“Zionism is much more than settler colonialism; its fundamental opposition is between Jew and gentile everywhere.”
What is to be done?
Worldwide, it is Israel Apartheid Week, 2013, a worthy expression of solidarity with the Palestinians suffering under Israel’s occupation of the territories it conquered in the June, 1967 war. However, the leading lights of the anti-apartheid struggle said a decade and more ago that Israel’s regime is much worse than South African apartheid. After 46 years, “the occupation” is clearly not temporary and transient as the word implies. It is egregiously wrong to use this language, which privileges the oppressors and further oppresses the victims. This language is universal and long-standing, reflecting habits of thought and action long overdue for replacement.
The following was written as notes for a discussion, about 2000 words, divided into 5 headings: Classical Liberal Views of Zionism; Zionism; Zionism in the US; Zionism on the Left; Strategy and Tactics.
Classical Liberal Views of Zionism
The Enlightenment and emancipation ended the subjugation of west European Jews to Judaic authorities, and to gentile regulation. Jews were admitted, gradually but inevitably, to liberal citizenship. The US was created on a modern, liberal basis, with no trace of pre-modern Jewish status.
Reform Judaism modernized traditional Judaism and allowed religious worship with the social status of Christianity. Many Jews abandoned religion for secularism, after Spinoza. Jews contributed disproportionately to modern liberal culture and left and liberal politics.
Zionism was dismissed as reactionary and atavistic. American Reform Judaism in 1885 expressly disavowed it. The Marxism of the Second International period viewed nationalism as reactionary and Zionism as a tool of imperialism. The Yiddish labor movements in the Russian Empire and their immigrant offshoots also opposed Zionism.
Zionism was a marginal, declining cult until World War I, which led to the Balfour Declaration, the British conquest of Palestine, and growth of the “Jewish national home.” Even then Zionism was a minority current, until the rise of Nazism. Yet classical anti-Zionism survived all the changes of World War II.
Elmer Berger, an American Reform rabbi, led a rearguard action against Zionism in the 1940s, and remained an avowed critic of Israel until his death in 1996. Isaac Deutscher and Maxime Rodinson, raised in Marxist internationalism, remained critics of Zionism and Israel until their deaths (Deutscher in August, 1967, Rodinson in 2004)
The Israeli Socialist Organization (Matzpen) attempted to reconstruct internationalism in the 1960s. Israel Shahak cited what he called the “modern, secular Jewish tradition,” which he traced from Spinoza, against Zionism. Shahak and Matzpen put the atrocities of Israel’s occupation on the map from the Israeli side. Shahak died in 2001; some senior Matzpen alumni are still active.
Obviously, these currents have different social bases, and different politics, aside from their rejection of Zionism. Yet they constitute the basis of modernity and any critique of Zionism must derive from them. The people cited were well to the left of what the US has produced since 1967, precisely because the US left has ignored classical sources.
Zionism is the Jewish contribution to right-wing politics and ideology, nothing more or less; it opposed liberalism and embraced anti-Semitism. Zionism agreed that “the Jews comprise a distinctive element among the nations… and as such can neither assimilate nor be readily digested by any nation.” “The only solution is in the creation of a Jewish nationality, of a people living upon its own soil, the auto- emancipation of the Jews; their return to the ranks of the nations by the acquisition of a Jewish homeland.” (Pinsker, Autoemancipation) This was the view of bourgeois Jewish society in the Pale of Settlement, not the impoverished masses, who left by the million for the US.
Zionist “Jewish nationality” was not nationalism; it rejected the actually existing Yiddish nation in eastern Europe, including the Yiddish language, in anti-Semitic terms. Modern Israeli Hebrew was not “revived” but largely invented; modern Hebrew culture is inextricably Zionist, bound up with its conquest and dispossession. The alleged unitary history and historiography of the Jewish people have, unsurprisingly, been demolished by authors like Shlomo Sand, archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, linguist Paul Wexler, and others.
Racialism in Zionism dates to the proto-Zionism of Moses Hess; the chauvinism of Heinrich Graetz contributed to German anti-Semitism; German Zionism was Jewish Romantic nationalism, embracing Jewish Blut und Boden. Herzl was steeped in the racism of European colonialism. Zionism was a fraternal twin of anti-Semitism, and cooperated with it practically, down to the Nazi regime itself.
Elmer Berger co-authored the UN resolution on Zionism as a form of racism, and wrote on that theme. Noel Ignatiev called the Zionist “Jewish people” idea Jewish race doctrine. “Jewish genetics” tries to build a biological basis for Zionism. Zionism is much more than settler colonialism; its fundamental opposition is between Jew and gentile everywhere.
Zionism was an elite project of national renewal, concerned with “the problems of Judaism, not the problems of Jewry,” in Ahad Ha’am’s lofty phrase. It always placed its designs ahead of the fate of European Jewry. Hitler might have conquered the Near East; the Judeocide happened because of Nazi Germany, not because there was no Jewish state.
“Cultural Zionism,” “binationalism” and “socialism” were simply Zionism by other means. The culture of Zionist Jewish nationality was racialism. The binationalists wanted Jewish immigration leading to demographic parity and eventually majority, when Jews were a minority. The kibbutz was a means of Jewish settlement and was inspired by 19th c. German settlement plans to counter a Polish “demographic threat” in the eastern Reich.
Today the state of Israel is waging a race war, as fanatical as Nazi Germany, against the enemies of the Jewish people. This potential was inherent in Zionism from the start, though obviously many contingencies have enabled its fruition. Israeli Hebrew nationality is the replacement for Zionist Jewish nationality, secular and open to all, as Boas Evron argued in Jewish State or Israeli Nation.
Zionism in the US
The core of Zionism in the US is organized Jewry, gathered in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Many of these groups arose to meet the needs of the Russian Jewish migration before 1914. By the 1930s, this organized Jewish culture inspired the idea of “Judaism as a religious civilization,” and in the postwar period was called a “Jewish polity.”
The polity, and the Jewish public, supported Jewish statehood in the 1940s, but were still mainly concerned with integration and acceptance in American life. In the early 1960s, as this was achieved, liberalism was seen as threatening “Jewish continuity,” just as it was feared by the bourgeoisie in the Pale who founded Zionism. This chauvinism was fatally supercharged by Israel’s dramatic victory in June 1967.
The Jewish polity is the core of US support for Israel, which includes institutions and individuals throughout US culture; the “Israel lobby” is an inadequate term; “Zionocracy,” after the 19th c. “Slaveocracy” that wielded immense power in national politics until the Civil War, better describes it.
The Zionocracy has exercised quasi-sovereign power from the 1940s, when it overturned US diplomatic and military opposition to US support for a Jewish state in Palestine. The US did not create Israel, and does not commission its deeds, for its own purposes. Rather it has adapted to Zionist faits accompli in western Asia and in the US, and pursued its interests in their light.
Since the end of the Cold War Zionism has been the chief driver of US militarism at home and abroad. The Zionocracy influenced the Congressional vote for the Gulf War in 1990, the closest since the War of 1812. The crippling sanctions on Iraq and the “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq in the 1990s were largely by and for the Zionocracy, against substantial business opposition. The 9/11 terrorist attacks, with all their momentous consequences, were chiefly a strike against US patronage of Israel. The 2003 invasion of Iraq would not have happened without the neoconservatives. Only the Zionized left sees “oil” as necessarily and obviously requiring the US to invade Iraq, which has led to the present dissolution of Syria. The end of centuries of Sunni rule in Iraq and the Shia ascendancy there brought the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, to oppose actively the “Shia axis” from Hizbollah to Alawite Syria to Iraq to Iran. The Gulf states are the chief patrons of the armed rebellion in Syria..
Zionism has turned western Asia into the eastern front of the US empire, like the eastern front of the Third Reich, site of its most depraved deeds and ideologies—the annihilation of Arab and Muslim societies, and the Islamophobic “clash of civilizations” and “war on terror.” Disputes over Middle East policy between the miltarists (gentile radicals, and Jewish neoconservatives) and the realists, are like the differences between Nazis and non-Nazi conservatives in Germany.
Zionism on the Left
In the early 1960s the Jewish members of the New Left were universalist, had little interest in “Jewish identity” and identity politics. After the June, 1967 war, there appeared a “Jewish left,” which combined Jewish affirmation with criticism of “the occupation” and support for “Palestinian rights.” This has produced a truncated, minimal critique: “anti-occupation” rhetoric, but no critique of Zionism; “solutions” discourse, of maps and treaties, and false Zionist precedents, rather than overcoming Zionism; ahistorical “law and rights” discourse; the “strategic asset” view of the US-Israel relationship, with little attention to US Zionism; anti-anti-Semitism, but no critique of Jewish chauvinism. With variations, this outlook is hegemonic on the white bread left, including the US Campaign to End the Occupation. It has even absorbed and neutered the “Israel lobby” critique. Phyllis Bennis, long-time “strategic asset” proponent, now dominates Code Pink’s annual anti-AIPAC program, while excluding knowledgeable people like Jeff Blankfort, Janet McMahon, Grant Smith, Stephen Sniegoski, and Alison Weir.
