, first when they occupied the boulevard and second when teachers were regrouping and meeting inside the university.
Police arrived to the university, located across from a business shopping centre, with 2 water tanks and fired more than 100 tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at the teachers and members of the resistance movement in and outside the university grounds. Protesters were chased and beaten with no regard for the presence of children and the public in this busy area of the city or for the peaceful form in which the teachers were protesting.
From a black Toyota four-runner parked on the street in front of the university, a man opened fired at the protesters with a 9-millimeter gun. Although no one was shot, the car was later identified as belonging to the National Congress.
Over 100 people were captured and ‘guarded’ by police against a fence outside the university. They were later released after human rights representatives arrived and negotiated with the police. Many teachers and resistance members were trapped inside classrooms, where they suffered from severe exposure to tear gas. Over 7 people were injured from the gas and from police beatings, including a journalist from Globo TV/Radio Globo.
On Thursday, the previous day, teachers had been violently evicted after occupying a street close to the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa. Six teachers were reported injured from tear gas and police brutality.
These two days last week were merely the icing on the cake to the violence inflicted against the teachers’ movement on Aug. 20, when police and military again evicted the movement and brutally beat 3 union leaders and a teacher, who had apparently been pre-selected for said treatment and whose locations were apparently indicated to police by individuals who had infiltrated the marches.
The major media outlets owned by the oligarchy meanwhile continue their campaign to portray the teachers as violent elements unconcerned with education in Honduras.
At the writing of this article, the teachers are gathered in their daily assembly to discuss an agreement recently negotiated between the government and the leaders of the teachers’ movement. The teachers will announce today whether they accept the proposal or not.
Karen Spring is a journalist with Rights Action. She can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – In an effort to introduce a story of “progress” into media coverage, Gen. David Petraeus’s command claimed last week that the Taliban is suffering from reduced morale in Marjah and elsewhere, despite evidence that the population of Marjah still believes the Taliban controls that district.
But the news media ignored the command’s handout on the story, which did not quote Petraeus.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Aug. 25 news release quoted German Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, the ISAF spokesman, as citing intelligence reports of “low insurgent morale, which is affecting their capability across the country.”
The release claimed that the Taliban commander in Marjah district, Mullah Niamat, “openly acknowledged to his fellow insurgents that the Taliban is losing Marjah and their chances of winning are poor.”
The release cited “intelligence reports” as saying the Taliban leader’s assessment was “based on battle losses” and “increased resentment of the insurgent methods by average Afghans”.
In response to a request from IPS for details that would substantiate the claim, however, ISAF was unwilling to do so.
The allegation about Marjah is contradicted by a report of a survey conducted by the London-based International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) showing that the population of Marjah still regarded the Taliban as being in control of the district five months after U.S. troops began occupying it.
The ICOS report, is based on 522 interviews with men in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in July – 97 of which were in Marjah district. It shows that 88 of the 97 interviewed in Marjah believe the Taliban controlled the district, whereas only 9 perceive the government as being in control
If the population of Marjah is “resentful” of Taliban tactics, moreover, they are evidently far more resentful of U.S. tactics in the district. Asked whether the military operation by U.S.-NATO forces in their area was “good or bad for the Afghan people,” only 1 of the 97 people said it was good; the other 96 said it was bad.
ICOS is an international policy think tank focused on issues security, development, counter-narcotics and health.
In response to an IPS query about exactly what Mullah Niamat is alleged to have said, Lt. Col. John Dorrian, an ISAF public affairs officer, declined to provide any further information about just what Niamat had actually said. He cited the need to protect “our counterintelligence tactics and techniques.”
Dorrian claimed there was other evidence, obtained from discussions with detainees, among other means, to support the claim of reduced Taliban morale. He declined, however, to provide any further details.
Even though the news media have thus far refrained from challenging any of Petraeus’s claims of progress, not a single news outlet thus far has picked up the ISAF press release’s claim of lower insurgent morale.
The alleged admission of incipient defeat by Mullah Niamat and the refusal to provide any direct quotes or other specifics recall another alleged statement by an adversary used by Petraeus’s staff in Iraq to make a key political point.
On Jul. 2, 2007, Petraeus’s spokesman in Iraq, Gen. Kevin Bergner, told reporters that a Hezbollah detainee, Ali Musa Daqduq, had revealed to interrogators that he been tasked with organizing “special groups” in Iraq for Iran.
