June 28, 2009

Leonard Cohen to play Soweto as well as Johannesburg

Woops, silly me. According to Ha'aretz, thanks to pressure from principled and consistent anti-racists, Leonard Cohen is now going to play a gig in the West Bank as well as one in Tel Aviv.
International music legend Leonard Cohen will perform in the West Bank city of Ramallah two days after his upcoming performance in Israel, Haaretz has learned.

The concert in Ramallah is set to be held on September 26, in the Palestinian city's Cultural Palace; about 1,000 fans are expected to attend.

Cohen's decision came after pro-Palestinian activists attempted to dissuade the singer from performing in Israel.
Actually I got the headline analogy from Deborah Fink on the Just Peace UK list. And the analogy is a good one. It's a disgrace that Cohen is passing Israel off as a normal country and equally disgraceful that he thinks adding Ramallah as an afterthought to his visit to Tel Aviv somehow rectifies his wrong. It doesn't and he knows it doesn't.

Leonard Cohen has shown himself to be tolerant and even supportive of the most explicitly racist regime on the planet and he thinks he can cover that up by playing to the victims of the ideology to which he subscribes. Hopefully, he will have another afterthought and cancel all gigs in occupied Palestine.

A half-truth is worse than a lie

From yesterday's Independent

June 26, 2009

Vignettes from an enlightened regime

While everybody is really angry at those thuggish basij militiamen (and be sure not to think that this is an endorsement of any kind), Gideon Levy reminisces. An IDF officer was caught lying. He misrepresented the events that led to an accident with an off-road army vehicle, and was demoted one rank. That infuriates a lot of Israelis who think the poor soldier was wrongly done in by his excessively harsh commanders. This is a good occasion for a Gideon Levy episode for "lies that my army told me". Enjoy!
We can go back all the way to 1948 and dredge up no few episodes in which the truth was not exactly our guiding light. It all began then. With lies, concealment, obfuscation, forgetting, repression. With massacres covered up by fairy tales and forests planted by the Jewish National Fund covering the ruins of villages. But why go back that far, if recent examples are readily at hand, even from the period following the Tamir case?

A few days earlier, soldiers abused six Palestinian youngsters from the village of Wadi al-Shajneh for 14 hours nonstop, imprisoning and beating them until finally dumping them onto the road from a jeep at first light. One of the victims reported that his money had been taken, too. These young people were also innocent of any wrongdoing. The fact is that they were not officially arrested, and were not even interrogated. What did the IDF spokesman say in response? "Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at an IDF force ... Six Palestinians who were identified in the vicinity were arrested by the force." Say that again: "identified in the vicinity." Again the question arises: If they threw Molotov cocktails, why were they released after their "Clockwork Orange" night? And if they did not throw anything, why were they detained, and above all, what is the spokesman protecting, and why?

Let's go back another few weeks. In March, an IDF sniper fired a bullet into the head of Mahdi Abu Ayash, a 16-year-old boy, in front of his father. The marksman used a Ruger 0.22 caliber rifle, which the military advocate general has banned for use in crowd dispersal events. What were we told by the IDF spokesman? "During activity by an IDF force in the village of Beit Omar, a violent disturbance developed ... The force retaliated with crowd dispersal measures." Bingo.

In January 2008 Kifah Sider, then 23, was in labor at her home in Hebron's Tel Rumeida neighborhood, which is dominated by Jewish settlers and barred to Palestinian vehicles, including ambulances. According to her husband, when she set out for the hospital, soldiers at the checkpoint held her up for 20 minutes, until she eventually had to lie down on the road in the freezing January weather to give birth.

What did the IDF spokesman say about this? "The Palestinian woman passed through the checkpoint with no delay whatsoever ... The IDF employed all means possible in order to assist the mother in labor." It's one account versus another, but why should we think that the husband and the eyewitnesses would lie? In another case, Fauziyah al-Darek, a 66-year-old woman who had a serious heart attack, was being rushed to the hospital in Tul Karm in March 2008. That's Tul Karm, not Kfar Sava. Unfortunately for her, she had to go through a checkpoint. The soldiers would not allow her to pass and told her husband - now a widower - "We don't care if your wife dies." Yes, Darek died at the checkpoint.

The IDF spokesman offered the following response: "The IDF does not prevent the passage of ambulances even if there is an encirclement operation, subject to a security check."

Week after week, the stories published here about the Israeli occupation are accompanied by a response from the IDF spokesman, and almost every week, the response is a lie. Nor are these white lies: they are blacker than black, even though they whitewash the wrongs and the injustices. Hundreds of cold-blooded assassinations have been carried out under the lying cover of the "rules of engagement," including shooting at innocent and unarmed demonstrators under the false pretext of "mortal danger" to soldiers. Hundreds of other cases are buried under the category of "Military Police investigations" and never reach the indictment stage.

In January 2009, soldiers forced Yasser Temeizi to get off his mule in front of his young son and abducted him from their small olive grove. Temeizi was a devoted employee of the Harash company in Ashdod, but during January's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza his employers asked him not to come to work. So he started to work the family's olive grove. At the end of the day he was found shot to death from point-blank range, with signs of binding on his hands. This time, the IDF made do with a laconic statement: "The matter is under investigation by the criminal investigations division [of the Military Police]." This is the same Military Police whose appalling methods were exposed and severely criticized this week by the court that sentenced Brig. Gen. Tamir. The court termed its findings about the Military Police investigation "an earthquake," although this aspect of the affair was of course concealed from the public by Tamir-Dreyfus, our victim. If this is how the Military Police investigations unit behaved with regard to a brigadier general, it's not hard to imagine how it deals with the killing of a bound Palestinian. How do we know? It is an incontrovertible fact that some 4,800 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF in the past nine years, about 950 of them children (according to B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories). How many indictments have been handed down in the IDF? Thirty, no more. That's less than one percent of the number of killings. How many soldiers have been convicted? Five. How many have been sentenced to a significant prison term? One. One soldier out of 4,800 cases of killing. No more need be said.

Nor is there any need to elaborate on the lie about "the most moral army in the world," certainly not after Operation Cast Lead. The soldiers in the Rabin Pre-Army Preparatory Course lied, the foreign correspondents who visited Gaza lied, Amira Hass lied in her reports, the international human-rights organizations lied, the United Nations relief agency lied. Only the IDF, which buried all those reports and protests, told the truth and nothing but the truth.

Israel has just prevented another official UN commission of inquiry, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew and a Zionist, from entering the country in order to investigate the Gaza war - as though we were North Korea or Myanmar. If all the accounts were truthful, what is there to hide? All the lies of daddy Tamir pale into insignificance in the face of the lies of that war, with its horrific flechette shells that scatter their lethal steel projectiles every which way; the white phosphorus, which burns living flesh; the shelling of schools; the bombing of residential neighborhoods;0 and the annihilation of whole families who did nothing wrong. The IDF covered up all these actions with its lies, multiple versions and half-truths. Even calling such a brutal attack on a helpless, besieged population, almost without any manifestations of combat and resistance, a "war," is a lie. (Haaretz, June 25 2009)

And by the way, who is that persecuted officer whose career was so damaged by a silly lie about an accident, and whom Levy acerbically likens to Dreyfus?

