On May 22, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement ‘For National Reconciliation and the Consolidation of the Democratic System in the Republic of Honduras.’ Lobo was elected in November 2009 in a rigged vote organized by the regime installed through the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew Zelaya. The majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Lobo government, despite the strong support it received from the United States and Canada.
The present agreement, finalized in Cartagena, Colombia, also bears the signatures of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro (on behalf of President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías) as witnesses.
This agreement opens the door to significant changes in the Central American political landscape and to the re-entry of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS) and SICA (Central American Integration System).
An earlier article, “Freedom for Joaquín Pérez Becerra!” discussed the context that led Colombia and Venezuelan presidents to join in sponsoring this initiative.
The Resistance welcomes the agreement
In a May 23 statement, the Political Committee of the National Front for People’s Resistance (FNRP), the main organization coordinating popular resistance to the coup inside Honduras, noted that “this agreement for international mediation enables us to put an end to our exile [and] reinforce our process for the refoundation of Honduras.” It issued a “call to all members of the resistance inside and outside Honduras to unite in a great mobilization to greet and welcome our leader and the General Coordinator of the FNRP, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, at 11 a.m., May 28, 2011, at the International Airport.” The statement noted that the agreement complied with the four conditions set by the FNRP.
The FNRP also expressed “thanks for the process of international mediation” carried out by the Venezuelan and Colombian presidents.
Terms of the accord
By the terms of the Cartagena agreement, the signatories commit themselves to:
- Guarantee the return to Honduras in security and liberty of Zelaya and all others exiled as a result of the crisis. (Over 200 other exiled leaders of the resistance are also now able to return under the terms of the agreement.)
- Assure conditions in which the FNRP can gain recognition as a legal political party.
- Reaffirm the constitutional right to initiate plebiscites, particularly with respect to the FNRP project of convening a National Constituent Assembly. (It was President Zelaya’s move to hold a non-binding plebiscite on calling a Constituent Assembly that the organizers of the 2009 coup cited to justify their action.)
- Create a Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights to secure human rights in Honduras and invite the UN Human Rights Commission to establish an office in Honduras.
- Constitute a Monitoring (Verification) Commission, consisting initially of the Colombian and Venezuelan presidencies, to help assure the successful implementation of the agreement.
U.S. disruption attempt
Notably absent from discussions leading to the Cartagena Agreement was the United States, which has long been the arbiter of Honduran politics. Washington kept silent on the Cartagena mediation process, while in fact attempting to torpedo it.
Alexander Main, an analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, noted on May 19 that when, as part of the mediation process, Honduran courts dropped charges against Zelaya, the U.S. State Department issued an “exuberant statement” the following day calling for the suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS) to be “immediately lifted” – a move that would have cut short the Cartagena mediation process. This suspension, enacted in protest against the coup, was one of the factors driving the illegitimate Honduran regime to seek mediation. (See “What Now for a Post-Coup Honduras“)
“For good measure,” Main says, “the [U.S.] statement noted that ‘since his inauguration, President Lobo has moved swiftly to pursue national reconciliation, strengthen governance, stabilize the economy, and improve human rights conditions.’”
In fact, according to the Committee of Family Members of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), politically motivated killings have taken the lives of 34 members of the resistance and 10 journalists since Lobo took office. No killers have been prosecuted either for these crimes or for the 300 killings by state security forces since the coup.
Showdown at the OAS
The U.S. canvassed energetically among Central and South American countries subject to its influence for support for immediate reinstatement of Honduras – prior to the conclusion of the mediation process. “In mid-May these divisions came to a head when a diplomatic tussle took place at the OAS,” Main reports.
In Main’s opinion, “the U.S. is not prepared to accept a political mediation in Honduras in which it doesn’t play a leading role. The U.S. has traditionally been deeply involved in the internal affairs of Honduras,” and “the country continues to be of great strategic importance to the U.S.”
The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, called a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council that was to consider readmitting the de facto Honduran regime. According to a reliable source at the OAS, Main reports, several Latin American countries, apparently including Colombia, demanded cancellation of the meeting on the grounds that it was “premature.” Within hours, the meeting was cancelled.