This Orthodox Critique is a form of Zionism. Limiting criticism to “law and rights” trivializes the crimes and diminishes the victims, like calling Nazi aggression and the Judeocide a violation of collective security and minority rights. Referring to Israel’s “occupation,” after nearly 46 years, and to “Israeli apartheid,” when Israel’s regime is much worse than apartheid, is lying. Such apologetics about Zionism, clearest in the “strategic asset” dogma, are Jewish privilege and anti-gentilism, comparable to anti-Semitic essentialism about Jews. The Orthodox Critique replaces a universalist critique from classical sources, which would reject Zionism in its entirety, in Israel, and in the US Zionocracy, and affirm the values of Spinoza, Luxemburg, Berger, et al. against it. Zionism threatens all of us.
Identity can empower the oppressed, but identitarian struggles succeed on broader terrain. The Risorgimento succeeded because national rights were seen as legitimate. The struggles of women and minorities have succeeded because the sphere of rights was broadened. Identity categories are not political, because people have different politics, beyond their universal rights. Past a certain limited point identity politics is chauvinism. Garibaldi recognized the limited progressive value of nationalism. Compare Judith Butler’s attempt to derive liberal obligations from “diasporic Jewish identity,” in the Brooklyn College BDS event, to David Landy’s critique of “diasporic identity” in Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights.
Strategy and Tactics
The Orthodox Critique has deprived us of the most basic vocabulary and analysis. We are missing decades of literature on Zionism as reaction and racialism, on Zionist radicalization of the US, and on the universalist antipodes, and political organizing on those lines. Meanwhile, Zionism has become ever stronger and more destructive. This is the greatest disaster on the left since the German Communist Party misread Nazism.
The chief concern of US citizens must be the special role of the United States, the indispensable economic, military and political support it provides Israel. To the extent BDS sanctions the state of Israel directly, by boycotting its products, or its institutions, it at least stigmatizes Israel, and raises questions about US policy. BDS directed against “companies profiting from the occupation” implies that corporate profits drive US policies and diverts attention from the real actors.
The Zionocracy is not appeased by such limited terms, which Israeli diplomats and organized Jewry oppose fiercely. We can only gain by calling for Israel to be sanctioned, and by opposing Zionism forthrightly as the chief source of Islamophobia, our Middle East wars, 9/11, and our domestic police state. We should consider “Anti-Zionism Week”.
BDS in the US can be educational, but Europe is the chief market for Israeli products, and BDS is most effective there. Zionist domination of US politics must be our highest concern. Zionism is not a tool of the US, but a quasi-sovereign power in the US, which has activated the worst potentialities of US society. The classical anti-Zionists saw Zionism obviously as an attack on liberal modernity, to be rejected categorically. Liberal traditions allow us—obligate us—to reject Zionism and all its works, and also obligate us to distinguish adherents of Jewish people ideology from Jewish liberal citizens and their rights. They also obligate the latter to join unequivocally a common struggle against Zionism, which threatens us all.
Purim. One of the most popular Jewish holidays among Orthodox, traditional and so-called secular Jewish Israelis alike. The streets are packed with children and adults wearing costumes, make-up and all sorts of masquerading, on their way from one joyous Purim party to the next. Happy days. But behind the carnivalesque masks, ominous demons are lurking.
Tel Aviv, Sunday, February 24th
Hanan Usruf, a 40-year-old Arab sanitation worker for the city, was savagely beaten by some dozen Jewish men. The Jerusalem Post reported that Usruf’s injuries
include a fracture in his right eye socket and deep lacerations on his right ear and across almost his entire head. His vision is blurred in his left eye, but he can make out small numbers and letters, doctors said.
The Times of Israel added that the victim – an Israeli citizen, one should add – attacked by “drunken youth” required dozens of stitches and that doctors were doing their best to save his eye; under his horrendous photo in hospital, Usruf is quoted saying that
the youths kicked him and broke bottles on his head while shouting racial epithets at him. “They shouted things like ‘f**kin’ Arab’ and ‘get your own country.’
Jerusalem, Monday, February 25th
Hana Amtir, an Arab woman standing at the tram stop near the central bus station, was attacked by a group of young Jewish women. AFP quotes a (Jewish) eyewitness who took pictures of the attack and documented it on Facebook:
Suddenly shouts were heard, and a group of young religious Jewish women confronted the woman and suddenly a young Jewish woman punched her in the head, […] the rest then joined in, hitting and shoving the Arab woman. The woman tried to fight them off but they shouted at her not to dare touch Jews and they continued as a group to attack her and even forcibly pulled off her head covering, […] the incident was witnessed by a security guard from the rail company and a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish students who stood by and did nothing.
Both events – the lynch in Tel Aviv and the attack in Jerusalem – were reported widely in the Israeli media (separately or even together [Hebrew]), justly framed as hate crimes, sometimes with reference to similar crimes in the recent past. Some public protest followed – a demonstration, petitions and op-eds. However, no report I’ve seen mentioned the fact that both crimes were committed on Purim (24.2), a one-day holiday that lasts a day longer in Jerusalem (24-25.2). At best, one could find the holiday mentioned in passing, for instance in the Times of Israel that also described the Tel Aviv victimizers as drunken: “Police had yet to make any arrests […] After detaining suspects, the police will determine whether the attack was racially motivated, or the action of out-of-hand Purim revelers,” as if racist motivation and Purim revelry were mutually exclusive. But as a rule, Purim was simply ignored as irrelevant.
Is the Jewish holiday really irrelevant? The notion that the attackers were drunken can be easily traced back to the religious duty to get drunk on Purim. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Purim has been identified with Jewish violence (and with accusations of violence against Jews, true or false) for centuries. Just think of the West Bank town of Hebron for example: it was Purim 1981 when Jewish settlers brought down the roof over an Arab upholstery in “Beit Hadassah”, expelling its owner and taking over the house, a crucial step in what has since developed into a full-fledged ethnic cleansing at the heart of the Palestinian town. The settlers’ Purim parades in that city have become a tradition of provocations, with Jewish violence escalating from year to year – culminating in Purim 1994, when a Jewish settler massacred 29 and injured 125 Muslim worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The butcher joined the settlers’ hall of fame: “Purim in Hebron after 1994 was like Purim in Hebron since 1981, only more so – with a new Jewish hero for Jewish children to dress up as,” writes Israeli historian Prof Elliott Horowitz in his excellent Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (2006, p. 8), that documents the roots and history of Jewish Purim violence (alongside its anti-Semitic abuses by Christians) from ancient times to the present.
Like any legacy stretching from the Ancient World through the Middle Ages to Modern Times, Judaism is a multifaceted culture: it can be universal as well as nationalist; egalitarian as well as racist; liberal, even revolutionary as well as ultra-conservative – all these messages can be found in it. Among other things, Purim, however, has always reflected deep genocidal phantasies of revenge. The Book of Esther, the textual basis for this holiday, tells the story of the miraculous saving of the Jews of Persia from their enemies, most notably the evil Haman. It ends with the hanging of Haman by the Persian King. Consequently, the Jews take revenge and kill Haman’s ten sons, murder several hundreds of non-Jews in the capital Susa, and then massacre seventy-five thousand non-Jews all over Persia. That’s how the Book of Esther ends. The (probably non-existent) historical foundations of these events are irrelevant: it’s the myth and the memory that matter.
The genocidal roots of Purim go even deeper: Haman, as the short Book of Esther repeatedly stresses, is an “Agagite”, that is, an offspring of Agag. Agag was the King of the ancient Amalekites, the archetypal enemy of the Jews, on which the Bible commands to inflict genocide: “you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; do not forget” (Deuteronomy 25,19). When King Saul sins by sparing King Agag’s life, God regrets He had made him king of Israel, and Prophet Samuel “hews Agag in pieces before the Lord” (I Samuel 15,33).
These are not just idle interpretations for the learned or deep secrets known to the few; it’s all anchored in the liturgical practice of Purim. While the public reading of the Book of Esther is at the heart of the holiday itself, the Torah-text on blotting out Amalek is read in synagogue on the “Sabbath of Remembrance”, the last Saturday before Purim. Once the Arabs are seen as Haman/Amalek, Purim turns into a carnival of incitement against them.
Educating Israeli Soldiers
The Chief Rabbinate of the Israeli army has recently produced a short video (in Hebrew) to “explain” Purim to Israeli soldiers. It opens by stating the obvious, namely that Persia is today’s Iran; among the images that flash every now and then when Haman is mentioned we see not only Ahmadinejad, but also Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah, as well as (several times) Hitler, and, yes, Jesus Christ, who also makes a brief appearance. In a baseless rewriting of the legend, obviously aimed against present-day Palestinians, Haman and his sons are said to have resided in the Land of Israel, where they were inciting against the Jews and demanding to stop construction in Jerusalem (!) before moving to Persia, where the Book of Esther takes place.
