Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Sound of One Hand Clapping:
The U.S. Tries Too Hard to Fear-Monger about Iran

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
(Photo: Press Trust of India)
"The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder for hire to kill the Saudi ambassador? I mean, that even – nobody can make that up, right?"

- Hillary Clinton, October 11, 2011

In prepared testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said,
"The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States shows that some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime. We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas."
With Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's recent admission, alongside Israel's similar, near simultaneous, acknowledgement, that Iran is indeed not - I repeat, NOT - building nuclear weapons and has not even made any decision to do so, it seems certain sectors are doing their best to keep those war drums beating and public hysteria over Iran at a fever-pitch.

The fact that Clapper - a longtime favored colleague of Robert Gates - would use the bogus Saudi-Mexican-Iranian-Used Car Dealer assassination plot to reach the conclusion that Iranian leaders "have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime" is not only absurd but dangerous.

Before this new nonsense travels around the world at lightening speed (as is the purpose of such alarmism), let's all take a second to remember who Jim Clapper is.

In 2003, when Clapper was head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, he told reporters that "satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material 'unquestionably' had been moved out of Iraq."

The New York Times quoted him as saying, "I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse...the obvious conclusion one draws [was that there] may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq, and unquestionably, I am sure, material."

This flat-out falsehood was later resurrected by Karl Rove in his book "Courage and Consequence," and cited Clapper as responsible for the claim.

In 2005, The Washington Post's intrepid Dana Priest confirmed that Clapper was lying. "U.S. investigators hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have found no evidence that such material was moved to Syria for safekeeping before the war, according to a final report of the investigation released yesterday," she wrote.

When Obama tapped Clapper to replace Dennis Blair as DNI in mid-2010, even Iraq invasion-booster and illegal surveillance state-champion Dianne Feinstein was wary of such an appointment. As Politico reported, Feinstein, who head the Senate Intelligence Committee, "has questions about Clapper's military background and whether he would be 'beholden to the Pentagon's interests.'"

The efforts of the U.S. government to spark hysteria about Iranian aggression are increasingly transparent and consistently embarrassing. Reading the Western press, one would think Iran was assassinating American scientists, flying spy drones over our cities, sabotaging our industrial and military facilities, destroying our economy, racing to put nuclear-armed warships off our coast, and threatening us with a table set with "all options."


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Kowtowing of CAP:
ThinkProgress Buckles to Josh Block Bullying

Looking over some of the most recent entries on the ThinkProgress Security blog, posts by neoconservative "Israel-Firster" witch-hunt targets Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, along with associate Ben Armbruster, demonstrate the unfortunate victory of Josh Block's disgusting smear campaign. First, Zaid Jilani (the best guy TP ever had) leaves the organization. Now, the remaining bloggers (or, perhaps, just their editors) are doing their best to prove their fealty to the Democratic Party's hero-worship of Barack Obama (or simply opposing the GOP) by burnishing Obama's appalling credentials and have adopted somewhat ambiguous language that seems designed to pass the Josh Block/Jamie Kirchick/Jennifer Rubin smell test.

On Tuesday, Clifton wrote a piece fact-checking something Gingrich said during a recent debate in order to counter what Clifton called the Republican "smear" that Obama is "hostile to the Jewish state." The next day, in a piece purportedly "fact-checking" an AP "Fact-Check" of last night's State of the Union address, Ali Gharib praises Obama's "diplomatic" efforts against "Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program." He dismisses Russian skepticism over the suspicions regarding the Iranian nuclear program - which is fully monitored by the IAEA - by citing the heavily-politicized and widely-acknowledged-to-be-alarmist (and, at times, totally speculative, dubious, and flat-out wrong) IAEA report from last November (without doing any fact-checking of his own), claiming "the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency concluded in its latest report: 'While some of the activities identified…have civilian as well as military applications, others are specific to nuclear weapons.'"

