April 30, 2006

Question on Israel in Hansard

Here's a Milton Keynes MP questioning a former Chairman of the Labour Friends of Israel in Parliament.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): If he will make representations to the Israeli Government to halt the exclusion from Jerusalem of those with Jerusalem identity documents cut off by the Israeli wall. [65124]

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): First, let me also commiserate over the sad death of Peter Law, who represented a constituency not far from mine.

We frequently raise freedom of movement issues with the Israeli Government. We are particularly concerned about Israeli policies on East Jerusalem, which threaten to separate the city and its people from the West Bank. We recognise Israel's right to defend itself from terrorist attacks, but we will continue to raise our concerns about movement restrictions with the Israeli Government, including the issue of Jerusalem ID card holders affected by the barrier.

Dr. Starkey: I am grateful for the Minister's comments and for the representations made to the Israeli authorities, but the fact remains that 80,000 residents of Jerusalem have been cut off from the rest of Jerusalem by the Israeli wall. Children as young as six are being forced to travel 30 km to Ramallah, obtain a permit to go through to Kalandia and return to the other side of the wall in Jerusalem, just to get to school and back. That has absolutely nothing to do with security and everything to do with the Israeli Government's forcibly changing the demography of Jerusalem to exclude non-Jews.

If the British Government and the European Union are serious in their commitment to the road map, when are we going to take effective action to stop the Israelis from unilaterally excluding 80,000 Jerusalemites from their own country? The type of protest that we have made so far—

Mr. Speaker
: Order. The hon. Lady must let the Minister reply.

Dr. Howells
: I visited Jerusalem recently and saw for myself the effects of the construction of the wall. It is not a pretty sight and it is having a very bad effect on the lives of many people in the city. I can reassure my hon. Friend, however, that we take the matter very seriously. As far as I know, we are the only country that takes up consulate cases in which British citizens living in Jerusalem—perhaps married to Palestinians—find themselves on the wrong side of the barrier, as a consequence of which their access to work, hospitals and doctors is cut off. We take that very seriously, and I know of no other countries that do.

My hon. Friend should be aware that we are pressing the Israelis very hard and will continue to do so.
How reassuring.

Israel re-routing the wall around the "demographic problem"

From the Irish Examiner, apparently Israel is to re-route its wall through the West Bank to firm up on the "demographic balance" of Jews to Arabs within the wall.
Israel’s Cabinet today voted to modify the route of its contentious West Bank separation barrier to put thousands of Palestinians on the "Palestinian" side of the enclosure, officials said.

The Palestinians, who live in the area of the Jewish settlement of Ariel, were slated in the original proposal to be included on the "Israeli" side of the barrier, officials said.
While this is going on, according to the Jerusalem Post, Kadima is in talks with Israel Beitenu. Israel Beitenu is a predominantly Russian party that wants the wall to exclude even Israeli Arabs. This is hardly a significant departure from the zionist project as it has been implemented since the inception of the State of Israel but the openness as to the racist nature of the project is kind of new.


Here's a nice letter in Observer today responding to a Will Hutton comment last week.
Explain yourself, Will Hutton

Will Hutton (Comment, last week) refers disparagingly to 'reflex anti-Americanism', echoing one of Tony Blair's favourite phrases - 'kneejerk anti-Americanism'. This can't go unchallenged. I am anti-American, but there is nothing kneejerk about it: my position is rational and evidence-based.

Specifically, I am anti the present US Administration, a toxic alliance of free-market extremists, religious fundamentalists and neo-imperialist wackos. With their ill-conceived 'war on terror' and their delusional stance on climate change, these people represent the gravest threat to peace, the rule of international law and the continuance of life on our planet.

Can Hutton name a single admirable achievement of Bush and his cronies? For every one, I'll happily give him 10 counter-examples: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Falluja, extraordinary renditions - how long have you got? Just because Blair hasn't got the principles or the balls to criticise any of this doesn't mean the rest of us should have our views marginalised by these snide put-downs. I invite Will Hutton to explain why any intelligent person should not be anti-American.
Michael Rundell
Canterbury, Kent
Here's the The Will Hutton comment. It's on the stupid Euston Manifesto. There's a better demolition of it here.

April 29, 2006

Leon Rosselson tonight at the Cellar Upstairs

Leon Rosselson is playing at the Cellar Upstairs tonight (29/4/2006) 8.00 pm. It's at the Exmouth Arms, Starcross Street, London NW1 2HR, near Euston and Euston Square stations. Phone Sheila Miller 020 7281 7700 for further information.

He also has a new album with lots of his songs sung by other people. See this:

STILL IS THE MEMORY Nancy Kerr & James Fagan
DON'T GET MARRIED GIRLS Elizabeth Mansfield
WILLIAM Roy Bailey

He's well worth a listen and well worth a see.

The flag of the Jews?

According to Ha'aretz the Vatican newspaper has denounced the burning of Israeli flags as insulting all Jews. The flag burning happened at Milan's Liberation Day commemoration which celebrates the liberation of Italy from fascism.:
Italian authorities are investigating anti-Israeli protests that marred a march in Milan commemorating the 61st anniversary of Italy's liberation from fascism, a prosecutor said Friday.

Armando Spataro, an anti-terrorism prosecutor in the northern city, said a number of people have been placed under investigation for incitement to commit a crime, causing damage and holding an unauthorized demonstration.

Spataro refused to release the number of those investigated or their nationality, saying only that police had identified them as having taken part in Tuesday's protests, during which demonstrators trampled and burned Israeli flags and shouted slogans in support of the Palestinians.

The protests happened on the sidelines of a Liberation Day commemorative march and were apparently prompted by the presence in the march of Israeli flags in honor of members of the Jewish Brigade, an infantry unit that helped liberate Italy

Commemorations are held throughout Italy on the April 25 national holiday in honor of the partisan uprising that began on that day in 1945 and ended with the execution of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Italian politicians joined Jewish leaders and the Israeli ambassador to Italy in harshly condemning the flag burning as having marred the celebration. Center-left leader Romano Prodi, who will lead Italy's incoming government, called it a "vile demonstration of intolerance."

Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano wrote Wednesday that "to offend a flag means to offend the people for whom it is a symbol, and therefore in this case it was an offense to the entire Jewish people, precisely on the day in which we celebrate liberation from their infamous oppressors."
The burning of the flag of an illegitimate state on a day commemorating the defeat of racism and militarism seems perfectly appropriate to me.

April 28, 2006

Two more on the Lobby

Robert Fisk on the Lobby was in yesterday's Independent and now in the Information Clearing House and Philip Weiss's piece for the Nation is now on Yahoo News.

April 27, 2006

Leon Rosselson at the Cellar Upstairs

Leon Rosselson is playing at the Cellar Upstairs on Saturday 29th April 2006. It's at the Exmouth Arms, Starcross Street, London NW1 2HR, near Euston and Euston Square stations. Phone Sheila Miller 020 7281 7700 for further information.

He also has a new album with lots of his songs sung by other people. See this:

STILL IS THE MEMORY Nancy Kerr & James Fagan
DON'T GET MARRIED GIRLS Elizabeth Mansfield
WILLIAM Roy Bailey

He's well worth a listen and well worth a see.

Sweden boycotts fly past over Israel

From Ha'aretz: Sweden is refusing to participate in international airforce exercises due to Israel's involvement.
"Israel is not currently acting in the name of peace, and therefore, it should not take part in the demonstration," senior officials in Stockholm said.

A Swedish Foreign Ministry official said, "The point of the operation is to prepare for international cooperation in preserving world peace. The participation of the Israeli air force changes the prerequisites of the drill."

While not mentioning Israel by name, Swedish Defense Minister Leni Bjorklund said that her country is withdrawing because of the participation of "a state that does not take part in preserving international peace."

Israeli officials responded harshly to the decision.

One government source said, "The lack of sympathy for Israel in Sweden is out of proportion. Some government ministers spearhead the most anti-Israel approach in all of Europe, and particularly in Scandinavia. In meetings between senior Israelis and Swedish ministers, the Swedes refuse to listen to Israel's positions."

National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev, called Sweden's decision anti-Semitic, saying, "Just a day after the commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, an enlightened nation has risen and surrendered to the Islamic axis of evil."
Israeli officials and other zionists are allowed to trivialise the holocaust like this of course.

