palestine and absurdism

elia suleiman, one of my favorite palestinian filmmakers has a new movie out entitled “the time that remains.” the film premiered at cannes and i’m hoping it comes to a theater near me very soon. here is a clip from the film, though it is in arabic with french subtitles:

here is a synopsis:

THE TIME THAT REMAINS is a semi biographic film, in four historic episodes, about a family -my family – spanning from 1948, until recent times. The film is inspired by my father’s diaries of his personal accounts, starting from when he was a resistant fighter in 1948, and by my mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country since then. Combined with my intimate memories of them and with them, the film attempts to portray the daily life of those Palestinians who remained in their land and were labeled « Israeli-Arabs », living as a minority in their own homeland.

one of the reasons i love his films so much is that absurdism as a style (think samuel beckett) is the best at capturing the insanity that sometimes contextualizes this history and its present. absurdism captures zionist crimes as well as its collaborating allies in the palestinian authority. a recent article in electronic intifada by ali abu nimah and hasan abu nimah lays out the absurdity, for instance, of salam fayyad trying to declare a palestinian state in its current and ever shrinking archipelago form:

Late last month, Salam Fayyad, the appointed Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister in Ramallah, made a surprise announcement: he declared his intention to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the end of 2011 regardless of the outcome of negotiations with Israel.

Fayyad told the London Times that he would work to build “facts on the ground, consistent with having our state emerge as a fact that cannot be denied.” His plan was further elaborated in a lengthy document grandly titled “Program of the Thirteenth Government of the Palestinian National Authority.”

The plan contains all sorts of ambitious ideas: an international airport in the Jordan Valley, new rail links to neighboring states, generous tax incentives to attract foreign investment, and of course strengthening the “security forces.” It also speaks boldly of liberating the Palestinian economy from its dependence on Israel, and reducing dependence on foreign aid.

This may sound attractive to some, but Fayyad has neither the political clout nor the financial means to propose such far-reaching plans without a green light from Washington or Tel Aviv.

Fayyad aims to project an image of a competent Palestinian administration already mastering the craft of running a state. He boasts, for instance, that the PA he heads has worked to “develop effective institutions of government based on the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency.”

But what is really taking shape in the West Bank today is a police state, where all sources of opposition or resistance — real or suspected — to either the PA regime, or the Israeli occupation are being systematically repressed by US-funded and trained Palestinian “security forces” in full coordination with Israel. Gaza remains under tight siege because of its refusal to submit to this regime.

In describing the Palestinian utopia he hopes to create, Fayyad’s plan declares that “Palestine will be a stable democratic state with a multi-party political system. Transfer of governing authority is smooth, peaceful and regular in accordance with the will of the people, expressed through free and fair elections conducted in accordance with the law.”

A perfect opportunity to demonstrate such an exemplary transfer would have been right after the January 2006 election which as the entire world knows Hamas won fairly and cleanly. Instead, those who monopolize the PA leadership today colluded with outside powers first to cripple and overthrow the elected Hamas government, and then the “national unity government” formed by the Mecca Agreement in early 2007, entrenching the current internal Palestinian division. (Fayyad’s own party won just two percent at the 2006 election, and his appointment as prime minister by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas was never — as required by law — approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, dozens of whose elected members remain behind Israeli prison bars.)

From 1994 to 2006, more than eight billion US dollars were pumped into the Palestinian economy, making Palestinians the most aid-dependent people on earth, as Anne Le More showed in her important book International Assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo: Political Guilt; Wasted Money (London, Routledge, 2008). The PA received this aid ostensibly to build Palestinian institutions, improve socioeconomic development and support the creation of an independent state. The result however is that Palestinians are more destitute and aid-dependent than ever before, their institutions are totally dysfunctional, and their state remains a distant fantasy.

PA corruption and mismanagement played a big part in squandering this wealth, but by far the largest wealth destroyer was and remains the Israeli occupation. Contrary to what Fayyad imagines, you cannot “end the occupation, despite the occupation.”

A telling fact Le More reveals is that the previous “programs” of the PA (except those offered by the Hamas-led governments) were written and approved by international donor agencies and officials and then given to the PA to present back to the same donors who wrote them as if they were actually written by the PA!

Everything we see suggests Fayyad’s latest scheme follows exactly the same pattern. What is particularly troubling this time is that the plan appears to coincide with a number of other initiatives and trial balloons that present a real danger to the prospects for Palestinian liberation from permanent Israeli subjugation.

Recently, the International Middle East Media Center, an independent Palestinian news organization, published what it said was the leaked outline of a peace plan to be presented by US President Barack Obama.

That plan included international armed forces in most of the Palestinian “state”; Israeli annexation of large parts of East Jerusalem; that “All Palestinian factions would be dissolved and transformed into political parties”; all large Israeli settlements would remain under permanent Israeli control; the Palestinian state would be largely demilitarized and Israel would retain control of its airspace; intensified Palestinian-Israeli “security coordination”; and the entity would not be permitted to have military alliances with other regional countries.

On the central issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the alleged Obama plan allows only an agreed number of refugees to return, not to their original homes, but only to the West Bank, particularly to the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.

It is impossible to confirm that this leaked document actually originates with the Obama administration. What gives that claim credibility, however, is the plan’s very close resemblance to a published proposal sent to Obama last November by a bipartisan group of US elder statesmen headed by former US national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Moreover, recent press reports indicate a lively debate within the Obama Administration about whether the US should itself publish specific proposals for a final settlement once negotiations resume; so there is little doubt that concrete proposals are circulating.

Indeed there is little of substance to distinguish these various plans from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concept of “economic peace” and a demilitarized Palestinian statelet under overall Israeli control, with no right of return for refugees. And, since all seem to agree that the Jordan Valley — land and sky — would remain under indefinite Israeli control, so would Fayyad’s airport.

Similar gimmicks have been tried before: who remembers all the early Oslo years’ hullabaloo about the Gaza International Airport that operated briefly under strict Israeli control before Israel destroyed it, and the promised Gaza seaport whose construction Israel forbade?

There are two linked explanations for why Fayyad’s plan was launched now. US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has repeatedly defined his goal as a “prompt resumption and early conclusion” of negotiations. If the kinds of recycled ideas coming from the alleged Obama plan, the Scowcroft-Brzezinski document, or Netanyahu, are to have any chance, they need to look as if there is a Palestinian constituency for them. It is Fayyad’s role to provide this.

The second explanation relates to the ongoing struggle over who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president of the PA. It has become clear that Fayyad, a former World Bank official unknown to Palestinians before he was boosted by the George W. Bush Administration, appears to be the current favorite of the US and other PA sponsors. Channeling more aid through Fayyad may be these donors’ way of strengthening Fayyad against challengers from Abbas’ Fatah faction (Fayyad is not a member of Fatah) who have no intention of relinquishing their chokehold on the PA patronage machine.

Many in the region and beyond hoped the Obama Administration would be a real honest broker, at last bringing American pressure to bear on Israel, so that Palestinians might be liberated. But instead, the new administration is acting as an efficient laundry service for Israeli ideas; first they become American ones, and then a Palestinian puppet is brought in to wear them.

This is not the first scheme aimed at extinguishing Palestinian rights under the guise of a “peace process,” though it is most disappointing that the Obama Administration seems to have learned nothing from the failures of its predecessors. But just as before, the Palestinian people in their country and in the Diaspora will stand stubbornly in the way of these efforts. They know that real justice, not symbolic and fictitious statehood, remains the only pillar on which peace can be built.

nablus, where i lived last year, is being held up as a sort of model for this. last month in the independent ben lynfield reported on this:

The shopkeepers in Nablus, the West Bank’s toughest town, are smiling for a change. But no one knows for how long.

Dubbed “the mountain of fire” by Palestinians for its part in the revolt against the British mandate during the 1930s, Nablus is usually known for its violent uprisings, choking Israeli clampdowns and prowling Palestinian gunmen extorting protection money.

It is difficult to reconcile that reputation with the reality on the streets today. The centre of town is filled with shoppers picking up everything from new trainers and perfumes to armloads of dates for Ramadan, the Muslim festival which began on Saturday.

Nablus now has its first cinema in more than 20 years, grandly called “Cinema City”, which offers a diet of Hollywood blockbusters such as Transformers and Arabic romantic comedies, complete with cappuccinos and myriad flavours of popcorn.

Israel has eased its chokehold of army checkpoints around the city, particularly the one at Huwwara in the south. It was once one of the worst West Bank bottlenecks, with long queues and copious permits required. But now Israeli soldiers wave cars through with the minimum of fuss.

Store owners in Nablus’s ancient casbah say sales are up 50 or even 100 per cent since the beginning of the year. Much of the upswing in trade can be attributed to the fact that, for the first time in eight years, Israel now allows its Arab citizens to drive into Nablus on a Saturday .

“It’s a better feeling when you sell more,” said Darwish Jarwan, whose family store sells toys, clothes and perfumes. “You are happier.”

The reminders of unhappier times are all around. There are bullet holes on the steps of the shop and he had to fix the door three times over the past eight years after it was damaged during Israeli army operations.

The Israeli easing at certain checkpoints is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to demonstrate he is serious about encouraging Palestinian economic improvement in order to build peace “from the bottom up”. Israeli army officials credit the work of US-trained Palestinian Authority security forces, which have allowed them to lift the checkpoints.

The Israeli and PA moves have produced the most positive economic indicators for years, with the International Monetary Fund saying last month that growth could reach 7 per cent provided there was a more comprehensive easing of restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement.

But critics say Mr Netanyahu’s approach is aimed at evading the broad political concessions needed to really defuse the Israeli-Palestinian powder keg. Nablus residents are themselves cautious, especially given the Jewish settlements that surround the town. Back at his shop, Mr Jarwan says the economic boost alone will not be enough to satisfy his countrymen.

“Buying and selling isn’t everything,” he explains. “We want our own Palestinian country and to get our freedom. If the settlements continue to go on like this, I’m sure there will be another explosion.”

Nablus is known for its pastries, especially knafeh, a sweet made out of goats’ cheese. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, was the first to sample the “largest knafeh in the world”, which was prepared to draw attention to the city’s revival and as a celebration of the new sense of security and relative normalcy.

But at the city’s most revered bakery, al-Aksa Sweets, there was a sour after-taste as an unemployed teacher declared after finishing his helping: “The lifting of checkpoints is all theatre, nothing substantial, a show for the Americans and Europe. All of this is for a limited time.”

Another resident stressed that Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that swept municipal and legislative elections in Nablus in 2005 and 2006, is still popular, although that is not visible since its leaders are in jail and its activities suppressed.

At the new Cinema City, the owner’s son, Farouk al-Masri, was also hesitant about painting too rosy a picture. “Things are better,” he says. “There is more security, police are keeping law and order, there are less Israeli incursions and less restrictions at checkpoints. The great number of Palestinians from Israel who are coming have breathed life into the city. We’ve been living in this fear, being isolated and not being able to go in and out but now there is more room to move.” But he added: “It’s all very flimsy. We saw it during the years of the Oslo agreement. There were signs of great things ahead and it all collapsed in the blink of an eye.”

The cinema is often cited as a symbol of the new Nablus, although at £4 a seat, tickets are beyond the reach of many residents. Nonetheless, the current bill, an Egyptian romantic comedy called Omar and Salma has sold out every night since it opened 10 days ago.

“They love comedy here,” said Mr al-Masri. “We had one movie that was very bloody. People didn’t accept it and only a few came to see it. Blood – we’ve had enough of that.”

but today it was reported that 55 palestinian homes in nablus will be demolished. and herein lies the absurdity of this model of palestinians trying to create “facts on the ground” or economic security rather than fighting for liberation and the right of return:

Despite the outcry raised by Palestinian and international human rights organizations, the Israeli military announced this weekend it plans to go ahead with 55 home demolitions in Nablus — a city deep inside the West Bank which is supposed to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The homes in question are located in the Sawiya district in the city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, an area with few Israeli settlements — although Israeli settlers have announced plans to expand the settlements located there.