In his posts about Iran, Gharib often includes some sort of variation on the following statement: "In June 2010 the Obama administration spearheaded an effort to pass Security Council sanctions against Iran's nuclear program that have proven effective in slowing its progress."

Gharib concluded his piece claiming that "[w]hile the AP's assertion that the world does not stand perfectly in line against Irans nuclear weapons holds some water, it's understatement of U.S.-led international pressure and actions against Iran ignores the robust progress that’s been made since Obama took office." When his sloppy use of "nuclear weapons" was pointed out on Twitter, the post was altered to read "against Iran's nuclear program" instead.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We Aren't The World:
Obama, Iran, and The Arrogance of Empire

President Barack Obama released a statement on January 23, 2012 praising the EU's recent decision to embargo Iranian oil. The statement reads in full:

I applaud today's actions by our partners in the European Union to impose additional sanctions on Iran in response to the regime's continuing failure to fulfill its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. These sanctions demonstrate once more the unity of the international community in addressing the serious threat presented by Iran's nuclear program. The United States will continue to impose new sanctions to increase the pressure on Iran. On December 31, I signed into law a new set of sanctions targeting Iran's Central Bank and its oil revenues. Today, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions on Bank Tejerat for its facilitation of proliferation, and we will continue to increase the pressure unless Iran acts to change course and comply with its international obligations.
The United States and the EU combined account for only about 10% of world's population. How arrogant it is for Barack Obama to claim this represents the "unity of the international community," especially when the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) represents over 55% of the world's population and has repeatedly acknowledged its support for Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program under IAEA safeguards?

On November 18, 2011, after the leaking of the latest IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program and hysterical alarmism that followed, the NAM released an 18-point statement outlining its reaction, and objections, to the report.

NAM, which is comprised of 120 UN member states plus a number of observers, "expressed its deep dissatisfaction and concern about 'selective submission of the IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano report to some member states and called it against the principle of equality of all countries."

Furthermore, NAM specifically noted the terms of the NPT when it "reaffirm[ed] the basic and inalienable right of all states to the development, research, production and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, without any discrimination and in conformity with their respective legal obligations. Therefore, nothing should be interpreted in a way as inhibiting or restricting the right of states to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes. States' choices and decisions, including those of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear technology and its fuel cycle policies must be respected."

It also "emphasize[d] the fundamental distinction between the legal obligations of states in accordance with their respective safeguards agreements, as opposed to any confidence building measures undertaken voluntarily and that do not constitute a legal safeguards obligation."

In what is directly applicable to the current acts of murder and sabotage, as well as the rounds of illegal sanctions on the Iran (which by now surely add up the collective punishment of all Iranians - winning the hearts and minds, as always!), NAM also "reaffirm[ed] the inviolability of peaceful nuclear activities and that any attack or threat of attack against peaceful nuclear facilities -operational or under construction -poses a serious danger to human beings and the environment, and constitutes a grave violation of international law, of the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and of regulations of the IAEA. NAM recognizes the need for a comprehensive multilaterally negotiated instrument prohibiting attacks, or threat of attacks on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful uses of nuclear energy."

It should be remembered that Natanz, the enrichment facility directed by the murdered Professor Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan and which was the target of international industrial sabotage via the Stuxnet virus, is under full IAEA safeguards and 24-hour surveillance, and has been subject to numerous surprise inspections. For nearly a decade, the IAEA has consistently confirmed that no nuclear material at Natanz (and elsewhere in Iran, for that matter) has ever been diverted to non-peaceful purposes.

Perhaps most importantly, NAM expressed doubt over the dubious and unauthenticated nature of the "alleged studies" accusations present in IAEA reports. It stated:

"While noting the D[irector] G[eneral]’s concern regarding the issue of possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear program, NAM also notes that Iran has still not received the documents relating to the 'alleged studies'. In this context, NAM fully supports the previous requests of the Director General to those Members States that have provided the Secretariat information related to the 'alleged studies' to agree that the Agency provides all related documents to Iran. NAM expresses once again its concerns on the creation of obstacles in this regard, which hinder the Agency's verification process."