Freedland for war on Iran

Jonathan Freedland wrote a comment piece in yesterday's Guardian about what a threat Iran is. It's a bit quirky, at one point he even suggests that Tony Blair is an expert on nuclear weapons and intentions, but it's un unmistakeable call to arms againt Iran. Freedland stresses the messianism of the Iranian president, that Iran has verbally threatened Israel and that Iran doesn't need nuclear power. I couldn't be bothered to write about it yesterday either here or to the Guardian. Fortunately others are made of better stuff. John Rose addresses the messianism:
Ahmadinejad's belief that, when he addressed the UN, he felt a divinely inspired halo over his head, may be proof, according to Jonathan Freedland, that the president is losing his grip on reality (The problem is: Iran does pose a threat in every way Iraq did not, April 26). Unfortunately, this kind of messianic-tinged politics is all too common in the Middle East. During the Suez crisis in 1956, Israel's leader David Ben Gurion reported that the war for the Sinai desert "was no mere battle. The halo of Sinai and all the deep and mystical experiences associated with that name ... glowed over our soldiers' heads, as if their parents were present at the Mount Sinai event." Plus there are plenty of contemporary "divinely inspired" voices in Israel justifying the country's own nuclear weapons, enthusiastically endorsed by the Christian right in the US. Messiah-free, as well as nuclear weapons-free, politics requires the west to put its own house in order first.
John Rose
Dina Turner addresses the issue of aggression:
I might have been more convinced by Freedland's argument that Iran is a threat if he hadn't ignored the fact that it is Israel and not Iran that currently has nuclear weapons. That would make Israel more of a threat to the region than Iran.

After all, Iran has never acquired land by war. In fact, the logical extension of Freedland's analysis would be to pressure Israel to get rid of its nuclear weapons, then no one in the Middle East will feel the need to enter into this race. That would be the peaceful solution, instead of building up the case for another war in an already devastated region.
Dina Turner
Farnham, Surrey
And Christian Haesemeyer addresses the energy issue:
Jonathan Freedland repeats the canard that Iran could not possibly want nuclear power because they have all that oil. The market for oil is international. The cost (in lost revenue) of energy produced from oil is the same for Iran as for the US.
Christian Haesemeyer
Champaign, Illinois, USA
I should say here that, as I recall, Freedland claimed to be against the war on Iraq but I think that was after it had started. Here he seems to be lending such weight as he has to a propganda campaign for war on Iran.

Give the man a prize

Indonesian journalist, Goenawan Mohamad, has just won a Dan David Prize, to be awarded at Tel Aviv University.
The prize committee, explaining its choice, said he was being honored for "his activity during the past 30 years on behalf of freedom of the press and the promotion of independent journalism in the largest Muslim nation in the world."
Here he is being interviewed by Ha'aretz:
Why do the Arabs and Muslims hate Israel and the Jews?

"I am not enough a theologian nor historian to give a satisfactory answer to that. But I would say, like I did before, you have to take into account the impact of different histories. Granted Muslim tolerance was partly a myth - one has to recognize the absence of a uniform Muslim rejection of Jews.

"I learned somewhere that there was a violent conflict between a Jewish community and early Muslims in the seventh century. In Muslim Spain of the 12th century, the rulers did impose Muslim ways and many Jews left the country. Maimonides was one of them. But then he settled in Cairo, becoming the chief rabbi of the city and the physician of Saladin, the sultan. In the 15th century, Turkey, under Beyazed II, welcomed Jews expelled from Spain - a policy of tolerance continued by Suleiman the Magnificent.

"Today the picture is different. On this issue, you cannot speak of Arabs and Muslims in the same breath. The Arabs' negative attitude toward the Jews - and the feeling is mutual, I gather - is mixed with and shaped by the opposition against the State of Israel. Of course, you know that this opposition is not confined to Muslims. Islam came much later to the scene. After Marxism and Arab nationalism failed to deliver the Palestinians from their plight - symbolized by decades of refugees' camps - religion has increasingly become the most effective ideology of liberation. Hence the current Hamas' political leadership in Palestine."
Here's the rest.

April 26, 2006

Leon Rosselson live!

Leon Rosselson is playing at the Cellar Upstairs on Saturday 29th April 2006. It's at the Exmouth Arms, Starcross Street, London NW1 2HR. Phone Sheila Miller 020 7281 7700 for further information.

He also has a new album with lots of his songs sung by other people. See this:

STILL IS THE MEMORY Nancy Kerr & James Fagan
DON'T GET MARRIED GIRLS Elizabeth Mansfield
WILLIAM Roy Bailey

He's well worth a listen and well worth a see.

More on Tse'elim-B

Thanks to Frank Fisher on the Just Peace list for supplying another link (and some googling advice) regarding the Tse'elim-B (aka Tse'elim Bet) fiasco. Here's a yahoo news report from 2003.
Israeli commandos planned to assassinate Saddam Hussein at his uncle's funeral after the 1991 Gulf War, but the mission was aborted after five soldiers were killed in training, officials said on Tuesday.

Military censors lifted an 11-year-old ban on reporting the plan on Monday, allowing newspapers to publish details of the aborted 1992 mission just days after the ousted Iraqi leader was captured by U.S. forces in Iraq.
More here.

April 25, 2006

Tse'elim Bet?

Anyone heard of this? I've just been sent a link to a Ha'aretz article that discusses the idea of Israel Targeting Ahmadinejad. The article mentions Tse'elim Bet in the context of an a plan to kill Saddam Hussein. I'm told by the guy who sent the article that it "is a cryptic reference to the 5 Israeli soldiers killed in a mock-up of a funeral at which Saddam Hussein would be killed by a ground-to-ground missile fired by Israeli commandoes in Iraq. They did a practice firing in Israel on what the missile crew supposed were dummies, but were in fact live Israeli soldiers standing in for the funeral party. The disaster was covered up for 12 years, but it did force them to scrub a harebrained operation. I saw this on U.S. TV network news but couldn't find any Israeli confirmation until now. It really happened!"

Anyway, here's the article in full in case it gets pulled:
Is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is threatening Israel, a "ticking atomic bomb?" Is the decision of the ministerial committee on security - on the day after the terror attack on the Rosh Ha'ir Restaurant in Tel Aviv, to deny Israeli residency to East Jerusalemites who represent Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council - a meaningless and stupid decision, which is how it looks, or is it a far-sighted decision that lays the foundation for a further move? Is there a connection between the two issues?

Such a connection is indeed possible and it can be summarized as "targeted killing." An Israeli assassination attempt on Ahmadinejad is an alternative that seems more and more reasonable with the acceleration of his threats to wipe the state of Israel off the face of the earth. The seemingly marginal question of giving senior Hamas people in Jerusalem the ultimatum of either resigning or leaving could influence the implementation of the idea that is making headway among the top echelons of the security establishment - to strike at all the members of Hamas in the Palestinian government, as those responsible for the non-prevention of murderous terror attacks.

The question of assassinations, with its moral, legal and operational aspects, has been grist for the mill of the public debate during the past month. It continues to wait for the decision of the High Court of Justice on petitions that have been submitted against the policy of preventive assassination. Even those who support it, as forced to choose a bad method in the absence of better methods, admit that its usefulness is limited in extent and that its results are unpredictable. Mention is always made of Abbas Moussaoui, who by his death from combat helicopter missiles bequeathed the leadership of Hezbollah on a man more able than he was, Hassan Nasrallah. The blow that was landed on Islamic Jihad by the killing of its head, Fathi Shkaki, in Malta in October 1995 - the last spectacular action by the Mossad that was approved by Yitzhak Rabin, just a few days before he himself fell to an assassin's bullet - was harsh but not mortal. It did not prevent an activist of the organization, who was 11 years old when Shkaki was killed, from committing suicide and killing 11 civilians outside Rosh Ha'ir.

The two new cases that are likely to come under consideration, of Ahmadinejad and of Ismail Haniyeh and his colleagues, belong to the same family but are in some way different from the earlier members of that family. Haniyeh & Co. now bear official responsibility, in addition to that for which Israel exacted an accounting from Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Saleh Shahadeh. Ahmadinejad is a head of state. Shimon Peres has predicted for him an end similar to that of Saddam Hussein, whom the Americans tried to kill but had to make do with putting on trial in the new Iraqi regime. When chief of staff Ehud Barak articulated the idea of assassinating Saddam in 1992 - the idea behind the planned operation during the preparations for which the Tse'elim Bet disaster occurred - the discussion had not yet culminated in a decision by Rabin (and with the participation of foreign minister Peres) as to whether Israel should take credit for the assassination if it succeeded.

Taking responsibility would have proven that Israel does not show restraint at the firing of the Scuds at it and would have restored something of the deterrence it had lost in the impotence of January-February 1991. However, it would also have made Israel a target for direct and indirect revenge, inside the country and abroad, just as the killing of Moussaoui that same year led to attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in Argentina.