The failure of this U.S.-inspired maneuver opened the road for the signing of the Cartagena agreement nine days later.
The Cartagena agreement, and the process that facilitated it, marks an important victory for the Honduran resistance. More broadly, it reinforces the process of Indo-Latin American and Caribbean efforts to shape their own national and regional policies free from imperialist domination. (See “Honduras se reintegra al CA-4.”) It developed outside the OAS framework, and will help to strengthen and consolidate the new Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that will meet this coming July in Caracas, Venezuela, under the joint chairmanship of that country and Chile.
The Cartagena accord’s impact in Central America was immediate and far reaching. Lobo and Zelaya flew from Cartagena to Managua the same day of the signing ceremony for a special meeting of the SICA (Central American Integration System) at which Honduras was welcomed back by three other Central American presidents – Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Mauricio Funes (El Salvador), and Alvaro Colom (Guatemala). At the meeting Ortega announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Nicaragua and Honduras.
In a joint statement, the four presidents called on the OAS to re-admit Honduras, and new agreements were also announced regarding a Customs Union of the four countries. These measures mark a defeat for those forces in Central America inimical to the regional integration process, including the Costa Rican government and its hostile campaign to isolate Sandinista Nicaragua diplomatically and economically.
Need for continued solidarity
Whether the Honduran government will fully carry out the Cartagena agreement remains to be seen. In particular, the coup has produced an entrenched pattern of systematic repression and unrestrained operation of death squads in Honduras. Experiences in other countries, including Colombia, show that such right-wing repression can run rampant, with under-the-table support from security forces, despite formal statements of government disapproval.
The establishment of the Colombia-Venezuela monitoring commission will be vital to keeping the pressure on the Lobo government. Friends of Honduran democracy in North America will need to do some monitoring as well, as an expression of continued solidarity with the Honduran people.
Report from The Real News Network:
Toni Solo, “Varieties of Imperial Decline: Another Setback for the U.S. in Latin America,” May 23, 2011
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) has declared a “disaster” in the Old City’s commercial and tourism sectors after Israel used hefty taxes and other pressures to shut down 250 shops in the past few years.
JCSER director Ziyad al-Hammouri expected the situation to worsen as the campaign to Judaize the Old City thrives.
“What is taking place is designed to promote the presence of Jewish settlements inside the city walls and the entire area surrounding the Old City, especially in Silwan, Ras al-Amud, and Sheikh Jarrah, which are neighborhoods geographically connected to the Old City. There is also a plan to erect shopping centers and hotels in the area similar to those built near the Gate of Al-Khalil,” Hammouri said.
He added that checkpoints spread across Jerusalem’s entrances have become traps for Palestinians and traders, as municipality units and tax collectors and forces responsible for carrying out court orders have seized possessions and arrested their owners.
A report released by the JCSER research and documentation unit concluded that the situation is “very serious”. It warned of a “complete economic collapse” due to the Israeli siege imposed on the city of Jerusalem since 1993 and the erecting of the apartheid wall around the holy city.
Three International Solidarity Movement members arrested during peaceful demonstration in Iraq Burin
This afternoon three members of the International Solidarity Movement were arrested during a peaceful demonstration in Iraq Burin. The activists from the UK, Denmark and Iceland had joined the villagers in protesting the loss of their land to the illegal Israeli settlement of Bracha, however the demonstration had barely began when the army began firing tear gas at the protesters. After four hours of shooting tear gas the army entered the village and occupied houses. The three activists were taken from the street and detained in a house with other Palestinians for over an hour before being arrested. The activists were released after four hours without charge.
Iraq Burin is a small village 8 km southwest of Nablus. The illegal settlement of Bracha is located approximately one mile southeast of the village, and is situated on around 100 dunams (25 acres) of village land, as well as more land from surrounding villages. In addition to the settlement itself, the land surrounding it is off-limits to the farmers who are prevented from accessing it due to its close proximity to the settlement, leaving them with less land to graze their sheep and harvest from.