From his stint as commander of the Golani infantry brigade - when his troops twice shelled the Jenin market (2002), killing several children, including two small brothers - to Operation Autumn Clouds in Gaza (2006) which he commanded, he has been responsible for wanton bloodshed, with at least half the 80 Palestinians killed on his watch being civilians. Nor should we forget the notorious shelling of the Gaza town of Beit Hanun under his command and responsibility (also in 2006), in which a volley of 11 unnecessary shells were fired at a residential neighborhood, in the wake of which the Israel Defense Forces of course blamed the cannon's computer chip instead of the division commander, Chico Tamir.

Hamas responds to Obama

Khalid Meshal responds to Obama. Hamas

would cooperate with any international effort that would end the Israeli occupation, but would not accept the notion of a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Mashal added that the Palestinian people do not accept Israel’s condition on a demilitarized state, and its stances rejecting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

He also said that the Palestinians will not accept any future recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

The Hamas leader added that the Palestinian will never accept that Jerusalem remains under Israeli occupation, and will remain steadfast of the internationally guaranteed right of return to the Palestinian refugees.

Furthermore, Mashal described the demand of US president, Barack Obama, that Israel should halt the construction of settlements as a positive issue, but also said that this call is not sufficient.

Addressing Obama, Mashal said that the Palestinian suffered from every form of oppression, injustice and suffering, and that Hamas expects the Obama administration to change its stance towards Hamas.

Mashal added that Israel cannot defeat the Palestinian people, and that ‘it failed in its Nazi war on Gaza, exactly as it failed in Lebanon’, Israeli Ynet News reported. (IMEMC)

This is not exactly earth shattering although it is interesting to note the (perfectly sensible) response to the latest developments. We learn again, (and again and again), that Hamas is ready to negotiate and perhaps, sadly, even accept a rotten two state solutions supported by the "international community." To be clear, that will not stop Western politicians and pundits from maintaining that Hamas is the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Tony Blair says it, "Hamas must stop smuggling through the tunnels." In other words, the problem is that Palestinians haven't surrendered and accepted the complete control of both their economy and politics by Israel and its Western allies before the start of the negotiations.

In that sense of the word "peace," Hamas is certainly an obstacle.

June 25, 2009

Martyrs persecuted beyond death

Death doesn't end the persecution by the state.
The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of their Tehran home after shocking images of her death were circulated around the world.

Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.

"We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat," a neighbour said. The Guardian was unable to contact the family directly to confirm if they had been forced to leave.

The government is also accusing protesters of killing Soltan, describing her as a martyr of the Basij militia. Javan, a pro-government newspaper, has gone so far as to blame the recently expelled BBC correspondent, Jon Leyne, of hiring "thugs" to shoot her so he could make a documentary film. ...

In accordance with Persian tradition, the family had put up a mourning announcement and attached a black banner to the building.

But the police took them down, refusing to allow the family to show any signs of mourning. The next day they were ordered to move out. Since then, neighbours have received suspicious calls warning them not to discuss her death with anyone and not to make any protest. (The Guardian)

To readers of JSF all this should sound awfully familiar, the persecution of the families of martyrs, the disruption of funerals, and of course the fabrications, all standard operating procedures of the IDF. Let's refresh our memories with just a few stories. Click on the links to read the full account. Of course these stories would never get the amount of publicity that oppression in Iran gets.

First a recent one from Bil'in

Hundreds of mourners, including several Palestinian leaders, clergy and political activists, left the Ramallah hospital with Yosef A'qel Srur's body. They took to the streets to accompany the man, who was shot in the chest with a live bullet by Israeli soldiers on Friday, to his grave.

The procession chanted slogans affirming their belief in non-violent resistance and dedication to the struggle against the wall....

When the funeral procession arrived to the entrance to the village, four Israeli military checkpoints were set up. Mourners were forced out of their vehicles and walked the rest of the way to the village, said Salah Al-Khawaja, coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Ni'lin. (IMEU)

And an old one from the first intifada:

At 10 pm the word spreads that the army has finally brought Salem's body back. We follow Firas' fiery but warm-hearted mother through the dark streets to the church where the funeral is to be held. There, soldiers block the entrance to prevent anyone, even relatives, from entering. Since only 30 persons are allowed in, and they are all coming by bus, everyone else must go home. With our foreign identity still protected by darkness, we hurry to join the dozens of other young men defying the army by hiding in the cemetery. "It is not Israel's right to tell me I can't bury my cousin," Issa Musleh says angrily, as men stand around waiting for the body to be handed over.(WRMEA)

And this one from Gaza recently, also the parents not even notified of the murder of their child.
If you watch the video below, which was taken by an ISM Gaza, you will notice that despite the soldiers knowing that we are UNARMED CIVILIANS and “searching for a body,” they shot at us directly and close, particularly once the body was found. They went out of their jeeps and hummers, thus, knowing that we pose not threat to them, shooting was whimsical. They shoot according to their moods and whims. “They [Israelis] knew that they shot an unarmed boy. They knew they killed him. They said no word of it!” (Intifada Palestine)

As for the lies and the horrible stories invented about the victims and how they died, there are legion: remember James Miller, Muhammad al-Dura, Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall ... (click on these links only on an empty stomach)

The Khameini regime is happy to flatter itself with its defense of Palestine and everybody notes that is one of the pillars of its legitimity. But they behave in the same despiccable way when their power is questioned. Power has its own built in universality. Not only do thugs and their masters learn from each other, but they also often come to the same "solutions" to their problems independently.

Of course, most of the hypocrites who are so shocked with the behavior of the Iranian government during this crisis don't even blink at the fact that this is normal behavior in Israel for decades. Obama criticized Palestinians in Cairo for not following the ways of Martin Luther King, but passed in silence Israel's routine murder of protesters like Martin Luther King. Those Iranians who justifiably resent the Western politicians' and media hypocritical attention need only carry signs "Free Palestine" to their next protest to see Gordon Brown and the BBC losing all their feigned sympathy.

Mayhem in front of the Iranian Parliament

(image from neo-resistance)

Statement of support for the people of Iran from Venezuela

Statement of support for the people of Iran from the NPA (New Anticapitalist Party -- France) This statement of support from the first European left party that endorses B.D.S. against Israel is particularly noteworthy. Nobody should be sacrificeable.

June 23, 2009

Death on camera

Attention: disturbing content ahead

The following video, which probably half the world has seen, captures the death on camera of young Iranian woman killed while non-violently protesting for her rights. CNN broadcasted it. It a "symbol."

The video on the other hand, is of the death on camera of Bassem Abu Rameh, a young Palestinian non-violent protester, near the apartheid wall that cuts into Bil'in. It wasn't broadcast on CNN. It is not a "symbol."

We even have a picture of the alleged murderer of Bassem, probably posted on Israeli indymedia by eye-witnesses. (on top is the word 'murderer' in Hebrew). CNN can probably solve a murder case of a protester and bring the criminal to justice without spending more than a $100 of investigative journalism. Why don't they do it?

Shame on CNN for caring about the death of non-violent protesters according to the interests of U.S. foreign domination. The love these journalists professes for Neda is just as racist as the their indifference towards Bassem. Indeed, it is the same racism.

Broadcast the death of Bassem!