What is special about Ahmadinejad is that he is not only the head of a declared enemy country, whose military forces - The Revolutionary Guard that is training Hezbollah and is present in southern Lebanon - are acting against Israel, and that he is not only aiming at changing Israel's policy, including the occupation of the Palestinian territories, as leaders both hostile and friendly are doing throughout the world. Ahmadinejad is calling fervently and consistently for the destruction of Israel. The tracking of the Iranian effort to equip itself with weapons of mass destruction is liable to divert attention from a basic fact: The mass destruction is an aim, even when the means for achieving it, the weaponry, are not available yet. This is a war aim, quite simply, which is not within the bounds of the permitted international discourse. As a theoretical exercise, it is possible to guess what the reaction would have been had Israel announced its aspiration to destroy Iran - not to topple the current regime there, but rather to destroy the country of Iran itself.

In the old dispute about strategic deterrence between the Americans and the Soviets during the Cold War, the planners at the Pentagon debated whether to build their system of missiles and bombers "counter force" or "counter value." Against force means to threaten the materiel, the military system of the other side; against value means to threaten the spirit, the control of the Communist Party and the lives of the individuals at the head of the regime.

In deterrence "against value" there is the tempting logic that an individual cares about himself and will prefer to endanger the other, but will refrain from pulling the intercontinental, double-barreled trigger that is aimed at his head. The weakness in this kind of deterrence is in the implementation of the threat: In that case there will be no central authority on the other side for talks on limiting the war and the conditions for ending it.

Facing fanatical Islam, which relies on cadres of suicide terrorists and works in two branches, terror and the nuclear bomb, Israel has two possible channels for deterrence "against value." The first, which could be called "Mecca second strike capability," is a threat that its destruction would lead to the destruction of Islam's holiest places, whether under its control (the Temple Mount) or elsewhere (the Ka'aba in Mecca). Iran, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas - all of them must know that their success in realizing the dream of the destruction of Israel will trigger the Doomsday machine and bring disaster to the religion in the name of which they presume to speak.

For such a threat to be credible and achieve deterrence, it must be spoken in advance, but if Israel dares to brandish this, even as a desperate cry of "Let me die with the Muslims," it will arouse the wrath of a billion believers from Mauritania to Malaysia against it. This increases the relative weight of the second channel - the elimination of leaders whose behavior and policy create existential danger for Israel, tantamount to a ticking atomic bomb. The personal price that will be exacted from them is supposed to deter colleagues and successors. During his few months as president of Iran, Ahmadinejad has acquired for himself an unprecedented negative status, far more so than his predecessors, Muhammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani. He is undermining regional and world stability and his elimination is therefore likely to contribute more to stability than to detract from it. The international condemnation of an Israeli assassination attempt on Ahmadinejad, an action that would predictably be anchored in the memory of the Holocaust, would be limp and tolerable.

An Israeli attack on the leaders of Hamas and their representatives in the Palestinian Legislative Council would encounter stormier but still tolerable reactions, and in the defense towers in Tel Aviv there are those who are suggesting that it be considered seriously. The administration of United States President George W. Bush, which is responsible together with former prime minister Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz for the participation of Hamas in the elections that brought it into power, has not deviated from a tough line against Hamas ever since it recovered from the elections.

Since September 11, 2001, Bush and his cabinet have said innumerable times that states that sponsor terrorism are equivalent to terrorism itself. Palestine under the rule of Hamas is a terror organization that has a state and the Haniyeh government, even if it was elected in a free and fair process, is responsible for what happens in its territories. Its refusal to act against Islamic Jihad and the other organizations who are continuing with terror, or even to condemn them, makes it culpable. Without it, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will lead Palestine into new elections (the outcome of which, in these circumstances, is unknown).

If indeed an Israeli operation is launched against the collective leadership of the enemy - the entire Hamas government and its faction in the Legislative Council - this will be a spearhead prevention, not a targeted killing.
Leaving aside the breathtaking arrogance of the article and the proposals it discusses, could this lead to pre-emptive assassinations by any state that felt threatened by Israel or America?

Artschool Palestine

Artschool Palestine: worth a visit.

April 24, 2006

Why Israel can't (that is won't) talk to Hamas

Here's Ran Hacohen on antiwar.com on the Israel's professed reasons for refusing to talk to Hamas, for starving the Palestinians and for imposing its expansionist solution on the issue of boundaries.
Why We Cannot Talk With Hamas

by Ran HaCohen

Polls show that a majority of the Israelis support negotiations with Hamas, but official Israel refuses to talk to it, at any level. Israel instead launches a worldwide campaign to persuade all countries to boycott Hamas and to join its military and financial blockade on the newly formed Hamas government. If starving the Palestinian people is the outcome, so be it: the Arabs should learn the price of democracy.

Why can't Israel talk to Hamas? Several arguments are given; are they valid – or just excuses?

1. Because They Don't Recognize Israel

Hamas recognizes Israel de facto: unlike many Arab states in the past that officially referred to Israel as "the Zionist entity," Hamas mentions Israel by name in its notorious charter; but it does deny Israel's right to exist, its existence de jure.....

2. Because They Are Terrorists

Legally, this is a very good argument, and has therefore persuaded many countries on the globe to outlaw Hamas. I for one truly believe that terrorism – i.e., violence against noncombatants – is a despicable and unacceptable atrocity. Politics, however, is not about legalism. Israel's political echelon has been doing its utmost to blur the distinction between terrorism and legitimate resistance to the occupation. The Israeli media represent the entire Palestinian resistance to the occupation – by stones or bombs, in the occupied territories or in Israel proper, against soldiers, settlers, or civilians – as "terrorism." Israel's state terrorism – like the present bombing of Gaza, where civilian homes are intentionally within the error-margins of Israel's artillery shelling – are accompanied by propaganda that blurs the concept of terrorism in a similar manner: Israeli politicians and media justify Palestinian civilian casualties by accusing them of supporting violence against Israel, or, in the present case, of not stopping Qassam missile launchers (surely the 9-year-old girl killed in an Israeli shelling last week could have done much more to stop Palestinian militants).

3. Because They're Corrupt

As if these excuses were not enough, there's now a new argument against Hamas: their newly appointed director-general of the police forces in the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, is described not just as a terrorist, but as "a corrupt Mafioso." I came across this highly original argument in a column by one Moshe Elad (on Hebrew Ynet), a former senior army officer now in academia. (By the way, a military career is an excellent ticket into Israel's universities: the officer's Palestinian collaborators become the professor's "informants.") The argument is interesting because of its ludicrous transparency: the entire PLO leadership during the Oslo years were in fact Mafiosi, using their close, monopolistic economic ties with Israel's business elite to enrich themselves by exploiting the Palestinian masses; Israel cooperated with them eagerly. It was the PLO's corruption, and its selling out of Palestinian interests to Israel, that made Hamas win the Palestinian elections. What disturbs Israel is not the alleged corruption of Hamas, but the fact that, unlike Fatah, Hamas is not willing to be co-opted.

With Whom Will Israel Talk?

The entire Israeli political spectrum – from Likud and the far Right to Meretz and the Zionist Left – are now in love with imposing a diktat (euphemized as "unilateral measures") on the Palestinians, without any negotiations with them (euphemized as "negotiated with the international community").
There's more.

April 23, 2006

Ilan Halimi's mother speaks

I just got this from David Shasha's Sephardic Heritage Update newsletter. It's originally from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. I'm posting it here with David Shasha's comments in italics.
Ilan Halimi's Mother Speaks Out
By: Brett Kline

The following article is a fascinating example of the nuanced ways in which Arab Jews think.

Unlike the standard explanations parroted by Jewish groups, Mrs. Halimi looks at France as setting the table for Anti-Semitism with a salad of new options presented for others to participate.

And this confluence of old-world European Anti-Semitism with a volatility emanating from Muslim immigrant groups who have had their own battles with this racism and xenophobia has created a combustible mixture that has become part of an increasingly hostile landscape for ethnic rights and peaceful relations.

It is clear, as Mrs. Halimi states, that Arab Jews never had these sorts of problems before and acknowledges that we are in a new stage of interethnic relations.

I wish that she was clearer on the mechanisms that keep the hate and violence going, but her words are themselves important and her voice vital in our ongoing dialogue between religious groups.


PARIS, March 22 (JTA) - Ruth Halimi is afraid. Since her son Ilan was tortured to death in February, she hasn't had a moment's peace. Her life has been ravaged forever.

"It's a nightmare," she says. "Sometimes I think I'll wake up and find it isn't so, but it is. Ilan is gone, and I must keep on living. I must keep on living."

In her modest apartment, she receives journalists but insists that they take no pictures of her.