The story of Daqduq’s alleged admission was part of a larger charge by the U.S. command in Iraq that Iran had organized and was arming and training Shi’a militia groups that had allegedly broken away from Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
But Bergner provided no direct quotes from Daqduq to reporters. And in May 2008, another public affairs officer, Col. Donald Bacon, told Associated Press in an e-mail that the Hezbollah operative had actually told interrogators that his role in Iraq was to “assess the quality of training and make recommendations on how the training could be improved.”
In fact, as military and intelligence officials privately admitted to pro-war blogger Bill Roggio, the term “special groups” was not an Iranian designation at all; it was created by the U.S. command and applied to any Mahdi Army military commanders and troops who refused to cooperate with the U.S. military.
Both episodes illustrate efforts by the military command to shape the media narrative surrounding the war, as advocated by Petraeus in his 2006 army manual on counterinsurgency.
Noting that the media “directly influence the attitude of key audiences toward counterinsurgents”, Petraeus referred to “a war of perceptions between insurgents and counterinsurgents conducted continuously using the news media.”
Petraeus urged counterinsurgency war “leaders” to carry out “information operations” to “obtain local, regional and international support for COIN operations”.
The decision to promote a story that was likely to encounter scepticism in the press corps in Afghanistan appears to be a response by Petraeus to a looming crisis over his ability to convince the Barack Obama administration that progress is being achieved in the war.
The claim came two days after Petraeus asserted in a BBC interview that the U.S.–NATO war had “already reversed the momentum which the Taliban had built up in the last few years in Helmand and Kandahar provinces and around Kabul.”
In fact, however, U.S. operations in Marjah had failed to expel the Taliban fighters or to reduce their political influence in the district. Nor has Petraeus claimed that Kandahar will be secured by the end of this year as previously vowed by McChrystal – or even by the mid-2011.
To make matters worse for Petraeus, over the past six months, the Taliban have continued to establish a politically dominant presence in more areas of northern Afghanistan which had previously been judged relatively secure.
The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow reported Aug. 15 – the same day Petraeus was making his claim of progress – that Taliban fighters were “spreading like a brush fire into remote and defenceless villages across northern Afghanistan”.
Two weeks earlier, Alissa J. Rubin of the New York Times had quoted the chairman of the provincial council in Baghlan province as saying the situation there was “very serious and day by day it is getting worse and worse.”
The bad news about Taliban gains in control of territory in the northern provinces is likely to be reflected in the next Pentagon assessment of the war due to be published in late November – just before Petraeus’s pivotal December review of progress in the war.
The Reut Report on the Assault on the Gaza Flotilla
Israel and I are close in age, so it is not surprising that we suffer some of the same ailments. I have both myopia and hyperopia (nearsightedness and farsightedness), due to stretching of the eye globe and increasing rigidity of the lens, making it difficult to focus on both nearby and distant objects without correction. In addition, cataracts filter and reduce the incoming light. In Israel’s case, these vision impairments are due to overstretching of credibility and rigidity of mindset, while paranoia filters incoming facts and reduces the perception of reality. Israel also needs correction.
Israel’s vision deficiencies are both the subject of and evident in The Gaza Flotilla: A Collapse of Israel’s Political Firewall, a report from the Reut Institute (RI), an Israeli think tank devoted to government policy and strategy. Although the report criticizes the Israeli government for its lack of vision, it suffers the same impairment, and therefore fails to recognize and address the problem that the RI calls the “delegitimization challenge,” i.e. increasing worldwide public criticism and reaction to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians (the “collapse of its political firewall”).
In cruder terms (my own), the RI accuses the Israeli government of trying to put lipstick on a pig, an exercise in futility. However, the RI recommendation is cosmetic surgery – not really much better. “Take our advice,” it says, “and change Israeli policy, so as to project a better image.” Neither of these approaches addresses the underlying reality: it’s a pig. The problem is with the nature of the animal itself, which Israel (and RI) is unable to see because of its limited vision.
The deficiencies of the report begin with its description and analysis of the problem. It perceives the challenge to come from two “extremist” forces. The first is the “Resistance Network,” which is Arab and Islamist, and the second is the “Delegitimization Network,” which is global, liberal and radical. The report concludes that incapacitation of these forces will remove the threat.
The failure of this analysis is stunning. In order to accept it, one must conclude that the “delegitimization network” must be spectacularly effective, despite their relatively small numbers and modest resources. The Gaza Freedom Flotilla cost millions of dollars, but that is minuscule compared to the resources of Israel and its supporters. For Israel (and the RI) to consider this relatively small convoy of humanitarian aid to be a threat to its existence speaks volumes to the paranoia that filters its thinking.