In other words, the army “educational” video draws a line from Haman to Jesus, to Nazi Germany, to today’s Iran and Hezbollah, as well as to the present-day Palestinians. And Haman, as the video doesn’t even bother to remind its viewers, is Amalek, the eternal enemy of the Jews: “you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven, do not forget.”
From Hebron to Tel Aviv
It’s truly amazing that the Israeli media ignored the Purim context of the violent events in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Jewish Israelis are witnessing a trend of “rediscovering of” and “reconnecting to” their “Jewish roots”. In such an atmosphere, one would expect those “rediscoverers” to be aware the Jewish context of the violence: after all, this is also part of the Jewish legacy they are allegedly so fond of. But no: instead of coming to terms with the lights and shadows of the rich Jewish tradition, non-Orthodox Israelis fall prey to ominous Jewish demons without even noticing them, demons that have enjoyed an uninterrupted existence among Orthodox Jews like the radical settlers of Hebron, but have now sneaked even into “secular” Tel Aviv.
No large scale, long term, socio-political movements have emerged to challenge the bi-partisan dominant classes. For a brief moment the “Occupy Wall Street” movement provided a platform to denounce the 1% super-rich but then faded into memory.
Questions arose whether in the midst of prolonged hardship people would turn to religion for solace and escape into spiritual pietism. The question this essay addresses is whether religion has become the ‘opium of the people’ as Karl Marx suggested or whether religious beliefs and institutions are themselves in crisis, losing their spiritual attraction in the face of their inability to resolve the everyday material needs of a growing army of impoverished, low paid, unemployed and contingent workers and a downwardly mobile middle class. In other words are major religions growing and prospering in our time of permanent economic crises and perpetual wars or are they on the down-slope part and parcel of the decline of the US Empire?
According to the latest data as of 2008 the biggest religious group is Christianity with 173.402 million members representing 76% of the adult population followed by Judaism with 2.680 million representing 1.2% of the adult population; followed by Eastern religions 1.961 million and representing .9% and Muslims 1.349 million representing .6% of adults. The second most populous group after the Christians are those adults who state they have ‘no religion’ 34.169 million or 15%.
The dynamic trends over time show a declining percentage of adults who are Christians: between 1990-2008 they dropped from 86.2% to 76%; Jews have declined from 1.8% of adult population in 1990 to 1.2% in 2008 and Eastern religion is growing from .4% of adult population to .97% of population. Likewise, the percentage of Muslims in the adult population has grown from .3% in 1990 to .6% in 2008. The percentage of non-religious adult population has increased from 8.2% in 1990 to 15% in 2008.
While both practitioners of Christianity and Judaism, as a percentage of the adult population, have declined, there is a sharp divergence in terms of numerical change; between 1990 and 2008 the number of Christians has increased by 2,218 million while the number of Jews has declined by 457 thousand. Judaism is the only one of the major and minor religions to decline in absolute numbers.
The combined number of Eastern and Muslim religious affiliates now exceeds Judaism by 630,000 believers about 30%. Jews today represent only 1.2% of the adult US population compared to 1.5% for Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. The gap between Christians and non-religious US adults has narrowed over the past 20 years: from 86.2% to 8.2% in 1990 to 76% to 15% in 2008. Among Christians the biggest decline is among ‘mainline protestant churches’ (Methodists, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian/ Anglican and United Church of Christ) from 32.8 million in 1998 to 29.4 million in 2008; and among “unspecified Protestants” from 17 million to 5.2 million. The biggest increases are among “non-denominational Christians” rising from 194,000 to 8.03 million believers in 1990-2008, unspecified Christians from 8.1 million to16.4 million and Pentecostals up from 5.7 million in 1990 to 7.9 million in 2008. Catholic and Baptists grew in numbers but barely held their own as a percentage of the adult population.
Analysis of Religious Trends in Political-Economic Context
Contrary to most observers and pundits, the economic crisis has not led to an upsurge in religious memberships or identification – the search for ‘spiritual consolation’ in a time of economic despair. The mainline churches and synagogues do not attract or even keep membership because they have little to offer in material solutions to their members in time of need (mortgage foreclosure, bankruptcies, unemployment, losses of savings, pensions or stocks). Contrary to some pundits even the more otherworldly, apocalyptic, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Born Again Churches while increasing their number have failed to attract a larger percentage of the adult population over the past 20 years; in 1990 they had 3.5% of adults and in 2008 4.4% an increase of .9%.
The crises decade has had several major impacts – it severely weakened religious identity with any specific denomination, it increased religious uncertainty and vastly increased the number and percentage of adult Americans who are no longer religious. Between 1998 and 2008, the percentage of adults in both categories doubled from 10.5% to 20.2%; the numbers increased from 18.34 million to 46 million. It would appear that most of the ‘non-religious’ are drawn from former mainline Christians and Jews.
The rise of non-religious adults between 1990-2008 cannot be related to greater education, urbanization and exposure to rationalist thought which has more or less remained the same over the two decades. What has changed is the rising discontent over declining income among wage and salaried workers, the vast increases in inequality, the perpetual wars and the public discredit of the principle political and economic institutions – Congress is viewed negatively by 78% of Americans, as are banks, especially Wall Street. The religious institutions and religious faith is increasingly seen as irrelevant at best and complicit in the decay of American living standards and workplace standards. Despite the dramatic increase in ‘non-religious’ Americans close to 75% still claim to be believers of one or another version of Christianity.
The crisis in Judaism is far more severe than even the ‘mainline Christian’ churches. Over the past 20 years the number of adult Jews has declined by about 15%, over 450,000 former Jews ceased to identify as such. Some of the political economic causes for the flight from Judaism may be similar to the Christians. Others may be more specific to Jews: over 50% of Jews marry outside of the synagogue with non-Jews, cause and consequence of ‘defection’. Others may convert to other religions – Oriental or Christian. Some Jewish neo-conservative rabbis and ideologues rant about the threat of ‘assimilation’ being the equivalent of ‘genocide’. Most likely most former Jews have become ‘non-religious’ or secular and some of the reasons may vary. For some, Old Testament bloody tales and Talmudic rulings do not resonate with modern rational thought. Political considerations may also contribute to the sharp decline in self-identifying Jews: the ever tighter links and identity of Israel with Jewish religious institutions, the Israeli flag waiving and unconditional support of Israeli war crimes has repelled many former parishioners, who quietly retire rather than engage in a personally costly spiritual struggle against the formidable pro-Israel apparatus embedded in the inter-locking religious-Zionist networks.
The religious crises, the decline in belief and institutional affiliation, is intimately related to the moral decay in US public institutions and the precipitous decline of living standards. Among Christians the decline is incremental but steady; among Jews it is deeper and more rapid. No ‘alternative religious’ revival is in the horizon. The more fundamentalist Christian groups have responded by becoming more politically involved in extremist movements like the Tea Party demonizing public spending to ameliorate social inequities or have joined Islamophobic pro Israeli movements – precisely as increasing numbers of ex-Jews depart!
The secular or non-religious adult population has yet to organize and articulate a program in contrast to the fundamentalists, perhaps because they are too disparate a social category – in terms of socio-economic and class interests. ‘Not religious’ tells us little about what is the alternative. The shrinking percentage of religious believers can have several outcomes: in some cases it can lead to a hardening of doctrine and organizational structures ‘to keep the faithful in line’. In others it has led to increasing politicization, mostly on the extreme right. Among Christians it means insisting on literal readings of the Bible and anti- evolutionism; among Jews, the shrinking numbers are intensifying tribal loyalties and more aggressive fundraising, lobbying, and unconditional support for a “Jewish State”, purged of Palestinians, and more punitive witch-hunts against critics of Israel and Zionism.
What needs to be done is a movement that links the growing mass of rational non-religious people with the vast majority of American wage and salaried workers, experiencing declining living standards and the rising costs (material and spiritual) of imperial wars. Some religious individuals and even denominations will be attracted to such a movement others will attack it for sectarian and political reasons. But as a non-religious morality links individual and political crises to social action, so can the political community create the bases for a new society built on secular needs and public ethics.
As Jewish lawmakers lead the push for gun control in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the rabbi of Newtown’s small Jewish community has castigated the culture that led to the massacre. Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio, Rabbi Shaul Praver of Temple Adath Israel said he told his congregants:
“We live in a culture of violence. All of our culture is based on violence and we need to teach the kids about the ways of peace. We need to change everything. There’s too much war, too much violence in our streets.”
