Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another Brick in the Wall...

In case anyone still fosters any illusions, the 'Obama moment' ('the moment that never was?') is now officially over. Although the US for now appears to deny it, according to the Beeb (and yesterday also Press TV), Egypt is building a 10 - 11 km fence extending 18 m below the surface on its border with Gaza, in collusion with the US.

When Obama failed to comment on the atrocity known as 'Operation Cast Lead', many supporters were disappointed. When he was smoothly out-maneuvered by Netanyahu on the settlement 'freeze' issue many became disillusioned. If it now transpires that this latest nail in the coffin of Gaza is indeed in collaboration with the largest colonial settler-state in the world then we can safely relegate any notion about a new relationship with the Muslim world to the circular filing system. Obama is increasingly a case of fading beauty, if not actually Bush-Lite, a version that can talk the hind legs off a donkey perhaps but no more determined to arrive at a solution to the Middle East nightmare than Bush or Blair.

And if The One later convincingly protests this latest monstrosity against humanity, I'll blurb, amend, perhaps even scrap this post but for now my digital Typex can stay safely in the bottle.

On the plus side, there appears to be reaction world wide at grass roots level with reports of pickets worldwide. Jews sans Frontieres is on the case with some practical details too.

In the medium long run all this bad news may even be good news for Gaza and supporters of the Palestinian Cause: how much more damage do the harlequins that run the world just think they can inflict on a defenseless population, essentially for having the misfortune not to be Jewish, without the world starting to take note? How much more do the apparatchiks of the 'Jewish State' think they and their allies can get away with before it dawns on others that Zionist life must be a hell of a lot more valuable than that of the brownish natives?

On the wall, from the BBC:

Egypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned.

When it is finished the wall will be 10-11km (6-7 miles) long and will extend 18 metres below the surface.

The Egyptians are being helped by American army engineers, who the BBC understands have designed the wall.

The plan has been shrouded in secrecy, with no comment or confirmation from the Egyptian government.

The wall will take 18 months to complete.

For weeks local farmers have noticed more activity at the border where trees were being cut down, but very few of them were aware that a barrier was being built.


That is because the barrier, made of super-strength steel, has been hidden deep underground.

The BBC has been told that it was manufactured in the US, that it fits together in similar fashion to a jigsaw, and that it has been tested to ensure it is bomb proof.

US officials have though denied to the BBC that they are involved in building or supplying the wall.

The reports say the wall cannot be cut or melted - in short it is impenetrable.

Intelligence sources in Egypt say the barrier is being sunk close to the perimeter wall that already exists.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel: West Bank disputed, not occupied.

WSJ via JTA.

So now you know! Danny Ayalon is the deputy foreign minister of Israel:

After the war in 1967, when Jews started returning to their historic heartland in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of settlements arose. However, Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish settlement in these territories. He maintained that the original British Mandate of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said "the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors." There is no internationally binding document pertaining to this territory that has nullified this right of Jewish settlement since.

This is a prominent member of the government of the Zionists' State with which Palestinians are supposed to negotiate... He also wrote an open letter to the Arab World, apparently. I didn't read it but possibly it went a bit like this: 'Dear Arab World, Please f*ck off, Yours truly.'

Ben Stein's a Flunkie (II)


General gasbag, Creationist nut and flunkie Ben Stein's at it again. This time he calls Ron Paul 'antiii-Semetic' mainly because Paul makes the argument that the latest 'underwear bomber' claimed to have motive (Stein says it twice just after 1:45).

Listen again: Stein's argument is that the terrorists are 'antiii-Meircan psychos'. Presumably in Ben's peanut, 'antiii-Meircan = antiii-Semetic'.

To use your lingo Ben, you're an asshole...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

West Bank Settler compares herself to Rosa Parks

Karni Eldad, settler daughter of MK Arie Eldad from the radical Ihud Leumi party and Haaretz Op-Ed writer on Rosa Parks:

Once upon a time there was a black woman; her name was Rosa Parks. There were racially discriminating laws in the United States, but she continued to sit on the bus even when she was told to vacate her seat for a white person. She was arrested, which set off a process whose end saw the abolishment of racial segregation on American buses. How is it possible that one little black woman, a dressmaker by profession, could change history simply because she remained sitting? Her protest was stronger than any demonstration, op-ed piece or Knesset vote. She opted for the natural choice; that is why she was triumphant.

And from this source:

One of these hilltops had a special attraction for us. It has a mixed population, an excellent location, is close to civilization but not too close, without any Arab villages nearby [my emph.] A young community, with young people who have a dream, and all the intrigues of any small community.

“There are three vacant prefabricated homes. Choose,” we were told. I turned white. “But, but,” I stammered. “I have already lived in a prefabricated home. Is there no exemption? Can you understand – I’m a musician and the acoustics in a prefabricated home are simply awful, and the doctor has forbidden it, and besides,” I said, pulling out the doomsday weapon, “besides, I’m spoiled.”

Below, Karni living the Zionist Dream. Rosa Parks, she ain't...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Life-Saving Weaponry

The Most Moral Army's website.

H/T to commenter 'Oscar' at Mondoweiss.

Few things are more vomit-inducing than the military of a country boasting the use of the most sophisticated (new, even!) weaponry against a largely defenseless entity. It comes as no surprise that the Most Moral Army in the World [cough!] does precisely that at a webpage cynically titled 'Life-Saving Weaponry'. Just a few snippets:

A year has passed since Operation Cast Lead. This operation brought with it many achievements, mainly for the security of the State of Israel. In addition to the relative quiet in the southern regions of the country, Israel has also gained confidence in new weapons which were initiated during that operation one year ago. Operation Cast Lead was unprecedented in its use of weapons which were used there for the first time.

Nice little training ground that was, Gaza...

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker missile is an anti-tank rocket, used against buildings and entrenchments, which was first brought into use during Operation Cast Lead. The rocket was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and is carried by one soldier in the field. This is a rocket of medium weight (about 10 kilograms, or 22 pounds), which enables firing from within buildings, because ensuing sparks and recoil are significantly low.