"I don't want my face in the newspapers, on television or on the Internet," she says. "I'm afraid there are more barbarians out there and that they'll find me."

Ilan Halimi, 23, was left for dead in the train station of a Paris suburb on Feb. 13 after being kidnapped and tortured for three weeks by a gang demanding ransom. He died on the way to the hospital.

More than 10 suspects have been arrested, including the leader of the gang, Youssouf Fofana, who was extradited from the Ivory Coast, where his parents were born.

Suspects told police that they tried to kidnap Jews because "all Jews are rich," and that they put cigarettes out on the victim's face because "he was Jewish and we don't like Jews."

Halimi says something is wrong with the educational system in France.

"France has produced monsters," she says, her face thin and skin tight, fraught by nerves and pain. "It's not about being Muslim, because all the gang members went to secular, public schools. They have grown up with no feelings, like mechanical monsters."

Most of the gang members were Muslim, of North African Arab and black African origins, but others involved were not, including the superintendent of the building where Halimi was held.

"They promised him 1,500 euros, so he gave them an empty apartment to use and said nothing," Halimi said of the superintendent. "What kind of a man is that?"

She answers her own question: "It's a man who simply does not care."

Many residents reportedly knew someone was being tortured in the basement, but did not intervene or alert authorities.

"It was an open secret in the neighborhood that a Jew was being held and tortured, and nobody called the police anonymously, not one person," she says, shaking her head.
"The elevator was blocked for 10 days and people were guarding the door to the apartment, and nobody called the police. It was not that all those neighbors were anti-Semitic. It's more that they simply did not care."

She doesn't find it difficult to believe that most French people do not think this was an anti-Semitic crime.

"Everyone agrees that this is a sick crime," she says, "but beyond that, most French people simply do not care, one way or the other. That's the way they are."

Halimi has been very critical of the French police. She says they broke the first rule in the book by telling her to break off contact with the kidnappers.

"Everyone knows you maintain contact; otherwise, they become enraged, and that is exactly what happened," she said. Even Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy "told me that the police had failed. He said, 'I am taking this personally because I am the head of the police.' "

"I feel like the French police abandoned me," she adds. "I think they wanted to catch the gang members, but they were not thinking about Ilan. It was cold-blooded, with no feeling, like they didn't care."

She is careful to say she has nothing against Muslims.

"I grew up with Muslims in Casablanca, in Morocco," she says. "I never had any problems, never. The problem is with France. I think the country has become sick from a lack of feelings, a lack of emotion."

Halimi says she always has been a religious Jew.

"I have always prayed to God," she says. "I still pray every day. This is what gets me through every day. Without my god, I would have collapsed already. They took my baby boy."

She begins to cry. The tears flow. She does not try to stop them. Her son-in-law Rafi is there. There are friends in the apartment. People from her building stop by regularly.

"There are good people here," she says.

Halimi wants to leave France.

"Ilan always wanted to go the United States," she says. "The whole family wants to go. Myself, I want to go to New York."

For the first time, she has a small smile on her face, but it does not last.

The murder was front-page news for weeks, but now it has been replaced by a new drama - rioting in the streets over a new labor law for young people.

No trial date has been set, but Halimi trusts the lawyer, Francis Spizner. "He wants to tear these guys apart," she says.

Halimi's ex-husband has been talking to the press, but she does not talk to him.

The tears have returned. The French Jewish community is taking care of her needs; she and her family will not go hungry. But she no longer feels at home in France. And her boy Ilan is gone forever.
David Shasha's newsletter is available from the man himself here.

Who's we?

Here's a strange thing in the Observer letters page. It's a letter from a Joe Zacune calling on the UK government to reconsider its decision to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The decision by the EU to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority is already deepening the humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinians ('Gaza on the brink of implosion as aid cut-off starts to bite', News, last week).

Despite recent empty assurances made by Jack Straw, it is ordinary Palestinians who are set to suffer. The suggestion by Straw and EU foreign ministers that aid for essential services such as water, food, electricity and health can be channelled through other agencies is not viable. Few international NGOs have the capacity to channel such funds and, even if they could, this would serve to undermine Palestinian institutions.

Livelihoods are being destroyed by Israeli border closures, land seizures, bombardments, the 450-mile long separation wall and the occupation. We call on the UK government to remedy the appalling situation faced by the Palestinians by reconsidering its decision to cut off aid. The human-rights violations that are carried out day to day oblige the UK government to suspend the trade preferences that Israel enjoys under the EU-Israeli trade association agreement.
Joe Zacune
London N19
But it doesn't say who "we" are. I googled "Joe Zacune" and it seems to be War on Want.

April 22, 2006

Some facts about Darfur

Here's Emily Wax in the Washington Post relating what she calls 5 Truths About Darfur
1 Nearly everyone is Muslim
2 Everyone is black
3 It's about politics, not religion
4 This conflict is international
5 The "genocide" label made it worse
The article is not nearly as bland as I have just made it look so please read the whole thing.

Rachel Corrie goes underground in Toronto

Richard Ouzounian in the Toronto Star on the pushing of the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, underground in Canada.
Rachel Corrie was born in Washington, killed in the Gaza Strip, praised in London and censored in Manhattan.

Now she's being forced to go underground in Toronto.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a play based on the life and words of the 23-year-old American activist who died in Gaza on March 16, 2003, after an incident involving an Israeli Defence Forces bulldozer.

Corrie's supporters claim she was run over deliberately during the course of a peaceful political demonstration. Those on the opposing side insist the bulldozer driver couldn't see her and it was simply an accident.

The New York production of the play was recently cancelled, because of fears that its pro-Palestinian stance would upset the Jewish community at a difficult political time.

This decision provoked a worldwide debate that has become so heated it has become necessary to keep secret the exact location of a simple reading of the script for 50 people at the University of Toronto Sunday night.

But the astonishing thing about this whole affair is that at no point in the play's history has it been the cause of any actual confrontations or demonstrations.

It's the fear of what might happen that seems to be motivating people's actions.

Paul Leishman, who is directing Sunday's reading with actress Marya Delver, explains that "the play was intended to be an exploration of a girl's life, but now it's caught up in the crossfire of much larger issues."

Shortly after Corrie's death, a series of emails she wrote from her time in Gaza were published in The Guardian and came to the attention of London's Royal Court Theatre. They contacted Corrie's family, who made their daughter's writings from the age of 10 available to them.

The script, compiled by actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner, opened in April 2005, to reviews that were mostly highly enthusiastic.

Charles Spencer, in The Daily Telegraph, captured the tone when he called it "a powerful, thought-provoking and deeply moving piece of theatre."

After a sold-out run at the Royal Court, it transferred to the West End, where it is still running. The rights for the first North American production were awarded to James Nicola, head of the highly regarded New York Theatre Workshop.

Nicola scheduled a March 22 opening, but a month before the date, he wrote to the Royal Court asking if he could "indefinitely postpone" the production.

He gave his reasons in an interview with The Guardian: "In listening to our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict that we didn't want to take."

Rickman was furious and pulled the rights instantly, claiming, "This is censorship born out of fear."

The ensuing battle was waged in newspapers, on radio and television and all over the Internet.

Some praised Nicola for being responsible; others damned him as a coward.

It was in this atmosphere that Leishman contacted the Royal Court and asked for the rights to a single reading — as opposed to an open-ended production — of the play in Toronto.

Leishman is an ex-New Yorker who came to Canada in the mid-'90s to work as Richard Monette's assistant at the Stratford Festival.

When he left that job, he temporarily set aside the theatre as well, going to work for a Toronto law firm.

But Rachel Corrie's story lured him back.

"I remember hearing about her death in 2003," he recalls, "how gruesome and sad it was." But he hadn't read the script until the cancellation occurred and then he picked it up "to see if there was anything there to provoke all this tempest."

What he discovered was "the story of a young woman who begins by asking what she should do with her life and experiences an awakening of concern and compassion for people."

Leishman says that roughly 40 per cent of the script deals with Corrie's life up until her decision to go to Palestine and the remaining 60 per cent with her time spent in Gaza.

Leishman felt it was important to have the play read "in a neutral, classroom situation, because Rachel was a student."

He was given just such a space, but then asked not to publicize the time and place of the reading, "because of the political partisans on both sides it might attract and the unpredictability of their responses."
Not-the-Lobby strikes again.

April 21, 2006

Doctors' plot against Sharon?

The Guardian reports Israeli doctors admitting that they gave Ariel Sharon too much blood thinner.
One of the doctors spoke of a "great failure" in the treatment of Mr Sharon, 78.
Great failure? I don't know.