Oh, how alone, how isolated, Iran is in affirming its own inalienable national rights!

In his statement today, Obama declares, "The United States will continue to impose new sanctions to increase the pressure on Iran."

How does such a brazen promise comport with his March 20, 2009 Nowruz announcement, cynically titled "A New Year, A New Beginning," that his "administration is now committed to diplomacy" which "will not be advanced by threats"? Oh right, that claim was made a mere nine days after he extended unilateral sanctions on Iran due to Iran supposedly posing what he called "a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States."

Considering the constant fear-mongering about Iran, it is no surprise that, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly 30% of the American public now believes Iran "represents the greatest danger to the United States," a jump from 12% a year ago.

Pew reports,
Among those who are aware of the recent tensions between the U.S. and Iran over Iran's nuclear program and disputes in the Persian Gulf, a majority say that it is more important to take a firm stand against Iranian actions (54%) than to avoid a military conflict with Iran (39%). More than seven-in-ten Republicans (72%) say taking a firm stand is more important, as do a smaller majority (52%) of independents.

Democrats are more evenly split: 45% say taking a firm stand, 47% say avoiding a military conflict. This reflects a division of opinion within Democrats; while 52% of conservative and moderate Democrats say taking a firm stand is more important, that falls to 36% among liberal Democrats.
Propaganda sure does work.


Monday, January 23, 2012

When Brainwashing Backfires:
Military indoctrination at Nazi death camps stokes…universal democratic values!

From Ha'aretz, "Study: IDF officers less committed to Jewish values after visits to Nazi death camps." The headline and subsequent report exposes unsatisfactory indoctrination levels in IDF soldiers.

The whole article is worth a read, especially to see how the paper doesn't quote the actual report at all, yet then tries to do damage control by referring to a different survey that showed increased indoctrination levels among Israeli high schoolers who take similar trips. But here's the key section:

The study found that before going on the trip, officers expressed a very high level of commitment to the Jewish people and to preserving their Jewish heritage, and high levels of solidarity with the fate of other Jews.

In contrast, they expressed a lower - though still high - level of commitment to more universalist ideas, such as understanding the universal context of the Holocaust.

After they returned from the trips, however, the researchers found a drop in commitment to all values related to Jewish identity, including the importance of the Land of Israel for the Jewish people, the importance of the IDF's existence, feelings of national pride in being Israeli, and a sense of a shared Jewish fate.

The study found a particularly dramatic decline in the importance the officers attached to Jewish and Israeli symbols, and to Diaspora Jewry.

The trips also produced a decline in IDF-related values, including commitment to the state and the army, feelings of leadership, and love of heroism.

In contrast, the trips produced no change in the officers' commitment to universal democratic values such as human dignity, the sanctity of life and tolerance.
As a result, Ha'aretz reports, "Army sources said they were 'stunned' by the findings, which seem to indicate that the trips are achieving the opposite of their declared purpose."

Note how the bad news of the report is that, following mandatory trips to Nazi death camps, tribalist and exclusivist ideologies decline while ideas "such as understanding the universal context of the Holocaust" and a "commitment to universal democratic values such as human dignity, the sanctity of life and tolerance" remain as strong.

Yeah, what a bummer.


Cross-posted on Mondoweiss.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Hypocrisy of Mark Leibler:
Indigenous Rights Advocate Denies Indigenous Rights to Palestinians

"Australian Jew working to end discrimination against indigenous peoples," reads a proud headline from the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) today, January 22, 2012. The article reports that a "high-profile Jewish Australian cited the effects of the Holocaust on his family as a driving force in his work to help 'end the exclusion' of Australia's Indigenous peoples from the nation's constitution"

The "Jewish Australian" is "Melbourne lawyer Mark Leibler, co-chair of the Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples", who has spent years fighting for the rights of the indigenous people of Australia. JTA quotes Leibler from a recent op-ed: "[R]acism doesn't just belong in another place or time. It casts a shadow here in Australia because it is still part of our nation's constitution.”