June 22, 2009

How to help Iran

As can be seen in some of the comments to the last Iran entry, we have a few readers who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, metaphorically speaking. Or, if one has to relay the same image through mathematics, they cannot count beyond two: Islam, West... infinity. Hence the idea that one could express concern for the safety of the protesters in Iran and support for their demand for greater civil and political rights without at the same time helping Western imperialism strikes them as utterly incomprehensible.

In fact, doing just that is less difficult than it sounds, because the Islamophobic language of much of the Western press and the authoritarian language of Khameini (and Petras) are mirror image of each other. Both seek to portray the protests as 'Western' and foreign as opposed to Islam, albeit from opposing ends. Hence opposing both is quite doable, provided one approaches the task with decency and not just seeking to paint a fist on a wall with other peoples' blood. The way to go seems to me primarily to help the real voice of Iranians be heard. Thankfully, quite a few Iranian bloggers offer free advice on how to do it effectively.

Here is one:
Tell your elected representatives, especially the American ones, Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative to "SHUT THE HELL UP!"

Obama's handled this PERFECTLY well so far!

Make him know that on behalf of your Iranian friend, Naj.

The slightest American meddling will throw all that spilled blood out of the window! Let us accomplish our own deed. Then, all we ask of your government, is to respect whatever government becomes official in Iran, even if it may be Ahmadinejad. (Naj, neo-resistance)
Got that last line?

And here are some hard and bitter words from Pedestrian:
The left sounds as out of touch with Iran right now as does the right. With the difference that one group is genuinely worried and the other just can’t wait to have those chains around our necks. But I DESPISE the Craig Roberts who writes of “the westernized youth of Tehran”. EVERYTHING is about the West. We can’t demand a fair election without being Westernized. We can’t demand decency or tolerance without being Westernized. Ahmadinejad and his followers cannot be the evil, corrupt, deceitful thugs they are because they just aren’t “Westernized.” (Pedestrian, Lonely Soldiers)
And another advice, about showing up to a solidarity vigil:


While I realize that people of ALL WALKS OF LIFE should be allowed to voice their concerns, we also need to be very careful and diligent right now. Especially with the “velvet revolution” accusations being hurled at the demonstrators in Iran, the last thing this movement needs right now is a picture of snotty Westernized teenagers with smug smiles and questionable wardrobes rallying as its supporters. (Pedestrian, Abide the Code)

Now I don't for a moment pretend that these two somehow "represent" the protest movement in Iran or Iran as whole. I have no idea. These are just two bloggers brought to my attention by regulars on this site. But "representation" is perhaps exactly what is most harmful right now. We have enough, too much, attempts to capture what this movement is and to reduce it to some preconceived usefulness to this or that agenda. What we need is recognition of (and forcing this recognition on our journalists and politicians) its diversity, complexity and unfolding as it is. Because to recognize the people of Iran as voice, as subjectivity worthy in its own right and having the right to determine itself is precisely to recognize it as unfolding and indeterminate, neither an extension of the West nor its fantasmagoric inversion.

Feeling the hate airbrushed from youtube

I did a post on the video, titled Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem, where a group of American Israeli Jews denounce Barack Obama in the crudest possible racist terms. Well if you click the link then click the youtube video you will see that "This video has been removed due to a terms of use violation".

Oh well, that's a shame because it was very informative about the kind of racism doing the rounds among white American Israeli Jewish youth. Even David Toube of Harry's Place was moved to post on what the man himself called the "racist scum", though what was so racist about white people calling Obama the n-word was lost on some of his followers in the thread and even Toube seemed to think that the racism consisted of calling for Obama to be shot and not calling him and other non-whites by the n-word. It's true, check out the thread. Still at least he knew there was something racist about it even if he didn't know what it was. I suppose he thought that if he could pass off any criticism of or incitement against Obama as racist, he could get away with some of his false allegations of antisemitism on the same kind of flimsy grounds.

But typically, I digress. Luckily Max Blumenthal who made the video has now posted it to his own site. And here's the embed:

Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem -- The Censored Video from Max Blumenthal on Vimeo.

But why oh why is Blumenthal having such difficulty getting such a useful video hosted on youtube? Here's the man:
Youtube has removed my video, “Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem,” on the baseless grounds that it contains “inappropriate content.” They have offered me no further explanation and have stonewalled my inquiries and attempts to rectify the situation. Thus they have censored a video that contains far less inflammatory content than thousands of video they are already hosting. Why? I won’t ascribe motives to Youtube I am unable to confirm, but it is clear there is an active campaign by right-wing Jewish elements to suppress the video by filing a flood of complaints with Youtube. At the same time these elements have attempted to paint me as a self-hating Jew determined to foment anti-Semitism. I answered this last charge to Ha’aretz (read the barely coherent article here) last week: “I have received death threats from people, mainly ones calling me a self-hating Jew. I am self-hating, but my self-hatred has nothing to do with me being Jewish.”

Jewish Voices for Peace (the parent organization of the excellent website Muzzlewatch) is preparing an action for tomorrow to pressure Youtube into restoring the video. They are asking their members to email press@youtube.com to demand an explanation for the censorship. For now, I have reposted the video on Vimeo and urge everyone to distribute it widely.

I'm guessing it's to do with these people but what do I know?

Bikini-clad mudstrewn counter-hasbara in Central Park

See, this is what happens when you spend millions trying to "rebrand" your image as a fun, beach-going, leisure society, rather than being the land of apartheid, seige, house demolitions, growth-stunting, land theft & shooting phosphorus at schools. Someone is bound to flip your paradigm on its head and use it against you. That's exactly what several bikini-clad women from CODEPINK did yesterday. This Fox 5 NY story on the Israeli Foreign ministry's attempt to show New Yorkers that life's really a beach in the Holy Land became almost entirely about the skimpily-attired protestors -- and on the local FOX affiliate, no less:


Bikini-Clad Activists Crash Tel Aviv Beach Party

Published : Sunday, 21 Jun 2009, 5:01 PM EDT

Erica Emmich

Bikini-clad activists from the women's group CODEPINK covered themselves in mud and stood outside the Israeli Ministry of Tourism's Tel Aviv Beach party in Central Park on Sunday.

El Al Israel Airlines turned the bandshell into Israel's mediterranean beach to celebrate Tel Aviv's 100th Anniversary and the first day of summer.

The beach was complete with games, tanning spots, and a rock concert.

The protest grabbed attention as they chanted, "Tel Aviv - you can't hide, we can see your dirty side!" CODEPINK states the mud they covered themselves in was to represent the "dirty policies Irsrael holds towards Palestine."

Holding pink umbrellas outside the artificial Tel Aviv Beach, the women held signs that read, "Say no to Israel's war crimes."

The Tel Aviv Beach Party was sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Israel Government Tourist Office in New York, and the Tel Aviv-Yafo Centennial Administration.

Try best they can, it's tough to shed the bellicose image Israel has managed to accrue. A photo caption in a YNet article last Dec. 20 announcing the beach event ominously inquired:
"Central Park, New York. Getting ready for Israeli invasion?"

More photos here. For extra credit: Why Israel's campaign to rebrand its image is doomed to fail.

UPDATE: CODEPINK explains why they've scrawled "Ahava" on themselves.

