December 31, 2008

UK telecom to Israel: take your ethnic cleansing and shove it

From YNet:

British telecommunications firm FreedomCall has terminated its
cooperation with Israel's MobileMax due to the IDF operation in Gaza.

"We received an email from the British company informing us that it
is severing all ties with us and any other Israeli company following
Israel's strike in Gaza," said CEO Raanan Cohen.

Destruction of a university and Engage is silent

Well Engage isn't entirely silent. Certain Engageniks have run posts on other blogs supporting Israel's bombardment of Gaza, including the destruction of the Islamic University. I suppose there is a certain consistency to Engage's claim to be simply against antisemitism and not reporting on this issue but they were remarkably supportive of Israel's bombardment of Lebanon back in 2006 so it is a surprise that there has been nothing on their site defending or condemning Israel's actions in Gaza these last few days.

Instead, they have chosen to focus on antisemitism in a Greek newspaper that has almost no web presence. I am glad that they have run the post because the comments are very interesting, in fact they're hilarious. I don't know if Hirsh has been sock puppeting again but there are some real howlers in response to a (I'll assume) chap called "Resistor". He seems to have had his first comment deleted but someone has helpfully repeated it:
Does David Hirsh think that Palestinians should follow the Israeli example and bomb Israeli universities?
Responses are so predictable. Of course there have been Palestinian bombings at educational establishments in Israel but then they start justifying what Israel did by references to Hamas leaders graduating from the University destroyed by Israel. Look out Oxbridge if that's the excuse. And didn't some 9/11 hijackers graduate from American flying schools? Are they legitimate targets.

See how many commenters say that "Resistor" has missed the point. Engage claims to be against antisemitism and for academic freedom. A university has been destroyed. Where does Engage stand on that? Does it believe that Israel has an excuse? That's all. But then look at what "Resistor" is accused of before they finally getting around to declaring that he's antisemitic. They usually lead on that one. Look:

This is a post about open antisemitism in Greece. Did that escape your attention, or is it something that you feel the need to divert attention from?
Got that? "Resistor" is yabbering on about Israeli atrocities in Gaza, in particular the destruction of a university as if these are issues when the real issue is antisemitism in a Greek newspaper.

At the time of writing the post had 47 comments, the last being from John Strawson. If you can understand what he's saying then please let me know.

They now have another post up and that's Dr Hirsh's letter to Channel 4 complaining that they had Ahmadinejad on at Christmas and he has posted their response.

Meanwhile Gaza still burns and the good doctor hasn't been drawn into discussions about Gaza. A bit like Obama when you think about it.

More on Sderot

I wrote earlier why Hamas is legally entitled to use Qassams in order to deter Israeli violence. The tragedy of Sderot is that nobody in Israel cares about the people of Sderot beyond the lip service to their utility as sacrificial lambs for the "national cause" (i.e. the cause of ethnic cleansing and apartheid.) And conversely, nobody in Hamas appears to be aware of deep cynicism that characterizes the attitude of the Israeli political echelon to the fate of Sderot.

Well, some Sderot residents are stepping up to the task and speaking for themselves. This from Ynet:

Despite the ongoing rocket attacks on their town from Gaza in the last several years, some 500 Sderot residents have recently signed a petition calling to stop the IDF operation in the Strip and renew the truce with Hamas.

Arik Yalin, 43, from Sderot told Ynet that over 1,800 Israelis and Palestinians have already joined the petition. "About a month ago we realized that the situation was about to deteriorate into total chaos," he explained.

"It's important for us to voice an opinion that represents quite a few residents who live within the rocket range but who believe that we can, and should try to resolve this ongoing conflict in a peaceful manner.

"We have experienced the terrible hardship of life under rocket fire for the past eight years, and it has deeply hurt us both mentally and physically. Our need to voice a different stance stems from the strong desire to change the situation and begin negotiations with the other side in order to stop the violence," he added...

The "Different Voice" group, which was formed by Yalin and his friends, seeks to promote dialogue between Israel and the Hamas leadership in Gaza. Dozens of the group members maintain constant contact with several of Gaza's residents. (Ynet, Dec 29, 2008)

I just want to point that that Sderot has 20,000 residents. This means that 2.5% of the residents of Sderot signed. This is in fact a huge number if you consider the social pressure that exists in Israel against such initiatives.

The petition that calls on the government to keep the peace is here in Hebrew. Unfortunately no translation, but see my translation below. It is very much a local initiative. The petition begins with recognizing the sucess of the cease fire. (that ceasefire that the Zionist Hasbara claims never worked, because they really care!)
The period of clam change the lives of the people of Sderot, Ashkelon and the region beyond recognition, allowing all of us to experience again a life that is more normal and sane. The continuation of this calm is essential and criticial to the residents of the region from every possible aspect: physical, mental, spiritual and economic.

Another round of escalation may break our already brittle spirit, and take us all to another round of self-destruction and pointless bloodshed. It is not certain that we will survive. And you must be aware of that, if you indeed care about the residents of this area. We've been through this movie too many years--and results speak for themselves: feeling trapped, abandonment, and hopelessness for us and our children!
the petition continues:
On the other side of the border live a million and a half Palestinians under unbearable conditions, and most of them want, like we do, calm and the opportunity of a future for themselves and their families.

We live in the feeling that you have wasted that period of calm, instead of using it to advance understandings and begin negotiations, as well as for fortifying the houses of residents as promised.

We call on the Prime Minister and the Defense minister not to listen to the voices of incitement and do everything they can to avoid another round of escalation, to secure the continuation of the calm and to work...towards direct or indirect negotiations with the Palestinian leadership in Gaza in order to reach long term understandings.

We prefer a cold war without a single rocket to a hot war with dozens of victims and innocent fatalities on both sides.

We ask you to offer us the possibility of political arrangement and hope and not an endless cycle of blood.

This petition has been gathering signatures in Israel since the 11th of November. Needless to say, it was ignored by the murderous office holders of Israel.


see also

December 30, 2008

The Case for Armageddon

The New York Times again gives space to the nutty Benny Morris. Benny Morris is a liar. That was never a problem in the home paper of Judith Miller. Benny Morris is also a white racist who openly supported ethnic cleansing and genocide in print. That is not a disqualification for the Times editors. After all, they also publish Thomas Friedman, Ethan Bronner, and dozen of others who could qualify, even if none is as explicit as Morris. Besides, if support for genocide were a disqualification, the whole Washington establishment would have to be banned from the op-ed page.

But Benny Morris is also certifiably nuts. He advocates that Israel go on a path that by his own claim leads straight to the apocalypse. If he were not Jewish, there is no way the Times would have allowed him out of the straight jacket, not to mention publish him. Can you imagine the Times allowing someone to make the case for a nuclear war against Russia? But if Israel wants to blow itself up together with all its neighbors in one last act of Zionist nihilism, the Times wouldn't want to discourage that. And that is what passes as being "pro-Israel" in the U.S.

(as for why Morris is a liar, white supremacist and insane, see my Diagnosing Benny Morris: The Mind of a European Settler and Imagine all the People, Living Like Mindless Lambs.)

Morris is again promoting the assured self-destruction of Israel and everybody.

I'll parse while pointing out the lies, misstatements and insanities.

