The Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Affairs in Gaza has revealed that the Israeli authorities are continuing to detain 20 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Seventeen of the MPs are being held under so-called Administrative Detention without charge or any other legitimate reason.
The ministry’s media director Riad Al Ashqar said that the number of detained MPs fell to 20 after the release of Hassan Youssef. The others still in Israeli detention include 17 representing the Change and Reform Bloc, 2 are from Fatah and 1 is from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. All ten of Hebron’s MPs are in Israeli prisons, the latest of whom to be detained being Mohamed Motlek Abu Jeheisha.
According to Mr Al Ashqar, most of the parliamentarians are being detained for the second time in two years. The Israelis, he said, had to use the Administrative Detention process because they have no charges to file against them. The MPs, he added, are in detention solely to keep them out of the political arena, and when one period of detention lapse, it is renewed immediately.
The ministry considers the detentions to be “kidnapping” and a “political crime, a blow to democracy”, as well as a violation of basic international conventions and charters. The detention of their politicians also constitutes aggression against legitimate Palestinian institutions and symbols, and a violation of political immunity, said Mr Al Ashqar, who noted that the treaties signed by the Israelis allow for the establishment of an elected Palestinian parliament, with parliamentary immunity granted for its members. “As usual,” he said, “the Zionist state doesn’t respect its legal commitments and the treaties to which it is a signatory.”
Since 2006, Israel has kidnapped more than two-thirds of the Palestinian Legislative Council’s members and issued harsh sentences against them; most served their sentences and were released, before being kidnapped again.
Protecting Americans? President Obama’s Shameful Silence in the Face of Israel’s Murder of a Young American
Among the many shameful and cowardly things that President Barack Obama has and has not done, few can rival his complete unwillingness to express outrage at the Israeli military’s murder of a young American teen executed at close range during the Israeli Defense (sic) Force assault on the Turkish-flagged aid ship the Mavi Marmara in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea back on May 31, 2010.
Furkan Dogan, born in the US to Turkish parents, both legal residents of the U.S., and educated in the US, was a volunteer on the Mavi Marmara, the flag ship in a six boat aid flotilla that tried to sail with humanitarian aid from Turkey to the Israeli prison colony known as Gaza only to be stormed and captured and pirated to Israel.
When IDF forces boarded the ship from helicopters and speed boats they shot and killed nine people, one of them young Dogan.
When the assault occurred, there was no protest from the White House, even though an American citizen had been killed. (There was little reporting on the murder either in the U.S. corporate media, which consistently referred to him as Turkish-American–a designation usually reserved for immigrants–despite his being native born in the U.S.).
Nor was there any protest from the White House when the Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine reported a month later that the autopsy conducted on Dogan showed that, like most of the other eight IDF victims, he had been shot in the back and in the back of the head, as well as in the face — hardly the kind of killing that would have resulted had he and the others — as the Israeli government claimed, been “attacking” the IDF boarders. (In fact a smuggled video shows two IDF officers brutally kicking a person identified by the filmer as Dogan while he is lying on the deck of the ship, and then shooting him repeatedly with their weapons, which my colleague Linn Washington says appear to be pump-action Remington 870 shotguns — a deadly gun popular around the world and among police for “riot control” actions. The weapon is part of the IDF arsenal.)
A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who investigated the IDF assault on the Mavi Marmara concluded that Dogan, far from “assaulting” IDF forces, had been trying to video-tape their slaughter of others when he was attacked and slain.
As for President Obama, who is forever echoing his predecessor George W. Bush about his important job of “protecting Americans”?
Furkan Dogan, American teen murdered by Israeli troops, ignored by President Obama and the US government
Far from expressing outrage at the murder of a US youth, he and his State Department, as I disclosed in an article in ThisCantBeHappening! on Sept. 27, 2010, hid news about the forensic evidence of Dogan’s execution after it was provided by Turkey, first to the U.S Embassy in Ankara, and then to the White House directly.
As I wrote at that time:
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, says it sent the autopsy report to the US via the US Embassy in Turkey, as soon as it was completed, assuming the US would want to prosecute Israel for his death. Instead, the Obama administration and the US Justice Department sat and continue to sit on the information, saying nothing. A request by ThisCantBeHappening for information from the Justice Department about the autopsy elicited only a brief “We have no comment for you,” from DOJ spokesman Dean Boyd.
Now the president has been roundly condemned for his callous disregard for the brutal slaughter of one of his country’s own young citizens by no less than the prime minister of Turkey, one of America’s NATO allies. Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan reported on September 10 that in a recent meeting with the U.S. president, he told Obama that Turkish medical examiners had determined that the nine victims had been hit by a total of 35 bullets, most fired at close range and — as we know from the reports — from the back. He later told reporters, “I asked President Obama whether the reason he showed no interest in one of his nationals being killed was because [the victim] was [ethnically] Turkish – he didn’t reply.”
No U.S. corporate media reporters have ventured to ask Obama about this shocking silence. Nor was Erdogan’s account mentioned in the mainstream media — even in the New York Times, where on Sept. 12, reporter David D. Kirkpatrick actually wrote a report on Erdogan’s new assertiveness in which he mentioned the Turkish PM’s “faulting” of the U.S. for failing to demand an apology from Israel “for the killing of its citizens” in the May 31, 2010 raid.
Failing to mention at such a point that Erdogan had leveled an even more explosive charge directly against the president himself is simply journalist malpractice on Kirkpatrick’s and the Times’ part. (Compare the Times and other US media outlets’ coverage of the plight of two captured U.S. hikers in Iranian captivity, who have not been killed or even treated badly by U.S. prison standards, to the non-coverrage of Dogan’s murder.)
Where does the account of Erdogan’s comment to President Obama appear? In the Jewish Daily Forward, a publication printed in New York City, which had an article titled “Rift Between Israel and Turkey Puts White House on the Spot.”