Well, yes, the name is aptly chosen: Operation Cast Lead had all the attributes of taking a sledgehammer to a crumbly nut!

The Sky-Rider

“A star was born in the Gaza skies,” is how the Skylark 1 UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), named the Sky Rider, was described during the operation. The hundreds of operational flights it completed proved its impressive efficiency with everything related to intelligence gathering during the operation. Intelligence gathering saved many lives, those of IDF soldiers and those of innocent civilians.

I'm sure the Gazans were able to gaze at their 'new star' many, many times...

And so it goes on and on...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Viva Palestina convoy stranded, on hunger strike...

London - Ma'an - Over 400 volunteers travelling with British MP George Galloway's aid convoy to Gaza declared a hunger strike on Sunday, protesting the Egypt’s refusal to allow the convoy to dock in the port of Nuweiba, on the Sinai Peninsula.

"Volunteers on the convoy are on a hunger strike and will only take fluids until the Egyptian side gives them the nod," said Alice Howard, the convoy’s press officer.

She said the hunger strike began at 11:25 on Sunday, marking the first attack on Gaza during Israel's three-week assault.

The convoy has been stranded in Aqaba, Jordan, since Christmas Day, when Egyptian authorities prohibited the convoy from docking at the Egyptian port of Nuweiba.

"They told us to double back, return to Europe, then dock at the port of Al-Arish," Howard said.

"We are strong willed people and we're not going anywhere … the convoy will swell in size as we're stranded in Aqaba."

The Lifeline 3 convoy was due to enter Gaza on 27 December to mark the first anniversary of Israel's devastating Operation Cast Lead.

The group, carrying medical and humanitarian aid, is travelling with over 150 vehicles. Howard noted that formula and powdered milk destined for the coastal Strip has been melting in the sun, as a result of the Egyptian authorities' halt on travel.

"All that separates [the convoy] is a four hour journey. It's a small technical issue that can be resolved. They [the Egyptian authorities] have not been supportive."

The volunteers are currently residing in a car park, "With no means of bathing," Howard added. However, she described the reception in Jordan as "phenomenal. The convoy has received a wonderful reception from all the Jordanians."

"This is not a security issue … no one will turn back."

The convoy departed London on 6 December and travelled nearly 3,000 miles across Europe and the Middle East.

In a news release issued by the convoy's organizers Galloway said "Israel has kept Gaza under siege for three-and-half years against international law. It has not allowed aid or rebuilding materials in following its attack on Gaza earlier this year. Our convoy is determined to break the siege and take in urgently needed supplies Spirits are high in our camp in Aqaba, and we are going nowhere except to Gaza."

See the piece here:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Organ harvesting but no blood libel...

The Guardian

Israel has admitted pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians, and others, without the consent of their families – a practice it said ended in the 1990s – it emerged at the weekend.

The admission, by the former head of the country's forensic institute, followed a furious row prompted by a Swedish newspaper reporting that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to use their organs – a charge that Israel denied and called "antisemitic".

The revelation, in a television documentary, is likely to generate anger in the Arab and Muslim world and reinforce sinister stereotypes of Israel and its attitude to Palestinians. Iran's state-run Press TV tonight reported the story, illustrated with photographs of dead or badly injured Palestinians.

Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab MP, said the report incriminated the Israeli army.

The story emerged in an interview with Dr Yehuda Hiss, former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv. The interview was conducted in 2000 by an American academic who released it because of the row between Israel and Sweden over a report in the Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet.

Channel 2 TV reported that in the 1990s, specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.

The Israeli military confirmed to the programme that the practice took place, but added: "This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer."

Hiss said: "We started to harvest corneas ... whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family."

However, there was no evidence that Israel had killed Palestinians to take their organs, as the Swedish paper reported. Aftonbladet quoted Palestinians as saying young men from the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been seized by the Israeli forces and their bodies returned to their families with missing organs. The interview with Hiss was released by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley who had conducted a study of Abu Kabir.

She was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that while Palestinians were "by a long shot" not the only ones affected, she felt the interview must be made public, because "the symbolism, you know, of taking skin of the population considered to be the enemy, [is] something, just in terms of its symbolic weight, that has to be reconsidered."

Israel demanded that Sweden condemn the Aftonbladet article, calling it an antisemitic "blood libel". Stockholm refused, saying that to so would violate freedom of speech in the country. The foreign minister then cancelled a visit to Israel, just as Sweden was taking over the EU's rotating presidency.

Hiss was removed from his post in 2004, when some details about organ harvesting were first reported, but he still works at the forensic institute.

Israel's health ministry said all harvesting was now done with permission. "The guidelines at that time were not clear," it said in a statement to Channel 2. "For the last 10 years, Abu Kabir has been working according to ethics and Jewish law."

Monday, December 21, 2009

When Extremist Nationalism and Religious Orthodoxy Become Indistinguishable...

Why evacuating settlements is such a sin, according to Rabbi Volpa, a member of the settler movement. It's useful to get a good glimpse of the mindset of those who believe evacuating settlements, as well as freezing further development of settlements, is a cardinal sin against Judaism (or their particular interpretation of it). If the secular Israeli government allows this chasm to grow even wider (as it has done for over 40 years now) this will become a major fault-line in The Country Without Borders...

Note to non-Hebrew speakers: before playing the video, click on lower right-hand corner button and the “cc” (closed-caption) setting in order to see the English-language translation.

H/T: Richard Silverstein, who has some commentary too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shministim, Israel's youngest prisoners of conscience

Via email alert from Cecilie Surasky, Jewish Voice for Peace, support the Shministim, NOW!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Two Faces of Obama...

After winning a Noble Peace Prize for making a 'Peace is Peachy' type speech (or was it indeed just for Not Being Bush?), our beloved changeling assures the world that he won't stop WW III if Israel wants to pursue it, even if it's based on a lie ("Wipe Israel off the map!") that even Washington by now has quietly brushed under the carpet:


U.S. President Barack Obama has warned his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not be able to keep Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear installations for much longer, senior officials in Jerusalem told Haaretz.