The villagers of Iraq Burin held weekly demonstrations last year to protest the expansion of Bracha, and their continued inability to access their agricultural land. This began as a reaction to a sharp increase in attacks from residents of the settlement. The attacks were frequently aided by the Israeli military, who would in turn invade the village, firing rounds of tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition at Palestinian civilians. However the village took the decision to stop the weekly protests when Mohammed Qadous (16) and Asaud Qadous (19) were shot dead by the Israeli military during a demonstration in March 2010. In January this year Oday Maher Hamza Qadous (19) was also shot dead by settlers whilst farming his land.
Once again, the World Health Assembly failed to set a deadline for the destruction of smallpox samples, delaying discussion for another three years. Though it still affirms the need for live sample destruction, the two-day “contentious debate” (repeated for the last 25 years) ended on May 24 in a victory for bioweapons development in the U.S. and Russia.
“The retention of the existing stocks of smallpox virus are not required” to maintain and bolster current vaccine supplies, argues Dr. D. A. Henderson in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. Through current technology, smallpox vaccines can be developed from the known genome. Live viruses are simply no longer needed.
The claimed need to protect against smallpox appears to be a ruse for the development of its use as a bioweapon. Given the history of its use in Native American genocide, the United States should be specifically banned from possessing the live virus. But, this is the same country that’s radiating with impunity the Middle East with depleted uranium.
In A pox on the keepers of a killer virus, Ben Macintyre urges, “By destroying the last stocks, the world would be drawing a clear legal distinction: anyone in possession of the virus after that date would be guilty of a crime against humanity.”
Biological disarmament is not on the table, however, though the debate has been raging since smallpox eradication over 30 years ago.
Even Forbes Magazine condemns retention. In It’s time to destroy the U.S. smallpox reserves, Steven Salzberg argues, “The only thing they need to do is to destroy their stocks of smallpox, and wipe out this virus once and for all. This seems like an obvious thing to do, but it’s obvious now that the scientists whose jobs depend on keeping the smallpox around will never agree to destroy it. Nor will their bosses at the CDC. Yet keeping the smallpox around dramatically increases the risk that a deranged person will get his hands on it and release it in the population.”
He urges President Obama to “order the CDC to destroy their stocks of smallpox, and eliminate this unnecessary risk from the planet. The United States can and should take the moral lead on this public health threat, rather than stonewalling once again at the next World Health Assembly. Destroy the smallpox, and wipe out this scourge once and for all.”
Hear, hear. But we know he won’t. Obama has infected his administration with former biotech employees bent on genetically contaminating the biosphere from crops to animals to oil-eating microbes to drugs. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority just awarded nearly $3 billion in smallpox research grants to two US firms. Something other than morality guides public policy.
Some of those listening to President Obama’s AIPAC speech could be forgiven for thinking they had heard it all before — especially if they had been in attendance at the Anti-Defamation League’s 2010 National Leadership Conference to hear the remarks of Daniel B. Shapiro, senior director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council. Shapiro, whom Obama referred to at AIPAC as “one of my top advisors on Israel and the Middle East for the past four years” and “a close and trusted advisor and friend,” would appear to have had a significant input into the president’s address to the pro-Israel lobby (see below). According to Ha’aretz, the fluent Hebrew speaker and regular synagogue attendee maintains “close relations with the Israeli prime minister and his close advisers and senior defense ministry officials” — presumably close enough to ensure that Obama’s Israel policy doesn’t stray too far from what is acceptable to Tel Aviv.
Shapiro: President Obama’s approach towards Israel is grounded above all in the unbreakable bond between our two countries, our common values, the deep and interwoven connections between our peoples, and our shared interests…. But we do believe that ensuring Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state is very much in our national interests.
Obama: On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed — (applause) — we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years — that even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — (applause) — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad. (Applause.)
A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.
America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share.
Shapiro: We take inspiration from the remarkable story of Israel: the Zionist dream first voiced by Theodor Herzl, whose 150th birthday we celebrate this week; the painstaking struggle to build a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people, despite threats from all directions… President Obama has made ensuring Israel’s security a key pillar of our Middle East policy. We do it because it is the right thing to do, standing by a key partner, whom the President has called “more than a strategic ally”, in the face of numerous threats to its citizens and even to its existence.