Of course, this would not be the first time that a U.S. president had failed to condemn a brutal murder of an American by Israel. President Johnson famously covered up Israel’s monstrous attack on the U.S. Navy spy ship Liberty during the 1967 Six-Day War–an unprovoked attack on a vessel of its key ally, which killed 34 U.S. sailors and injured another 170.
But this murder of Dogan, while minor in size compared to the attack on the Liberty, is in another way perhaps worse, as it was an attack on a peaceful ship in international waters and involves the murder of an unarmed young man who was doing nothing but trying to document an ongoing atrocity.
For President Obama to maintain his silence in this case is not just a shameful act — it is a message to the rest of the world that where Middle East issues are concerned, he and the rest of the U.S. government are completely in the control of the right-wing Israeli government and of its zionist backers in the U.S., even to the point of being willing to alienate the entire 75 million people of Turkey.
The president’s shame is only matched by the equally shameful behavior of the U.S. corporate media, which have likewise blacked out this Israeli atrocity against an innocent young American.
The short answer to the question in the title is no.
The 9/11 truth critics have nothing but ad hominem arguments.
Let’s examine the case against “the truthers” presented by Ted Rall, Ann Barnhardt, and Alexander Cockburn.
But first let’s define who “the truthers” are.
The Internet has made it possible for anyone to have a web site and to rant and speculate to their heart’s content. There are a large number of “9/11 conspiracy theorists”.
Many on both sides of the issue are equally ignorant. Neither side has any shame about demonstrating ignorance.
Both sides of the issue have conspiracy theories.
9/11 was a conspiracy whether a person believes that it was an inside job or that a handful of Arabs outwitted the entire intelligence apparatus of the Western world and the operational response of NORAD and the US Air Force.
For one side to call the other conspiracy theorists is the pot calling the kettle black.
The question turns not on name-calling but on evidence.
The 9/11 Truth movement was not created by bloggers ranting on their web sites. It was created by professional architects and engineers some of whom are known for having designed steel high rise buildings.
It was created by distinguished scientists, such as University of Copenhagen nano-Chemist Niels Harrit who has 60 scientific papers to his credit and physicist Steven Jones.
It was created by US Air Force pilots and commercial airline pilots who are expert at flying airplanes.
It was created by firefighters who were in the twin towers and who personally heard and experienced numerous explosions including explosions in the sub-basements. It was created by members of 9/11 families who desire to know how such an improbable event as 9/11 could possibly occur.
The professionals and the scientists are speaking from the basis of years of experience and expert knowledge. Moreover, the scientists are speaking from the basis of careful research into the evidence that exists.
When an international research team of scientists spends 18 months studying the components in the dust from the towers and the fused pieces of concrete and steel, they know what they are doing. When they announce that they have definite evidence of incendiaries and explosives, you can bet your life that that have the evidence.
When a physicist proves that Building 7 (the stories not obscured by other buildings) fell at free fall speed and NIST has to acknowledge that he is correct, you can bet your life that the physicist is correct.
When fire department captains and clean-up teams report molten steel–and their testimony is backed up with photographs–in the debris of the ruins weeks and months after the buildings’ destruction, you can bet your life the molten steel was there.
When the same authorities report pumping fire suppressants and huge quantities of water with no effect on the molten steel, you can bet your life that the temperature long after the buildings’ destruction remained extremely high, far higher than any building fire can reach.
When the architects, engineers, and scientists speak, they offer no theory of who is responsible for 9/11. They state that the known evidence supports neither the NIST reports nor the 9/11 Commission Report. They say that the explanation that the government has provided is demonstrably wrong and that an investigation is required if we are to discover the truth about the event.
It is not a conspiracy theory to examine the evidence and to state that the evidence does not support the explanation that has been given.
That is the position of the 9/11 Truth movement.
What is the position of the movement’s critics? Ted Rall says: “Everything I’ve read and watched on Truther sites is easily dismissed by anyone with a basic knowledge of physics and architecture. (I spent three years in engineering school.)”
Wow! What powerful credentials. Has Rall ever designed a high rise steel building? Could Rall engage in a debate with a professor of nano-chemistry? Could he refute Newton’s laws in a debate with university physicists? Does Rall know anything about maneuvering airplanes? Does he have an explanation why 100 firefighters, janitors, and police report hearing and experiencing explosions that they did not hear or experience?
Clearly, Ted Rall has no qualifications whatsoever to make any judgment about the judgments of experts whose knowledge exceeds his meager understanding by a large amount.
Ann Barnhardt writes: “I gotta tell you, I’ve just about had it with these 9/11 truthers. If there is one phenomenon in our sick, sick culture that sums up how far gone and utterly damaged we are as a people, it is 9/11 trutherism. It pretty much covers everything: self-loathing, antisemitism, zero knowledge of rudimentary physics and a general inability to think logically.” She goes down hill from here.
Amazing, isn’t she? Physics professors have “zero knowledge of rudimentary physics.”
Internationally recognized logicians have “a general inability to think logically.” People trained in the scientific method who use it to seek truth are “self-loathing.” If you doubt the government’s account you are antisemitic. Barnhardt then provides her readers with a lesson in physics, structural architecture and engineering, and the behavior of steel under heat and stress that is the most absolute nonsense imaginable.
Obviously, Barnhardt knows nothing whatsoever about what she is talking about, but overflowing with hubris she dismisses real scientists and professionals with ad hominem arguments. She adds to her luster with a video of herself tearing out pages of the Koran, which she has marked with slices of bacon, and burning the pages.
Now we come to Alexander Cockburn. He is certainly not stupid. I know him. He is pleasant company. He provides interesting intellectual conversation. I like him. Yet, he also arrogantly dismisses highly qualified experts who provide evidence contrary to the official government story of 9/11.