“The Israeli decision constitutes a serious turning point in the development of Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights,” said the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in a statement released on Friday. The group said that it is concerned that these 55 demolitions will set a precedent for further demolitions in areas that are supposed to be under Palestinian control.

wanted: zionist palestinians

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

yesterday ali abunimah and hasan abu nimah co-authored a brilliant analysis of benjamin netanyahu’s speech in electronic intifada. here is their article in full:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a peace plan so ingenious it is a wonder that for six decades of bloodshed no one thought of it. Some people might have missed the true brilliance of his ideas presented in a speech at Bar Ilan University on 14 June, so we are pleased to offer this analysis.

First, Netanyahu wants Palestinians to become committed Zionists. They can prove this by declaring, “We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land.” As he pointed out, it is only the failure of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular to commit themselves to the Zionist dream that has caused conflict, but once “they say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples.” It is of course perfectly natural that Netanyahu would be “yearning for that moment.”

Mere heartfelt commitment to Zionism will not be enough, however. For the Palestinians’ conversion to have “practical meaning,” Netanyahu explained, “there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders.” In other words, Palestinians must agree to help Israel complete the ethnic cleansing it began in 1947-48, by abandoning the right of return. This is indeed logical because as Zionists, Palestinians would share the Zionist ambition that Palestine be emptied of Palestinians to the greatest extent possible.

Netanyahu is smart enough to recognize that even the self-ethnic-cleansing of refugees may not be sufficient to secure “peace”: there will still remain millions of Palestinians living inconveniently in their native land, or in the heart of what Netanyahu insisted was the “historic homeland” of the Jews.

For these Palestinians, the peace plan involves what Netanyahu calls “demilitarization,” but what should be properly understood as unconditional surrender followed by disarmament. Disarmament, though necessary, cannot be immediate, however. Some recalcitrant Palestinians may not wish to become Zionists. Therefore, the newly pledged Zionist Palestinians would have to launch a civil war to defeat those who foolishly insist on resisting Zionism. Or as Netanyahu put it, the “Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas.” (In fact, this civil war has already been underway for several years as the American and Israeli-backed Palestinian “security forces,” led by US Lt. General Keith Dayton, have escalated their attacks on Hamas).

Once anti-Zionist Palestinians are crushed, the remaining Palestinians — whose number equals that of Jews in historic Palestine — will be able to get on with life as good Zionists, according to Netanyahu’s vision. They will not mind being squeezed into ever smaller ghettos and enclaves in order to allow for the continued expansion of Jewish colonies, whose inhabitants Netanyahu described as “an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.” And, in line with their heartfelt Zionism, Palestinians will naturally agree that “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

These are only the Palestinian-Israeli aspects of the Netanyahu plan. The regional elements include full, Arab endorsement of Palestinian Zionism and normalization of ties with Israel and even Arab Gulf money to pay for it all. Why not? If everyone becomes a Zionist then all conflict disappears.

It would be nice if we could really dismiss Netanyahu’s speech as a joke. But it is an important indicator of a hard reality. Contrary to some naive and optimistic hopes, Netanyahu does not represent only an extremist fringe in Israel. Today, the Israeli Jewish public presents (with a handful of exceptions) a united front in favor of a racist, violent ultra-nationalism fueled by religious fanaticism. Palestinians are viewed at best as inferiors to be tolerated until circumstances arise in which they can be expelled, or caged and starved like the 1.5 million inmates of the Gaza prison.

Israel is a society where virulent anti-Arab racism and Nakba denial are the norm although none of the European and American leaders who constantly lecture about Holocaust denial will dare to admonish Netanyahu for his bald lies and omissions about Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s “vision” offered absolutely no advance on the 1976 Allon Plan for annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, or Menachem Begin’s Camp David “autonomy” proposals. The goal remains the same: to control maximum land with minimum Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s speech should put to rest newly revived illusions — fed in particular by US President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech — that such an Israel can be brought voluntarily to any sort of just settlement. Some in this region who have placed all their hopes in Obama — as they did previously in Bush — believe that US pressure can bring Israel to heel. They point to Obama’s strong statements calling for a complete halt to Israeli settlement construction — a demand Netanyahu defied in his speech. It now remains to be seen whether Obama will follow his tough words with actions.

Yet, even if Obama is ready to put unprecedented pressure on Israel, he would likely have to exhaust much of his political capital just to get Israel to agree to a settlement freeze, let alone to move on any of dozens of other much more substantial issues.

And despite the common perception of an escalating clash between the Obama administration and the Israeli government (which may come over minor tactical issues), when it comes to substantive questions they agree on much more than they disagree. Obama has already stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state,” and he affirmed that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.” As for Palestinian refugees, he has said, “The right of return [to Israel] is something that is not an option in a literal sense.”

For all the fuss about settlements, Obama has addressed only their expansion, not their continued existence. Until the Obama administration publicly dissociates itself from the positions of the Clinton and Bush administrations, we must assume it agrees with them and with Israel that the large settlement blocks encircling Jerusalem and dividing the West Bank into ghettos would remain permanently in any two-state solution. Neither Obama nor Netanyahu have mentioned Israel’s illegal West Bank wall suggesting that there is no controversy over either its route or existence. And now, both agree that whatever shreds are left can be called a “Palestinian state.” No wonder the Obama administration welcomed Netanyahu’s speech as “a big step forward.”

What is particularly dismaying about the position stated by Obama in Cairo — and since repeated constantly by his Middle East envoy George Mitchell — is that the United States is committed to the “legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” This formula is designed to sound meaningful, but these vague, campaign-style buzzwords are devoid of any reference to inalienable Palestinian rights. They were chosen by American speechwriters and public relations experts, not by Palestinians. The Obama formula implies that any other Palestinian aspirations are inherently illegitimate.

Where in international law, or UN resolutions can Palestinians find definitions of “dignity” and “opportunity?” Such infinitely malleable terms incorrectly reduce all of Palestinian history to a demand for vague sentiments and a “state” instead of a struggle for liberation, justice, equality, return and the restoration of usurped rights. It is, after all, easy enough to conceive of a state that keeps Palestinians forever dispossessed, dispersed, defenseless and under threat of more expulsion and massacres by a racist, expansionist Israel.

Through history it was never leaders who defined rights, but the people who struggled for them. It is no small achievement that for a century Palestinians have resisted and survived Zionist efforts to destroy their communities physically and wipe them from the pages of history. As long as Palestinians continue to resist in every arena and by all legitimate means, building on true international solidarity, their rights can never be extinguished. It is from such a basis of independent and indigenous strength, not from the elusive promises of a great power or the favors of a usurping occupier, that justice and peace can be achieved.

the anti-arab racism they describe above is rampant, though not always caught on camera or reported by the media. here is yet another instance of the common sorts of racist remarks made by zionist terrorist colonists made this week:

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who meant to praise an undercover police agent in Tel Aviv, referred to him as an “Arabush” (Hebrew equivalent of “sand nigger”) Tuesday.

this is the same kind of racism that stems from the jewish supremacist attitude that they can colonize palestine because they are the “chosen people” who “inherited” this land from god. and this racism is not reserved just for palestinians in the west bank and gaza. it is fundamentally a part of the zionist state and its society. it is what helped to create apartheid on both sides of the so-called “green line,” contrary to jimmy carter’s attestations to the contrary. stu harrison’s interview with palestinian member of kenesset haneen zoabi in electronic intifada this week she makes it quite clear how racism and apartheid function in 1948 palestine:

Zoabi said: “The rate of hostility has increased a lot. Seventy-five percent of Jewish people do not want to live in a society with Arabs.”

“On the question of apartheid, most towns are mixed, with both Arabs and Jews. Most of the Jewish population and the authorities in towns like Jaffa and Haifa, are trying their best to transfer Palestinians out so they can become purely Jewish towns.”

“They prevent the Palestinians from renovating their homes and they are trying to push them into giving up their homes so they will leave. Arabs are being attacked a lot more in the streets and in their market shops, comparing the last year to previous years.”

However, Zoabi said such attitudes are nothing new. “We have a special case of racism in Israel. You can’t find this kind of racism in any other country in the world, where the state usually defines itself neutrally.”

“This is not the case in Israel. We don’t struggle simply against discriminating policies or attitudes. We are against the very definition of the state and this is what differentiates our struggle.”

it is this kind of racism that also leads the zionist entity to constantly demolish palestinian homes and build new colonies. this week another spate of both emerged in the news. first, the house demolitions and orders for future demolitions of palestinian homes:

Two Palestinian families were given orders on Tuesday by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem to demolish part of their homes.

One of the homes is located inside the old city of Jerusalem while the other is located in the nearby Palestinian dominated Silwan neighborhood.

Local sources said that since Friday the Israeli municipality had handed out five such orders to Palestinian families inside the walls of the old city.

and more homes in al quds:

At least a dozen Palestinian families in vireos parts of East Jerusalem received on Wednesday demolition orders issued by the Jerusalem Municipality.

According to the Israeli municipality the homes are built without the needed building permits.

The families started the illegal process by hiring a lawyer to get their case heard in the court, local sources reported.

Since last week the Israeli municipality has forced four families to demolish parts of their homes because they lacked the needed permission.

and another home in another neighborhood al quds:

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh in Anata, which has already been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times and has become a center for the peaceful struggle against home demolitions, can be demolished yet again.

and in the jordan valley:

Israeli bulldozers demolished 15 animal barns and 3 shacks owned by Palestinian residents of Ein Al-Hilwa neighborhood in the Jordan Valley near Israeli settlement of Masquin, eyewitnesses reported Wednesday morning.

Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli settlement activity in the northern West Bank, condemned the demolition describing it as part of a clear Israeli policy aimed at emptying the Jordan Valley of all Palestinian residents.

the above news items are part and parcel for palestinians every day, but there is a new report from save the children that ma’an published the other day showing that 300,000 palestinians face house demolitions right now:

Over 300,000 people are facing house demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories, a report issued this week by the UK charity Save the Children says.

“House demolitions in the OPT have escalated and thousands of families and in some cases entire villages remain under the threat of bulldozers arriving to destroy their homes and being displaced any day,” said Salam Kanaan, Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) in a statement.

The new report is titled “Broken Homes,” and was also authored by Palestinian Counseling Centre (PCC), and Welfare Association.

Since house demolitions started in 1967 it is estimated that the Israeli civilian and military authorities have destroyed over 24,000 homes. However, since 2000 the number of homes being destroyed has escalated with an average of more than a 1,000 homes demolished every year, Save the children said.

This year (2009) has seen a massive increase, with more homes being destroyed than at any time since the Israeli occupation began 40 years ago, the organization said. Nearly 4,000 homes were destroyed as a result of the military offensive in Gaza at the start of the year.

“The majority of house demolitions are carried out for so called ‘administrative’ reasons or as a result of military operations,” said Kanaan. “Families lose everything when their homes are demolished; clothes, food and furniture are all buried in the rubble. There is precious little help for these families who are left with nothing, no support, no protection.”

Among the facts stated in the report are:

More than half (52%) of the homes were demolished in a collective demolition where a series of homes or neighborhood was razed

Two people were killed during the demolition of their homes

Only 13% of families had a chance to collect their belongings before demolition began
97% of parents are at risk of a mental breakdown as a result of their homes being demolished

Children whose homes have been demolished show a decline in their mental health, suffering classic signs of trauma, becoming withdrawn, depressed and anxious

The majority of families whose houses were demolished were repeatedly displaced for long periods of time – over half the families (61%) took at least two years to find somewhere permanent to live

Over a quarter of families had to split up so they could all find somewhere to stay.

Once a house is demolished, the family not only loses their home and its contents but is also liable for the costs of the actual house demolition. This can run into thousands of dollars.