The fact is that resistance and “delegitimization” are a natural outgrowth of the historical and actual ethnic cleansing requirements of the state of Israel and of the ideological underpinnings that motivate such requirements. Neither the Palestinians nor the Arabs, nor the world community, nor even the Jewish community will remain complacent in the face of the continued dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians from their land, or of Israel’s repeated attacks and wars on its neighbors for the sake of maintaining a demography that privileges particular citizens within the state. This is the pig that neither lipstick nor cosmetic surgery can effectively disguise. The surgery may keep some from immediately identifying the animal, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
In order to fool itself, however, the RI must resort to distortions of fact, with which the report is replete. To cite only one example, it reports that “Israel managed to take over five of the six vessels in the…flotilla without violence.” This would be news to the passengers who were beaten and suffered broken bones on those vessels. The RI is apparently relying on the propaganda of its own client for information. Other sections clearly borrow from hysterical Zionist websites that treat rumor as fact and even fabricate for purposes of vilification. It is one thing to purvey misinformation but quite another to believe it oneself.
This is typical. The RI ascribes almost superhuman powers to Hamas (“Hamas’ Agility, Israel’s Rigidity”), Hezbollah and the groups of Palestine solidarity groups trying to survive on a tiny fraction of the income of organizations like the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This is very flattering to the groups, but a much more realistic explanation is that far fewer resources are necessary when the facts speak for themselves, while much greater resources are needed to mislead the public.
The RI addresses this to a partial extent by advocating policy changes so as to make the deceit more plausible. This is a reasonable and pragmatic strategy, given the preservation and welfare of a Jewish supremacist state as an axiomatic objective. To an extent, in fact, such changes may represent a vindication for the efforts of human rights advocates that the RI describes as “delegitimizers.” In order to be completely realistic, however, the RI would need to recognize that Israel’s credibility problem is inherent in the axiom itself – i.e. that such a state is essentially racist to the core. Obviously, it cannot do this, which limits the extent to which it can provide objective advice to its client.
If, however, the RI is incapable of providing objective advice, it can nevertheless influence Israeli government policy, and should therefore be taken seriously by the human rights groups that are the targets of its recommendations. Those targets are primarily the global Palestine solidarity (“delegitimization”) network and its supporters, which the RI lumps together with Israel’s more conventional adversaries like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Unfortunately for RI and Israel, the recommendations are little more than a change in emphasis and “more of the same.” Israel and its supporters already actively work to “delegitimize” Palestine solidarity groups, and the strategies that the report proposes (e.g. “re-branding” Israel and “naming and shaming delegitimizers”) are nothing new. Palestine solidarity groups, and especially those named in the report, might possibly expect renewed efforts to undermine them. Even if such efforts are partially successful, however, they are unlikely to remain so for long, given the difficulty of promoting a racist agenda in today’s world.
We who have been engaged in civilian human rights advocacy for Palestinians (sometimes called the “peace” movement) can take a perverse satisfaction in the recognition and importance given to us in the Reut report. It is an error, however, to describe us as “delegitimizers.” We are incapable of legitimizing or delegitimizing anything. Israel’s own actions do that. At most, we draw attention to those actions and to the nature of the Israeli state, much as M. K. Gandhi did in the Indian independence movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did in the U.S. civil rights movement.
If the Reut Institute and Israel wish to address the fundamental problem, they will have to reconsider the premise upon which they are founded, namely that a state that expels, excludes and represses people simply because they are not Jews can achieve and convince others of its moral legitimacy. No amount of lipstick can disguise a pig, and even cosmetic surgery will not change the underlying reality. The only thing that will provide such legitimacy is a society that welcomes all who call it home. Even those of us who are past our prime and have limited vision can see that.
Paul Larudee is co-founder of the group that first broke the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in 2008, and of the Free Palestine Movement, www.freepalestinemovement.org, which sent a U.S. delegation as part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
A prominent Israeli rabbi whose party shares power in the Netanyahu government called for the extermination of Arabs in a recent sermon.
The 89-year-old Ovadia Yosef urged God to strike “these Ishmaelites and Palestinians with a plague; these evil haters of Israel.” He then singled out the Palestinian leader of Fatah, exclaiming that “Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this earth.” Yosef is the spiritual leader of the Shas Party, an ultra-Orthodox right-wing outfit that governs in concert with other parties, including Likud.