Cockburn avoids evidence presented by credentialed experts and relies on parody. He writes that the conspiracists claim that the twin towers “pancaked because Dick Cheney’s agents–scores of them–methodically planted demolition charges.”
Little doubt but there are bloggers somewhere in the vast Internet world who say this. But this is not what the professionals are saying who have provided evidence that the official account is not correct. The experts are simply saying that the evidence does not support the official explanation. More recently, an international team of scientists has reported finding unequivocal evidence of incendiaries and explosives. They have not said anything about who planted them. Indeed, they have said that other scientists should test their conclusions by repeating the research. After calling experts “conspiracy kooks,” Alex then damns them for not putting forward “a scenario of the alleged conspiracy.”
Moreover, not a single one of the experts believes the towers “pancaked.” This was an early explanation that, I believe, was tentatively put forward by NIST, but it had to be abandoned because of the speed with which the buildings came down and due to other problems.
Unlike Rall and Barnhardt, Cockburn does refer to evidence, but it is second or third-hand hearsay evidence that is nonsensical on its face. For example, Cockburn writes that Chuck Spinney “tells me that ‘there ARE pictures taken of the 757 plane hitting Pentagon–they were taken by the surveillance cameras at Pentagon’s heliport, which was right next to impact point. I have seen them both–stills and moving pictures. I just missed seeing it personally, but the driver of the van I just got out of in South Parking saw it so closely that he could see the terrified faces of passengers in windows.’”
If there were pictures or videos of an airliner hitting the Pentagon, they would have been released years ago. They would have been supplied to the 9/11 Commission. Why would the government refuse for 10 years to release pictures that prove its case? The FBI confiscated all film from all surveillance cameras. No one has seen them, much less a Pentagon critic such as Spinney.
I have to say that the van driver must have better eyes than an eagle if he could see expressions on passenger faces through those small airliner portholes in a plane traveling around 500 mph. Try it sometime. Sit on your front steps and try to discern the expressions of automobile passengers through much larger and clearer windows traveling down your street in a vehicle moving 30 mph. Then kick the speed up 16.7 times to 500 mph and report if you see anything but a blur.
Cockburn’s other evidence that 9/11 truthers are kooks is a letter that Herman Soifer, who claims to be a retired structural engineer, wrote to him summarizing “the collapse of Buildings 1 and 2 succinctly.” This is what Soifer, who “had followed the plans and engineering of the Towers during construction” wrote to Alex: “The towers were basically tubes, essentially hollow.” This canard was disposed of years ago. If Alex had merely googled the plans of the buildings, he would have discovered that there were no thin-walled hollow tubes, but a very large number of massively thick steel beams.
Cockburn’s willingness to dismiss as kooks numerous acknowledged experts on the basis of a claim that a van driver saw terrified faces of passengers moving at 500 mph and a totally erroneous description in a letter from a person who knew nothing whatsoever about the structural integrity of the buildings means that he is a much braver person than I.
Before I call architects kooks whose careers were spent building steel high rises, I would want to know a lot more about the subject than I do. Before I poke fun at nano-chemists and physicists, I would want to at least be able to read their papers and find the scientific flaws in their arguments.
Yet, none of the people who ridicule 9/11 skeptics are capable of this. How, for example, can Rall, Barnhardt, or Cockburn pass judgment on a nano-chemist with 40 years of experience and 60 scientific publications to his credit?
They cannot, but nevertheless do. They don’t hesitate to pass judgment on issues about which they have no knowledge or understanding. This is an interesting psychological phenomenon worthy of study and analysis.
Another interesting phenomenon is the strong emotional reactions that many have to 9/11, an event about which they have little information. Even the lead members of the 9/11 Commission itself have said that information was withheld from them and the commission was set up to fail. People who rush to the defense of NIST do not even know what they are defending as NIST refuses to release the details of the simulation upon which NIST bases its conclusion.
There is no 9/11 debate.
On the one hand there are credentialed experts who demonstrate problems in the official account, and on the other hand there are non-experts who denounce the experts as conspiracy kooks.
The experts are cautious and careful about what they say, and their detractors have thrown caution and care to the wind. That is the state of the debate.
The instructions were simple. “Get up you fucking bastard”, “Get up you fucking ape” screamed the soldiers, followed by kicks and punches. Sometimes the blows came from multiple fists and boots.
Getting up meant squatting, half leaning against a wall, arms pointing straight out. This is known as a stress position.
The British army made ten Iraqi hotel workers spend days like this. Even if they stayed in position they were beaten, had urine poured over them or were forced to drink it. They had their heads covered with hoods.
It is torture and it was systematic. It is what being “questioned” by the occupying forces in Iraq really meant.
By the end of this ordeal, hotel worker Baha Mousa was dead. One soldier later remarked, “We kicked him to death”.
British soldiers inflicted “violent and cowardly” assaults on Iraqi civilians, according to a public inquiry into the killing published last week. The Gage inquiry concluded that an “appalling episode of serious, gratuitous violence” by the British army killed Baha.
Baha died within 36 hours of being taken into British military custody. He received 93 external injuries, including a broken nose and also internal injuries including fractured ribs.
He died from asphyxia.
The case is an indictment of military culture. It shows the vicious treatment that the army doled out to civilians it interrogated.
The torture of Baha Mousa began when the army raided a hotel in Basra, Iraq, on 14 September 2003. Baha had only been working at the hotel for about two weeks. It was one of three jobs that he had in order to support his family.
The army arrested ten workers in the raid—and soldiers robbed the safe. A number of those arrested were kicked and their heads were held in flushing toilets. Much worse was to come.
Soldiers took the ten away with instructions not to use hoods—because a TV crew had turned up outside. But they beat the prisoners again before reaching the detention centre. Once there, the ordeal began in earnest. Prisoners recalled being beaten to force them to dance “like Michael Jackson”.
