An L.A. Times editorial boils the scandal over Solyndra – a Fremont, California solar panel maker backed by an important Obama fundraiser that is bankrupt after burning through a taxpayer-guaranteed loan of more than half a billion dollars – down to two questions:
Should the government be in the business of picking winners and losers by providing loan guarantees to risky energy ventures? And is Obama using stimulus funds to reward his political contributors?
To the first, the answer is a qualified yes. Solar and wind projects aren’t the first to benefit from loan guarantees; Washington has been offering them to nuclear power plants for decades. Research and development of alternative forms of energy are expensive and often need more support than private investors are willing to provide, but such investment is worthwhile not only because it stimulates job growth during a downturn, but also because in an era of climate change and worldwide turmoil over oil and other fossil fuels, it’s in the national interest. Moreover, competing countries, notably China, are outspending the U.S. on clean-energy subsidies, and falling behind will only cede the future market to them.
In reverse order, these arguments are: missile gap; global warming; jobz; that the market’s disinterest creates a compelling public concern; and that the nuclear power industry is now a model worth emulating.
I’m especially concerned about this last, as I recall one long midsummer morning in the boardroom in 2007, during which editorialist Dan Turner slowly sucked all the oxygen from the room and left the rest of us to die one by one or agree to his all-out denunciation of nuclear power, a piece that put the verdict right in the title: “No to nukes.” Some of Dan’s arguments, including the one that the industry has never existed without massive public subsidies and shows no glide path away from public subsidies, I even found compelling.
Why the switcheroo now? I would have thought lingering questions about whether Fukushima is in fact under control would at least give pause to proponents of all-or-nothing behemoth energy policies that are constructed in spite of rather than in response to market conditions.
I also can’t imagine any number of qualifications that would square the notion that government should choose private-sector winners and losers with a rudimentary understanding of fair play or individual liberty. Is the logic that because in this case the winner turned out to be a loser anyway, we shouldn’t pay too much attention?
Finally I think the ed board is thinking wishfully when it claims the Solyndra debacle just raises “two important questions.” I can think of a few others: What did Solyndra do with the $527 million (out of a total guarantee of $535 million) it borrowed in the form of taxpayer-subsidized loans? Why did the Energy Department provide so much money for a technology – cylindrical rather than flat solar panels – that has not been proven scalable? What role did Tulsa-based fundraiser George Kaiser, whose George Kaiser Family Foundation held more than a 35 percent equity stake in Solyndra as of an aborted IPO in 2009, play in encouraging this subsidy?
I realize editorial writing is a task more otherworldly than priestly transubstantiation of the host, but it’s just willful blindness to pretend the Solyndra case raises only abstract issues. There’s one journalismism that still holds up: If it looks like shit, smells like shit and tastes like shit, it’s the food at the L.A. Times cafeteria.
(The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel. Ilan Pappe. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011)
No doubt, hundreds if not thousands of articles, reports and books have been written about the Palestinians in Israel, “the forgotten Palestinians”, in Arabic, English and Hebrew, during the last sixty some years. To my knowledge, this is the first time a major, mainstream, US academic university press publishes a comprehensive and sympathetic narrative of the Palestinians in Israel, with a focus on their evolving Palestinianhood, by a well respected anti-Zionist, Israeli Jewish historian.
Is this a notable change, where after sixty-three years of the destruction and decimation of their society and identity, and official insistence that they should be relegated to a hybrid, artificial, and rootless group of people, dubbed as “Arabs in Israel”, or “non-Jewish minorities”, there is, seemingly, a Western academic cognizance and affirmation of their Palestinian genealogy and identity? Basically, yes. In part, I believe, this has to do with the erudite scholarship and credible academic record of Ilan Pappe (the author of this book). But, in large part, it has to do with the relentless and cumulative academic, intellectual and political challenge mounted, particularly over the last 20-30 years, by Palestinian intellectuals and activists citizens of Israel (1), which rendered dubious Israel’s historical and cultural claims, as they re-affirmed, simultaneously, in no uncertain terms, the Palestinian identity of this minority—their self-identity, and its historical and cultural connectivity to the larger Palestinian body.
This is an important book about the nearly 1.4 million “forgotten Palestinians” who are the remnants of the indigenous Palestinians who lived in the land of Palestine until it was decimated by the Zionist settler-colonial onslaught in 1947/1948, and who continue to live today within the artificially-created Jewish-Zionist state of Israel.
This is not a traditional book review. It is an interactive reading of Ilan’s book, where I deliberated virtually with him about the overall subject, during my careful reading of the book, which I utilize now as a stepping stone. However critical certain aspects of this reading may appear, it must be kept in mind that it’s coming from a friendly (not hostile) corner. I focus here only on few aspects.