Apparently Rabbi Praver saw no irony in decrying a culture of violence on the radio network operated by the Israel Defense Forces which had just been responsible for the deaths of 34 children in its Biblically-named “Pillar of Cloud” onslaught on Gaza. On the contrary, as the rabbi explained in 2005, in Palestine “only one party seeks the destruction of the other”:
Israelis simply want peace and would much prefer spending their time, tending their gardens, doing art, finding a cure for cancer, composing and performing world class music, and inventing more incredible bio-pharmaceuticals and computer technology. Real time internet applications, cellular telephones, color printing are just a few examples of the technology developed in Israel. There is so much brainpower and creative energy emanating from Israel’s diverse ethnic population that benefits every person on the planet. Yet even at a time that Israel pursues territorial concessions for the sake of peace, many people lack the ability to say even a few kind words.
I will say to them then, “Zionism is Beautiful!”
God bless Philip Weiss, the progressive Jewish blogger brave enough to admit in public those things other Jewish ethnic activists prefer to shove under the carpet. A year ago, Weiss was brave enough to confess to me that it is ‘Jewish self interests’ that stands at the core of his pro Palestinian activism. Also, a few weeks ago, the same Weiss was honest enough to announce that his Jewish ‘progressive’ internet journal, Mondowiess, changed its comment policy and “will no longer serve as a forum to pillory Jewish culture and religion as the driving factors in Israeli and US policy.”
But this week, the very same Weiss published a new polemic on his website. He now thinks that “it’s time for the media to talk about Zionism.” So, now Weiss is happy to join with the rest of us in talking about Zionism – so long as we avoid discussing ‘Jewishness’. Well, I’m afraid that Philip Weiss may have missed the train since, by now, many of us have already grasped that the time is ripe to talk about Jewishness and the role of ‘Jewish culture as the driving factor in Israeli and US policy.’
Weiss’ logic is no doubt fascinating. This Jewish ethnic activist does provide us with an insight into the level of deceit that is, unfortunately, inherent to Jewish left politics.
Weiss thinks Jews should ask themselves whether they really are ‘unsafe’ in America. Well, Weiss must know plenty about ‘safety’ since it was he himself who felt that it may be ‘risky’ to discuss Jewish culture and religion on his own Mondoweiss.
“Zionism,” he continues, “draws on a person’s worldview and has a religious character, it supplies meaning to his or her life.” Well again, Weiss should know because, like all Zionists, both overt and covert, he operates within a Jews-only political cell namely “Jews Voice for Peace’ (JVP). For some reason, just like his less enlightened brethren, this very ‘progressive’ activist prefers to surround himself with members of his own tribe.
Weiss well knows why the media avoids discussing Zionism, “it would involve a lot of squeamish self-interrogation on the part of Jews,” and Weiss knows what this means. That’s why he, and his Jewish partner Adam Horowitz, banned Jeff Blankfort from commenting on their site – Blankfort was critically discussing Jewish related topics. Weiss couldn’t allow it.
Weiss is brave enough to admit that “the acknowledgment of Jewish prominence in the Establishment, and of the power of Zionism, would make a lot of Jews uncomfortable”, but he isn’t bold enough to admit that the problem is far worse, since Jewish anti-Zionists like himself and JVP are relentlessly seeking a similar hegemony within the Palestinian solidarity discourse and openly campaign against prominent activists who challenge Jewish power. Is it possible that what we are dealing with here is a tribally-driven, power seeking tendency that is inherent to Jewish politics? The answer is a categorical yes, and I provide all the relevant information on this in my latest book The Wandering Who.
Weiss regards himself as an anti-Zionist while, as far as his language is concerned, he actually manifests every possible Zionist symptom. “Silence” on issues to do with Zionist power is “bad for Jews,” says Weiss. Like any Hasbara parrot he repeats the old mantra of ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ for the Jews. But then isn’t this just what you would expect from a Zionist?
It doesn’t take Weiss too long to drop his political bomb: the silence over Zionist power “allows people who are justifiably angry over our foreign policy to believe that all Jews support Israel.” Here, Weiss is absolutely correct. It is about time to deliver the message to the American people and the entire world – Not all Jews support Israel! In fact, at least two dozen American Jews including Weiss oppose Zionism because, as Weiss confesses, because “it is really bad for the Jews.”
If you think you’ve had enough of Weiss’ Judeo-centrism read this: “Zionism came out of the real condition of Jews in Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries. I can well imagine being a Zionist at other periods of Jewish history. I would have been a Zionist if I had been in Kafka’s circle in Prague in the 19-teens with the rise of anti-Semitism. I would have been a Zionist if I had been born into the family of my mother’s best friend in Berlin in the 1930s.”
In this embarrassing passage, Weiss, the so-called ‘anti’ Zionist, actually admits that considerations of Jewish safety would justify the colonization of Palestine. This non-ethical vision is also apparent in JVP’s latest ‘educational’ video. It is clearly consistent with the Zionist take on the primacy of Jewish suffering. Which is exactly what you would expect from a Jew who operates politically within Jewish racially-segregated cells. There is only one possible conclusion – Jewish anti Zionism is a myth. Jewish opposition to Zionism is just another form of Zionism-lite that, just like it’s right-wing counterpart, locates Jewish self-interest firmly at its core.
Weiss is a pretty clumsy spin-doctor. He argues that the current militant and totalitarian aspects of Israeli society flow from a ‘Zionist belief system’. Here, Weiss misleads his readers and I think he does this consciously. Israel defines itself as the Jewish State and as the true embodiment of Jewish culture. Its barbarism is the direct outcome of its interpretation of Jewish texts and spirit. If anything, Zionism was born to ‘civilize’ the Diaspora Jew who, certain 19th century emancipated secular Jews found so repellent. So it is not Zionism that makes Israel barbarous, it is the way Israelis interpret their cultural, spiritual and textual heritage. Of course, Weiss is welcome to suggest that there is another possible interpretation to Jewish heritage, but he should be precise and point to those Jewish texts that preach universal ethics and world peace.
Weiss reckons that once we should be brave enough to deal with Zionism, “liberal Zionists will be pressed to decide what they believe in more, liberalism or Zionism.” But still I’m puzzled. If Weiss is so open and tolerant, surely he would allow discussion on his own website concerning the Jewish character of the Jewish State. He would invite a discussion concerning the Jewishness of the Jewish Lobby. I believe that Philip Weiss is operating unwillingly and unwittingly as a Zionist fig leaf. He invests all his intellectual energy diverting attention from the root cause of the problem – namely Jewish culture and Jewish identity politics. And why? Probably because of his own unease with is own Anti Zionist Zionist behaviour.
- Concerning Mondoweiss, Racism and Freedom of Speech (Uprooted Palestinians)
In a recent interview with the Jewish Journal, unfunny comedian Bill Maher has once again praised Israel for its restraint in only committing rampant war crimes in Gaza rather than a full-scale nuclear genocide of a civilian population.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a lengthy post about Maher’s appalling anti-Islam bigotry and staggering ignorance regarding the factual history of his favorite colonial-settler ethnocracy, Israel. While Maher’s vitriolic attacks on Muslims, grotesque caricature of Palestinians in particular and unconditional fealty to Zionist propaganda has continued unabated in the intervening years, comments made in his Jewish Journal interview – conducted just days after the Israeli military concluded its latest criminal bombardment of besieged Gaza that succeeded in murdering over 160 people, including 42 children – concisely illustrate his warped understanding of reality.
Condemning religious people for ignorance of their own doctrinal scripture, Maher says, “I think if they read the bible, especially the Old Testament, I think they would be appalled,” adding that if biblical stories were de-contextualized and read only as a vengeful deity “wiping these people out and ethnically cleaning [sic] them for no apparent reason, how he does things on a whim and how he’s jealous; They’d go, ‘This is terrible.’”
While Maher may be correct on this point, he then claims that Judaism is “certainly not as dangerous as Islam and Christianity. Those are warlike religions.” One is left to wonder if Maher knows what the Old Testament actually is.
Maher finds elements of Judaism “insane” and “funny” and, in his world, the religion seems to boil down to kooky inventions like the Shabbos Elevator which “doesn’t really threaten anybody’s life.”
For Maher, who seems to be channeling the myopia of Jon Stewart here, every Muslim is a brainwashed terrorist, while every Jew is just a hapless nebbish – one part Catskills-era Jackie Mason, one part whining Yiddish Bubbe. Muslims are violent fanatics who blow things up, whereas Jews are more concerned with hikes in bus fares and guilt-tripping their children. Never in Maher’s mind could Jewish people be seen as racists, occupiers, ethnic cleansers, and colonists. Never could they level neighborhoods, attack civilian populations with the most high-tech killing machines and chemical weapons, or discriminate against communities based solely on their religion or ethnicity. They are victims – always – never aggressors.
It is therefore unsurprising that Maher stated, “Y’know, maybe Arabs and Jews are both crazy, but Jews save a tiny piece of their mind for science, math, and writing sitcoms. Arabs, on the other severed hand, seem to spend all their time handing down grudges from one generation to the next.”