April 20, 2006

Roger Waters boycotts Tel Aviv at last

Maybe I'm reading too much into this but having refused to cancel a visit to Israel last month. Roger Waters has now turned up but he is refusing to play a Tel Aviv gig. This is from the Palestinian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Reiterating his opposition to the Israeli occupation and expressing his support for the Palestinian people in “their struggle to be free,” the internationally renowned rock star Roger Waters has announced that he is relocating his Israel performance in recognition of the problematic nature of the previously planned Tel Aviv venue, particularly at a time when Israel is escalating its repression and apartheid designs to further dispossess, ghettoize and ultimately ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homeland. The former member of Pink Floyd and the writer of its timeless song “Another Brick in the Wall” called off his Tel Aviv gig, heeding an appeal by many Palestinian artists and cultural organizations and their supporters around the world who feared such a performance, particularly by a respected and progressive artist like Waters, would have given legitimacy to Israel’s colonial Wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice at The Hague in July 2004.

Supporting the Palestinian letter to Waters, a group of Israeli refuseniks (conscientious objectors to service in the occupation army) also appealed to Waters to either cancel the Tel Aviv show or dedicate it explicitly to the struggle against Israel’s military occupation.

Waters has been unswerving in his condemnation of Israel’s Wall, which he blames for inflicting poverty and devastation upon the Palestinians in the Occupied Territory. In his press statement announcing this telling change of venue, Waters writes: “The suffering endured by the Palestinian people during the Israeli occupation of the last 40 years is unimaginable to us living in the west and I support them in their struggle to be free. I have moved the concert to Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam as a gesture of solidarity with those voices of reason, both Palestinian and Israeli, that seek a non-violent route to a just peace.”

By calling off the Tel Aviv gig, Roger Waters has reconfirmed his commitment to freedom, equality and peace based on justice. Indeed, Waters’s moral compass has proven to be not only live but pointing in the right direction as well.

Reacting to the news, Palestinian civil society has warmly saluted Roger Waters for his courage and for his valuable contribution to bringing down all walls of oppression and subjugation, Israel’s Wall of shame included.
Heartwarming stuff.

April 19, 2006

M & W: A straw in the wind?

Here's an article on the M & W piece, its reception and its significance, by Tony Judt in the New York Times.
IN its March 23rd issue the London Review of Books, a respected British journal, published an essay titled "The Israel Lobby." The authors are two distinguished American academics (Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago) who posted a longer (83-page) version of their text on the Web site of Harvard's Kennedy School.

The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. London Review of Books, March 23, 2006. As they must have anticipated, the essay has run into a firestorm of vituperation and refutation. Critics have charged that their scholarship is shoddy and that their claims are, in the words of the columnist Christopher Hitchens, "slightly but unmistakably smelly." The smell in question, of course, is that of anti-Semitism.

This somewhat hysterical response is regrettable. In spite of its provocative title, the essay draws on a wide variety of standard sources and is mostly uncontentious. But it makes two distinct and important claims. The first is that uncritical support for Israel across the decades has not served America's best interests. This is an assertion that can be debated on its merits. The authors' second claim is more controversial: American foreign policy choices, they write, have for years been distorted by one domestic pressure group, the "Israel Lobby."
Tony Judt makes a point that I don't see many make and that is that the M & W article seems to represent a possible change of tack within the American establishment.
I think this essay, by two "realist" political scientists with no interest whatsoever in the Palestinians, is a straw in the wind.

April 18, 2006

Gush Shalom on the Tel Aviv bombing

We had just heard about the explosion and were busy making phonecalls: "Wanted just to know you are okay. You heard about the bombing, did you?" Then we saw an email coming from overseas to the Gush Shalom mailbox, a very short one:
"Any comment on the latest terror attack assholes?"
As a matter of fact - yes.

One o'clock. In the noon news magazine on the radio, the commentator speaks in a rather bored way of the ongoing army raid into Nablus, words nearly identical to the reports of yesterday and of last week: "The Palestinians claim that the boy shot in central Nablus was unarmed... The soldiers assert that they had shot only at armed militants, as per orders... This is part of a continuing operation to root out terrorists in Nablus and Jenin, which is already going on for several weeks... When soldiers arrive, dozens of youngsters start throwing stones, which complicates the detention of wanted terrorists..."

Suddenly: "We interrupt this report. A large explosion just occurred at the Old Central Bus Station in Tel-Aviv. Dozens of casualties. Stand by for further details"

The Old Central Bus Station. The least fashionable part of Tel-Aviv. The lively dirty streets which are the haunt of migrant workers one jump ahead of the notorious Immigration Police and the most poor and disadvantaged among Israel's own citizens. The place where people have again and again to endure suicide bombings, too. Today, once again.

As always, the dilemma: Should we go there, to the scene where six people have just perished and forty others wounded, a place which is just a short bus ride away and where we just a few days ago went to buy sandals? Go there, as Israelis and human beings and and peace activists - but to do what? To say what?

Sure, we are horrified by the senseless random killing. But we have also something to say about why it happened, how it might have been prevented, how the next one can still be prevented. But how to say it on this day and in that location? How to make comprehensible, to shocked and angry and traumatized people, that the occupation is the root cause of our suffering as well as the Palestinians'? How to explain convincingly that we must dry at source the oppression which makes young Palestinians don explosive belts and throw away their lives together with those of others?

In the end, we don't do anything except stay tuned to the non-stop broadcasts on radio and TV. At least the extreme-right people, who in past years used to rush to such scenes with their hate placards, are not there either today. It seems that they no longer find the public so receptive to their simplistic "solutions".

The flood of news reports continues. The number of fatalities has grown to nine, and doctors at Ichilov Hospital are still fighting to save the life of a very severely wounded sixteen year-old boy. At least two of the women killed were foreign migrant workers, and the Israeli consulate in Romania is trying to locate the family of one of them. Responsibility was claimed by the Islamic Jihad, and the perpetrator was a young man from the West Bank town of Quabatiya. In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian boy (age not mentioned) was killed in an Israeli artillery bombardment (probably, somebody again instructed the artillery to decrease the range to the Palestinian inhabited areas...)

The bombing had targeted the very same cheap restaurant which was attacked in the previous Tel-Aviv bombing, three and a half months ago. Three and a half months ago. Nobody seems to remember the time when suicide bombings were taking place every week, or also several times each week. Nobody mentions that that had been when Hamas was the main initiator of suicide bombings. Nobody mentions that Hamas has been carefully keeping their one-side truce for more than a year now, that Jihad is a small organization with limited resources, that the Hamas self-restraint has saved the lives of quite a few Israelis in the past year.

A TV, reporter speaks smugly from the scene of the bombing: "The police had carried out massive detentions of Palestinian workers. Illegal Palestinians were found in all the restaurants and workshops around the site of the bombing. Why couldn't the police arrest them before it happened? (Because they had absolutely nothing to do with the bombing, because they came to Tel-Aviv for no other reason than to feed their families - but nobody says this on the air...)

In Jerusalem, the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Knesset goes ahead as scheduled, and is broadcast live. The eternal Shimon Peres is Acting Speaker. Not always our favourite among politicians. But in his speech today, he at least admits that the Palestinians are not solely to blame for the absence of peace, and that some Israeli mistakes also have something to do with it. This is not nothing, especially on such a day.

The late night news is sometimes less tightly controlled than the prime time. The commentator reports about Defense Minister Mofaz holding consultations with his generals on the coming military response, and remarks: "So, there will be a retaliation, and the Palestinians will retaliate to the retaliation, and we will retaliate again, and then what?" No answer was forthcoming.

Adam Keller
April 17, Tel-Aviv

April 17, 2006

Why is Said dressed like a settler?

You'll just have to see Paradise Now.

Manufacturing antisemitism, part 94

Here's a report in Counterpunch about the exaggeration of antisemitism in Sweden. It compares and contrasts the approach of the Swedish government to antisemitism with its approach to anti-Muslim feeling.
The Living History Forum (LHF) is a Swedish government body and research centre founded in 2003 with the expressed aim of fighting racism and the prevention of genocide by examining and teaching history. Göran Persson, the current Swedish Prime Minister and fervent pro-Israeli supporter, was the driving force behind its establishment. LHF's main activities include teaching high school students about the Nazi extermination of the Jews and the study of anti-Semitism. The Bachner and Ring report is a reflection of current LHF research priorities, where the study of anti-Semitism is a priority. Note that although there are many more Muslims (250,000-300,000) than Jews (18,000-20,000) in Sweden and although anti-Muslim hatred is more prevalent than anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred doesn't feature as a research priority.
It also highlights the dubious, indeed spurious methodology of a report that had Ha'aretz reporting that 41% of the Swedish population is antisemitic.
The sensationalist Ha'aretz headline, "41 percent of Swedes are prejudiced against Jews," derives from the report's conclusion: "A total of 59 per cent systematically rejects anti-Semitic prejudices." Ha'aretz interpreted the latter to mean that 41 per cent of Swedes are anti-Semitic, yet this is simply spurious. Suddenly, a respondent saying he "didn't know" if he had anti-Semitic prejudices, becomes translated into someone with anti-Semitic tendencies. In other words, if for whatever reason a respondent never has come into contact with Jews and states that he doesn't have an opinion on anti-Semitism, then the Ha'aretz interpretation of the report actually portrays the person as an anti-Semite.