The Book and the Author
Ilan writes as an astute and knowledgeable observer, and as a sympathetic occasional participant in some of the developments he narrates. Thus his narrative of the evolving Palestinian identity in Israel over the past sixty some years, emerges considerate, sensitive, honest, and anti-Zionist, written in total solidarity with Palestinian dilemmas, and with deep understanding of these dilemmas. Furthermore, it is a gentle narrative reflecting, in my view, Ilan’s personality, as I know it.
He focuses not only on official policies, but on the complexity of the daily life of the Palestinians, and how they struggle and manage to live it, in a hegemonic Jewish Zionist state that insists with recurring persistence on not seeing them. By its nature, Ilan states, “this book aims to present a people’s history as far as possible and therefore the magnifying glass is cast more on the Palestinians than on those who formulated and executed the policies towards them” (p.13). At times, however, I felt an inadvertent inclination on Ilan’s part, to grant those “who formulated and executed the policies …”, i.e., the Israeli Jewish Zionist structure, and the ideology that propelled them into control (e.g., Zionism, p.266), an unnecessary charitable and humane understanding.
Be this as it may, this is, nevertheless, a painful narrative of the evolution of my people’s persistent dispossession and unrelenting attempts at their exclusion and elimination. And how they learned to survive under an oppressive system of control that always maneuvered to expel them from their homeland, or, temporarily, forcing them to co-exist as unequal under its hegemony.
At the same time, it is an Israeli Jew narrating painfully about the sins that his state and consecutive governments committed, and persist in committing, against the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants of the land. In contrast, if I, as a Palestinian Arab member of that community, were to write such a narrative it would have emerged a more furious and less tolerant narrative of the Jewish Zionist majority that has been in direct oppressive control of my people for well over half a century!
The Oslo Accords and Their Impact
Ilan described correctly the impact of the Oslo Accords on the Palestinian minority in Israel in the following words:
“What emerged was not that the community was unique in comparison to other Palestinian groups but rather that it had a unique problem. Zionism was the exceptional factor, not being a Palestinian in Palestine, or what used to be Palestine. The strong affirmation of the connection to the country and not to the state was the end product of a long internal Palestinian analysis of the predicament, crisis and nature of the community, which was followed by a prognosis and a kind of action plan for how to deal with the crisis being a national indigenous minority within the Jewish state. … [T]he community went from a very hopeful and assertive period, 1995 to 2000, into a very precarious and dangerous existential period after 2000 and until today … (pp.195-196; emphasis added).”
I assert, however, that the concerns of the “forgotten Palestinians” in terms of the “predicament” and the identity of the community, as “a national indigenous minority within the Jewish state”, started being driven home with the events culminating in the eruption of “Land Day” in 1976. Clearly, those concerns were not formulated with the same clarity then, as it became post the “2000 earthquake” (P.229 ff). Nevertheless, although the book presents a fairly detailed discussion of the circumstances leading to “Land Day”, the connection was not made as strongly, or as organically, as it should have been made with what has been termed “hubbet October” in 2000, and all the evolving events following that. I would have liked to see a deeper analysis about this connection.
If my claim is valid, and since I can say with certainty that Ilan recognizes this connection between the mid-seventies and today, why then was more focus placed on the “2000 earthquake”? Largely, I believe, it’s an issue of the availability of public and academically credible analyses and articulation of these concerns and predicaments post 2000, which were made available in English and Hebrew, primarily. The emergence of a substantial group of political and educated elites among the Palestinians in Israel over the last thirty some years made this feasible.
Although I agree with the generalization that:
“The political and educated elites of the Palestinians in Israel lost all beliefs in ‘coexistence’, liberal Zionist discourse or a future of change within the present parameters of the Jewish state (p.240).”
I maintain that this was abundantly and inherently felt in the aftermath of the savage Zionist attack on the indigenous lands in Galilee by official “security” apparatuses of the Jewish state, twenty-five years earlier, although not publically articulated in academic language. It was very clear then that “[t]he police legitimized in its own eyes and in the eyes of the public the killing of demonstrators [Palestinian citizens] as part of its response” (p. 239). Furthermore, it was very obvious, then, “the full support the Israeli media gave the police and the lack of any sympathy or solidarity with the victims and their families” (p. 239).
In addition to the issue of the availability of ‘public articulation’, mentioned above, there is the concomitant rise of academics, activists, human rights defenders, etc, NGOs that were allowed legally to register following the Madrid Peace Conference in the early nineties, and which were responsible, largely, for the ‘public articulation’ literature. These NGOs became legitimate funding targets by transnational funding agencies, including NGOs, governments, corporate companies, etc. This phenomenon, in itself, begs deeper analysis, which, I maintain, it did not receive in this book, and when it did (e.g., p. 217 ff), the analysis was very accommodating and uncritical.