East Jerusalem residents, rural communities in the West Bank, Bedouin, and refugees living in camps, communities close to the Separation Wall or settlements, and areas near Gaza’s borders are at the greatest risk of displacement from building or house demolition. More than 300,000 Palestinians live in these areas.

of course the main reason for palestinian home demolitions is to build colonies for jewish zionists who steal the land on which these palestinian homes exist. and expect a great increase in those colonies this summer:

The Land of Israel Faithful group responded to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech by saying that they are planning to construct 30 new outposts in the West Bank. In his speech Netanyahu declared that no new settlements would be built and no extra land would be confiscated from Palestinians for settlement development.

The group told Israeli media that it was “recruiting activists for this summer’s outpost building”. It is planning to create outposts between the settlement of Ofra and Shiloh, in Gush Etzion, near Hebron and near the settlements of Elon Moreh and Bracha.

The settler group has been engaged in building and rebuilding outposts for the past two years. Many of them have been demolished several times by Israeli forces, but the group keeps rebuilding them with determination.

One of the outposts that was destroyed was the Moaz Esther outpost. In the beginning of this month it was taken down, but now it’s almost completely rebuilt again. The group explained that action has to be taken to strengthen the Jewish hold on the West Bank.

supposedly the united states is working to “freeze” the colony building project, but the zionist entity is being defiant and racist as is par for the course:

Visiting Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister of the right-wing extremist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, Avigdor Lieberman, told the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, that Israel will not freeze the construction and expansion of settlements.

Clinton demanded Israel to stop the settlements as agreed upon with the former president, George W. Bush.

Lieberman said that the “Jewish people were born in Judea and Samaria, and will die there”, his statement totally disregarded the indigenous Palestinian people.

Clinton responded by stating that the United States under the Obama administration wants a freeze to all settlement activities.

The Israeli FM claimed that there was no written or even verbal agreement with Bush regarding the settlements. Clinton “agreed” and said that a compromise could be reached between the United States and Israel.

here is a report on lieberman’s visit with hillary clinton by tom ackerman on al jazeera yesterday:

regardless of what is being reported, it seems as though the obama administration–like all american administrations before it–will yield to the zionist entity and their demand for jewish-only racist colonies on stolen palestinian land:

The US may ease its demand for a total freeze on construction in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

Quoting anonymous Israeli officials, the newspaper said that this possible change in position was expressed during US Envoy George Mitchell’s visit to Israel last week, when he held a four-hour meeting on the settlement issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

but glenn kessler pointed out in the washington post the other day that there once was a time when the u.s. was clear–at least rhetorically–about the illegality of colonies (though, unfortunately, the u.s. has always supported the colonies in 1948 palesitne):

Thirty years ago, the State Department legal adviser issued an opinion in response to an inquiry from Congress: The establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories “is inconsistent with international law.”

The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Israel has insisted that the Geneva Convention does not apply to settlers and broadly contests assertions of the settlements’ illegality.

Despite the passage of time, the legal opinion, issued during the Carter administration, has never been revoked or revised. President Ronald Reagan said he disagreed with it — he called the settlements “not illegal” — but his State Department did not seek to issue a new opinion.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is unlikely to bring up the U.S. opinion when she meets today with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the State Department. Lieberman lives in a West Bank settlement, Nokdim, that was established in 1982 as a tent encampment of six families and now has more than 800 residents.

Despite repeated inquiries over the past week, State Department spokesmen declined to say whether the 1979 legal opinion is still the policy of the U.S. government.

and lest you think that the zionist entity’s racism is directed only at palestinians check out this new report on irin news about their human trafficking:

The latest US State Department report on trafficked persons, released on 16 June, says Israel is still a destination for men and women trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation.

Women from the former Soviet Union and China are still being trafficked across the border with Egypt into Israel for forced prostitution by organized criminal groups.

According to local NGOs, such as Isha L’iash and Moked, each year several hundred women in Israel – many of them foreigners – are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, according to the report.

In 2006 Israel was put on the US State Department’s Tier 2 watch list and has been described as a “prime destination for trafficking” by both the State Department and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

if it is on palestinian land and inhabited by jews: it is a colony. period.

and yes, i mean jews: the zionist entity insists on being called a “jewish state” that is an apartheid state in which jews have special rights and non-jews have no rights. of course, any jew who lives in occupied palestine is by definition a zionist. but the zionist entity’s laws specify these rights are for jews. and these jewish zionists are the colonists occupying palestinian land.

it may seem like a sign of progress to most outsiders: 2 zionist terrorist colonies in khalil were dismantled by the zionist terrorist army. but notice in this story that it alerts us to the fact that this has happened before. they have removed one of these colonies and it went right back up. this is the norm here:

The Israeli army demolished two illegal settlement outposts installed by extremist far-right wing Jewish settlers, members of a Yeshiva School from Kiryat Arba’ illegal settlement, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli army radio reported that one of the outposts (Havat Federman) was constructed by an extremist right-wing settler, identified as Noam Federman.

The Second illegal outpost Givat (Hill) Avichai, also known as Hill 18, was constructed by Yeshiva students of the illegal Keryat Arba’ settlement.

As the Israeli police and soldiers arrived at the Havat Federman, shortly before the evacuation was to take place, they found out that the construction was already removed, and all of its supplies were placed in one tent, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported.

The Federman outpost was first dismantled on Friday October 31, 2008, and the settlers clashed with the Israeli police and attacked Palestinian residents in the Hebron area. They settlers rebuilt the outpost later on and the army did not remove it.

The Israeli police was expecting clashes with the extremist settlers but the evacuation went without noticeable clashes.

Israeli sources reported Wednesday that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had decided to evacuate the outposts in an attempt to avoid pressure by the US Administration.

But the evacuation of the outposts angered several extreme right wing members of Knesset and officials.

Member of Knesset, Michael Ben-Ari, of the National Union Party slammed Netanyahu and Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, for the evacuation of the illegal outposts and added that the “deceived the public and their voters”.

meanwhile more palestinian homes are being destroyed in al quds by zionist terrorist colonitsts:

The Jerusalem Municipality handed on Tuesday orders to demolish 17 Palestinian homes in different parts of East Jerusalem under the pretext that they were constructed without a permit.

The orders are regarding 17 homes in Al Ashqariyya, Beit Hanina, Shu’fat, Al Esawiyya and Jabal Al Mokabbir and Silwan.

Lawyers representing the residents started the legal process in an attempt to stop or freeze the demolishing orders.

The lawyers managed to temporarily freeze some of the orders and managed to delay the demolishing of a home south of the Al Aqsa Mosque until July 10.

The new orders came amidst an ongoing Israeli campaign targeting Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem, as Israel plans to demolish dozens of homes and apartment buildings under the pretext that they were built without a construction permit.

The Jerusalem municipality largely refrains from granting the Palestinians in Jerusalem construction permits in an attempt to force them out of the city while the Israeli government is ongoing with its illegal settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the Arab areas around it.

to get a sense of the political game being played here read jerrold kessel and pierre klochendler’s article in ips:

Netanyahu dug in his heels, although he tried to couch the impending set-to in a mild manner. No new settlements would be built, he told his cabinet colleagues, but settlement expansion should go on, for all the U.S. objections: “Not to address the question of natural growth is simply not fair,” the Prime Minister said.

A close Netanyahu political ally, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, added: “There is one thing to which we just cannot agree – that the government agenda will look like a witch-hunt against the settlers and the drying up of the settlements.”

And, Defence Minister Ehud Barak lined up behind Netanyahu: “It’s not conceivable that anyone seriously intends that a family with two children who have bought a small apartment will be told that an order has come from the U.S. that they may not add two extra rooms when the family grows – that’s illogical,” Barak said.

The Israeli position is most unlikely to satisfy the U.S. Netanyahu seems fully aware that this could be just the beginning of a major row with Washington. He thus appears to be preparing to parry the comprehensive U.S. ‘no’ on settlements by backing the intention of the Israeli defence establishment finally to move on so-called “illegal settlements” (small outposts that were established on the fringes of government-approved settlements in order to expand Israeli control over Palestinian territory).

The day Netanyahu came back, the army pulled down one such wildcat settlement, but within hours the settlers had rebuilt the outpost. Now, though, the Defence Ministry confirms that a comprehensive plan is being drawn up to dismantle 23 mini-settlements created since 2001 without government approval.

Israeli Public Radio quoted sources in the Prime Minister’s office as confirming that Netanyahu would “stand firm behind” Defence Minister Ehud Barak if he concludes that a showdown with the “illegal” settlers is required. This, even at the risk of an improbable showdown with his own nationalist coalition: “We are first and foremost obliged to respect the law,” Netanyahu insisted at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Obama urged the ending of settlement building in order to lay the ground for a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said there is no point in meeting Netanyahu unless he stops settlement construction and agrees to open talks on Palestinian independence.

Over the years, successive Israeli governments have sanctioned 121 settlements, with the settlers themselves putting up an additional 100 or so small outposts since the early 1990s. The overall settler population is around 280,000.

the zionist entity’s destruction of palestinian homes as a form of ethnic cleansing and it’s fake destruction of zionist colonies (which you can see in bold above are temporary). meanwhile, the hasbara propaganda machine is already at work to get obama and clinton to submit to its colonial expansionist regime. i have no doubt they will succeed.

Israel is planning to offer dismantling 26 illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in exchange for American approval that Israel keeps all of its settlements and expands the existing settlement blocs though all settlements are illegal under the international law.

Israeli officials stated that Israel would dismantle 26 illegal settlement outposts within a number of weeks in exchange for allowing Israel to expand its settlements under the pretext of natural growth.

The new so-called Israeli offer was reached during a Monday night meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Prime Minster, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Ynet News reported that Israel sent on Tuesday a delegation to London in order to hold a meeting with US officials in order to coordinate Ehud Barak’s visit to Washington.

The delegation includes representatives of the offices of Barak and Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Ehud Barak is scheduled to hold a meeting in Washington with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and the National Security Advisor, James Jones.

On his side, Barak claims that removing the 26 illegal outposts is a “gesture of good will” towards the Palestinians.

Removing the already illegal outposts comes at a price of US acceptance to be flexible in its demand regarding Israel’s freezing of settlement construction and expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It is worth mentioning that the former US president, George W. Bush, recognized Israel’s illegal settlement blocs in a letter he sent to the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.

On his side, Benjamin Netanyahu intends to remove some outposts in an attempt to focus the talks with the US on the Iranian issue instead of settlements.

Talks on removing illegal outposts should not be a condition to getting something in return, as such outposts are not only illegal under the international law, but also under Israeli law.

As for settlements and settlements blocs built in the occupied territories, dismantling them should be unconditional; even if Israel considers them legitimate, they are still illegitimate under the international law and the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and constitute a war crime.

It is worth mentioning that Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions clearly states that an occupying power cannot move part of its civilian population into territories it occupies.

so palestinians seem to be working on a new strategy, or at least a very small minority are. kamahl santamaria’s “inside story” the other night on al jazeera featured a discussion about zionist colonies and in the first few minutes of this you can see a report by sherine tadros in which she shoes you some palestinian families living in the illegal zionist colony of pisgat ze’ev in al quds. the discussion that follows addresses the issue of zionist colonialism on palestinian land, though as usual al jazeera pits two zionist colonitst terrorists against one palestinian (jad ishaq, danny seidmann, shmuel berkovich):

in the episode santamaria begins by saying: “Settlements, neighborhoods, suburbs, call them what you will.” well, i call them colonies. because zionism is a colonial ideology and they are a foreign presence here on palestinian land. there is no way around it. but unfortunately the world continues to think of these colonies on “occupied” land in the west bank or al quds as the only occupied colonies when the entire land of palestine is occupied and filled with such colonies. for instance, look at what zionist terrorist colonists did in naqab this week to palestinian olive trees:

The so-called Israel’s Land Authority uprooted on Monday nearly 250 olive trees and several fig trees and grapevines south of Shqeib Al Salaam Arab village in the Negev.