Obama: We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.
Shapiro: This commitment to Israel’s security is not a slogan for us. We live it every day in the policies we carry out. Since taking office, President Obama has taken what was already a strong U.S.-Israel defense relationship, and broadened and deepened it across the board. Our annual military assistance to Israel has increased to nearly $3 billion. We have reinvigorated defense cooperation, including on missile defense, highlighted by the 1,000 U.S. servicemembers who traveled to Israel to participate in the Juniper Cobra military exercises last fall. We have intensive dialogues and exchanges with Israel — in political, military, and intelligence channels — on regional security issues and counter-terrorism, from which we both benefit, and which enable us to coordinate our strategies whenever possible. We have redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge in the region, which has been publicly recognized and appreciated by numerous senior Israeli security officials. And we continue to support the development of Israeli missile defense systems, such as Arrow and David’s Sling, to upgrade Patriot missile defense systems first deployed during the Gulf War, and to work cooperatively with Israel on an advanced radar system to provide early warning of incoming missiles.
Obama: Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. (Applause.) It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. (Applause.) And that includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. (Applause.) A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. (Applause.)
Shapiro: We take these steps because the threats Israel faces are real, and because many of the same forces threaten us and our interests. Whether it is an Iran bent on acquiring nuclear weapons…
Obama: You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.)
Shapiro: President Obama has also steadfastly defended Israel against attempts to de-legitimize it, whether at the UN or other international bodies….These are commitments that will not change.
Obama: You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. (Applause.) As I said at the United Nations last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” (Applause.)
Shapiro: When it became clear that the Durban II Conference would unfairly and unreasonably single out Israel for criticism, we did not hesitate to pull out of the conference and lead many of our allies to do the same. We have repeatedly and vigorously voted against and spoken out against the Goldstone Report.
Obama: So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. (Applause.)
Shapiro: Our pursuit of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East is inextricably linked to the U.S.-Israeli partnership, as there has never been an Israeli government that did not pursue this goal fervently. The President made this a top priority from Day One because he knew that achieving peace would take time, and that neglecting this issue for several years only increased the danger Israel faces from Hizballah, Hamas, and Iran.
Obama: And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security. (Applause.) And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. (Applause.)
Shapiro: Today, Hamas continues to rule harshly in Gaza, rejecting any compromise with Israel, smuggling weapons, and cruelly holding Gilad Shalit in captivity. He should be released to his family without delay. Our policy on Hamas has not changed: to gain the legitimacy it seeks, Hamas must comply with the conditions set down by the Quartet — recognizing the State of Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements.
Obama: No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. (Applause.) And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements. (Applause.) And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years. (Applause.)
Shapiro: But we also know that the status quo is not sustainable.
Obama: The status quo is unsustainable.
Shapiro: Demography makes it unsustainable: Israel cannot remain a secure, Jewish, democratic state without the emergence of a Palestinian state.
Obama: … the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.
Shapiro: He also knew that achieving a two-state solution is the only way to guarantee Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state, which is in Israeli and American interests.
Obama: I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.
Shapiro: This goal, this requirement to fulfill the needs of all parties, can only be achieved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama: Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. (Applause.)
Shapiro: We believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.
Obama: The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states…. By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. (Applause.) That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. (Applause.) It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.
Shapiro: Palestinian and other Arab leaders must also prepare their populations for peace, by ending all acts and statements of incitement, educating for coexistence, reaching out to the Israeli public, and beginning the process of normalization with Israel.
Obama: Arab governments, too, have responsibilities we will expect them to fulfill. Their support for proximity talks is welcome, but our expectations do not end there. We need them to … reach out to the Israeli public and resume exchanges of various kinds with Israel to demonstrate that Israel’s isolation in the region is ending.
Tel Aviv – I spent a part of my youth in a kibbutz very close to southern Lebanese village Maroun al-Ras, where the historic march of return of Palestinian refugees took place earlier this month.
