February 24, 2010

PA helping the occupation

This Comment is free article highlighting collaboration between the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas and the State of Israel with specific regard to the occupation of the West Bank is nothing new but it is well put and it's been well received in the comments section:
The Fatah leadership running the PA has been unwilling to make the concessions necessary for national unity, while simultaneously the PA security forces (western and Jordanian trained) continue arresting and torturing those tied to resistance, primarily Hamas-connected. These days the political establishment in Ramallah has expressed a far greater interest in retaining western support than resolving national division and leading a unified resistance to the occupation.

Indeed, it seems that the western countries backing Israel and calling on Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table are also those turning a blind eye to the illegal arrests and torture. According to Wisam Ahmed, advocacy officer at Al-Haq – West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – both PA and American officials have been notified about the widespread use of illegal political detention and torture by PA security, yet it has continued.

"Some of the third parties' interests are different from what we feel are the interests of insuring Palestinian unity," Ahmed said on 21 December. "Their main interest is to ensure that there is no change to the status quo."

It is a status quo that accommodates shifts in public face, provided there is no real shift in relationship and co-ordination on the ground. Regardless of whether official talks are happening or not, the PA operates in constant dialogue and co-ordination with Israeli occupation.

Last month, when I spoke to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) prisoners' affairs representative Khalida Jarrar, she condemned the PA for continued political arrests of Palestinians and the maintenance of security co-ordination with Israel.

"The assassinations are a clear example of why [the PFLP] have a policy calling for the PA to end security coordination," she said in reference to the killings in Nablus last December.

Jarrar highlighted that both the security co-ordination and political arrests are part of PA compliance with the Quartet road map. "As Palestinians we have an opportunity to review our negotiations with Israel and our security co-ordination should stop. We should have a political overhaul of the process and this means a demand for the implementation of international resolutions and a relaunching of popular resistance," she stressed, illustrating the PFLP alternative to the current PA practice.

While Jarrar and her Marxist party have tapped into the common feelings on the West Bank street, the basis of power rests in the hands of the western countries keeping Abbas financially and militarily afloat. At the same time, Israel recognises the advantage of a policing partner in the West Bank that fuels internal Palestinian division, tolerating the rhetorical flourishes volleyed over the wall.

Joseph Massad has been writing about this stuff for several years now. A quick google search yields this, this and this.

The latest is titled Oslo and the end of Palestinian independence and it details what Massad calls the "classes" that benefit from this collaborationist fruit of Oslo:
The five main classes that the architects of Oslo created to ensure that the "process" survives are: a political class, divided between those elected to serve the Oslo process, whether to the Legislative Council or the executive branch (essentially the position of president of the PA), and those who are appointed to serve those who are elected, whether in the ministries, or in the presidential office; a policing class, numbering in the tens of thousands, whose function is to defend the Oslo process against all Palestinians who try to undermine it. It is divided into a number of security and intelligence bodies competing with one another, all vying to prove that they are most adept at neutralising any threat to the Oslo process. Under Arafat's authority, members of this class inaugurated their services by shooting and killing 14 Palestinians they deemed enemies of the "process" in Gaza in 1994 -- an achievement that earned them the initial respect of the Americans and the Israelis who insisted that the policing class should use more repression to be most effective......

Also: a bureaucratic class attached to the political class and the policing class and that constitutes an administrative body of tens of thousands who execute the orders of those elected and appointed to serve the "process"; an NGO class: another bureaucratic and technical class whose finances fully depend on their serving the Oslo process and ensuring its success through planning and services; and, a business class composed of expatriate Palestinian businessmen as well as local businessmen -- including especially members of the political, policing and bureaucratic classes -- whose income is derived from financial investment in the Oslo process and from profit-making deals that the PA can make possible. While the NGO class mostly does not receive money from the PA, being the beneficiary of foreign governmental and non- governmental financial largesse that is structurally connected to the Oslo process, the political, policing, and bureaucratic classes receive all their legitimate and illegitimate income from the PA directly.
At the time of writing, 18:42 GMT, comments are still open at Cif and you can write for publication to Al Ahram where Massad's piece appears.

February 23, 2010

The who-ish lobby?

From today's Independent:

Israel lobby

I would thank Brian Hennessey (letter, 19 February) not to refer to the supporters of and apologists for Israel's crimes (in the US or elsewhere) as the "Jewish lobby". Many such people are not Jewish and, more to the point, many Jews (including many in the US and even Israel) deplore them as much as Mr Hennessey does.

Laurie Marks


That's the stuff.

February 20, 2010

Mission Impossible?

See this in The Independent:
Israel is sending more agents abroad, this time on an even more difficult mission: to project a peaceful and positive image of the Jewish state.

As part a new government campaign every citizen travelling overseas becomes an ambassador. But launched in the same week that images aired of suspected Mossad agents preparing to assassinate a Hamas leader in a luxury Dubai hotel, the timing couldn't be worse.

The only training necessary for those wanting to be part of what Information Minister Yuli Edelstein is calling the "Israel Explanatory Force", is perusing a government website or pamphlets handed out as they board planes. The literature stresses Israel is a peace-loving state that developed the cherry tomato and won the Eurovision song contest in 1998 – information Israelis are invited to share during their overseas vacations and business trips.
They better be careful on their hasbara holidays. Pro-zionist propaganda has been so rife in our media for so long, some people think Israel's only offence is to win the Eurovision song contest.

February 19, 2010

UK political leader not a patron of the Jewish National Fund shock!

I got a reply to an email to Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, yesterday. Among other things the email stated that he is not a patron, honorary or otherwise, of the Jewish National Fund and helpfully provided a link to prove it. So here's the line-up:

Honorary Patrons:

Professor David Bellamy OBE

The Rt Hon Tony Blair

The Rt Hon Gordon Brown PM

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

The Rt Hon Lady Cosgrave CBE

General the Lord Guthrie

The Rt Hon Michael Howard MP

Anthony Krais JP

Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy OBE

The Prime Minister of Israel

HE The Ambassador of Israel Ron Prosor

President - Shimon Peres

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

Rev Malcolm Weisman OBE

Look at it. A real hall of shame.

Hat-tip, Nick Clegg for not joining with such a nasty bunch of sheisters, oh and to Bess Mayhew from the great man's office for giving me the info. I've done a lot of searches for the JNF's patrons and never found a one hit document.

