Zeev Sternhell is an Israeli historian and a recognized expert on fascism. He is also an occasional contributor to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. On 14 January 2011 he published a piece originally titled “The Right To Resist“. One never knows about the titles of newspaper pieces, whether they are penned by the author or a sub-editor, but in this case the title did capture the flavour of the writer’s intent. However, by 15 January the title’s connotations proved too much for someone at Haaretz and the piece has now been renamed, “Gov’t Protects the People, Not the Other Way Around”.
Odour of fascism
However you want to title it, Sternhell’s message is clear. He is very concerned about Israel’s right wing government. He thinks the present regime is controlled by dangerous people such as Avigdor Lieberman (the present foreign minister) and a Knesset full of folks who believe that the Israeli “left” are traitors. The present rulers are also the patrons of Israel’s settler movement which Sternhell has always strongly opposed (his house was bombed by these fanatics back in 2008). In other words, as a expert on fascism, he knows it when he sees it, and what he presently sees in Jerusalem at least has intimations of that sort of authoritarianism. The latest intimation is the desire of the Knesset, seconded by Lieberman, to intimidate human rights organizations such as B’Tselem into silence by investigating their sources of foreign income. The suggestion here is that these organizations are linked to a foreign cabal seeking the “delegitimization” of Israel and you can allegedly demonstrate this by following the money trail.
Other Israelis are also upset about this anti-democratic move on the part of their present government. Gideon Levy, one of Haaretz’s regular columnists, has criticized Liebowitz for his part in this affair. But it is Sternhell who has suggested that “not every Knesset decision is legitimate” and when the government acts in a way that undermines democracy, the citizen has “a duty to resist.” Interestingly, he includes in the present sins of the Knesset not only the intimidation of human rights organizations, but also “legislation that would prevent non-Jewish Israeli citizens from living in Jewish communities.”
“When the government breaks the social contract, the citizen has the right to resist”
Sternhell’s position is right out of 17th century British philosopher John Locke’s social contract theory. The bond between citizen and government is contractual. The government’s obligation under the contract is to protect the citizens life, liberty and property. It is the liberty part that Sternhell is suggesting the Knesset is undermining (he makes no mention of the stolen property of Arab-Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories). According to Locke, and Sternhell too, when the government breaks the social contract, the citizen has the right to resist.
Sternhell is not suggesting open rebellion. He has not gone any further than calling for the Knesset’s investigation of human rights organizations to be “ignored”. When the promised investigatory committee is set up, people should “refuse to appear before it”. Actually, this is all well and good. But then what? As an expert on fascism, Sternhell does not really believe that such actions will stop the process he so fears, and he surely does know what is happening to his country. In fact, he divines its fate, “Just as was true in the past, Lieberman-ism [the name he gives to the drift toward fascism in Israel] will most likely destroy the last vestiges of the liberal right”. I take it the last two words really refer to “liberal rights”.
”You see, Zionism really is racism”
A real problem for Sternhell is that Avigdor Lieberman and his Knesset proteges are more representative of Israel than either he or liberal journalist Gideon Levy. Indeed, not just the traditional “left”, but those who fancy themselves as “liberals”, are just about done for in Israel. Some of them know it and are packing their bags to leave. This process has been building for a long time and it makes perfect sense. You see, Zionism really is racism.
This being the case, what is now manifesting itself in Israel is a kind of historical determinism. Let us follow this out step by step:
1. Zionism is a political ideology dedicated to the creation of a state for one select group (A).
2. Most early Zionists were inserted in Palestine after World War I with the help of imperial Britain. Palestine was then a land full of other, non-select, people (B).
3. You have the predictable resistence of B to A. Simultaneously, the discriminatory bias inherent in A’s Zionist ideology becomes manifest in the group’s state building, economic and other institutional activities.
4. On-going resistance only intensifies A’s ideologically driven desire to get rid of all of B. This is rationalized by various references to “self-defence” and, of course, the Holocaust.
5. In order to carry out this long-term goal the lives of the Bs are made ever more harsh.
6. After 1967 you can throw into this noxious mix A’s growing religious fanaticism and territorial expansion.
7. At some point a relatively small number of the A group start to object to the morally corrosive consequences of the nation’s behaviour. They blame the post-1967 expansion.
8. But the majority of the A group will not hear of this second guessing. They turn on the
sceptics and begin to label them traitors.