The ‘Vision Documents’
I agree with Ilan that the ‘Vision Documents’, which were produced over a period of 3-4 years at the beginning of the twenty-first century, by the Palestinian political and intellectual elite in Israel, were ground breaking documents, and that “the Palestinian community had taken the initiative itself and adopted the language of the indigenous people versus the settler state” (p. 254). I maintain, however, that the Palestinian community in Israel was positing in these documents a more fundamental position, in which they were reaffirming their Palestinianhood and rejecting Zionist hegemony over their land and lives, with some degree of variance from one document to another.(2) This explains why these documents were declared by the entire spectrum of Israeli public opinion as “a statement of war” (p. 253).
Conclusions of the Book
It is extremely important to refocus our attention, strategically, to the core and important conclusions of the book. In the concluding chapter—the Epilogue, under the title “the Oppressive State”, Ilan stressed that:
1. [T]he worst aspect of the minority’s existence is that its daily and future fate is in the hands of the Israel secret-service apparatuses (P.265);
2. It seems that in the last few years … the Jewish state has given up on the charade of democracy … and … has escalated its oppression of the minority in an unprecedented manner (P.266);
3. [W]e expect either escalating state violence against the Palestinians, wherever they are, or further oppressive legislation (P. 274; emphasis added);
4. [T]he history of this community, despite the endless Israeli efforts to fragment the Palestinian people and existence, was still an organic part of the history of the Palestinian people (P. 200; emphasis added).
A note that can never be final …
My conclusion from the above is crystal clear: the lesson that we should learn is to actively resist all attempts by the enemies of the Palestinian people, including the current Palestinian ruling elite structure, to fragment the Palestinian people and existence, and to re-institute and revive our struggle for a FREE, JUST, EQUAL, and DEMOCRATIC Homeland.
All Palestinians must read this book. All Jews—Zionists and anti-Zionists alike, who express concern about justice and human rights for the Palestinians, must read this book.
(1) A cursory look at the “bibliography” section provides ample support to this statement, keeping in mind, however, that numerous sources are omitted here, as well as all the relevant sources in Arabic.
(2) Please refer to my book, The Future of the Palestinian Minority in Israel, Ramallah: MADAR, the Palestinian Center for Israeli Studies , 2008, (Arabic).
Dr. Khalil Nakhleh, a Palestinian anthropologist, independent researcher and writer, who for the last three decades has sought to generate People-Centered Liberationist Development in Palestine. He is working on a book, Development Ltd: The Role of Capital in Impeding People-Centered Liberationist Development, expected to be ready for publication in 2011. Contact him at: email@example.com.
Last June, as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2 was preparing its attempt to break the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza, many were dismayed when the Mavi Marmara was withdrawn from the flotilla. Why did this happen?
Israel’s refusal to apologize for the attack, and to meet other Turkish demands led to yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions by the Turkish government.
In the wake of a deeply flawed, biased and non-credible UN report justifying the Israeli siege of Gaza and white-washing the Israeli attack, Turkey has downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel to the lowest level, suspended all military agreements between the countries, and vowed to take other measures to seek justice for the victims of the Israeli attack and to challenge the Israeli siege.
Why did Turkey stop the Mavi Marmara?
Although the Mavi Marmara was operated by the independent charity IHH, it seems highly likely that the decision to withdraw from the flotilla in June was taken at the suggestion of the Turkish government. The reasons given publicly for withdrawing the ship were “technical.”
We cannot know what private communications may have taken place, but in early June Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu publicly suggested that the flotilla organizers should “rethink” their plan to break the siege by sea. Whether the decision was at the behest of the Turkish government or not, it suited its needs at the time. Why?
At the time many observers – myself included – feared that Turkey was softening its stance toward Israel and seeking to “mend fences” without Turkey’s demands being met.
The suspicions of many were encapsulated in a drawing by celebrated political cartoonist Carlos Latuff that showed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declaring “I love Palestine” to win votes in the Turkish general election, while his shadow shakes hands with Israel.
Many were convinced that the withdrawal of the Mavi Marmara meant Turkey’s policy was no different from the abject complicity of Greece, which worked hand in glove with Israel, to prevent the remaining flotilla ships from reaching Gaza.
It is now clear that this analysis was wrong. For one thing, Turkish-Israel relations featured little in the June Turkish election campaign, and if Turkey’s stance was about winning votes, the government would presumably have announced its measures against Israel before the election rather than months afterwards.
A tactical move in a long strategy?
In light of the relative severity and decisiveness of Turkey’s sanctions on Israel, it is certain that withdrawing the Mavi Marmara was a tactical step, as negotiations between Israel and Turkey were ongoing, to avoid giving Israel the excuse of another “provocation” which would let it off the hook for the previous attack.
Sending the ship could also have led to unknown consequences from Turkey’s perspective: either allowing Israel to seize the ship again, or escalating into a military confrontation.
In his uncompromising 2 September statement laying out the sanctions on Israel, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu said:
Turkey’s stance against this unlawful act of Israel from the first moment has been very clear and principled. Our demands are known.
Our relations with Israel will not be normalized until these conditions are met.
At this juncture, Israel has wasted all the opportunities it was presented with.
Now, the Government of Israel must face the consequences of its unlawful acts, which it considers above the law and are in full disregard of the conscience of humanity. The time has come for it to pay a price for its actions.
This price is, above all, deprivation of Turkey’s friendship.
Turkey’s gesture of stopping the Mavi Marmara from sailing in June is almost certainly one of the “wasted opportunities” to which Davutoğlu alluded. Another would have been Turkey’s assistance in extinguishing last’s year’s Carmel wildfire.
Laying the ground for a decisive step
By giving Israel all these opportunities and avoiding anything that Israel could present as a provocation, Turkey has established beyond any reasonable doubt Israel’s total intransigence and unwillingness to assume responsibility.
Thus, the measures taken yesterday by Turkey appear to have been well-studied and carefully prepared. This suggests that Davutoğlu was serious when he said there would be no retreat from Turkey’s position and no normalization of relations until Turkey’s demands are met.
The cost to Turkey?
One calculation Turkey certainly would have had time to consider is the price it might pay in terms of retaliation from the United States, Israel’s protector and patron. Turkey, unlike Israel, is a formal ally of the United States, a member of NATO, and thus has a mutual defense pact with the United States.
The Turkish government must have concluded that it can withstand whatever wrath the United States might mete out, especially since the US still feels it needs Turkey to help maintain its faltering hegemony in the region.
On the same day it announced sanctions on Israel, Turkey also revealed that it had reached agreement to host radar installations as part of the American-sponsored and conceived NATO “missile defense” program.
Press reports indicate that as part of the deal, the US acceeded to a Turkish demand that data from the Turkish-hosted radars not be shared with Israel.
Turkey, it turns out, is still of more practical benefit to US regional hegemony than Israel, which is increasingly a strategic and political burden to the United States.
In terms of regional implications, Turkey has demonstrated to supine Arab regimes, particularly Egypt’s ruling military junta, that imposing a cost for Israel’s aggression is an option despite US support.
Will the Mavi Marmara sail to Gaza again?
Now that Turkey has shown its hand toward Israel, the question arises: will the Mavi Marmara sail to Gaza again? That is a question I cannot answer, but Davutoğlu also made clear that Turkey does not recognize the siege or maritime blockade of Gaza and would continue to challenge it:
As a littoral state which has the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey will take whatever measures it deems necessary in order to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey does not recognize the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel. Turkey will ensure the examination by the International Court of Justice of Israel’s blockade imposed on Gaza as of 31 May 2010. To this end we are starting initiatives in order to mobilize the UN General Assembly.
What these measures will mean in practice – and whether they will involve the Mavi Marmara returning to Gaza, remains to be seen.
A hawkish Israeli politician reportedly wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, asking the US to declare Turkey a terror-supporting state, the Jerusalem Post reported early on Friday.
Danny Danon, who is also deputy Knesset speaker, wrote a letter to Clinton after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned Israel to apologize until the UN releases its report in which he called on Washington to impose sanctions on Turkey and call it a terror-supporting state.
“Turkey has gotten closer to Iran and constitutes a direct continuation of the axis of evil. The government in Washington must answer the Turkish problem before it is too late,” Danon wrote, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The Israeli official called for economic and diplomatic sanctions against Turkey until Ankara changes its ways and abandons what he said “the way of terror.”
“The Turks have crossed the line. They supported the flotilla, they support terror and they dare to ask Israel to apologize to them,” Danon said.
A report says that US military has developed a secret army that is trained to assassinate perceived enemies anywhere in the world, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The report, published by prominent US daily The Washington Post reveals that the American military has developed an organization called the Joint Special Operations Command, or J-SOC, which is tasked with killing, imprisoning and interrogating suspected terrorists around the world.
J-SOC holds terror suspects in jails under its own control and has reportedly carried out 10 times as many covert military operations as the CIA in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Post article published in its Friday edition.
US President Barack Obama has authorized the J-SOC to select individuals on its own terror list, and then to kill, rather than capture them.
Analysts widely believe that many of J-SOC’s operations are akin to terror assassinations that are clearly in violation of US laws.
The clandestine organization has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. It is estimated that the terror force has so far carried out over a thousand such operations.
The US has reportedly spent over USD 1 trillion of its taxpayers funds on the wars it imposed on Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, using the suspicious September 11, 2001 terrorist incidents in New York and Washington as the pretext.
The US-led war in Afghanistan, with civilian and military casualties at record highs, has become the longest war in US history.