February 18, 2010

Israel bad for Brits and bad for Jews

Israel has quite a lot of form for undermining its allies and for undermining Jews. This Dubai killing of a Hamas leader combines the two with the stealing of the passports of British Jews, allegedly by Mossad agents to get themselves into Dubai to do the kill. The Guardian is concerned that the UK's cravenness to Israel will hamper efforts to bring the killers to justice and endanger genuine British passport holders travelling in the middle east. The Jewish Chronicle doesn't seem to be concerned at all that people who appear to have settled in Israel as good zionists have been exposed to harm in this way.

Israel not enlightened by work of art

Spanish artist Eugenio Merino won't get the support of the Israeli foreign ministry. That support is for artists who know who holds their leash, how not to bite the hand that feeds them, and many other commonplaces.

See why?

The Israeli embassy issued a statement saying that this is "offensive towards Israelis, Jews, and certainly others".

No, it isn't. For example, I'm sure that almost none of the over 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinians are offended (oh, but do these citizens of Israel also count as "Israelis"? Good question! Must ask His Excellency.)

As for Jews, they ought to be offended that Israel put Jewish symbols on its apartheid state buildings. On the other hand, Jews who agree with Rabbi Yehuda Tzvi Kook's words that tanks and arms are "holy vessels," surely can't be offended by this. Unless what offends them is not the content of the work but the knowledge that the Spanish artist gets it. Indeed, I've never seen a work of art that captures the spirit of Mercaz Harav so succinctly. They should commission Merino to redecorate all their synagogues. Here! Let's hear it from the Uzi worshipers themselves:

Strange that the uzi ... has become the symbol of the greatest transformation in Judaism since the destruction of Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. Rabbi Finklestein has taught us that objects take on profound meaning in the context of their use...If you are a post holocaust Jew and see an uzi, it evokes not images of crime, but hope and salvation. The instrument of violence becomes a symbol of hope...

...Even our humor reflects this transformation. I enjoy telling the story of the Exodus on Passover (the revised version). The little girl comes home from Hebrew school and mother asks “what did you learn today?” She answers “we learned about the Exodus.” “Oh, tell me what your teacher said.” “OK, Moses led our People out of Egypt but Pharoah and his army were in hot pursuit. When Moses got to the Red Sea, he ordered his communications officer to call ahead. Then a squadron of Israeli jet fighters appeared in the skies and bombed the Egyptians while the combat engineers constructed bridges so the People could cross over the water. “Is that what your teacher told you,” asks the mother incredulously? “Not exactly, mommy, but if I were to tell you what she told us, you’d never believe it!”

...The uzi represents both the blessings of a homeland, rich in energy and creativity, and the risks incurred by its defense and ongoing security. Each of us, when we completed basic training were given both an Uzi and a Bible. We understood that without the uzi, the values and visions of our Torah would remain dormant in a pagan world; we also knew that without the Bible the uzi would be just an instrument of violence. So, rabbi, is there a blessing for the uzi? (Saul Goldman, The Jewish Magazine, 2000)
This was written only a few month before the Israeli army shot 1.3 million bullets in the first few days of the Second Intifada, not against the army of Pharaoh, but against unarmed demonstrators.

Which Jews are therefore offended? The hypocrites. The religious Jews who worship the Uzi like a Torah scroll (or more accurately, like a golden calf) but are offended when someone else calls attention to that. The secular Jews who count the babies of religious Jews in trepidation but are happy to use religious symbols as propaganda weapons. Finally, are offended those who make a living, and a very good one indeed, from being offended. Good for all of them! Hardly the first work of art to be condemned as an offense to hypocrisy.

Besides, Merino's Uzi can no longer shoot. While Merino didn't turn the gun into a plowshare, the transformation that the weapon undergone, into a sculpture, has been no less peaceful than the one imagined by Isaiah. Perhaps the Ambassador of the state known for beating plowshares into gunships could turn his immense capacity for being offended towards what the state of Israel does every day with fully functioning weapons.

February 17, 2010

A radio debate from Racistan

Alright class, here is your assignment: highlight every bit of racist blather in the following (courtesy of Kibush):

Elton John - Culture and Politics on the Radio (transcription of discussion on boycott campaign)
Seder Yom (daily agenda) with Keren Noybach
-a discussion program on a major Israeli radio morning show-
Reshet Bet, Feb. 10 2010
[Translated transcript by Ofer Neiman]

Keren Noybach: Who is trying to convince Elton John not to perform in the country? This morning we will talk about culture, and politics.
Can I guess that there is a consensus around this table?

Yehuda Nuriel (Yediot Acharonot): Look, I don`t know, the boycott on Israel….

Keren Noybach: I see now an article, that Talab El-Sanaa is the last to join and also call Elton John not to come to the country, in addition to Prof. Bereshith.

Yehuda Nuriel: If I am not mistaken, there was supposed to be a performance of Carlos Santana, one of the legends of the 60`s, and he will not show up.

Keren Noybach: why? He was pressured to boycott?

Yehuda Nuriel: yes, you know, also Roger Waters, and Depeche Mode, and others. The call to boycott Israel is not something that was born today, it has been going on for a long time and it is done in public, out in the open, not secretly, by people who believe, for their own reasons, that it can be effective to turn Israel to a kind of South Africa of the past, and let every Israeli understand how much this country is doing bad things- in their eyes. And they do it through boycotting.
There were also very alarming suggestions to stop IDF soldiers or officers that participated, you know….when they go to the Mondial in S. Africa, that is like taking a prize from the poor, a guy goes to the Mondial and……

Keren Noybach: what do we have left if they take soccer from us?

Yehuda Nuriel: Yes, there is a call to Elton John, my basic approach, not only regarding Israel, is that almost nothing should be boycotted, only if we are dealing with an extreme, evil regime. I also don`t like the local boycotts, like people who say: `I will not perform in the settlements`, and I am the first person to call these places occupied, and I am all for having the settlers return to Israel, so we don`t have a bi- national state with an oppressive regime. But do not boycott. The artists are ambassadors of the freedom of speech, of believing, of the ability to convince people and bring them closer together. Boycotting is using a very extreme weapon, and here I include the call for artists not to come to Israel.