The inquiry heard evidence that they were scalded with boiling water, urinated on, kicked, punched and sleep deprived.
One recalled how he was given a bottle in which to urinate. When he asked for a drink on the third day, the contents of this bottle were poured into his mouth.
A soldier also grabbed his face through the sandbags and tried to force his fingers into the detainee’s eyes.
Others were given scalding water to drink and cold water was poured over their heads. One heard Baha Mousa shouting and screaming, saying, “I’ll die”, “my nose”, “I’m bleeding”.
The soldiers had a competition to see who could kick a prisoner the hardest.
The report notes that one prisoner “had petrol rubbed under his nose, water poured over his head and a lighter held close to his head, with the obvious intention of causing him to think petrol was about to be ignited.”
And so it continued. “For almost the whole of the period up to Baha Mousa’s death… the detainees were kept handcuffed, hooded and in stress positions in extreme heat and conditions of some squalor,” the report said.
The inquiry was also played a video of one soldier, Corporal Donald Payne, screaming at the prisoners and calling them “fucking apes”.
Payne became the first member of the armed forces to be convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians at a court martial in 2006.
The soldiers put on a show where they made the prisoners into a “choir”—by beating them till they screamed. “Towards the end of the second day they were all in so much pain that he only had to poke them to get them to make a noise,” said former soldier Gareth Aspinall in the report evidence. “When visitors came across they also found it funny.”
On one occasion, soldiers held a “free for all” where a number of them attacked all the Iraqis at once. In between the beatings, prisoners were questioned. They had done nothing wrong.
The report names 19 soldiers as having assaulted prisoners—although the inquiry has not been able to identify several others. It says that Colonel Jorge Mendonca, the unit’s commander, “bears a heavy responsibility for these events”. Retired appeal court judge Sir William Gage accepted that Mendonca did not know that the abuse was going on.
But he said Mendonca failed by not knowing “precisely what conditioning involved”.
The report does not say that there was systematic torture of Iraqi prisoners. But it does point out that Baha’s death wasn’t a one-off incident.
Gage puts the blame at the door of individual soldiers and officers, as well as on poor internal communications. He condemns the “loss of discipline and a lack of moral courage” that meant soldiers did not report the abuse.
Soldiers repeatedly lied about what went on. Time and time again, soldiers claimed not to remember what they had seen or done.
That amnesia went right to the top.
Senior commanders were apparently ignorant of a ban imposed in 1972 on the use of five torture techniques, including hooding, stress positions and sleep deprivation.
While highly critical of the evidence of a number of soldiers, and of the lies told about the Iraqis’ detention, Gage ruled that there was no cover-up of Baha’s death.
After Baha’s killing, the government claimed that hooding of prisoners had stopped, which it hadn’t, and that it wasn’t used for interrogations, which it was.
The report says that while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had provided inaccurate information, neither it, the civil service, nor ministers had intended to mislead. Instead the inquiry condemns the “corporate failure” of the MoD.
This included then armed forces minister Adam Ingram’s claim that he was “not aware of any incidents in which UK interrogators are alleged to have used hooding as an interrogation technique”.
But Ingram had been sent a memo explaining what had happened to Baha Mousa. Ingram claimed, “It certainly would not have been within my power to remember everything that I had been informed.”
The report also notes the memory loss of then Labour defence secretary Geoff Hoon. It says, “His answers suggested that he had not perhaps fully grasped the respect in which his response turned out to have been inaccurate.”
The report provides evidence that soldiers were trained in what are essentially torture techniques. This, combined with a culture of racism and violence, explains why torture was so commonplace.
Private Stuart MacKenzie of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment was one of those guarding Baha. Just days before the hotel raid, MacKenzie wrote in his diary, “Found 3 Ali Babas at WTP7, beat them up with sticks, filmed it. Good day so far.”
The inquiry concludes only that there should be better training for what the army calls “the harsh approach”. And it proposes the army drops teaching methods to “maintain the shock of capture” and “prolong the shock of capture”.
The government immediately rejected this, claiming that lives could be put at risk unless the army could deploy all “necessary” techniques.
The inquiry has shone a light on the brutality of the war in Iraq. But it has left the establishment untouched, the command structure and the politicians blameless. That is not justice.
During the first days of September, the Israeli military administration announced its decision to temporarily suspend demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territory, in recognition of the double standard applied for years to Palestinians and Jewish settlers. Nevertheless two days after the international media picked up this news, the same Israeli authorities ordered several demolitions in the regions of Hebron, Nablus and Jerusalem.
In the south hills of Hebron, soldiers demolished a zinc house with two rooms and a residential tent donated by an international NGO in Um al-Khay, a small town populated by Bedouins displaced from the Negev. The demolition meant that 20 people, 16 of them children, are now without a home. Israeli forces also destroyed in the same town a sanitary unit that had been built by an Israeli organization. More than 15 people used this facility.
The military also showed up last Thursday (September 8) to As-Samu. This Palestinian village is in the south of the West Bank and in the middle of the Separation Wall’s projected route. According to Israeli authorities’ plans, As-Samu inhabitants will lose 10,000 dunams of land when the Wall is built. For the time being, the military continues to executive the endless demolition orders in the area. This time they destroyed one kilometer of electricity infrastructure.
Meanwhile, just 14 kilometers east of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers demolished three agricultural cisterns in An-Nassariya. Around 1,300 people live in this village that also hosts the healthcare facilities for all the surrounding towns. Most of the people in this region depend on agriculture to live and this is exactly what the occupying forces seem to be focusing on destroying. Last July Israel demolished three wells and essential supporting infrastructure, including pumps and pipes. Even though An-Nassariya is near the city of Nablus, it is considered Area B, according to the Oslo Accords design.