T'is to be hoped the perennial opportunist Bibi, currently in charge of Israel's War Cabinet, isn't encouraged too much by Obama's loose lips... Hope springs eternal, of course...

Saturday, December 12, 2009


A rather curious (guest) post at Harry's Place titled Sub Humans Commit An Appalling Crime, by Jonathan Hoffman commences:

The Times has no doubt about the identity of the sub-humans who torched the mosque at Kfar Yasuf. No right-minded person can fail to condemn this despicable crime:

[big snip]

The use of the term 'sub-humans' in both body and title of the post is a little puzzling. The most likely perpetrators of the crime are Zionist settlers but that's by the by. No matter how one feels about the attackers of the Kfar Yasuf mosque, to call them sub-human is far to Manichean for my liking. It's probably more accurate to consider the culprits as all too human: wrong and fallible certainly, but sub-human?

Hoffman then concludes:

The culprits must be found, tried and punished according to the law. Whoever they are, their agenda is to wreck the coalition led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. If this appalling crime goes unpunished then they may well succeed.

"[...] their agenda is to wreck the coalition led by Prime Minister Netanyahu." Really Jonathan, I think that's very debatable. That Netanyahu in all likelihood will have already condemned the crime doesn't change the fact that he strongly supports the settler agenda and that in some settler quarters this crime will not be considered the work of "sub-humans" but rather of heroes...

As with all things strange on Harry's Place, things usually get a whole lot stranger when you enter the comment section. High up is 'CookieCutter', a demonstrable and committed Islamophobe , who wades in with (at 12/10 2:38 pm):


Nazis called Jews “sub-humans”

Allah is said to have turned Jews into “apes & pigs”.

Now a guest poster at HP calls Jews “sub-human”.

Let’s have an open day on “sub-human” I think Islamic Terrorists are “sub-human”.

Why not call Muslims who express hate for Jews “sub-human”.

Palestinians who desecrated Rachels’ Tomb are “sub-human”.

Your use of the word “sub-human” is disgusting no matter what these ’settlers’ did. I know we all want to be on the right side of this and call desecration of a Mosque “disgusting” just as smearing of synagogues with Nazi and Islamist hate material is.

What’s this big upset about burning a Koran BTW? Its a book!!!

Is it because if I burn a Torah people will get upset but if I burn a Koran people want to kill me?

Of COURSE this is a nasty and viscious attack on a place of worship for which global condemnation is called-for. But the perpetrators are NOT “sub-humans”.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Israel: an army with a country...

Ha'aretz, hat tip Jews sans Frontieres.

Revelations of the pension that Kadima MK and former IDF spokesperson Nachman Shai will receive from the army - an example of the generous and hidden conditions doled out in the Israel Defense Forces - only lend validity to the cliche that we are an army that has a country.

Thus one may also add the tongue-lashing delivered by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi against the prime minister during the discussions surrounding the state budget, when the government ventured to broach the issue of raising the retirement age for army officers in service.

The defense establishment is, for all intents and purposes, a distinct sector.

From the defense minister to the army, its senior officers who serve in the standing army to those who leave the service, to the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad; all of these entities comprise a group which operates with full autonomy.

The defense establishment has a hierarchy, institutions, services, media outlets and its own legal system. It has nearly unlimited resources in the form of real estate (close to half of the land in the state is in the hands of the army and is managed exclusively by the army), personnel (Israeli citizens within a wide range of ages stand at its disposal without pay and are used as the army sees fit), and the largest budget in the state, a budget of which no one outside of the defense establishment really knows the details.

This is a community of the privileged, a vast majority of whom are men enjoying bloated salaries, pensions and generous employment benefits in addition to unblemished reputations as individuals who "risk their lives for the security of the state."

They also enjoy immunity from criticism and others meddling in their affairs because, after all, they protect our very existence. There is no more symbolic indication of this group's superior status than the fact that the chief of staff earns a salary nearly twice that of the prime minister.

Those who truly risk their lives are in the minority, and most of them do not belong to the highest strata of the group. The clique itself - like every clique - is preoccupied with first and foremost preserving its own security: its interests, its standing, its benefits and those of the individuals comprising it.

As the benefits improve, the interest to preserve them grows further. The power wielded by the security establishment grows whenever Israel finds itself in a situation where it faces "an existential threat" and "a security danger."

It is then that it pours money, its best people, its energies and its skills into defense. This is what happens when the interests of the defense sector diverge from the interests of the state which subsidizes it and which it purports to defend.

The interests differ to the point where they run opposite each other. Israel wants to provide its citizens with a life of serenity; to develop education, welfare, health, science and the arts.

It wants to end the conflicts and the wars and live in peace with its neighbors.

Yet without threats and wars, the defense establishment loses the rationale for its existence and the individuals comprising it lose their substantial clout, which is also worth a great deal of money.

In its behavior vis-a-vis the state, the defense sector is similar to the Haredi community. Both of them use the state and its resources in order to nurture and aggrandize their people, their way of life and their worldviews. The only difference between them is their religion.

The citizens, the land, and the money in the hands of the army can be of great benefit to the state in a number of areas. It would also be possible to prevent environmental and humane hazards if the state started to run the army, and not vice versa.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Free Mohammad Othman...

Human Rights Watch statement (snipped):

(Jerusalem) - The Israeli military appeals court should end the administrative detention of Mohammed Othman, a West Bank rights activist, and order his release, Human Rights Watch said today.

Israeli authorities have detained Othman without charge for more than two months on what appear to be politically motivated grounds. On the basis of secret evidence that Othman and his lawyers were not allowed to see, a military court confirmed a military order that consigned Othman to three months administrative detention without charging him with any crime. Othman has no criminal record and, to the knowledge of Human Rights Watch, has never advocated or participated in violence. His detention period, which may be renewed, ends on December 22.

"The only reasonable conclusion is that Othman is being punished for his peaceful advocacy," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities interrogated him for months, then ordered him held some more, but they won't say why they are holding him and haven't accused him of any crime."