The kibbutz was surrounded by fences and more fences. Every night in the children’s house, another member of the kibbutz was guarding us, sleeping with an Uzi gun nearby his bed. In this house, away from our parents, boys were raised Spartan tough to be the next pilots and elite unit warriors of the Israeli army, and the girls were raised very freely, in order to supply the needs of the future warriors. Growing up in such an unorthodox environment appears to be natural if you do not know any other type of life.
Living on the lands of the Palestinian village Kafr Birim, some information about its expelled inhabitants was leaked to us through the demonstrations that demanded the right of return. Hanna and Atallah, expelled from the village, actually built the kibbutz. Atallah’s handsome sons, who worked with him, were transparent to us. We were raised not to see them. I noticed the elder because he looked exactly like my cousin from Jerusalem.
As a teenager I was distressed by the Ikrith and Birim expulsions. The Israeli military occupied the two villages toward the end of 1948 and asked the inhabitants to leave for a period of two weeks only, and then come back. They left their villages and were never allowed to return.
It was obvious to me that the villages’ residents should be allowed to return. Meanwhile, nothing was mentioned about the other refugees, the vast majority who were expelled during the Nakba — the expulsion of approximately 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. Some said that Birim and Ikrith residents could return, for they are Christians. But what about the “legal precedent?” Precedent for what? That was not a question to ask. Ikrith and Birim functioned as a perfect camouflage over the entire story: the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Last week, images from Maroun al-Ras took me back to my youth, when after learning exactly what happened since 1948, my solidarity crossed all the way over to the “other” side. Visiting my remaining family in the kibbutz, I am now met by electric fences, and the automatic gates no longer look natural. By committing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the kibbutz’s founders predestined their grandchildren to live behind fences forever. According to an Arabic proverb, a thief does not sleep at night, and will not allow anyone else to sleep.
Last week, behind the fence of my childhood, Palestinian refugees gathered to demand return. The protesters looked and sounded exactly like the revolutionaries of Cairo’s Tahrir square. As with the uprising that began in Egypt on 25 January, I could not stop watching the exciting events in Maroun al-Ras, Majdal Shams, Qalandiya and Gaza, wishing I was part of it. Just take down the fences, I thought.
The refugees will one day return, but I am afraid that rivers of blood will be flooded by then. Declaring the immediate return of all refugees and replacing the apartheid state with a democratic state looks to me the most reasonable thing to do right now. But the supremacist will never give up his privileges voluntarily.
And that is exactly what one of the bravest refugees that we saw this month, Hassan Hijazi, told the Israeli press: Palestine will return to its owners only by force.
Hassan Hijazi crossed the Syrian border to the heart of the Zionist project: the white city of Tel Aviv. For a day he wandered around his hometown, Jaffa, a few years before its expected complete Judaization (gentrification) by demolition, expulsions, kicking out its Arab residents — most of them already displaced from the neighboring villages that Israel demolished in 1948.
The new residents are liberal Ashkenazi Jewish Israelis. Fake co-existence projects were the first steps of this latest invasion, serving the new white inhabitants of Jaffa. Now these new residents complain about the voices of the mosque muezzin and the Orthodox church band.
Hassan Hijazi reminded Israelis that he is not going to give up his hometown of Jaffa. For now, Tel Aviv exists as a European colonial bubble protected by the human shield of Sderot, the violent settlers in the West Bank and Jewish-Arab Mizrahim pushed by white gentrification to settlements such as Maale Adumin and Pisgat Zeev. But that bubble, surrounded by fences and more fences, is soon to pop.
Welcome home to Jaffa, Hassan Hijazi — the first returning refugee!
Rahela Mizrahi is a member of a family of Arab Jews which has lived for several generations in Jerusalem. She has a degree in fine arts from the Betzalel Academy in Jerusalem and a degree in Arabic literature and language from Tel Aviv University. In 2006 she signed the petition calling for the cultural boycott of Israel. She lives and works in Tel Aviv.