To capture the reader's sympathy, Morris starts with recounting how Israelis felt about to be destroyed in the months leading to the 1967 war. Morris however fails to mention that in this they were deceived by the ruling junta and its official media. Thankfully, the L.A. Times published a short review of Tom Segev's book about 1967. And thankfully, the reviewer is Bacevich and not an American who served in the IDF. Here's Bacevich:
Segev bluntly dismisses the charge that they were plotting to destroy Israel: “[T]here was no existential danger to the state.” Drawing on Israeli and U.S. sources, he presents considerable evidence to support that judgment ... the decisive political relationship was not between rival parties but between the army and the government. In effect, that relationship tilted in favor of the Israel Defense Forces...In 1967, IDF senior officers, led by chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin, were hankering for war. They exuded confidence. Given half a chance, they were certain that they could defeat any combination of Arab armies. Throughout the spring, the generals pressed a reluctant Cabinet to unleash the IDF...Rabin and other IDF leaders based their argument for war on Israel’s need to project an image of a deeper level they embraced war as a means of demolishing once and for all the image of the Jew as weak, passive and dependent. Pressing for war, the generals saw themselves as Sabra warriors facing weak-spirited politicians” with one foot still in the shtetl. To members of the general staff, Rabin disparagingly referred to Eshkol and his ministers as “the Jews,”...(L.A. Times) (my emphasis)

1967 was just another war that happened because the Israeli ruling junta wanted war, not because of any of forbodings or "closing walls".
First, the Arab and wider Islamic worlds, despite Israeli hopes since 1948 and notwithstanding the peace treaties signed by Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, have never truly accepted the legitimacy of Israel’s creation and continue to oppose its existence.
Well, maybe all these neighbors are trying to tell you something. Perhaps building a state on ethnic cleansing is not the best way to make lasting friendships. Could it be that joining France and Britain in an attack on Egypt in 1956 left some bitter taste in some people's mouths? Perhaps Dir Yassin, Qibia, and other monuments for Israel's contribution to peace were off-putting to at least some in the audience? Maybe 40 years of occupation and building settlements in the West Bank were not among the top ten Jewish contributions to the world? Perhaps invading Lebanon in 1982 to prevent the U.S. from recognizing the PLO was not as good a way of making new friends as a page on Facebook? Could it be that using Arafat's weakness to force even more settlements in the West Bank during Oslo was what we usually call "being too smart by half"? Perhaps shooting one million live bullets at unarmed demonstrators in 2000 was a bit "excessive"? Maybe allowing types like Baruch Goldstein to live in Hebron is not the kind of thing you do if you already have difficulties getting along with neighbors?

So many questions that Morris could ask, if he were interested in helping Israel NOT go down fighting in a blaze of fire. But I guess raising such a wimpish distaste for dramatic suicide puts me for Morris among those people young Rabin called "the Jews."
Second, public opinion in the West (and in democracies, governments can’t be far behind) is gradually reducing its support for Israel...
Allow me to take some tiny morsel of credit for that! I have had the privilege to be one of the many, many (including my fellows here at JSF) who have spent a good deal of their lives working to educate our fellow citizens on Israel's real record. It's been a long fight and we're far from the finish line. But it's nice to see the ground we have gained acknowledged in the paper of record. Encore un effort, les amis!
...the Arab states are increasingly powerful and assertive.
Really? which Arab states are powerful and assertive? Egypt, governed by sclerosis? The Playstation king of Jordan (copyright Angry Arab)? Iraq? Qatar? Did an actual historian wrote that idiotic sentence?
Iran is frantically advancing its nuclear project, which ... most of the world’s intelligence agencies believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons.
This is a white lie. First, very few of the world's intelligence agencies actually publish what they believe, so Morris has no way of knowing what "most" believe. As for those who do, the opposite is true. (but then, liers lie. what did you expect?)
To the south, Israel faces the Islamist Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and whose charter promises to destroy Israel and bring every inch of Palestine under Islamic rule and law.
And the leaders of that Islamic movement have all asserted their readiness to lay down their weapons on the basis of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders (although without recognizing Israel). Yet this Islamic movement has to its north a state that wouldn't accept any of the over dozen peace proposal offered by various Palestinian and Arab parties over the last sixty years and has shown nothing but consistent bad faith in every negotiation.
In November and early December, Hamas stepped up the rocket attacks and then, unilaterally, formally announced the end of the truce.
See my previous post below. Some important things happened before Hamas "stepped up the rocket attacks" that Morris is mum about, and that makes the whole sentence as truthful as Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman."
Over the past two decades, Israel’s 1.3 million Arab citizens have been radicalized, with many openly avowing a Palestinian identity and embracing Palestinian national aims. Their spokesmen say that their loyalty lies with their people rather than with their state, Israel.
Just a thought. Could that have anything to do with the fact that "their state" claims, officially, not to be their state, but rather the state of all the Jews in the world? Could it have something to do with how, in accordance with that "Jewish" nature, that state has for sixty years targeted them, expropriated them, immiserated them, whipped up racist sentiment against them, and discriminated against them in every imaginable way and a few that only an Israeli bureaucrat could imagine?

Nah! why would I think that? Maybe because of what Morris says next:
Demography, if not Arab victory in battle, offers the recipe for such a dissolution. The birth rates for Israeli Arabs are among the highest in the world, with 4 or 5 children per family (as opposed to the 2 or 3 children per family among Israeli Jews).
No point debating the racism. It is simply appalling that it appears in print in a paper whose readers describe themselves as "liberal." But consider this. The fertility rate of ultra orthodox Jews is above 7 children per woman, much higher than the Muslim fertility rate and probably a world record. Among school children the ultra orthodox in Israel are already approaching 18%, compared to Palestinians who make 28% of school children. Many secular Israelis (just 41% of school children) fear the ultra-orthodox ascendancy as much as they fear the Arab one. Indeed what secular Israelis fear most is the absolute certainty that their cultural hegemony and control of the state is soon to be over one way or another. Many Israeli parties have catered to that fear ( Meretz, Shinui, etc.). Funny how that demographic threat Morris leaves out. Is it because he knows which kind of racist sentiment is marketable to New York Times readers and which isn't?
Israel’s sense of the walls closing in on it has this past week led to one violent reaction. Given the new realities, it would not be surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.
From Morris's other writings (see my links above) I would assume that the omnious reference at the end is to nuclear war and genocide.

Here's an alternative:

Tear down those walls. Recognize the crimes you committed. Give back the loot. Open the borders. Commit to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.

And please please find a shrink who will help you manage that death wish you have in a way that is less destructive to people around you and to yourself.

(a hat tip to Adam Horowitz who also noted the mad historian.)

On Sderot and Ashkelon

I will not minimize the very real suffering of the people living in Sderot (and now also Ashdod and Ashkelon) today. That suffering is not on the same scale as the suffering in Gaza, but it is still unqualifiably horrible.

These towns are on the receiving end of rocket fire, however innaccurate, and they have been so for many years. There are casualties, property damage, and years of psychological scars from stress and fear. The criminals responsible for the suffering in Sderot and Ashkelon ought to be tried at the Hague and sent to prison. That would be first and foremost Olmert, Barak and Livni.

It is an article of faith that Israel, however disproportionately, is defending itself against those crude projectiles Hamas is lobbing into its territory. This story is accepted by all the white powers, from the U.S. to Britain, Germany, etc. Even the states that criticize Israel assume that Israel has the right to defend itself. For example,
The Swiss Foreign Ministry acknowledged that Israel has a right to protect itself but condemned Saturday's attacks on Gaza City as "excessive," ( Xinhua )

(An Israeli woman wept at the scene of a
Palestinian rocket attack in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images)

The mainstream media naturally repeats conventional political wisdom unthinkingly. More disheartening is the wide currency given this idea in the less gullible blogosphere, even among supporters of Palestinian rights.

Let's ignore for the moment the fact that Gaza is just one part of a larger Palestinian people and Israel is an occupying colonial power facing legitimate resistance. Let's pretend for the moment that the fiction that Gaza and Israel face each other as two quasi-states within the framework of international law holds. I make these assumption for the sake of argument only, because even under those assumptions that are favorable to Israel, Israel is the criminal and Hamas is legitimately defending itself.