“It was racism and its off-shoot Nazism that caused my parents to flee Belgium in 1939," Leibler continues. "It was racism that saw my maternal grandparents murdered in Auschwitz. My family has never forgotten our debt to Australia. We owe our freedom, prosperity and the very lives of our children and grandchildren to this country. For me, one way I can help repay this debt is by working to change our constitution for the better.”

"As far as the constitution is concerned," Leibler laments, indigenous people "are invisible: no mention of their heritage and cultures; no mention of their place as the first inhabitants of this country and as the world's oldest continuing cultures." He adds that this deliberate omission and denial reflected "the values and beliefs of the time it was drafted. The founding fathers deserve our gratitude and respect. But their perspectives - including those on race - were of the 19th century, not the 21st."

Leibler's passionate fight for equal, constitutional rights for the indigenous in Australia is a just and noble cause to be sure, but a closer look at Leibler is illuminating. Leibler, who according to his own website is "one of Australia's leading tax lawyers and corporate strategists," has deep and powerful connections to Israel. Indeed, half of his "extended bio" [PDF] is dedicated to celebrating his Zionist credentials:

Mark is also Deputy Chairman of the National Australia Bank Yachad Scholarship Fund, which enables Australian scholars of diverse backgrounds - including indigenous scholars - to study in Israel and to return with ideas and experiences of advantage to Australia. His 2006 essay 'Crossing the Wilderness: Jews and Reconciliation', published in New Under Sun - Jewish Australians on Religion, Politics & Culture, examined the parallels between the Jewish and Indigenous Australian experience and considered the importance of land to both cultures.

Mark is deeply involved in Jewish affairs, occupying senior leadership roles in several Australian and international Jewish bodies. In Australia, he holds the positions of National Chairman of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, Life Chairman of the United Israel Appeal of Australia and Governor of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Patron of the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Friends of Tel Aviv University. Mark served for ten years as President of the Zionist Federation of Australia and for six years as the President of the United Israel Appeal of Australia. Internationally, Mark recently completed his term as Chairman of the World Board of Trustees of Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal, serves on the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and holds office as a Governor of both Tel Aviv University and the University of Haifa in Israel.
Leibler's bio also includes accolades he received from Australian government officials including former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (who once proudly said of himself, "support for Israel and the Jewish community is in my DNA"). Another former Prime Minister, John Howard, said this in tribute to Leibler: "I want to salute his contribution to Jewish causes within his own country and also around the world. Mark is a single-minded, committed, dedicated Jew, a man who in every way has demonstrated himself as being a wonderful Australian citizen."

Leibler's position on the Executive of the Jewish Agency is instructive. The Agency, formed in 1929 by the 16th Zionist Congress, was and is still tasked with increasing Jewish immigration to and the continued colonization of historic Palestine. Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal (KH-UIA) is the leading fundraising agent for the Jewish Agency under the auspices of what was originally called the "Colonization Department" of the World Zionist Organization.

In 1930, the British government's Hope-Simpson Report on "Immigration, Land Settlement and Development" in Palestine meticulously detailed the deliberately discriminatory employment practices of Zionist agencies and organizations operating in Palestine at the time:
The effect of the Jewish colonisation in Palestine on the existing population is very intimately affected by the conditions on which the various Jewish bodies hold, sell and lease their land.

The Constitution of the Jewish Agency: Land Holding and Employment Clauses...
"(d) Land is to be acquired as Jewish property and...the title to the lands acquired is to be taken in the name of the Jewish National Fund, to the end that the same shall be held as the inalienable property of the Jewish people.