Maher has apparently never stopped to wonder what the world would be like without coffee, carpets, windmills, parachutes, soap, fountain pens, romantic poetry, algorithms, trigonometry, rose windows, pointed arches, scalpels, forceps, dissolving stitches, anesthesia, cataract surgery, cameras and the science of optics – to name just a few – all products of Arab and Muslim minds. And where would we all be without Khalil Gibran, Steve Jobs, and 1980′s pop sensation Tiffany, whose last name is Darwish?
Because he is generally seen as “liberal” in mainstream discourse, the inconsistencies and ignorance in Maher’s conception of world religions and his passionate attachment to Israel are cause for concern.
To his credit, Maher is honest about his proclivities. “I’ve never hid the fact that I don’t think it’s a conflict where both sides are equally guilty,” he told Danielle Berrin, who writes the “Hollywood Jew” column for the Jewish Journal. “I’m more on the side of the Israelis; that’s why Benjamin Netanyahu did my show a few years ago, before he was Prime Minister.”
Is Maher saying here that Netanyahu will only do interviews with Zionists? Maher also neglects to mention that his interview with Netanyahu was in 2006, soon after Israel had decimated southern Lebanon for a month, killing 1,180 people (about a third of whom were children), wounding over 4,050, and displacing about 970,000 others as direct result of the more than 7,000 air attacks by the Israeli Air Force and an additional 2,500 bombardments by the Israeli Navy that deliberately contravened international law and targeted civilian infrastructure.
Maher repeatedly praised the assault in which Lebanese men, women and children were being blown to pieces, claiming that condemning Israeli war crimes (which he benignly referred to as Israel being “forced to kill people in its own defense”) was the same thing as anti-Semitism. Maher seemed blissfully oblivious to the facts, including evidence that Israel had actually instigated the conflict and willfully continued the “widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports… even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict.”
At the end of his fawning interview with the once-and-future Prime Minister, Maher quotes a Jerusalem Post article: “The Foreign Ministry would do well to watch Bill Maher to learn how to sell Israel’s case to a TV audience… ,” then asks Netanyahu, “What do you think? I could roll that way!”
Netanyahu’s response? “Hey Bill, watch it, if I’m Prime Minister, you’ll get the job.”
Clearly, they both got their wish.
Maher’s original admission that he is “more on the side of the Israelis” acknowledges that he finds Palestinians – an indigenous population that was dispossessed, displaced and all but destroyed by militarily superior Zionist forces and which has lived as refugees under perpetual occupation, deliberately denied sovereignty, self-determination and self-defense for over six decades; a people demonized, dehumanized and traumatized who are routinely condemned in their desperate resistance to subjugation, colonization and collective punishment for not taking enough care to protect the lives and collective identity of its oppressors and occupiers – far more culpable for the persistence of a century-old “conflict” than the Israelis – a nuclear-armed, superpower-backed, settler society that institutionally discriminates against the non-Jewish communities whose lives it controls.
And this guy is called “liberal”?
Maher’s take on Israel/Palestine boils down to this: “It’s not that complicated: Stop firing rockets into Israel and perhaps they won’t annihilate you,” he told Berrin. Perhaps. Annihilate. That Israel might cease its occupation, blockade, night raids, airstrikes and land theft is obviously not the problem here. No, it’s the futile and frustrated reaction to such trifles that is beyond Maher’s pale. Again, one hundred years of history is erased and replaced by an invented narrative of violent Arabs endlessly attacking innocent Israeli Jews. Maher is obviously unaware that, according to a 2009 study, “it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first” following a ceasefire, thus instigating retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza. “Indeed,” the study concluded, “it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.” The recent Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza is no exception.
Moreover, Maher seems to be unaware that four years have passed since Israel’s massacre in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, claiming that Palestinians “lost over 1,000 people” in the recent Israeli offensive. Keeping abreast of facts, of course, isn’t Maher’s concern when describing a week of devastation wrought upon a caged population of 1.7 million with nowhere to run and no viable means to protect itself as Gaza gets, in Maher’s words, its “ass kicked.” One can assume that, in his childhood, Maher spent many an hour kicking the asses of ants with a magnifying glass.
But all this is merely prologue to where both Maher and his interlocutor Berrin were about to go. Berrin posed a leading question to Maher about proportionality and the vast discrepancy between Israeli and Palestinian death tolls and got the answer she was hoping for:
Its obvious that Israelis, in all of their battles with the Palestinians, show restraint. Because they have nuclear weapons. And if the situation was reversed, I don’t doubt for a second that Palestinians would fire them immediately. They’d use the maximum of what they have available and the Israelis don’t.
Ok, ignore the hypothetical nature of role-reversal (how would an indigenous population occupy and colonize parts of its own land?) and leave aside the sheer stupidity of assuming Palestinians in Gaza would launch nuclear weapons at a state in which 20% of the population are themselves Palestinian or that Tel Aviv is roughly 50 miles away from Gaza meaning that Palestinians would essentially be dropping a nuke on themselves. Or the weirdness of suggesting that the Palestinian goal of self-determination, statehood and equal rights in their historic homeland could be achieved by physically obliterating that very homeland and making it literally uninhabitable. And forget that the “restraint” Maher lauds in Israel’s recent round of murder is a casualty ratio of 33-1.
Maher actually contends here that Israel shows “restraint” merely by not engaging in the complete nuclear holocaust of Palestinians, a desperate refugee population Israel itself created through ethnic cleansing and continued occupation. The fact that Israel’s conventional military might and capacity for lethal destruction far surpasses that of most countries on the planet is obviously irrelevant, as is the tragedy that such “restraint” in late November included the murder of ten members of the al-Dalou family, including four children, crushed to death when Israel bombed their three-story home in Gaza. Such is the Israeli conception of “restraint” and Maher’s explicit endorsement of excessive Israeli force against a civilian Palestinian population.
Maher has said similar things before. A few years ago he suggested that, if rockets were fired into the United States from Canada, “we would have nuked them a hundred times by now,” despite the fact that the analogy literally makes no sense. In fact, Maher’s penchant for recycling material is nothing new. On November 21, when a ceasefire was announced, Maher tweeted:
Glad Hillary was able to get a cease-fire in Gaza. Otherwise known as Stopping to Reload.
Obviously, for Maher, those “reloading” are the Palestinians and not the Israelis, who are annually gifted with $3 billion in military aid from the United States, have their own booming arms industry, and have some of the planet’s most sophisticated and deadly weaponry in its own perennially loaded arsenal. Maher used the same line on March 18, 2011 during an obsequious Real Time interview with Israeli ambassador Michael Oren because, hey, when it’s disingenuous and not funny the first time, why not roll it out a year-and-a-half later?
Before wrapping up the Jewish Journal interview, Maher resorted to tossing out some hackneyed hasbara talking points. While it should be remembered that “the Palestinians do have gripes,” he said (yes, gripes), the real threat to Israel is “becoming a minority Jewish state within their own country.” Whose country? Oh, and, yeah, calling for demographic engineering isn’t particularly progressive, Bill. It’s just racist.
Maher of course can’t let the interview end without interjecting the mother of all hasbara canards: that Israeli actions against the Palestinians in Gaza (aka war crimes) are motivated primarily by “self-defense.” As always, the occupied indigenous refugees with homemade rockets and smuggled AK-47s are transformed into eliminationist aggressors while the colonizing occupiers armed with drones, Apache helicopters, F-16 jets, tanks, warships, white phosphorous and nuclear bombs are the innocent victims of senseless anti-Semitic violence. It goes without saying that, for Maher, Palestinians are never entitled to defend themselves.
But remember, as Maher told the Jewish Journal, Judaism simply isn’t a “warlike religion” like the others – despite the fact that a self-proclaimed “Jewish State” was established atop Palestine, its native inhabitants massacred or driven from the land by Zionist militias, its towns, villages, groves and orchards razed and reduced to rubble by Israeli bombs, tank treads and bulldozers.
Never mind that, during the 2008-9 massacre of Gaza known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military rabbinate actively called upon Jewish soldiers not to “show mercy” towards its “enemy,” comparing Palestinians to ancient Philistines, ripe for righteous slaughter. It disseminated material declaring “a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses,” and insisting, “We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it.”
Never mind that chief army rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki, made it perfectly clear that the rabbinate’s goal in relation to Israeli soldiers was “to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit.” In that campaign, the Israeli military killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of whom were non-combatant men, women and children, and wounding thousands upon thousands more in just over three weeks. Despite the worldwide condemnation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Rontzki remained convinced that “[i]n Israel’s wars, warriors are God-fearing people, righteous people, people who don’t have sins on their hands.”
Never mind that, in November 2009, rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, an Israeli settler who lives in the illegal West Bank colony of Yitzhar near Nablus, published The King’s Torah, which “describes how it is possible to kill non-Jews according to halakha (Jewish religious law).” According to the Israeli press, “the book contains no fewer than 230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guide for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew” and states that, as non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature,” even children are legitimate targets for murder. “One must consider killing even babies,” the book says, “because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents.”