Ben Dror Yemini (Ma`ariv): I am absolutely in favor to boycott as a weapon but in the right context. When there are real situations that political protest can bring change. And when the circumstances are real. In regards to Israel the story is totally different. There is a big industry of lies, and demonization and elements in side Israel, (you mentioned some), are part of it from within and from outside, that Prof. Bereshith sits in Britain , he is a veteran in boycotting Israel, he sits there and bad mouths the state of Israel many many years. I imagine that he wants the right to participate in the elections and vote for Azmi Bshara.

Yehuda Nuriel: we will give him the right to vote

Ben Dror Yemini: this is very severe. In cases when it is justified to do a cultural boycott, let there be cultural boycott, but for gods stake, I didn`t hear Bereshith or Tibi suggesting that some one does not travel to the Sudan or to Iran or to North Korea, on the contrary, they are fans of those dark countries. There is a problem with these crazy, hypocritical people who only talk about Israel. It is enough; we are fed up with the hypocrisy.
Excuse me but Talab El-Sanaa should say thank you that he is given the right to open his mouth, I am glad he is given the right to open his mouth but he should be put in his place, and also his hypocrisy . I say to him: sit quietly!

A third, female speaker: he enjoys immensely from the rights that are given to him here, to say what he wants in the parliament.

Ben Dror Yemini: I am all in favor of all of his rights, and I am all in favor of him having the right to speak up.

Female speaker: But he can not say that he is not supporting Zionism

Ben Dror Yemini: Let him say his words of abomination, and I am in favor of my right to say that his words are abomination, that is all.

Yehuda Nuriel: I only wanted to say one thing, too many times people say: `wait a minute, in Gaza they would not have let them speak up like this, and in Iran?` tell me, what are we talking about? This is a very common argument; it is as if they are saying lets behave like the Arabs behave. Lieberman said, lets talk with the Arabs in their language, and I say that I don`t want to talk to the Arabs in their language, for example, look what is happening with Iran when Iran wants to, sort of, speak in our language, but really what they are doing is being the bully in the neighborhood. I am Israeli, I am not Sudanese.

Ben Dror Yemini: Allow me to be blunt; I think there is some racism in your attitude. Because your attitude lets the others off the hook: the people of Gaza, the Iranians.

Yehuda Nuriel: I have freedom of speech; does this mean that because there is no freedom of speech in Gaza, there shouldn`t be freedom of speech here? Why?

Ben Dror Yemini: this is not what I am saying; I am saying that universal standards should be applied to everyone. If someone would come and tell me that in his country women are oppressed, or that there are mass killings, or genocide, only because his culture is different, I am fed up with this line of thinking, no one is exempt (from universal standards).

Yehuda Nuriel: the only thing that made Elton John ran away from Israel last time he was here was the media, not the Right, the Left, the Palestinians or the settlers, the media

And then they put on the air the beautiful song `Daniel` by Elton John

February 16, 2010

More Independent letters

The zios are taking quite a beating in The Independent newspaper letters page lately. I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who are wise to the false allegation of antisemitism and even more surprised at The Independent's willingness to publish their letters. The letters page is always here and you can scroll down for specific days. For some reason, today's isn't on line yet but yesterday's offerings were rather good after a dodgy first one and an even worse last one:
I have the feeling that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ("Still no hope of common sense in the war against anti-Semitism", 8 February) was too afraid of wandering off the beaten path for fear of what lurked in the undergrowth.

Her fears are understandable, since the supporters of Israel and Zionism are more than ready to brand any prominent critic as anti-Semitic. When Israel's Finance Minister, Yuval Stenitz, brands lifelong Zionist Richard Goldstone an anti-Semite for telling the truth about what happened in Gaza, then no one is immune from this scurrilous accusation.

Understandably, Ms Alibhai-Brown treads warily for fear of bringing the wrath of the "Israel right or wrong" brigade down on her head. Such caution often ends up as self-censorship. But like the boy who cried wolf, most people have become immunised to what is really just a variation on McCarthyism.

There is no evidence whatsoever that there is an increasing tide of anti-Semitism in this country. Anti-Semitism is hatred, violence and discrimination against Jews, not opposition to Israel and Zionism. Zionism, which represents an abandonment of the fight against anti-Semitism, with its belief that Jews are "strangers" in other peoples' lands, is a political movement. We oppose Zionism for the same reason that we opposed apartheid in South Africa.

Tony Greenstein

Brighton, East Sussex

Martin Sugarman's claim (letters, 10 February) that an EU definition of terrorism declares that comparing Nazism and Zionism is anti-Semitic is untrue. A Working Definition, written by the American Jewish Committee, and published by the European Union Monitoring Centre in 2004, made suggestions about what anti-Semitism might include.

That's as far as it went. It has not been ratified by the EUMC's successor organisation, the Fundamental Rights Agency. Like Mr Sugarman's letter, it was an attempt to stifle debate which has clearly failed. Comparing the Israeli government with the Nazis may or may not be a silly exaggeration. It is not anti-Semitic.

Charles Moore


The Independent is absolutely right to call on Israel to live up to its democratic credentials by allowing credible, independent investigations into alleged war crimes committed by its forces during the Gaza conflict (leading article, 3 February). This is something the Israeli government should willingly accommodate, to fulfil its obligations under the UN's report on the Gaza conflict, to provide a forum for justice and accountability, and, in the long run, to help in bringing peace to the region.

All of this would have been true without fresh claims from members of the Israeli military that they operated under dangerously permissive rules of engagement. The case for an independent investigation is starker still. Israel should stop digging in its heels and grant the investigation that would unlock this situation. The onus then would be on Hamas to prove itself capable of similar action.

Kate Allen

Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2

Here's that last one I mentioned:

Whether it is anti-Semitic in itself to oppose the existence of the State of Israel (letters, 10 February), it is certainly the case that by far the majority of people who do oppose Israel are anti-Semites.

Andrew Lee-Hart

Wallasey, Merseyside

You just can't answer, erm, reasoning like that.

February 15, 2010

Single BDS Ladies serenade Leviev's customers

The chorus goes, "it's apartheid, so you shouldn't put a ring on it." Full lyrics here. Press release here. For those of us unhip to Beyonce's oeuvre (I sure was), you can find her here. Lastly, a version by Pomplamoose.

February 13, 2010

They're on to us, really!