June 21, 2009

Iran, Gucci anti-imperialism and movement anti-intellectuals

We know what a movement intellectual is, but perhaps we need a new category for James Petras, a movement anti-intellectual.

Here is how Petras describes the social-economic dynamics behind the split in Iranian society:

The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.

The demography of voting reveals a real class polarization pitting high income, free market oriented, capitalist individualists against working class, low income, community based supporters of a ‘moral economy’ in which usury and profiteering are limited by religious precepts. The open attacks by opposition economists of the government welfare spending, easy credit and heavy subsidies of basic food staples did little to ingratiate them with the majority of Iranians benefiting from those programs. The state was seen as the protector and benefactor of the poor workers against the ‘market’, which represented wealth, power, privilege and corruption. The Opposition’s attack on the regime’s ‘intransigent’ foreign policy and positions ‘alienating’ the West only resonated with the liberal university students and import-export business groups. To many Iranians, the regime’s military buildup was seen as having prevented a US or Israeli attack. (James Petras, Global Research --was Ziopedia)

Now maybe some of it is correct. It makes some sense. There is certainly a class split in Iran as there is everywhere else. But the class composition and the class content of the latest Iranian intifada is very difficult to discern, and the claim that all these oppositions, market vs. community, high income vs. low income, city vs. country side, align neatly behind two candidates from two factions of the same authoritarian ruling class is stretching credulity. The way class plays itself out in Iranian politics is a hotly debated issue. Petras, as far as I know, does not read Persian, and doesn't have any special expertise of Iran. His knowledge is second hand, based on choosing sources from available translated material and English speaking informants. He may be smarter than the Western journalists he derides, but he is in the same position they are and I am with regards to information. That position calls for a certain humility in putting forward broad theories about what is happening in Iran. Instead, we get an airtight encompassing know-it-all theory, without any attribution of any of the contentious facts, any recognition of the difficulties of getting or interpreting information, and any wrestling with alternative or discordant data. This discursive style is pseudo-intellectual. While formally argumentative and rational and sprinkled with sociological categories and apparent deductions, it boils down to a single command to the reader: "trust my wisdom".

Here is Richard Seymour summarizing what he knows about class and the current intifada in Iran:

The electoral coalition around Mousavi, by contrast, was seen to be middle-class, based disproportionately among professionals and students, with the loot provided by ruling class interests. (As one dyspeptic analyst called it, the "Gucci crowd" in alliance with Iranian capitalists). Mousavi was pushing an austerity agenda, with privatization and counter-inflationary measures at its core. To broaden his appeal, therefore, he touched on the progressive concerns of a layer of the population which has had enough of the Basij militias and the media clampdowns and the political prisoners...

Some liberal analysts disputed the idea that Ahmadinejad had decisively won the working class vote. Robert Dreyfuss, reporting from Tehran, claimed that it was almost impossible to find a supporter of Ahmadinejad even in the poorer areas. Juan Cole, disputing the primacy of class in interpreting Iranian elections, pointed out that neoliberal reformers such as Khatami had won 70% of the vote in 1997, and then over 78% in 2001. Khatami obviously had to win support far beyond his business supporters. This did not prove that the reformers had a majority in 2009, of course - we aren't going to get proof, whatever the truth of the matter is - but it does mean that caution is called for in the assumptions that we make. Reza Fiyouzat makes what seems to be to be a far more compelling point, though: "The most class-conscious, the most politically active of the Iranian working classes, are by far the most anti-government. How do we know this? We know this because they invariably end up in jail." Well, quite.

...And we have seen the riots spread chaotically to working class areas of Isfahan (see also), where the protesters drove out the police, and the southern city of Yazd. The protests have spread to workers' districts in southern Tehran. Reports of working class turnout are appearing, albeit infrequently, in some of the English-language press. (Leninology)

What is the difference? Seymour links to no less than four discussions of class politics in Iran by people who have more knowledge than he does and who together produce a complex and sometimes contradictory image. This is not because he isn't smart enough to provide a clean-shaven Marxist analysis a-la Petras, but because he is smart enough to know when it isn't enough to be smart.

In the final analysis Petras doesn't provide an analysis. He provides marching orders based on his supposed intellectual authority rather than an appeal to the reader to exercise her own intellect in order to understand social reality and to move to action based on that understanding. That kind of demagoguery, despite the intellectual accoutrement it is shrouded it, is both anti-intellectual and anti-democratic. And to the extent that there is a link between theory and practice, that perhaps explains why he is so solidly supportive of Khameini.

That is so far as style, which is quite important. But here a few more substantial questions.

Let us begin with "the Gucci crowd" of North Teheran. (This is a digression, since Petras mercifully doesn't use the phrase, but he supports the sentiment behind it.) That dismissive phrase was perhaps legitimate when Bhadrakumar coined it on the 16th. At that time, the people were largely absent from the scene and it was quite reasonable to read the events soley through the prism of elite manoevring between Rafsanjani and Khameini. To use this phrase today against millions of working people who have marched for days facing state violence and even live ammunition is deeply offensive, and those who use that phrase, however much they take issue with the politics of the marchers, should be ashamed of themselves. Besides, it sounds very much the camel does not see the crookedness of his own neck. Those who have used this phrase probably own more iPhones than the people about whom this phrased was used. Perhaps we need to talk about Gucci anti-imperialism first.

Second, Petras uses class language that is emptied of its emancipatory content. To the extent that the class relations in Iran matter, the first question is how they matter to the future history of Iran, not how they explain elections. One uses class to identify the forces that can propel the interest of the working class moving forward. That is hardly discovered by simply noting whomever a majority of low income workers voted for in an electoral conjecture with a binary choice between two elite candidates (assuming it is true, and I think we simply do not know whether it is true, that Ahmadinejad won that support). In the U.S. low income voters were more enthused about Palin than about Obama. In Israel, Avigdor Liberman is a working class hero, a recent immigrant from Russia who rose from being a night club bouncer to the post of Foreign Minister. Shouldn't we all welcome the wisdom of the voters who elected him? All over the world, low income majorities often vote for lousy candidates, not because they are ignorant, although that does happen, but primarily because a vote is not a vision statement but a context-bound decision within a scope limited by material conditions, institutional constraints and social horizons. It is crucial to understand popular electoral preferences, but if the goal of the radical left is to rally behind whoever wins the vote than how come we are we not rallying behind the ruling parties in our own countries? But for Petras the future advances of Iranian people seems at best a secondary concern. The current economic arrangement, with a sclerotic capitalist economy owned by a clique of security services and clerical families and mitigated by a "moral economy" that does little besides an inadequate safety net with a few bones thrown to the masses must be defended at all cost against an impressively brave and popular nascent civil rights movement. Why? As we get to the end of Petras's article we see that what matters to Petras is not the future of the Iranian working class but the future of Zionism in the U.S. It is the fact that the Iranian protesters provide fodder for the Zionists in Obama's administration that warrants making little of the protesters. They crashed his party.