Never mind that during the most recent Israeli attacks, with the Biblical moniker Operation Pillar of Cloud, Gilad Sharon, son of former Prime Minister/comatose war criminal Ariel Sharon, declared in The Jerusalem Post that – because Hamas won a majority in Parliamentary elections in January 2006 – “the residents of Gaza are not innocent,” urging the Israeli military to “flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza,” just like the United States decimated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. “There is no middle path here,” Sharon concluded, “either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip.”
Never mind that Knesset minister Michael Ben-Ari echoed Sharon’s sentiments, saying, “There are no innocents in Gaza,” imploring the Israeli military to “mow them!” Referring to Gaza as the Biblical Sodom, Ben-Ari addressed soldiers directly, asserting that “there are no righteous men, turn it into rubble. Paint it red! We are worried about you and rely on you. We all do, all of the Nation of Israel,” an unmistakable reference to all Jewish people worldwide, not merely citizens of the State of Israel.
Never mind that, on November 21, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that “most of the people” in Gaza killed by Israel “deserved it,” falsely claiming that those killed and wounded “were just armed terrorists,” when in fact the vast majority were unarmed civilians, including dozens of women, children and babies.
Never mind that more than 90% of Jewish Israelis supported Israel’s November 2012 bombardment of Gaza. Never mind that roughly 94% supported Cast Lead. Never mind that, according to a recent study, Israel remains the single most militarized nation in the world, a distinction it has held for nearly 20 straight years.
Back in September 2010, Maher told Larry King that, along with Saudi Salafis and the Afghan Taliban, he thought “Hamas is crazy.” When King asked how “a civilized world” should “deal with crazies,” Maher replied, “I would say, first thing is don’t use the Army.” Considering his obvious affinity for and justification of Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, either Maher somehow exempts the Israeli military from such a prescription or, more appropriately, he doesn’t find Israel to be part of the “civilized world.” It is doubtful Maher would pick the latter option.
To make the point that Maher is uninformed on the topic of Israel and Palestine is obvious. That his enthusiastic promotion of Zionist propaganda and apologia seems not to affect his reputation as a mainstream liberal mouthpiece is considerably more alarming.
- Oh Bill Maher, There You Go Again… (randomrationality.com)
The 30th anniversary of the Sabra and Chatila massacre in Lebanon has passed with hardly any notice. Several hundred Palestinians were butchered by Israeli proxies in Lebanon on Sept. 16, 1982. Throughout July and August of that year, the Israeli air force, under the command of Ariel Sharon, carpet-bombed clearly marked civilian centers in the city of Beirut, including nursing homes, hospitals and apartment blocks. In August of 1982 the attacks escalated to terror bombing of downtown Beirut in a true holocaust (death by fire).
The Israelis commit war crimes and atrocities with impunity. They know that after the initial editorial outrage, their mass murder will never form part of a permanent collective ritual of commemoration similar to the eternal remembrance and teaching of the Nazi persecution of Judaic people under the rubric “the Holocaust.”
No one can comprehend or fully account for this Zionist mentality of callous indifference toward the murder victims of the Israeli military without being conversant with Talmudic culture and ethics; at the heart of which is the concept of Judaic racial and spiritual superiority. That is the reason why the conscience-on-its-sleeve liberal media turns its back on the remembrance of the slaughter of the Arabs by the Israelis.
On the 30th anniversary of the Sabra and Chatila massacre the New York Times printed, with regard to the visit to Lebanon by Pope Benedict XVI, “Lebanon is still rebuilding from a devastating 1975-1990 civil war fought largely on sectarian lines…” (16 Sept. 2012, p. A14 print edition only; online edition has been bowdlerized).
“Civil war”? Was it the Lebanese who bombed Beirut from jets throughout the summer of 1982? Actually it was Sharon’s aerial terrorists, but that fact is forgotten and covered up. The NY Times implies the Lebanese did it to themselves. How perverse.
Notice that the reference to “rebuilding” Lebanon is limited to destruction perpetrated during the years 1975-1990. No mention is made of the massive destruction Israeli bombs, rockets, missiles and artillery fire visited upon Lebanon in the summer of 2006 in the course of which hundreds of Arab children were killed and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed.
Just before the Israelis withdrew in 2006 they dropped tens of thousands of land mines all over the Lebanese countryside to guarantee years of crippling and maiming injuries, mostly of children who attempt to pick up the bomblets, thinking they are toys.
A question for the New York Times: is Lebanon “rebuilding” from the Israeli holocaust in 2006? Apparently not, because your timeline stops at 1990. The entire Israeli war in Lebanon of 2006 has been omitted from the New York Times’ remembrance.
In the same issue that makes these deliberate and flagrant omissions, there is an obituary for “Holocaust Survivor” Eli Zborowski, who is celebrated for supporting “Holocaust Remembrance.” In his N.Y. Times’ obituary we read, “In 2000, when the pope visited Yad Vashem, some criticized him for declining to comment directly on the church’s silence about Hitler’s crimes during the war…” (16 Sept. 2012, p. A25; [published online Sept. 12]).
Always these self-righteous accusations in the face of Judaism’s own extraordinary hypocrisy!
What about the “silence” of the New York Times concerning Israeli crimes during the First and Second Lebanese wars of 1982 and 2006?
The explanation of the disparity between suffering remembered, and suffering dismissed, is that “Jews” are human beings, and deserve commemoration, reparations and remembrance. Whereas the Arabs are sub-humans who deserve obscurity, anonymity and ignominy. Or as the Talmud informs its followers: “You are called men, but the gentiles are not men” (BT Bava Metzia 114b).
- Details emerge of US role in Sabra-Shatila massacre (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The Massacre at Sabra and Shatila, Thirty Years Later (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Unexploded Israeli cluster bomb kills Lebanese woman (alethonews.wordpress.com)
After the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem has decided to play very loud music, in defiance of the volume and disturbance of the sound of the muezzin at the mosque in nearby Al-Issawiya, two additional Jewish neighborhoods, Pisgat Ze’ev and Har Choma, have announced that they, too, will take up a similar approach. French Hill also decided to go with hard rock, and not Mediterranean tunes, as had originally been planned, because, as they put it, hard rock is more likely to deliver the message.
According to Yediot Jerusalem, the French Hill neighborhood has recently approached an amplification company with an order for four huge speakers to be directed at Al-Isawiya. As soon as the village muezzin will start his exceedingly loud prayer, it will be responded to with ear shattering Rock n’ Roll, letting local Arabs understand how disturbing the loud prayers have been to their Jewish neighbors.
Har Choma and Pisgat Ze’ev residents are waiting to see the results from the French Hill “pilot.” If the protest via rock blasts succeeds, the other two neighborhoods, situated on the border of the Jerusalem municipality, will follow suit.
- Israeli incursions at Al-Aqsa Mosque occur almost daily, not just holidays (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
British Palestine Solidarity outfit ‘Palestine Place’ provides a platform for anti-Syrian speakers, while ostracising and banning activists who choose to discuss topics designated as ‘no-go’ by Zionist ideology. This is symptomatic of a wider disease prevalent in the ‘Palestine Solidarity Movement’.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement, not only within the UK but across nations worldwide, is becoming increasingly fractured and impotent. The movement is characterised by swathes of different groups squabbling amongst themselves, and ostracising members(1) who cross certain red lines – red lines which have been drawn by Zionism.
‘Palestine Place’: Symptoms of a Wider Disease
During my own recent experiences at ‘Palestine Place’ in London, I was unfortunate enough to witness acute symptoms of the disease afflicting the Palestine Solidarity Movement. The disease is not unique to Palestine Place; it afflicts the wider Palestine Solidarity Movement and the liberal ‘left’ in the UK. Not only is the Palestine Solidarity Movement paralysed with fear of being branded with the anti-Semitism epithet, but it routinely falls prey to Zionist and imperialist deception, manipulation, and propaganda. The carnal fear of being branded an ‘anti-Semite’ prevents any level of open and honest discussion on anything pertaining to Israel and the Zionist project – especially its founding myths which must be openly discussed and debated in order for truth to see light.
Outlawing Thoughtcrime in the Service of Zionism
During an open discussion at Palestine Place in June 2012, one attendee brought up the subject of Gilad Atzmon’s alleged anti-Semitism. The gentleman proceeded to misrepresent Atzmon’s words in order to paint him as a racist who merely seeks to attack Judaism.
During this discussion the subject of holocaust denial and holocaust revisionism came up. At no point was the holocaust denied by anybody present, however this writer did make the point that we must make a distinction between ‘revisionism’ and ‘denial’. All historical events must be open to investigation and questioning; the very concept of history is based on revisionism. What legitimate reason could we possibly have for shielding any historical event from examination? We are constantly reminded that we must learn from history lest it repeat itself (reminiscent of the ‘never again’ mantra), yet we are prevented from examining these very elements of history!