Israeli authorities detained Othman, an activist with the "Stop the Wall" campaign, a nonviolent protest movement, on September 22, 2009, as he returned to the West Bank from a trip to Norway, where he spoke about the separation barrier that Israel has constructed in the occupied territory. The barrier was ostensibly built to protect against suicide bombers, but it is not being built along the 1967 border. Instead, 87 percent of the barrier's route lies inside the West Bank, unlawfully separating residents from their lands, restricting their movement, and effectively annexing occupied lands to unlawful Israeli settlements.

On November 23, after Othman had been detained for 61 days "for the purpose of interrogation," Colonel Ron Weisel, an Israeli military commander of the West Bank, ordered him held for three months of administrative detention on the grounds that he was a threat to the "security of the area." The military court of administrative detainees, located in the Israeli military base of Ofer, near Ramallah in the West Bank, upheld the order on November 25 and counted the time that Othman had already been detained toward his detention.

Hat tip Mondoweiss.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

History is on our side...

What follows is text of the body of Abunimah’s November 21 speech. Transcript provided by MondoWeiss.

I want to talk about a little bit of history, not too much, and then I want to talk about where I think BDS fits in to where we’re going in the struggle for justice, and why I think it’s going to work.

If you look at the history of Palestine over the past 62 years, ever since the destruction of much of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel on its ashes, I think it can be divided roughly into three phases of roughly 20 years. The first phase was from 1948 to 1967, that was the establishment of Israel, the ethnic cleansing of 90 percent of the population from inside the boundaries of what became Israel, the systematic destrucitoin of 500 towns and villages, and the exile of the indigenous population of the country. And of course the remaining Palestinians inside Israel subjected to military rule and to continued ethnic cleansing and removal from their land.

The second phase, beginning in 1967 with Israel’s 3-fold expansion, its conquest of Egypts’ Sinai peninsula, of southwest Syria, of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was really the heyday, the era of maximum Israeli confidence, and the moment in which Zionism as we know it today became rooted in the American Jewish community. Before 1967 American Jews had for the most part not been captured by this ideology of Zionism and the virulent and racist nationalism that accompanies it. For Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it was the beginning of long occupation and colonization that continues to this day. It was also, from Israel’s perspective, a period of what I call a luxury occupation. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were relatively quiescent, they were a source of cheap labor, Israelis allowed themselves to travel freely throughout the occupied territories, and it was bliss, it was a situation where Israelis said well, this is fine, we can stay like this as we build settlements, there’s no pressure on us to do anything, we don’t have to formally annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which would require us to give civil rights and voting rights to the Palestinians living there, so we just keep things as they are.

This period of luxury occupation ended in 1987 with the beginning of the first intifada, which I suspect is around the time many of you in this room were born, which makes me feel quite old. But it’s important to know this history. And what the first intifada showed was the impossibility of Israel maintaining this cost-free occupation, where it exploited Palestinian labor and land, denied any civil and political rights, and continued to advertise itself as this wonderful liberal democracy and a light unto the nations.

So began the beginning of the third 20-year period, and this is the period of the Oslo Accords, beginning sort of a long period of working up to those accords that were signed in 1993, and it was the period really of managed occupation, and the idea here was to coopt. At one point the Israeli leaders said it. Shimon Peres, who is now the president of Israel, recalled talking to Yitzhak Rabin who was the prime minister at the time, and saying, Why do we need Yassir Arafat, who was then the PLO leader of course, making trouble for us outside the country, let’s bring him here, we can watch him and we can keep him under control. So the idea was to coopt the Palestinian leadership and subcontract the management of the occupation to them, all the while creating the illusion of forward movement, of a so-called peace process which would culminate in an independent Palestinian state.
But actually as we knew and know now, that’s not what was happening. What was happening was the acceleration of occupation, the tripling of the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and the tightening of the control, the creation of a regime of colonial control, effectively apartheid, that is unique in history. We make many comparisons to apartheid in South Africa, but as many South Africans themselves have pointed out, There was never in South Africa a separate road system for blacks and whites. There is no occasion in which the white South African apartheid government used its warplanes to bomb the townships, to bomb Soweto. It never happened. Incidentally you should know, and this is part of the research that should be part of the BDS strategy, that most of the weapons that the South African government used to enforce apartheid were supplied by Israel in violation of an international arms embargo on South Africa. Even the water cannon that they used to suppress demonstrations were made in a kibbutz in northern Israel. And the warplanes and the gunboats of the South African navy were all supplied by Israel. Nevertheless, South Africa never used these weapons against its own people inside the country.

The situation over the past 20 years of managed occupation has come to an end. Many people don’t realize it, many people hope that it can be revived, but we are reaching the end of the third phase of a coopted collaborationist Palestinian leadership which is able to keep the Palestinian people quiet on behalf of Israel. And the edifice is now slowly crumbling. I can’t tell you how long that crumbling will take, I can’t tell you how it will end, but it’s something that can’t be put together and restored. The Palestinian leaders who signed the Oslo accords, and agreed to become the enforcers of the occupation for Israel while promising their people that it would end in a state have lost all credibility, they can no longer play the game. I think that this is a moment, really it’s not just a moment of truth for the Palestinians, but also for Israel, because the collapse of the Oslo regime, the collapse of the managed occupation lays bare the reality: that you have through historic Palestine, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip taken together, you have a reality of a de facto binational state. You have a country of 11 million people where just over half of the population are Israeli Jews and where just under half are Palestinians, but the trend is clear, that Palestinians are becoming a majority once again.