The survey inquired about the possible dual loyalty of the Swedish Jews. The questionnaire asked for an opinion on the claim: "Swedish Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Sweden."

Apparently 3.9 per cent strongly agreed, while another 13.6 per cent thought the statement is close to the truth. Six out of ten didn't know, with close to 15 per cent saying that this probably isn't true and just above 7 per cent totally rejected it.

Bachner and Ring suggest that this "concurs to a historical stereotype" which insinuates that Jews aren't "real" Swedes and they exhibit a dual loyalty. Note that the survey question didn't allow the investigators to draw their stated interpretation -- a case of shoddy survey methodology. Dual loyalty is not an exclusively Jewish phenomenon. One can find it among many minorities, and it is generally not thought to be a problem or a case of treachery. Even if there were a perception that the Jewish community is a devoted defender of Israel, this does not imply that Swedish Jews aren't "real" Swedes. The report refers to polls carried out by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in other countries with similar findings. Both the current report and the ADL surveys suggest a strong connection between Jewish loyalty towards Israel and old views of the Jews as traitors, and the authors are simply jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions.
Here's the Ha'aretz article cached by Google.

Woman against war

Here's a Guardian article about a 19 year old Israeli woman who refused to serve in the miltary on feminist grounds.
Idan Halili, just 19 years old, has written a feminist critique that has astounded established feminist voices around the world. Her analysis takes the form of a letter sent to the Israeli army asking for exemption from compulsory service, based on a feminist rejection of militarism. Last December, having spent two weeks in military prison because of her refusal to serve, Halili was exempted from conscription; her views, she was told, deemed her "unsuitable".
Now read on.

Who bombed Baghdad and why?

It's an old story of bombings of Jewish targets in Baghdad back in the early 1950s. Here's Tom Segev in Ha'aretz writing about an event in the history of Israel and Arab Jewry that is still controversial today.
Now, a recent publication is shedding new light on the mystery. The revelations come from Yehuda Tager, an Israeli agent who operated in Baghdad, was exposed and spent about 10 years in prison there. According to Tager, the bombing of the Masuda Shemtov synagogue was not carried out by Israelis, but by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, at least one activist from the Zionist underground, Yosef Beit-Halahmi, did apparently carry out several terror attacks after the arrest of his comrades, in the hope of proving to the Iraqi authorities that the detainees were not involved in these actions. This is the first time someone involved in the episode is confirming that members of the Zionist underground did commit bombings in Baghdad.

The interview with Tager, now 83, appears in a new book by the British journalist Arthur Neslen, titled "Occupied Minds." Tager quoted a conversation he had with Beit-Halahmi's widow: "She said she had asked him (if he had thrown the bombs) and he had replied that if a bomb was thrown while we were in prison, it would have proved that it was not us who bombed the Masuda Shemtov. She implied that he, on his own initiative, without orders from Israel, did it in order to save us."
I've read Arthur Neslen's book and it impresses and annoys me that he sits back and lets the Israelis speak for themselves, only occasionally interjecting with his own questions. I'm thinking "say something Arthur." But of course that's just me missing the point.

April 16, 2006

Petition for Palestine

I don't know how much good it will do but there is a petition against the withholding of aid from the Palestinian Authority by the EU and US here. This what it says:
To: The European Union, the US congress and the Israeli Government

We condemn the actions taken by the US, the EU and Israel to exert penal economic pressure upon the Palestinian people. The withdrawal of economic aid by the US and the EU and the criminal withholding of internationally agreed custom duties by Israel will lead to widespread suffering, starvation and death among the Palestinian people, with the weakest, children and the elderly, dying first.

This aid is desperately needed because the Israeli government systematically pursues policies that prevent economic self sufficiency on the west bank and in Gaza. these policies include:

*Use of the separation wall to cut off Palestinian farmers from their fields

*Import of labourers from East Asia rather than employ Palestinians

*Placing deliberate obstacles in the path of Palestinian exports of agricultural produce and handicrafts

*Use of the Israeli banking system to block remittances from Palestinians working abroad

*Disruption of Palestinian school and Higher Education

*Withholding of customs duties due to the Palestinian Authority under
international law

These criminal policies are linked to demands that Hamas recognize the state of Israel. Such recognition would be the end of a negotiating process, it should not be a precondition. The Palestinian people have affronted the US, the EU and Israel by electing a Hamas government. It was not made clear, when they insisted on democratic elections in Palestine, that these they should only be held if the result were acceptable to Israel.

We further note that Hamas is maintaining a ceasefire and that Israel is not and that Israel is killing far more Palestinians than vice-versa but this does not impede massive US aid to Israel nor favourable trade agreements between the EU and Israel.

In the name of justice and to end these economic crimes and murders we demand:

The immediate restoration of aid by the US and the EU

The end of Israel's economic blockade

The end of US military aid to Israel

The end of exceptional favourable EU agreements with Israel.


The Undersigned
Maybe I missed something but I didn't see any names on the list connected with the Engage site. The Engage site purports to concern itself with what it calls left and liberal antisemitism. But it also claims to be opposed to boycotts against Israel. Specifically it came into being to oppose a boycott of some Israeli universities by the Association of University Teachers. And yet it appears that none of their contributors are willing to even sign a petition aimed at ending a boycott of the Palestinian Authority by the most powerful forces on earth. Maybe they'll come along later. At the time of writing the number of signatories was 470.

Israel: a terror state?

Here's Gideon Levy in today's Ha'aretz, arguing that by the Israeli government's own definition of terrorism, Israel is a terror state.
Instead of expressions of sorrow at the death of children, the upper echelons of the defense establishment came out with a stream of strident statements. The defense minister said that the only thing to do was step up the pressure on the Palestinians. The deputy chief of staff spoke about a possible invasion of Gaza and the head of army operations added, "what we've seen so far are only the previews." The IDF announced it would further reduce the "safety range" that is designed to avoid shells hitting the civilian population.

It was a chilling, united chorus. Israel is dropping thousands of bombs on towns and villages, on the "the launching pads" of the Qassams - another dubious term created by the defense establishment and blindly adopted by the press - and only the Palestinians, whose Qassam rockets haven't killed anyone since the disengagement, are called "terrorists."

Nor was there any substantive debate after a possible slip of the tongue by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in an interview to the BBC, in which she said that there was a difference between attacking civilians and attacking soldiers. Even though she did not resolutely stand by her own words in an interview with Channel 10, Livni dared to speak the truth: If harming civilians is a measure of terror, then Israel is a terror state. With 18 killed in Gaza alone in 12 days, three of them children, the absence of intent cannot suffice for us. Someone who uses artillery to shell population centers and says with horrific indifference that this is "just a preview," as if it were another reality show on TV, cannot claim that he does not intend to kill children.

Those responsible for such bombings around the world are rightfully considered war criminals. That's terror - just ask Livni. And when it is done in the name of a state, it is much worse than in those cases when the perpetrators are from rogue organizations.
And yet it is the Palestinian Authority that is being subjected to a boycott by powerful states and blocks of states, not the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.

April 15, 2006

Once we were slaves but now?

This is a passover tale, by Ruth Sinai, from yesterday's Ha'aretz. Sorry, I say tale, it's actually a true story of slavery in "modern" Israel.
In June 2002, M.R., an incapacitated Israeli man from Migdal Haemek, traveled to the city of Kolomyya, in Ukraine. There he met a widow of 45 and offered her a job working for him in Israel. She accepted, he sent her a plane ticket and she arrived in the country. Her work was to look after him and his mother − he uses a wheelchair, she is elderly − including bathing them and changing diapers. She also had to clean the house, do the laundry and cook.

"When I started the job, M.R. told me that I had to work a year without pay to repay the many expenses he had in bringing me to Israel," the women said in a statement that she made on April 2 to attorney Anat Gonen from Kav La'oved, the Workers Hotline for the Protection of Worker's Rights. Thus, during her first year of employment, she received no salary, apart from NIS 100-200 that the handicapped man's mother gave her occasionally. "In addition, I was allowed to go out twice a week for a few hours in order to work at cleaning, and the money I earned [from that work] I sent to my family in Ukraine."

At the end of the year, the woman asked M.R. to start paying her. However, he told her he was in the midst of a lawsuit against his insurance company and that after he won, he would receive a great deal of money and would pay her retroactively. "Because he made it clear to me that if I stopped working for him I would have to go back to Ukraine, I agreed, having no choice but to go on working without getting a salary," she explained in her statement.
So much for the individual case.
Now look at the general problem.According to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union in Berkeley, California, trafficking for purposes of slavery in households is in second place in terms of the number of people involved, after trafficking for prostitution. After identifying the problem several years ago, the United States enacted legislation to combat it. Until 2004, indictments were handed down against 77 people for coercive employment or commerce in human beings. Convictions were obtained in most of the cases. In 2002, for example, a California court sentenced the common-law wife of the Thai ambassador to Sweden to eight years in prison for having brought with her to the United States a household worker, whose passport she confiscated, then forcing her to work 20 hours a day, six days a week.

However, as befits the world's sheriff, the United States has taken the matter beyond the domestic sphere. In an attempt to eradicate the phenomenon throughout the world, the State Department publishes an annual report that ranks the efforts made by the world's countries to combat human trafficking. Since 2003 the report has referred not only to trafficking for prostitution, but also for bondage. To meet the minimal standards set by the United States for this report, a country must investigate, bring to justice and convict such traffickers and also take preventive measures against the phenomenon, including public education.

Not doing enough
Israel, the United States maintains, is not doing enough to combat the phenomenon. After being at the lowest level for one year − i.e., being listed as one of the countries that is not doing anything at all to eradicate human trafficking − Israel has, since 2002, been upgraded to the Tier 2 level of countries that are taking action against it, but not enough. Last year, the report added a "watch list," referring to countries that are about to be downgraded. In September 2005, Gershuni met with representatives of the State Department ahead of the publication of the annual "Trafficking in Persons Report" available at www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/
It's a long article and it ought to be read in full as there are parliamentarians on the case to protect Israel from the disapprobation and sanctions it deserves. Which just goes to show that Israel is susceptible to pressure.

Ilan Pappe on the choice of racists in the Israeli election

Back to the LRB for Ilan Pappe's take on the recent Israeli elections. Campaigning for racial or religious equality is actually forbidden in democratic Israel's elections but Ilan Pappe points out that the difference between the zionist left and the zionist right rests on claims regarding who would be the most effective racist rulers.
From left to right, the manifestos of all the Zionist parties during the recent Israeli election campaign contained policies which they claimed would counter the ‘demographic problem’ posed by the Palestinian presence in Israel. Ariel Sharon proposed the pull-out from Gaza as the best solution to it; the leaders of the Labour Party endorsed the wall because they believed it was the best way of limiting the number of Palestinians inside Israel. Extra-parliamentary groups, too, such as the Geneva Accord movement, Peace Now, the Council for Peace and Security, Ami Ayalon’s Census group and the Mizrachi Democratic Rainbow all claim to know how to tackle it.

Apart from the ten members of the Palestinian parties and two eccentric Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews, all the members of the new Knesset (there are 120 in all) arrived promising that their magic formulae would solve the ‘demographic problem’. The means varied from reducing Israeli control over the Occupied Territories – in fact, the plans put forward by Labour, Kadima, Shas (the Sephardic Orthodox party) and Gil (the pensioners’ party) would involve Israeli withdrawal from only 50 per cent of these territories – to more drastic action. Right-wing parties such as Yisrael Beytenu, the Russian ethnic party of Avigdor Liberman, and the religious parties argued for a voluntary transfer of Palestinians to the West Bank. In short, the Zionist answer is to reduce the problem either by giving up territory or by shrinking the ‘problematic’ population group.
Now read on...

More LRB letters on M & W

Here are some more letters to the London Review of Books on the Mearsheimer and Walt Israel Lobby article. First up is serial liar and darling of the zionist Engage smearsite, Alan Dershowitz and it's long so you might want to scroll down a good bit.

Here are some I quite enjoyed:
More than thirty years ago, I was one of the first British Jewish writers to write about the harsh behaviour of the Israeli authorities towards the Palestinians living under a cruel and illegal occupation. Although I did not write about anything which I had not witnessed, I was accused of lying, of being ‘paid by the Arabs’ and even of ‘having sex intercourse with the Arab gangsters’. I was inundated with letters containing hysterical abuse and anonymous death threats, and attacked verbally and physically. One man wrote to say he considered it his duty ‘to prevent a Jewess from damaging the cause of Israel’. Publications for which I had worked were told that I was ‘a member of a terrorist gang’.

It is a pity that supporters of Israel still reach for the same obfuscations, denigrations and outright distortions of fact. As far back as 1980, the May/June issue of Yiton 77 (a Hebrew literary monthly) published an article by the Israeli writer Boaz Evron on the use of accusations of anti-semitism and reminders of the Holocaust to silence critics. There have been many similar articles in the Israeli media over the years.

Marion Woolfson

Why do Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits employ the Lobby’s rhetorical tactic of conflating Israel with Jews (Letters, 6 April)? John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are careful to distinguish the Israel Lobby from American Jewish citizens, and never refer to a ‘Jewish’ Lobby. And why do they accuse Mearsheimer and Walt of ‘naivety regarding the power and import of ideological fanaticism in international affairs’? Their article was precisely about the impact of ideological fanaticism not only on international affairs but on American democracy. Finally, does the fact that Likud came third in the recent Israeli elections mean that the majority of Israelis are not in sympathy with all of the policies promoted in their name by the Lobby?

Renee Slater

That's a good point. The Engage crew went overboard in their lies about the M & W article and yet if they tried to promote their professed position on Palestine in the USA it would never get past the Lobby. So it's good for them that they (Engage that is) are manifestly insincere about where they stand on the occupation and on the bogus charge of antisemitism, which they exist to disseminate.

Anyway, there's more:
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt almost acquit the American war machine of what is happening here. ‘The bottom line,’ they write, ‘is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that US policy towards Israel is not debated there.’ Suppose AIPAC weren’t there: would American policy in the Middle East be different? I doubt it.

Yitzhak Laor
Tel Aviv
And here's a word from the editors:
Besides those published here and in the last issue, we have received a great many letters in response to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s piece – not all of them edifying, though we haven’t received any death threats, as one correspondent from New Jersey feared we would. There have been a number of accusations of anti-semitism, as Mearsheimer and Walt predicted, and some very unpleasant remarks about Arabs, but also dozens of messages praising the article. Most readers understood that Mearsheimer and Walt were writing about US foreign policy and its effects on the Middle East, though there have also been a few congratulatory messages of an anti-semitic nature. The letters accusing Mearsheimer and Walt of having written an ‘anti-semitic rant’ and those congratulating them for having exposed a ‘secret Jewish’ – or, as one individual felt the need to spell it, ‘J E W I S H’ – ‘conspiracy’ have something in common: they come from people who appear not to have read the piece, and who seem incapable of distinguishing between criticism of Israeli or US government policy and anti-semitism.

We don’t usually publish letters of simple praise, which meant that only letters putting the case against Mearsheimer and Walt appeared in the last number of the LRB. This led one correspondent to write: ‘Your obvious slant in the letters you have chosen to publish regarding the Israel Lobby establishes, once again, that Israeli apologists are alive and well and living at the London Review of Books.’ It may be impossible to write or publish anything relating to Israel without provoking accusations of bias.

Mearsheimer and Walt will reply to the correspondence we’ve published and discuss the wider response to their article in the next issue.

Editors, ‘London Review’
So more in a fortnight.

AIPAC meets Portnoy?

Here's a rarity. It's a serious conservative critique of Mearsheimer and Walt's Israel Lobby article that appeared in the London Review of Books last month. Written by Eric Alterman in The Nation and titled AIPAC's Complaint it covers the literally hysterical response before going on to critique the article. I'm fairly certain that the title is a play on the Philip Roth title, Portnoy's Complaint, which is about a Jewish boy with an obsession defined thus:
A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature.
Does that bear comparison with American zionists who use all the freedoms conferred by the democratic secular state of America to support an ethno-religious state based on colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing and racist laws? Anyway here are some chunks of the Alterman article:
The University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer is among America's most admired political scientists. Stephen Walt is the academic dean and a chaired professor at Harvard's Kennedy School. Neither man has ever made any remotely racist or anti-Semitic utterance in the public sphere. And yet because they recently published an essay in The London Review of Books and (with full scholarly apparatus) on the Kennedy School website that critically and--this is key--unsentimentally examines the role of the "Israel lobby" in the making of US foreign policy, these two scholars have been subjected to a relentless barrage of vituperative insults in which the accusation "anti-Semite" is merely the beginning. Just a few of the most colorful: "Crackpot" (Martin Peretz); "Could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas" (Alan Dershowitz); "As scholarly as...Welch and McCarthy--and just as nutty" (Max Boot); "puts The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to shame" (Josef Joffe); "resembles nothing so much as Wilhelm Marr's 1879 pamphlet The Victory of Judaism Over Germandom" (Ruth Wisse); "dishonest so-called intellectuals...entitled to their stupidity" (New York Representative Eliot Engel).

One is tempted to point out that the authors themselves predicted the likelihood of such a reception, and by provoking it they have proved their point. They note--relying on research by yours truly--that pro-Israel voices dominate punditocracy discourse and add that the lobby almost always plays the "anti-Semite" card to stifle debate about Israel's behavior in general and its own actions in particular. Machers at official Jewish organizations--accurately characterized in the paper as far more belligerent than the Jewish community generally--have suggested in circulated e-mails that Israel supporters might want to threaten the Kennedy School's funding. The school's administration has distanced itself from the controversy by removing its imprimatur from the paper and posting Dershowitz's attack on it at the same web address. If any young scholars--without the protective armor that Walt and Mearsheimer's reputations afford, to say nothing of tenured professorships--are considering research into a similar topic, well, they won't need a weatherman to know which way this (idiot) wind blows.

One is also tempted to infer that what scares the character assassins into such self-revealing fits of ferocity is the fear that the authors have revealed the unhappy truths they'd rather suppress. We have an ex-New York Times executive editor admitting that he favored Israel in the paper's coverage, and it's not even Abe Rosenthal. They quote the longtime editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal saying, "Shamir, Sharon, Bibi--whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me." They quote former AIPAC officials bragging about Jewish power and influence in Congress and the executive branch and supplement this with a variety of US officials complaining of the power of this network to get what it wants, regardless of the merits of a given argument. The authors also focus a laser beam on the lobby's take-no-prisoners attitude toward any politician who departs from the lobby's line--up to and including Howard Dean's innocuous pronouncement that the United States should play an "even-handed role" in the Middle East. Finally, they demonstrate that while it contains the word "American" in its name, AIPAC does Israel's bidding, pure and simple.
And now for the critique bit:
For authors whose work I have long admired--I've known Walt a long time, though casually, and not long ago I was the commentator on a paper Mearsheimer offered at the Council on Foreign Relations--their paper has surprising weaknesses. Perhaps because they are relatively new to the topic, the authors treat the "pro-Israel" American Jewish community as virtually monolithic. Yet while much of its power and influence rest with AIPAC and the neocons--who together with many others did do everything they could to drag America into this catastrophic war--it also contains many passionate opponents of just these tendencies. These are Jews who identify as both Jewish and pro-Israel but do so on the basis of a fundamentally different vision from the one that animates the likes of Peretz, Podhoretz, Perle and AIPAC's armies of the right.

Second, the authors offer up the lobby as virtually the only determinant of US Middle East policy, as if the oil states, oil companies and the vast wealth they represent count for bubkes. That's just silly. The power of oil to determine the course of US foreign policy, like most things, is not what it once was. But neither is it chopped liver. And while things have probably progressed to the point where the AIPAC team can best the Saudis and their minions most of the time, it's still a fight and sometimes requires retreat and compromise. Why the authors treat this factor so dismissively is a mystery. (It may, however, have something to do with the authors' acceptance of a narrative of Middle East history in which Israel plays no useful strategic role for the United States--another mystery to this reader and Realist sympathizer.)

Third, while it's fair to call AIPAC obnoxious and even anti-democratic, the same can often be said about, say, the NRA, Big Pharma and other powerful lobbies. The authors note this but often seem to forget it. This has the effect of making the Jews who read the paper feel unfairly singled out, and inspires much emotionally driven mishigas in reaction.
And here's how it ends:
Do these problems justify the inference that the authors are anti-Semitic? Of course not. Raising the issue purely on the basis of intellectual disagreement is shameful--and actually helpful to genuine anti-Semites, as it diminishes the accusation's potency. While much of the paper is compelling, its weaknesses will hinder the authors' attempt to pierce the wall of ignorance and intimidation erected around such policy debates by the very institutions upon which it seeks to shed light. This is a damn shame, as AIPAC and its minions are pushing for an attack, possibly nuclear, on Iran, and, God help us, it seems to be working--again.
So the critic goes a long way to agreeing with the authors but he feels they should have expressed themselves more sensitively.

The significance of this is that there is a conservative critique of America's support for Israel emerging, and not just from the wackier or more obnoxious exponents of paleo-conism or isolationism.

UPDATE: Have a look at this comment from Evan Jones of Alert and Alarmed.

April 14, 2006

Prodi: Hamas's man in Rome?

From the Guardian: Romano Prodi has ruffled a few feathers by suggesting that he wants the EU to change its approach to the Palestinian Authority from starving the Palestinians to maintaining, or re-establishing contact.
The left wing of Mr Prodi's broad alliance made big advances in the vote and can block legislation in either chamber of parliament. There was speculation that its influence was already showing up in Mr Prodi's foreign policy after he was quoted by news agencies as having told the Arab satellite channel, Al-Jazeera: "I shall commit myself at the European level to shape a new position with respect to the new Palestinian government. I am looking with great attention at the signs of an opening being made by Hamas."

A spokesman for the right accused Mr Prodi of complicity in "the worst sort of anti-westernism". The remarks had been translated into Italian from the Arabic voiceover and what Mr Prodi actually said was: "Now I'll get to work in an active way in Europe and we shall see the position in future. Beside, there have been openings by Hamas that are very interesting."
Berlusconi has never quite managed dignity but his hanging on to a few more days of power sees him at his undignified worst. But worse still is the fact that whilst the French, Spanish and German governments have congratulated Prodi on his victory,
Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, and the US president, George Bush, were waiting for the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to concede defeat.
So the British and American governments are reluctant to let go of their favourite holocaust denier.

Hamas MP threatens return to suicide bombings

My attention was drawn to this by a zionist commentor on David Hirsh's ludicrous Guardian blog. From the Beeb website, a Hamas MP is quoted as threatening a return to the suicide bombings. The article is about a defiant Hamas rally against the west's support for Israel's "making the Palestinians a lot thinner.
"We will eat salt, but we will not bow our heads for anybody other than God, because we are faithful to the rights of our people and our nation. We will not betray it," he said.

After his speech, Mr Haniya joined thousands of Hamas supporters who thronged the streets.

And he went with them as they gathered for a major rally in the centre of Gaza City.

Earlier, at another big demonstration in the south, another Hamas leader had warned that if the party's government was broken by its enemies, Hamas would go back on the offensive.

Younes al-Aftal, a Hamas MP, said there would be Hamas suicide bombings again in the heart of Israel.
Now that won't put food on the table.

Who ever heard of an Irish Jew?

Well according to Leslie Bunder in Something Jewish, the Irish census authorities haven't heard of an Irish Jew or they would have made a space other than "other" for Irish Jews to register their faith/ethnicity on the form for the forthcoming census.
Irish Jews has reacted with concern that their country’s latest census which takes place on April 23 does not contain a box to record being a member of the Jewish faith despite other religious groups including Muslims and Presbyterians having a box to register their religion.

The only option open to them is a "other" category box which the community believes will not enable them to gather any meaningful data about the make up of the community.

"It's a pity and unhelpful that the Central Statistics Office didn't include a category," Carl Nelkin, vice chairman of the Representative Council of Ireland told the Jewish Telegraph newspaper.

"We're hoping they'll write Jewish, but we just don't know. Last time the numbers were encouraging, but if there were a specific category it would help," he added.

In 1946, there were just under 4000 Jews in Ireland, while in 2002 that number was down to 1790 and according to some, there has been a recent influx of Jews from around the world settling in the Emerald Isle and having accurate information on the Jewish community would enable the country to reflect its provision of services to them.
There have been various prominent Irish Jews including two mayors of Dublin (Robert and Ben Briscoe) and one of Cork (Gerald Goldberg). I heard a story that Gerald Goldberg opened a bridge which became known as the Passover. According to Wikipedia, it's true. Anyway, perhaps the best known Irish Jew (among politicals that is) is the late Chaim Herzog, once President of the State of Israel. I'm guessing that naitve presidents of Israel are still in a minority, like their prime ministers but I;m not sure.