When people demonstrated in the U.S. against George Bush, not against capitalism, but often just against the oversexed unaccountability of the Bush administration, its so-called "excesses," it was the Ann Coulter variety of fascist bufoons who criticized those protests for "giving comfort to the enemy". You didn't have to be a radical anarchist to understand that Americans have the right to demand greater transparency and accountability of their state regardless of whether that makes Osama bin Laden smile. It is a shame that in the name of anti-imperialism one would deny Iranians the same basic right. When the "Supreme Leader" of Iran accuses a million protesters in the streets of serving Zionism, he is making the Ann Coulter argument. This is no perfect analogy because the threat of interference in Iran is more substantial. But it is not that far off either. There hasn't been a wretched regime on Earth that hasn't used national security and patriotism to justify its wretchedness. Relaxing the clutches of the Iranian power structure requires no subservience to the West. That is especially true if indeed Ahmadinejad won. But to claim that clerical authoritarian control is needed to defend Iranian independence is an insult to Iranians. Using "treason" as a cudgel against dissent is just too easy and it doesn't take a lot of perceptiveness to notice that the Iranian ruling class is excessively liberal with this tactic. Moreover, a great deal of the ease with which this argument is accepted abroad is about illegitimate projection and appropriation by non-Iranians like Petras. As long as Ahmadinejad makes the right noises on Palestine (and whether he does that is at least debatable), as long as Khamenei supports Hizbullah, that kind of "anti-imperialist" message means that Iranians who reject the repressive political system imposed on them can drop dead, because getting agitated might, God forbid, cheer Tzipi Livni. The Iranian regime is apparently too valuable for that anti-imperialist cause to allow the Iranians people much say in how it is run. But may I ask who appointed any of us to decide on the right order in which people should queue up to reclaim their freedom? Who decides that the status quo in Iran is just too important for letting the mere aspirations of Iranians shake it? A further frightening aspect of these preposterous accusations is that they can become self-fulfilling. People tend to seek the friendship of their enemies' enemies, and the conservative clerics' tendency to see imaginary Zionists behind every stone can make way to many Iranians feel unwarrantedly charitable towards Zionism. Add to that a dose of historical anti-Arab racism that could be easily exploited and the "anti-imperialist" infatuation with the Islamic Republic has the potential to explode in our faces in ways we will come to rue.

It is one thing to defend the Iranian state from outside assault and interference, all necessary and laudable, one thing to recognize the occasional political usefulness of the Iranian state on the world's stage, which is real enough if often exaggerated, one thing to admit that the replacement of the Shah's kingdom of thieves with the Islamic Republic was a positive historical development with real material gains for the Iranian working class, and quite another thing to cheer the crackdown on dissent and to root for state violence against a mass movement of people demanding basic civil and political rights, especially rights that our Gucci anti-imperialists enjoy in their safe(r) abodes. Furthermore, in so far as divide-and-rule is the lifeblood of imperialism, the pitting against each other of different forms of oppression, the demand that we chose exclusively, whether one is pro-Palestinian OR pro-civil rights in Iran, but not both, whether one is against Islamophobia OR for womens' rights, but not both, and so forth, in short, imposing whichever struggle we fancy to be more important on others and demanding that they put their demands for liberation on hold, is not anti-imperialist. On the contrary, it deepens the divisions on the basis of which imperialism flourishes.

As outside observers it is not our role to decide between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Nor it is our role to certify or decertify the elections or solve the legitimation crisis of the Iranian state. It is reasonably clear that much of the popular support behind Ahmadinejad is based on legitimate concerns and claims, including fears that Mousawi wished to deepen exploitation and collaborate with the West. It should be equally clear that the millions of working people who are now braving state violence in the streets also have legitimate concerns and claims, including true self-determination, which is not only freedom from U.S. imperialism, but also freedom from state violence and basic civil rights, including the right to form independent trade unions and parties that militate for real economic transformation and not just palliative populism.

As outside observers, we have two obligations now. First, we need to keep our own states from using the events in Iran to advance imperialist stratagems. But we also need to show solidarity with the struggle for greater freedom in Iran. And not much is demanded from us. All that is asked for is, as Hamid Dabashi phrases it,

the active solidarity of ordinary people around the globe to be a witness to their struggles and demand from their media an accurate and comprehensive representation of their movement (Hamid Dabashi)

All we are asked for is to respect the Iranian people, all of them, both those who voted for Ahmadinejad and those who didn't, and not to confuse their voice and their interests with that of either their unelected ruling clique or the foreign "support" that seek to exploit them.

Is that too much to ask from the radical left?

(images collected by the WPI)

UPDATE: The link to Petras's article is stale, so I changed it to where the article was apparently originally published. Perhaps Petras ask them to remove the article. Just to be clear, I wouldn't have changed it to appease the dishonest islamophobic alliance that complained about the link. Their "criticism" is beneath contempt.

This is Zionism

Here's a zionist rabbi, Sid Schwartz, writing in Jewish Week of his "outrage and sadness" at what I thought was just plain old zionism:
Then a band launched into a rousing rendition of Am Yisrael Chai. I spent more than 25 years as an activist for Soviet Jewry. This was our theme song signaling solidarity both with the history of our people and with all those oppressed Jews in the world whose cause we championed. A group of young men in their 20's with kippot and tziztzit were right in front of me dancing in a frenzy. But they alternated the verse that meant "the people of Israel lives" with "all the Arabs must die." It rhymed with the Hebrew. Given the way all joined in, it was clear that this was not the first time it was sung.

I leaned over to a young man who was next to me, also wearing a kippah and tzitzit. I nodded at the dancers and asked: "Does this song bother you?" He looked at me with a suspicious look and replied: "This is Zionism."

Well it is, isn't it?

Well not according to Sid the rabbi.

June 20, 2009

Tehran shows Palestine the love; now how bout the Saudis?

From Stop the Wall:

Tehran drops Veolia from city transport network
Worldwide Activism, Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, June 17th, 2009

Left: The light rail cuts through Jerusalem, linking the surrounding settlements.

Following pressure from BNC, the mayor of Tehran announced that Veolia would no longer have a key role in city's urban transport system. This victory in Iran, along with others France, UK, Sweden, and Holland, has cost Veolia an estimated $7 billion in lost contracts and were key in pushing the company to leave the Jerusalem light rail project.

Veolia and Alstom are both active in Iran. The Tehran Municipality and Veolia had agreed to collaborate on the implementation of some projects concerning the environment and the development of the urban transport system. Alstom has a headquarters in Tehran and received a number of large contracts, including a 192 million euro contract with Iran's state railways in 1999 and a larger 375 million euro contract to supply 50 turbo compressors to Iran in 2002.

In April, representatives from the BNC called on Iran to back up it's rhetorical support for the Palestinian cause by acting on the BDS call and taking "the necessary steps to ban Veolia and Alstom and their subsidiaries from any contracts and operations in the country."

This demand did not go unheeded. The Islamic Human Rights Commission sent out a call in Iran, rallying students to write to Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, pressure him over Veolia’s role in developing the city’s transport system. IHRC also contacted Ghalibaf directly over the matter. After a week's time, Ghalibaf announced the city’s decision to cancel Veolia’s involvement in the Tehran transport project.

A big shukran to the mayor of Tehran. Wish we could say the same to the Saudi rulers. A 2008 call from the BNC for the Saudis not to deal with Alstrom was met with silence. In February it was announced that Alstrom was part of a consortium winning a contract to build part of a proposed Mekka-Medinah high-speed rail. Alstrom, which has not pulled out of the Jerusalem light rail project, of which it owns 20% (Veolia owns 5%), is in the running for the contract to build the rest of the Mekka-Medinah line.