There is a certain logic to this process and it is hard to see how such a project as Zionism could have played itself out differently. The truth is that the process toward an Israeli-style fascism did not begin (as Sternhell believes) with1967 and the taking of the occupied territories. It did not even begin in 1917 and the Balfour Declaration. It began with the very inception of Zionism.
You just cannot conceive a state for one religiously or racially defined group, and implement it amidst a population of “others”, and not end up with an authoritarian discriminatory society. You can, of course, kill or chase away all the others and then, in your homogeneous solitude, act like you are a democracy.
However, in the post-World War II, post-Holocaust world, this strategy is totally anachronistic and it will fool almost no one on the outside. And, it can only be carried forward by a band of fanatics who don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of them. If you are one of the few on the inside who decides to criticize the process, the fanatics will turn on you with a vengeance. After all, there is nothing worse than a traitor to the sacred cause.
This is exactly the present situation in today’s Israel.
An Israeli planning commission is set to give the green light to a new settlement project in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), despite global criticisms against Tel Aviv’s settlement activities.
The two-phase project aims to build 1,400 new housing units near the “Gilo” settlement, located beyond the Green Line, Israel’s Army Radio announced on Sunday.
This would expand Gilo’s borders toward the occupied West Bank.
The plan is one of the largest to be established across the Green Line, and is even bigger than the settlement plans which raised tensions in relations between Israel and the United States.
Jerusalem Council member Meir Margalit (Meretz) said that “the plan is a more serious and dangerous step than all the previous plans for construction beyond the Green Line.”
“This is a confirmation of the death of the peace process,” Margalit told the Army Radio.
Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas agreed to renew direct talks in order to reach a concession on the two-state solution roadmap, erected by the United States.
But the talks faded away after the Israeli regime refused to stop the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds.
In September 2, the talks were re-launched, but were stalled again only three weeks later when Tel Aviv refused to extend a partial 10-month freeze it had imposed on its illegal settlement activities.
The Palestinians say that the settlement construction aims at preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Along with other Palestinian and Arab territories, Tel Aviv occupied East al-Quds during the Six-Day War in 1967.
The occupation and later annexation of the city — which the Palestinians have long been demanding as the capital of their future state — has never been recognized by the international community.
Israeli authorities demolished the Bedouin village of El Araqib Sunday morning (16 January) for the ninth time in the past six months, and bulldozers from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) remain on the villager’s land, even though the demolitions are completed.
Previous demolition of El Araqib
Right after the demolition, bulldozers proceeded to plow over the village land, while large number of police and special units are still present in the area. When the families of El Araqib tried to resist, the Israeli authorities shot tear gas and rubber coated bullets. Five children between the ages of 16-17 were injured.
The families of El Araqib claim that today’s demolition and plowing are in preparation for the Jewish Arbor Day holiday of Tu Bishvat this coming Thursday (20 January), on which hundreds of people are expected to come by invitation of the JNF to plant trees in the area.
A large number of Israeli security and special forces arrived at El Araqib at approximately 9.00 this morning and completely demolished the village. And unlike in previous demolitions, the Israeli authorities are currently clearing away all the debris from this morning’s demolition, leaving the villagers with nothing.
“This is a fitting Zionist response to the large demonstration held last night in Tel Aviv in defense of democracy in Israel,” said Yaakov Manor of the Recognition Forum.
On 1 September 2010, the Bedouin residents of the “unrecognized” villages in Israel wrote an unprecedented appeal to US President Barak Obama, requesting his assistance in calling on Israel to recognize the Bedouin traditional ownership of land and to stop demolishing their homes – fundamental rights of all human beings.
The residents of El Araqib, many of whom are in mourning for the recent death of a family member, have already begun to rebuild the village.
Residents of El Araqib are particularly concerned about the ongoing presence of JNF bulldozers on their land, and are requesting that journalists and photographers come to the village to see.
For additional information:
Mumtaz: 050 7701118
Michal: 050 7701119
Samih: 050 7202236
Corpses are still under tons of rocks and mud in the hills of Rio de Janeiro, but some experts are already rushing to the microphones here in Brazil and abroad to declare the worst natural disaster in the Brazilian history as a clear and unequivocal evidence of global warming (a.k.a. global climate disruption).
The Brazilian media is not immune to the frenzy on global warming and extreme weather events. The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, one of the most important media outlets in the country, published a report connecting the Rio de Janeiro disaster to the Queensland flooding in Australia and the recent snowstorms in the United States and Western Europe.