" (e) The Agency shall promote agricultural colonisation based on Jewish labour, and in all works or undertakings carried out or furthered by the Agency, it shall be deemed to be a matter of principle that Jewish labour shall be employed..."
KerenKayemeth draft lease: Employment of Jewish labour only. —...in respect of all holdings granted by the KerenKayemeth (Jewish National Fund)...:
"....The lessee undertakes to execute all works connected with the cultivation of the holding only with Jewish labour. Failure to comply with this duty by the employment of nonJewish labour shall render the lessee liable to the payment of a compensation..."
The lease also provides that the holding shall never be held by any but a Jew. If the holder, being a Jew, dies, leaving as his heir a nonJew, the Fund shall obtain the right of restitution...

KerenHayesod Agreements: Employment of labour...the agreement for the repayment of advances made by the KerenHayesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) to settlers in the colonies...:
" Article 7.—The settler hereby undertakes that...if and whenever he may be obliged to hire help, he will hire Jewish workmen only."
In the similar agreement for the Emek colonies there is a provision as follows : —
" Article 11.—The settler undertakes...not to hire any outside labour except Jewish labourers."
The Hope-Simpson Report described the "effect of the Zionist colonisation policy on the Arab" this way:
Actually the result of the purchase of land in Palestine by the Jewish National Fund has been that land has been extraterritorialised. It ceases to be land from which the Arab can gain any advantage either now or at any time in the future. Not only can he never hope to lease or to cultivate it, but, by the stringent provisions of the lease of the Jewish National Fund, he is deprived for ever from employment on that land. Nor can anyone help him by purchasing the land and restoring it to common use. The land is in mortmain and inalienable. It is for this reason that Arabs discount the professions of friendship and good will on the part of the Zionists in view of the policy which the Zionist Organisation deliberately adopted.
According to the website for Keren Hayesod's Australian chapter, of which Leibler is Life Chairman, "[s]ince its inception in 1920, KH-UIA has assisted over three million Jews to make Aliyah and has helped them to find their way in Israeli society," and boasts, "KH-UIA is the main institution for financing the Zionist Organization's activities in Eretz Israel" which it deems the "ancestral homeland" of all Jews worldwide. The indigenous people of Palestine - Palestinians - are conspicuously absent from all Agency and UIA literature.

Friday, January 20, 2012

From the River to the Sea...?
The One-Statism of Likud and the RNC

The Republican National Committee (RNC) apparently supports a one-state solution in Israel/Palestine.

Journalist Mitchell Plitnick reports that, last week in New Orleans, the RNC unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a single, unified state of Israel encompassing all the land of historic Palestine.

The resolution essentially concludes,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the members of this body support Israel in their natural and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others; and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.
With this statement, the RNC - as Plitnick deftly points out - now "officially supports not only continued Israeli possession of all the land it currently controls, but advocates 'one law for all people,' which does not exist now." He continues,
Israelis behind the Green Line live under Israeli law. So do settlers. But Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem are subject to a conglomeration of laws based on previous Jordanian law from before 1967, Israeli emergency laws and military regulations mostly adopted after 1967, and even some measure of old Ottoman laws, these particularly applied in East Jerusalem.

So, there is no interpretation possible other than that the RNC is also advocating complete Israeli annexation of the West Bank, including granting citizenship to the Palestinians living there.

I rather doubt that's what they intended, but that is what the resolution states. No doubt, the assembled delegates had no idea what they were advocating because they have no idea about the realities on the ground.
Relatedly, Yossi Gurvitz wrote this week that recent Israeli High Court of Justice decisions pave the way for not only de facto, but actually de jure, Israeli annexation of the West Bank. With these latest rulings, which Gurvitz outlines in his piece, the supreme court has essentially determined "that the occupation is eternal, as is the second-class status of Israeli Palestinians." Therefore, Gurvitz explains,
"Israel can keep pillaging the West Bank as if it has been annexed, as if it and the West Bank are one undivided territory, it may go on transferring settlers to the West Bank, and at the same time deny the right of Palestinians to move outside their designated zones.