Finally four kilometers north of East Jerusalem, in the route going to Nablus, Israeli soldiers burst in the small town of Nabi Samuel on the same day. Home to 20 Muslim families and the tomb of the Prophet Samuel, Israel has declared this zone Area C and has fenced it off completely. Over the years Israeli authorities have confiscated land in the area and demolished all new construction. On Thursday the newest victim was the owner of a fruit and vegetable stand. Not only was his stand destroyed, but all his goods were confiscated. The owner later noted that this had been the fourth demolition this year. Desperate and without hope, he and his family promised to go on a hunger strike.
Ambassador Shapiro’s Revelations
While many Americans may believe that US policies are designed to address American needs, America’s new Ambassador to Israel explains that this is far from the case.
In a recent speech before the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), Ambassador Daniel Shapiro clarified what drives US policies:
“The test of every policy the Administration develops in the Middle East is whether it is consistent with the goal of ensuring Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state. That is a commitment that runs as a common thread through our entire government.”
Shapiro went on to say:
“This test explains our extraordinary security cooperation, our stand against the delegitimization of Israel, our efforts on Iran, our response to the Arab Spring, and our efforts on Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
US funding of Israel and its weapons industry
“Israel will receive over $3 billion in U.S. funding for training and equipment in the coming fiscal year. This assistance allows Israel to purchase the sophisticated defense equipment it needs to protect itself, by itself, including the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Our assistance has also helped boost Israel’s domestic defense industry.”
On top of this, Shapiro pointed out,
“Congress, at the request of President Obama, provided $205 million to accelerate production and deployment of the Iron Dome short-range missile system, a project to which I devoted particular attention during my tenure at the White House.”
Shapiro said that one of his first visits as Ambassador to Israel was to see an Iron Dome battery deployed near Ashkelon, where he “had very moving visits with the victims of rocket attacks in Ashdod.” Palestinian rocket attacks have killed approximately 20 Israelis. There is no report that Shapiro has visited the victims of Israeli shelling attacks on Gaza, where over 1,400 have been killed.
Opposing international initiatives
“The test of our policy – that it advances Israel’s status as a secure, Jewish, democratic state – also explains our commitment to vigorously battle against those who would attempt to isolate or delegitimize Israel in the international community.”
As a result, Shapiro said, the US withdrew from the South African conference on racism in Durban and vetoed UN efforts on Israel (which otherwise would have passed).
Currently, he said, the administration is “doing everything we can” to oppose the Palestinian bid for UN membership to come later this month. “We are taking our opposition to capitals around the world.”
This campaign is reminiscent of previous pro-Israel campaigns, including the original pressure brought by Israel partisans in 1947 on the UN General Assembly to pass a recommendation to give over half of Palestine to a Jewish state.
Policies on Iran based on Israeli concerns
Shapiro went on to say:
“The test of our policy – to advance Israel’s status as a secure, Jewish democratic state – explains our persistent efforts and the President’s determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“Since 2009, the United States has led the world in imposing the toughest sanctions ever against Iran, through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, through the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act, and through additional sanctions imposed by European and other partners beyond those mandated by the U.N. Security Council… We are working to increase pressure on Iran through additional means, and have taken no option off the table.”
Twenty years ago similar pressure on Iraq created a humanitarian catastrophe in which, according to the World Health Organization, over 5,000 children under the age of five died each month from “embargo-related causes.”
Arab Spring actions predicated on Israeli interests
Shapiro explained that concerns for Israel also drive the US administration’s actions regarding the Arab Spring:
“The test of our policy explains President Obama’s original outreach to the Muslim world, and his response to the Arab Spring.
“Israel’s interests were not served by the deep anger felt toward the United States in many Muslim communities, and the President made clear that those who would accept his outstretched hand must do so knowing that the United States will remain a fierce defender of Israel’s legitimacy and call on others to build their own connections with Israel.
“As the unprecedented events of the Arab Spring have unfolded, we have recognized the opportunity presented by the possible emergence of more open, transparent, peaceful, and democratic governments, who will make better neighbors, while remaining vigilant about the risks these changes could present. We know the stakes for Israel are high, and in a situation where neither of us can control outcomes, we are working closely together to chart a common strategy.”
Shapiro said that US support for a “two-state solution” is also based on Israeli desires, explaining that he and the Administration are “convinced that a two-state solution is the only way to guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.” Therefore, he said, the administration’s “vigorous pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace” also meets the pro-Israel test.
Need to bolster pro-Israel ties among Jewish Americans
Shapiro spoke of the close allegiance that most Jewish Americans feel for Israel, but expressed concern that “much research has shown that growing numbers of younger American Jews feel disconnected, or at best ambivalent, toward Israel. Valuable programs like Birthright have exposed many to this connection, but many more have not been reached.”
He said that “a stronger commitment to Zionist education for American Jewish youth could do much to strengthen bonds that we want to be even stronger in the next generation, but may not be if left untended.”
Helping Israeli finances even further
Shapiro said that “one of the most fruitful opportunities for deepening ties” between Americans and Israelis is in the economic sphere:
“There are approximately one dozen American-Israel Chambers of Commerce throughout the United States, based in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. These organizations are run and organized by Americans who care deeply about the U.S.- Israel relationship and strive to facilitate U.S.-Israel business connections.”
Shapiro pointed out:
“In 2010 alone the U.S. imported $21 billion of Israeli goods and services; that’s 10 percent of Israel’s GDP. American companies and their representatives here directly employ about 60,000 Israelis; that’s fully 2 percent of Israel’s entire workforce. This figure does not include the many thousands more that are supported by American companies here as subcontractors or in downstream businesses.
“American companies have opened two-thirds of all foreign R&D facilities in Israel and brought in nearly 60 percent of all foreign direct investment. In 2011, American companies have acquired ten Israeli startups to the tune of $1.5 billion dollars, not just for their products, but to establish leading international R&D centers tapping into the greatest asset of Israel’s people, their brainpower. American-sourced venture capitalism provides more than half of all money for nascent technology companies to get off the ground.