We can all describe in detail the suffering inflicted on Palestinians in Israel’s attempt to ethnically cleanse them, to reduce the population, to change the demographics of Jerusalem. Literally every day now houses are being demolished in occupied East Jerusalem and in Silwan. And every night the Nakba that began in 1948 continues to expand. Every night there are new families sleeping in tents by the rubble of their homes. The Nakba is continuing in 2009. Despite that, despite that, I would say the following: if the goal of the Zionist project was to take this country which had an indigenous people who were Arab, who were Palestinian who were Muslim, who were Christian, and turn it into a country of European Jews, then this strategy has failed, because there are more Palestinians living on the national soil of Palestine than ever before, and there is no part of Palestine today where there are not Palestinians living. Whether it is in the Naqab, in Gaza, in Galilee, at the center of the country, throughout the West Bank, there are very few areas where there is not a Palestinian population. So this is the tremendous failure of the Zionist project, the failure to ethnically cleanse this country. And despite the suffering it inflicted and that it continues to inflict, that is something to celebrate, that the indigenous people are still there. That they still exist on their land.

But of course it leaves Israel in a dilemma, because how can you have a Jewish state when the majority population will soon not be Jewish. The ideal solution from Israel’s perspective was to conceal this reality with the endless peace process, with the managed subcontracted occupation. But this no longer is working. So we’ve reached a moment of truth. And I think it’s important to recognize that the way these things end– nobody can read the future– but again we heard this morning about the very important comparison with South Africa. It’s not an identical situation, there are many differences that are worth exploring and discussing, but in our recent history it’s the closest parallel to the situation we have now, of a settler colonial community ruling over an indigenous people by force and facing tremendous resistance and demands by the indigenous people for their rights.

And when you go back to the years before the apartheid regime ended– it ended officially in 1994–there was tremendous internal resistance in South Africa, huge uprisings that were very similar to what came a few years later in the first Palestinian intifada, massive strikes, massive protests, and the response of the apartheid state was to use enormous violence to suppress the protests in the townships.

The point I want to make here is that all of this resistance never succeeded in really changing the balance of physical coercive power. The whites always effectively retained a monopoly on military and physical force, and the anti-apartheid movement never really changed that. They didn’t defeat the apartheid regime militarily. The balance of power never changed. What happened and what I think was crucial is that the apartheid regime, which had enjoyed considerable legitimacy among Europeans and Americans up until at least the 1950s, began to lose its legitimacy. Up to that point in Britain and in other parts of Europe, there was tremendous sympathy for what was called "the predicament" of whites in Africa, in the context of decolonization.

The loss of legitimacy in the practices of the apartheid regime is what changed, and when a system loses its legitimacy, all the weapons in the world cannot protect it. And that’s what we saw in South Africa. Once it got to the point that the regime could only remain in power through violence and repression, whites in South Africa lost the will to maintain it. Because they knew that the price was increasing international isolation and being seen as pariahs. And once they reached that point, then they were willing to start talking about democracy and equal rights.

You have to remember that the African National Congress put forward the Freedom Charter in 1955. It never changed. The message from the resistance in South Africa was consistent: Our demand is for freedom, for one person/one vote, for equality, for decolonization, it never changed. But as long as whites felt immune to the effects of apartheid, as long as they could get away with it, they had no incentive to read the Freedom Charter, and they could demonize Africans as much as they wanted and say these people are barbarians, and if we were to let them get their hands on the levers of power they would slaughter us in our beds, whites would be thrown into the sea. It was costless for them to say that. Once internal resistance and international solidarity in the form of boycott, divestment, and sanctions raised the cost of the status quo for the apartheid regime and those who benefited from it, then they said, OK, let’s talk, let’s hear what you have to say, what your vision is for the future of South Africa. So BDS created the conditions for dialogue and ultimately for the end to the conflict that were impossible as long as that balance of power was unchallenged.

I would argue that we are beginning to see, I don’t think it’s yet at full speed, but we’re beginning to see a similar loss of legitimacy for Zionism and for the practices that Israel has engaged in. And many Israelis worry about this very openly. I am convinced that the loss of legitimacy of the Zionist idea, of the idea of a special state for a special people, is irreversible, that that cannot be resurrected in the 21st century, a time when we at least preach if not practice universal rights and equality. Israel’s self image as a liberal Jewish and democratic state is impossible to maintain against the reality of a militarized, ultranationalist, sectarian Jewish settler colony that has to carry out regular massacres of indigenous civilians in order to maintain its control. Zionism simply cannot bomb, kidnap, assassinate, expel, demolish, settle, and lie its way to legitimacy and acceptance, and 62 years of Palestinian steadfastness, sumud, resistance have proven that time and again.

As I’ve mentioned, it’s ever harder to disguise this loss of legitimacy when you have a Jewish minority ruling over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority. Recently you will have noticed the Israeli government’s new demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s quote unquote right to exist as a Jewish state as a condition for peace. Many people are outraged by that. I’m frankly quite comforted by it. [laughter] Because I’ll tell you why. Because that demand is really an acknowlwedgment of failure. It’s an acknowledgement that without Palestinian consent the Zionist project and the Jewish ethnocracy in Palestine cannot be maintained, and I think it has zero long term prospects.

And I think what is so significant about the moment we’re in is that the Israel lobby, the many pro-Israel groups in this country and around the world recognize this moment, and if you look back to last spring, to May, a speech given by the executive director of AIPAC at its annual policy conference, AIPAC is of course the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, and this was just months after the massacres in Gaza, and Howard Kohr the executive director made really quite a remarkable and revealing speech in which he talks about the increasing discourse about the illegitimacy of what Israel is doing and how it’s constituted. It says, “The epicenter of this campaign” –he talks about what he calls the campaign of the delegitimization of Israel– I would say that Israel has delegitimized itself through its actions, but let’s stay with him for a minute.
The epicenter of this campaign may be in the Middle East, but the campaign doesn’t stop there. It echoes in the halls of the United Nations and the capitals of Europe. But the campaign doesn’t stop there. It is voiced without shame and without sanction in meetings of international organizations that claim peace and partnership as their mandate. But the campaign doesn’t stop It is coming home right here to the United States. We see it already on our college campuses, America’s elite institutions of higher learning, the places we’ve entrusted with the education of our children. But the campaign doesn’t stop there. No longer is this campaign confined to the ravings of the political far left or far right, but increasingly it is entering the American mainstream: an ordinary political discourse on our T.V. and radio talk shows, in the pages of our major newspapers and in countless blogs, in town hall meetings, on campuses and city squares, in Los Angeles, in Fort Lauderdale, in Chicago–

He calls this and this I think is very crucial to understand the fear of the Israel lobby—“this is a conscious campaign to shift policy, to transform the way Israel is treated by its friends to a state that deserves not our support, but our contempt”—I’m skipping—“These voices are laying the predicate for abandonment, they’re making the case for Israel’s unworthiness to be allowed what is for any nation the first and foremost fundamental right, the right to self defense."