"So, according to the High Court, what was once Mandatory Palestine is now inhabited by a religious group that has all the rights and by an ethnic group – which coincidentally, happens to be the indigent people – most of whose rights have been denied. So, next time someone asks you why you think Israel is an apartheid state, tell them the highest court in the land said so."
Perhaps most striking about the RNC resolution, however, is its reliance on Biblical history as setting the precedent for "Jewish" dominion over Palestine and all its inhabitants (separation between church and state be damned!). In its opening four paragraphs, the resolution quite literally uses the Bible as an historical land deed rather than a collection of ancient religious mythology:
WHEREAS, Israel has been granted her lands under and through the oldest recorded deed as reported in the Old Testament, a tome of scripture held sacred and reverenced by Jew and Christian, alike, as the acts and words of God; and

WHEREAS, as the Grantor of said lands, God stated to the Jewish people in the Old Testament; in Leviticus, Chapter 20, Verse 24: “Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey”; and

WHEREAS, God has never rescinded his grant of said lands; and

WHEREAS, along with the grant of said lands to the Jewish people, God provided for the non-Jewish residents of the land in commanding that governance must be in one law for all without drawing distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, as contained in Leviticus 24:22
Then today, a ThinkProgress News Flash, penned by Ali Gharib, reports:
RNC Distances Itself From Israel-Palestine One-State Resolution | After news broke that the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution at its winter meeting to seemingly abandon the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spokesman Sean Spicer distanced the group from the resolution. He told BuzzFeed the resolution, which passed unanimously, was a non-binding, symbolic act. He pointed to the Republican Party Platform as "the only thing that matters." The 2008 platform calls for a two-state solution to the conflict. BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith wrote that the resolution indicates a Republican grassroots support for "a far more maximal Israel position than that held by any but the most hawkish Israeli parties."
It is interesting to note how Spicer points to an official Party Platform in order to quell talk of de facto (or, eventually, de jure) one-statism within the Republican Party (oh no, then Palestinians will be allowed to vote! The horror!). One wonders what the RNC's position on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party Platform is. The platform, still very much official (it is still found on the Knesset's own website) and neither amended or updated since the mid-1990's, not only vehemently opposes the "unilateral Palestinian declaration of the establishment of a Palestinian state" and threatens "immediate stringent measures in the event of such a declaration," but also states plainly:
The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting. (emphasis added)
While the Likud Platform "rejects out of hand ideas...concerning the relinquishment of parts of the Negev to the Palestinians," it more stridently declares:
The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.

The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel's existence, security and national needs.
Regarding Jerusalem, Likud insists:
Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem...The government firmly rejects attempts of various sources in the world, some anti-Semitic in origin, to question Jerusalem's status as Israel's capital, and the 3,000-year-old special connection between the Jewish people and its capital.
Incidentally, both human history and Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, disagree with Netanyahu's Party's stance on Jerusalem.

Likud also holds that "the Jordan Valley and the territories that dominate it shall be under Israeli sovereignty. The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel," and has promised to "extend Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration over the Golan Heights, thus establishing Israeli sovereignty over the area" and to "continue to strengthen Jewish settlement on the Golan."

The RNC clearly favors all of the above prescriptions for Palestine, as evidenced in its unanimous resolution vote and in the campaign rhetoric of leading GOP candidates. How does their distancing themselves from their own resolution - and therefore from the Likud charter - sit with Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of the U.S. Congress?


UPDATE: It should be noted that the language used in the RNC resolution is identical to comments often made by Netanyahu himself, especially regarding the Biblical claim ("God-given right") to the land of Palestine and the protestations that Jews everywhere are the direct descendents of the ancient Hebrews and therefore West Bank settlers should not be considered immigrants, colonists or occupiers ("Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others").