The authorities them loaded the uprooted trees onto trucks and took them away.

The new violation is one of numerous ongoing violations carried out by Israel against the “unrecognized” Arab villages in the Negev. The violations harm the very existence of Arabs in the region as Israel repeatedly demolished their homes and displaced the villagers.

The Regional Council of the Unrecognized Arab Villages in the Negev demanded Israel to recognize the ownership rights of Arabs in the Negev and to recognize the Arab villages there.

Ibrahim Al Waqeely, head of the Regional Council of the Unrecognized Arab villages, told the Arabs48 news website that instead of preserving the greenery, Israel is uprooting trees and terrifying the Arabs to force them out.

He added that Israel is ongoing with its illegal conducts against the Arabs in the Negev while at the same time it is ongoing with constructing malls and Jewish only areas in the area.

Al Waqeely added that the residents will replant their olives “exactly as they rebuild their homes which Israel demolishes”.

He also said that the Arabs inhibited the Negev way before Israel occupied Palestine and declared its independence.

and here is what palestinians have to endure because of zionist terrorist colonists on their land, in their midst:

Local sources reported on Monday at evening that a group of armed extremist settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds east of Yatta town, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

The settlers came from Bait Yatir and Maon illegal outposts, installed on privately owned Palestinian lands, east of Yatta.

Some of the attacked shepherds were identified as Ismail Abu Qbeita, Issa Makhamra, Ibrahim Ali Awad, Ali Mohammad Makhamra, and Mohammad Abu Qbeita.

Resident Mohammad Abu Qbeita stated that nearly twenty armed settlers attacked the shepherds with batons forcing them out of the grazing land, and inflicting wounds on them, especially in their legs.

The Israeli army did not attempt to intervene.

and this is true when palestinian women are subjected to terrorism at the hands of zionist colonists:

A Palestinian woman sustained moderate wounds on Tuesday afternoon after she was attacked by an Israeli settler in northern West Bank.

Hiba abed Al Hak, 21, was going from her city Salfit to Ramallah through Nablus city. She was stopped at Za’tara military checkpoint near Nablus, while waiting at the checkpoint she was attacked and beaten up by the settler, local sources reported.

Medical sources reported that Al Hak was moved to hospital for treatment, medics said that she was attacked while soldiers at the checkpoint were watching.

Resident they have been attacked by settlers at that military checkpoint for the past two days.

still other palestinians find themselves prisoners in their own homes such as the khatib family in al quds because of the pisgat ze’ev illegal colony on palestinian land reported in the above al jazeera piece:

The Israeli construction of the Annexation Wall on the Khatib family land has rendered 24 members of the family on the Israeli side of the Wall, where they are being kept under house arrest. No members of the family have committed any crime, but the Israeli military keeps them under house arrest because the Israeli military constructed the Wall with the family on the Israeli side.

The family’s home and land have been annexed into the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement, and the family has thus been unwillingly “turned into settlers”. To visit the rest of their relatives and friends in their village of Hizma, they are forced to travel to an Israeli checkpoint border crossing. Their friends and relatives who have been rendered on the Palestinian side of the Wall have an extremely difficult time obtaining the permits and permission necessary to cross to visit the Khatib family stuck in Pisgat Ze’ev.

A recent exposé by the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahranoth documented the family’s situation, including interviews with family members. Kifach Khatib, the mother of the family, told Yedioth Ahranoth, “The fact that we have been turned into settlers does not mean that we gave up on our way of life. We continue to raise chickens and sheep for a living.”

But even the simple family farming lifestyle of the Khatib family has been rendered impossible by the Israeli settlers who now surround the family’s home and land. According to Kifach Khatib, the family has faced harassment and theft of animals by the Israeli settlers. The family has had to move their sheep and chickens, which are their main source of income, across the Wall to the Palestinian side, where they are depending on the goodwill of their former neighbors to care for their animals. She added, “A month ago settlers stole my best goat, and from time to time we have to cross over to the other side of the fence to feed our animals. Our Palestinian neighbors cannot raise the animals themselves – I don’t know what to do.”

The Israeli District Coordination Office, which is the main interface between the Israeli military and the occupied Palestinian population in the West Bank, told Yedioth Ahranoth that they are familiar with the Khatib family’s situation, and have issued the family permits to cross the Wall to the Palestinian side, which the Office says will allow the family to maintain a normal life.

Members of the Khatib family, which includes two disabled girls suffering from a neurological condition, say that living under house arrest under the continuous threat of harassment by Israeli settlers, is far from a normal life.

moreover because of these colonies the ground water supply is being contaminated by zionist colonists abusing palestinian land as reported in electronic intifada:

Israeli army bases in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel are contaminating land and water sources, says a letter addressed to Major General Gadi Shamni, commander-in-chief of the central command in Israel.

According to the 12 May letter signed by Issac Ben David, deputy director at the Ministry of the Environment, and seen by IRIN, five bases in the OPT are a major source of contamination due to poor handling of diesel fuel and oil.

The bases in question are Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem; Ramallah (West Bank); another is near Hebron (West Bank); and two are Israeli army fuel stations near Macabim and Halamish.

Ben David’s letter said: “In a recent inspection conducted by the ministry inspectors of [Israeli army] bases in [the OPT] we discovered a bleak picture of neglect and severe damage to the environment due to leakage of fuel and oil. This severely damages the soil and ground water.”

all of this destruction and audacity will continue, i suspect, regardless of anything the u.s. administration says or does as Omar Yousef Shehabi explains in electronic intifada:

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared for his first meeting with US President Barack Obama earlier this week, preliminary construction began on the Maskiot settlement in the Jordan Valley, which forms the Eastern Bantu of the occupied West Bank. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, it will be Israel’s first new settlement in the northern West Bank in 27 years.

More accurately, Maskiot was established as an army brigade encampment in 1982, abandoned in the late 1990s, reconstituted as a army preparatory school in 2005, and promised to former residents of an “illegal” Gaza settlement, Shirat Hayam, in 2006. That plan to settle 30 families roughly 15 kilometers east of the Green Line — the internationally-recognized boundary between Israel and the West Bank — was abandoned under American pressure in 2007 and resurrected in the final months of the moribund Bush presidency. Obviously, neither the roughly 50,000 Palestinians of the Jordan Valley nor their listless leaders in Ramallah play any role in this kabuki dance between the Israeli and American governments.

The Obama administration will halt construction of Maskiot once more, likely in exchange for its acquiescence to the further (and nearly complete) Judaization of Jerusalem. Specifically, Netanyahu wants to complete partition of the Palestinian West Bank into northern and southern Bantus by completing development of the “East 1” or E1 area between Jerusalem and the mega-settlement of Maale Adumim. Israel first authorized development in this area in March 1997, during Netanyahu’s first premiership. It opened a massive new police headquarters for the West Bank in E1 this month, intends to build 3,500 housing units for settlers in this area of less than five square miles, and has spent more than NIS 120 million ($30 million) on a segregated road that will connect E1 to Jerusalem for Jews, and shuttle Palestinian Arabs between their northern and southern Bantus without desecrating the holy city with their presence.

Let us remember that Netanyahu orchestrated a similar provocation early in his first premiership to advance his geopolitical agenda. On 24 September 1996, towards the end of protracted negotiations over the Hebron Agreement, Netanyahu ordered that a gate to the Western Wall tunnel be opened along the Via Dolorosa, blasted through the grounds of the Umariya elementary school (incidentally, my father’s primary school). As a result, tourists who once had to retrace their steps to exit the tunnel now exit onto the Via Dolorosa and are escorted by armed Israeli soldiers through the Old City’s Muslim quarter (think of it as a quotidian version of the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations that flaunt Israeli “liberation and reunification” of the city by parading through Arab Jerusalem and dancing atop the ruins of the Moroccan quarter in the Western Wall plaza).

on anti-semitism

when i was teaching the play my name is rachel corrie this semester the subject of anti-semitism came up. there is a part of the play where rachel talks about how difficult it is for non-jews to speak about palestine in the u.s. because of the way that people silence you and say you’re anti-semitic. in the process of discussing this monologue it came up that many of my students think that the nazi holocaust is something that is fabricated. i had not encountered such a view in palestine before, but i understand why it exists and where it comes from. given the ways in which the nazi holocaust has been used against palestinians both as a pretext to steal their land, massacre palestinians, and ethnically cleanse them, i can understand how such thinking might emerge. given that the nazi holocaust has been used to silence those who speak about palestine, i can understand why people may doubt it or question it. but here is the thing. by questioning something that is factually based one only plays into those zionist hands and allows them to say, “oh, see, palestinians are anti-semitic.” also, by quibbling over numbers about how many people were killed in the nazi holocaust you are doing exactly what you don’t want done to you. those who know the facts about palestine, for instance, don’t want people to quibble over the historical facts about the 531 villages that were destroyed or the 750,000 palestinians forcibly removed from their homes during an nakba.

this is not, of course, a majority view in palestine. i think it speaks to the weak education that i have encountered in nablus as well as the lack of access to reading materials here. but at the same time zionists themselves initiated the abuse of and distortion of the nazi holocaust. at the recent aipac (american israel public affairs committee) meeting in washington dc the key item up for discussion was iran as the new germany, ahmadinejad as the new hitler. just check out this speech given there by republican congressman from virginia eric cantor for a glimpse into how this rhetoric pairs the two together in ways that defy logic, history, and reality:

notice cantor remarks at the beginning “at what moment was it too late” in reference to hitler. then he moves into iran with his completely baseless propaganda that “amhadinejad dreams of finishing hitler’s work.” he speaks as if this is true and it is 100% false. i’ll offer an example in a moment, but first look at this discussion on al jazeera’s “inside story” a couple of nights ago with imran garda. he hosted three speakers: imad gad from the al ahram center in cairo, former deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs david mack, and israeli terrorist colonist dan diker with the jerusalem centre for public affairs. here is the episode:

from the outset of the debate you can see diker move right in sync with the new aipac policy agenda:

Both Egypt and Israel are being directly threatened by the Islamic Republic of Iran and their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, which have now threatened the life of Mr. Mubarak and threatening the Egyptian regime. And they are threatening Israel through their surrogate Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in the north, and Iranian proxies in the West Bank including Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. So both leaders had a very strong set of interests to discuss that both include the Palestinian issue and twinned with the much larger strategic threat that Iran poses to both nations and indeed the entire Sunni establishment in the Middle East.

divide and rule. the big picture. uri avnery, a colonist in the zionist entity, refutes these claims at least in part in an article on anti-war.com:

Like a traveling salesman offering a counterfeit product, Peres is now peddling the merchandise called Binyamin Netanyahu. He presents to the world a Netanyahu we have never known: a peacemaker, the epitome of truthfulness, a man with no other ambition than to go down in history as the founder of the state of Palestine. A Righteous Jew to outshine all Righteous Gentiles.

However, all these lies are nothing compared to trivializing the Holocaust.

In some countries, that is a criminal offense, punishable by prison. The trivializing has many guises. For example: the assertion that the gas chambers never existed. Or: that not 6 million Jews were killed, but only six hundred thousand. But the most dangerous form of minimizing is the comparison of the Holocaust to passing events, thus turning it into “a detail of history,” as Jean-Marie Le-Pen infamously put it.

This week, Shimon Peres committed exactly this crime.

Like a lackey walking in front of the king, strewing flowers on the road, Peres flew to the U.S. to prepare the ground for Netanyahu’s coming visit. He imposed himself on a reluctant Barack Obama, who had no choice but to receive him.

Posing as a new Winston Churchill, the man who warned the world against the rise of Nazi Germany, he informed Obama with solemn bombast: “As Jews we cannot but compare Iran to Nazi Germany.”

About this sentence at least three things must be said: (a) it is untrue, (b) it trivializes the Holocaust, and (c) it reflects a catastrophic policy.

Does Iran really resemble Nazi Germany?