This particular discussion at Palestine Place continued for ten or fifteen minutes before the next scheduled discussion was due to begin. During this time, dedicated pro-Palestinian activist Ken O’Keefe came to Gilad Atzmon’s defence, drawing attention to Atzmon’s idea that Jewishness and Jewish culture must be part of our investigation of Israeli and Zionist ideology. Are Israel’s tanks, gunships and warplanes not adorned with the Jewish Star of David? Is ‘Israel’ not a self-professed Jewish State? The gentleman who had chosen to accuse Atzmon of anti-Semitism had misrepresented Atzmon’s views and launched into a baseless ad hominem attack.
Immediately before the next scheduled speaker, a spokesman for Palestine Place made an announcement to the following effect: some people have decided to air their views on the holocaust, we must remind you that at Palestine Place we do not tolerate anti-Semitism and we will not be discussing the holocaust any further.
It must be noted that this was after the same spokesperson had emphatically stated that day, that Palestine Place was not affiliated with any solidarity organisation (such as the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign), purely to avoid the politicisation and control of discussion!
This relatively small incident demonstrates how the Palestine Solidarity Movement is not only subject to Zionist bullying, infiltration, and lobbying, but more importantly cultural indoctrination. We are instilled with a cardinal fear of discussing the holocaust outside of the officially accepted narrative – a ‘thoughtcrime’ in this democracy and beacon of free speech known as Great Britain.
The knee-jerk ‘we do not tolerate anti-Semitism‘ emotional reaction is sadly typical, and it is trotted out before one iota of thought has been given to the content and substance of the discussion.
It is incredibly sad and disheartening to see that the Palestine Solidarity Movement is utterly beholden to Zionism’s biggest rhetorical weapon: false charges of anti-Semitism coupled with a religious observance of and adherence to the dogma of ‘the holocaust’.
As activists and truth seekers, are we actually going to conflate historical revisionism (the practice of investigating and revising our understanding of history based on facts and free debate) with racism? This logic is completely lost on those who have an immediate emotional reaction to this question.
Palestine Place Bars Prominent Pro-Palestine Activist, Backs Foreign Insurrection in Syria
On June 13, 2012, Palestine Place hosted a talk on the subject of Syria. Several guests were invited to speak – all of whom were anti-Assad and pro-’revolution’. Without exception, all of the speakers represented the viewpoint of the corrupt Gulf dictatorships, the USA and Israel, who are jointly seeking the dissolution of all bastions of Arab resistance to Zionism and Western neocolonialism.
Shortly before the talk, I witnessed Ken O’Keefe being asked to leave the premises by organisers who cited a ‘group decision’ that had been made. Hypocritically, not one of the attendees to the talk was consulted about this decision – the decision was made by Palestine Place’s organisers and had no ‘grassroots’ input whatsoever.
After Ken had left the premises the talks continued and the speakers dictated their opinion to the almost exclusively young (18-23) and impressionable crowd. One after another the anti-Assad guests expounded their mythical idea that the ‘revolution’ in Syria was at all indigenous, as opposed to being a foreign-led insurrection, which is now a clearly established reality.
The speakers were Simon Assaf, UK-based Syrian activist Shiar Youssef, activist Dan Gorman, and ‘internet researcher and activist’ Miriyam Asfar.
Simon Assaf’s previous writings shed light on his ideological position. He is a commentator who claims to oppose western intervention in Libya and Syria, while breathlessly parroting the lies and propaganda that enable it. He saw the NATO-appointed NTC’s calls for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya as “genuine calls for help”,(2) and he mindlessly repeats the long-discredited claims that Gaddafi bombarded civilian demonstrations from the air. He even claimed that the case for the intervention in Libya was “very powerful”.(3)
At Palestine Place, Assaf continued with his delusional and romantic narrative wherein he painted the foreign-led counter-revolution in Syria as an indigenous people’s and workers’ revolution. He smugly dismissed ‘al Qaeda’ involvement in Syria as paranoid conspiracy theory.
No reasonable person would debate the CIA’s use of what would become ‘al Qaeda’ in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s to achieve its strategic objectives. This is not the stuff of ‘conspiracy theory’, rather it is established historical fact.
Assaf chose to ignore the deeply sectarian, thuggish, and terroristic inclinations of the ‘revolutionaries’ in Syria. Even the mainstream press has been forced to admit(4) that Abdelhakim Belhaj, former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is providing fighters and assistance to the so-called Free Syrian Army.
The LIFG, still listed as a terrorist group by the US State Department,(5) is a paradigmatic example of one of the CIA’s many proxy armies of brainwashed sectarian drones – commonly referred to collectively as ‘al Qaeda’.
Assaf, as well as the other speakers, reminded the audience that the ‘revolution’ started in Daraa, Syria, in March 2011. What they didn’t draw attention to was the fact that Daraa, like the majority of the hotspots in the Syrian unrest, is on Syria’s border. As a result of calls from short-sighted, hateful and poisonously sectarian-minded Sunni religious leaders (including our new ‘al Qaeda’ boogeyman Ayman al-Zawahiri), ‘jihadists’ in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have flocked to Syria to fight against the Assad regime(6) (Assad is an Alawi and non-sectarian leader who allows 18 different sects to live in harmony). These ‘jihadists’ include Abdelhakim Belhaj’s men, who were shipped to Turkey in order to allow them to infiltrate Syria’s borders(7) from there. Further to this, the United States and Jordanian militaries began a joint military exercise known as Eager Lion in the summer of 2011.(8) What is the significance of this, and why is the majority of the unrest in border regions?
The Houla Killings – Fruit of the ‘FSA’
Predictably, Assaf and the other speakers accused the Assad regime of committing brutal massacres against the Syrian people. The Houla massacre – an event which is held as the ‘trump card’ by the ‘opposition’ in Syria, is deserving of inspection here.
In the immediate aftermath of the Houla massacre, the Syrian ‘opposition’ and media outlets across the spectrum attempted to blame the killings on artillery attacks by the Syrian Army. When it became clear that most of the victims were killed at close range, many with stab wounds, the narrative became ‘pro-regime militia’. Now however, after the dust has settled, it is clear that pro-Assad elements had nothing to do with the Houla massacre, and in fact it was the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ and ‘opposition’ that is most likely responsible.
The Assad regime would have nothing to gain but everything to lose by perpetrating the Houla killings. These murders have played right into the hands of Syria’s enemies – those who seek regime change under the barrel of a ‘humanitarian’ gun. Initial reports from the opposition contradicted the physical manner in which the victims were killed. Three days after the event, Human Rights Watch joined the chorus blaming Assad and ‘pro-government forces’.(9)
However, the facts betray this speculation from the Syrian ‘opposition’ and so-called human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch.
Those killed were nearly exclusively families from the Alawi and Shia minorities in Sunni-majority Houla (while HRW and the ‘opposition’ try to suggest that the victims were Sunni). This included several dozen members of one extended family, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Also killed was the family of a Sunni member of parliament who was considered a government collaborator by the rebels.
Considering these points(10) and the fact that the massacre occurred as three Syrian Army checkpoints were being attacked by armed gangs around the town, the idea that the Syrian Army was responsible for the Houla killings is asinine. It is now evident that the sectarian terrorists whom people such as Simon Assaf refer to as ‘revolutionaries’, were responsible for this heinous crime.
Another notable moment during Palestine Place’s decidedly anti-Syrian evening was when ‘activist’ Dan Gorman showed the audience a video of an opposition-produced puppet show which ridiculed Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez. During the few-minute sequence, the puppets of Bashar and Hafez joked about killing Syrians, and bemoaned the propaganda peddled by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. The entire audience smugly nodded, laughed and clapped as this ‘Two Minutes Hate’ played out before them.
When UK-based Syrian activist Shiar Youssef took the stage, he forged another memorable moment. “This is just how we work in Syria“, he said. He was referring to how Syrian activists work, compared to the way in which the Palestine Place activists were sat around on the floor of the room, gazing at the speaker. I have to confess, this reminded me of when UK Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted that the UK government is training Syrian activists.(11)
Conclusion: Solidarity Demands Intellectual Courage, not Servility & Herd Mentality
Palestine Place is, in every way, a microcosm of the international Palestine Solidarity Movement. Toothless, pseudo-enlightened know-it-alls who are intellectually servile, exclusivist, drowned in ego, and utterly impotent.
Ostensibly it has no individual leaders and is purely democratic, but this is meaningless since it religiously adheres to specific pre-defined boundaries of discussion. Freedom of speech and discussion exists only on paper; ‘thought criminals’ are barred and ostracised. It claims to present the opportunity for “radical change“. It ‘occupies’ a building with the full cooperation of the landowner (this writer confirmed this by speaking to activists on-site).