Hamas and Israel agreed on a ceasefire in June 2008. Soon afterward, rockets continued to be fired at Israel. Hamas had difficulties controlling the territory, which wouldn't be surprising in the best of cases, but was especially understandable in view of the very difficult conditions under which Hamas acceded to power. Nevertheless, Hamas sought and succeeded in bringing the number of violations down to a trickle. As Hamas consolidated its power after the attempted Fatah putsch, violations decreased and clearly demonstrated Hamas's bona fide effort to keep the peace. This can be ascertained even from Zionist propaganda, The Hasbara site Elder of Zion keeps a calendar of projectiles lobbed at Israel. One sees clearly that after the first two weeks of the ceasefire the number of Palestinian violations drops precipitously in August and is near zero during September and October. The numbers flare up exactly on November 4, 2008, and for a very good reason:

On that day Israel violated the ceasefire with an air attack coupled with a land invasion. Here is the detailed report from the PCHR office in Gaza: approximately 20:30 on Tuesday, 4 November, an IOF infantry unit moved almost 400 meters into Wadi al-Salqa village, east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. IOF troops raided a house belonging to Mofeed Suleiman al-Rumaili. They held the family hostage in one room, and used the house as a military base. Additional IOF troops besieged a house belonging to Hassan Suleiman al-Humiadi, using a megaphone to order the twenty three residents to leave the building.

Clashes subsequently erupted between the IOF troops and members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas). Three members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades were injured, one of them seriously. IOF subsequently sent reinforcements into the area, supported by aircrafts. At approximately 22:30, an IOF aircraft fired a missile at members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades, killing Mazen Nazmi Abu Sa’da (32). In the early hours of Wednesday, 5 November, IOF destroyed al-Humaidi’s house, razed 2.5 donumms of agricultural land, and also arrested six members of the family, including four women.

In Khan Yunis, at approximately midnight on Wednesday, 5 November, an IOF aircraft fired two missiles at four members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades in the east of al-Qarara village, near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The four members of the Brigades were killed...Approximately an hour later, IOF aircrafts fired two missiles at another group of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades in Street No. 2 in the east of al-Qarara village. A member of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades was killed. (PCHR Gaza)
Israel claimed that this invasion "did not constitute a violation of the cease fire". I kid you not. As you probably remember, November 4th was elections day in the U.S., so the operation was carefully planned to achieve minimum headlines. This was achieved, as practically all news of the incursion start with the Hamas reaction, see a compilation at From Occupied Palestine, with Love.

Hence, fact number one. Hamas kept its side of the bargain as good as one can expect from a government operating under so much stress and with so little resources. Improving the safety of residents in Sderot and Ashkelon would have required simply helping Hamas improve its governance. That wouldn't have been too difficult had the goal of Israel and its Western backers not been the very opposite.

Second, during the cease fire, Israel implemented a siege as well as a naval blockade of Gaza. Sieges and blockades are acts of war under international law. The best witness to that is Israel itself. In 1967 Nassser closed the Tiran straits to Israeli ships. "Citing international law, Israel considered the closure of the straits to be illegal, and it had stated it would consider such a blockade a Casus Belli" (wikipedia).

Note that Israel considered the closure of the Tiran straits a casus belli, even though the practical disruption of its economy as a result of that closure was negligible. Hence, although Nasser's closure was probably illegal, Israel's military response was disproportionate and illegal for certain. This is not the case in Gaza. As all witnesses agree, the siege of Gaza is causing huge suffering and deprivation. There can be no doubt that this is an act of war both in principle and materially and that the Hamas government has every right to resort to force in order to ease the suffering of the population.

To recoup, since the truce of June become effective, Israel violated it in two major ways, first by a devastating siege, and second by a direct military assault inside Gaza.

The government of Gaza had therefore every right to resort to military force in order to bring Israel to end its aggression. The right of Gaza, taken as a sovereign entity, to act militarily in self defense against Israel should be easy to defend within the strictures of international law.

The question remains whether the lobbing of Qassam rockets towards Israeli cities is legitimate as a tactic. For that, one has to answer whether firing Qassams is a) necessary to achieve the goal of convincing Israel to cease its aggression. b) proportionate to the level of aggression that it it is attempting to respond to, and c) not breaching humanitarian law that prohibits certain acts categorically.

As regarding a), necessity, answering yes is not too difficult. Firing Qassam rockets is practically the only military capacity that Gaza has. Therefore Gaza cannot materially apply military force against Israel except by using Qassams. Hence, firing Qassams is necessary if using military force itself is necessary. There is clear indication that military force is necessary and effective in getting Israel to observe the peace. Israel only agreed to withdraw from Gaza as a result of Hamas's previous armed struggle. Israel only agreed to the truce in June 2008 as a result of previous use of Qassam rockets in response to Israeli attacks. There is 60 years of evidence that getting Israel to respect borders requires the application of military force, and since Qassams are the only available military force, getting Israel to respect borders requires the use of Qassams.

As regarding b), proportionality, the case is in no need for arguments. The damage caused by Qassam rockets is so small in comparison of the damage in property and life cause by Israeli attacks as well as by the siege, that Hamas could significantly escalate the harm it causes Israel and still be well within the requirements for proportionality.

c), prohibited acts, presents a greater difficulty. Prima facie, international humanitarian law prohibits attacks on civilians. This prohibition clearly applies to Qassam rockets lobbied at Sderot and Ashkelon. However, accrording to customary international law, it is legal to “respond to an adversary's illegitimate attacks on its civilian population by carrying out reprisal measures against the adversary's civilian objects.” This is the doctrine of "belligerant reprisals." Here is what Finkelstein's says about it:
Now, under international law,…that’s technically called belligerent reprisals–namely, if you target our civilians, we’re going to target yours until you stop…If you check the ICRC, International Committee on the Red Cross, it’s the standard handbook on humanitarian law. It states that there is a large number of countries which accept the principle that belligerent reprisals are illegal. that is you can never target civilians… however it says, it is not a customary rule of international law. In fact the official position of the US and the UK is that civilian reprisals are legal. (Finkelstein by Joel Suarez) (my emphasis )
A siege is an act of war, and the victims of the siege of Gaza are primarily civilians. As such the siege of Gaza has been widely decried as causing a humanitarian crisis and being a breach of humanitarian law. U.N. Rapporteur Richard Falk called it "a crime against humanity." It follows that the government of Gaza is legally, under customary international law, allowed to respond to this attack on its civilian population by attacks on civilian targets in Israel. (and that before even considering the direct bombing of civilian targets in Gaza.)

Hence, it seems to me that all the requirements for legal defensive military response are met and the use of Qassam rockets by Hamas does not constitute a breach of international law and therefore does does not constitute a crime.

That of course does not mean that seeking to kill civilians in Ashkelon and Sderot is moral or the right thing for Hamas to do. It would have been both less morally problematic and more effective if Hamas could successfully target more military targets, or at least Tel-Aviv instead of Sderot. But I will as always avoid passing judgment on what people ought to morally do in extreme situations such as those faced by the people of Gaza, especially since this situation is the result of deliberate common policy of Israel, Western governments, and Arab autocracies. Accountability should be demanded first from those who create hell before it is demanded from those who are forced to live in it.

Perhaps this is an example of the inadequacies of international law. As Finklestein notes, many states would like to see the right to belligerent reprisals expunged from international law. If that were possible, it would be a great improvement. But one need to think carefully about what stands in the way of such a development. Is it sensible to demand that countries value the lives of their assailant's civilians when that assailant shows no respect for their civilians, and while international bodies smack their lips but provide no effective assistance? Belligerent reprisals are a morally problematic response to an immediate war crime. The sensible road to criminalizing belligerent reprisals passes through guaranteeing effective mechanisms for redress against international war crimes in the first place. A functioning international criminal court and a Security Council that punishes Israel for its chronic violations of humanitarian law would go a long way toward making the firing of Qassam rockets into a clear and unambiguous war crime. That is however because they would also make it unnecessary.

This analysis is not intended to minimize the very real suffering of the people living in Sderot (and now also Ashdod and Ashkelon). That suffering is not at the same scale as the suffering of people in Gaza, but it is unqualifiably horrible. These towns are populated by the dispensable non-Ashkenazi people that Zionist leaders sent to border towns intentionally in order to make them hostages in any cross border violence. The sad truth is that Israeli politicians (and affluent Israelis in general) couldn't care less about Sderot and Ashkelon. On the contrary, the pain of their residents are a convenient tool for inflaming the passions, winning elections and justifying aggression, when even Zionist commentators agree that the best way to provide safety for Sderot is to negotiate with Hamas and let Gazans live.