I don’t like the regime there. As a committed atheist who insists on total separation between state and religion, I oppose any regime based on religion – in Iran, in Israel, or in any other country.

Also, I don’t like politicians like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I am allergic to leaders who stand on balconies and declaim to the masses below. I detest demagogues who appeal to the base instincts of hatred and fear.

Alas, Ahmadinejad is not the only leader of this type. Indeed, the world is full of them; some are among the staunchest supporters of the Israeli government. In Israel, too, we do not lack this sort.

But Iran is not a fascist state. According to the evidence, there is quite a lot of freedom there, including freedom of expression. Ahmadinejad is not the only candidate for president in the present election campaign. There are a number of others, some more radical, some less.

Nor is Iran an anti-Semitic state. A Jewish community, whose members are refusing to emigrate, is living there comfortably enough. It enjoys religious freedom and has a representative in parliament. Even if we take such reports with a grain of salt, it is clear that the Jews in Iran are not being persecuted like the Jews in Nazi Germany.

And, most important: Iran is not an aggressive country. It has not attacked its neighbors for centuries. The long and bloody Iraq-Iran war was started by Saddam Hussein. It may be remembered that at the time Israel (contrary to the U.S.) supported the Iranian side and supplied it with arms. (One such transaction was accidentally disclosed in the Irangate affair.) Before the Khomeini revolution, Iran was our most important ally in the region.

Ahmadinejad hates Israel. But it has been denied that he has threatened to annihilate Israel. It appears that the crucial sentence in his famous speech was mistranslated: he did not declare his determination to wipe Israel off the map, but expressed the opinion that Israel will disappear from the map.

Frankly, I don’t think that there is such a great difference between the two versions. When the leader of a big country predicts that my state will disappear, that makes me worry. When that country appears to do everything possible to produce a nuclear bomb, that worries me even more. I draw conclusions, but about that later.

Moreover, Ahmadinejad – unlike Hitler – is not the supreme leader of his country. He is subject to the real leadership, composed of clerics. All the signs indicate that this is not a group of adventurers. On the contrary, they are very balanced, sophisticated, and prudent. Now they are cautiously feeling their way toward dialogue with the U.S., trying to reach an accord without sacrificing their regional ambitions, which are quite normal.

In brief, the speeches of one demagogic leader do not turn a country into Nazi Germany. Iran is not a mad country. It has no real interests in Israel/Palestine. Its interests are focused on the Persian Gulf area, and it wants to increase its influence throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Its relations with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas mostly serve this purpose, and so does the anti-Israeli incitement of Ahmadinejad.

In brief, the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany lacks a factual basis.

you can read the entire article if you click the link, but avnery like a typical israeli or jew devolves into the nazi holocaust is unique bulls*&^ that is part of the problem to begin with. norman finkelstein famously refutes this mythology in his groundbreaking book, the holocaust industry:

Two central dogmas underpin the Holocaust framework: (1) The Holocaust marks a categorically event; (2) The Holocaust marks the climax of an irrational, eternal Gentile hatred of Jews. Neither of these dogmas figured at all in public discourse before the June 1967 war. (41-42)

and why was it only after 1967? because they needed that argument to rationalize their colonial expansionist project in the west bank and gaza strip. after that deviation, avnery concludes his article as follows:

Does the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany serve Israeli interests?

Iran is there. It was our ally in the past, and may be our ally again in the future. Leaders come and go, but geopolitical interests are more or less constant. Ahmadinejad may be replaced by a leader who will see Iranian interests in a different light.

The nuclear threat to Israel will not disappear – not after a (bad) speech by Peres nor after a (good) speech by Netanyahu. All over the region, nuclear installations will pop up. This process cannot be stopped. We all need nuclear energy to desalinate water and to produce electricity without destroying the environment. As an Israeli professor, a former employee in the nuclear center at Dimona, said this week: we must reconsider our nuclear policy. It may well be to our advantage to accept the demand of the American spokeswoman that Israel (as well as India and Pakistan) join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and a regime of strict supervision.

President Barack Obama is now saying to Israel: Put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is a precondition for the elimination of the threat to Israel. When the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, make peace with Israel, Iran will not be able to exploit the conflict for the furthering of its interests. We were saying this, by the way, many years ago.

The refusal of Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak to accept this demand shows the insincerity of their arguments about Iran. If they really believed that Iran posed an existential menace, they would hurry to dismantle the settlements, demolish the outposts, and make peace. That would, after all, be a small price to pay for the elimination of an existential danger. Their refusal proves that the entire existential story is a bluff.

and it seems as though they are willing to go it alone whether or not the americans help them as daniel luban and jim lobe explained in their article for ips:

Given its preoccupation with AfPak and with stabilising the region as a whole, the Pentagon has naturally been disinclined to increase tensions with Iran, which shares lengthy borders with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and could easily make life significantly more difficult for the U.S. in each of the three countries.

But the new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing the U.S. to confront Iran over its nuclear programme, and his allies in the U.S. have similarly argued that Iran should be a top priority.

For the moment, the Iran hawks have mostly expressed muted – if highly sceptical – support for Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Tehran. But they have warned that this outreach must have a “short and hard end date”, as Republican Sen. Jon Kyl put it at the AIPAC conference, at which point the U.S. must turn to harsher measures.

AIPAC’s current top legislative priority is a bill, co-sponsored by Kyl and key Democrats, that would require Obama to impose sanctions on foreign firms that export refined petroleum products to Iran.

In recent Congressional testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the administration would support such “crippling” sanctions against Tehran if diplomacy did not work, but she declined to say how long the administration would permit diplomatic efforts to play out before taking stronger action.

While sanctions seem to be the topic du jour, the possibility of military action against Tehran remains on everybody’s mind, as does the question of whether Israel would be willing to strike Iranian nuclear facilities without Washington’s approval.

In March, Netanyahu told The Atlantic that “if we have to act, we will act, even if America won’t.”

Asked at the AIPAC conference whether Israel would attack Iran without a “green light” from the U.S., former Israeli deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh joked that in Israel, stoplight signals are “just a recommendation.”

and paul craig roberts’ piece in counterpunch last week explains some of the dangers of privileging the nazi holocaust in all its so-called uniqueness in order to shield the zionist entity’s massive war crimes:

On October 16, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Israel Lobby’s bill, the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. This legislation requires the US Department of State to monitor anti-semitism world wide.

To monitor anti-semitism, it has to be defined. What is the definition? Basically, as defined by the Israel Lobby and Abe Foxman, it boils down to any criticism of Israel or Jews.

Rahm Israel Emanuel hasn’t been mopping floors at the White House.

As soon as he gets the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed, it will become a crime for any American to tell the truth about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and theft of their lands.

It will be a crime for Christians to acknowledge the New Testament’s account of Jews demanding the crucifixion of Jesus.

It will be a crime to report the extraordinary influence of the Israel Lobby on the White House and Congress, such as the AIPAC-written resolutions praising Israel for its war crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza that were endorsed by 100 per cent of the US Senate and 99 per cent of the House of Representatives, while the rest of the world condemned Israel for its barbarity.

It will be a crime to doubt the Holocaust.

It will become a crime to note the disproportionate representation of Jews in the media, finance, and foreign policy.

In other words, it means the end of free speech, free inquiry, and the First Amendment to the Constitution. Any facts or truths that cast aspersion upon Israel will simply be banned.

Given the hubris of the US government, which leads Washington to apply US law to every country and organization, what will happen to the International Red Cross, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the various human rights organizations that have demanded investigations of Israel’s military assault on Gaza’s civilian population? Will they all be arrested for the hate crime of “excessive” criticism of Israel?

This is a serious question.

A recent UN report, which is yet to be released in its entirety, blames Israel for the deaths and injuries that occurred within the United Nations premises in Gaza. The Israeli government has responded by charging that the UN report is “tendentious, patently biased,” which puts the UN report into the State Department’s category of excessive criticism and strong anti-Israel sentiment.

Israel is getting away with its blatant use of the American government to silence its critics despite the fact that the Israeli press and Israeli soldiers have exposed the Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the premeditated murder of women and children urged upon the Israeli invaders by rabbis. These acts are clearly war crimes.

It was the Israeli press that published the pictures of the Israeli soldiers’ T-shirts that indicate that the willful murder of women and children is now the culture of the Israeli army. The T-shirts are horrific expressions of barbarity. For example, one shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a crosshairs over her stomach and the slogan, “One shot, two kills.” These T-shirts are an indication that Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians is one of extermination.

It has been true for years that the most potent criticism of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians comes from the Israeli press and Israeli peace groups. For example, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Jeff Halper of ICAHD have shown a moral conscience that apparently does not exist in the Western democracies where Israel’s crimes are covered up and even praised.

Will the American hate crime bill be applied to Haaretz and Jeff Halper? Will American commentators who say nothing themselves but simply report what Haaretz and Halper have said be arrested for “spreading hatred of Israel, an anti-semitic act”?

Many Americans have been brainwashed by the propaganda that Palestinians are terrorists who threaten innocent Israel. These Americans will see the censorship as merely part of the necessary war on terror. They will accept the demonization of fellow citizens who report unpalatable facts about Israel and agree that such people should be punished for aiding and abetting terrorists.

A massive push is underway to criminalize criticism of Israel. American university professors have fallen victim to the well organized attempt to eliminate all criticism of Israel. Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at a Catholic university because of the power of the Israel Lobby. Now the Israel Lobby is after University of California (at Santa Barbara,) professor Wiliam Robinson. Robinson’s crime: his course on global affairs included some reading assignments critical of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Israel Lobby apparently succeeded in convincing the Obama Justice (sic) Department that it is anti-semitic to accuse two Jewish AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, of spying. The Israel Lobby succeeded in getting their trial delayed for four years, and now Attorney General Eric Holder has dropped charges. Yet, Larry Franklin, the DOD official accused of giving secret material to Rosen and Weissman, is serving 12 years and 7 months in prison.

The absurdity is extraordinary. The two Israeli agents are not guilty of receiving secrets, but the American official is guilty of giving secrets to them! If there is no spy in the story, how was Franklin convicted of giving secrets to a spy?

Criminalizing criticism of Israel destroys any hope of America having an independent foreign policy in the Middle East that serves American rather than Israeli interests. It eliminates any prospect of Americans escaping from their enculturation with Israeli propaganda.

To keep American minds captive, the Lobby is working to ban as anti-semitic any truth or disagreeable fact that pertains to Israel. It is permissible to criticize every other country in the world, but it is anti-semitic to criticize Israel, and anti-semitism will soon be a universal hate-crime in the Western world.

Most of Europe has already criminalized doubting the Holocaust. It is a crime even to confirm that it happened but to conclude that less than 6 million Jews were murdered.

Why is the Holocaust a subject that is off limits to examination? How could a case buttressed by hard facts possibly be endangered by kooks and anti-semitics? Surely the case doesn’t need to be protected by thought control.

Imprisoning people for doubts is the antithesis of modernity.

more on the real international criminals

i posted some writings by ketih harmon snow a week or so ago on sudan, the congo, and rwanda while thinking through who counts as a war criminal in light of the international criminal court’s (icc) arrest warrant for omar al bashir. snow has a new piece in the san francisco bay view that is directly related to why the icc is after the wrong guy:

First note that the ICC can now be viewed as a tool of hegemonic U.S. foreign policy, where the weapons deployed by the U.S. and its allies include the accusations of, and indictments for, human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To understand this, we can ask why no white man has yet been charged with these or other offenses at the ICC – which now holds five Black African “warlords” and seeks to incarcerate and bring to trial another Black man, also an Arab, Omar Bashir.

Why hasn’t George W. Bush been indicted? Or what about Donald Rumsfeld? Dick Cheney? Henry Kissinger? Ehud Olmert? Tony Blair? Vadim Alperin? John Bredenkamp?

Following on the heals of the announcement that the ICC handed down seven war crimes charges against al-Bashir, a story broadcast over all the Western media system and into every American living room by day’s end, President al-Bashir ordered the expulsion of 10 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Darfur under the pretense of being purely “humanitarian” organizations.