For example, during his speech before Congress back in May 2011, Netanyahu (paying lip-service to a phony two-state solution) declared, "Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state." He continued,
I recognize that in a genuine peace, we'll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland. And you have to understand this: In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.

We're not the British in India. We're not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.

No distortion of history -- and boy, am I reading a lot of distortions of history lately, old and new -- no distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.
You hear http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthat? Jewish land.

In his speech, Netanyahu stated, "The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they'll be neither Israel's subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state," and later added, "I want to be very clear on this point: Israel will be generous on the size of a Palestinian state, but we'll be very firm on where we put the border with it."

How sweet of him.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Israel: Still not doing Gandhi very well

Gandhi on the Separation Wall (Photo: AP / Muhammed Muheisen)

Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) reports:
"An Israeli plan to build a statue for the late Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi on an East Jerusalem plot is actually a pretext to seize Palestinian land, the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) said in a statement Sunday."
That Israel would erect a statue in honor of the great indigenous nationalist, anti-colonialist, and practitioner of non-violence speaks to either its complete lack of self-awareness and blindness to the appalling irony of its proposal or to its profound sense of humor. Recall not only what Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense, Major General Amos Gilad, told U.S. officials that "we don’t do Gandhi very well" when discussing peaceful West Bank demonstrations and anti-occupation protests, but also what Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi himself had to say in 1938 (in part) about the imposition of Zionist colonization of Palestine:
The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.

The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.

I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. (emphasis added)
In response to these statements, which were published in Gandhi's Harijan newspaper, letters were written to Gandhi by people like Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, both putting their concepts of Jewish exceptionalism and disinterest in Palestinian self-determination on full display. American Zionist Hayim Greenberg even wrote something (in 1939) that could easily be found in the Jerusalem Post today: "I cannot avoid the suspicion that so far as the Palestine problem is concerned, Gandhi allowed himself to be influenced by the anti-Zionist propaganda being conducted among fanatic pan-Islamists."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Shoah Must Go On:
The Exploitation of Victimhood and the Israeli Trivialization of the Holocaust

Orthodox children wearing outfits intended to invoke the Holocaust during a rally in Jerusalem, Dec. 31, 2011. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

Shortly after reading Phil Weiss' "Trivializing the anti-Semitism charge" post on Mondoweiss, I came across this new Daily Beast article about the Israeli habit of trivializing the Holocaust. The article stems from the recent ultra-Orthodox rallies in Jerusalem which mimicked and exploited iconic Holocaust imagery to protest "an effort by secular Israelis to roll back gender segregation on some bus lines and in certain neighborhoods—a dispute that has surged in recent weeks."

The article's author, Dan Ephron, writes that "even as Israel zealously guards the memory of the genocide, many Israelis invoke it frivolously in a manner that can seem shocking to outsiders and might even be illegal in some countries (the EU has a provision against trivializing the Holocaust, as do several European countries individually)."

The litany of "misuses" of Holocaust analogies and references is familiar:
In its more benign form, Israelis might talk about the 1967 line that divides Israel and the West Bank as "the Auschwitz border," or equate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Adolf Hitler. Bauer recalls that during Israel’s Lebanon war in 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin famously likened the blockade against PLO leader Yasir Arafat in Beirut to the siege on Hitler's bunker near the end of World War II.
That Ephron uses the word "benign" to describe these ridiculous comparisons is either proof of his own trivialization of the very thing he is seeking to sanctify or, more likely, evidence that he just doesn't know the definition of the word "benign" (kindly, generous, gentle, benevolent). Surely, a benign reading of Ephron's word choice would be to assume he meant "banal" instead (i.e. commonplace, mundane, trite, bromidic, clichéd).