I would like to see the criminals responsible for the current suffering in Sderot and Ashkelon tried at the Hague and sent to prison. That would be first and foremost Olmert, Barak and Livni.

Bathing in blood

By Dave Brown at the Independent. Engage'll love it. They're off the mark, by the way. Dr Hirsh responds to the Gaza bombardment by condemning antisemitism in a Greek newspaper.

December 29, 2008

A poem for Gaza: Remi Kanazi

I never knew death until I saw the bombing of a refugee camp
Craters filled with disfigured ankles and splattered torsos
But no sign of a face, the only impression a fading scream
I never understood pain
Until a seven-year-old girl clutched my hand
Stared up at me with soft brown eyes, waiting for answers
But I didn’t have any
I had muted breath and dry pens in my back pocket
That couldn’t fill pages of understanding or resolution

In her other hand she held the key to her grandmother’s house
But I couldn’t unlock the cell that caged her older brothers
They said, we slingshot dreams so the other side will feel our father’s presence
A craftsman

Built homes in areas where no one was building
And when he fell, he was silent
A .50 caliber bullet tore through his neck shredding his vocal cords
Too close to the wall
His hammer must have been a weapon
He must have been a weapon
Encroaching on settlement hills and demographics

So his daughter studies mathematics
Seven explosions times eight bodies
Equals four Congressional resolutions
Seven Apache helicopters times eight Palestinian villages
Equals silence and a second Nakba
Our birthrate minus their birthrate
Equals one sea and 400 villages re-erected
One state plus two peoples…and she can’t stop crying
Never knew revolution or the proper equation
Tears at the paper with her fingertips
Searching for answers
But only has teachers
Looks up to the sky and see stars of David demolishing squalor with hellfire missiles

She thinks back words and memories of his last hug before he turned and fell
Now she pumps dirty water from wells, while settlements divide and conquer
And her father’s killer sits beachfront with European vernacular
She thinks back words, while they think backwards
Of obscene notions and indigenous confusion

This our land!, she said
She’s seven years old
This our land!, she said
And she doesn’t need a history book or a schoolroom teacher
She has these walls, this sky, her refugee camp
She doesn’t know the proper equation
But she sees my dry pens
No longer waiting for my answers
Just holding her grandmother’s key…searching for ink

Kanazi wrote this Dec. 28.

Israel's academic boycott contd.

Not content with barring a baby from a nursery for being an Arab, Israel has now bombed, indeed "obliterated", according to Ha'aretz, the Islamic University in Gaza as well as lots of people, including, of course, children and lots of homes. The first article I was emailed on the bombing of the Uni was headed, "Israel destroys Islamic University in new wave of strikes on Gaza but this seems to have replaced it at the same url. Anyway, here the original report:
Israel on Monday bombed the Islamic University and a government compound in Gaza City, key centers of Hamas power, in the third day of its aerial assault on the . Witnesses saw fire and smoke at the university, counting six separate airstrikes there just after midnight.
Regardless of media reports, this is causing outrage among ordinary people. I saw that for myself yesterday on the demo.

Also, Obama's refusal to comment on this latest batch of war crimes may be significant if only to suggest that Obama wants to project a more reasonable image than offering open vocal support to a regime for whom violence appears to be and end itself.

Now Israel has targeted a Palestinian university you might expect Engage to at least say something but no, not a word. Don't worry, there are sympathetic sites around the net and three of their guests or contributors, two of whom are self-styled leftists, have posts supporting what Israel is doing on Harry's Place here, here and here.

3,000 words

Palestinians carry the body of a Palestinian killed in an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (R) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Presidential palace in Cairo Decemeber 28, 2008. Talks focused on the Israeli attacks against Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Livni Mubarak Mahmoud Abbas Olmert Ehud Barak Gaza war crimes committed by Israel 2008

Statement from Palestinians with Israeli citizenship

I reproduce this message in full, because it is a very, very important statement, and a clear and useful guide for all those who see themselves as supporting Palestinians. Please read carefully and absorb.

In the presence of all national alliances, an urgent meeting for the Follow up Committee was held today declaring Sunday 28 December 2008 a general strike in protest of the Israeli massacres committed against Palestinians in Gaza. The meeting called for the organization of demonstrations and marches in every Arab town in al-Naqab [Negev], the Triangle, the Galilee areas and coastal towns as a symbol of the rage and severe grief of the Palestinian nation upon the loss of hundreds of its citizens in Gaza.

It was decided that the High Follow Up Committee remains on alert to hold further meetings to take steps in resistance and to stop the consistent aggression and break the siege on Gaza including the opening of all border crossings especially that of Rafah.

The following political message stemmed from the meeting:

  • Considering the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza an assault against Palestinian People everywhere and our duty is to resist it and break the siege.

  • Recognizing Israel and its political and security forces as a criminal state committing acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against our people in the Gaza Strip. This with the assurance that the current Israeli parliamentary election campaign is fueled by the Palestinian bloodshed.

  • Saluting the determination and will of Palestinian people in the face of the aggressive Israeli scheme to break their steadfastness and human dignity.

  • Condemning the international complicity with the official Israeli aggression, and considering its silence and complicity as partnership in the crime. the meeting also stressed the absolute rejection of holding the Palestinian people or the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) responsible for the situation and while exempting Israel from its total responsibility.

  • Calling upon the international community to take its legal and moral responsibility, to sanction Israel and boycott it as a state that pursues terrorism, war crimes and crimes against humanity with premeditation.

  • Condemning Arab Official complicity used by Israel to cover for its predefined aggression and condemning the general Arab weakness and calling them to shut down their embassies in Israel and boycott it. We call upon Egypt to open all crossings with Gaza and break its siege.

  • Condemning the complying Arab and Official political voices which held the Palestinian leadership in Gaza responsible for the Israeli aggression and calling the head of the Palestinian National Authority to immediately stop the negotiations with Israel used to further fuel the Palestinian split in the West Bank and in Gaza.

  • Assuring the call for national Palestinian unity and its total support of the Palestinian struggle and resistance in the face of Israeli aggression.

  • Paying tribute to the heroic steadfastness of our people and supporters in the Arab world and elsewhere and the masses in the homeland that stood in the face of the bloody aggression and supported the steadfastness in Gaza.

  • Calling on the masses of our people to exercise the highest degree of readiness to contribute, on individual and collective levels, in the national relief campaign, which includes the donation of medical supplies, food and blood donation in support of Gaza and in contribution to the breaking of the siege.

  • Calling on the masses of our people and supporters in the world to share the worry and to have more readiness to escalate the struggle in order to defeat the Israeli aggression and provide protection for our heroic Palestinian nation.

The Higher Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel is the highest representative body of the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel. It includes all Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) as well as elected mayors and local officials.

(from Electronic Intifada)

The butcher butchers

I have no ability for crafting words to match the outrage. Israel is doing what it knows best. No sane person can expect anything else from it. It kills and bombs and destroy because the alternative is compromise and compromise is not acceptable. They know very well that there is no half-way. Keeping the colonial ("Jewish") state requires the genocide of the Palestinian people. They cannot do it in one big swoop. But they think they'll do it slowly. If 60 years weren't enough, history willing they hope to get another 20-30 years to 'finish the job' Ben-Gurion left unfinished, as Benny Morris noted. They can't accept less because they see compromise as the beginning of defeat. And they are probably right. But they will be defeated anyway. They will be defeated. Even their friends begin to sense that. Perhaps that is worth a full quote:
Israel's friends need to cry out. It's enemies can mourn but be comforted by the knowledge that it is Israel, not Palestine, that will ultimately pay the price for this. As a life-long Zionist, I am utterly confounded. (TPM cafe)
It's hard to argue with someone who is saddened by the knowledge that justice will eventually be served. I guess it will be kind of sad, like when they opened the bunker and found the lifeless body of Eva Braun. But the breathtaking capacity of Israelis and their apologists to wallow in kvetcherei, even as they bomb and kill and starve and maim (the post is even titled, "Gaza Horrors: The Victim Is Israel") is nauseating. If you prick them, do they not bleed?