What has not anywhere in the English press been reported is that the United States of America has just stepped up its ongoing war for control of Sudan and her resources: petroleum, copper, gold, uranium, fertile plantation lands for sugar and gum Arabic – essential to Coke, Pepsi and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. This war has been playing out on the ground in Darfur through so-called “humanitarian” NGOs, private military companies, “peacekeeping” operations and covert military operations backed by the U.S. and its closest allies.

However, the U.S. war for Sudan has always revolved around “humanitarian” operations – purportedly neutral and presumably concerned only about protecting innocent human lives – that often provide cover for clandestine destabilizing activities and interventions.

Americans need to recognize that the administration of President Barack Obama has begun to step up war for control of Sudan in keeping with the permanent warfare agenda of both Republicans and Democrats. The current destabilization of Sudan mirrors the illegal covert guerrilla war carried out in Rwanda – also launched and supplied from Uganda – from October 1990 to July 1994. The Rwandan Defense Forces (then called the Rwandan Patriotic Army) led by Major Gen. Paul Kagame achieved the U.S. objective of a coup d’etat in Rwanda through that campaign, and President Kagame has been a key interlocutor in the covert warfare underway in Darfur, Sudan.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the U.S. government was involved with the intelligence apparatus of the Government of Sudan (GoS). At the same time, other U.S. political and corporate factions were pressing for a declaration of genocide against the GoS.

Now, given the shift of power and the appointment of top Clinton officials formerly involved in covert operations in Rwanda, Uganda, Congo and Sudan during the Clinton years, pressure has been applied to heighten the campaign to destabilize the GoS, portrayed as a “terrorist” Arab regime, but an entity operating outside the U.S.-controlled banking system. The former campaign saw overt military action with the U.S. military missile attacks against the Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical factory in Sudan (1998): This was an international war crime by the Clinton administration and it involved officials now in power.

The complex geopolitical struggle to control Sudan manifests through the flashpoint war for Darfur and it involves such diverse factions as the Lord’s Resistance Army, backed by Khartoum, which is also connected to the wars in the Congo and northern Uganda. Chad is involved, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Germany, the Central African Republic, Libya, France, Israel, China, Taiwan, South Africa and Rwanda.

There are U.S. special forces on the ground in the frontline states of Chad, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the big questions are: 1) How many of the killings are being committed by U.S. proxy forces and blamed on al-Bashir and the GoS? And 2) who funds, arms and trains the rebel insurgents?

United States Agency for International Devastation

Rebels? Insurgents? The drumbeat of Western propaganda portrays the conflict as a one-sided affair: a “genocidal counter-insurgency by the GoS” – in the words of Eric Reeves – versus the good Samaritans of the “humanitarian” NGO community … and throw in a few (non-descript) rebels.

“Sudan ordered at least 10 humanitarian groups expelled from Darfur on Wednesday after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the country’s president,” wrote Associated Press reporter Ellen M. Lederer. “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the action ‘represents a serious setback to lifesaving operations in Darfur’ and urged Sudan to reverse its decision, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.”

However, when Ban Ki-moon met with Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame recently, he never called for Kagame’s arrest, no matter the findings of two international courts of law that have issued indictments against top RPA officials. Instead Ban Ki-moon praised Kagame and called for African countries to hunt down and arrest Hutu people purportedly involved in the now specious “genocide” in Rwanda in 1994.

The non-governmental aid groups ordered out of Darfur by President al-Bashir on March 4 were Oxfam, CARE, MSF-Holland, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, Action Contre la Faim, Solidarites and CHF International.

Of course, the Western media is all over the expulsion of any big “humanitarian” moneymaker from Darfur – the moral outrage is so thick you can almost wipe it. The NGOs and the press that peddles their images of suffering babes complain that hundreds of thousands of innocent refugees will now be subjected to massive unassisted suffering – as opposed to the assisted suffering they previously faced – but never asks with any serious and honest zeal, why and how the displaced persons and refugees came to be displaced or homeless to begin with. Neither do they ask about all the money, intelligence sharing, deal making and collaboration with private or governmental military agencies.

Large “humanitarian” NGOs (and “conservation” NGOs) operate as de facto multinational corporations revolving around massive private profits and human suffering. In places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Darfur these NGOs also provide infrastructure, logistical and intelligence collaboration that supports U.S. military and government agendas in the region. Most are aligned with big foundations, corporate sponsors and USAID – itself a close and long-time partner for interventions with Africom and the Pentagon.

Refugees and displaced populations are strategic tools of statecraft and foreign policy just as “humanitarian” NGOs consistently use food as a weapon and populations as human shields. The history of the U.S. covert war in South Sudan is rich with examples of the SPLA and its “humanitarian” partners, especially Christian “charities,” committing such war crimes and crimes against humanity. (See: Keith Harmon Snow, “Oil in Darfur? Special Ops in Somalia?” Global Research, Feb. 7, 2007.)

CARE International has received funding from Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest and most secretive producer of weapons of mass destruction, and both CARE and Save the Children are tied up with weapons and extractive industries in other ways. A peak at the board of directors of Save the Children makes it clear why the U.S. media is so devoid of truth about Darfur.

Similarly, the International Rescue Committee does not work with refugees, per se, but serves as a policy and pressure group involved in funneling private profits from the West back to the West. The IRC has also been cited for involvement in military operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and it has deep ties to people like Henry Kissinger.

The AID (read: misery) industry in Sudan was by the mid-1990s the largest so-called “humanitarian” enterprise on the planet, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) – a form of managed inequality and a temporary and mobile economy of white privilege, adventurism and, of course, good will (sic). The misery industry shifted its focus from South Sudan to Darfur after a pseudo peace “treaty” was organized to end the decades old war between the SPLA and GoS; the U.S. and Israel backed the SPLA from 1990 onward and continue to do so at present. The result of more than 12 years of illegal U.S. covert low-intensity warfare in Sudan resulted in the creation of the independent and sovereign state of South Sudan in circa 2005 – a state dominated by Jewish and Christian faith-based interests and Western multinational corporations.

Much of the AID infrastructure in Sudan has at one time or another been used as a weapon through the use of human shields, food deliveries to refugee populations inseparable from insurgents and shipments of weapons by “humanitarian” NGOs. This is both incidental and deliberate policy. Christian “relief” NGOs played a huge role in supporting the covert Western insurgency in South Sudan. One notable “humanitarian” NGO involved in weapons deliveries was the Norwegian People’s Aid (known affectionately in the field as the Norwegian People’s Army).

In Darfur, Sudan, the U.S. government agenda is to win control of natural resources and lever the Arab government into a corner and, at last, establish a more “friendly” government that will suit the corporate interests of the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and Israel.

Several major think tanks – read: propaganda, lobbying and pressure – behind the destabilization of Sudan include the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, Center for American Progress, Center for Security Policy, International Rescue Committee and International Crisis Group. Individuals from seemingly diverse positions of the political and ideological spectrum run these organizations, which are ultra-nationalist capitalist organizations bent on global military-economic domination.

The former Clinton officials most heavily focused on the destabilization of Sudan include Susan Rice, Madeleine Albright, Roger Winter, Prudence Bushnell, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, Anthony Lake and John Prendergast. Carr Center for Human Rights co-founder Samantha Power, now on the Obama National Security Council, has helped to whitewash clandestine U.S. involvement in Sudan.

John Prendergast has continued to peddle disinformation disguised as policy and human rights concerns through the International Crisis Group (ICG) and through its many clone organizations like ENOUGH, ONE and RAISE HOPE FOR CONGO. Prendergast has been a pivotal agent behind the hijacking of U.S. public concern and action through the disingenuous – and discredited – SAVE DARFUR movement.

Other notable agents of disinformation on Sudan include Alex de Waal and Smith College Professor Eric Reeves. It is through these and other conduits to the corporate U.S. media that the story of “genocide” in Sudan is cast as an Africa-Arab affair devoid of Western interests.

In 1992, human rights researchers Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal established the London-based NGO African Rights. In August 1995, African Rights published “Rwanda: Death, Despair and Defiance,” one of many pivotal “human rights” reports that falsely represented events in Rwanda, set the stage for victor’s justice at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, and began the process of dehumanizing millions of Hutu people and protecting the true terrorists: Yoweri Museveni, Paul Kagame, the Rwandan Patriotic Army and their Western backers.

the article is much longer and should be widely read, especially as he gets into various aspects of international and american complicity in sudan and the region more generally. and as referenced in the snow piece, sudan is hardly the only country the u.s. is complicit in not only creating massive war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also in blaming their proxies, letting them take the fall. there was a demonstration this week in washington dc calling for hands off sudan–here is the crux of what the demonstrators were asking for:

A true solution to the crisis cannot come from the imperialist nations who seek only to exploit the Sudanese land and people. It must come from the people of the region who have the right to determine their future without the interference of the former colonizing powers. Hands off Sudan!

but it is not just in sudan that we need to halt american imperial interests. in the congo this is true too, though in different ways. ann garrison, also writing in the san francisco bay view this week offers somewhat of a blueprint on why we should act and what we should do to stop the u.s. involvement in the congo:

The stakes in the Congo War are enormously high. They include:

1) War itself, because, again, the Congo war is, above all, a war for cobalt, the mineral most essential to the manufacture of modern weapons of war. Cobalt is required to build jet fighter bomber engines, missiles, including nuclear missiles, battleships, including our nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, and virtually all modern industrially manufactured weapons of war, except perhaps biological and chemical weapons.

Cobalt is essential to the manufacture of anything requiring high grade steel.

Shocks in cobalt’s supply and price during the 1970s and early ‘80s led to a 1982 Congressional Budget Office document warning that the U.S. would have to be prepared to go to war to secure cobalt reserves so as to secure the power to manufacture for war, especially in time of war.

2) An ongoing African holocaust, the systematic destruction of the Congolese people. Six million have died, according to widely acknowledged sources including the International Relief Commission and the U.N. Forty-five thousand Congolese continue to die every month, with no end in sight; many die in refugee camps of starvation and easily curable disease, and one third of these are children.

3) Barack Obama’s legacy, and our legacy, as the Americans who elected him. Will our legacy be an ongoing African holocaust, another 6 million African Congolese lives? Will it be the expansion of Africom, the U.S. Africa Command, throughout Africa and the further plundering of Africa’s resources?

Some, including Black Agenda Report editor Glen Ford, say that Barack Obama is “U.S. corporate empire in Black face” or that corporate America desperately needed a Black face now. This is arguable, especially given that, in 2007, Africa surpassed the U.S. wartorn Middle East as a source of U.S. oil imports.

However, though huge corporations generously filled Obama’s campaign coffers, so did many everyday Americans, who also organized and rallied for Obama with high hopes of peace and change. Many now at least seem to have a place at the table that they didn’t have before.

garrison offers various things you can do, but the last one is the one that i think is the most important:

4) Call on Barack Obama to close the U.S. military base in Kigali, Rwanda, and end all U.S. military support to its authoritarian African puppet regimes, including those of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame and now Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

to be sure more activism and pressure needs to be put on the u.s. not on african leaders. as i have said before, we need to get to the root of the problem and the root is clearly american imperialism. and it is not only in africa, of course. it is also in iraq and afghanistan. jeremy scahill asks some important questions on alternet about the ways in which obama is funding mercenaries like blackwater, which is one of the u.s. imperial arms:

For those already outraged at the AIG bonus scandal, here is a fact that should add more fuel to the fire: The Obama administration has paid the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater nearly $70 million to operate in Iraq and, according to The Washington Times, may keep the company on the payroll months past the official expiration of its Iraq contract in May. I reviewed Blackwater’s recent transactions with the Obama State Department and discovered a $45 million payment to Blackwater on February 4, 2009 for “protective services-Iraq.” It is described as a “funding action only.” Here is the interesting part: The estimated “Ultimate Completion Date” is 5/07/2011.