Grass roots pressure cost Veolia 7 billion dollars. It convinced the mayor of Tehran. Here's how you can help nudge the Saudis into doing the right thing by Palestine:

Prevent Alstom from building the Haramain Express Railway

June 18, 2009

Hey ma, look what I did to an Arab & loaded onto You Tube

From Ha'aretz:

Border Policemen have filmed themselves abusing and humiliating Palestinians in videos they have posted on YouTube over the past year.

In one clip uploaded to the video sharing website an Arab youth is shown in arid terrain, slapping himself, while a voice is heard instructing him to say "I love you, Border Police," and "I will f**k you, Palestine," in Arabic. The victim is forced to respond to everything he is ordered to do, to the raucous laughter of the cameraman and his friends, all Border Policemen.

And they wonder why Ronaldo won't play Tel Aviv?

UPDATE: You Tube removed the video, but not before someone downloaded it. It's now reposted on Blip.tv.

Also: Ha'aretz Friday Magazine has published a longer article.


Bad Zios, no Ronaldo!!

From Ynet:

Brazilian soccer teams won't play in Israel
Brasilia wants to hold friendly game between Sao Paulo's Corinthians, Rio de Janeiro's Flamingo in Ramallah, with no plans to hold similar game in Israel. Decision said to cause diplomatic tensions between countries

my favorite bit:

Giora Bachar, the Israeli ambassador to Brasilia inquired about the reports in the local media with the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, which confirmed them.

"I intend to make the Brazilians understand that if a similar game is not held in Israel, we will see it as an act of ostracism,"

You could see it that way, yes...

Update: more on Dion Nussbaum's blog. According to Nussbaum, the Ramallah game is planned as a "peace match." Brazil beat Palestine in Haiti in a 2004 "peace match."

"The federal government supports this second peace game," said Vera Cintia, Brazil's foreign ministry sports coordinator. "Brazil has no better greeting card than soccer. We will try to deliver a good message to that suffering region."
Why now? Well, Ramallah has a new soccer stadium, the timing could have something to do with that.

Israel could have chosen to see this as a simple tit for tat as the second of two friendly matches between FIFA members. Ironically, the fuss the Israeli ambassador to Brazil & YNet is making could raise it to be viewed as a calculated snub of Israel:

“I intend to make it clear to the Brazilians that if there isn’t a game in Israel, we will regard that as if we are being boycotted,” said the ambassador, according to Yedioth. “It would be best if there were two games—one in Ramallah and one in Israel—or a joint game that is played by Brazil, Israel and the Palestinians.”

June 17, 2009

Thou shalt not gig in Tel Aviv

This youtube clip of Alexei Sayle trying to persuade Leonard Cohen not to entertain the racist war criminals has been around the net for a few days now.

I'm posting it because I think it's quite funny and it's another point for the BDS movement. But Alexei's a quirky chap. He likens BDS against Israel to the same against apartheid. At the same time he claims he advocates for bringing "Israel to its senses" and policies that will be for their (Israel's) benefit. But check the comments at youtube. His appeasement of Israel still isn't enough for them.

June 16, 2009

The people of Iran

I don't know what is going on in Iran. The liberal bull#*it about the supposedly pro-Western reformist Moussavi supposedly pulling an upset victory over the supposedly retrograde Ahmedinejad doesn't make much sense. But regardless of what is going on among the clerical circles and the nomenklatura, the people have seized on the moment to express their expectations and hopes. I am inspired by this picture. These people show courage facing an armed and willing to kill repressive state apparatus and they are making history. They are blessed.


Watch and practice at home!

EU says non to Israel

The EU gave a fairly significant rejection to Israel yesterday, particularly to Nethanyahu's speech where he offered a Palestinian state without borders, army, foreign policy etc. At a meeting of Foreign Ministers they rebuffed the charms of Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and refused to upgrade relations with Israel.

The upgrade, announced in June 2008 was put on hold because of the spot of bother Israel had with the natives in Gaza earlier this year. It was expected to continue when things had quietened down and the media had moved on. However, post-Obama and post-Nethanyahu, EU positions on Israel have apparently hardened. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner criticised Nethanyahu's statement saying,

"Nothing was said on the settlements ... but this stopping of the settlements is essential," said Kouchner, who in an earlier statement rejected any pre-conditions to peace negotiations.

The full report can be found here: EU postpones upgrading ties with Israel

My take on this - even if Obama isn't doing much on Israel, the fact that the US is seen as not offering unconditional support to Likud might be allowing other former friends to sneak away.

June 14, 2009

Tell her

Churchill's play struck many chords. A couple of people have come up with additional stanzas. It is an enchanting format with endless growth potential. Perhaps we should have a "7 Jewish Children" extension contest. Here would be my contribution:
Tell her Hebrew is dead. Tell her we killed her.
No. Don't tell her that.
Tell her we revived Hebrew.
Tell her we were afraid she was going to betray us.
Tell her she was growing up to be like her sister.
Tell her they were befriending her.
Tell her we covered her face with a pillow, just to hush her.
No. Don't tell her that.
Tell her it is safer to remain silent.
Tell her loose lips sink ships.
No. Don't tell her that.
Tell her she can speak English.

June 13, 2009

7 Jewish children performed in Hebrew in Tel Aviv

So now what are Engage, Howard Jacobson, Harry's Place and a whole load of other hasbaristas going to say about Caryl Churchill's play, 7 Jewish children: a play for Gaza? Here's Rachel Shabi in the Guardian website:
Seven Jewish Children, the controversial play written in response to Israel's assault on the Gaza

Strip, was performed for the first time in the Jewish state last night, with a couple of hundred people gathering to watch the Hebrew-language production in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

Written by Caryl Churchill during the three-week war on Gaza in January, the play caused outrage when it was first performed at London's Royal Court theatre in February. The BBC declined to broadcast a radio production of the play, which faced accusations of being one-sided and even antisemitic. The Guardian later filmed a version of the piece, which can be seen online.

Some Jewish leaders accused the Royal Court of violating a theatrical rule: that plays critical of, and entirely populated by, characters from one community are only defensible if written by a member of that community. Others championed the play as an empathetic and nuanced work. In a four-star review, the Guardian's Michael Billington wrote: "The play solves nothing, but shows theatre's power to heighten consciousness and articulate moral outrage."

The Israeli production was staged as part of a wider campaign organised by a coalition of leftwing groups against the two-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"I love the way [Churchill] wrote it," said one of the cast, Sarah von Schwartze. "You can see she understands how Israelis came to be in this situation."

The new production was directed by Samieh Jabbarin, an Arab-Israeli theatre artist based in Jaffa. Jabbarin is currently under indefinite house arrest after being apprehended in protests against the far right at the Arab-Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm in February; he directed proceedings via phone and Skype.

"Churchill has achieved a beautiful artistic communication of a fundamental yet subversive truth: profound pain has no home," he said. "Pain is pain is pain. Pain is universally human."

The performance in Rabin Square featured a terror-stricken woman constantly rearranging a row of sacks around her baby's pram, in increasingly restrictive barricade formations. Around her, three actors debate, argue and advise on what to tell the child about the Holocaust, Israel, Palestinians and the war in Gaza.