Here is Zvi Barel from Haaretz explaining what exactly the terms are which Israel cannot accept.
Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it when it blew up a tunnel, while still asking Egypt to get the Islamic group to hold its fire. Are conditions enabling the return of a ceasefire no longer available? Hamas has clear conditions for its extension: The opening of the border crossings for goods and cessation of IDF attacks in Gaza, as outlined in the original agreement. (Haaretz, Dec. 28, 2008)

The Palestinian condition for renewing the cease fire is simple and seemingly not very onerous, that Israel let them live. Israel is bombing Gaza because it cannot accept even that much. Israel broke the cease fire. And Israel refuses to let it resume because the condition, that it actually ceases fire, is too much for it. There is something beyond macabre here, something that contains the whole conflict in a nutshell. The condition for ending the violence is that Palestinians accept Israel's right to use violence as it see fits. Peace equals War.

Tom Segev goes (almost) all the way in Haaretz exposing the colonial roots of Israel's fantasies:
Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.

The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to "liquidate the Hamas regime," in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a "moderate" leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations.

As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians should make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over. (Haaretz, 29 Dec 2008)

I say almost, because Segev forgets that in the history of colonialism education and extermination are inseparable twins.

This is the long term picture, but Israel has shorter term goals as well. As in the attack on Hizbullah in 2006, one goal is to degrade the military capabilities of Hamas, developed mostly over the last three years. The strategic imperative here is the need to remove public pressure for compromise. Unfortunately, Israelis put pressure on their government and demand compromise only when they hurt badly. The right-wing mayor of Sderot shocked the Israeli leadership when he backed negotiations with Hamas. Keeping Hamas militarily weak is therefore a necessary condition for avoiding negotiations (and conversely, the best strategy for bringing about the "two state solution" would be to arm Hamas. Now here is a task for J-Street if they were serious!)

Finally, there are electoral considerations. As Defense Minister, Barak's last chance to remain politically relevant is a swift military success. In the words of Jamal Zahalka, "Barak is trying to win votes in exchange for Palestinian blood." Of course, that is an unfair portrait of Barak, who would just as well sell his mother to win votes. It isn't entirely his fault that Palestinian blood commands a higher premium among Jewish Israeli voters. But Barak is going here for broke. Anything short of a decisive victory will help Netanyahu more. And a decisive victory, while not impossible, is very unlikely.

Unfortunately, Hamas does not have the capacity of Hizbullah to materially harm Israeli cities. Unless the Herrenvolk army stupidly gets bogged down in a land invasion, there will be little military pressure on Israel to end the killing, and the butchery can continue until enough international outrage forces a pause. That isn't going to be quick, especially as some Western leaders will no doubt be eager to help Barak and Livni do well in the elections. But a lot of it is up to people all over the world, how fast we organize, how much we up the ante, how much other governments, Western as well as Arab, feel that they can lose as the blood keeps flowing.

Finally, a litle non-random roll call:

Barack Obama:
US president-elect Barack Obama is "monitoring" the deadly violence in the Gaza strip and spoke to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the situation, his aides said Saturday. (AFP)
The moral leadership! The Lincolnian eloquence! The progressive commitment! Aren't you just floored?

Meretz USA, the so-called soft-Zionist U.S. branch of Meretz, has yet to notice that there is a bloodbath in Gaza. Maybe they also didn't notice that their mothership, Meretz Israel, was egging the army to launch the carnage. Peace Now international also hasn't notice the carnage. It is fair to say that these old "peace" group are moribund, which is not exactly devastating. The action on the soft Zionist side has moved to the newly formed J-Street. J-Street did issue a statement. It is laced with the normative racism that "understands" and "justifies" mass murder, and exudes the obligatory piety with which the white world always blames the victims. But at least J-Street calls for "immediate, strong diplomatic intervention by the United States, the Quartet and allies in the region to negotiate a resumption of the ceasefire." I guess we should count our blessings.

Nanci Pelosi, the butcher's groupie, gets all excited, in the best U.S. tradition of cheering genocide:
"When Israel is attacked, the United States must continue to stand strongly with its friend and democratic ally." (Ynet)

December 28, 2008

Does Obama get it?

"Obama gets it" runs the Harry's Place headline at the top of the home page. When Engage or Harry's Place say that someone "gets it" it means they agree with what they have said. It's their way of endorsing a view. So what does Obama get? Well apart from the headline, Gene, for it is he, doesn't say. He merely points out that he is quoting from the Washington Post thus:
President-elect Barack Obama has voiced sympathy for Israel's predicament. During his visit to Israel last summer, he held a news conference in Sderot, the southern town that has borne the brunt of the Gaza rocket attacks, saying he does not "think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens."

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that," Obama said at the time. "And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Yeah but that was when he was running for election and meeting with AIPAC and all. What does the President elect say now to show that he "gets it"?
Yesterday, Obama's transition team was more cautious, adhering to its policy of not commenting on foreign developments because there should be "one president at a time." Brooke Anderson, Obama's national security spokeswoman, said only that Obama "is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza."
That's the paragraph immediately following the two quoted by Gene. Now it's a curious response to say that stuff about there being only "one president at a time" because he could have voiced complete agreement with Bush and there still would have only been one presidential position. It's almost like he wants people to think that he might not "get it" the way Gene implies at all.

By the way, I seem to remember a lot of support for the slaughter in Lebanon on the Engage site back in summer 2006. Well they're completely silent on this Gaza business except one of their regulars, the former anti-zionist, Ben Cohen, has a hasbara piece in...wait for it....yes, it's Harry's Place.

Demonstrate against Israel today!

I was just about to leave for the demonstration at the Israeli Embassy and just to be sure I googled "nearest tube to Israeli Embassy". Top of the list are my chums from MPACUK doing the same as me, promoting URGENT PROTESTS, yes, protests - plural. They cropping up in other cities and countries now.

Here are the details for the London one:
Emergency Protests

Sunday 28 December 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm and Monday 29 December 4.00pm – 6.00pm

Both protests opposite Israeli Embassy - Kensington High Street

Nearest tube: High Street Kensington

Protests organised by PSC, Palestine Return Centre (PRC), Palestinian Forum of Britain (PFB), British Muslim Initiative (BMI), Stop the War, Friends of al Aqsa, Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Respect, Islamic Human Rights Commission.
By the way, second on the google list was Jews sans frontieres.

December 27, 2008

Demonstrations planned for Israeli Embassy as Gaza death toll passes 225

Well it was 225 four hours according to AFP on Google News. Even the zionists are admitting to that figure in Ha'aretz. The link on Ha'aretz's home page to the report on Gaza put the death toll at 205 so it's rising quite quickly.

Anyway, Palestine Solidarity Campaign in England has hastily organised a demo for "outside" the Israeli Embassy in London tomorrow afternoon, that's 28 December 2008 at 14:00. No one seems to have pointed out that since the State of Israel is the west's favourite racist war criminal project, demonstrators can get nearer to Downing Street, the UK Prime Minister's official residence, than they can to the Israeli Embassy. Still we'll assemble on High Street Kensington and engage with the shoppers and the bus drivers always support the Palestinians. Here's the PSC notice from so much earlier today they only put the death toll at 155:
Gaza massacre over 155 killed - Emergency Protests

Sunday 28 December 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm and Monday 29 December 4.00pm – 6.00pm

Both prostests opposite Israeli Embassy - Kensington High Street

Nearest tube: High Street Kensington

Protests organised by PSC, Palestine Return Centre (PRC), Palestinian Forum of Britain (PFB), British Muslim Initiative (BMI), Stop the War, Friends of al Aqsa, Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Respect, Islamic Human Rights Commission.
Please do your best to get there. There will be protests around the world and reports of protests all around the world and these events fill a space left by the mainstream media's support for Israel.