According to a zionist think tank, "Israel is facing a global campaign of delegitimization" that includes
anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, protests when Israeli athletes compete abroad, moves in Europe to boycott Israeli products, and threats of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders visiting London.
Reut says the campaign is the work of a worldwide network of private individuals and organizations. They have no hierarchy or overall commander, but work together based on a joint ideology - portraying Israel as a pariah state and denying its right to exist. (Haaretz)
This is completely untrue. We all report to Commandante Che Guevara. Everybody knows that. And when he's indisposed, we report to the Caliph, a.k.a. Subcommandante Marcos. We have Elders, many many elders. And the protocols of our secret meetings are published on line. This is a vast left-wing conspiracy and they are representing us as some kind of loose, God forbid! anarchists!
Reut lists the network's major hubs - London, Brussels, Madrid, Toronto, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley. The network's activists - "delegitimizers" the report dubs them - are relatively marginal: young people, anarchists, migrants and radical political activists. Although they are not many, they raise their profile using public campaigns and media coverage, the report says.
Ah, that People's Republic of Berkeley rears its head again! But here's a scoop for Reut. Big cities are hubs. That's what a big city is. That doesn't mean small towns in Scotland or villages in Ivory Coast are very supportive of Israeli war crimes. I wouldn't want the Israelis to nuke Madrid based on this report only to find out that people in Cuenca are just as unimpressed with Israel's "right to exist" as a racist apartheid state. It would be a bummer.

Plus, it must hurt to know that "marginal" people will be your downfall. Israel is no country for marginal people. Not that the US or Britain are, but Israeli society has that special extra contempt for those out of line, out of nationality, out of luck, out of order, out of their mind, etc. and that must make reading this report particularly painful. Israelis should console themselves that the tradition they pretend to stand for had a different take on the marginal, from the lisping son of a slave woman Moses to the slayer of army generals Yael (see painting, by the great "marginal" painter Artemisia Gentileschi).
The delegitimization network sees the fight against the former regime in South Africa as a success model. It believes that like the apartheid regime, the Zionist-Israeli model can be toppled and a one-state model can be established.

The Reut team says the network's groups share symbols and heroes such as the Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Dura, American peace activist Rachel Corrie and joint events like the Durban Conference.
How naughty of us, to share symbols! And events!! What else should we share? The tears, the horror at that unimaginable waste of human lives, of degradation, of bureaucratic sadism that Israel is. That too we share. You should mention that too, to be fair. But let Reut rest assured that we don't just believe the Zionist-Israeli model can be toppled like South Africa. It will be toppled, and better than in apartheid South Africa. Thanks for all the kind words, Reut! We never knew ourselves so well.

Children NATO liberated in Afghanistan

February 11, 2010

Supporting the Boycott of Israel: Campaigning from Within

Palestine Societies at SOAS, University College London, ImperialCollege,
Kings College, Goldsmiths and University of Westminster
Together with
Invite you to
Supporting the Boycott of Israel: Campaigning from Within
Speaker: Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University
Chair: Mike Cushman, BRICUP and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
Wed 17th February 2010
SOAS G2, 6pm
Anat Matar is a senior lecturer at the department of philosophy, Tel Aviv University. She specializes in 20th century philosophy of language, in particular that of Wittgenstein, Dummett and Derrida. Anat Matar has been politically active for many years. She has taken part in movements resisting the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, mainly those urging the refusal to serve in the army and the BDS movement. She is a founding member and the chair of The Israeli Association for the Palestinian Prisoners.
Mike Cushman is a member of the Department of Management at LSE where he researches the nature of digital and social exclusion. Mike has been politically active for many years but he has increasingly focused his activities around the area of Palestinian rights. In December 2008 he visited Gaza on the Free Gaza boat ‘Dignity’ on the last successful voyage before the Israeli invasion.

February 10, 2010

Independent letters

There are five letters on Palestine in The Independent today, three of which challenge Israel's "right" to exist as a Jewish state. They were responding to a letter from a chap called Dr (!) Jacob Amir in yesterday's Indie:
Criticism of Israel's policies, even very harsh criticism, is totally legitimate and has nothing to do with antisemitism (Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 8 February) . It is being done in Israel itself daily. But critics, Jewish or not, who deny the right of Israel to exist, as the nation-state of the Jewish people, while not opposing any other nation-state, exhibit a clear racist attitude and can be rightfully called antisemites.

Dr Jacob Amir


And here are the responses:

Israelis, Jews and antisemitism

Why is it antisemitic to deny the right of Israel to exist (letter, 9 February)? If I call for a united Ireland, thereby denying the right of majority Protestant Northern Ireland to exist, I am not opposing Protestants, only arguing that they would be better off in a different political environment, like the Protestants of Donegal. I am not insulting or racially abusing them, or defacing the graves of their departed.

To call for a united state of Palestinians and Israelis where neither is privileged is to oppose discrimination, not to uphold it. We should look at the example of Daniel Barenboim; his orchestra, the West-East Divan, is composed of Jewish and Arab musicians, where excellence alone is privileged. To many people Barenboim is showing the way forward; his orchestra is a template for the future of Israel-Palestine. Surely no one could call him antisemitic.

Christopher Walker

London W14

Dr Jacob Amir is wrong (letter, 9 February). There is nothing wrong and certainly nothing racist about being opposed to the existence of the State of Israel while not opposing the existence of the other nation states.

Nation states are states that represent all of the people of the countries they rule over. Israel is the state of the world's Jews and it exists at the expense of the native non-Jewish Palestinian people. There is no other state that exists more for people that do not come from there than for people that do come from there.

Mark Elf

Dagenham, Essex

Dr Jacob Amir claims Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Britain is the nation-state of British citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious background; can he not tell the difference?

Janet Green

London NW5

Quite a result, that.

February 08, 2010

Follow up on Oslo and ethnic relations in Israel

The video of Israelis hailing Hitler posted here on JSF some times ago is making the rounds of the blogs, but usually without attention to the historical context. Yet without this context it helps misunderstanding the reasons for the fateful historical bankruptcy of the Israeli "peace movement."

When it was published on JSF, I was challenged by Emmanuel Shiff, apparently a student from the Hebrew (colonial) University, about my criticism of the Israeli peace movement. I thought this discussion is worth a second look, so I reproduce it below in full.