“Just as other Diaspora communities are often in the lead in promoting economic ties with their countries of origin, many of these projects began because of Jewish-American ‘champions’ of corporate interaction with Israel.”
Ambassador Shapiro failed to mention that Israel’s current account balance is 29th in the world; the U.S. comes in at 196th.
1973 War and Shapiro’s personal ties to Israel
In his speech, Ambassador Shapiro recounted his personal history “for the insights it can give us about the connection of the American Jewish community to the U.S.-Israel relationship.” He stated:
“I am a proud member of our Jewish community in Washington, DC, active in a Conservative synagogue and the Jewish day school that my children attend and where my wife, Julie, worked for many years. And my profound respect for the State of Israel and its remarkable achievements stems from a lifetime of exposure to the extraordinary people who brought Theodore Herzl’s Zionist dream to life.”
Shapiro explained that his close attachment to Israel began in 1973 when he was four years old and his family spent a fall semester in Israel. They were there during the war in which Egypt and Syria tried to retrieve land that had been taken by Israel seven years before.
While Ambassador Shapiro didn’t go into this, there is a close US connection to the 1973 war, called by Israel and US media the “Yom Kippur War.”
Before and during this war, Saudi Arabia called on the US to pressure Israel to return the lands that it had taken and held since 1967, in violation of international law. Instead, Henry Kissinger arranged a massive airlift of US weaponry to Israel, saving Israel from losing the war. This support led to the oil embargo against the US that caused a deep depression and cost thousands of Americans their jobs.
As historian Donald Neff later wrote, this boycott, induced by Kissinger’s weapons to Israel, left “economies around the world shattered and many individuals living poorer lives.” Neff wrote that while “Kissinger admitted, ‘I made a mistake,’ skeptics might wonder whether it was a mistake, or wanton disregard of U.S. interests during a passionate effort to help Israel.”
Shapiro explained that the 1973 war had a major impact on his family:
“By the end of the war, and even more so, by the end of our stay, our family’s relationship with Israel had been utterly transformed, from a solid but light connection to the deepest of bonds. Throughout the remainder of my childhood, family dinner conversations turned easily to events in Israel, from the thrill of the peace with Egypt to the anguish of the Lebanon War [initiated by Israel; fatalities were approximately 25:1 Lebanese to Israelis]. The ample bookshelves in my parents’ home grew laden with studies in Zionism, Jewish history, and Israeli literature.
“A product of the Reform Movement, I nurtured my own connection to Israel primarily through summer camp experiences at the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, an unlikely setting for some of the most innovative Jewish and Zionist education to be found anywhere.
“These experiences led me to spend half a year after high school in Israel on a Reform Movement program, living with an Israeli family in Jerusalem, studying at Hebrew Union College, traveling widely throughout the country, and volunteering on Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava.
“I returned for my sophomore year of college at Hebrew University, supplementing my studies with work as a waiter at the wedding hall in the Beit Knesset HaGadol and long walks in Rehavia, where my girlfriend – who is now my wife of 19 years – took an apartment.
“In the years since, I have made Israel, its history and people, its quest for peace and security in the Middle East, and its relationship with the United States, the centerpiece of my academic studies at Brandeis and Harvard, my work on Capitol Hill, and my service in the Clinton and Obama Administrations.”
Shapiro emphasized that in many ways his story is not unique, stating that “it is impossible to deny the special connection that most in the American Jewish community feel for Israel…. wherever they fall on the political spectrum, and whatever their views on American policy, Israeli policy or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the vast majority of American Jews care deeply about Israel…”
Shapiro said that he is deeply honored that President Obama has entrusted him with the “task and responsibility of strengthening and deepening” US ties to Israel.
“… as a committed Jewish American, with deep roots in the American Jewish community and warm bonds of affection with Israel, I will have an opportunity to draw on those associations to help make the U.S.-Israel relationship, strong as it is, even stronger in the years ahead.”
Time Banking and Social Changes
(A talk given at the ‘Palestine, Israel, Germany- The Boundaries of Open Discussion Conference’, Freiburg 11th September 2011)
Dear ladies and gentlemen.
I will begin my talk with an unusual confession. Though I was born in Israel, in the first thirty years of my life I did not know much about the Nakba, the brutal and racially driven ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in 1948 by the newly born Israeli State. My peers and myself knew about a single massacre, namely, Deir Yassin but we were not at all familiar with the vast scale of atrocities committed by our grandparents. We believed that the Palestinians had voluntarily fled. We were told that they had run away and we did not find any reason to doubt that this had indeed been the case.
Let me tell you that in all my years in Israel, I have never heard the word Nakba spoken. This may sound pathetic, or even absurd to you — but what about you? Shouldn’t you also ask yourself — when was the first time you heard the word Nakba? Perhaps you can also try to recall when this word settled comfortably into your lexicon. Let me help you here — I have carried out a little research amongst my European and American Palestinian solidarity friends, and most of them had only heard the word Nakba for the first time, just a few short years ago, whilst others admitted that they had only started to use the word themselves three or four years ago.
But isn’t that a slightly strange state of affairs? After all, the Nakba took place more than six decades ago. How is it that only recently it found its way into our symbolic order?
The answer is, in some respects, quite a straightforward one: to be in the world means to be subject to changes and transformations. It entails grasping and reassessing the past through different present realisations. History is shaped and re-shaped as we proceed in time. Accordingly, we seem to understand the Palestinian expulsion and plight through our current understanding of Israeli brutality: In the light of the destruction Israel left behind in Lebanon in 2006, followed by our witnessing of the genocidal crimes performed in Gaza in ‘Operation Cast Lead’, and observing the footage of the IDF execution of peace activists on the Mavi Marmara — we have subsequently, managed to amend our picture of the scale of the 1948 Palestinian tragedy. As we grasp more fully what the Israelis are capable of — we are also able to re-construct our vision of Israel’s ‘original sin’ i.e. the Nakba. We are able to empathise more deeply with the expelled Palestinians of 1948 via our current evolving comprehension of Israel, the Israeli, ‘Israeli-ness’, Jewish nationalism, global Zionism, and the relentless Israeli lobby.