The Washington Times (as described below) reported on a $22 million payment to Blackwater on February 2. Combined with the $45 million payment I discovered, that’s nearly $67 million in 72 hours. Not bad for a company supposedly going down in flames.

With the U.S. economy in shambles and millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet and keep their homes, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton need to explain to U.S. taxpayers how they justify these mega-payments to a scandal-plagued mercenary company. (At the very least, someone should ask Robert Gibbs about it).

george bush’s recent trip to canada seems to have proved unsuccessful in terms of arresting him for beginning and continuing some of these american war crimes. but the problem is that those imperial war crimes that the u.s. foments in africa are always left off the list. americans, canadians, etc. always want to protest iraq and afghanistan as if it is disconnected from the u.s. so-called “war on terror” that it claims it is fighting in africa (read: theft of natural resources among other things). in any case, it seems canadians offered some decent protesting, though it would have nicer if someone arrested him…:

Welcoming Bush to Calgary will be a rally and protest, the culmination of a week-long campaign organized by The People vs. Bush, a committee of peace, labor, social justice and environmental groups. The events also included a mock war crimes trial on Saturday (Bush was convicted), and a public forum outlining the case for investigation and prosecution.

Ahead of the visit, a group called Lawyers Against the War sent a letter to the RCMP war crimes section requesting the police force bar Bush from entering Canada, citing torture and other war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay committed under his watch.

“We are now very sure that the crimes were committed,” said Gail Davidson, author of the letter and co-founder of the Canadian-based international organization of jurists. “The Bush administration planned, authorized, directed and funded those crimes.”

and it seems that canadians threw their shoes at bush, though like muntadher al zaidi, they missed:

Three Canadians were arrested and others threw shoes in protest against George W. Bush on Tuesday when he gave his first post-presidential speech in western Canada’s oil patch.

The footwear was tossed at an effigy of the 43rd US president outside a Calgary conference center where Bush was to speak to some 1,500 people at a luncheon, said Colette Lemieux of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

no one was arrested, but i wonder when the real criminals will be behind bars so we can free the current prisoners. everywhere. whether they are imprisoned by colonialism and imperialism or by racism and hegemony.

on the west wing

barack-obama-new-direction-fish Some months ago I came across an article in the Guardian that suggested some uncanny similarities between the fictional drama The West Wing and the Barack Obama election campaign. In the article it was noted that there was some synergy between the writers of the show and real-life political actors:

For what those West Wing fans stunned by the similarity between the fictitious Matthew Santos and the real-life Barack Obama have not known is that the resemblance is no coincidence. When the West Wing scriptwriters first devised their fictitious presidential candidate in the late summer of 2004, they modelled him in part on a young Illinois politician – not yet even a US senator – by the name of Barack Obama.

“I drew inspiration from him in drawing this character,” West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie told the Guardian. “When I had to write, Obama was just appearing on the national scene. He had done a great speech at the convention [which nominated John Kerry] and people were beginning to talk about him.”

Attie, who served as chief speechwriter to Al Gore during the ill-fated 2000 campaign and who wrote many of the key Santos episodes of the West Wing, put in a call to Obama aide David Axelrod.

There have been a number of other articles detailing the relationship between this television drama and real life of late. Some of them showing life imitating art and the vice versa. Here are a few examples:

The former and likely future president were introduced to the crowd by the actor Jimmy Smits, who played a successful ethnic minority candidate, a Latino, in TV show The West Wing. His character, the Democratic Texas congressman Matthew Santos, upset the odds by beating an older Republican senator to the White House. Obama thanked Smits from the podium, describing him as the “the most recent Democratic president”.

So what of the denouement? How did the fictional battle end? It was close, much closer than current polls predict for the 2008 race. There was talk of legal challenges to the tightest results and the entire election came down to two small states out west, Nevada and Oregon. But, at long last, both those states went for Santos – and the young challenger, whose bid for the White House once seemed impossible, ended election night as president-elect.

Is that how the real story will end next Tuesday? So far The West Wing has got so much right, even the show’s own writers say it’s “creepy”. Those writers did finally give their viewers a happy ending. There are many millions around the world who hope that, next week, the US electorate will do the same.

As President Bush did during the bailout talks, Jed Bartlet, the Democratic “West Wing” president played by Martin Sheen, brings both candidates to the White House for a briefing. Facing the prospect of deploying 150,000 American soldiers to Kazakhstan three weeks before the election, Vinick grumbles, “I can say goodbye to my tax cut.” He tells Santos, “Your education plan’s certainly off the table.”

Santos emerges victorious weeks later, but only after a grueling election night. Online, some “West Wing” fans are wondering whether the show will wind up forecasting the real-life result as well. In Britain, where the series remains popular in syndication, a recent headline on a blog carried by the newspaper The Telegraph declared: “Barack Obama will win: It’s all in ‘The West Wing.’ ”

Running against Matt Santos in The West Wing‘s election was Arnold Vinick. More by coincidence than design, he bears a striking similarity to John McCain. Played by Alan Alda, Vinick is a veteran Republican from out west, wise in the ways of Washington. A maverick on some issues, he is attractive to those in the centre ground.

“The McCain candidacy is very similar to the Vinick candidacy,” says Lawrence O’Donnell, who wrote the character. “They are good at appealing outside their own party. And that is actually one of their problems, within their own party, of Republicans not believing that they were Republican enough.”

Get ready for a new season of The West Wing. Right now we have two scripts ready and either would be a cracker. Want a pretty vice-president stopping traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue when she visits the boss? Or a black president with an equally stunning wife?

Addicts of the television series may ache to get more of Allison Janney and Richard Schiff scrambling to keep their commander-in-chief out of the political soup, but they were just actors, of course. But life in the real West Wing can be every bit as unhinged, emotional and exhausting. Just ask George Bush and Karl Rove. Or Dick Cheney and Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Even one of the actors on The West Wing, Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, drew a parallel:

What’s next President Bartlett on The West Wing often said that. Usually at the end of an episode when a thing had been solved or resolved or lost or won and it was, whatever the case, time to move on. We sometimes had spiralling crane shots from above pulling up and away as the mere mortals of government left below continued on their silly work.

There is even a video that altered the opening theme of the West Wing to show a cast of characters of the Obama campaign:

Most of these articles focus on the final two seasons of The West Wing. But because the focus is on the election campaign represented in those episodes there are other elements that get left out–perhaps the scariest form of life-imitating-art-imitating life is in this bizarre coincidence:

It was Oscar Wilde who said that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”. History has vindicated Wildean wisdom. This week, the election of Barack Obama as US president has prompted many to talk about the prescience of The West Wing in scripting a charismatic, idealistic, minority Democratic presidential nominee trumping an experienced Republican maverick. Now Rahm Emanuel, the man who inspired the character of Josh Lyman, has been appointed White House chief of staff.

Like the president-elect, Emanuel is a Chicago native with a strong connection to the city’s political elite. Both have inspired characters on the television series The West Wing, with Emanuel providing the model for wunderkind aide Josh Lyman.

So what does Josh Lyman, played by Bradley Whitford, have to say about Palestine in the episodes? Well, there was a four-episode arc over the course of season five and six (all aired originally in 2004) that detailed the conflict between Palestinians and their Israeli occupiers. And there are a number of dialogues that are revealing of American points of view more generally in the sense of how entrenched Zionism is in U.S. foreign policy, but there are notable differences as well. The arc begins with an episode called “Gaza” in which three Congressmen head to Gaza for a fact-finding mission on which Donna Moss, Josh’s secretary accompanies them. She befriends an Irish photojournalist there who takes her to see “both sides” of the situation–illegal Israeli settlers (of course, not called illegal in the episode) and Palestinians living under occupation. The opening dialogue of this episode–set at a checkpoint that is supposed to resemble Erez, though from what I’ve seen on the other side it looks nothing like the monstrosity that is Erez–reveals the general callousness towards Palestinian refugees’ right to return in general, in spite of the lone American defending their rights:

Congressman DeSantos: “They’re a displaced population.”
Congressman Korb: “Displaced?! Palestinians moved what 15-20 miles? You ever move? I grew up in Dayton.”
Congressman DeSantos: “They’re still refugees.”
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: “You know, after 50 years one option might be to get over it.”

Apparently, Congressman Korb doesn’t know the difference between making a choice to move somewhere new and doing so at the barrel of a gun. I guess by his logic Palestinian refugees made a “choice”; it was a choice between massacre or “moving” as he calls it. Shortly thereafter we witness the black Suburban carrying these men blow up in a car bomb and Donna is injured.

The episode does not move in a linear fashion and therefore we instantly move back in time to various moments over the past few days, moving up to the present moment of the bomb that completes the cycle. So we hear Donna narrating her emails to her boss Josh, which we later learn he is completely unable to listen to as you will later see. In one such email she explains how Palestinians in Gaza are provoked:

“These incursions are designed as provocations. Tanks roll in. This naturally excites resistance which then is used as a pretext for armed assault.”

But this is 2004–one year prior to Ariel Sharon’s unilateral pullout and subsequent and total siege of Gaza–so she pays far more attention to the points of view of illegal Israeli settlers in Gaza. And we never see her visiting one of the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza.

After the bomb we see various scenes in the White House–in offices, in the Situation Room, where the fictional President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, discusses his options, many of which are military in nature. In all of these conversations anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic rhetoric dominates, although there is usually one lone voice of “moderation” represented in one or two characters. Here is one of those discussions among the fictional President’s staff:

Will: “What’s going to be our response?”

Leo: “What do you think it should be?”

Will: “Regime change.”

CJ: “Take out the Chairman?”


Will: “He’s the impediment.”

Toby: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Leo: “Abba Ebban’s line.”

CJ: “The guy in Tel Aviv’s no picnic either.”

Leo: “The State’s convinced that nothing can happen until these two guys are gone.”

Will: “Israel’s not the problem.”

CJ: “Settlements, the Wall.”

Charlie: “Israel didn’t just blow Americans up.”

CJ: “I’m not saying there’s equivalence.”

Will: “Israelis don’t talk about driving Palestinians into the sea.”

Kate: “Some do.”

Will: “Oh, come on!”

CJ: “You never heard the phrase, ‘Greater Israel’?”

Leo: “Not from anyone serious.”

Kate: “One reason people say nothing can happen until these guys are gone is the feeling that both maybe stuck in old attitudes or assumptions. There was a time when Palestinians and all Arabs wanted to drive Jews into the sea, but some would argue that that time’s past.”

Will: “Listen to some Arab broadcasts.”

CJ: “Rabble rousing to distract their street.”

Kate: “I don’t think any truly credible Arab leader expects Israel’s demise anymore. Not even the Chairman.”

Leo: “Don’t bet on it.”

Kate: “Well, there’s a view that–”

Will: “Don’t keep saying some argue and there’s a view. Can we keep it restricted to your view?”

Kate: “Okay. Palestinians are no longer fighting to destroy the Jewish state. They’re fighting for a state of their own. A revolutionary struggle against an occupying force. And revolutionaries will outlast and out die occupiers every time.”

Will: “I don’t know if that’s simplistic or naive.”

Toby: “It’s tribal. It can’t be solved. It’s Hatfield and McCoy. There is no end.”

Aside from the cliche phrases such as the “Arab street” and the ridiculous perpetuation of the mythology about Palestinians missing opportunities, we do hear moderation in the voices of Kate and CJ. But they are discounted by the more domineering older and white male voices in the room. Of course absent Palestinian refugees in this conversation we hear nothing about the facts of Palestinian refugees being driven into the sea. Indeed, how do you think that Palestinians from Yaffa, Haifa, Akka, and many other coastal cities fled their homes and homeland between 1947-1948? In ships. In the sea. That’s how many of them got to Lebanon where they remain in Palestinian refugee camps until today.