ES: "The great success of the Ashkenazi dominated Labor Party was to create a linkage between peace with Palestinians and intensified racism against Jews of Arab origin. This is the foul fruit of that achievement."

I'm not sure I understood you correctly. Are you saying that the Labor Party used the peace process in the 1990's to intensify discrimination of Mizrahi Jews? If that's what you're saying, it makes no sense. The peak of discrimination was the 1950's, 60's and 70's. In recent decades, the discrimination of Mizrahim has gone down, though it is not gone completely and the effects of the earlier discrimination are still very present.

GA: Its frustrating that on the web you cannot get away with sloppy writing. ;-)

That was sloppy formulation. My apologies. What I should have written is that the the peace process was perceived, correctly, as threatening to lead to the intensification of the oppression of Mizrahis. Indeed the height of oppression was in the period up to the 1970s. But the way that oppression lessened was through the rise of Likud, and the transformation of the occupation into a welfare system and upward mobility tool. Oslo was a not primarily about peace, it was primarily about economic liberalization, globalization and investment. It was a program of stopping Mizrahi upward mobility for the sake of integrating Israel globally.

I will change the body of the article later tonight, for the sake of future google searches.

ES: A big part of Oslo was indeed the economic liberalization aspect, though I'd say it came hand in hand with, and was equally important as, peace and security, and wasn't more important than those two aspects. The way you put it, the weakening of the welfare state was meant to preserve Ashkenazi domination, but that isn't the case.

The transition to a more capitalist economy may have hurt the lower classes, which tend to be Mizrahi Jews, but that wasn't the goal, but rather a side-effect.

GA: The transition to a neoliberal economy (it was 100% capitalist before as well) was a 'passive revolution' (Gramsci) driven by the exhaustion of the previous economic configuration in an inflationary spiral that ended in a collapse of the banking system (1985). Of course, neoliberalism was not the only logical option. It was the option favored by the dominant Ashkenazi class, because it preserved their economic and social domination. It opened up new forms of capital accumulation (globalization), which were of course only available to those in the position to buy the state's assets or to manage them. It also transferred power away from state institutions to the private sphere exactly at the moment when Mizrahis were finally starting to use their voting power to increase their numbers in the state apparatus (following 1977). This was not analyzed by most Mizrahis at the time in marxist terms, but the scope, direction and social implications of the transformation was clearly grasped by the masses. Elections between 1981 and 1996 were polarized on race/economics (with signposts such as dudu topaz' 1981 gaffe, or the 4% [from memory] jump in the stock market on the announcement that labor won the 1992 elections).

Eventually, globalization took hold but the Oslo processed collapsed. In principle, it could have been the other way around. Labor could have run on...welfare and wages (unimaginable, right?) and Rabin could have taken the Hebron settlement down after the Goldstein massacre, and could have replaced the ultra hostile Barak with a pro Oslo general. Then we would have reached the end of the century with a much less capitalistic Israel and some sort of a (inadequate) two state solution. In practice, that could not have happened, because Israel of course would have then to go against the global neoliberal trend. But the carriers of that trend in Israeli society were the Ashkenazi left who benefited from it most (and voted labor). Sure they wanted peace. nobody says that most "left" voter weren't sincere. But the social compromise that Begin already articulated in the early 80s and that Netanyahu consolidated in the late nineties was based on Ashkenazis accepting the continuation of the occupation and Mizrahis accepting globalization.

ES: I'm not a marxist, so I don't see it the same way you do, but even from a marxist standpoint this isn't necessarily an Ashkenazi vs. Mizrahi issue, but more a question of socio-economic standing. Yes, it is undeniable that the well-off tend to be Ashkenazis and the poor tend to be Mizrahis, but by that reasoning all neoliberals are actually racists. Were George W. Bush's economic domestic policies intentionally anti-black and and anti-hispanic? As horrible a president as he was, I don't think he's a racist (at least not towards African-Americans and Latino-Americans)

Regarding the elections between 1981 and 1996 (I'd say even earlier and later), there was definitely an ethnic divide, with the Mizrahim clearly preferring the the right (which is still the case today) and the Ashkenazim preferring the left (something that isn't as clearly the case nowadays). I think this has much more to do with Labor's racism in the earlier period than with economic liberalization. Likud (and its predecessor Herut) was smart in embracing Mizrahim while Labor rejected them. However, starting with the late 70's, the Mizrahim stuck with Likud despite the fact that it was hurting them no less then labor. Likud, after all, was the party that started the economic liberalization and hurt the poorer classes. From that point, it wasn't ongoing discrimination by Ashkenazi-dominated Labor that made Mizrahim Likudniks, but rather a combination of Mizrahi Jews' hawkish tendencies and inertia.

GA: I think you miss a couple of important things. First, regarding George Bush’s malice and racism. His personal attitude is of little importance, but there is what is known as the GOP’s ‘Southern strategy,’ which appeals to white Southern voters using coded language that, as GOP strategist Lee Atwater explained,

“You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Indeed there is a much larger history that associates “socialism” in the popular American consciousness (correctly, by the way) with Black empowerment. So part of the way neo-liberal policies were marketed in the U.S. was indeed through their direct appeal to racism. What you call the racializing “by-product” of the neo-liberal policy mix has its own political appeal to sectors threatened by racial equality

Second, I’m afraid that in one matter, and precisely where I beg to differ from classical marxist explanations, you are more marxist than I. You explain Mizrahi support of Likud in the nineties as self-damaging “hawkishness and inertia.” The way I see it, both power and hegemony shape the field of choices available to agents, but within this field, agents make relatively rational choices. The liberalism of Likud started with measures that benefited small businesses and the self-employed (many of them operated by Mizrahis). Begin liberalized the way state land was made available for private (Jewish) use, allowing the less wealthy (and mostly Mizrahis) to build small detached houses. Israel being a settler society that stole all its land from the indigenous people, land is a very strong signifier of social status that Ashkenazis monopolized and Likud opened up for Mizrahis. (Compare the land taken by kibuttzim to the congestion and small rooms often allocated to Mizrahis by state housing authorities). Likud governments allocated resources for non Ashkenazi culture, which was both symbolically important and a source of budgets and patronage available to Mizrahis when Likud was in power.