Frank Barat, a London-based human rights activist tells Mondoweiss about the ins and outs of Palestine Place. Barat, who this writer suspects plays a role in the Palestine Place project, promotes the organisation(12) as a movement that will mean the West will “never be the same again“.
He also insists that Palestine Place is “open to everyone and belongs to everyone“, and that it is a “hub of creativity, discussions and possibility for radical change“.
Palestine Place completely betrays these ideals.
Discussion of historical events intimately linked to Palestine and the history of Zionism, has been stifled. Attendees are banned and ostracised for having a different opinion; discussion outside of the mainstream is prohibited at this ‘radical’ outfit – whether this concerns the attendees or the opinionated, one-sided speakers who are invited to talk.
Palestine Place’s official ‘Safe Spaces Policy’ bars holocaust revisionism(13) (the act of enriching our understanding of history on an ongoing basis by examining and documenting the facts). I must reiterate: what legitimate reason could we possibly have for shielding any historical event from examination? What are they afraid of? What is there to hide? We are constantly reminded that we must learn from history lest it repeat itself (reminiscent of the ‘never again’ mantra), yet Palestine Place chooses to protect this aspect of history from scrutiny!
Interestingly, Palestine Place’s Safe Spaces Policy calls for (emphasis mine) “An end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied since 1967“. Does the land ethnically cleansed and occupied in 1948 not count? Did Israel’s crimes start in 1967? Palestine Place attempts to normalise the Nakba here, accepting the legitimacy of the 1948 land thefts and only referring to the 1967 occupation.
The following passage from the same policy statement is simply staggering in its dishonesty, keeping in mind the practices of Palestine Place:
Palestine Place will not be dogmatic nor prescriptive about attitudes, opinions or beliefs that relate to the political debate around Palestine.
Palestine Place is not an environment that encourages any level of independent or critical thought. Youngsters, keen to learn about the Palestinian cause (and the geopolitical landscape surrounding it – i.e. Syria) are being corralled into adopting a kosher ‘anti-Zionist’ viewpoint that will pose zero threat to Zionism.
Outspoken and dedicated pro-Palestinian voices are banned and ostracised. Guest speakers are invited who are exclusively representing a one-sided point of view. Discussion of Zionism’s founding myths are prevented. This supposed ‘solidarity’ outfit has demonstrably positioned itself into an anti-Palestinian standpoint, either wittingly or unwittingly.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement is terminally afraid of discussing subjects that are designated ‘no-go’ areas by Zionist ideology. The incessant false charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ is Zionism’s biggest ideological weapon – and we all know it – but our movement has no defence.
Only with real independent thought and intellectual courage will our movement proceed.
When we are held emotionally hostage by certain ideas, we must ask why.
We must never stop the pursuit of truth, regardless of the level of ‘herd mentality’ around us. We must take a step back and think objectively.
Exposing any and all deceptions which alter perceptions about Israel, anti-Semitism, and Palestine, is our place.
(1) ‘Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon’ – US Palestinian Community Network
(2) ‘Libya: at the crossroads’ by Simon Assaf
(3) ‘How Western Powers Blackmailed the Libyan Revolution’ by Simon Assaf
(4) ‘Leading Libyan Islamist met Free Syrian Army opposition group’ – The UK Telegraph
(5) ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations’ – US Department of State
(6) ‘Jihadists Declare Holy War Against Assad Regime’ – Spiegel Online
(7) ‘Al-Qaeda Terrorists Airlifted From Libya to Aid Syrian Opposition’ by Paul Joseph Watson
(8) ‘US, 18 other nations, wrap up Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan’ – The Christian Science Monitor
(9) ‘Syria: UN Inquiry Should Investigate Houla Killings’ – Human Rights Watch
(10) ‘Leading German Daily: Houla Massacre Committed by Syrian Rebels’ – EmpireStrikesBlack.com
(11) ‘US fears fresh massacre in Syria’ – The UK Telegraph
(12) ‘‘Palestine Place’ comes to London, and the west will never be the same’ by Frank Barat
(13) ‘Safe Spaces Policy’ – Palestine Place
- Critiquing Israel: colonialism or Jewish culture? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Thought Police within the so-called ‘Palestine Solidarity Movement’ (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
It seems like yesterday that we watched Israeli tanks rolling down the hills towards our sleepy town of Beit Sahour 45 years ago today. As a child it was the most frightening sight. The second stage of the Zionist expansion on the land of Palestine unleashed terror that our generation had not experienced but my parents generation had during eth Nakba when between January 1948 and the end of 1949, some 530 villages and towns were ethnically cleansed. The changes I witnessed the 45 years since the “6 day” invasion of 1967 have been nothing short of monumental. Those hills that the tanks rolled down on are all now filled with colonial settlements that scar the ancient landscape. The Israeli quarries have literally dug up other hills and trucked stone and soil away to build the “Jewish state” while destroying Palestinian lives. But I do not want to take time here to write of these violations. I think anyone can find thousands of documents and reports from independent human rights groups and international agencies describing the horrors of colonization, apartheid, and occupation in this “holy land”. Nor will I address how people who teach their children about Jewish suffering over the ages teach them that it is OK to inflict this suffering on native/indigenous people. Nor do I want to write on this occasion of the treachery of western countries who profess human rights and international law actually become complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Nor do I want to address the treachery of Arab leaders (yes including some Palestinians) who were complicit in helping make 7 million of us refugees or displaced people. I do want to talk about us, the people, and especially about mental occupation.
Occupiers/colonizers are of course always dependent not just on military might but also on propaganda and psychological manipulation to reach their goals. For example, from the late 19th century, the Zionists successfully infiltrated the minds of their victims with notions like “Arabs” and/vs. “Jews”. With this one simple concept, Zionists succeeded in 1) equating a linguistic group with a religion and elevating Jewishness to a supposed national structure (“a people”), 2) removing Arab Jews as a viable group whose allegiance lies naturally with their fellow Arabic speaking people, 3) fostering anti-Jewish feelings (mistakenly called anti-Semitism) to help their cause in conflating Zionism with Judaism. Before that they coined and popularized the term anti-Semitism to confuse the Europeans and claim they are Semites. From those early efforts in the 19th century, the people of the world were subjected to sustained intensive efforts at brainwashing.
We actually understand these propaganda efforts as natural and expected in efforts to propel racist ideologies. What we do not understand is why many native Palestinians accepted defeat and even adopted the Zionized version of history. Even some of our school textbooks perpetuate the mythologies that keep the Zionist nightmare a reality. It is easy to keep it alive when we, the victims keep the myth of the exodus from Egypt to Masada to the falsified history of Josephus to the suppression of our Canaanite ancestry to the notion that Jewishness is somehow biological. Some of this is due to those who are religious confusing metaphors and myths with historiography. Some of it is due to ignorance: e.g. ignorance of the fact that the Philistines were actually Canaanite people and not from Crete or that both ancient Arabic and Hebrew were dialects of Canaanite Aramaic. Some of it is pure foolishness; for example that somehow we can “return” Palestine to an idealized (fictional) Islamic or Jewish state. Would it not be better to admit the wrong that was done to the native people, do some restorative justice, and begin to discuss among ourselves how we Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and others can live TOGETHER in a country in full equality? How about a new joint political movement to reform and to dismantle the dysfunctional Israeli and Palestinian political structures so as to build a new reality? Aren’t 64 years of Nakba and 45 years of Naksa long enough? There are 11.5 million Palestinains in the world and billions of fellow human beings who know what is right to contend with at best half a million deluded Jewish Zionists (and the equally deluded Christian Zionists who support them). What prevents justice (ie. peace) is apathy and ignorance. Is it not time to shed these?
Cover-up of the deliberate Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. We should remember the victims of the Israeli attack 45 years ago and the cowardice of the US government which succumbed to the Israel lobby and buried the incident http://www.ussliberty.org
The 2011 Humanitarian Overview addresses the key advocacy priorities identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), the main humanitarian coordinating body for UN agencies and NGO partners in the the occupied Palestinian territories. http://www.ochaopt.org/annual/
Rabbi Brian Walt: Affirming a Judaism and Jewish identity without Zionism
Israel is new South Africa as boycott calls increase
After Madonna began her world tour there last week, campaigners urge cutting of cultural tieshttp://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/israel-is-new-south-africa-as-boycott-calls-increase-7813538.html
Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds, Dublin 2-6-2012
Don’t Let Mahmoud Sarsak Die – Act Now!: http://freehaifa.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/dont-let-mahmoud-sarsak-die-act-now/
ACTION: Consider introducing resolutions for boycotts, divestment and sanctions at your union, church, organization, group, political party, association. You may also start a petition to have your town, city council, state or other government entity divest from Israel and companies that support the Israeli apartheid system. To help, we put together some relevant information on this link http://www.qumsiyeh.org/calltobds/ and will try to keep it updated for use in promoting BDS (send me anything you think should be added)
Here are other links with lots of information