"Political plays can be really superficial, but this one was serious and very significant," said Danielle Shworts, 27, from Tel Aviv. Another audience member from the city, George Borestein, 58, agreed. "I am really shocked," he said. "It was a fascinating performance and, to my great sorrow, there is a lot of truth to this play."

For many of last night's audience, the production was their first chance to engage with the play's content and to consider its meaning. "I really connected to the human message," said Esther Grabiner, a lecturer who lives near Jerusalem. "I got a lump in my throat watching – because it shows the absurdity of the situation, for both sides."

Engage and Howard Jacobson were quite insistent that the play is antisemitic and Harry's Place was moved to post a nazi propaganda film by way of a comparison with the Guardian posting a reading of the play. Ordinarily they would have done what Engage usually does when a post proves to be embarrassing, ie disappear the post. But they both did so many they can't delete them all without leaving a huge chunk missing from both blogs. So they could ignore the Tel Aviv production of the play they have declared to be antisemitic. Or of course they could declare themselves more Catholic than the Pope, in this instance , more Israeli than the Israelis, and accuse the Israelis of antisemitism. Or they could stoop even lower than usual and point out that the director of the play is an Arab and therefore one of the genocidaires mark II that tried to finish, in 1948, what Hitler started in 1941/2.

I know, they could publish a retraction and apology saying how sorry they are for making false allegations against people that criticise Israel. So what's it going to be?

June 11, 2009

New exhaustive report: Israel is practising apartheid

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) has released a study indicating that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The study is being posted for public debate on this website.

The interim report, which will form part of a discussion at an upcoming HSRC conference on the subject, titled Re-envisioning Israel/Palestine, on 13 and 14 June in Cape Town, serves as a document to be finalised later this year.

The HSRC commissioned an international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the West Bank to conduct the study. The resulting 300-page draft, titled Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law, represents 15 months of research and constitutes an exhaustive review of Israel's practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law. The project was suggested originally by the January 2007 report by eminent South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, when he indicated that Israel practices had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

You can download the report here:

Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid, Executive Summary [950KB] or Full Study [3.5MB]

Regarding colonialism, the team found that Israel's policy and practices violate the prohibition on colonialism which the international community developed in the 1960s in response to the great decolonisation struggles in Africa and Asia. Israel's policy is demonstrably to fragment the West Bank and annex part of it permanently to Israel, which is the hallmark of colonialism. Israel has appropriated land and water in the OPT, merged the Palestinian economy with Israel's economy, and imposed a system of domination over Palestinians to ensure their subjugation to these measures. Through these measures, Israel has denied the indigenous population the right to self-determination and indicated clear intention to assume sovereignty over portions of its land and natural resources. Permanent annexation of territory in this fashion is the hallmark of colonialism.

Regarding apartheid, the team found that Israel's laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities, which function in this case as racialised identities in the sense provided by international law. Israel's practices are corollary to five of the six 'inhuman acts' listed by the Convention. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel's demarcation of geographic ‘reserves' in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of ‘Grand Apartheid' in apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.

The Executive Summary of the report says that the three pillars of apartheid in South Africa are all practiced by Israel in the OPT. In South Africa, the first pillar was to demarcate the population of South Africa into racial groups, and to accord superior rights, privileges and services to the white racial group. The second pillar was to segregate the population into different geographic areas, which were allocated by law to different racialgroups, and restrict passage by members of any group into the area allocated to other groups. And the third pillar was "a matrix of draconian ‘security' laws and policies that were employed to suppress any opposition to the regime and to reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning, and assassination."

The Report finds that Israeli practices in the OPT exhibit the same three 'pillars' of apartheid:

The first pillar "derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews". The second pillar is reflected in "Israel's 'grand' policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel's extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians".

The third pillar is "Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group."

The research team included scholars and international lawyers based at the HSRC, the School for Oriental and African Studies (London), the British Institute for International and Comparative Law, the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (Durban), the Adalah/Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and al-Haq/West Bank Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists. Consultation on the study's theory and method was provided by eminent jurists from South Africa, Israel and Europe.

The HSRC serves as the national social science council for South Africa. The Middle East Project of the HSRC is an independent two-year project to conduct analysis of Middle East politics relevant to South African foreign policy, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of South Africa. The analysis in this report is entirely independent of the views or foreign policy of the Government of South Africa and does not represent an official position of the HSRC. It is intended purely as a scholarly resource for the South African government and civil society and the concerned international community.

For more information or interviews, contact: mep@hsrc.ac.za or +27-21-466-7924. (Human Sciences Research Council of
South Africa (HSRC)

Von Brunn, Foxman and the political science major

You know the video that had the zionists in such a panic? I shouldn't say the zionists. Not that it's wrong to generalise about Jewish supremacists usually but not all zionists realised that it was racist at all to say "white power! f*ck the n*ggers!" Or "he's another n*gger from the town". But those that did know certainly did panic. Even David T, who believes that black men assaulting white women is to the Black identity as the chosen people concept is to the Jewish identity, realised that damage needed to be limited after:
The 3-minute video, by American journalist-filmmaker Max Blumenthal and American oleh Joseph Dana, became an overnight internet sensation. It shows a succession of U.S. Jewish visitors to Israel, most of them college-age and plainly and proudly drunk, toasting each other in a Jerusalem bar as they vie for the twin crowns of lover of Israel and loather of Obama.

"He's a Muslim for sure, and who even knows if he was born in the United States," says a young woman who identifies herself as a political science major. "We haven't even seen his birth certificate yet. Bullshit - he's not from the U.S. He's like a terrorist.
You what? He's not from the US? But you have to be born in the US in order to run for president. This is a conspiracy theory of neo-nazi white supremacist proportions. Who on earth could imagine, let alone say such stuff?

Well apparently the man now in custody on suspicion of having shot and killed 39-year-old Stephen Tyrone Johns, a security guard at Washington's holocaust museum, is what they call a "birther". A birther? What's a birther? Well it has all sorts of meanings but since Barak Obama was elected it means someone who believes that Obama was not born in Hawaii or anywhere else in the US.
Among the myriad of disturbing qualities of James Von Brunn, the 88-year-old man who shot and killed a security officer inside the Holocaust Museum on Wednesday, is his apparent belief that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States and therefore has no right to the presidency.

The reason it sticks out is that, even among Von Brunn's other characteristics -- including heavy streaks of anti-Semitism, disdain for the federal government, and threads of white supremacy -- being a "birther" has a modicum of political credibility.

Certainly, the vast majority of people who are skeptical of Obama's birth in the state of Hawaii tend to be harmless conspiracy theorists. And there has been no suggestion that Von Brunn's distrust of the president's citizenship solely drove him to this violent act.

"In addition to being a birther," said Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, "he also believed that Hitler didn't kill enough Jews. He had a history of anti-Semitic, hateful views."

Indeed a "birther" mindset is more a symptom of extremism than a cause.
Quite, but the political science major in the video surely has as much in common with Abraham Foxman as she does with James Von Brunn.

I should mention that I may not have run this post but earlier this evening (actually late last night now) I got the following comment from a "Von Brunn":
We need to exterminate all of the vermin Jews everywhere. Then there will be peace.
The comment came from a Limestone Networks IP so I have written to them asking if they have a policy on hate speech from their servers. I'll let you know if I get a reply.