Finally, there was colonization in the West bank itself, which offered social mobility and a safety net to the less affluent Jewish Israelis and which, while both parties supported, was more visibly and more enthusiastically supported by Likud. Hence, while it is true that both Labor and Likud supported economic measure that benefited the Ashkenazi dominated upper class, it was the Right that offered to soften the blow with a mix of policies that appealed to lower class interests, at once symbolically and materially. The so called “Left” effectively told them to take a hike.

Why was “labor” so cavalier? Secular Ashkenazi Zionism is a European settler ideology that is foundationally racist against the indigenous culture, which is Arab, perceived as inferior to the European culture brought by the settlers. Mizrahis brought with them Arab culture to Israel. Their political ascendancy and increased cultural visibility, as well as the increased importance of religion since the seventies, was experienced by Ashkenazis as both a threat to their hegemonic position and as “the State of Israel going haywire” i.e., as the unthinkable victory of the inferior Arab over their superior European culture. The left has always pandered to this racism. Indeed, given that the “Zionist left” in Israel had little on its platform that could be described as “left” in economic terms, and given that its commitment to a just solution of the conflict with Palestinians was at best questionable if not downright dishonest (I’d go with dishonest), the other major component of its electoral appeal (apart from globalization), was identity politics for Ashkenazis, i.e., secularism and racism.

Mizrahis, as Shabi writes in the link Nedster provides below, had to prove their worthiness under Zionism by distancing themselves from their Arab heritage. They did so by adopting hawkish attitudes. But after 1977, this hawkishness opened ways to compete with Ashkenazis on symbolic capital, which in Israel was strongly associated with colonization (Palmakh, kibutz, etc.). The security forces, like other sectors of state bureaucracy, were opened for Mizrahi advancement. The Oslo framework was going to outsource the work of the IDF to Palestinians and the reduction of friction and official end of the colonization process would have closed that avenue for advancement and competition on status. For many reasons, therefore, their hawkishness was not just “traditional,” but a political choice that must be understood within the range presented by the Israeli political system and the limitations imposed by settler ideology.

ES: Sounds like Israel can never be alright, according to your theory. If it doesn't advance toward peace, it is an anti-Arab colonialist. If it does, it only does so to limit Mizrahi power.

GA: There is no such thing as "advancing towards peace" while maintaining and even increasing oppression. This is the bullshit language of the Zionist left you are using.

Nothing that actually happened under the term of "Oslo" constituted advancement towards peace. What happened was closures, the further segregation and destitution of Palestinian labor, the institution of a pass system, further colonization and settlement buildup, a network of roads for Jews only, and the establishment of a small comprador Palestinian class, sustained by international capital, tethered to the occupation and in charge of a Palestinian security apparatus whose sole capability was intended to, and still is, to further the oppression.

"Oslo" contained within it, purely on the imaginative plane, the spark of desire for peace, on the part of a significant portion of the Israeli electorate. Nothing unfortunately came of that spark because it was made subservient to the anti-Arab racism that animates Ashkenazi Zionism and to the capitalists interests that led the process at every step.

The exclusive choice between Peace and Mizrahi empowerment is exactly the choice designed by the Zionist establishment in order to prevent both. It is has no doubt worked like a charm, producing the present moment. One doesn't have to a genius however to understand that a state built on white supremacy and the inferiority of the "Orient" will never be at peace in the middle of that Orient. The fight against white supremacy must be consistent and make no exceptions. Ashkenazi racism is not a foundation on which peace can be built.

Whether Israel can or cannot do right is not a theoretical question. Let it do right first, and ask for that to be recognized later. You want credit for nothing.

There are further links and quotes in the comments.

UK academics write to Elton John: please don't play Israel

From the British Committee for Universities for Palestine (BRICUP), Feb. 2010:


Like much of the world, we think you’re a good bloke. You came out when it was difficult; you admitted your addictions were stronger than you were; you’ve poured money into AIDS research. Oh, and then there’s the music – not bad at all.

But we’re struggling to understand why you’re playing in Israel on June 17. You may say you’re not a political person, but does an army dropping white phosphorus on a school building full of children demand a political response? Does walling a million and a half people up in a ghetto and then pounding that ghetto to rubble require a political response from us, or a human one?

We think it needs a human response, and we think that by choosing to play in Tel Aviv you’re denying this. You’re behaving as if playing in Israel is morally neutral – but how can it be? How can the cruelties Israel practises against the Palestinians – fundamentally because the Palestinians are there, on Palestinian land, and Israel wants them to go – be morally neutral?

Okay, you turn up in Ramat Gan, and it gets to that ‘Candle in the Wind’ moment, and thousands of lighters flicker – but there won’t be any Palestinians from the Occupied Territories swaying along with the Israelis – the army won’t let them leave their ghettoes. Please read what Judge Goldstone said about the onslaught on Gaza; what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been saying for decades about the crimes committed against the Palestinians. Of course the Israeli state denies it has a case to answer, though it’s knee-deep in ethnic cleansing and land-theft and the endless daily suffocating of Palestinian lives and hopes.

Political or not political, when you stand up on that stage in Tel Aviv, you line yourself up with a racist state. Do you want to give them the satisfaction? Please don’t go.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Haim Bresheeth
Mike Cushman
Professor Steven Rose
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

London, February 2010

Please reply to: BRICUP, BM BRICUP, London WC1N 3XX email: bricup[@]bricup.org.uk

If you want to write John your own letter, which I highly encourage, try: Editor [@] eltonjohn.com

That's the editor of the site of Elton's official fan club. Another useful measure would be joining the club, & post BRICUP's letter in the forums, raise conscioussness amongst his fans. Interestingly, a private fan club, http://www.eltonfan.net/, has posted BRICUP's letter on the news section of their site: The editors put in bold themselves, the part where BRICUP says:
"but there won’t be any Palestinians from the Occupied Territories swaying along with the Israelis – the army won’t let them leave their ghettoes."

Another hopeful info nugget: I tweeted BRICUP's letter earlier on mini-JSF, with instructions to click if you want to send a letter. It's gotten 1,272 clicks in 24 hours, a good deal more hits than my average tweet, so I hope lots of concerned citizens are writing Elton, politely, urging him not to entertain apartheid.