Of course that’s in the context of the massacres in Gaza that he supports. So he goes on in this light. And it’s quite interesting. There’s one thing that I thought was very funny. Not funny but striking. He says, “This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the world. A battle in which the defamation of Israel”– what I would call arguing for equal rights and justice and accountability—“is like the artillery before the main assault, the key element in the softening up of the target.”

This is so striking, three months after Gaza, he’s talking about us using artillery, we who are talking about the nonviolent BDS movement are the ones using artillery, and Israel, which rained white phosphorus and howitzer shells on residential neighborhoods and schools and mosques and ministry buildings and police stations across Gaza is the victim. It’s a very interesting reversal of language.
Finally, what’s the solution from the perspective of AIPAC? He says, "So this evening let me say to everyone in this room, We have a job to do, we have a story to tell, a story that’s often overlooked. And that is a remarkable story of the true Israel.”

I think we actually have exactly the same job! [laughter]

“We must tell the story of Israel, who she is, what she does, and what she stands for in the world—“ Again we have the same mission. “And that truth will defeat the deformed vision of hate that seeks to separate Israel from her friends.” Yeah! [laughter]

What is that message, and this is the crucial point: At the end of the period of managed occupation, when the apartheid and colonial reality of the Israeli system is laid bare, what is the message? What is the story they have to tell?

Here’s what it amounts to: "Israel the only country in the middle east to host a gay pride parade. The Israel that draws energy from the sun, water from the air. The Israel that takes seriously the admonition to be a light unto the nations. The country that opened its doors to the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, Ethiopian jews in the 1980s and 90s. To refugees from more than 100 countries." Except Palestine! "People from different cultures and countries that have built new lives in Israel.
What’s interesting about this is you’ve got a couple of themes here. The gay pride parade, they call that gaywashing. When you use the idea that Israel has a gay pride parade. So that makes it OK to attack schools with white phosphorus. That’s called gay washing. That Israel draws energy from the sun and water from the air. That’s called green washing.

That Israel takes seriously the admonition to be a light unto the nations, that it opens its doors to refugees, etc. Well you may have seen the headline in Haaretz two weeks ago, that Israel is considering setting up what it calls work camps in the Negev desert for refugees mostly from Africa who are awaiting ajudication of their asylum claims, and the deal according to Haaretz was that the refugees would be housed in this camp, they would be bused to places during the day where they would work, and they would then be returned to camps in the evening, and in exchange they would receive food. I think there’s a term for that. It’s called slavery. Because even slaves for the most part received room and board, just as a matter of keeping them alive. So the Israel that is open to refugees is an Israel that in 2009 is considering setting up slave labor camps.

The point that I want to make from this is that I don’t think there is a message. You cannot gay wash and greenwash and white wash your way out of this. You cannot say well, Israel makes wonderful pharmaceuticals so don’t worry about what’s happening in Gaza. It’s not going to work. It’s too late for that. And I think that the failure, I think this message cannot be retooled. And I think we’re at a point where Israel is still incredibly powerful. But I think in a sense it is running on inertia, accumulated power, accumulated prestige. It’s like someone whose bank account is very full, but they’re spending it, and they have to spend it very quickly.

Now we in our movement have a very small bank account. Im not talking literally about money, I’m taking about political power and moral legitimacy and support and a just vision that includes everyone. We have a small bank account, but we have an income. We’re growing it. Israel has a big bank account but there’s no income. I don’t see Israel being able to recruit a new generation to carry this message. I think that the success of American Jews is that they’re fully integrated into this society, that young American Jews have imbibed the universal message of the civil rights movement, and they want nothing to do with this thing… Israel is like a lemon and these Israel lobby groups have to try to sell it as if it’s a Lexus, and nobody is buying this lemon anymore.

Now that may sound a little bit rosy and I don’t want to make you think this is is all very easy and inevitable. Because it isn’t. The other side of this, which is very very important, is that there is a tremendous, tremendous struggle to be waged, which is why the work that you’re doing in this movement is so important. And a just outcome is not inevitable. Israel has tremendous power, it has the capacity to do tremendous violence. There are many people who think Gaza 2009 was just a foretaste of what’s to come, and the Israelis will go for broke, and they will try to do once again what they have failed to do for so long, which is to try cow and terrorize the Palestinians and other Arab peoples into submission.

So there are enormous dangers, it’s not inevitable. But what makes another attack on Gaza or on other parts of Palestine less likely every day is what we do. The more ruckus we raise, the more difficult we make it for Israeli war criminals to speak on our campuses, the more we raise awareness about the impact of Israeli occupation on Palestinians throughout the country, on the racism and second-class status of Palestinian citizens in Israel, the more people are aware through BDS activism, the harder it is for Israel to act freely. We have to provide the accountability with this movement that our governments have failed to provide, that the United Nations has failed to provide.

You will face many enemies, one of them is called J Street. [Applause] They took notice of you. I’m sure many of you have seen the press release which came out on Thursday, which says, "The upcoming conference at Hampshire College promotes the misguided BDS movement against Israel." Here’s the good news. "This movement is spreading like wildfire–" [cheers] "–On campuses across the country, and we’re all going to get burned unless we speak out now."

