September 30, 2011

Reply to Brian Leiter

Brian Leiter, who has defended Mearsheimer, admirably but a little less critically than I would prefer, from his ugly right-wing attackers, has linked to this blog with the following words:
Chris Bertram (Bristol) directs me to an anti-Zionist blog, which does have a somewhat more sober critique of Atzmon (though it is a bit thin on supporting evidence, and I think misunderstands both 19th-century anti-semitism and Atzmon's position--but read it for yourself and compare it with the linked interview, above).
I don't usually use the space here for one on one back and forth, but I'll break that habit for the occasion, and those not interested should skip.

First, "somewhat more sober" means that he considers what I wrote not sober. Since he has presented no basis for that, that is not serious, which is unfortunate given the context of trying to defend Mearsheimer against "hatchet jobs.". Degrading the discussion to the level preferred by Goldberg is not going to benefit either Mearsheimer, nor certainly the value of "honest intellectual discourse."

Now, he also makes three shorthand critiques, none of them, even if true, justifying describing me as lacking sobriety. The first, is that I am thin on supporting evidence. This is true only of the first half of the post, which indeed doesn't present much evidence, as all relevant evidence (which is tedious and repetitive, because Atzmon writes faster than I read, which isn't a compliment) has been presented by others and I don't feel the need to rehearse it. If Leiter wants to discuss examples of Atzmon's antisemitism, he could address directly, for example, the letter of Zero Books authors, none of whom qualify as right wingers by a long shot.

The second critique is that I misrepresent 19th century antisemitism. I focus on what is in my opinion the most relevant aspect of nineteenth century antisemitism, relevant because, first, it is undeniable that it developed politically as a self-conscious political tendency that had a huge impact on history, and second because it is quite often ignored by liberal and Zionist writers who (for different reasons) want to depoliticize antisemitism (and racism in general) and turn it into either a mere personal sickness, or a purely cultural phenomenon. Of course, there is a lot more, and my one sentence hardly does it justice. However, I compared Atzmon's hedging of his attack on "jewishness" to Marr's, who hedged his attack on the exact same concept, Jewishness, in pretty much the same way. I'm sure Leiter would agree that Marr was an antisemite.

The third critique is that I misrepresented Atzmon's position. I will deal with that later, because I am not particularly keen on representing Atzmon's positions either way. Leiter defends Mearsheimer, and my concern is that he does it with the requisite nuance and critical capacity, rather than merely circle the wagons. Usually, it is fair to assume that what Jefferey Goldberg says is the opposite of the truth. But once in a blue moon he strikes gold. Unfortunately, his ability to make the most damage with it depends on people refusing to believe that it could happen.

Here is what I said in criticism of Mearsheimer. He presented an article by Atzmon as innocently making the uncontroversial point that "jews have agency." I urge Leiter to read that article and form his opinion. I focused on a single issue from many present. The factual premise of the article is that Hitler was reacting to a coordinated Jewish attack on Germany when he ordered a boycott of Jewish businesses. As Leiter surely knows, that isn't just any accusation. In a generalized form, the claim that Germany was under a coordinated Jewish attack was one of the key points of Hitler's Mein Kampf, a staple of the "knife in the back" theory about the outcome of the First World War, and one of the justifications for the anti-Jewish policies of the Third Reich. In its restricted form, that was what Hitler claimed when he announced that boycott on March 28, 1933.

Therefore, when someone claims that this was indeed the case, both directly with regards to the boycott, and as a more general point that the boycott illustrates, she is saying that Hitler's explanation for why he called for a boycott of Jewish business was true and that this explains how the situation of Jews in Germany deteriorated. Of course, one would only be justified in saying this if it were indeed true. Now, it isn't true. It is a gross misrepresentation of both how Jews reacted to Hitler and of the inner dynamics of the NSDAP in relation to Jews. I'm not aware of any reputable historian who thinks it is true. Atzmon, as he is wont to say, isn't a historian. That means that when he makes a historical claim he either invents it or he relies on someone else. In this case, he relies on an article in The Barnes Review, a white-supremacist publication known for its holocaust denial (The Jewish Declaration of War on Nazi Germany The Economic Boycott of 1933 Article from The Barnes Review, Jan./Feb. 2001, pp. 41-45). He also covers his tracks by not citing that source directly, but referring to another site that cites it (but he does include assertions present only in the source article). I urge Leiter to examines that article and the quality of the primary sources and the "research" presented in it, as well as the fact that the article deals with "previous scholarship" by falsely accusing Friedlander of falsifying the chronology, a claim that Atzmon repeats as a generalized claim about "Jewish texts."

Now, my question is, should a Chicago University professor that teaches about the holocaust be able to smell something fishy when he encounters a false claim that effectively repeats Hitler's propaganda? Should he then be able to follow this claim to its sources and evaluate them, or not? Or should he ignore all that and strive to provide a lawyerly interpretation of the article's author's innocent attempt to argue the obvious? Is it possible to criticize Mearsheimer's poor judgement here without being called by Leiter for lack of sobriety?

Now we can go back to the third critique, that I misrepresented Atzmon's positions. Leiter argues this based on an interview with Atzmon. The underlying assumption is that Atzmon is a honest person advancing a fairly coherent argument, including representing his own positions with an accuracy consistent with intellectual norms. Since there is no agreement on that, presenting Atzmon presenting his positions as evidence that I "misrepresented his positions" is what logicians call petitio principii.

But since Leiter cites a specific interview, and since he teaches philosophy, I would like to engage him in analyzing thoroughly this nugget: ‘how can I tell the truth about Israel, the Lobby, and Zionism and still maintain my position as a humanist’? What conception of humanism, truth and the relation between them can make this sentence make sense? Does Leiter agree that telling the truth about Israel, or challenging AIPAC's actions, or explaining why Zionism is wrong, poses a particular difficulty for a humanist but is quite unproblematic for an anti-humanist? Does that mean that Israel, Zionism, and the Lobby have a particularly affinity to humanism? What is that affinity? Of course Jeffrey Goldberg would agree that there is. Does Leiter agree? Has he ever felt that tension? (I haven't.) Does it mean that truth is not on the side of humanism? Is there a similarity in this statement to those liberals who were "mugged by reality" and who have been leading the imperialist right in the US? Or is it a version of Karl Schmidt's "state of exception" argument, in which in order to maintain humanism as a universal law one must suspend it in the case of the Jews. I don't understand what this sentence means other than Atzmon feeling the need to transform humanism into its opposite in order to rehabilitate a particularly anti-humanistic attack on his pet peeve, Jewishness.

September 29, 2011

A few points for the occasion of the Atzmon saga going mainstream

Of course Atzmon is antisemitic. I think a lot of people who steered clear of him, including yours truly, have been loath to say that because of the way this accusation has been weaponized by Zionists, and the desire not to give them any credibility. But that kind of circumlocution quite often has a price. Had people been less circumspect, the implosion of Mearsheimer might not have happened. It takes a unique kind of genius to cede the moral high ground to the denizens of Harry’s sewer, where every kind of bigotry is acceptable except antisemitism, or the concentration camp volunteer guard Jeffrey Goldberg.