Israel kills 155 so far today

But that was at 13.45. An hour has passed since then. I'm just letting you know.

I should, in the interests of balance, say that an Israeli was killed in a rocket attack. No doubt most of the media will focus on that. This is a short post because I've run out of words to describe these racist war criminals.

BBC report here.

December 26, 2008

Tel Aviv demo against Israeli Gaza invasion

This is interesting. There's been a demo in Tel Aviv today. I know this from an email sent by Frank Fisher to the Just Peace UK list. He (Frank) actually forwarded an email from Gush Shalom announcing the demo and stating a few facts about the recent ending of the truce between Israel and Hamas. I'll paste some of it here because there's not much about it in the mainstream media and the zionists are developing yet another popular misconception about who did what, when and to whom.

No, I won't paste from the Just Peace UK site because the format is all over the place. I've googled the demand "No to a military attack on Gaza!" to find a better laid out version and the first site out of not very many is Window into Palestine.

So here are some slogans and bullet points of the demo organised by The Coalition against the Siege on Gaza:

No to a military attack on Gaza!

War is not an elections spin!

Friday Dec. 26th, at 14.00, in the corner of Ben-Zion Ave. and King George St., Tel-Aviv

In the demonstration we will call for:

· Stop immediately siege on Gaza! Set no conditions for ending the inhuman suffering of innocents!

· Negotiations with Hamas and renew of the truce!

· Stop the military offensive and propose a political solution for ending the occupation!

· Learn from the Second Lebanon War! A military assault will not stop the missiles! Only an agreement can bring calm!

And the facts?

It is Israel which broke the truce already a month and a half ago, in early November, the State of Israel broke the truce in a series of military attacks on Gaza, which caused the death of six Palestinians. In this way, the government of Israel, with its own hands, brought a rain of Qassam missiles upon the heads of the inhabitants of Sderot and the other Gaza Border communities. Afterwards, every time that the situation started calming down, more Palestinians were killed by the army, their killing provoking new salvos of missiles. Now, the government is using the breaking of the truce as the pretext to launch a new military offensive. An offensive which would cost the lives of civilians, and would not achieve any of its declared aims – certainly not the aim of bringing calm to the inhabitants of the border area.

It is Israel which is responsible for the poverty and despair, entailed by the siege on Gaza – already for months the million and half inhabitants of Gaza live under an Israeli siege, with stoppages of water and electricity and a severe lack of vital goods. The Hamas government is already for weeks stating that it would be possible to restore the truce, should Israel agree to open the passages and allow the entry of goods, products, gasoline and people into the Strip. The government chooses consciously to ignore the Hamas declarations and cynically chooses, for electoral purposes, the path of war.

Contact: Adi Dagan (Coalition of Women for Peace) 050-8575730

Adam Keller (Gush Shalom) 0506-709603

Actually, the organisers definitely got one important fact wrong. For Israel, war, or more accurately, war crimes are election spin. Remember Qana I?

Israel's academic boycott - even unto the latest generation

Well the zionist project has certainly created a society after its own image. According to yesterday's Ha'aretz an Arab child, well baby actually, has been turned down from a nursery because of objections from the Jewish parents:
The opposition of a group of parents has caused a daycare in Moshav Merhavia to reject the registration of a young Arab toddler from a nearby village.

Mayssa and Shua'a from the village of Sulam, say they were warmly received by the teacher of the daycare when they told her they wanted to register their daughter, Dana.

But after making all the necessary payments, they received a disturbing phone call from the teacher.
For the rest of the report you'll have to watch Ha'aretz tv but the teacher told the Arab parents that six sets of parents had objected to the child because she's Arab. Her parents went to the school to confront and leaflet the parents, many of whom couldn't even look them in the eye. Here's the link again.

December 24, 2008

Mark Gardner, the Community Security Trust and false allegations of antisemitism

Mark Gardner is the Communications Director of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Community Security Trust. I've mentioned that before but not as part of an excuse to blog a letter I've had published in the Independent this week. Yes it is a daily but I only just found out that my letter appeared in it on Monday. This began with an article by Howard Jacobson, sneakily raising the spectre of antisemitism on the part of a Green Party leader then Jacobson being called on it by a chap called Rod Cox who was then himself falsely accused of antisemitism by the Communications Director of a group that is supposed combat antisemitism, not lie about it - or am I being naive. You can see the round up of all that stuff here. Here's my letter:
It is Mark Gardner's criticism of Rod Cox that is disgraceful (letter, 12 December), not Cox's criticism of Howard Jacobson (letter, 10 December).

Gardner claims that Howard Jacobson did not accuse Caroline Lucas of causing antisemitism and terrorism. See this penultimate line of Howard Jacobson's article: "Come the next massacre, when she [Caroline Lucas] is looking around for someone other than the perpetrators to blame, she might ask how much of their hatred she has stoked." Elsewhere, he doesn't simply blame her for antisemitism, he accuses her of being antisemitic – " . . . whatever her hurt at being accused of antisemitism when it is only a Jewish country, for God's sake."

Gardner then accuses Rod Cox of writing what he did not write - "Jews are cunning co-ordinated liars who only cry antisemitism in order to conceal Israel's supposed crimes. For Cox and so many others, Howard Jacobson's identity obviously counts for far more than his carefully written words and articles." There is nothing about Jews or about Howard Jacobson's Jewish identity in Cox's letter.

People are weary of the antisemitism smear being used to protect Israel.

Mark Elf

Dagenham, Essex
Communications is a funny old business for Mark Gardner to be in. Words seem to take on a wholly different meaning from common usage when he uses them. More here.

UPDATE - thanks to Diasporist for a very perceptive comment which I thought deserved a little more prominence:
This is typical Mark Gardner fare - sounding ever so authoritative and reasonable while doing his smear activities on people who dare to criticise Israeli policy or Zionist ideology. He does it over at Engage and on Harry's Place pretty regularly as he knows he is unlikely to be challenged there, and he regularly feeds those who go to those sites for similar purposes.

So which "community" is Gardner keeping secure? and on whose authority? Did Britain's Jews ask the CST to defend them? Did you vote for him Mark?

Truth is, Gardner and Co are not even accountable to the Bored of Deputies. If you read Tony Lerman's very illluminting chapter in the IJV book - A time to Speak Out, you will find that the CST are run through a body called the Group Relations Educational Trust, which is financed and controlled essentially by that very decent, upstanding, property developer, Gerald Ronson.

Some years ago Ronson had a lot of time on his hands, courtesy of HM to ponder such questions.

Time was when GRET and the Board saw eye to eye, but since 1994, it has been independent of the Board though it nominally keeps a functionary there giving an impression of community accountability.

So when Gardner holds forth let's not restrict ourselves to challenging the veracity of what he says but probe a bit further as to whose agenda he is really following.
And did I mention this?

December 23, 2008

Rahm Emanuel: The Hope

Sanctions Now – Upgrading Hell No!

This is call from Michael Warschawski from the Alternative Information Center

"Gaza is burning", writes French activist Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski, using the very words of a famous song of a Jewish village destroyed by the Nazis. Like sixty years ago, Gaza is burning and the world is silent, waiting for the outcome of a non-existent peace process. "A hostile entity" – this was the way the Israeli leadership defined, four years ago, a territory in which one and a half million civilians, women, the elderly and children, are trying to survive. As such, the Israeli state has the right, in fact the duty, to launch a war of annihilation.

Several years ago, the late Tanya Reinhardt used the word "genocide" to describe the harsh repression of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories by Israel; I was among those who criticized her for using too strong of a concept. From where you are now, forgive me Tanya, because you were right and saw the true nature of the Israeli plans, and I was dead wrong: the State of Israel is conducting a rampant genocide against the people of Gaza, using the weapon of almost-starvation, electricity cuts and deprivation of drinking water, provoking epidemics and preventing basic health-care. Gaza is under siege, and the war criminal Ehud Barak has just ordered a halt to even the emergency humanitarian aid conveyed by the United Nations.