The meaning and significance of it becomes clearer — the past is far from being a precisely sealed off set of events with a fixed meaning, pre-decided for us by a fixed viewpoint and then closed off from further debate. Instead, our understanding of the past is shaped and transformed, constantly, as we progress and grow in knowledge and experience. And, as much as our current reality is shaped by our world vision — our past too, is shaped, re-shaped, viewed and re-viewed by the narratives we happen to follow at any given time.
This is the true meaning of ‘being in time’; this is the essence of temporality, and this is what historical thinking is all about. People possess the capacity to ‘think historically’– to be transformed by the past — but also to allow the past to be constantly shaped, and re-shaped, as they proceed towards the unknown.
Deir Yassin Remembered
But here is an interesting set of historical anecdotes that deserve our attention: Indeed, one may be left perplexed on learning that — just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945 — the newly-formed Jewish state ethnically cleansed the vast majority of the indigenous population of Palestine (1948). Just five years after the defeat of Nazism — the Jewish state brought to life racially-discriminatory return laws in order to prevent the 1948 Palestinian refugees from coming back to their cities, villages, fields and orchards. These laws, still in place today, were not categorically different from the notorious Nuremberg race Laws. One may also be totally perplexed to find out that Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, is located on the confiscated land of a Palestinian village Ein Karem, next door to Deir Yassin, which is probably the ultimate symbol of the Palestinian Shoa.
One may wonder what is the root cause of this unique institutional lack of compassion that has been exhibited and maintained by Israel and Israelis for decades. One might expect that Jews, having been victims of oppression and discrimination themselves, would locate themselves at the forefront of the battle against evil and racism. One might expect the victims of discrimination to resist inflicting pain on others.
Yet, some deeper and far more general questions come to mind here — how is it that the Jewish political and ideological discourse fails so badly to draw the obvious and necessary moral lessons from history and Jewish history in particular? How is it that in spite of ‘Jewish history’ appearing to be an endless tale of Jewish suffering, the Jewish State is so blind to the suffering it inflicts on others?
On the face of it, what we see here is a form of alienation from historical thinking. Israeli historian Shlomo Sand has noted that Rabbinical Judaism could be realised as an attempt to replace historical thinking: instead of history, the Torah provided Rabbinical Judaism with a spiritually-driven plot. It conveyed an image of purpose and fate. However, things changed in the 19th century. Due to the rapid emancipation of European Jewry together with the rise of nationalism and the spirit of Enlightenment, assimilated European Jews felt bound to redefine their beginnings in secular, national and rational terms. This is when Jews ‘invented’ themselves as ‘people’ and as a ‘class’: like other European nations, Jews felt the urge to possess a coherent narrative about themselves and their history.
Inventing history is not a crime – people and nations often do it. Yet, in spite of the rapid process of assimilation, Jewish secular ideology and politics failed to encompass the real meaning of historical thought and historical understanding. Indeed, the assimilated secular Jew was very successful in dropping God and other religious identifiers. And yet, at least politically, the assimilated Jew failed to replace divinity with an alternative Jewish anthropocentric secular ethical and metaphysical realisation.
Temporality and Alienation
I only recently understood that the ‘Jewish Identity political discourse’ is not only foreign to history; not only is it actually antagonistic towards historical thinking, but it is also detached from the notion of temporality.
Temporality is inherent to the human condition: ‘To be’ is ‘to be in time’. Whether we like it or not, we are doomed to be hung between the past that is drifting away into the void, and the unknown that proceeds towards us from the future.
Through the present, the so-called ‘here and now’, we meditate on that which has passed away. Occasionally we hope for forgiveness; and sometimes we are cheered by a pleasing memory. At other times we become angry with ourselves for not having reacted appropriately at some moment in our past. And from time to time we may recall a sensation of love.
In the present we can also envisage the future, and in the awareness of that presence we may sense the fear of the unknown. But we can also experience waves of happiness and optimism when the future seems to smile at us.
More often than not, we draw lessons from the past. But far more crucially important and interesting perhaps, is the idea that an imaginary future can easily re-write, or even re shape the past.
I will try to elucidate this subtle idea through a simple and hypothetical yet horrifying war scenario:
For instance, we can easily envisage a horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ attack on Iran could escalate into a disastrous nuclear conflict, in which tens of millions of people in the Middle East and Europe would perish.
I would guess that amongst the few survivors of such a nightmarish imaginary scenario, some may be bold enough to say what they ‘really think’ of the Jewish state and its inherent murderous tendencies.
The above is obviously a horrific fictional scenario, and by no means a wishful one, yet such a vision of a ‘possible’ horrendous development should restrain Israeli or Zionist aggression towards Iran.
But as we know, this hardly happens — Israeli officials threaten to flatten and nuke Iran all too often.
Seemingly, Israelis and Zionists around the world fail to see their own actions within a historical perspective or context. They fail to look at their actions in terms of their consequences. From an ethical perspective, the above ‘imaginary’ scenario could or should prevent Israel from even contemplating any attack on Iran. Yet, what we see in practice is the complete opposite: Israel wouldn’t miss an opportunity to threaten Iran.
My explanation is simple. The Jewish political and ideological discourse is foreign to the notion of temporality. Israel is blind to the consequences of its actions; it only thinks of its actions in terms of short-term pragmatism. Within the Jewish political discourse the time arrow is a one-way road. It goes forward, yet it never turns the other way. There is never an attempt to revise the past in the light of a possible future. Instead of temporality, Israel thinks in terms of an extended present.