One doesn’t need to parse Atzmon’s most hateful words, or identify his most egregious falsifications, such as asking whether the Nazis wanted to kill Jews, blaming the holocaust of “Jewish pressure”, etc., to show his antisemitism. These are but manifestations. That confusion is the result of not having a clear idea of what antisemitism is. Antisemitism is fundamentally a political analysis that explains social and political pathologies as effects of some essential Jewish attributes. This is Atzmon’s core idea, which he keeps touting as his big contribution. Atzmon’s reflection on why he isn’t antisemitic itself shows that he is, as As’ad Abukhalil called him, not merely antisemitic, but “one of those classical anti-semites.”

Atzmon's key defense is that he speaks neither of Jewish religion nor of Jews, but of Jewishness, which he defines as “Jewish ideology". This distinction precisely repeats the two gestures that establish nineteenth century antisemitism as a political tendency. Wilhelm Marr coined the term Antisemitismus to distinguish his political analysis of Western societies in terms of Jewish pathology from the old anti-Jewish prejudices based on the denigration of Jewish religion. In his programmatic pamphlet, Marr also takes care to dissociate himself from less sophisticated Jew haters, specifically writing, “Not individual Jews but the Jewish spirit and Jewish consciousness have overpowered the world.” (Victory of Jewishness over Germanity) Compare that to Atzmon:
You may note that I neither refer to Jews as a racial or ethnic group; nor am I directing my critique towards Judaism, the religion. And whilst Jews can indeed succumb to what I define as 'Jewish ideology', (and many of them do) it is valuable to bear in mind they can also be its most virulent enemies.
Substituting "Jewish ideology" for "the Jewish spirit and Jewish consciousness" is all what makes Atzmon's take on Jewishness "ground breaking." Everything else is derivative.

Another point about Mearsheimer's implosion.

As the authors of Zero books have noted in their protest letter about Atzmon, it is easy to be fooled by Atzmon's convoluted and pretentious claptrap. Mearsheimer could have extricated himself from his self-inflicted fiasco with little effort, at most a little uncomfortable 'oops'. Instead, he decided to stand his ground in the most obtuse way, defending an article in which Atzmon effectively plagiarizes white supremacist fabrications as example of Atzmon’s not being an antisemite. All he had to do to find out where Atzmon gets his knowledge of history was click on a few links Atzmon provided, and find the source from which he lifted the claim that
Jewish texts tend to glaze over the fact that Hitler's March 28 1933, ordering a boycott against Jewish stores and goods, was an escalation in direct response to the declaration of war on Germany by the worldwide Jewish leadership.
It doesn’t take a sleuth to determine that the source of this fabrication is an article of writer who advocates something called "ethno-nationalism," published in the holocaust denial publication, The Barnes Review, the brainchild of Willis Carto, an American white-supremacist and a former affiliate of David Duke. The article, linked indirectly by Atzmon, is hosted on a site whose political flavor can be easily gauged by this enthusiastic introduction to another article:
Entire books have been written on the topic of "why Germany lost the War" - or, conversely, "why the Allies won". This booklet exposes a vitally important, but often underestimated factor: the German traitors who worked to destroy the German Reich from within. Their attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 was only the tip of the iceberg. More and more, it appears that the Allies would not have been victorious without their help - and that, in fact, the war might never even have come about without their machinations!
But let alone that Mearsheimer, despite being a political science professor, has a tin ear, and a not very scholarly attitude to checking sources, even more disturbing is the incongruity between his attitude and the fact that he “taught countless University of Chicago students over the years about the Holocaust and about Hitler's role in it.” It is preposterous to accuse Mearsheimer of holocaust denial, and the mainstream people who attack him now have very little integrity. But that is not enough. How does someone who teaches history at Chicago University defends the integrity of an article that is based on a fabricated historical claim, in the area of his teaching, without noting that the core claim is a fabrication? There was no “declaration of war on Germany by the worldwide Jewish leadership.” First, there was no worldwide Jewish leadership (it’s an antisemitic and nazi boogeyman), and, second, as Saul Friedlander writes (and as Lenni Brenner fleshes out in detail) :
most of the Jewish organizations in the United States were opposed to mass demonstrations and economic action.
Atzmon, one can be sure, hasn’t read any “Jewish text” (his racializing code word for competent history) on the matter. He apparently read one article in The Barnes Review, and from this article he took, and made his own, the (yet another) false claim that
Not even Saul Friedlander in his otherwise comprehensive overview of German policy, Nazi Germany and the Jews, mentions the fact that the Jewish declaration of war and boycott preceded Hitler's speech of March 28, 1933. Discerning readers would be wise to ask why Friedlander felt this item of history so irrelevant.
In fact, Friedlander includes the story of the organizing among Jews during the first months of Hitler’s rule in the first chapter, pages 6-11 of the abridged edition of Nazi Germany and the Jews. It is available on line, so it is easy to check. Here is Friedlander actually setting the sequence of events:
Much of the foreign press gave wide coverage to the Nazi violence [from early March]. American newspapers, in particular, did not mince words about the anti-Jewish persecution. Jewish and non-Jewish protests grew. These very protests became the Nazis’ pretext for the notorious April 1, 1933, boycott of Jewish businesses. In mid-March, Hitler had already allowed a committee headed by Julius Streicher, party chief of Franconia and editor of the party’s most vicious anti-Jewish newspaper, Der Stürmer, to proceed with preparatory work for it. (Ibid. my emphasis)
It is funny in a not funny way that a professor of political science would describe a writer who draws his "knowledge" of history quite exclusively from far right white nationalist publications as a “universalist” who “is the kind of person who intensely dislikes nationalism of any sort.” What is not funny in a not funny way is how Mearsheimer managed to destroy his own intellectual standing for defending an insignificant blurb. (And just to be clear, the implosion of Mearsheimer does not mean that AIPAC is any less nefarious an organization than it was last week.)



[ADDED]
urls not linked in this article:

1. http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/judea-declares-war-on-obama-by-gilad-atzmon.html
2. The Barnes Review, "The Jewish Declaration of War on Nazi Germany", The Economic Boycott of 1933" archived at http://www.wintersonnenwende.com/scriptorium/english/archives/articles/jdecwar.html
3. http://www.wintersonnenwende.com/scriptorium/english/archivesindex.html
4. http://www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20Editorials/2011/January/3%20o/Jews,%20Judaism,%20and%20Jewishness%20By%20Gilad%20Atzmon.htm

September 27, 2011

Israel lobby UK - again

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that an Israel advocacy group in the UK can get a Palestinian put away in the UK and possibly deported from the UK but this Guardian article by David Hearst did surprise me when I first saw it.