This is an attempt, admittedly futile, to remove some of the slime thrown at me in a letter addressed to President Gearan and circulated to over 250 people on October 3, 2009. It was written by Jim McKinster and five other faculty members and allegedly signed by 32 people in all. I heard about it by happenstance soon after it was circulated, but neither the President nor any of the six who circulated it was willing to provide me with a copy. That is a typical cowardly response employed by those who use this smear method to accuse, try, and censure someone who dares to speak truth to power. (I finally got a copy last week, hence the 20-month delay in my response.)
Their letter and with a copy of the op-ed I wrote in the Finger Lakes Times are attached.
Allow me to refute the lies and innuendos that these “colleagues” have levied against me, behind my back. Since each of you received the detractors’ letter, I am sending you this rebuttal.
1. The purpose of my op-ed was to define Holocaust denial. That should be clear from the byline “What do deniers really mean?” It was submitted in response to the media frenzy and demonization of President Ahmadinejad who addressed the UN General Assembly and whose picture was shown above my guest appearance piece. Instead of acknowledging this, my faculty detractors feigned outrage that it appeared on the eve of Yom Kippur. I had nothing to do with the timing of the article and make no apology for when it appeared vis-à-vis a Jewish holiday.
2. More egregiously these faculty detractors claimed to know my “personal beliefs” and claimed that I mis-used my title of professor emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to lend them credence. That is simply a lie. Nowhere are my personal beliefs stated. Moreover my op-ed included an exceptionally long disclaimer showing The Colleges neither condone nor condemn what I had written.
3. The faculty detractors claim that “Holocaust denial carries absolutely no weight among academic scholars in any field whatsoever.” That is simply not true. There are a number of scholars who write about the typical Holocaust narrative and are willing to fight the slime hurled at them by ardent Zionists and by others who feel it their duty to protect the narrative which serves as the sword and shield of apartheid Israel. (BTW, our former provost and former William Smith Dean both demanded that I not use the word “apartheid” in connection with Israel; granted the term was used in the Israeli press and later by President Carter, but it was not “suitable discourse” on our campus where we routinely claim to support free speech and diversity of opinion.)
4. The faculty detractors write that “denying undisputed facts of the holocaust (sic) is not a way to show support for the Palestinians.” First, the three tenets of Holocaust revisionism are clearly not “undisputed. To the contrary, they are hotly and passionately disputed; people’s lives are ruined when they even question these “facts.” In fourteen countries you can get jail time for disputing “facts” surrounding the Holocaust.
Second, disputing “facts” is what science and historical analysis is all about. We academics have no problem discussing and disputing whether or not Jesus Christ is truly the son of God, or if President Obama’s birth certificate is real, or if President Roosevelt knew a Japanese attack on Hawaii was imminent, but we are not allowed to discuss or dispute the six-million figure.
Third, what gives these detractors the credentials to pontificate on what supports or hurts Palestinians? Some of them have been responsible for feting at Hobart and William Smith Colleges anti-Palestinian demagogues including Wiesel and even Netanyahu. They helped give Madeleine Albright our highest humanitarian award, which is a disgrace in light of her statement that the death of over 500,000 Iraqi children was “worth it.” Was I the only one to protest that award?
I have team-taught a senior course on the Palestinians. I have published books and articles on the Palestinian Naqba and the massacre of Arab civilians by Jewish terrorists at Deir Yassin. I have built the only United States memorial to their dispossession and ethnic cleansing. I don’t need, nor accept, biased comments on how to support Palestinians.
5. Calling Holocaust historical revisionism “Holocaust denial” is unnecessarily pejorative. It might be fine for Fox News, but it is not conducive to academic discourse. To call Holocaust revisionism “thinly veiled anti-Semitism” is simply untrue and it demeans scholars and others, including Jews, who question the Holocaust doctrine as we are fed it in hundreds of films, books, articles, and commentaries. Terms like Holocaust Industry, Holocaust Fatigue, Holocaust professional, Holocaust wannabes, and Holocaust High Priest were not coined by “deniers” or anti-Semites; they were coined by Jews. (The High Priest quip is an obvious reference to Wiesel; it was made by Tova Reich in her book My Holocaust. Tova’s husband, Walter Reich, was the former director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington.)