So they come up with this pathetic idea of, Invest two bucks, two dollars for two states. Is there any one in this room who will give me two dollars for two states? [Cry: Never!] I’m going to auction off the two-state solution. Two dollars? A dollar fifty? I see a dollar up there. But they say–this is serious, they say, join our Invest, don’t divest campaign to raise money for two organizations. Lend for, a Palestinian micro finance organization set up by students like us. And the Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development, which promotes Jewish-Arab economic cooperation in Israel.
It’s important to know that these sorts of joint projects, most likely, I haven’t looked at these specific ones, are projects that were designed to give the impression of equality and reciprocity and that don’t challenge the reality of injustice– they violate the Palestinian call for Boycott, divestment and sanctions. It’s really important to understand that they will push these things on your campuses in order to divert your attention and make people push their energy in a direction where it will have no impact whatsoever, because these sorts of feel-good joint projects, which are designed to legitimize Israel by saying, Oh let’s just get along, have been tried for years and years and they’ve made no difference.

There is a great sense that after trying to ignore the BDS movement for many years, it is starting to really get the notice of Israel. There was an article in the Financial Times yesterday. The headline, "Israel shrugs off economic boycott activism." There’s a lot of bravado. They’re saying, You know it really hasn’t made much impact, and we can weather it. But the fact is, it is in the Financial Times, they’re starting to take notice. Today there is an article on ynet… the most widely read website in israel…The headline, my translation, "Boycotts against Israel, are they succeeding and hurting?" This is today… It is affecting them, they are noticing, and they’re starting to get worried about it. So if you ever think, if you’re ever told, oh, this will never work, just read the Israeli press.

It is starting to have the effect that we want, of forcing the Israelis to do what they don’t want to do, which is some introspection, some real rethinking of the situation and how to get out of it.
I want to close with some observations about what comes next. I think– I’ve argued, and I don’t think it’s a tough case to make in this room, that BDS is essential, BDS is a tool to level the playing field, to provide solidarity and strength to Palestinians who are resisting, and standing steadfast, wherever they are, whether in Palestine, in Israel, or in the refugee camps, here in the United States, everywhere where Palestinians are. It’s a way to say– you know, many people say the Palestinians are among the most lectured people on earth. They’re always told, if you’re the U.S. secretary of state, Palestians must do more, and then there’s a whole list. And even friends of the Palestinans, say, you know, if only the Palestinians could be more like Gandhi. I hear that all the time. They never say to the Israelis, if only the Israelis could be more like Gandhi. Can you imagine the Israeli settlers behaving like Gandhi. There wouldn’t be any settlements, that’s for sure.

I think those words are very cheap. To tell people who are fighting for their very existence, not to resist, not to use violence, from the safety of Canada or the US, is a bit rich. [applause] But that doesn’t mean that we should abandon a belief in nonviolence, or that we should advocate violence. I’m certainly not saying we should advocate violence. [applause] I’m simply saying if you’re against violence, then provide an alternative, and the alternative is BDS. As Fayyad [Sbaihat] said this morning [on a panel]… Do you have any better ideas?

This is a proven strategy. This is a tactic that will work. As we saw in this morning’s session, It’s a noble and honorable strategy that worked in the civil rights movement. It worked in the case of South Africa… it worked in Northern Ireland, with the MacBride principles… to divest in companies that discriminated against native Irish Catholics in the north of Ireland…There are many examples of BDS and BDS-like strategies working. So the alternative is up to us to provide.

There is now this hot debate about a one-state solution or two-state solution. And many people have honest questions about it. You know where I stand. But that doesn’t mean you have to agree with me. But the BDS call, the call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel from Palestinian civil society does not call for a one state solution or a two state solution. It names three kinds of Israeli injustice and oppression that have to be ended.

One, denial of Israel’s responsibility for the Nakba, and particularly the waves of ethnic cleansing and dispossession that created the Palestinian refugee problem, and therefore refusal to accept the inalienable rights of the refugees displaced, and stipulated and protected by international law. Secondly, military occupation and colonization of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza. And thirdly, the entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel that resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa.

It’s important that whether you think about one state or two state, that all these forms of oppression have to be ended. If tomorrow we woke up and saw that Israel had withdrawn from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, admittedly not very likely, that leaves 2/3 of the problem intact. The oppression of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the racist oppression of Palestinian refugees who are denied the right to return to their homeland for the sole reason that they’re from the wrong ethnic group, that’s simply unconscionable in the 21st century.

It’s important to keep our eye on all three aspects of the systematic injustice against Palestinians. And to recognize– we can discuss and debate and we can advocate what an outcome would look like. I think we need to have that discussiona, and with the corercion of the BDS movement, to begin to have a vision, that can start to draw Israelis, once they recognize that the present system is untenable. And BDS creates the conditions for us to begin to have that discussion.

I want to end by saying something that really I believe very, very deeply when I look around this room. When I think of my parents and the parents of many other people in this room, many Palestinians in this room and beyond this room– my parents were from the generation that lived through the Nakba, that lost their homes and lost their country, and they were among the lucky ones. But those in Gaza, 80 percent of people in Gaza are refugees. In Lebanon, in Syria, in Jordan. All over the world, I believe that that generation, the first generation of the Nakba, who is now getting on in years, but hamdililah many of them are still young and in good health and may they live long lives, but that generation deserves to see justice in its lifetime. [applause]
And when I look around this room, I am convinced with all my heart and all my mind, that this is the generation that is going to help them see that justice. Be patient and stay in it for the long haul, history is on our side, and we can win. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama's West Point Speech...

What to say? Yawn? You've already got one Noble Peace prize for making a speech? Obama's can opener problem?

At the heart of Obama's Afghan policy (I refuse to use the risible AfPak term) lies the political need to plan for an exit to avoid open-endedness and the disastrous effects that situation would have on approval ratings. And that plan relies of course on the not-so-fabled Afghan Security forces (Army and Police). It appears that building this fighting force that would have to be ready and willing to take on the Taleban forces and win that engagement in some eighteen months from now, is running hopelessly behind schedule, if it's really happening at all.

Ann Jones in "Meet the Afghan Army (Is It a Figment of Washington's Imagination?)" is on a lively debunking tour of some of the myths that surrounds this thus far not so great fighting force:

The big Afghanistan debate in Washington is not over whether more troops are needed, but just who they should be: Americans or Afghans -- Us or Them. Having just spent time in Afghanistan seeing how things stand, I wouldn't bet on Them.