But Israel is just part of the problem. The Jewish lobby is also blinded to the immanent disaster it brings on Diaspora Jews. Like Israel, the lobby only thinks in terms of short term gain. It seeks more and more power. It never looks back , and neither does it regret.
To sum up, the notion of temporality is the ability to accept that the past is ‘elastic’. The notion of temporality allows the time arrow to move in both directions. From the past, forward, but also, from the (imaginary) future, backward. Temporality allows the past to be shaped and revised in the light of a search for meaning. History, and historical thinking, are the capacity to re-think the past. Ethics is bounded with temporality, for ethics is the ability to judge and reflect on issues that transcend beyond the ‘here and now’. To think ethically is to produce a principled judgment that stands the test of time.
Looking at the Past
To a significant extent then, the ability to revise one’s perspective on, and understanding of the past, is the true essence of historical thinking — it allows us to reshape our comprehension of the past through an awareness of an imaginary future perspective, and vice versa. To think historically becomes a meaningful event once our past experience allows us to foresee a better future.
Revisionism then, is imbued in the deepest possible understanding of temporality, and therefore inherent to humanity and humanism. And it is obvious that those who oppose proper and open historical debate are operating not only against the foundations of humanism, but also against ethics.
And yet, in Israel some lawmakers insist that commemoration and historical debate of the Nakba should become illegal. And, interestingly enough, Jewish anti Zionists also oppose any attempt to deconstruct or revise Jewish past. I, for instance, have been criticised recently for being an ‘anti Semite’ for suggesting that Zionism is not colonialism. In case you do not know, this conference was under severe pressure mounted by some leading Jewish anti Zionists who insisted on preventing any discussion about the history of Jewish suffering.
But I guess that it is pretty clear by now that my philosophical outlook is not very flattering to Jewish political and ideological discourse. Yet, the truth must be spoken: Jewish political discourse openly opposes any form of revisionism. Jewish politics is there to fix and cement a narrative and terminology.
Though the Zionist ideology presents itself as a historical narrative, it took me many years to grasp that Zionism, Jewish identity politics and ideology were actually crude, blunt assaults on history, the notion of history and temporality. Zionism, in fact, only mimics an historical discourse. In practice, Zionism like other forms of Jewish political discourse, defies any form of historical discussion. Thus, those who follow the Zionist and Jewish political ideologies are doomed to drift away from humanism, humanity and ethical conduct. Such an explanation may throw light on Israeli criminal conduct and Jewish institutional support for Israel.
Self-Reflection Is Overdue
Inventing a past, as Shlomo Sand suggests, is not the most worrying issue when it comes to Israel and Zionism. People and nations do tend to invent their past.
However, celebrating one’s phantasmic past at the expense of others is obviously a concerning ethical issue. But in the case of Israel the problem goes deeper. It is the attempt to seal the yesterdays that led to the collective ethical collapse of Israel and its supporting crowd.
However, as much as I enjoy bashing Israel and Zionism, I will also have to ask you to self-reflect. Sadly enough, Israel is not alone. As tragic as it appears to be, America and Britain also managed to willingly give up on temporality. It is the lack of true historical discourse that stopped Britain and America from understanding their future, present and past. As in the case of Jewish ‘history’, American and British politicians insist on a banal, binary and simplistic historic tale regarding WWII, The Cold War, Islam, and the events of 9/11. Tragically, the criminal Anglo-American genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan, AKA ‘The War against Terror’, is a continuation of our self-inflicted blindness. Since Britain and America failed to grasp the necessary message from the massacres in Hamburg and Dresden, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, there was nothing that could stop English-speaking imperialism from committing similar crimes in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
And what about you, my dearest Germans. What about your past? Are you free to look into your past and to re-shape your understanding of it as you move along? I don’t think so. Your history, or at least some chapters of it, are sealed by some draconian laws. Consequently, you, the younger generation, do not attempt to grasp the true ethical meaning of the holocaust. Clearly, Germans do not understand that the Palestinians are actually the last victims of Hitler, for without Hitler, there wouldn’t be a Jewish State. Your young generations fail to see that the Palestinians are certainly victims of a Nazi-like ideology, which is both racist and expansionist. Let me also advise you, if any of you feel guilty about anything to do with your past, it should be the Palestinians whom you should care for. The fact that Germany is detached from its past clearly explains German political complicity in the Zionist crime. It certainly explains why your government provides Israel with a nuclear submarine every so often. But it also explains why you may remain silent when you find out that Yad Vashem is built on Palestinian land stolen in 1948.
But it isn’t just Israel, Zionism, Britain, America and Germany. Let us look at ourselves, the supporters of Justice in Palestine. Even within our movement, we have some destructive elements who insist that we shouldn’t dare to touch our past: in the last month, Café Palestine Freiburg and the organiser of this conference were subjected to relentless attack by some established elements within the Jewish ‘anti’ Zionist movement. They were demanding that the conference should drop me because I am a ‘holocaust denier’. Needless to say, I have never denied the Holocaust or any other historical chapter. I also find the notion of ‘holocaust denial’ to be meaningless, and on the verge of idiotic.
However, I do indeed insist, as I did here today, that history must remain an open discourse, subject to changes and revision, I oppose any attempt to seal the past, whether it is the Nakba, Holocaust, the Holodomor or the Armenian genocide. I am convinced that an organic and ‘elastic’ understanding of the past is the true essence of a humanist discourse, universalism and ethics.
I clearly don’t know how to save Israel from itself, I do not know how to liberate Jewish anti Zionists from their Judeo centric ideology; but as far as America, Britain, Germany, the West, and us here today are concerned, all we have to do is to revert to our precious values of openness.
We must drift away from a restrictive, monolithic Jerusalem, and reinstate the ethical spirit of pluralist Athens.