In religious terminology, the Ishmaelites are the descendants of Ishmael, who was Abraham’s elder son. As the rabbi doubtless knows, the Ishmaelites are considered the descendants of the Arabs in Islamic tradition.
In response to the genocidal exhortation, Netanyahu issued a mild non-rebuke; his office meekly offered that the rabbi’s ravings “do not reflect” the views of the prime minister or the government. The lukewarm criticism is not surprising, since Netanyahu may harbor genocidal views of his own.
In May, a Netanyahu advisor told the American-Israeli “journalist” Jeffrey Goldberg that Netanyahu is serious about striking Iran and considers the Islamic Republic the modern-day equivalent of Amalek.
For those unfamiliar with the Old Testament narrative, the Amalekites didn’t make out too well. God commands the Jews to utterly exterminate them—“Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
But returning to Rabbi Yosef: what elicited his angry declamation? It seems that the approaching peace talks are the culprit. Yosef and the rest of the far-right, who now loom large in Israeli society, loathe the prospect of “conceding” any lands they have stolen from the Palestinians, including the vast swath of Jewish-only settlements.
Of course, the far-right doesn’t see the land as stolen. For one thing, what’s commonly called the “far-right” in Israel-polite media parlance is best described as proto-fascist. This is, after all, the crowd that wants to impose state loyalty oaths on Israel’s Arab citizens—or even better, purge them from Israel altogether, lest the precious racial purity of the “democratic” Jewish state be further diluted. This is also the same crowd that seeks to erase history by making banning references to refer to Israel’s creation as “Al-Naqba”, or “The Disaster.” That’s the term used by Palestinians—and rightly so: even Israel’s own historians have conceded that their state was established through mass terror and ethnic cleansing.
But that doesn’t matter to Rabbi Yosef and friends. For them, the Palestinians are an annoyance, inserted by the irritating hand of history into lands that were ordained as Jewish by a divine real estate agent. Hence the favored Zionist slogan of “redeeming” the land.
What all this confirms is the hardening of hatred in Israeli society. Israelis have grown increasingly indifferent to the fate they mete out to their victims. The public did not question the obscene one-sided massacre in Gaza in 2008, (euphemistically called a “war”) in which Israel slaughtered 1,000 Palestinians, half of them women and children, putatively in “response” to unguided rocket fire that had all but ended.
Nor did the public quiver over the 2006 assault on Lebanon, during which Israel shattered Lebanese civilian infrastructure because Hezbollah kidnapped two soldiers. All told, 1,000 Lebanese were killed and entire neighborhoods were flattened; compare that with the Israeli death toll of 43 civilians and 117 soldiers.
Even the recent flotilla massacre elicited scant moral outrage in Israel. The national media indulged in the tired victimhood narrative, peddling the awesome claim that the Israeli soldiers were defending themselves from the crew. Never mind that the soldiers boarded an aid vessel in international waters and shot people in the face; pirates with public relations, you see, are completely different from regular pirates.
And what public relations it is. As Netanyahu smugly observed to a settler audience some years ago, “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.”
Yes, the “right direction”—as determined by Israeli fanatics who openly clamor for genocide and Israel-first lobbies who suppress criticism with hysterical charges of “anti-Semitism.”
And so long as Americans adhere to the fiction of Israeli victimhood, Netanyahu’s boasts will remain well-grounded.
The Israeli regime says it will release one of its army men who killed a young British peace activist before he has completed his prison term.
According to a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Taysir Hayb who took the life of British peace activist Tomas Hurndall in Gaza Strip in 2003 will be released from prison within one month.
Hayb was given 8 years in prison after pleading guilty for the murdering of Hurndall and impeding of justice by giving false evidence to a court in 2005.
The 22-year-old Briton who was a student was shot in the forehead when taking photographs for the International Solidarity Movement. According to the witnesses, he was helping the Palestinian children to escape from Israeli tanks.
Hayb had told the court investigators that “a Palestinian gunman shot” the Briton saying one of his fellow army men could bear witness to his claims but the soldier denied Hayb’s remarks saying he “didn’t see such a scene”.
“Not only my family is angry with the Israeli soldier, but also they are angry with Israel’s military such as its regime,” the British activist’s older sister said.
“The soldier who killed my brother is the same age as him but he is the member of a system who encourages its soldiers in killing innocent people; or perhaps people who criticize British government like my brother who was against the government such as Tony Blair’s policies at the time” she added.