Frankly, I wouldn't bet on Us either. In eight years, American troops have worn out their welcome. Their very presence now incites opposition, but that's another story. It's Them -- the Afghans -- I want to talk about.

Afghans are Afghans. They have their own history, their own culture, their own habitual ways of thinking and behaving, all complicated by a modern experience of decades of war, displacement, abject poverty, and incessant meddling by foreign governments near and far -- of which the United States has been the most powerful and persistent. Afghans do not think or act like Americans. Yet Americans in power refuse to grasp that inconvenient point.

In the heat of this summer, I went out to the training fields near Kabul where Afghan army recruits are put through their paces, and it was quickly evident just what's getting lost in translation. Our trainers, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard, were masterful. Professional and highly skilled, they were dedicated to carrying out their mission -- and doing the job well. They were also big, strong, camouflaged, combat-booted, supersized American men, their bodies swollen by flak jackets and lashed with knives, handguns, and god only knows what else. Any American could be proud of their commitment to tough duty.

The Afghans were puny by comparison: Hundreds of little Davids to the overstuffed American Goliaths training them. Keep in mind: Afghan recruits come from a world of desperate poverty. They are almost uniformly malnourished and underweight. Many are no bigger than I am (5'4" and thin) -- and some probably not much stronger. Like me, many sag under the weight of a standard-issue flack jacket.

Their American trainers spoke of "upper body strength deficiency" and prescribed pushups because their trainees buckle under the backpacks filled with 50 pounds of equipment and ammo they are expected to carry. All this material must seem absurd to men whose fathers and brothers, wearing only the old cotton shirts and baggy pants of everyday life and carrying battered Russian Kalashnikov rifles, defeated the Red Army two decades ago. American trainers marvel that, freed from heavy equipment and uniforms, Afghan soldiers can run through the mountains all day -- as the Taliban guerrillas in fact do with great effect -- but the U.S. military is determined to train them for another style of war.

Still, the new recruits turn out for training in the blistering heat in this stony desert landscape wearing, beneath their heavy uniforms, the smart red, green, and black warm-up outfits intended to encourage them to engage in off-duty exercise. American trainers recognize that recruits regularly wear all their gear at once for fear somebody will steal anything left behind in the barracks, but they take this overdressing as a sign of how much Afghans love the military. My own reading, based on my observations of Afghan life during the years I've spent in that country, is this: It's a sign of how little they trust one another, or the Americans who gave them the snazzy suits. I think it also indicates the obvious: that these impoverished men in a country without work have joined the Afghan National Army for what they can get out of it (and keep or sell) -- and that doesn't include democracy or glory.

In the current policy debate about the Afghan War in Washington, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin wants the Afghans to defend their country. Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the committee, agrees but says they need even more help from even more Americans. The common ground -- the sacred territory President Obama gropes for -- is that, whatever else happens, the U.S. must speed up the training of "the Afghan security forces."

American military planners and policymakers already proceed as if, with sufficient training, Afghans can be transformed into scale-model, wind-up American Marines. That is not going to happen. Not now. Not ever. No matter how many of our leaders concur that it must happen -- and ever faster.


Almost eight years and counting since the "mentoring" process began, officers at the Kabul Military Training Center report that the army now numbers between 88,000 and 92,000 soldiers, depending on who you talk to; and the basic training course financed and led by Americans, called "Basic Warrior Training," is turning out 28,800 new soldiers every year, according to a Kabul Military Training Center "fact sheet." The current projected "end strength" for the ANA, to be reached in December 2011, is 134,000 men; but Afghan officers told me they're planning for a force of 200,000, while the Western press often cites 240,000 as the final figure.

The number 400,000 is often mentioned as the supposed end-strength quota for the combined security forces -- an army of 240,000 soldiers and a police force with 160,000 men. Yet Afghan National Police officials also speak of a far more inflated figure, 250,000, and they claim that 149,000 men have already been trained. Police training has always proven problematic, however, in part because, from the start, the European allies fundamentally disagreed with the Bush administration about what the role of the Afghan police should be. Germany initiated the training of what it saw as an unarmed force that would direct traffic, deter crime, and keep civic order for the benefit of the civilian population. The U.S. took over in 2003, handed the task off to a private for-profit military contractor, DynCorp, and proceeded to produce a heavily armed, undisciplined, and thoroughly venal paramilitary force despised by Kabulis and feared by Afghan civilians in the countryside.


Like army training, police training, too, was accelerated months ago to insure "security" during the run-up to the presidential election. With that goal in mind, DynCorp mentors shrunk the basic police training course from eight weeks to three, after which the police were dispatched to villages all across the country, including areas controlled by the Taliban. After the election, the surviving short-course police "soldiers" were to be brought back to Kabul for the rest of the basic training program. There's no word yet on how many returned.

You have to wonder about the wisdom of rushing out this half-baked product. How would you feel if the police in your community were turned loose, heavily armed, after three weeks of training? And how would you feel if you were given a three-week training course with a rubber gun and then dispatched, with a real one, to defend your country?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Obama's Afghan Can Opener...

What's the connection between a desert island, a chemist, an engineer, an economist (all three marooned on the island), some cans of food, an absent can opener, the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Obama? In Tony Karon's excellent (and slightly humourous) analysis, the ANA is Obama's exit strategy, the can opener the three shipwrecked don't have (but neither does Obama).

Faced with rapidly decreasing approval ratings of 'Obama's War' and the US public
increasing demands for guarantees that this conflict will not be open-ended, Obama now needs an exit strategy. And so, much hope is pinned on the ANA as Afghanistan's can opener. But does the can opener really exist? According the Karon and his quoted sources, to state so would be "somewhat fanciful". The whole piece is very well worth reading but you might want to watch the following Grauniad video first: US soldiers view their Afghan counterparts as ill-disciplined, badly led and with a crippling taste for hashish.

Ultima ratio Regis it ain't...