The home secretary, Theresa May, was warned by senior officials in the UK Border Agency not to deport a Palestinian activist accused of antisemitism, saying the evidence against him was disputed, open to legal challenge and that the case was "very finely balanced".
Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Northern branch of the Islamic Movement, who has been in Britain, in prison and on bail since his arrest three months ago, will appeal against his deportation before an immigration and asylum tribunal on Monday.
Emails seen by the Guardian, show that May was determined to find a reason to exclude Salah, before the evidence against him had been verified.
Just 17 minutes after receiving a report on the activist, prepared by Michael Whine of the Community Security Trust, a UK charity monitoring antisemitism, Faye Johnson, private secretary to the home secretary, emailed about a parliamentary event Salah was due to attend.
"Is there anything that we can do to prevent him from attending (eg could we exclude him on the grounds of unacceptable behaviour?)" she wrote. Whine's report said Salah's record of provocative statements carried a risk that his presence in the UK could have "a radicalising impact" on his audiences.
The whole case against Raed Salah, apart from the fact that he is a Palestinian (with Israeli citizenship) critic of Israel revolves around a load of disputed quotes.
Salah's legal team say the quotes he is alleged to have said and written were doctored to make them sound antisemitic. There is no suggestion that CST doctored the quotes.
Ok, that's nice. The CST can get a guy banned or imprisoned then deported but, oh no, it doesn't doctor quotes.

September 26, 2011

Rotten sardines caught in Turkish facebook dragnet

Names of the small criminals who followed the criminal orders of the big criminals and committed piracy (actually, that is unfair to real pirates) and murder on the high seas, while taking over the Mavi Marmara.



Agai Yehezkel, Aharon Haliwa, Alex Shakliar, Amir Ulo, Amir Abste, Amir Shimon Ashel, Anna Strelski, Anton Siomin, Aram Zehavi, Ariel Brickman, Ariel Karo, Ariel Rifkin, Ariel Yochanan, Arnon Avital, Assaf Bryt, Avi Balut, Avi Bnayahu, Avi Mizrakhi, Avi Peled, Aviad Perri, Aviel Siman, Avihay Wizman, Avihu Ben Zahar, Avishay Levi, Avishay Shasha, Aviv Edri, Aviv Kochavi, Aviv Mendelowitz, Baruch (Barry) Berlinsky, Basam Alian, Ben-Zion (Benzi) Gruver, Bnaya Sarel, Boaz Dabush, Boaz Rubin, Boris Schuster, Dado Bar- Kalifa, Dan Dolberg, Dan Harel, Daniel Kotler, David Shapira, David Slovozkoi, David Zini, Eden Atias, Eden Atias, Efraim Aviad Tehila, Efraim Avni, Eitan Ben-Gad, Elad Chachkis, Elad Itzik, Elad Shoshan, Elad Yakobson, Eli Fadida, Eli Yafe, Eliezer Shkedi, Elik Sror, Eran Karisi, Erez Sa'adon, Eyal Eizenberg, Eyal Handelman, Eyal Zukowsky, Gil Shen, Gur Rozenblat, Gur Schreibmann, Guy Givoni, Guy Hazut, Haggai Amar, Hanan Schwart, Harel Naaman, Hila Yafe, Ido Nechushtan, Ilan Malka, Itay Virob, Liran Nachman, Michelle Ben-Baruch, Miki Ohayon, Moshe Tamir, Nadav Musa, Nathan Be'eri, Nezah Rubin, Nimrod Schefer, Nir Ben-David, Nir Dupet, Nir Ohayon, Niv Samban, Noam Keshwisky, Ofek Gal, Ofer Lahad, Ofer Levi, Ofer Winter, Ofer Zafrir, Ofir Edri, Ohad Girhish, Ohad Najme, Omer Dori, Omri Dover, Or Nelkenbaum, Oren Bersano, Oren Cohen, Oren Kupitz, Oren Zini, Pinkhas Buchris, Raz Sarig, Ron Asherov, Ron Levinger, Ron Shirto, Ronen Dan, Ronen Dogmi, Roi Elkabetz, Roi Oppenheimer, Roi Weinberger, Sahar Abargel, Shai Belaich, Shaked Galin, Sharon Itach, Shaul Badusa, Shay Unger, Shimon Siso, Shiran Mussa, Shlomit Tako, Tal Alkobi, Tal Bendel, Tal Kommemi, Tal Ruso, Tamir Oren, Tamir Yadai, Tom Cohen, Tomer Meltzmann, Geva Rapp, Tslil Birbir, Udi Sagie, Uri Ron, Yair Keinan, Yair Palay, Ya'akov(Yaki) Dolf, Yaniv Zolicha, Yaron,Finkelman, Yaron Simsulo, Yehosua (Shuki) Ribak, Yehu Ofer, Yehuda Fuchs, Yehuda Hacohen, Yigal Slovik, Yigal Sudri, Yizhar Yona, Yoav Galant, Yoav Gertner, Yoav Mordechai, Yochai Siemann, Yochanan Locker, Yom-Tov Samia, Yonathan Barenski, Yonathan Felman, Yoni Weitzner, Yossi Abuzaglo, Yossi Bahar, Yossi Beidaz, Yotam Dadon, Yishai Ankri, Yishai Green, Yuval Halamish, Zion Bramli, Zion Shankour, Ziv Danieli, Ziv Trabelsi, Zuf Salomon, Zvi Fogel, Zvi Yehuda Kelner.


The list of the big criminals is easier to compile, beginning with Obama, Netanyahu, and Ashkenazi. For some reasons, the Turkish government doesn't list Obama, although no Israel crime is possible without his approval.

If the people on this list think twice before landing in any airport other than the one is ethnically cleansed Lydda, that's already the beginning of accountability.

Now, this list, compiled by the Turkish government, mostly based on facebook, may or may not be accurate. Of course, Israel could provide the accurate list.

September 25, 2011

The Story behind the film that "saved Israel's reputation"

As PACBI and many others have been claiming, based on quite explicit and publicly available information, Israeli state institutions fund and use art in order to whitewash Israel's image and deflect attention from its vicious apartheid and daily murder. This effort is called "Brand Israel." According to Haaretz, the Oscar winning film "Strangers No More," masquerading under progressive politics of inclusion and attention to the plight of non-Jewish refugees inside Israel, was conceived as a propaganda project that associates Israel with all the humane values that Israel tramples upon every day.

The Oscar-winning film Stranger No More, according to Keren Tal [Rogozin school manager] was produced in order improve Israel's shaky image after operation 'Cast Lead'. The idea for the project was advanced among others by the Tel Aviv Development Fund. "After a consultation with Tel Aviv's Mayor Ron Huldai, the Foundation invited Lin Arison (second wife of billionaire Ted Arison, founder of the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts) to examine how to promote Israel's image," says Tal. "I was informed that she will attend school and that she had half an hour for the purpose." The visit ended Arison's words: "We will be in touch."

A month and half later Tal received an email from Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon, the directors of the film, informing her that they wanted to visit the school. They remained there for about a year and a half, shooting the film a week at a time.

What did you think of the film?

"It brings an intense emotional story because it zooms in on something human and touching. The film was one of the factors that halted the deportation of the children. The producers say that it was screened in about a hundred festivals".

So did the film achieve its aim, improving Israel's image?

"I am at peace with that even though it is contrary to my political views. I want to see Israel undergoing a change. The film did well for children who live with a feeling of social exclusion. Ours is a society surrounded by racism, and children suffer from it as they walk down the street. I feel proud when I see the faces of the children and the staff in the film.