He continues,
...it's not uncommon to hear Israelis refer to other Israelis as Nazis as well. Jewish settlers regularly use the term against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, as when troops are sent to dismantle unauthorized outposts. The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a well-known left-wing intellectual, once described settlers as “Judeo-Nazis.” Israeli traffic cops occasionally complain they’re called Nazis by the motorists they pull over.
Holocaust historian and Yad Vashem academic adviser Yehuda Bauer explains to Ephron, "People in Israel misuse the Holocaust in politics and other areas all the time," lamenting, "The comparisons tend to dilute the real significance of the Holocaust."

Still, the comparisons abound. Just today, a new headline at Ha'aretz reveals that Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has "a very hostile attitude toward the media, reportedly calling Haaretz 'Der Sturmer' - the Nazis' propaganda paper."

After quoting the ever-inane Abe Foxman and describing a new effort in the Knesset to enact anti-trivialization legislation, Ephron ends with another quote from Bauer:
"Israel is a traumatized society that is thrown back onto the trauma all the time," he tells The Daily Beast. "When a society is traumatized like that, any opponent or perceived enemy is immediately equalized with the worst enemy Israel ever had."
Read that again. There are two important aspects of Bauer's observation.

First is the unassailable truth that the idea of perpetual and singular victimhood pervades Jewish Israeli society (and perhaps the American and European Jewish communities at large).

Peter Beinart, in his much-discussed 2010 New York Review of Books article, noted "In the world of AIPAC, the Holocaust analogies never stop, and their message is always the same: Jews are licensed by their victimhood to worry only about themselves."

Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu used a nearly identical formulation in his speech to an obsequious U.S. Congress. "As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously," he bellowed. "We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself."

As this writer has pointed out before, Netanyahu's turn of phrase is ironic considering the title of former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg's 2008 book, "The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes," in which Burg exposes the purpose of playing the victim. "Victimhood sets you free," he writes.

Furthermore, over thirty years ago, in 1980, Israeli journalist Boaz Evron put it another way: "If we assume the world hates us and persecutes us, we feel exempted from the need to be accountable for our actions towards it."

Though Bauer, as quoted in Ephron's article, suggests that Israel is "thrown back onto trauma all the time," Israeli professor and historian Avi Shlaim addressed that particular formulation almost exactly three years ago as Israeli bombs, bullets, and white phosphorus tore Gaza and hundreds of Palestinian men, women, and children to shreds. He wrote in The Guardian:
As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".
Seven months before that, in May 2008, Uri Avnery observed that
the Palestinians are suffering from several cruel strokes of fate: The people that oppress them claim for themselves the crown of ultimate victimhood. The whole world sympathizes with the Israelis because the Jews were the victims of the most horrific crime of the Western world. That creates a strange situation: the oppressor is more popular than the victim. Anyone who supports the Palestinians is automatically suspected of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
The second interesting aspect of Bauer's concluding quote is that the Nazis, who were in power from 1933 to 1945, are described as "the worst enemy Israel ever had." Israel was founded in 1948. Bauer is clearly - though perhaps unconsciously - equating "Israel" with "Jews" and utilizes his own Holocaust reference to reimagine history and erase Palestinian existence altogether.

In so doing, Bauer conforms his worldview to the epitome of Netanyahu's Zionist chauvinism: Israel is a "Jewish State" that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust, rather than one built - violently, colonially, and deliberately - atop the ruins of Palestine.


UPDATE: Obviously, though not mentioned in the above piece, the foremost authority, commentator and critic of the Zionist misuse/overuse/exploitation of the Holocaust is Professor Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry.

The use and manipulation of the Holocaust trope and how it was and is still being exploited by neoconservative warmongers (first with regard to the invasion of Iraq and now with the drumbeat to war with Iran) was comprehensively and expertly examined by Gary Kamiya in a piece entitled "The boys who cry 'Holocaust'", published by Salon.com on November 22, 2011. I cannot recommend this article more highly. It is phenomenal.

The subject, along with the "anti-Semitism charge," is also examined excellently in Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir's documentary Defamation.

Here's a clip from Defamation featuring Finkelstein: