You’ve heard of pinkwashing, greenwashing–now “blackwashing” joins the cast of pro-Israel hasbara communities exploited in order to combat the major criticisms of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. Pinkwashing is the effort to promote Israel to the gay community in order to point out the homophobia of Arab culture and nations. Greenwashing is the attempt by environmental groups like Jewish National Fund to point to Israel’s alleged sensitivity to environmental issues (excluding of course its heinous treatment of Negev Bedouins whose communities are being bulldozed by the Israeli government in collaboration with JNF). Now blackwashing is the rage.
Israel lobby groups like Aipac have worked closely cultivating relationships on college campuses with African-American students. They send these young leaders to Aipac conferences where they can be trotted out to the media as witnesses for the defense to combat the BDS campaign to label Israel as an apartheid state:
When Vincent Evans arrived as a bright-eyed first-year at Florida A&M, the country’s largest historically black university, he knew he wanted to get involved in politics. So when an older student leader approached him one afternoon after a student government meeting to ask if he wanted an all expenses paid trip to D.C., Evans jumped at the opportunity.
The trip, it turned out, was sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the country’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying outfit. Israel is under growing attack from Palestinian and international activists who call the country a racist apartheid state. In response, its staunchest U.S. lobby is recruiting black students as moral shields to make the case for Israeli impunity. At historically black colleges and universities (known as HBCU’s) around the country, AIPAC is finding and developing a cadre of black allies to declare there’s no way Israel can be racist.
In his four years in college, Evans traveled to D.C. at least 10 times on AIPAC’s dime. He and a small group of other student leaders from his school joined hundreds of others from around the country, including other HBCU students, for AIPAC’s semi-annual Saban Leadership Seminar.
“Within the program,” says Evans, “they make a concerted effort to reach out to HBCU and majority Hispanic schools.”
Does the Israel lobby care about African-American students? Does it care about the issues close to their heart? Is it about to reach out to Blacks to create political coalitions to advance causes of mutual interest to each community? Are you kiddin’? These kids are fodder in the PR war. They don’t mean anything other than having a black face to show the world that Israel isn’t an apartheid nation. But how much do these kids really know about Israel?
Before he went to D.C., Evans knew nothing about Israel and had no opinions on Middle East politics. “The program starts at a layman’s level and takes you through what the current Middle East peace talks are about,” he recalls.
AIPAC trained Evans and other students in lobbying and campaign work and provided a crash course in its staunchly Zionist version of Middle East history and politics. Participants are introduced to American and Israeli political leaders and spend afternoons walking Capitol Hill to lobby for Israel.
It seemed to Evans an opportunity of a lifetime.
“You’re talking about a lot of students who grew up in a socio-economic place that does not give them these opportunities,” said Evans. “We met amazing people. I met Netanyahu. In 2007 or 2008 I met all the Democratic candidates for president. My dad cried when I met Obama. [AIPAC] opens your eyes to things you’ve never seen.”
Pardon me, but this sounds more like a cult to me than a political campaign. They take kids who know or care nothing about Israel and they indoctrinate them with a narrow set of principles and values they hammer home. At the end, they’ve produced walking anti-apartheid emblems who will supposedly immunize Israel from these charges. Not just that, these Black students also become cannon fodder in the war of ideas on college campuses:
Last year, AIPAC featured several HBCU students as speakers at its 5,000-person national policy conference in D.C. On stage, one student explained that she and a group of other AIPAC-trained HBCU students launched an attack on the Palestinian rights movement.
Specifically, they targeted Students For Justice in Palestine, a national student coalition with branches on a growing number of campuses. SJP frames its work as a struggle against Israeli apartheid…
On stage at last year’s AIPAC conference, an HBCU student waxed indignant.
“How dare they use a word that has historic meaning for me,” said the speaker, to the loud cheers of the audience. “A word that conjures up some of the worst injustices an individual can suffer.” As she spoke, positioning herself as an arbiter of what gets to be called racist, a slide of an apartheid-era South African sign reading “White Area” appeared behind her.
Do these children know anything about Israeli politics or the nature of Israeli society? Do they know how non-Jewish Israelis are treated? Do they know anything about the Occupation? Do they know anything about the racial prejudice rampant in Israeli society? No. They only know what Aipac tells them. The lies and half-truths Aipac feeds them.
I find it almost amazing that some strategists like Frank Luntz sit in a room or hold a focus group and discuss Israel’s vulnerabilities and how to exploit different ethnic and gender-based communities in order to buttress them. It’s cold, exploitative and vulgar. It’s buying support with trips, nice hotels, and meeting famous people. Instead of earning support the old-fashioned way through discussion, study, debate and the battle of ideas, Aipac programs these impressionable young kids to spout the talking points.
Who does it fool? Who does it persuade? I rather think it helps the Aipac donors who fund this sort of charade more than it persuades anyone outside this narrow pro-Israel political niche. One of them is Haim Saban, the wealthy Hollywood and media powerbroker who is one of Aipac’s most important donors. He also is a major donor to the Democratic-leaning think tank, the Brookings Institution. He also played a role in lobbying Rep. Jane Harman on behalf of accused Aipac spy Steve Rosen. Saban also lobbied Nancy Pelosi on Harman’s behalf to appoint her intelligence committee chair, which the then Speaker refused to do.
By the way, the Lobby’s cultivation of Vincent Evans paid off. He used the connections he made on his Aipac trips to DC to land a job working for Florida’s Democratic Party in Tallahassee. As he works his way up the political ladder, Aipac will be able to call on him for ongoing support in its political battles, just as it does a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who routinely sell out their values and principles to sup at the pro-Israel altar of Mammon.
That’s the way the game’s played. It’s a dirty, nasty game. But Aipac has mastered it to perfection. Except that more and more see through it. They don’t buy it. The only people they’re fooling is themselves. Yes, and members of Congress and a president it appears. But so many of the rest of us know better.
Rancière, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Paris VIII and Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Switzerland, had been scheduled to give a talk at Tel Aviv University on 25 January.
In a letter in French posted on the website of Tel Aviv’s Shpilman Photography Collection and translated by The Electronic Intifada, Rancière wrote that although he did not personally endorse a boycott of “all citizens of a State and against its researchers, without taking into account their own attitude towards the policy of this State,” he would not be able to violate the boycott call and provide “a politically and intellectually satisfying answer” to the dual choice he found himself in.
PACBI’s 9 January letter to Rancière asserted:
Your decision to speak at Tel Aviv University will violate the Palestinian call for boycott and will constitute a blunt rejection of the appeal from over 170 civil society organizations that comprise thePalestinian BDS movement.
Israel subjects Palestinians to a cruel system of dispossession and racial discrimination
Your lecture would function as a whitewash of Israel’s practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual.
Translated: Jacques Rancière’s letter
I accepted the invitation to contribute to the debate on the image, of a research group whose work on photography is closely related to the exposure of violations of the rights of the Palestinian people since the birth of the State of Israel.
The intervention of a group dedicated to uphold the boycott of Israeli academic institutions by foreign researchers has changed the meaning of this visit by making a breach of the boycott a public demonstration, namely support to the State that is responsible for these violations and the situation of oppression of the Palestinian people.
I am personally opposed to collective sanctions against all citizens of a State and against its researchers, without taking into account their own attitude towards the policy of this State. I have therefore neither respected nor violated a decision that I did not personally endorse. But it appears that in the present situation, the content of what I might say in response to the invitation that was sent to me has become completely secondary to this simple alternative, and due to my fatigue – I am not able to respond satisfactorily today to the dual demands of the situation that came into being.
I must therefore – thanking the people who invited me and whose invitation I accepted – offer to postpone the visit until thinking (reflecting on) about these issues has advanced and when I feel myself more able to give a politically and intellectually satisfying answer.
Israeli soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded Dweik and took him to an unknown destination, witnesses told Ma’an.
An Israeli military spokesman had no immediate comment on the report.
Some 23 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council are currently imprisoned in Israel, according to the prisoner rights group Addameer. Twenty of the elected officials are being held in administrative detention without charge or trial.
Almost 5,000 Palestinians, including 132 minors, are held in Israeli jails, a practice which violates international law.
It is an open secret that radical rebel George Abdallah, largely ignored by western media, was illegally sentenced to life in prison close to three decades ago. But French authorities continue to insist on keeping him behind bars, even after he has completed his prison term.
Abdallah originally should have been released from prison after 18 months (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
Paris – French authorities are insisting on keeping an ex-fighter in the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions (LARF) in prison, despite the fact that 28 years have passed since he was first detained. This is a major breach of French legal procedures and the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that prisoners serving a life sentence must be released after serving a maximum of 18 years.
Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, who began his struggle as a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), before joining the LARF, was arrested in Lyon on October 1984. At the time, the LARF was accused of a number of high profile commando operations, the most prominent of which were the assassination of the American military attache in Paris, Charles Robert Ray (18 January 1982) and the Israeli diplomat, Ya’acov Bar-Simantov (3 April 1982).
Initially, French authorities could not find enough evidence to charge Abdallah in connection with those cases. Apart from some leaflets showing he belonged to the LARF and a fake Algerian passport in his possession, the authorities were hard pressed to make a case against him. Therefore, when he came before the court for the first time in July 1986, he was indicted on only one charge, the use of a fake travel document.
In his memoirs, titled The Elysee Years, and published in 1988, Jacques Attali, the advisor to President Francois Mitterand, wrote on 6 March 1985: “We have no proof against Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. Therefore, the only thing we can charge him with is possession of a fake passport.”
Abdallah originally should have been released from prison after 18 months. But his case soon took a very different turn, leading to his conviction and life imprisonment.
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who was a member of Abdallah’s defense team (then headed by the notorious lawyer Jacques Verges), recalls the details of the “judicial conspiracy” against the Lebanese revolutionary, saying: “Abdallah was suddenly recalled to the court on 28 February 1987. We were surprised that he was facing different charges and new evidence which was not included in his file during the first trial. The prosecution claimed that weapons had been found in secret hideaways and flats belonging to Abdallah. This was taken as proof of his participation in the commando operations carried out by the LARF in France in 1982.”
Coutant-Peyre adds: “The court did not hesitate in sentencing our client to life imprisonment, despite the protests of the defense team that the evidence against him was not included in the original trial and was fabricated later to convict him retroactively. This was a major breach of legal procedure.” It was clear that Abdallah had become the victim of an intelligence conspiracy.
However, the details of the conspiracy plotted by the French DST (internal intelligence) were not revealed until the 10th anniversary of Abdallah’s conviction. In his memoirs, titled The Fight Against Espionage: Memoirs of the Director of DST, the former director of French intelligence, Yves Bonnet, also revealed some of the threads of the conspiracy.
“We were able to gather enough information against Abdallah after the head of the anti-terrorist network, Jean Francois Clair, succeeded in recruiting an informant who was very close to the LARF,” Bonnet wrote. He only referred to the informant at the time as “Jean Paul M.” and indicated that he was a lawyer.
In July 2001, when Abdallah had already been in prison for 17 years, the lawyer Jean Paul Mazurier, a member of Abdallah’s defense team, threw a bombshell that shook the French judiciary system. In a long interview with Liberation, he confessed to being the informant alluded to by Yves Bonnet. The lawyer revealed in detail how French intelligence had recruited him to spy on his client (which in itself is enough evidence to repeal Abdallah’s sentence).
Mazurier added that the DST told him to make his client think that he shared his belief in revolutionary ideas and the struggle for the Palestinian cause. Abdallah began to trust him and brought him to meet his friends in the LARF in Lebanon. This made it easier for French intelligence to penetrate their group and gather evidence to convict Abdallah.
As a result of the scandal ignited by the confessions of the lawyer-informant, everyone expected Abdallah’s defense team to raise a challenge to the court to overturn the conviction against its client. French law prohibits the use of lawyers, doctors, or journalists to spy on the accused and to gather evidence against them.
However, the defense team did no such thing. They decided to wait until 2002 to present a request to release Abdallah because his sentence had expired. Despite repeated rejections of these requests over a ten year period, the defense team has refrained from putting in a request to overturn the conviction on the basis of the espionage incident. Everyone Al-Akhbar spoke to on the defense team refused to discuss the reasons behind this. One of them said: “That question should be put to Abdallah’s comrades in the LARF.”
As for the former director of DST, Yves Bonnet, he admits now that what happened was “an illegal intelligence conspiracy.”
“We really did behave like criminals in this case,” he said, adding, “I have to add my voice today to those who are calling for Abdallah’s release. It is time to put an end to the gross injustice we committed against him.”
French researchers have confirmed that childhood leukemia rates are shockingly elevated among children living near nuclear power reactors.
The International Journal of Cancer has published in January a scientific study establishing a clear correlation between the frequency of acute childhood leukemia and proximity to nuclear power stations. The paper is titled, “Childhood leukemia around French nuclear power plants – the Geocap study, 2002-2007.”
This devastating report promises to do for France what a set of 2008 reports did for Germany — which recently legislated a total phase-out of all its power reactors by 2022 (sooner if the Greens get their way).
The French epidemiology — conducted by a team from the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) and the National Register of hematological diseases of children in Villejuif, outside Paris — demonstrates during the period from 2002-2007 in France the doubling of childhood leukemia incidence: the increase is up to 2.2 among children under age five.
The researchers note that they found no mechanistic proof of cause and effect, but could find no other environmental factor that could produce the excess cancers.
Without getting overly technical, the case-control study included the 2,753 cases of acute leukemia diagnosed in mainland France over 2002-2007, and 30,000 contemporaneous population “controls.” The children’s last addresses were geo-coded and located around France’s 19 nuclear power stations, which operate 54 separate reactors. The study used distance to the reactors and a dose-based geographic zoning (DBGZ), based on the estimated dose to bone marrow related to the reactors’ gaseous discharges.
All operating reactors routinely spew radioactive gases like xenon, krypton and the radioactive form of hydrogen known as tritium. These gases are allowed to be released under licenses issued by federal government agencies. Allowable limits on these radioactive poisons were suggested to governments and regulatory agencies by the giant utilities that own the reactors and by reactor operators themselves. This is because their reactors can’t even function without regularly releasing radioactive liquids and gases, releases required to control pressure, temperature and vibrations inside the gigantic systems. (See: “Routine Radioactive Releases from Nuclear Power Plants in the United States: What Are the Dangers?” from BeyondNuclear.org, 2009)
In Germany, results of the 2008 KiKK studies — a German acronym for Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants — were published in both theInternational Journal of Cancer (Vol. 122) and the European Journal of Cancer (Vol. 44). These 25-year-long studies found higher incidences of cancers and a stronger association with reactor installations than all previous reports. The main findings were a 60 percent increase in solid cancers and a 117 percent increase in leukemia among young children living near all 16 large German nuclear facilities between 1980 and 2003. These shocking studies — along with persistent radioactive contamination of Germany from the Chernobyl catastrophe — are largely responsible for depth and breadth of anti-nuclear public opinion all across Germany.
Similar leukemia spikes have been found around U.S. reactors (European Journal of Cancer Care, Vol. 16, 2007). Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina analyzed 17 research papers covering 136 reactor sites in the UK, Canada, France, the U.S., Germany, Japan and Spain. The incidence of leukemia in children under age 9 living close to the sites showed an increase of 14 to 21 percent, while death rates from the disease were raised by 5 to 24 percent, depending on their proximity to the nuclear facilities.
When the U.S. public owns up to the dangers of nuclear power, we too can get around to its replacement and phase out.
John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, an environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its quarterly newsletter. This commentary was distributed by PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute, Portland, OR. http://www.peacevoice.info
A new report by human rights groups in the Middle East has charged NATO with committing war crimes and human rights violations in Libya.
The report was published on Thursday by the Arab Organization for Human Rights, together with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the International Legal Assistance Consortium.
Following interviews with eyewitnesses and victims of the Libyan war and after examining areas bombarded by NATO fighter jets, the report states that the Western military alliance targeted a number of civilian areas instead of military sites, particularly in the city of Sirte, during its war in the North African country.
The development comes as NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed in a recent statement that “NATO carried out this operation very carefully, without confirmed civilian casualties.”
The independent report also implicates other warring factions and participants in the war, including forces loyal to former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as well as the nation’s revolutionary forces in its war crime charges.
Meanwhile, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno-Ocampo stated in November 2011 that an investigation would be carried out on the role of the NATO alliance as well as the two Libyan groups involved in the operations.
NATO launched a major air campaign against forces of the former Libyan regime on March 19, 2011 under a UN mandate to “protect the Libyan population.”
The Western military alliance, however, was heavily criticized for its failure to protect civilians and taking action beyond the terms of the UN mandate.
In a blatant demonstration of the Palestinian Authority’s colossal gap between the interests of itself and the people it claims to represent, unelected chief negotiator Saeb Erekat will meet up with his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Molcho for the fourth round of talks in Amman, Jordan on January 25th. The announcement came barely a day after Palestinians protested against the farcical negotiations in front of the PA compound of al-Muqata’a in Ramallah.
Nevertheless, the group Palestinians With Dignity have been quick to issue another statement out, calling for another protest this Saturday the 21st. It is clear that these protests are not reactionary, and will continue until all negotiations between the occupied and the occupier cease once and for all. Last week saw the arrest of a young man who participated in the protest by the PA security forces. He was attacked and interrogated before being released.
In a true and classical behavior that characterizes Arab repressive governments who are merely puppets of western interests, will violence against protesters by the PA escalate?
Below is the statement [emphasis not mine], with a link to a petition against negotiations at the bottom:
Last Saturday 14th of January, we stood in silence in front of the Presidential Compound (Muqata’a) in Ramallah demanding the immediate stop of the bilateral negotiations between Saeb Erekat and Yitzhak Molcho in Amman. The bitter cold did not stop us from protesting against the return to these fruitless talks. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has retreated from its earlier position that they will not return to negotiations, until settlement expansion is halted and all the political prisoners were released; this represents the bare minimum demands of the Palestinian people.
The PLO’s reneging on their promise to the Palestinian people and their return to negotiations implies that the leadership accepts the continued theft and seizure of Palestinian lands, legitimizes the ever-going attacks of the settlers, and furthermore undermines the Palestinian people in whole.
As Palestinians youth, we do not see any benefits from these futile negotiations. We have grown weary of representatives that don’t represent us, a national consensus that does not include us, and an implied future pseudo-state that does not guarantee our rights; specifically the rights of the majority of Palestinians who are refugees and live in exile.
It appears that our message last Saturday fell on deaf ears. The Palestinian leadership is still moving forward with negotiations, despite the Israeli occupation’s expansion of illegal colonies in the West Bank, the continued siege on Gaza, and Israel’s continued practice of the crime of Apartheid against Palestinians.
Nevertheless, we have not been deterred from acting. We demand the Palestinian leadership bears its responsibility in defying all sources of foreign pressure to return to negotiations. Instead of pursuing negotiations at this moment in time, we are in need of a resistance-based strategy. A strategy that begins with the unification of Palestinians and the political, economic, cultural and academic boycott of the apartheid state of Israel. We unequivocally demand that our leadership invests in its people, because when unified, together we can alter the balance of power to our favor.
On Saturday, January 21st at 1 PM we will again protest at the doorsteps of the Presidential Compound (Muqata’a). Join us on Saturday, and let us together stand tall with dignity and full of pride until our demands are met.
Show your support by signing the following petition against negotiations:
Palestinians for Dignity
Palestinian tweeps on the ground will be using the hashtag #No2negotiations for live updates.
Adding a new weapon to their war on freedom, the head of the New York Police Department is working with the Pentagon to develop body scanners to be used throughout the city.
In a speech on Tuesday morning, New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced that the new gun-scan technology would be ‘capable of detecting concealed firearms’, Russia Today reported.
The high-tech radiation detector will operate as a mapping tool that can measure the energy emitted from a person’s body up to 16 feet and can pinpoint anything blocking it, like a gun.
According to Kelly, the scanners would be used in ‘reasonably suspicious circumstances’. However, the American Civil Liberties Union has already questioned the New York Police Department (NYPD) over what they say is an unnecessary precaution that raises more issues than it solves.
The detector will allow NYPD to run illegal searches on anyone walking the streets of the city and any suspicious detection can prompt the officers to search people for anything under their clothes.
“It’s worrisome. It implicates privacy, the right to walk down the street without being subjected to a virtual pat-down by the Police Department when you’re doing nothing wrong,” Donna Lieberman the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NUCLU) was reported as saying.
In the first quarter of 2011, more than 161,000 innocent New Yorkers were reportedly stopped and interrogated on the streets of the city leading to the assumption that NYPD are already going beyond the law by searching anyone they choose.
According to MIT’s Technology Review, the new devices could also be biologically harmful as the waves used by the scanners could ‘unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.’
The Internet strike opposing the US anti-piracy bills SOPA/PIPA has ended. The webquake spearheaded by giants like Wikipedia, Reddid and Google led to key sponsors withdrawing their support for the acts. However, they are not dead, activists warn.
Massive opposition to the controversial legislation resulted in Congressmen and Senators swinging against the bills. Up to 18 Senators, of which seven were former co-sponsors, voiced their opposition to PIPA on Wednesday. On the SOPA side, at least two sponsors have dropped out, while Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer blacked out his website in support of the protest.
The protest was timed to coincide with a scheduled hearing in the House of Representatives on SOPA. However amid the online outrage, it was postponed, and the bill will now not be moved to the floor until legislators have reached a consensus.
The conflict, however, is far from being resolved. “SOPA and PIPA are not dead: they are waiting in the shadows,” Wikipedia warns. PIPA is scheduled be put to a vote in the Senate on January 24, while SOPA sponsors plan to push the bill forward in February.
SOPA co-sponsor Lamar Smith dismissed the protest, saying Internet giants are using false allegations to stir up panic in the online community.
“When the opposition is based upon misinformation, I have confidence in the facts and confidence that the facts will ultimately prevail,” Smith said.
Wikipedia reports that 162 million people saw its blackout message and 8 million used its search tool to find their legislative representatives.
“You said no. You shut down Congress’s switchboards. You melted their servers. Your voice was loud and strong. Millions of people have spoken in defense of a free and open Internet,” the website said in a statement, calling the protest extraordinary.
Google’s “Stop piracy, not liberty” petition scored 4.5 million supporters as of 4:30 pm ET, said Google spokesperson Christine Chen.
All in all at least 75,000 websites participated in the blackout, according to Fight for the Future foundation.
The protest action swept across the world wide web, with SOPA/PIPA-related topics trending throughout Wednesday on Twitter. Those were ranging from the dead-serious “SOPAstrike” to the humorous “factswithoutwikipedia” to the satirical “save porn.”
Regardless of who may rule Israel, little change ever occurs in the country’s foreign policy. Winning parties remain obsessed with demographics and retaining absolute military dominance. They also remain unfailingly focused on their quest to initiate racist laws against non-Jewish residents of the state, and continue to hone the art of speaking of peace, while actually maintaining a permanent state of war.
Every few years the media becomes captivated by Israeli democracy. Commentators speak of right, left, center, and anything in between. Despite Israeli elections still being a year and a half away, media pundits are already discussing possible outcomes of the vote against the peace process, economic reforms, social equality, and so on.
In a recent article, Israeli columnist Uri Avnery decried the fact that the main opposition to the rightwing parties – “the Likud, the Lieberman party and various ultra-nationalist, pro-settlement and religious factions” – is no other than the center-left Kadima. The party, led by the “incompetent” Tzipi Livni, is allegedly in “shambles”. Moreover, left parties, such as Labor and Meretz, are not expected to pose a real threat to the right party conglomerate, despite their temporary rise in the polls.
As genuine as he is, Avnery is once again presenting the false hope of a savior emerging to save Israel from itself. Avnery envisions Israel being rescued from its ‘neo fascists’ and returned to the over-romanticized scenario of old, when early Zionists supposedly dreamed of an Israel governed by universal ethics, true democracy, peace and social equality . “I fervently hope that a different kind of new political force will emerge – a center-left party with a clear and inclusive message: social reform, narrowing the gap between rich and poor, the two-state solution, peace with the Palestinians and the end of the occupation.”
But this is as far as the imagined narrative of a kinder, gentler Israel can possibly go. Many outside Israel struggle to reconcile familiar discourses of democracy and equality with the reality on the ground. True, the ailment is not exclusive to Israel itself, but few other self-proclaimed democratic countries have such a massive gap between mainstream political discourses and actual policies.
Recall, for example, what the media touted as Israel’s own ‘Arab Spring.’ Even those who knew Israeli history hoped for a fleeting moment that the mass protests throughout Israeli cities could actually challenge the political and social status quo in Israel. But not Seraj Assi, a columnist and PhD student at Georgetown University. Assi wrote: “The dirty secret of the Tel Aviv protests is that the bulk of those middle-class Ashkenazi protestors are moved by a racist hysteria. They are simply afraid of being moved to the city peripheries and the far less fashionable parts of the country. For when they complain that they only feel at home in Tel Aviv, they explicitly express a racist desire to stay away from the development towns and neighborhoods populated by Arabs, poor Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews.”
Indeed, the protests labored to stay clear of contentious discussions of military occupation, war, and even racial inequality within Israeli itself.
Not even the one-sided war on Gaza, which resulted in the killing of over 1400 Palestinians, was enough to raise the level of mass consciousness to challenge political and military apparatuses in Israel in any meaningful way. Under the title, ‘The Moral and Military Meltdown in Israel’, Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University, wrote: “It is not just the worst of the Israelis who (according to a recent poll by Haaretz) condone and actively support the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, but so have their very best, their intellectuals, professors, journalists, filmmakers, novelists and poets, from Amos Oz to David Grossman to A. B. Yehoshua to Meir Shalev and scores of others” (Jan 12, 2009).
While rightwing Israeli parties are often dismissed as anti-peace and hawkish, the ‘liberal’ Zionists in the Israeli Left have been viewed by some as an alternative, capable of writing wrongs and achieving the long-awaited peace. These are mere ‘delusions’, argued Roger Sheety in a recent article. “Scratch just a little below the surface and you discover that .. when it approaches the Palestinian person in particular, (Liberal Zionism) suddenly stops and fully reverses itself,” he wrote (Jan 9).
Sheety suggests a “clear and concise word for this phenomenon…hypocrisy.” But ‘hypocrisy’ might be too easy a term to explain this very involved trend in Israeli politics, which defined the Zionist movement long before the state of Israel was established in 1948. A most compelling book by Israeli author Tikva Honig-Parnass traces the roots of liberal Zionism from an insider perspective. False Prophets of Peace: Liberal Zionism and the Struggle for Palestine is a profound addition to a growing library that challenges ‘liberal’ Zionists’ claim to liberalism or progressiveness.
After reading Honig-Parnass’ book, one is left with a clear impression that liberal Zionists are neither ‘Israel’s best’ and nor is their double-speak a simple reflection of hypocrisy. Liberal Zionists were, and remain at the heart of the problem. After all, the Israeli Right didn’t emerge as a powerful player in politics until the late 1970s. All that proceeded – the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing, the Law of Return, the 1967 war and further colonial expansion, and even the war on Gaza in 2008-09 – were orchestrated by Israel’s Zionist Left leaderships. More, the “systematic institutional discrimination against Palestinian citizens was (also) applied through the strengthened power of the Zionist Left,” Honig-Parnass argues. Even the most ‘radical’ forces in Israel are tainted, as the Zionist Labor movement rallied around racial discrimination against non-Jews before the establishment of Israel; later laws made racial discrimination against non-Jewish laborers the status quo, as is the case today.
To hold hope in the new election cycle in Israel is like waiting for false prophets. No salvation will be heralded by some imagined center-left party that will bring “an end to the ultra-rightist frenzy,” as hoped by Avnery.
The task will not be easy, but a true shift in Israeli politics can only occur at the foundational level by confronting the country’s Apartheid-like political institutions. More, by challenging the “Zionist Left political and ideological perspectives,” a way could open for “progressive forces among Jews and Palestinians to fight together against the Zionist/Jewish state,” as suggested by Honig-Parnass.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
A Dutch lawmaker is calling on Israel to continue building Jewish-only colonies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, in violation of international law.
Raymond de Roon, a member of Geert Wilders’ extreme anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian Freedom Party – known by its Dutch initials PVV – tweeted: “Today I ask Netanyahu in parliament for Israel to continue building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as long as Palestinians hinder peace.”
raymond de roon Vandaag vraag ik Netanyahu in 2e Kamer om voor Israel te blijven bouwen in Jerusalem, Judea en Samaria zolang palestijnen vrede verhinderen
Jan 19 via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been visiting the Netherlands, cementing close relations with that country’s government which has emerged as one of the most anti-Palestinian in Europe.
The PVV, although not a member of the governing coalition, lends its support to the government through a formal agreement.
While officially, the Netherlands opposes Israel’s settlements, Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, and Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen have worked actively to strengthen the Dutch relationship with Israel, effectively shielding the latter from any accountability or consequences for its crimes.
During Netanyahu’s visit, Verhagen announced that the Netherlands planned to send an economic mission to Israel to deepen trade ties.
Colonization is war crime
Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied West Bank – what Israel calls “Judea and Samaria” – is universally condemned as illegal under international law. In particular, it violates the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which protects civilians in occupied territories. Article 49 of the Convention States:
Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.
Israel’s settlement program has often involved the forced removal or exclusion of Palestinians from their lands, as territory is seized for Jewish-only settlements.
The UN Security Council has affirmed the criminality of Israel’s settlement enterprise on numerous occasions. Resolution 465 of 1980 for example begins by:
Affirming once more that the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,
Deploring the decision of the Government of Israel to officially support Israeli settlement in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967,
Deeply concerned over the practices of the Israeli authorities in implementing that settlement policy in the occupied Arab territories, including Jerusalem, and its consequences for the local Arab and Palestinian population,
- Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;
- Strongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices and calls upon the Government and people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem;
- Calls upon all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connexion with settlements in the occupied territories;
In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague reaffirmed that Israel’s settlements and its separation wall in the West Bank are illegal and countries should act to prevent and reverse them.
Despite this and many other clear resolutions, Israel has continued to get away with what amount to war crimes thanks to the indulgence and complicity of governments like the Netherlands.
h/t @occpal for spotting the tweet.
Head of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has expressed concerns over the Israeli regime’s dismantlement of the Karni crossing in northeastern Gaza Strip.
Valerie Amos said in a press conference at the UN Security Council on Wednesday that the dismantlement of the Karni crossing means that commercial activity into Gaza will decline and it will have the impact of “de-developing Gaza rather than re-developing it.”
The senior UN official was referring to the continued Israeli blockade of Gaza and its devastating impact on the economic development there.
The Israeli regime has full control over the airspace, territorial waters and border crossings of the impoverished Gaza Strip.
Amos also commented on the impact of continued Israeli settlement activities on Palestinian residents in terms of their “access to basic services, including schools and health centers” in the occupied West Bank.
About 500,000 Israelis live in more than 100 illegal settlements in the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
The UN official also pointed to the “increase in the levels of settler violence” over the past few months in the West Bank.
The Israeli regime has repeatedly been censured by the international community for its illegal settlement activities on the occupied Palestinian land.