In 1946 the US government told us that over 20 million people were murdered by Hitler. Now that figure is said to be 11 million; it is literally carved in stone at the US Holocaust Memorial. For years we were told that over 4 million were killed at Auschwitz, but by the early 1990s that figure was reduced to 1.5 million. Wiesel tells us that people were thrown alive onto pyres; he claims to have seen it with his own eyes; today Yad Vashem trained guides at Auschwitz say that is not true. These are examples of historical revisionism and they are not inherently anti-Semitic.
6. It is most interesting to see academic colleagues say, “(a)s we all know … the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ was introduced to make genocide sound more palatable.” That means they either deny that Palestinians have been (and continue to be) ethnically cleansed or they agree that Israel is performing genocide of the Palestinian people.
7. While the faculty detractors found my speech to be “abhorrent,” they seemed unable to find fault with a single fact I presented. So they resorted to name-calling and labeled the piece “hate speech” and “unsupported vitriol” and smeared my name to hundreds of people. I am surprised that Abe Foxman or the Mossad did not come calling.
8. The detractors genuinely were concerned about the op-ed’s impact on our Jewish students, staff, and faculty. But maybe it is time for all members of the community to see the Holocaust for what it really was and not the unquestionable, unimpeachable, doctrine that makes Jewish suffering superior to that of other people. Maybe it is time to recognize that Zionism as a political movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine began long before the Holocaust and that Zionist discrimination, dehumanization, and dispossession of the Palestinian people should not be excused by it. Maybe it is time to see that since over half the population (within the borders controlled by Israel) is not Jewish, the dream of creating a Jewish state has failed. Walling in the non-Jews or putting them in Bantustans or driving them into Jordan will not make it a purely Jewish state. The nationalist allegiance to “blood and soil” has been a failure and that should be the real lesson of the Holocaust.
9. To say that my op-ed “does not meet our expectation of minimally rational and minimally humane discourse’ is nonsense. The piece is well written, well substantiated, and quite humane.
10. But the faculty detractors are quite right about one thing; they were deeply disturbed and saddened to see a Hobart and William Smith title attached to it. Diversity and perspectives outside the mainstream are to be encouraged, but not if they question Jewish power, Israel, or Holocaust doctrine. Apparently that is beyond the pale.
11. The demand to President Gearan to remove my title of Professor Emeritus is both classic and stupid. Consider how little it would accomplish. I would be supposedly ashamed and I would have to buy a walking pass at the gym that would cost me $40 a year. Would it save HWS from being associated with my writings? Of course not; I would simply use the title of “Former Professor Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges” with no disclaimer.
But what it would really do is to cast me into the briar bush with Norm Finkelstein, Marc Ellis, Paul Eisen, Henry Herskovitz, Gilad Atzmon, Rich Siegel, and Hedy Epstein (a Holocaust survivor), all friends of mine and all anti-Zionists. Professors Ost, Linton, and Mertens apparently saw this and I credit (or blame) them for my still having the emeritus title.
Lest I seem irreverent or unscathed by this widely-circulated smear letter from my detractors, allow me to admit that I have been hurt by it. Many faculty and other HWS folks now shun me as a persona non grata largely because they only read the slime and never a rebuttal. Of course until now there could be no rebuttal because the smear letter was withheld from me. (Even the Provost’s request to send me a copy was refused.)
My former student and long-time friend, David Deming, who is now the Chair of the HWS Board does not answer my letters. President Gearan does not answer them either. Board member, Roy Dexheimer, disparages me and wonders if I fell “off my meds.” Another Board member, Stuart Pilch, took it a step further and made a threatening phone call to my home and a promise “to hunt me down.”
But the biggest disappointment is with those faculty detractors who never came to discuss or complain about what I had written, but instead chose to spin their own interpretation, which was full of lies and half truths, and then disseminate their smear as widely as possible. Should any of you be one of the signatories, my door is open for further discussion. And if you know the names of the other signatories, I would appreciate your sharing that information with me.
Daniel McGowan is a Professor Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Because of admonishment by the administration, it is hereby stated that the above remarks are solely those of the author. Hobart and William Smith Colleges neither condone nor condemn these opinions. Furthermore, the author has been instructed to use his personal email address of firstname.lastname@example.org and not his college email at email@example.com for those wishing to contact him with comments or criticisms.