Regarding the victim of yesterday's shooting, Daily Kos is suggesting setting up a paypal account for his family so you might want to keep checking in there.

June 09, 2009

Lieberman recognizes JSF

According to a Haaretz, Avigdor Liberman said that
"we [Israel] cannot advance successful diplomacy if we don't change the way we are viewed."

Lieberman added that Israel's public image is the most serious diplomatic problem facing the country. (Haaretz, June 6, 2009)
It is nice when successful high up people like Lieberman recognize and appreciate our daily toil (at JSF and countless better outfits). It makes us proud. Of course, we would be lying if we did not acknowledge how much easier our job is with Ivette Lieberman at the helm.


More child abuse by Israel

According to Ben Lynfield in today's Independent:
Two Israeli officers have testified that troops in the West Bank beat, bound and blindfolded Palestinian civilians as young as 14. The damaging disclosures by two sergeants of the Kfir Brigade include descriptions of abuses they say they witnessed during a search-and-detain operation involving hundreds of troops in Hares village on 26 March. The testimonies have been seen by The Independent and are expected to add fuel to the controversy over recent remarks by Colonel Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade, in which he said violence against detained Palestinians was justified in order to accomplish missions.
Really? What are the missions?

June 08, 2009

B.D.S., the first smashing victory

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid chalked up a first smashing victory against a large corporation. Veolia is in the process of withdrawing from the Jerusalem light rail project!

Comments Omar Barghouti:
In the first smashing and convincing victory of the global BDS movement in the field of corporate responsibility and ethical compliance, Veolia is reportedly abandoning the Jerusalem Light Rail project, an illegal project that aims at connecting Israeli colonies built on occupied Palestinian territory to the city of Jerusalem.

As the Haaretz article below (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1091186.html) admits, the BDS campaign's success in costing Veolia some $7 billion worth of contracts is the key behind this decision by the troubled company to pull out of the project.

It is worth mentioning that Le Monde has recently published an expose, revealing to French readers and, crucially, to Veolia's stock holders the fact that the company is losing a lot of money because of its complicity in a project that constitutes a major violation of international law, if not a war crime.

This great victory came as a result of years of hard, principled, meticulous and persistent work by French solidarity groups, particularly AFPS; by the growing French BDS movement which was instrumental in making Veolia lose a huge contract in Bordeaux; by Dutch activists who achieved the first success in convincing a Dutch bank to divest from Veolia and applied pressure on other banks to follow suit; by Swedish peace and justice groups, mainly connected to the Church of Sweden, particularly Diakonia, and Swedish Palestine solidarity groups who cost Veolia the heaviest, $4.5 billion contract in running the Stockholm metro; by British solidarity groups and activists, particularly affiliated with PSC, who contributed tremendously to excluding Veolia from a lucrative contract in the West Midlands; and of course by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, BNC, which partnered with all the above in the now famous Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign to pressure the company to abandon this illegal project.

The Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign, which involves activists and groups in many countries all working to pressure the two French giants to quit the JLR project, was officially launched at the Bilbao Initiative conference in the Basque city last November.

Now is the time to pressure Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Gulf states, among others, to kick Alstom out due to its complicity in this illegal project. Solidarity with Palestine means almost nothing if it cannot be translated into BDS action that can truly cost the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime dearly.

This is the time to DERAIL ALSTOM!

June 07, 2009

In Israel the law is supreme

As we all know, Israel is a state of law. Everything the state does is legal and pedantically lawful. Citizens are held to the same high standard. No this is not a joke. This is how Israel perceives itself. You must remember Tzipi Livni dismissing concerns about settlers to Bob Simons from 60 minutes with the words, "Israel is a state of law and order."

Four years ago, an AWOL Israeli soldier, Eden Natan Zada, did a Baruch Goldstein in Northern Palestinian town of
Shfar'am. He rode the bus into town, then open fire, killing the driver and three passengers and wounding four more passengers. He was wrestled down by people on the bus and then killed by angry civilians some minutes after the end of the shooting. (sse Ynet, April 8, 2005).

Had he not been killed by the angry mob, we can safely assume that Natan-Zade would be walking free today, as is the Israeli custom. Julian Soufir, for example, who committed an elaborately pre-meditated murder of an East Jerusalem taxi driver is free. But this case is different. After four years of strenuous investigation, gathering 600 testimonies and interrogating 60 suspects, the Haifa district prosecutor is pressing charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault against 12 Shfar'am resident. That is because
"The prosecution believes that, despite Natan-Zada's atrocious actions, the events that led to his death seriously harmed the rule of law," (Haaretz, June 7, 2009)
No, that is because Natan-Zada was Jewish and his killers were Palestinians. Had he been a Palestinian killed by Jews, an indictment would be a coin toss, and the sentence a joke. Btslelem summarizes the legal situation thus:
when Israeli civilians attack Palestinians, the Israeli authorities employ an undeclared policy of leniency and compromise toward the perpetrators. This policy is reflected in the actions of officials in charge of law enforcement – the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and the Israel Police Force (IPF) – which do not do enough to prevent harm to
the life and property of Palestinians, and to stop the violent attacks by settlers while they are taking place. All law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities demonstrate little interest in uncovering the substantial violence that Israeli civilians commit against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. (Btselem)

At the request of a dear reader I provide some additional evidence than in Israel a Jew can kill an Arab and walk free:
Since the outbreak of the first intifada, B’Tselem has monitored the authorities’ handling of all cases in which settlers and other Israeli civilians killed Palestinians.
Between 9 December 1987 and 18 March 2001, Israeli civilians killed 119 Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Twenty-nine of them were killed in the Tomb of the Patriarchs by Baruch Goldstein, who was himself killed during the incident. Examination of the authorities’ treatment of these offenses indicates the failures and malfunctioning throughout the various stages of the law-enforcement system, from the opening of the investigation to reduction of sentences by Israel’s president.

The principal findings of B’Tselem’s monitoring are the following:

In six homicides, the police did not even open an investigation. Two of these cases occurred during the current events.
In 39 cases, the investigation file was closed. Fifteen files were closed by the police and 22 by the State Attorney’s Office. Two other files were closed by the military. The vast majority were closed on grounds of “offender unknown” or “lack of evidence.” Five files were closed because of lack of culpability.
Of the 22 cases in which the defendants were convicted, six were convicted of murder. The others were convicted of lighter offenses: seven for manslaughter, seven for causing death by negligence (five of whom had initially been charged with manslaughter). Two were convicted of firing in a residential area, for possession of a weapon without a permit, and for endangering persons on a roadway.
Four of the five persons convicted of murder had their sentence reduced, by pardon or shortening of the sentence by the President, or when the Parole Board reduced the sentence by one-third.
The sentences of five of those convicted of manslaughter ranged from 18 months’ to four years’ imprisonment. In another case, the defendant was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, and another to six month’s public service.
Five of the seven persons convicted of causing death by negligence were sentenced to public service. The two others were sentenced to five months’ imprisonment and to 18 months’ imprisonment, respectively.

In the other cases: nine are still unresolved and in five cases the defendants were acquitted. (Btselem, Tacit Consent)