To establish the ongoing catastrophe in Brazil as a global warming product is a bogus claim in the view of the staff of MetSul Meteorologia. The same can be said to the events of cold snaps and snow in the Northern Hemisphere – strong negative Arctic Oscillation related – and the massive flooding in Australia, a direct result of the strong and natural derived La Niña event.
Rio de Janeiro is subject to heavy or extreme rainfall every year, but this time the amount of precipitation was very heavy and in a short period of time, creating an inland tsunami-like torrent. The risk of major extreme rain episodes this summer was widely anticipated by MetSul meteorologists as analog years strongly pointed to a summer similar to the ones with disastrous events in the past. Rain gauges in Nova Friburgo measured 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain in just 24 hours from January 11th to 12th. The tragedy happened in the Sierras of Rio de Janeiro (Região Serrana) where major topographical forcing is usually present in extreme rainfall. Moisture flow from the ocean (SSTs are above average in the South Atlantic) find a natural physical barrier in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro, making the region prone to extreme rainfall during summer months and early autumn.
The most affected cities (Petrópolis, Teresópolis and Nova Fribrugo) are located between mountains as high as 5 to 6 thousand feet and besides rivers cross these towns. The only way the water can take are the valleys and the regional rivers. Due to the regional terrain, the major menace to the population is landslide. For many decades Brazilian authorities allowed construction of homes and buildings in the slopes, so every single year landslides with numerous deaths are recorded in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.
The front page of the Extra newspaper from Rio de Janeiro (click over the picture for a wider view) published on January 13th 2010 showed that every single year in the last decade witnessed tragedies caused by rain in the state of Rio. The newspaper headline is “Até quando?” (When will it end?). The paper argues: “The government excuse is always the same…it rained an equivalent to…”. The dominant opinion in the Brazilian media and public arena is that these repeated tragedies must be above all attributed to poor risk management and ridiculous urban planning instead of only blaming nature. Despite recognizing the ferocity of the rain, many are calling this week’s tragedy a manmade disaster.
In the state of Rio de Janeiro, there is massive occupation of the slopes and the hills, so landslides tend to be much more devastating and tragedies much more frequent. If this week’s rainfall had happened in the same region 35 years ago, the consequences would have been incredibly less dramatic. Satellite pictures released by the Brazilian Global TV Network show clearly some of the risky areas that concentrate most of the victims (Caleme, Posse and Meudon) as heavily populated nowadays in contrast to low or no land occupation 35 years ago.
There are anecdotal and historic accounts of extreme rainfall in the state of Rio de Janeiro since Brazil was a Portuguese colony in the 1600’s and 1700’s, but meteorological records are not available for that period. Great tragedies caused by rain and landslides in Rio de Janeiro began mainly in the second half of the 20th century coinciding with the demographic explosion and the massive and unorganized occupation of the hills. The risky areas of today, where the tragedies of the modern times use to happen almost every year, were not occupied 100 years ago, and for that reason the vast majority of the tragic events concentrate in the last 50 years.
April 1756 – Three days of heavy rainfall caused flooding, home collapses and “lots of victims” all over the town – still small – of Rio de Janeiro.
February 1811 – Between February 10th and 17th heavy rains caused a “catastrophe” in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Hills collapsed, the city was flooded and landslides were widespread with a torrent of water and mud invading town. Historical accounts tell of many victims, but there is no official number. The regent prince – designated by Portugal – ordered the churches to be open to serve as shelters.
April 1883 – Eleven inches of rain (220 mm) in a matter of four hours flood the city of Rio de Janeiro.
April 1924 – Heavy flooding and landslides with fatalities.
January 1940 – Flooding and landslides in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Santo Cristo district was the most affected.
January 1942 – Flooding and landslides in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The Salgueiro Hill was the the main disaster area.
January 1962 – Heavy flooding and several landslides in the city of Rio de Janeiro after 242 mm of precipitation during a storm.
January 1966 – The storm of January 2nd, 1966, brought record rainfall to the city of Rio de Janeiro. Flooding and massive landslides caused 250 casualties. Other 70 people died after the storm due to diseases.
January 1967 – Heavy rain and landslides provoked the collapses of buildings in the city of Rio. 200 people died and 300 were injured. 300 people died in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara (today Guanabara and Rio form the state of Rio de Janeiro).
November 1981 – Landslides in the Sierras of Rio kill 20 people in the city of Teresopolis.
February 1987 – Flooding and landslides kill 292 people. The city of Rio de Janeiro and the Sierras of the state concentrate the damages and the victims.
February 1988 – 277 people died in flooding and landslides in the Baixada Fluminense region and in the city of Petrópolis in the Sierras. In the rest of the month hundreds more died in new landslides and flooding. A hospital collapsed, killing 18 people. Damages topped 1 billion dollars.
Summer of 1996 – Dozens of deaths in flooding and landslides.
January 1999 – Dozens of deaths in flooding and landslides.
2010 – Nearly 100 people died in the cities of Angra dos Reis and Rio de Janeiro due to landslides on January 1st. In April, record rainfall caused over 200 deaths in massive landslides in the cities of Rio and the neighboring town of Niteroi.
Tragic events will happen again in the future, but can be less dramatic if some steps are taken urgently and seriously: improvement of risk management, urban reorganizing, investments in weather forecast and monitoring equipments and staff, a new media approach to weather warnings’ importance and a good public governance. History proves these areas will be hit again, but we as society have the power to mitigate the consequences. It is a matter of serious and urgent public priority for our authorities and the population’s will.
(note there’s much more here at METSUL’s blog)
Hallmarks of Spook Behavior
This was not the first time I was approached by a spook, or the first time I have pegged one in my midst, but it was the first time I was approached by a man claiming to be an Iraqi-American. In the rush that usually occurs after one speaks publicly with several people waiting to chat, I tried to listen politely as I offered Nabil my attention. After five minutes, though, I found myself feeling bad for getting a little annoyed at him. He carried on about loving America and loving Iraq and seemed to be trying to hint at something beyond this — making vague references to what the U.S. was doing to Iraq. Finally I said to him, “Why are you telling me this?” After all, I speak publicly about these things, why did he feel he needed to tell me what I was already speaking about?
Unfortunately, I rarely recall specifics of what people say to me after I make a speech – or perhaps Nabil was being purposefully vague, because it seemed to me that he really wasn’t saying anything. Yet, he wouldn’t let me go. I told him several times that I needed to leave, as I had a long drive ahead of me. Several other people wanted to speak to me, yet Nabil continued to follow me around and try to talk to me — about what, I could not discern. Finally, I said that if things continued as they were in this country, it would eventually collapse. This seemed to deeply satisfy him. He said that people here didn’t care what happened in Iraq. They would care only if it happened to them.
I left him then and only the next morning did it occur to me that what Nabil was trying to do was to goad me into making a declaration of some unlawful or violent intent. That was when it occurred to me that Nabil was a spook: a paid informant or an undercover operative.
My first thought was that the FBI must not keep very good records or train their operatives very well because they had sent numerous others on the same or similar missions. They had to know that I am a staunch believer in nonviolence and in the rule of law — not to mention the United States Constitution. Anyone reading my multitude of articles must know this.
But more importantly, Nabil’s activities reveal a government policy that post-9/11 activists have long suspected exists: the FBI is not only monitoring peace activists but is working to entrap such people. Several recent cases offer further proof of this conclusion: the outing of paid FBI informant, “Anna,” in the West Coast “Green Scare” cases and the arrests of the Miami “Liberty City Seven” on the basis of an affidavit by an FBI operative.
In both of these cases, the FBI clearly did more than infiltrate and monitor groups that they believed might pose a threat to national security. In each case, the FBI goaded, provoked, provided funding and materials, and in the Liberty Seven case, even demanded the individuals sign a loyalty oath to al-Qaeda. In fact, so desperate was the FBI to capture the Miami miscreants that arrests were made despite the fact that the seven had all already walked away from the alleged conspiracy, which makes the case almost a sure loser for the government.
The FBI has monitored me at least since I first spoke out (post-9/11) at a town meeting in front of a panel of Muslim community members and overt FBI agents. A few weeks after this, a markedly taciturn and unfriendly man showed up at a Unitarian Universalist church meeting at which I was asked to speak about the PATRIOT Act. This was a congregation of mostly senior citizens who all knew each other, yet nobody knew the man, who avoided looking at or speaking to anyone, but sat and listened intently to my every word – leaning forward in his chair, all his antennae up — and then rapidly disappeared thereafter.
Spooks have infiltrated groups I’ve chaired. One handsome man of uncertain ethnic origins showed up at a start-up meeting for the Bill of Rights Defense Coalition in South Florida. I was facilitating the meeting and caught this young man staring at me in rapt fascination more than once. Why would he be so interested in me? My youthful beauty? Sorry. My charming and electric personality? Right.
Well, when he saw me see him looking at me, he stopped his appreciative stares. Although he said he was from Pittsburgh, another member of the group who hailed from there found he knew nothing about the city. He never returned to our group. But he did start showing up at another group allied with ours and he continued to monitor that group for quite a while, until he showed up in new all-black duds (imitating the Black Block anarchists, we supposed) at the 2003 FTAA protests in Miami and thereafter was never seen again.
These are hallmarks of spook behavior. Mark them.
Another young man joined the volunteers for a large Forum on Dissent Since 9/11 we had planned. He professed no interest in politics, was completely ignorant of most of the issues which concerned us, and disappeared shortly before the event, claiming he had decided to relocate and start a new life. Meantime, he had access to lists of speakers and volunteers.
Both of these men had never been seen before and were never seen thereafter.
You know what my reaction to all this is? I wonder why my government is spending my tax dollars to monitor me, an upright, loyal citizen who believes more deeply in the Constitution and laws of this country than do most U.S. officials sworn to uphold them. I was a patriot before it was popular to say so. I will defend free speech more strongly and at greater personal risk than most members of the ACLU (and I have proof of that). (I actually take the time to answer hate mail!)
If there really are so many horrible, dangerous terrorists out to get us, why, then, is the FBI wasting time and resources trying to provoke me into making some unlawful statement? Why are our intelligence agencies infiltrating meetings of peace groups, like the one in Lake Worth, Florida that NBC News discovered was attended by the DOD?
I attended that meeting and was one of its organizers and presenters. The subject was counter-recruitment. Is that a national security threat? Am I? The only threat I or these other peaceful persons could possibly pose would be to government officials themselves engaged in violent or unlawful activities, in lying to the public, in engaging in wars of aggression, in unlawfully detaining and torturing people, many of whom have been shown to be completely innocent, and in evading and intentionally violating federal laws. Why is the FBI not banging on their doors? Why is not the DOJ bringing charges against them?
This piece was originally published in the 9/21/2006 print edition of CounterPunch.
Jennifer Van Bergen, J.D., M.S.I.E., is the founder of the 12th Generation Institute, and author of THE TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY: THE BUSH PLAN FOR AMERICA (Common Courage Press, 2004) and Archetypes for Writers: Using the Power of Your Subconscious (Michael Weise Productions, 2007). She is currently working under contract with Bucknell University Press on a biography of Leonora Sansay, an early American novelist who was involved in the Aaron Burr Conspiracy, and on a screenplay about the conspiracy. She can be reached at email@example.com.
US and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop a destructive computer worm to sabotage Iran’s nuclear efforts, The New York Times reported Sunday.
The newspaper quoted intelligence and military experts as saying Israel has tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, which allegedly shut down a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in November and helped “delay its ability to make its first nuclear weapons.”
The testing took place at the heavily guarded Dimona complex in the Negev desert housing the Middle East’s sole, albeit undeclared nuclear weapons program. Experts and officials told the Times the effort to create Stuxnet was a US-Israeli project with the help, knowingly or not, of Britain and Germany.
“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” a US expert told the newspaper. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”
There has been widespread speculation Israel was behind the Stuxnet worm that has attacked computers in Iran, and Tehran has blamed the Jewish state and the United States for the killing of two nuclear scientists in November and January.
Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s strategic affairs minister and former military chief, said last month that a series of “technological challenges and difficulties” meant Tehran was still about three years away from being able to build nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said international sanctions against Iran would only be effective if they were backed by a “credible” military threat.
The Stuxnet worm apparently included two major parts, one intended to make Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spin out of control.
Another secretly recorded normal operation at the nuclear plant, then played those recordings back to the site’s operators so all would appear usual during the sabotage operation, according to the Times.
Stuxnet targets computer control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens and commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other critical infrastructure.
Most Stuxnet infections have been discovered in Iran, giving rise to speculation it was intended to sabotage nuclear facilities there.
The report came after Clinton, who was on a five-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar last week, urged Arab states to stay focused on sanctions against Iran.
The UN Security Council last June imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in a bid to halt its uranium enrichment program.
Iran says its aims are peaceful, denying charges by Israel and the West that its uranium enrichment work masks a drive for nuclear weapons.
The Islamic republic is set to hold a new round of nuclear talks with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States in Istanbul on January 21 and 22.