$6.64 Billion Damages Sought over Israeli Government and AIPAC Use of Stolen Classified US Trade Data
WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today the Section 301 Committee of the US Trade Representative formally received a petition demanding $6.64 billion in compensation for US exporters. In 1984 US exporters were urged to submit business confidential data about their prices, market share, internal costs and market strategy to the International Trade Commission. The USTR guaranteed confidentiality and compiled the data into a classified report for use in negotiating the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
The Israeli government obtained the classified USTR report and passed it to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to use in lobbying and public relations. Declassified FBI investigation files in the petition reveal AIPAC’s legislative director made illicit duplications before returning the report by order of the USTR. The FBI interviewed Israeli Minister of Economics Dan Halpern who admitted obtaining the classified document and giving it to AIPAC.
According to the petition Israel unfairly leveraged the business confidential data stolen from US corporations and industry groups to create new export oriented industries to penetrate the American market. Israel thereby gained an unwarranted systemic advantage. The US-Israel FTA is an anomaly among all bilateral FTAs in that it principally benefits the foreign party, providing a destination for 40% of Israel’s exports. The petition claims it is now a private industry funded foreign aid program. In 2010 the US Israel FTA produced an $11.2 billion US deficit in goods trade. Over a decade the US deficit has averaged $7.09 billion per year. The cumulative US-Israel deficit in current dollars since 1985 is $80.9 billion.
Analysis of all other US-bilateral FTAs reveals that they do not deliver a systemic advantage to either partner. In 2010, the US had a $31.43 billion total surplus with its other bilateral FTA partners, though in 2006 and 2007 these same agreements produced a narrow US deficit.
The petition recommends the $6.64 billion be proportionally divided between nearly 80 US organizations according to their trailing 10 year revenues. If the Israeli government will not pay damages directly, the petition recommends the US implement a five year import duty over all Israeli exports to the United States to generate the compensation.
For information about the petition and compensation formula, contact Grant F. Smith at the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, DC at 202-342-7325 or by email at info@IRmep.org.
Hezbollah condemned the attack which targeted United Nation Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol, considering it as a “criminal act”.
Hezbollah Media Relations issued a statement, saying the party “ considers this a criminal act and calls on the Lebanese special services to investigate and uncover the perpetrators and hold them accountable”.
Six Italian peacekeepers were wounded, along with two civilians on Friday in a roadside bomb explosion targeting a UN patrol along Rmeileh highway leading to the coastal city of Saida, south of Lebanon.
According to Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa, two of the peacekeepers were in serious condition.
A spokesman for the UNIFIL, Neeraj Singh, said: “this is a despicable act that is clearly directed at undermining UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and stability in Lebanon”, referring to the resolution that ended July war in 2006.
Ban Ki-moon sent letters to several leaders telling them that supplies must be transferred to the Gaza Strip through what he called “legal channels”, and existing mechanisms, and added that “violence must be avoided”, the Maan News Agency reported.
His statements came as the new flotilla launched on the one-year anniversary of the deadly Israeli attack against the Freedom Flotilla when nine activists were killed after the Israeli navy violently boarded the Turkish ship; dozens were injured.
UN spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, said that he is worried about reports of a new flotilla, and called on related governments to stop the flotilla in order to stop the “potential violence that could take place”.
He said that “despite the fact that Freedom Flotillas are useless, the situation in the Gaza Strip must be changed, and Israel must conduct real measures to end the siege”.
The new Freedom Flotilla will be heading to Gaza in the second half of next month while ten ships from several European countries will be part of it.
Physicians, Academics, Artists and Reporters will be onboard, and will attempt to deliver relief supplies to the besieged coastal region.
The Free Gaza movement said that the flotilla is a nonviolent act that aims at convincing the international community to fulfill its obligations towards the Palestinians, and to end the illegal four-year siege on Gaza.
Several days ago, Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that he hopes Israel will not attack the flotilla this time, and that it would avoid any confrontations.