Israel bookers have been v. busy this season. But one of their early big catches, Santana, canceled due to ""anti-Israel pressure", or so sayeth Yediot, Feb. 2:
Guitarist Carlos Santana reportedly received messages that "it's better" that he not perform in Israel, according to what a senior official in the Israeli music production market involved in producing Santana's show told Yedioth Ahronoth on Saturday.

In light of the healthy rate of ticket sales, the Israeli production company was considering adding another show, but was surprised to receive news over the weekend from Santana's team that the show would be delayed to an unknown date. According to the artist's official site, he will give a concert in Lisbon, Portugal on May 25, a week before the show planned in Israel.

"Our clarifications revealed that he received messages from anti-Israel figures who pressured him to cancel the performance. Of course, no one there claimed that any connection between these pressures and the show's cancellation, but we are certain there is a very close connection," said the production figure.

Sources in Israel's music industry hope that Santana's cancellation does not create a chain reaction. As published in Yedioth Ahronoth, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Rihanna, and The Pixies are all slated to perform in Israel over the summer.

Here's to chain reactions!

UPDATE: There's now a Facebook page urging John to cancel.

February 06, 2010

David Bellamy's credibility at stake?

The Jewish Chronicle reports that:
The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup) has urged botanist David Bellamy to pull out of a Zionist Federation event at which he is expected to speak about Israel’s environmental achievements.
Deborah Fink picked up on the JC report and suggested that his appearance at a Zionist Federation event could harm his credibility.

I remember a run-in he had with George Monbiot a few years ago on Channel 4 where Bellamy argued that glaciers are in a general state of growth so I'm wondering, what credibility?

February 04, 2010

Britain: magnet for war criminals

As the latest Iraq inquiry appears to be whitewashing the war crimes of the UK's main political leaders so a foreign war criminal is hoping for the same kind of lackadaisical treatment if she comes to the UK. Here's the Jewish Chronicle on Tzipi Livni's proposed visit to the UK:
Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni is planning to come to London to test the process for the issuing of arrest warrants for alleged war crimes.

Speaking exclusively to the JC, Ms Livni said: “I will do this not for me, not for provocation, but for the right of every Israeli to travel freely. I am not going to be restricted by extremists because I fought terror.”

The British system was, she said, “being abused by extremists for political reasons. Belgium and Spain have changed their laws, and the British know that they have to do so”.

Breathtaking arrogance, I know, but how will this test the law if the people who petitioned for the arrest warrant last time she was going to come, decide not to proceed this time? The article was written by Stephen Pollard, a hardcore zionist. I wonder if he will get an arrest warrant issued to help his zionist comrade "test" British law as it relates to visiting war criminals.

Incidentally, last time she planned to come over, Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister who is so offended by being branded a war criminal, was coming to visit the, ahem, charity, the Jewish National Fund. Say no more.

Disgrace unto the Nations

Jewish community leaders who are worried sick with the thought that the suffering of the people of Gaza might be somewhat eased petition their Congresswoman against it.

February 03, 2010

Update on Blair on Gaza

I'm a little bit anxious about the way Palestine keeps getting relegated to a small part of it: Gaza. It's emerging as one of zionism's success stories that Israel has been so cruel to Gaza that Gaza has become the issue rather than one of many relating to the racist colony known as the State of Israel. Be that as it may, here is Avi Shlaim in Comment is free with an article titled: Blair: Gaza's great betrayer:
At present the British public is ­preoccupied with Tony Blair and the war in Iraq. What is often ­overlooked is that this was only one aspect of a disastrous British policy towards the Middle East, inaugurated by Blair, and which shows no sign of changing under his successor.

One of Blair's arguments used to ­justify the Iraq war was that it would help bring justice to the long-suffering Palestinians. In his House of Commons speech on 18 March 2003, he promised that action against Iraq would form part of a broader engagement with the problems of the Middle East. He even declared that resolving the Israeli-­Palestinian dispute was as important to Middle East peace as removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Yet by focusing international ­attention on Iraq, the war further ­marginalised the Palestinian question. To be fair*, Blair persuaded the Quartet (a group consisting of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia) to issue the Roadmap in 2003, which called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2005. But President George Bush was not genuinely committed and only adopted it under pressure from his ­allies. Ariel Sharon, Israel's hard-line prime minister at the time, wrecked the plan by continuing to expand Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Could Blair really not have realised that for Bush the special relationship that ­counted was the one with Israel? Every time Bush had to choose between Blair and Sharon, he chose Sharon.

Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 was not a contribution to the Roadmap but an attempt to unilaterally redraw the borders of Greater Israel and part of a plan to ­entrench the occupation there. Yet in return for the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon extracted from the US a written agreement to Israel's ­retention of the major settlement blocs on the West Bank. Bush's support amounted to an abrupt reversal of US policy since 1967, which regarded the settlements as illegal and as an obstacle to peace. Blair publicly endorsed the pact, probably to preserve a united ­Anglo-American front at any price. It was the most egregious British ­betrayal of the Palestinians since the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

In July 2006, at the height of the savage Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, Blair opposed a security council ­resolution for an immediate and ­unconditional ceasefire: he wanted to give Israel an opportunity to destroy Hezbollah, the radical Shi'ite religious-political movement. One year later, in June 2007, he resigned from office. That day he was appointed the Quartet's special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His main sponsor was Bush and his blatant partisanship on behalf of Israel was probably considered a qualification. His appointment ­coincided with the collapse of the ­Palestinian national unity government, the reassertion of Fatah rule in the West Bank and the violent seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza.

Blair's main tasks were to mobilise international assistance for the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, to promote good governance and the rule of law in the Palestinian territories, and to further Palestinian economic development. His broader mission, was "to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap".

On taking up his appointment, Blair said that: "The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community – that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the ­Middle East is a two-state solution." His appointment was received with great satisfaction by the Israelis and with utter dismay by the Arabs.

In his two and a half years as special envoy, Blair has achieved remarkably little. True, Blair helped persuade the Israelis to reduce the number of West Bank checkpoints from 630 to 590; he helped to create employment oppor­tunities; and he may have contributed to a slight improvement in living ­standards in Palestine. But the Americans remained fixated on security rather than on economic development, and their policy remains skewed in favour of ­Israel. Barack Obama made a promising start as ­president by insisting on a complete settlement freeze on the West Bank, but was compelled to back down, ­dashing many of our high hopes.