“People were paying attention to the Oscar while and I went back to dealing with the daily grind, especially since this was when Eli Yishai came with the deportation announcement. The movie did not not bring me to where I am today. My work brought me. The everyday puts one in touch with so many wrongs and difficulties, that the ratings and the publicity are not important to me”.

Dr Maggie Navon, North America Vice President for Tel Aviv Development Foundation, gave a slightly different account this week of the birth of film. Three years ago, the Foundation decided to raise funds in the United States on the occasion Tel Aviv’s centenary. Among others, they contacted Lin Arison. When Arison came to Israel she went off to explore cultural hubs such as the Suzanne Dellal Centre, It was then that Huldai and the Fund suggested that swing over to the Bialik – Rogozin school. What should have been a fifteen-minute visit lasted an hour, and Arison was captivated by the children’s and Tal’s charm.

"The directors contacted Tal two weeks later. Arison paid for the production out of her money and the US HBO channel only acquired the movie during the final production phase. It was ready for release just when Israeli Apartheid Week was taking place in the United States. During this week the state of Israel was the object of grave accusations and it was described as an apartheid state, and the film saved its reputation. If it were only possible to duplicate Karen Tal, who is a model of ultimate leadership, the state's situation would be infinitely better.”

From Haaretz, translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe, with my humble improvements.

So what do you say about Cultural boycott?

Well, the translator of this text, Sol Salbe, doesn't like it. He is also peeved at Boycott from Within,
I also wanted to make the point that the self-proclaimed BDS from Within is a phony. It is strange that not a single one of their "hundreds of supporters" has read this Haaretz article. It really helps their case but evidently none of them is sufficiently integrated to Israeli society to read the culture pages, at least not in Hebrew.
Got to love it when liberal Zionists, especially those who got a good Israeli education, reveal their deep far right-wing racist xenophobic worldview, which in Israel is simply mainstream, and even called "left". You get it? If you live under the Israeli apartheid regime, but you get your news from an Yiddish or Arab or Russian or English source, and don't read the "cultural pages of Haaretz" (which means that most likely you are not a white, European, upper middle class, over-educated and under-politicized Ashkenazi snob), then you don't have the right to describe your political view as "from within." You are a foreigner. Not "well integrated," and Eli Yshai probably got your number.


Eugene TerreBlanche alive and kicking in Palestine

Surely others will see the similarity here. This is Harriet Sherwood in today's Observer:
The settlers come down the hill from the outpost, mostly on foot, but occasionally on horseback or in tractors or 4x4s. They carry Israeli flags, and sometimes bring guns, shovels and dogs. There may be as few as three or as many as 40. They taunt the local villagers and sometimes attack them. Often the Israeli army arrives and trains its weapons on the villagers.
Now consider the invasion of Bophuthatswana by Eugene Terreblanche's Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB). There are details on wikipedia here and there is a documentary on youtube here.

Of course, for all the similarity, there is a key difference between the racist tormentors of the Arabs of Palestine and the racist attackers of the Blacks of South Africa. In Palestine, the racists are the state or they have the support of the state. In South Africa even the apartheid authorities opposed the AWB eventually.

September 24, 2011

No depth too deep for Obama

I'm not talking about Obama's ludicrous speech to the UN on Abbas trying to find somewhere to sit in Manhattan.  It's this article from yesterday's Daily Beast (Newsweek) about how it was Obama, not Bush, who sold bunker buster or deep penetration bombs to Israel.
While publicly pressuring Israel to make deeper concessions to the PalestiniansPresident Obama has secretly authorized significant new aid to the Israeli military that includes the sale of 55 deep-penetrating bombs known as bunker busters, Newsweek has learned.

In an exclusive story to be published Monday on growing military cooperation between the two allies, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Newsweek that the GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators—potentially useful in any future military strike against Iranian nuclear sites—were delivered to Israel in 2009, just several months after Obama took office.

The military sale was arranged behind the scenes as Obama’s demands for Israel to stop building settlements in disputed territories were fraying political relations between the two countries in public.

The Lawyers, guns and money blog asks some interesting questions about this as to whether the shipments were military or political.
The military logic is that the Obama administration believes that Israel should be better equipped to strike hardened Iranian nuclear facilities. That’s it; these are the only targets Israel might consider attacking in the near to medium term that would require such ordnance. One way to read this is that the administration thinks that an Israeli strike on Iran would be a good idea. This may be possible, but the administration doesn’t appear to have been doing much else in order to push Israel into an attack.
So that leaves political.  Maybe Obama was looking for a policy result from Israel but,
Bibi has consistently given Obama the finger on policy, and has made his support ofObama’s GOP opponents about as clear as possible. Obama has no leverage; no GOP President will reduce the level of military aid sent to Israel, and Bibi finds a Republican administration preferable for a variety of reasons.
So

This leaves the impact on Iran, and on Israel’s domestic supporters. To borrow another phrase, the whole point of politicized arms shipments to Israel is lost if you keep it a secret. Even if we accept the premise that Israel’s US constituency could in some sense be satisfied by bunker buster shipments, it’s hard to see how secretshipments help solve the problem. Perhaps the logic was that since someone had to know, elite level signalling would serve to insulate Obama from attacks. This again means that, effectively, Obama was dependent on Bibi’s goodwill for the plan to work. Good luck with that. The Iran problem is essentially the same; Iran can only be intimidated by things it knows about. It’s possible that some US negotiator somewhere showed some Iranian diplomat a packing slip for the bombs, but that strategy works whether or not the US actually ships the weapons.
And so we’re left with the question that has too often characterized the Obama administration: For this bad policy executed incompetently, what’s the balance between bad and incompetent? On the upside, at least Eli Lake has been uncovered as the administration shill he’s always been.
Simple ineptitude? Can that really explain the policies of the most powerful state on the planet?

September 22, 2011

London Philharmonic Orchestra condemned

I posted before on the disruption of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms by Palestine solidarity protesters. Well, before the performance, four members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, together with several other people, signed a letter to the Independent, calling on the BBC to cancel its invitation.  These LPO musicians have now been suspended and this has led to another letter with many signatories, this time to the Daily Telegraph:

Musicians’ Israel protest
SIR – We are shocked to hear of the suspension of four members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra for adding their signatures to a letter calling for the BBC to cancel a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
According to a statement from LPO managers, quoted in the Jewish Chronicle, the action was taken because the musicians included their affiliation to the orchestra with their signatures – a convention that is common practice within the academic world, for example.
One does not have to share the musicians’ support for the campaign for boycotting Israeli institutions to feel grave concern about the bigger issue at stake for artists and others. There is a link being created here between personal conscience and employment, which we must all resist.
A healthy civil society is founded on the ability of all to express non-violent and non-prejudiced opinions, freely and openly, without fear of financial or professional retribution.
The LPO management states that, for it, “music and politics don’t mix” – yet its decision to jeopardise the livelihoods of four talented musicians for expressing their sincerely held views is itself political.
Why should it be so dangerous for artists to speak out on the issue of Israel/Palestine? We are dismayed at the precedent set by this harsh punishment, and we strongly urge the LPO to reconsider its decision.
Howard Brenton
Siobhan Davies 
Mike Leigh 
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Philip Hensher
Miriam Margolyes
Richard Barrett
Caryl Churchill
Siobhan Davies 
John Harteco
A.L. Kennedy
Ken Loach
Simon McBurney
Steve Martland
Annette Moreau
Cornelia Parker 
Prof. Jacqueline Rose
Michael Rosen
Alexei Sayle
Kamila Shamsie
Mark Wallinger
Dame Harriet Walter
Benjamin Zephaniah
Kirsty Alexander 
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown 
Michael Attenborough
Prof. Mona Baker
Derek Ball
Chris Bluemel
Richard Black
Ian Bourn
Prof. Haim Bresheeth
Victoria Brittain
Michael Carlin
Jonathan Chadwick
Prof. Michael Chanan
Sacha Craddock
Andy Cowton
Raymond Deane
Ivor Dembina
Dr Kay Dickinson
Dr Hugh Dunkerley
Tony Dowmunt
Patrick Duval
Gareth Evans
Moris Farhi
Dr Naomi Foyle
Jane Frere
Carol-Anne Grainger
Tony Graham
Lee Hall
Michelle Hanson
Laura Hastings-Smith
Dr Wallace Heimwriter 
John Hegley
Matthew Herbert
Prof. Susan Himmelweit 
Mary Hoffman
Dr Fergus Johnston
Ann Jungman
Reem Kelani
Judith Kazantzis
Conor Kelly
Anthea Kennedy
Aleksander Kolkowski
Dr Adam Kossoff
Malcolm Le Grice
Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky 
Jamie McCarthy
Dr Carole McKenzie 
Ewan McLennan
Jeff McMillan
Helen Legg
China Miaville 
Roger Mitchell
Jenny Morgan
Carol Morley
Alan Morrison
Paul Morrison
Ian Pace
Sam Paechter
Miranda Pennell
Jeremy Peyton Jones
Henry Porter
James Purefoy
Laure Prouvost 
William Raban
A.L. Rees
Lynne Reid Banks
Frances Rifkin
Leon Rosselson
Martin Rowson
Dr Khadiga Safwat
Sukhdev Sandhu
Dominic Saunders
Guy Sherwin
Kevin Smith
Prof. John Smith
Anne Solomon
Ahdaf Soueif
Helen Statman
Michael Stevens
Susannah Stone
Trevor Stuart
Ingrid Swenson
Alia Syed
Jennet Thomas
Miranda Tufnell
Prof. David Turner 
Francesca Viceconti
Michelene Wandor
David Ward
Samuel West
Ian Wiblin
Andrew Wilson
Eliza Wyatt
Robin Yassin-Kassab
Zoë Wanamaker
Dr Paul Goodey
Professor John Miller
Anna Clarke
Big of the Telegraph to publish it really given that it's something of an inhouse rag for zionism in the UK. Mind you there are some big names among the signatories and even Norm of Normblog is a little anxious about what the LPO has done.

September 18, 2011

"Some of my best friends are Zionists"

Someone's been busy capturing the changing winds of US Jewish American consciousness.


Initial Development Trailer: Some of My Best Friends Are Zionists from Open Letter Productions on Vimeo.



September 17, 2011

BICOM briefing boob

Many thanks to Mike Cushman on the Just Peace UK list for linking to this Guido Fawkes' blog post about an embarrassing mispost by BICOM CEO, Lorna Fitzsimmons.  It appears that an email from her intended only for the eyes of donors to the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre got sent instead to the media.  As it happens, Fitzsimmons's mistake was first reported in the Daily Mail which, remarkably, stands to the left of the Guido Fawkes' blog but the latter's post is more detailed:

After his story earlier in the week about pro-Israel lobby group BICOM, Guido was tipped that their CEO Lorna Fitzsimons, the former Labour MP, was in some serious trouble. He was tracking down an email that was accidentally sent out on Monday to some of BICOM’s media list instead of the intended recipients – the donors. Annoyingly Ephraim Hardcastle beat him to it this morning and reveals how Lorna blurted to the world that she has been:
“…liaising with BBC and Sky to ensure ‘the most objectively favourable line was taken…I briefed Jonathan Ford, the Financial Times leader writer for his upcoming leading article… BICOM had regular contact with the Editor at Large of Prospect magazine, David Goodhart, helping to inform him about the forthcoming UN vote on Palestinian statehood…”

We have put the whole email online here. It’s standard lobbyist boasting, but Guido imagines the FT editors will take a dim view of any sign of them being influenced by a PR operation. A BICOM source tried to play down the story as“mildly embarrassing”, but it was the comment given to the Mailthat really tickled Guido: “A BICOM spokesman denies that Ms Fitzsimons is to lose her job.” If you have to say it…
There's a little bit more to the post and the pdf of the email is worth a look at.

September 16, 2011

International solidarity can lead to isolation

I think that's the message of the Jewish Leadership Council and the Histadrut in response to the UK's Trades Unions Congress's (TUC) review of its dealings with the zionist trade union federation. Here's Martin Bright in the Jewish Chronicle:

The TUC this week voted to review its relationship with the Histadrut, Israel's General Federation of Labour, and reaffirmed its commitment to the boycott movement in partnership with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
The unprecedented move was voted through on the last day of the TUC's annual congress in London and could lead to the severing of a relationship that goes back to the 1920s.
A wide-ranging motion on the Middle East was proposed by Andrew Murray, chief of staff at the Unite super-union, who is also chair of the Stop the War Coalition. The motion restated last year's TUC decision to "disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the wall."
An amendment calling for the Histadrut review was proposed by Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union and chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. It called on all unions "to review their bi-lateral relations with all Israeli organisations, including Histradrut." The amendment was opposed by the RMT, the rail workers' union, which argued that the TUC should continue to work in partnership with fellow trade unionists in Israel.
Both the Jewish Leadership Council and the Histadrut have written to TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber to express their concern at the move, which marks the growing influence of the boycott movement within UK trade unions. Supporters of Israel believe the move could lead to the international isolation of the TUC and remove it from future discussions between Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists working for peace.
Woops, not the JLC or Histadrut, it's "Supporters of Israel" who are concerned for the well-being and international connectedness of of the TUC.  I've had a few conversations lately with people suggesting that the definition of zionists should be wide enough to include people who never wanted a state specially for Jews or even wide enough to be utterly meaningless but I have never seen "supporters of Israel" being used to mean supporters of the UK's trade union movement, infiltrators, entryists, maybe, but not supporters.

UK now safe haven for war criminals

According to the Jewish Chronicle, the UK has now changed its law so that Israeli war crimes suspects can come here without fear of arrest:

The British government has approved the change in this country's universal jurisdiction law.
Nearly two years after Israeli Opposition leaderTzipi Livni was forced to cancel a trip to the UKwhen pro-Palestinian activists applied for a warrant for her arrest, the change was given the Royal Assent and became law.
The law has a bizarre Orwellian name, The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. And there's a circle to be squared:
Matthew Gould, the Britsh ambassador to Israel, said it was an important amendment that would "ensure that the UK's justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons".
He said: "The change will ensure that people cannot be detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution, while ensuring that we continue to honour our international obligations.
"The UK remains committed to ensuring that those guilty of war crimes are brought to justice. This will put an end to requests for warrants where there is no realistic chance of prosecution."
Now the law has been changed so that someone like Tzipi Livni can come here freely but, at the same time,
The UK remains committed to ensuring that those guilty of war crimes are brought to justice
. Let's see how many of "those guilty of war crimes are brought to justice" in the UK now that Tzipi Livni can come here freely.

September 15, 2011

People move to cut Jordan's ties to Israel

Here's a remarkable piece on the MSNBC news site.
Israel was evacuating its embassy in Jordan on Wednesday in advance of a demonstration promoted on Facebook under a banner "No Zionist embassy on Jordanian territory," The Jerusalem Post reported without citing sources.


Security forces in Jordan were preparing for the protest, which was scheduled to take place Thursday at the embassy in Amman, Israel's Ynet news reported. Armored vehicles and security officers were stationed at the building, according to the website.


The move comes days after the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was ransacked by hundreds of protesters, forcing the the ambassador to flee the country.


Story: Israeli PM condemns embassy attack in Cairo


Elsewhere in Amman, demonstrators demanded the closing of the U.S. Embassy in Jordan over WikiLeaks cables suggesting covert U.S. plans to turn Jordan into a home for Palestinians.
It was a rare anti-American demonstration in Jordan, a close ally of the U.S.
The 70 activists burned American and Israeli flags in a noisy protest opposite the embassy in Amman on Wednesday.
They chanted, "The people want the Americans out."
Roughly half of the country's 6 million population is of Palestinian origin. With Palestinian-Israeli peace talks stalled, some Jordanians fear Israel may try to deport Palestinians to Jordan.
This week Jordan's King Abdullah II spoke out strongly against using Jordan as a substitute for a Palestinian state, a concept favored by a tiny extremist minority among Israelis.
This is fascinating. Could King Abdullah really be so poorly informed as to speak out against another ethnic cleansing campaign if only a "tiny extremist minority among Israelis" supports the idea?

It's good news that ordinary people in the front line states are severing diplomatic relations with Israel but the fears expressed at the end of this article go to the heart of Israel's existence. Ethnic cleansing is certainly extreme when it happens in most places but in Israel it is considered the norm.

September 14, 2011

Who's afraid of Palestinian children's art?

Who do you think? This has been doing the rounds for a few days now and I got an email from Editerette about it on the 9th. It appears that "Jewish groups" have intervened to prevent a display of art from children from Gaza.  Here's, appropriately, Muzzlewatch:
Berkeley, CA’s Middle East Children’s Alliance broke the news yesterday that the exhibit of children’s artwork from Gaza that they had worked on for months with Oakland’s Children’s Museum of Art was suddenly canceled by the board before the planned September 24 opening reception. The show featured drawings by children about Israel’s infamous Operation Cast Lead, the military assault of December 2008-January 2009 that led to the deaths of some 1,400 Palestinians, over 300 of them children.
War is not the answer
Recognizing that the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council has an established track record of targeting Palestinian cultural expression, I wrote directly to JCRC Executive Director Doug Kahn to find out if they were involved in the board’s sudden decision to cancel the show. Indeed it seems they were, though perhaps not alone. This was his response in full:
East Bay JCRC, working closely with the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, shared with the leadership of MOCHA our concerns about the inappropriateness of this exhibit given the fact that MOCHA – an important and valued community institution – serves very young children.
(MOCHA has only stated that they received complaints “from Jewish groups as well as others in the community.”)
However, it doesn’t seem likely that this is about concerns for children’s sensitivities to war imagery. As the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in its coverage of the incident today, MOCHA has a significant track record of showing the artwork of children living under war, including WWII, without incident. These images apparently aren’t substantively different.


This is, however, about giving voice to Palestinians-in this case children- who endured a simply extraordinary attack on an illegally captive population of 1.5 million people otherwise known as Operation Cast Lead.
Well there we have it, the Jewish Community Relations Council bringing a whole new meaning to Orwellian newspeak.

Palestinian bid for statehood

As anyone who follows these things will know, the Palestinian Authority leadership is intending to make a bid for statehood at the UN. Quite honestly I can't say what it all means but I have grave misgivings about the exercise because I don't see how a state with no land and no power differs from the situation for the Palestinians now. Of course the PA has nominal power in the West Bank but it is considered by many to be hopelessly corrupt both financially and criminally and so in thrall to Israel as to be an appendage of the Israeli state. So, if the UN recognises such an entity as a state can't zionists carry on expanding, colonising, segregating, ethnic cleansing and slaughtering business as usual only at the same time as saying that the Palestinians have what they wanted?

That was just off the top of my head but there are also warnings coming out of Palestinian quarters to the effect that the PA does not represent the entirety of the Palestinian people so the statehood bid would not enhance the rights of the Palestinians but curtail them. The PA does not represent the Palestinians in Israel, Gaza or the diaspora. It doesn't even truly represent the Palestinians of the West Bank. This means that the PA doesn't have the required authority to make the bid but also any state emerging from the bid would have the same lack of authority but would be assumed by many to have authority, even to write off the rights of the bulk of the Palestinian people.

There's a statement here from the Palestinian Youth Movement titled Statement on the September 2011 Declaration of Statehood.  Here's a little chunk:
This declaration serves as a mechanism for rescuing the faulty peace framework and depoliticizing the struggle for Palestine by removing the struggle from its historical colonial context. The attempts to impose a false peace with the normalizing of the colonial regime has only led us to surrender increasing amounts of our land, the rights of our people, and our aspirations by delegitimizing and marginalizing our people’s struggle and deepening the fragmentation and division of our people. This declaration jeopardizes the rights and aspirations of over two-thirds of the Palestinian people who live as refugees in countries of refuge and in exile, to return to their original homes from which they were displaced in the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) and subsequently since then. It also jeopardizes the position of the Palestinians residing in the 1948 occupied territories who continue to resist daily against the ethnic cleansing and racial practices from inside the colonial regime. Furthermore, it corroborates and empowers its Palestinian and Arab partners to act as the gatekeepers to the occupation and the colonization of the region within a neo-colonial framework.
Still, The Guardian's main resident zionist, Jonathan Freedland, supports the bid, and why wouldn't he?

September 13, 2011

Another one bites the dust (Agresco liquidated)

From the BNC's press release:

Campaigners for Palestinian rights are celebrating after the primary Israeli agricultural produce export company Agrexco, which has been a key target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in support of Palestinian rights, has been ordered into liquidation after being unable to pay its creditors.

Agrexco is a partially state-owned Israeli exporter responsible for the export of a large proportion of fresh Israeli produce, including 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israel’s illegal settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In a translation of the court documents on the liquidation process that the BNC obtained, it is clearly stated that Agrexco acted as an arm of the Israeli state, effectively providing state subsidies to the agricultural sector. The documents indicate criticism of the government for allowing the company to default on its debts and also warn that Agrexco is a primary Israeli symbol and that its downfall is likely to have great implications.

“We congratulate and warmly salute our European partners for their dedicated and determined campaign against Agrexco. This ruling follows the news that Veolia, a French multinational that has lost billions of euros worth of municipality contracts over its provision of infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements, is facing a financial meltdown. Clearly, the BDS movement is coming of age and is raising the cost of corporate complicity with Israeli war crimes. Strategic BDS campaigns are proving, through every day successes, that BDS is the most effective form of solidarity needed to challenge Israel’s system of colonialism, occupation and apartheid” said Jamal Juma’, coordinator of Stop the Wall Campaign and member of BNC secretariat.

Adel Abu Ni’meh, director of the Palestinian Farmers Union, a member organisation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, welcomed the news but warned that “Agrexco assets are still being sold. We are following this closely and call on all international companies to withdraw their offers. Those companies that purchase Agrexco assets and brand names or seek to replace the company as the primary Israeli agricultural exporter will be similarly targeted by the BDS movement”.

Agrexco has been targeted with popular boycotts, blockades, demonstrations and direct action throughout Europe. In France, a broad civil society coalition containing dozens of organisations took legal action against the company and fiercely opposed the construction of a terminal at Sete that has laid unused since its construction. In Italy and the UK, campaigners took direct action and pressured supermarkets to drop the Agrexco brand. In July, a new coalition of organisations from over 13 European countries vowed to “put an end to Agrexco’s presence in Europe”. The coalition is expected to examine developments and may initiate new campaigns in response to the outcome of the liquidation.

As respected Israeli economist Shir Hever has stated, the European-wide campaign against the company was among the factors that led to the company’s downfall. “The company has been found to produce misleading reports, and did not warn its investors of the possible impact of the BDS campaign to boycott the company products. Many farmers have left the company, opting to work with competing ones which have not yet been at the focus of the BDS campaign, and as a result Agrexco entered a liquidity crisis. Several companies have considered bidding to buy Agrexco, but have withdrawn their bids after a brief research, which has no doubt uncovered the company’s prominence in the BDS campaign, among other things,” he explained.






September 10, 2011

Egyptian people cut diplomatic relations with Israel

The Guardian is reporting that the Israeli embassy in Cairo has been stormed and broken into by Ehyptian protesters:

Egypt declared a state of alert early this morning after a group of 30 protesters broke into the Israeli embassy in Cairo last night and dumped hundreds of documents out of the windows.
The storming of the building came after a day of demonstrations outside where crowds swinging sledgehammers and using their bare hands tore apart the embassy's security wall. Hundreds of people converged on the embassy throughout the afternoon and into the night, tearing down large sections of the graffiti-covered security wall outside the 21-storey building. For hours, security forces made no attempt to intervene.
The BBC is reporting that the Egyptian security forces are now intervening and actually shooting at protesters:

Security forces fired tear gas and drove armoured vehicles at protesters, who responded by throwing stones and petrol bombs. Hundreds were injured.
The protesters broke into the embassy building, entering consular offices and throwing out documents, officials said.
Israel's ambassador has flown out of Egypt back to Tel Aviv.
Hundreds of protesters remain near the embassy, burning tyres in the street, chanting slogans against Egypt's military rulers.
Egypt's governing military council is meeting later on Saturday to address the situation, says the BBC's Bethany Bell in Cairo.
Riot police remain on the streets and live gunshots have been heard, our correspondent says, while the air is still thick with tear gas.
And here's al Jazeera:

September 04, 2011

Angry Arabs, a spy chief and the war on terror. Call for Norm

I've belatedly been following the Aaronovitch Watch blog which is going to close down soon according to itself. But they seem to be winding down sufficiently slowly to slip in an amusing post here or there. This one draws on the recent speech by former MI5 chief, Eliza Manningham-Buller, to ridicule former leftist, Norman Geras, whose finger, it predicts, "will soon be wagged", presumably over this:
Young Arabs, she said, had no opportunity to choose their own rulers. "For them an external enemy was a unifying way to address some of their frustrations."They were also united by the plight of Palestinians, a view that the west was exploiting their oil and supporting dictators. "It was wrong to say all terrorists belonged to al-Qaida," added Manningham-Buller.
OMG! Spy chief states obvious, shock!

September 03, 2011

Blumenthal's defense

Max Blumenthal "answered" my criticism. More accurately, he claimed that I didn't say anything other than what he and Dana already said and what other people said. This is a time tested technique. When faced with two critiques, one that can be easily answered and one that cannot, conflate them and then answer the one that's easy to answer. this technique is taught, I believe, in the second year in most journalism and media schools, in the course "advanced deflection techniques, 201." But please, let Blumenthal provide the quotes of the other people who criticized him for ignoring the Levinski camp in Tel Aviv, or for selecting all his quotes of Israeli Jews from the social group most likely to confirm his thesis that J14 is a revival of labor Zionism and ignore voices that would have provided alternative interpretations. I also note that, however few or many made these points, he hasn't answered either.

Max Ajl has reproduced a few posts about the tent protest in the Palestinian sector, organized by all those Palestinians who didn't get Dana and Blumenthal's memo that they'd better not take part in such a collective delusion. I will return to the question of accurate reporting of the Jewish-Israeli part of #J14.

Shula Keshet, from the founders of the Levinsky camp, told a Haaretz reporter:
Here we put a spotlight on the backyard of Israel. That isn't just South Tel Aviv but everything that is considered as periphery, as margins, which is itself a scandal: development towns, Arab villages, slums. Most of the people are the lower class, and in that the women are the poorest." (Haaretz)
In the same interview Keshet rejects the "we are all together approach" of the Rothschild leadership:
I told them, don't push us back 50 years. There was a feminist struggle. There was a Mizrahi struggle. There was a Palestinian struggle. We are not the same. We can unite. Some of our goals are shared. But there are also the goals of those belonging to an oppressed class, that suffered more.
She goes on to criticize the Rothschild leadership over their refusal to create internal democracy in the protest:
"The revolution reproduces within it the same hegemony of the upper middle Ashkenazi class, that makes equal representation impossible. My fear is that in the end we will wake up in the morning after and find out that we were left behind: the elderly women, the Mizrahi women, the single mothers, the Palestinian women, that we were the hewers of wood and drawers of water for this revolution. The middle class refuses to give up power. Their arguments recall those of the founders of the state: "we built, we created, we founded. You can at best join." (Haaretz)
One can take issue with how well the platform Keshet defines passes the progressive test in relation to colonization. But she sure doesn't seem to like the idea of returning to the good old Zionism of 1948. Yet For Dana and Blumenthal, the fact that she is the founder of a tent camp doesn't make Keshet an important enough leader to interview about the meaning #J14. The problem is not that they don't interview her. Nor is the problem that they interview Labor Party cadre Kushelevich (although they should have identified her as such). The problem is that they build a picture of the protest from which people like Keshet have been blotted out, and they present Kushelevich as an authoritative voice whose opinion represent Keshet, when in fact Keshet most likely rejects her leadership. Why? Is it because Keshet's hair is not blond?

Here are two more videos from the invisible part of the "urban, middle class" and Ashkenazi revolution that Dana and Blumenthal had troubles seeing:




I wouldn't want to suggest that Dana and Blumenthal should take a five hour trip to Beit Shean (where the tent protest started a year before #J14 ) or Kyrian Shmone to check how many of the tent protesters there have a MA in philosophy and if indeed they accept the leadership of Hadas Kushelevich, or if their dream is indeed a revival of pre-1967 Zionism or they might consider other options. After all, that could consume precious time better spent giving media interviews. So I spent some of my own time finding easier assignments for them. Here is a video interview with Itzik Amsalem from Hatikva, South Tel Aviv, who's house was demolished by the government. It is a $6 cab drive from Rothschild, so I'm sure they can squeeze him between talking to Aljazeera and RNN.


"I started in Rothschild. I was with the first twenty tents... I felt that Rothschild doesn't represent me... So I went to my own place. I think the way the struggle is carried out over there is childish, false. and I think that the face of the struggle needs to change. This is not the struggle of those with [hand motions] and [hand motions]. The struggle is serious, the struggle is...I want to say to the middle class that if they got to be middle class we the poor of three generations we got where? If they got squeezed out of the middle class that they used to have a little money and now they don't have a dime, what are we, who never had a dime? Channel 10 and Channel 2 refuse to come here. They have a policy that Hatikva shouldn't speak up, because here the hardship is real. There they know that it's only a game, Ms. Dafne and Ms. Cinema, the second one, Regev. Here the state and the capital owners know that the crying out is real. Here there is a real hardship that goes back three generations. Here people are saying "enough." (beginning at 2:47)
Notice that in none of these clips do people mention Palestinians and the interviewers don't ask. Is that a problem? Of course. Does it reflect the settler colonial structure of Israel? Of course. Is it a debilitating weakness for a radical political movement in Israel? Of course it is. There is not going to be a successful progressive transformation in Israel without Palestinians in the lead. Not understanding that, which is common in Israel even on the left, is not just missing the elephant in the room, it is missing the fact that the car is sitting on cinder blocks.

But what about the people in the clips? What do they think? Since it isn't asked, I don't know. [added later: of course, these lower class protests are fertile ground for the far right, yet] there have been, already for years, joint organizing over housing between people from Hatikva and Palestinians from Jaffa. These efforts are small and hardly straightforward. Neverheless, they do make generalizations less easy to make. As Sergio Yani from the AIC points out in discussing #J14:
In relation to the Palestinian subject, it was rather in the protest tents where the weaker sectors of Israeli society worked side by side with the most radical activists, in Beersheva, in Jaffa, and in Jerusalem, that there is greater readiness for joint Jewish-Arab struggle. But this question is still unsettled. (AIC )
Dana and Blumenthal can go and ask that legitimate question (although who asks and how it is asked makes a difference.) They are also right to make the obvious point that without acknowledging the rights of Palestinians, there is never going to be much international sympathy for these struggles. Instead, however, Dana and Blumenthal go out of their way to make these people invisible by insisting that Rothschild is the face of the protest and that it is effectively represented by Labor Zionist party hacks (which they don't even bother identifying as such). Why?

It started with Dana and Blumenthal criticizing "the radical left." Considering the absence of any substantial engagement with actual left organizing, it is more accurate to describe the spat as Dana and Blumenthal criticizing a half competing half collaborating media franchise, 972 mag, which publishes some progressive articles but also stuff that is unmistakably labor Zionist or right wing. I don't have a dog in that particular fight, as in my opinion 972.mag coverage of J14 partially shares Dana and Blumenthal's biases. An exception is Matan Kaminer. But if they do consider going beyond the food fight, here are a few questions that they could ask activists instead:

Does it serve a purpose to connect the dots and draw out the existence of potential common interests between different victims of the Israeli regime (even though, of course, victims are not on the same level)? Is it a proper role of radical activists? Why? Why not? What are the prospects for connecting the dots, and what are the obstacles? How do recent changes in the global arena affect those prospects? How would potential changes in the global arena affect these prospects? Is there a danger than instead of working on connecting struggles, radical activists who devote energy to internal issues will be pulled into separating them? If the struggles are connected, can they still be connected in reactionary ways, for example in ways that silence or dominate Palestinians within the struggle? If so, what kind of strategies and organizing modes would be most useful to providing safeguards? What strategies are not useful? What kind of international and cross movement accountability can help radical leftists in Israel increase the integrity of their work and what could undermine it? I think these are worthy questions. But one answer that is clearly unhelpful is haughty babysitting and finger nagging based on misrepresentations.

I leave readers to figure out why Blumenthal answered with such churlishness, even insinuating that I no longer believe Tel Aviv is a colonial city. Yes, Max, it is. Tel Aviv is a colonial city. It always was. And some day it will cease to be. Which is why reproducing wholesale the perspective of the Ashkenazi colonizing elite and not seeing other perspectives is a form of collusion with the colonizer, even when it comes in the name of supporting Palestinian rights. Here is Sergio Yani from the AIC:
While media activists are camped out in the Rothschild Boulevard, this does not mean that other protesters are being represented by them. The media focus is here not only because the first group of protesters sent up camp on Rothschild Boulevard, but also as Israel’s mainstream media and politicians prefer to understand the protest movement as that of the middle class, even though most protesters are public housing tenants, single mothers, Jewish immigrants from Asia and Africa and migrant workers. (http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/israeli-society/3720-summer-2011-social-protest-in-israel-possibilities-and-challenges- )
The question is, why do Dana and Blumenthal go out of their way to represent the protests in the same way as "Israel’s mainstream media and politicians"? What, according to Dana and Blumenthal, is the common interest shared by Palestinians and "Israel’s mainstream media and politicians?"


An apology from Jews against Jews against apartheid

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has apologised to those Jews who struggled against apartheid back in the day. Here's Eric Naki in New Age:
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has publicly apologised to Jews who fought against apartheid – for not having stood by them during the struggle.

Outgoing national chairman Zev Krengel, speaking on Friday at Lilliesleaf – the farm where Nelson Mandela and other Rivonia trialists were arrested in a raid by security forces in 1963 – said: “We did not fight for people who fought apartheid. For that we must apologise as the board. I think as the board we should have done more.”

He said the mandate of the Jewish Board was not to fight apartheid, but to protect the Jewish community and civil liberties. “We understand that the Jews who fought in the struggle are upset with the Jewish Board because it did not help them,” he said.

Krengel, who was elected as the youngest chairman in the board’s 108-year history, extended an olive branch to “struggle Jews”, saying they must engage the board to develop a dialogue between them and those who were not in community organisations.
I remember during the anti-apartheid struggle rabbis in South Africa argued for abstention on the grounds that apartheid was a political issue and yet they weren't so reticent about supporting Israel and condemning its critics. "Antisemitism", they said, was a moral issue.