Alexander Cockburn’s comments about the left’s inability to acknowledge US defeat in Iraq and the bogus ‘war for oil’ thesis are perceptive–a must read. But in Tariq Ali and Seumas Milne he has chosen the wrong avatars for the Left’s curious belief in the invincibility of ‘empire’. Tariq is a good friend and I have had this conversation with him several times. I know for a fact that he rejects the reductionist ‘war for oil’ argument. (He made his position clear in the Q&A after his recent London Review of Books lecture.) Milne sometimes hews to the establishment left line, but has shown far more independence and courage than some other left luminaries. I’d rather Cockburn had directed his criticism at Noam Chomsky, who best exemplifies the tendencies Cockburn excoriates, and whose odd positions on the Middle East have proven invulnerable to contrary evidence.
“The US isn’t withdrawing from Iraq at all – it’s rebranding the occupation… What is abundantly clear is that the US , whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City , has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon.” So declared Seumas Milne of The Guardian on August 4.
Milne is not alone among writers on the left arguing that even though most Americans think it’s all over, They say that Uncle Sam still effectively occupies Iraq, still rules the roost there. They gesture at 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, “advising” and training the Iraqi army, “providing security” and carrying out “counter-terrorism” missions. Outside US government forces there is what Jeremy Scahill calls the “coming surge” of contractors in Iraq , swelling up from the present 100,000. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000. Of these contractors 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly “third country nationals, typically from the developing world. “The advantage of an outsourced occupation,” Milne writes, “ is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq.
“Can Iraq now be regarded as a tolerably secure outpost of the American system in the Middle East ?” Tariq Ali asked in the New Left Review earlier this year. He answered himself judiciously,“They have reason to exult, and reason to doubt.”, but the thrust of his analysis depicts Iraq as still the pawn of the American Empire., with a “predominantly Shia army—some 250,000 strong—… trained and armed to the teeth to deal with any resurgence of the resistance,” all this with “ the blessing of the saintly Sistani’s smile”
The bottom line, as drawn by Milne and Ali is oil . Milne gestures to the “dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq’s biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies”.
Is it really true that though the US troop presence has dropped by 120,000 in less than a year, Iraq is as much under Uncle Sam’s imperial jackboot as it was in, say, 2004, even though now no US troops patrol the streets? If Iraq’s political affairs are under US control, how come the U.S. Embassy—deployed in its Vatican City-size compound, (mostly as vacant as a foreclosed subdivision in Riverside, California and planned in the same phase of megalomania) cannot knock Iraqi heads together and bid them form a government? Those 50,000 troops broiling in their costly bases are scarcely a decisive factor in Iraq’s internal affairs; nor are the private contractors.
Is a Shi’a-dominated government really to America’s taste and nothing more than its pawn? It was Sistani who forced the elections of 2005, calling Bush on his pledge of free elections, thus downsizing the excessive representation of the Sunni – who boycotted the election anyway. And if all this was a devious ploy to break “the Iraqi resistance” how come the United States constantly invokes the menace of Iran and decries its influence in Iraq?
The “Iraqi resistance” invoked in worshipful tones by Tariq Ali, as opposed to his ironic “saintly” reserved for Sistani, means, in his perspective, the Sunni. But if the Sunni ever had a strategy beyond a strictly sectarian agenda, it was scarcely advanced by blowing up Shi’a pilgrims and their shrines and setting off bombs in market places. If Moqtada al Sadr has been side-lined by the US and its supposed creature, Sistani, why has he been described as the “kingmaker” since his success in the parliamentary election this past March.?
As for the contractors, those sinister Third World mercenaries should not be oversold, unless the Shiites are supposed to quail before ill-paid Peruvians, Ugandan cops and the like., who will now be supposedly handing down orders to the Iraqi government. This takes a very imperial, and contemptuous attitude towards the capabilities of the Iraqi people.
If this really was a “war for oil,” it scarcely went well for the United States.
Run your eye down the list of contracts the Iraqi government awarded in June and December 2009. Prominent is Russia’s Lukoil, which, in partnership with Norway’s Statoil, won the rights to West Qurna Phase Two, a 12.9 billion–barrel supergiant oilfield. Other successful bidders for fixed-term contracts included Russia’s Gazprom and Malaysia’s Petronas. Only two US-based oil companies came away with contracts: ExxonMobil partnered with Royal Dutch Shell on a contract for West Qurna Phase One (8.7 billion barrels in reserves); and Occidental shares a contract in the Zubair field (4 billion barrels), in company with Italy’s ENI and South Korea’s Kogas. The huge Rumaila field (17 billion barrels) yielded a contract for BP and the China National Petroleum Company, and Royal Dutch Shell split the 12.6 billion–barrel Majnoon field with Petronas, 60-40.
Throughout the two auctions there were frequent bleats from the oil companies at the harsh terms imposed by the auctioneers representing Iraq, as this vignette from Reuters about the bidding on the northern Najmah field suggests: “Sonangol also won the nearby 900-million-barrel Najmah oilfield in Nineveh.… Again, the Angolan firm had to cut its price and accept a fee of $6 per barrel, less than the $8.50 it had sought. ‘We are expecting a little bit higher. Can you go a little bit higher?’ Sonangol’s exploration manager Paulino Jeronimo asked Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to spontaneous applause from other oil executives. Shahristani said, ‘No.’”
So either the all powerful US government was unable to fix the auctions to its liking, or the all powerful US-based oil companies mostly decided the profit margins weren’t sufficiently tempting. Either way, “the war for oil” doesn’t look in very good shape.
Milne advances the odd idea that with the (entirely imaginary) US “control” of Iraqi oil “the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.” In fact, the last thing the majors want is to cut world oil prices.” Ask BP.
Milne and Ali are being naive and credulous in taking at face value US officials declaring that they are not wholly withdrawing and they will still be in business in Iraq for the foreseeable future. The reason for saying this is that they don’t want to see their influence go wholly to zilch. They therefore have to maintain — and are dutifully echoed on the left – that their power in Iraq is only a little affected by reduction of troop numbers from 150,000 to less than a quarter of that number.
The US line on this is in one sense sensible: In Iran many Iranians saw the hidden hand of Britain behind developments long after the Brits’ real power had faded almost to nothing. In the case of the US in Iraq it is easy to sell this when the right and left agree [that the] US is too powerful to have suffered a defeat.
The American right tried to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by claiming that “the surge” – a PR ploy by General David Petraeus to mask US withdrawal – was a military success, rather than the Sunni abandoning “national resistance” and throwing in their lot with the Americans. The left – or the substantial slice of it hewing to the Milne/Ali line – snatches defeat from the jaws of a victory over America’s plans for Iraq by proclaiming that America has successfully established what Milne calls “a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region.” Iraq is in ruins – always the default consequence of American imperial endeavors. The left should report this, but also hammer home the message that in terms of its proclaimed objectives the US onslaught on Iraq was a strategic and military disaster. That’s the lesson to bring home.
Gadi Taub’s NYT oped on the coming negotiations is so problematic, ahistorical, Israeli-centric, and rife with elisions, it reads like… well… a lot of other stuff cluttering the pages and electrons of said publication.
It leads off with the rhetorical question, “Will Israel remain a Zionist state?” – as if this is the most important issue to be tackled at the talks. Not “Will the systematic and willful oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people finally come to an end?” (Which all sane observers are doubtful will be the result.) Then he sets up the Zionist left’s desperate, tiresome good guys vs. bad guys frame: the pious seculars vs. the evil religious nuts.
The secular Zionist dream was fundamentally democratic. Its proponents, from Theodor Herzl to David Ben-Gurion, sought to apply the universal right of self-determination to the Jews, to set them free individually and collectively as a nation within a democratic state.
David Ben-Gurion and his allies also orchestrated what can only be described as a “fundamentally democratic” ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of indigenous Palestinians, which “set them free” from their home, their lands, their lives….
Taub contrasts his Ben-Gurion good guys with the loathsome bad guys:
This dream is now seriously threatened by the religious settlers’ movement, Orthodox Jews whose theological version of Zionism is radically different…. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, later focused his father’s theological ideas around a single commandment: to settle all the land promised to the ancient Hebrews in the Bible.
Whether Likud or Labor, so-called “left, “center,” or “right,” all Israeli governments have devoted massive financial, military, and human resources to the expulsion of Palestinians, confiscation of their farmlands, demolition of their homes, and construction of illegal settlements. But that’s an inconvenient fact for Taub, who wants to blame the religious kooks. He then glorifies the secular Zionists some more:
Herzl never doubted that Israeli Arabs should have full and equal rights. For religious settlers, Arabs are an alien element in the organic unity of Jews and their land.
Notice he doesn’t mention Ben-Gurion here. Ben-Gurion never doubted that his militias must expel the multitudes of indigenous Arabs in order to fulfill his dream (their nightmare) of an artificial Jewish majority.
Palestinians inside Israel have never had “full and equal rights.” From day one Israel has treated Palestinians as second class citizens if that — see, for example, the Association of 40 unrecognized Palestinian villages inside Israel that still, 60 years later, seek recognition and basic social services like garbage collection. Several Palestinian orgs inside Israel are trying to get the country to (finally) adopt a constitution to protect their rights.
On the subject of apartheid, Taub’s op-ed rambles on about how there’s no apartheid now, but there will be someday soon if the pernicious religious settlers get their way. What, I’d like to ask Taub, do you anticipate the settlers would do that they aren’t doing already, that would get you to call it apartheid? No doubt, you will return to the NYT and write a new oped entitled “Now it’s finally apartheid, and it’s all the fault of the religious settlers — but not the government of Israel of course.” Taub also claims that if (?) Israel becomes an apartheid state, “Israel will betray the beliefs it was founded on.” Maybe Martin Buber’s beliefs, but certainly not Ben-Gurion’s, who insisted on Israel as a de facto apartheid state from the very beginning – how else to describe the impact of ethnic cleansing on those who are not allowed to return to their homes, not recognizing Palestinian villages, differing social services, etc.?
Predictably, Taub busts out that time-worn line of hasbara about how Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was an anti-settlement move, ignoring of course that it was a ploy to solidify Israel’s hold on the West Bank, as Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass proudly proclaimed.
But the most outrageous elision above all elisions is that Taub skips a chance to report some real news in his oped, about how far senior religious settler leaders have gone: calling for genocide of the Palestinians.
[Israel's former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party], said during his weekly Shabbat sermon that the Palestinians, namely Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, should perish from the world. Yosef, a founder of the Shas Party, also described Palestinians as evil, bitter enemies of Israel.
“All these evil people should perish from this world … God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians,” Yosef said.
Taub wraps it all up with the desperate plea of liberal self-absorbed Zionism, which I translate as “Please, please stop the occupation and the settlements now that they appear to be a threat of my dream of a militarily-enforced Jewish majority state existing in perpetuity”:
The religious settlement movement is not just secular Zionism’s ideological adversary, it is a danger to its very existence. Terrorism is a hazard, but it cannot destroy Herzl’s Zionist vision. More settlements and continued occupation can.
Never once in the entire piece does Taub mention the suffering of the Palestinian people. For shame!
As US officials arrived in Jerusalem last week to meet with Palestinian Authority and Israeli government officials, Nora Barrows-Friedman interviewed Ramallah-based lawyer and former PLO advisor Diana Buttu about this week’s US-brokered direct talks between the two parties for The Electronic Intifada.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: What are the realistic expectations for an outcome of the direct talks, as Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian land and expand illegal settlements, and as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that it is the Palestinian preconditions that threaten to sabotage the talks?
Diana Buttu: The funny thing about Netanyahu’s statement on preconditions is that the preconditions are actually Israeli, rather than the other way around. They’re making it a precondition that Palestinians have to accept that Israel is going to continue its settlement activity. And if the Palestinian side says no to settlement activity, then somehow that is a precondition, and the world is not into that.
The big problem is that while there is this announcement of negotiations, here on the ground [in the occupied West Bank], there is nobody who is greeting this announcement with any happiness, because we have been here before. We know what has happened in the past, and we know what is going to happen. And so, if anything, the direct talks are going to be a direct failure. Unless there is a very strong stance by the international community to stop Israel in its settlement activity, in home demolitions and in setting forth a terms of reference — that Israel is going to abide by the 1967 borders — then the talks are doomed to fail. We have been down this path before.
NBF: What is your response to how the PLO approved the talks, even though none of the non-Fatah parties approve of them? How did this happen, and what has the response been from the opposing parties?
DB: In terms of the PLO’s response, this is not new. [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas is the same man who hijacked Palestinian elections a year and a half ago, when he unilaterally declared that his term was extended. This is the same man who has failed to hold the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. This is the same individual who has canceled the municipal elections, all under the guise of, “oh, this is too difficult right now.”
So it is not at all surprising that Mahmoud Abbas, speaking on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, comes forward and declares that the PLO has accepted such talks when they haven’t. And declares that the Palestinian people are welcoming such talks when they are not. And has the audacity to speak on behalf of Palestine and the Palestinians when he is neither elected nor legitimate any longer, and has not even bothered to ascertain the opinion of other organizations, other factions that are members of the PLO.
NBF: Will this further split and antagonize the political factions against each other, or are we seeing more unity taking place?
DB: That is the one thing that is becoming interesting out of all of this — this is no longer the isolation of Hamas. It’s becoming the isolation of Fatah, in that you see all the political factions lining up on one side, and Fatah lining up on another side.
This is not where the situation was a few years ago, or even a decade ago when the majority of Palestinian factions were, in some way, shape or form, in favor of Oslo or in favor of the negotiations process. Today, it is exactly the opposite. So, if anything, Fatah has marginalized itself, and is becoming increasingly more marginalized.
The problem is that there is no way to translate that into any real change, because of Fatah holding the key, because of its inability to hold elections, with its refusal to listen to the factions. What it simply means is that we have this rogue party that is acting on behalf of its own interests and not the interests of the Palestinian people. That is going to continue to dictate the future of Palestine.
Unless this dissent transforms itself into a real push for internal change, then I fear [Fatah is] going to continue going down this path of isolating itself and marginalizing itself, and holding Palestinians hostage to its lack of vision and lack of strategy for Palestine.
NBF: You attended a press conference on 23 August given by PA spokesperson Saeb Erekat. What was revealed in the press conference, and what are most Palestinians concerned or skeptical about in relation to the talks and what is happening on the ground?
DB: There are two things that were revealed during the press conference. The first was that Erekat was unable to explain to journalists or to the Palestinian people what had changed, why they’re entering into negotiations now. He kept referring to pithy Quartet statements — no one really cares what the Quartet says or does, because they don’t really do anything — and he kept referring to the international community and its support for the peace process. But there was nothing that he could point to to explain why now is the time for direct talks.
In other words, there was nothing that he could say — neither in the form of guarantees, nor in assurances, nor in the form of a settlement freeze, or anything that he could take to the Palestinian people and sell. It simply was the result of their utter incompetence. There was no way to explain why they were going to negotiations.
The second thing that came out during the press conference, and this was clear to the journalists who were present, is that this is a leadership of lies. If this leadership had come forward and said, “we are under tremendous amounts of international pressure, both financially and politically” (which we know is the case), then at least we would have been able to give them credit for that. Erekat didn’t say that. Moreover, if this was the same individual who came forward and said they would halt negotiations, unequivocally, in the event that Israel does not impose a complete settlement freeze — not a partial freeze, not a moratorium — and a complete halt to home demolitions, then at least we would have been able to feel that this is a leadership that is responsive, a leadership that is honest.
Instead, Erekat came forward and said that there are going to be no negotiations. In fact, he used the phrase that Netanyahu will have chosen — no negotiations — in the event that settlements and home demolitions continue. What we know is the opposite. If they have not pressed for a complete settlement freeze now, if they have not pressed for a halt in home demolitions and land confiscation now, then the PA has to explain to us that somehow, magically, on 26 September — when the so-called settlement moratorium has expired — that suddenly the Palestinian Authority and the PLO are going to get a backbone?
So rather than him making these slogans and statements, we wanted to hear the truth. And instead we are faced with a leadership that lies. It lied about the pressure that has been put upon the PLO in order to enter into negotiations, and it will be proven on 26 September that the same leadership is going to — once again — lie to us about halting negotiations if there is no settlement freeze.
NBF: What are your major concerns about the Palestinian political atmosphere right now?
DB: The major concern is that we all know that this is going to fail. It doesn’t require anyone with any particular knowledge or foresight to realize that these talks are going to fail. The real question is what is going to come afterwards, and here is where I’m most concerned. For the past 17 years, the PLO, and in particular, Fatah, has had one strategy and only one strategy: negotiations, negotiations, negotiations.
And they have had only one strategy as regards to themselves, and that is survival. We are now at a stage where we are seeing that this is going to be — and I really hope that it is — the final blow to the logic and the ideology of negotiations, that people somehow have to negotiate their freedom.
The real question is, what is this leadership going to do? Is this leadership going to continue to hold us hostage to this tired, visionless lack of strategy? Or is something different going to come?
I’m not concerned with the talks, we know they are going to fail. My bigger concern is about what is going to happen once the talks fail, and is there going to be anybody who is going to come forward with a different plan, a different strategy, a different vision? And that is my fear. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Photo courtesy of Diana Buttu.