One reason for Blair's disappointing results is that he wears too many hats and cannot, as he promised, be "someone who is on the ground spending 24/7 on the issue". Another reason is his "West Bank first" attitude – ­continuing the western policy of bolstering Fatah and propping up the ailing Palestinian Authority against Hamas. His lack of commitment to Gaza is all too evident. During the Gaza war, he did not call for a ceasefire. He has one standard for ­Israel and one for its victims. His attitude to Gaza is to wait for change rather than risk ­incurring the displeasure of his American and ­Israeli friends. As ­envoy, Blair has been inside Gaza only twice; once to visit a UN school just ­beyond the border and once to Gaza City. His project for sanitation in northern Gaza was never completed because he could not ­persuade the Israelis to ­allow in the last small load of pipes needed. A growing group of western politicians has ­publicly acknowledged the necessity of talking to Hamas if meaningful progress is to be achieved; Blair is not one of their number.

Blair has totally failed to fulfil the ­official role of the envoy "to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap", largely for reasons beyond his control. The most ­important of these is Israel's determination to perpetuate the isolation and the de-development of Gaza and deny the Palestinian people a small piece of land – 22% of Mandate-era ­Palestine, to be precise – on which to live in freedom and dignity. It is a policy that Baruch Kimmerling, the late Israeli sociologist, named ­"politicide" – the denial to the ­Palestinian people of any independent political existence in Palestine.

Partly, however, Blair's failure is due to his own personal limitations; his ­inability to grasp that the fundamental issue in this tragic conflict is not Israeli security but Palestinian national rights, and that concerted and sustained ­international pressure is required to compel Israel to recognise these rights. The core issue cannot be avoided: there can be no settlement of the ­conflict without an end to the Israeli occupation. There is international consensus for a two-state solution, but Israel rejects it and Blair has been unable or unwilling to use the Quartet to enforce it.

Blair's failure to stand up for Palestinian independence is precisely what endears him to the Israeli establishment. In February of last year, while the ­Palestinians in Gaza were still mourning their dead, Blair received the Dan David prize from Tel Aviv University as the "laureate for the present time ­dimension in the field of leadership". The citation praised him for his ­"exceptional intelligence and foresight, and demonstrated moral courage and leadership". The prize is worth $1m. I may be cynical, but I cannot help viewing this prize as absurd, given Blair's silent complicity in Israel's ­continuing crimes against the ­Palestinian people.

The article appears in today's printed edition of The Guardian.

*Why be fair to Blair?

February 01, 2010

Discover your inner Kurtz with an Israeli Safari

The 'Israel Law Center,' contrary to what you'd expect from the name, is not interested in such arcane things as legal principles, or that old-fashioned and discredited idea of 'equality before the law'. Indeed, the word 'law' in its name refers most likely to that common colonial expression, 'the law of the jungle.' So it is fitting that one of its important businesses is to organize Safaris for American Jews. Come to Israel, see the beasts, smell the blood, meet the hunters! Gone are the days you'd have to choose between risking your life as an 'explorer' or 'adventurer,' or wait for some Marlow to come back home and tell you riveting stories from the Heart of Darkness. Courtesy of the 'Israel Law Center' you can now have both the thrill of immersion in Kurtz's world and the safety of a five stars hotel room. Colonialism decaf.
The Ultimate Mission to Israel

Experience a dynamic and intensive eight day exploration of Israel's struggle for survival and security against Iran, Syria and Hezballah.
ImageJoin with doctors, attorneys, accountants, programmers and other professionals from around the world on an unparalleled and unprecedented Israeli reality-check at June 8 - 15, 2009 in Jerusalem:

* Briefing by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet
* Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings
* Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory
* Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court
* First hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points
* Inside tour of the controversial Security Fence and secret intelligence bases
* Meeting Israel's Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.
  • Briefing by Israel's war heros who saved the country.
  • Meetings with senior Cabinet Ministers and other key policymakers.
  • Small airplane tour of the Galilee, Jeep rides in the Golan hights, water activities on Lake Kinneret, a cook-out barbecue and a Shabbat enjoying the rich religious and historic wonders of Jerusalem's Old City.
First Class Accomodation [sic!]
  • Five-star accommodations at the Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem (Glatt Kosher);
  • Personal cell phone for each participant.
  • Three meals a day (all Kosher);
  • Luxury bus transportation and knowledgeable tour guide;
  • A dedicated Executive Communications Center at the hotel;
I'm particularly impressed with the Kosher food. Here's a thought for Dr. Simon Goldberg, Los Angeles, CA, quoted in the ad gushing over "the adventure of a lifetime" he "will never forget" from his Safari:

no matter how many Kosher meals you'll have, you and your fellow Safari tourists will always remain swine.

Israel establishes Hasbara Central

Like the nazis before them, Israel has decided to place its propaganda efforts under one roof, a kind of hasbara central. According to a former adviser to Menachem Begin, David Admon writing in Ha'aretz, even Begin baulked at the idea of so obvious a ploy as a government run propaganda machine:
I recall that many years ago, when I served as director of the celebrations for Israel's 30th Independence Day, between the visit by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and the Camp David summit, members of Peace Now were organizing stormy demonstrations.

In response, then prime minister Menachem Begin called me in for a conversation (before the 1977 elections I served as Likud spokesman) and said: "We have to get the Likud hasbara headquarters going again."

"Mr. prime minister, sir, get the central hasbara machine going again - it's in your hands," I said to him.

"Heaven forbid. The government doesn't do hasbara - here we will not have Goebbelsism!" replied Begin, referring to the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and said no more.

I believe that this story explains the meaning of our traditional skittishness toward hasbara: the memory of the propaganda in dark regimes and a sense that it isn't clear where hasbara ends and propaganda begins.
Of course propaganda and hasbara are the same thing. It was, after all, Goebbels who gave propaganda a bad name, just as Israel gives hasbara (aka propaganda) a bad name. But there is another reason why the State of Israel should not spend money on propagating lies on its own behalf. See this Hasbara Committee list of hasbaranik authors. It's a rogues' gallery of authors who donate their pro-zionist propaganda skills for free. That coupled with the lack of counter-argument in most western media suggests to me that Hasbara Central would be wasting money that could be spend on what the hasbaraniks are actually covering for, the continued dispossession and displacement of the Palestinians.