When Sarajevo was victim of the criminal siege initiated by the Serbian army and militias, the international community retaliated with severe sanctions, a boycott of the Yugoslav regime and the bombardment of Belgrade. When Iraq occupied Kuwait, the international community launched a military offensive against Iraq and a radical embargo that provoked the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent children. Today, that same international community is completely silent in the face of the martyrdom of Gaza. It is our duty, the duty of civil societies all over the world, to demand from international institutions and governments urgent and drastic actions against Israel, a state that is violating the basic rules of international law, hundreds of United Nations resolutions and each and every convention aimed at protecting human rights.

The war crimes committed by the Israeli state against the population of Gaza exclude it from the community of nations. Like apartheid South Africa, it should be sanctioned and boycotted, and not rewarded with an upgrading of the partnership agreement with the European Union.

As an Israeli citizen, I expect from the European Union to help us pressure our government to stop the crimes against the Palestinian population of Gaza. By rewarding Israel with an upgrading of its relations with the European community, the message of EU is a disgrace that should be condemned and fought by all Europeans who care for human dignity.

Michael Warschawski, Alternative Information Center

December 21, 2008

The Madoff Mirror

Madoff is a Rorschach test. Everyone has their Madoff.

When I first saw the news. I was ecstatic. I have to admit that it was at least 20% Schadenfreude. It is not a very edifying sentiment, but I do not claim sainthood. The other 80% was the recognition that the repercussions of Madoff's swindle would be very positive for the good side of the class war. Madoff's impact on the struggle against Israeli apartheid, to which I am committed, would be even more positive. So much of the wealth he destroyed was funding apartheid. I think these are good reasons to be giddy, even ecstatic. Admittedly, I take a narrow perspective. The chief question I ask about stuff is "how will it affect the battleground?" Beyond that question lay vistas of the imagination that I leave, or I hope to imagine that I leave, for better times.

I don't really care why Madoff did it, or how could he become what he did become, as Silverstein for example does. What this speculation misses is that Wall Street, all of it, is a looting operation. They spend their workday devising ever cleverer ways to take a greater cut of the wealth workers produce. Today, the U.S. "financial industry" consumes a fifth of the GDP, while contributing next to zero (actually, a negative number) to the general welfare. How absurd to describe that looting as an "industry!" I have less respect for wall-street highfliers than for child pornographers. Madoff was a shark among sharks. The only uncommon aspect about him was his position in the food chain. He preyed on other predators. He reminds me mostly of that astonishing passage from Herman Melville:
...and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle seaman came on deck, no small excitement was created among the sharks; for immediately suspending the cutting stages over the side, and lowering three lanterns, so that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid sea, these two mariners, darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an incessant murdering of the sharks, by striking the keen steel deep into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part. But in the foamy confusion of their mixed and struggling hosts, the marksmen could not always hit their mark; and this brought about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of the foe. They viciously snapped, not only at each other's disembowelments, but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit their own; till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by the same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in their very joints and bones, after what might be called the individual life had departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin, one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw. (Moby Dick, p. 301-2)
Nor am I particularly moved by Philip Weiss's speculations about what Madoff reveals about Jews in the U.S. today. To anybody who has been paying attention, the answer is "not much." Jews are integrated. Some of them have gone up to the highest ranks of WASP society. Hardly world shattering news! John Mearsheimer, whom Weiss quotes, is all over that "aspect," because he still feels he needs to do penance for his sacrilegeous criticism of U.S. support for Israel. But pace Mearsheimer, when did "tribal solidarity" ever stop the sharks from feeding off their brethren? Where was the "tribal solidarity" of Burt Neuborne, Israel Singer and the other Jewish hucksters who made a good life looting holocaust reparations monies? Where was the outrage? The reason Madoff caused such a great shock is not his breach of "tribal solidarity"--a bed time story sharks tell smaller fish before they eat them. Madoff offended so deeply because he breached class solidarity. He preyed on the rich.

Hat tip to Tony Greenstein, who called my attention to James Petras's much more detailed explication of all the positive aspects of the the Madoff affair. Petras has been of late publishing pseudo-Marxist gobbledegook about the "zionist Power Configuration." It seems that the financial crisis has unfogged his glasses. He even reminds his readers that
finance capital shows no respect for any of the pieties of everyday life: Great and small, holy and profane, all are subordinated to the rule of capital.
If I understand it correctly to mean that even the holiness of the Land of Israel is not above the needs of capital, then all I can say is 'Ditto!' It's great seeing Petras coming back to his senses. He hits just about all the bases and is well worth reading in full. But first and foremost is this, which is the main cause for celebration here at JSF:
...the swindle of $50 plus billion dollars may make a big dent on US Zionist funding of illegal Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories, lessen funding for AIPAC's purchase of Congressional influence and financing of propaganda campaigns in favor of a pre-emptive US military attack against Iran.
As Greenstein says, "If I were a believer I would have no doubt that the good Lord was behind this!" To which I have to jest back with the story about the quantum physicist Niels Bohr, who used to have a good luck horseshoe hanging above his door. Asked by a visitor if he really believed in such obvious superstition, Bohr replied, "of course not, but I am told it works even if you don't believe in it."


The one point on which I must disagree with Petras is him saying that the Madoff affair will put to rest the antisemitic canard that "there is a 'close-knit Jewish conspiracy to defraud the Gentiles,'" (or for that matter any other conspiracy theory.) Perhaps this is Petras's backdoor way of signaling that he no longer plays for that crowd. But if that canard really died from Madoff related causes, it would be the first time ever an argument cured paranoia. I'm less than impressed with the odds.

Indeed, the UFO watching just came up with a new conspiracy theory: Supposedly, all the money Madoff disappeared is safe and sound in banks in Tel-aviv. According to 'sources,' all the defrauded parties are in the loop, and it's all just a scheme to avoid paying taxes to the IRS. doesn't say where this information comes from, but my inside sources whisper that Dana Scully herself discovered it inside the smoldering fuselage of a spaceship that crashed near Reagan, Tennessee. More 'evidence' is going to appear. Bank on it!

In his postscript, unfortunately, Petras makes a common error that feeds general finanacial illiteracy and serves as fodder for this kind of nonsense.
No one can believe that a single person could by himself pull off a scam of this size and duration. Nor can any serious investigator believe that $50 billion dollars has simply 'disappeared' or been squirreled into personal accounts.
Petras ought to know better. To the best of our knowledge, the Ponzi scheme was based on reporting earnings that did not exist. There is a crucial difference between the money that Madoff owes his clients, and any sums he diverted for his own enrichment. the number $50 billions which is bandied about refers to the first. Every year, Madoff most certainly paid himself a nice "compensation package," maybe even an outrageous "performance" bonus. These payments were not in themselves illegal and were most probably in line with the looting standards of other top dogs on Wall Street. Even if Madoff stashed all this money away, which is unlikely given his lifestyle, it won't probably amount to more than a few billions. The FBI and SEC will try to recover that money. As Petras suggests, Madoff must have had accomplices and investigations will probably lead to a few more indictments. It is possible that Madoff took precautions to make recovery difficult. Perhaps he even put some money in Tel-Aviv, or stashed gold in a safe in the Cayman Islands. But either way, this money would be a small fraction of the losses.

The $50 billion (or whatever sum eventually emerges) owed to investors most likely indeed disappeared. It doesn't exist anymore and therefore it cannot be stashed away or moved anywhere. The idea that money "cannot disappear" is based on a misconception of what money is in the contemporary paper monetary system. Money is debt. Every cash bill is a liability of the Fed. Debt also can function like money, although of lesser quality, depending on the creditworthiness of the issuer. When Madoff reported fictitious returns, it is as if he printed money (I say as if, not legally, but the legal form is irrelevant to where the money is). Out of thin air, Madoff created a liability for himself, and an asset for his clients. At any time, his clients could have redeemed their balance for cash. And many did. Or they could pledge their balance to secure a loan, etc. It was good, real money for them. But Madoff was supposed to hold assets that offset his liabilities to his clients. These liabilities were supposed to represent trading profits held in the account. They did not and therefore Madoff eventually was unable to meet his obligations. When this was discovered, the same thing happened that normally happens when an unsecured debtor defaults. The paper held by the creditor becomes worthless. The face value doesn't go anywhere. It ceases to exist, and there is nothing particularly mysterious or impossible about that.

I don't expect the conspiracy theory to be dispelled, because its origins are not in reality but in desire. In particular, the desire to be powerless. After all, the whole point of this fantastic concoction about how the money moved over to Tel-Aviv and all is to imaginatively snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. What is amazing is not that such a story circulates, but how little evidence the author took the trouble to pretend to have. Everything rests on a couple of 'Sources say'... At least with UFOs people take the trouble of doctoring some grainy photographs. The desire to suspend disbelief must be particularly strong in this case.

If one has a worldview that guarantees powerlessness, that provides certainty that no matter what one does, the shdowy and powerful players always win, then the very idea that the powerful might get hoisted on their own petards must be mentally destabilizing. The financial crisis seems therefore also to have created a crisis of confidence in conspiracy planet. (I.e, if they are so smart, how come they are so dumb?) Maybe you have other explanations. I'm looking forward to hearing it. But it seems to me that all this rage that feeds the new conspiracy theories is like the guard dog that follows you barking behind a fence but falls silent where the fence ends. It seems like the big challenge in conspiracy land now is to deny that Zionism, and power in general, have been wounded. There is some similarities to 9/11 conspiracy theories which are about the denial that the U.S. could be successfully attacked by anybody other than its own shadowy government (i.e. the same people who allegedly stole the money and moved it to Tel-aviv). If you think about it, there is some amusing perversity here, that most of these nutcases who shout from rooftops how much they loath the govmint are frightened by any evidence that the shadowy powers that be are anything less than omnipotent.

They are in love with powerlessness.

Which brings us finally to the blog of Xymphora, one of the many places in whose comments sections oppressed white boys can come to share a tear. Xymphora found in Madoff "proof" that Jews believe Jews are superior to non-Jews. The argument is so obtuse that it is worth enjoying in full:
Madoff's investors are sophisticated people. How did they believe that it was possible to make double digit returns for decades? It was because he was a Jew. Jews are superior to gentiles - who really are just animals - and the superior being could produce superior returns. The investors allowed their supremacist fantasies to interfere with their lives in the real world, which is usually how supremacists get into trouble. (xymphora)
In one paragraph, Xymphora manages to build his case on three bonkers assumptions.

First, he assumes what he clearly knows isn't true, that Madoff's investors were Jewish. Many were. Many weren't. Why did Banco Stantader, the biggest loser so far, invest with Madooff? Was it because Spaniards believe Jews are superior investors? And if so, are these non-jews believing in Jewish superiority Jewish supremacists or just fools? And if the non-Jewish investors are just fools? Why aren't the Jewish investors allowed to be just fools? And if they are fools, how can they be sophisticated? My head spins from following this plate of tangled spaghetties.

Second he assumes that people who invested with Madoff were "sophisticated." God knows what that means. That they read Robbe-Grillet and listen to atonal music? Is there some direct link between grubbiness and sophistication?

But maybe that is just a (Freudian) slip of the pen and Xymphora only means that they are sophisticated investors, i.e. knowledgeable about finance. But what makes Steven Spielberg a sophisticated investor? What makes Eli Wiesel financially astute? Inquiring minds want to know. Should we assume that one is a sophisticate investor because one is Jewish? I guess not as that would count as belief in Jewish superiority. Then maybe Xymphora means that rich people are inherently sophisticated investors. Which is plain foolish. After all, rich people often hire other people to manage their money, people like Madoff, because they believe it's a skill they'd buy rather than develop. And rich people sometimes stop being rich people. It happens all the time.

Third, and perhaps the bonkersest, (is that a word?) is the assumption that truly sophisticated investors, people who live daily in financial markets, don't make stupid investment decisions unless blinded by tribal beliefs. Some don't. But many do. All the time. Lev Leviev, who is generally a very astute businessman, lost two billion dollars last year in real estate, without any help from Bernie Madoff. Perhaps Xymphora should catch up a little on the tulips mania, or the South Sea bubble, or the Nobel Prize winning economists who managed Long Term Capital Management. But what is particularly mind boggling is that Xymphora makes this bonkers assumption barely two months after the greatest financial minds on Wall Street, paid hundreds of millions of dollars per year to make their brilliant investment decisions, were revealed to have made multi-billion dollars bets on financial instruments they couldn't comprehend, and the wiseguys at the top of the most sophisticated banks bet the farm on real estate prices going higher forever.

I must say, Xympohra's faith in the intelligence of our betters is touching, but somewhat excessive in light of recent evidence.

December 20, 2008

the UK warns on settlements. Israel whines

The showdown over settlements is advancing. The UK government is taking steps to prevent UK citizens and companies from supporting and investing in settlements. Baby steps. But nevertheless this is an important development:

An advisory, to be posted on the Foreign Office website, is to refer to settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, all areas occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war. It will warn that future peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and Syria could affect property purchases there.

And how would Israel respond?

"This is none of Britain's business," said Mr Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defence committee. "When Israel is boycotted one should wonder if there is no implicit anti-Semitism. (The Independent )
No dear Yuval. This is not antisemitism. This is doing the right thing. Get used to it. The schtick is worn out. The era of milking the holocaust to cover up your crimes is coming to an end.

Mene, Mene Tekel u Parsin!

December 19, 2008

Dial 972 for Murder

About a year and a half ago, Julian Soufir, a young Jewish immigrant from France, stopped a few taxis in Jerusalem. After a few wrong calls, he hit on a an Arab driver, whom he hired to take him to his apartment in Tel Aviv. According to police..
"When they arrived, the suspect persuaded the victim to come up to the apartment," apparently with an offer to use the bathroom before going home, Neuman said. The suspect then allegedly attacked the victim with a knife he had prepared ahead of time."


...we began to suspect that this might be a case of murder stemming from nationalistic motives," said Chief Superintendent Avi Neuman, a Yarkon region detective.

The suspect said he went to Jerusalem because he thought he would be able to find an Arab victim more easily there. "We don't know whether he planned it two hours before or two weeks before, but there are certainly signs he planned it," Brigadier General Hagai Dotan, the commander of the Yarkon region police, told Haaretz. ( Haaretz, 15/05/2007)
I was on a visit in Israel when this happened, and I remember the photo of Soufir in the courtroom, the day after the murder, splashed on all the front pages. I remember the cozy interchange of smiles between Soufir and the policeman holding him and me saying to mysef, "he's going to get away with it."

Well, it seems he just did.
The court accepted the testimonies of two defense witnesses that claimed that Soufir was not fully "conscious" at [the] time of the murder. ( )
Explain this to me. Soufir said that "he did not feel guilty because he believed Arabs were like cattle and that he was slaughtering one." While this clearly shows a warped moral universe, it also clearly show a moral universe. It shows clear understanding that murder is wrong. Soufir understands what murder is, and he understands that murder (except of Arabs) is wrong. He also planned the murder carefully and exceuted it in cold blood.

So what the hell does it mean that he "wasn't fully conscious"? And how could anyone testify to his mental condition during the murder without being present in the room?

And was the judge who handed down this decision fully conscious? Of what? Of the principles of apartheid jurisprudence?

But perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree here. It is Israel, a Jewish state. And a Jewish judge declared a cold blooded Jewish murderer of a non-Jew "on nationalistic grounds" not-guilty.

What did I expect?