The second episode of this arc, entitled “Memorial Day” was the cliffhanger for season five. There are funerals for the Americans and there are conversations between President Bartlett and a character called Chairman Nizar Farad (a sort of Yassir ‘Arafat character who is constantly called a “terrorist” by many characters on the program) played by Makram Khoury as well as with the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Shira Galit played by Natalia Nogulich. There are also the quotidian bombings of Gaza by the Israeli Terrorist Forces (though of course named with the official oxymoron Israeli Defense Forces). And, here art also imitates life when the episode tells–though not shows–the siege of Farad’s compound in Ramallah by the ITF. We see Bartlet weight the decision to send FA-18s to drop surface-to-air guided missiles into Gaza and weighing the possibility of anywhere between 15-50 civilian murders as retribution for the 3 Americans who died (because American lives are always more important than Palestinian lives). The American military personnel advising Bartlet want him to not only bomb Gaza but also a Palestinian refugee camp (and they have constant slippage here between a refugee camp and “terrorist training camp” in Syria they call Ein Hawa–is this supposed to be an allusion to Ein el Helwah refugee camp in Lebanon?) and Iran to boot.

The push and pull of this episode and the one that follows–the first of season six called “NSF Thurmont”–is weighing the choice of holding peace talks and bombing Palestinians. In one conversation among staffers about learning that there may be renewed peace talks we hear the usual Zionist mythology thinly alluded to as “Barak’s generous offer”:

Will: “The Israelis won’t get in a room with Farad again. I’m surprised the Prime Minister hasn’t already said so in about three different languages.”

CJ: “The President asked him not to.”

Will: “Farad doesn’t want a deal. Last time Israel offered up Gaza, 96% of the West Bank, half of Jerusalem, sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and the lead role in the Temple Beth-El Purim play. Farad walked way.”

But as Ali Abunimah makes clear in his important book One Country, “President Clinton and the Israeli government made a calculated decision and embarked on an orchestrated media campaign to blame the Palestinians generally and Arafat personally for the summit’s failure” (68). Abunimah, in contradistinction to the American media, sets the record straight about what actually happened there by quoting Robert Malley, a member of Clinton’s team at Camp David:

The Palestinians were arguing for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, living alongside Israel. They accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory to accommodate settlement blocs. They accepted the principle of Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem–neighborhoods that were not part of Israel before the Six Day War in 1967. And, while they insisted on recognition of refugees’ right of return, they agreed that it should be implemented in a manner that protected Israel’s demographic and security interests by limiting the number of returnees. No other Arab party that has negotiated with Israel–not Anwar el-Sadat’s Egypt, not King Hussein’s Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Asad’s Syria–ever came close to even considering such compromises. (68-69)

Further, Abunimah tells us that the Israelis presented the same old map that gave Palestinians a “‘state’ in 76.6 percent of the West Bank, broken into pieces, with all the major settlements remaining in place under Israeli sovereignty” (69). And they made a counteroffer, which Barak rejected (notice how Americans all remember ‘Arafat rejecting it?). Abunimah explains:

In response to Israel’s map, the Palestinian team presented its own map that allowed 30 to 35 percent of the settlers to remain on 2.5 percent of the West Bank, which Israel could annex. the Israelis rejected this outright and came back with a counterproposal in which they increased their offer from 76.6 percent to 77.2 percent and insisted that at least 80 percent of the settlers remain in place. A senior Clinton adviser commented that Israelis were attempting to execute a ‘land grab.’ Israel also insisted on permanent control of Palestinian airspace and a long list of onerous ‘security’ arrangements that would rob the Palestinian state of any real independence from Israel and introduce enormous opportunities for delay and backsliding as had happened with the Oslo Accords. Israel’s proposals at Camp David barely deviated from the basic premises of the 1976 Allon plan” (70).

This mythology has rarely been corrected in the halls of Congress let alone the American media. And it informs far too many decisions as well as American preconceived notions about Palestinians. Some of those feelings are expressed in the West Wing as per the conversation above. And most characters, like most Americans, are far too quick to equate Palestinian with terrorist as we see the Josh Lyman character (you know–the one based on Rahm Israel Emanuel) in this conversation in a hospital waiting room in Germany where he argues with Donna’s new boyfriend, an Irish photojournalist:

Colin: “The Israelis are never going to meet with Farad. Why should they? They’ve got him surrounded in the West Bank. What’s Bartlet think they’re going to do? Knock on the door of his compound and say, ‘I’m so sorry about the tanks and stuff, but would you like to pop over to America and nice wee chat and sort this out.”

Josh: “Where are you from?”

Colin: “Belfast.”

Josh: “Yeah, you guys are really the model of how to work things out over there.”

Colin: “Yeah, we are actually.”

Josh: “The Israelis have every right to protect themselves from terrorists.”

Colin: “They’re an occupying force oppressing a people fighting for self rule.”

Josh: “They’re citizen-soldiers trying to keep their sisters from getting blown up on a bus.”

Colin: “You Jewish?”

Josh: “Why are you anti-Semitic?”

Colin: “Anyone who thinks the Palestinians have a point is anti-Semitic.”

Josh: “And anyone who thinks that Jews don’t after being chased and exiled and persecuted for centuries is either an idiot or a fool or probably both.”

This knee-jerk rush to equate Palestinians with terrorists and those who support Palestinians as anti-Semitic is disturbing here to say the least. But Colin’s curiosity about Josh’s religion is misguided, mostly because Josh’s point of view is just as much American as it is Jewish. But in spite of the majority of Bartlet’s staff preferring bombing Palestinians and Iranians and Syrians over peace talks, he manages to persevere and everyone in the White House finds themselves at Camp David by the end of this episode. Of course, as they begin their first meeting there Bartlet tells everyone he bombed the Ein Hawa camp in Syria–great way to start talking about peace?

The conversation between Ambassador Shira and Chairman Farad is particularly revealing on Palestinian refugees which takes place as the “peace process” continues in the final episode of the arc called “Birnam Wood”:

Farad: “A million Palestinians were expelled from their homes.”

Shira: “Closer to 700,000. And they weren’t expelled. They left after being urged by Arabs.”

Farad: “We were being terrorized by Zionist troops who were threatening to torch every Arab village in the Galilee.”

Shira: “If you had accepted the partition plan in 47 not a single would have become a refugee.”

Kate: “I’m sorry, if I might interrupt.”

Farad: “Palestinians were being massacred. Even Israeli historians admit this.”

Shira: “It was war. Only three years after the Holocaust. If we would have lost there wold have been another wholesale slaughter of Jews.”

Kate: “Mr. Chairman, Madame Ambassador, excuse me. It may be more productive to turn our attention to current problems rather than the events of 50 years ago.”

Farad: “If there is room for a million Russian Jews in Israel, why isn’t there room for Palestinians who simply wish to go home?”

Shira: “The Palestinians only became refugees when our Arab neighbors refused to accept them. 800,000 Jews were similarly expelled from Arab nations. 600,000 were resettled in Israel without compensation from Arab countries.”

Kate: “Madame Ambassador, you bring up the issue of compensation. Would Israel be prepared–”

Farad: “We are not asking for money. We want the right of return.”

Shira: “We can’t allow 3 million refugees the right to freely reenter.”

Farad: “Of course not. Since the 19th century Zionist leaders have advocated a transfer of Arabs out of Palestine.”

Shira: “We cannot accept a right of unlimited immigration.”

Kate: “Perhaps we should take a break.”

Shira: “If the Arab population had not been uprooted, no Jewish state could have arisen.”

Farad: “So it was alright for Palestine to be cleansed of its Native population to establish a Jewish state? We are prepared to sacrifice, but not to formalize our dispossession.”

Kate is supposed to be the “moderate” and “balanced” character here, though she isn’t if you really examine how she attempts to shut down important, though difficult, conversations. The battle here, as it often is, is over semantics. The Zionists are, as usual, trying to propagate their mythology that Palestinians “left” their homes even though this myth has been refuted by numerous historians as Farad points out. But Farad fails to point out other myths–like most of the Russian immigrants are actually Christian–probably because there was an American writing this script. But rather than get into the real historical arguments about 1948 and an nakba and its corollary the right of return, the Americans cut them off. Still, the Zionists get tripped up by their own language as when Shira says that they can’t allow them to “re-enter,” clearly indicating that they were originally there to begin with. And, too, as the conversation makes clear to me–though I wonder if it makes clear to the average American viewer–ethnic cleansing was necessary to create a Jewish state. With all the talk about Nazi Germany–which does get brought up ad nauseum in the episode as one might expect–no one seems to ask the question about these war crimes committed by Jewish terrorists like those in Irgun (read: Benjamin Emanuel, Rahm Israel Emanuel’s father). I refuted much of this propaganda in an earlier post if you want to weigh the propaganda versus the historical record.

While it may be true that some Americans watching this start to “get it” and understand that the real problem is not fighting for a state per se, but rather fighting to get Palestinian land back so that Palestinians can finally exercise their right of return, all of that seems to be elided by the Americans doing their best to persuade the Palestinians to consistently give up their rights. Throughout these two episodes on the “peace talks” we see Palestinians giving up more and more and Israelis constantly walking away from the table, refusing to even discuss concessions. Here is one example of this when Kate has a discussion with Farad that we are later told gets him to concede on the right of return:

Kate: “Mr. Chairmain I know how difficult it would be for you to even appear to be abandoning your principles, but it’s just not reasonable to ask the Israelis to allow an unlimited number of refugees to return.”

Farad: “I was born in the city of Safad. Do you know Safad? It’s in the mountains of the upper Galilee. I was eight years old when the British left. There were 52,000 Arabs in Safad. And only 1,300 Jews. Within a month the Hagana had taken over the city. My elder sister Amira was killed. The body of my brother Aziz was found hanging from a burned Cyprus tree. We fled to Syria, lived in tents, ate United Nations handouts and surplus American cheese. I still remember the view of the valley from the roof of our house. The smell of the pomegranates. The sound of children playing in our orchard. The home of my father, my aunts, my uncles they are now art galleries and bed and breakfasts. Will I get to go home, Ms. Harper?”

Kate: “No, sir, probably not. But is that worth not having any home at all?”

We don’t get the entire story of Safad here, but Safad, like all Palestinian towns and villages during the process of Jewish Zionists ethnically cleansing the land of Palestinians, Safad was attacked by Palestinian terrorists. There were several such organizations–not only Irgun. In Safad it was the Jewish terrorist gangs of Palmach and Hagana that forced the Palestinians to leave according to Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine:

In Safad there were 9500 Arabs and 2400 Jews. Most of the Jews were Ultra-Orthodox and had no interest at all in Zionism, let alone in fighting their Arab neighbors. This, and the relatively gradual way the Jewish takeover developed, may have given the eleven members of the local national committee the illusion that they would fare better than other urban centres. The committee was a fairly representative body that included the town’s notables, ulama (religious dignitaries), merchants, landowners and ex-activists from the 1936 Revolt, of which Safad had been a major centre. The false sense of security was reinforced by the relatively large presence of Arab volunteers in Safad, totaling more than 400, although only half of them were armed with rifles. Skirmishes in the town had begun in early January, triggered by an aggressive reconnaissance incursion by some Hagana members into the Palestinian neighborhoods and market. A charismatic Syrian officer, Ihasn Qam Ulmaz, held the defences against repeated attacks by the Hagana’s commando unit, the Palmach.

At first , these Palmach attacks were sporadic and ineffective, as its units focused their actions on the rural area around the town. But once they were through with the villages in Safad’s vicinity (described later in this chapter) they could concentrate fully on the town itself, on 29 April 1948. Unfortunately, for the people of Safad, at precisely the moment they needed him most, they lost the able Ulmaz. The volunteers army’s new commander in the Galilee, Adib Shishakly (to become one of Syria’s rulers in the 1950s) replaced him with one of the ALA’s more incompetent officers. However, it is doubtful whether even Ulmaz would have fared better in view of the imbalance of power: 1000 well-trained Palmach troops confronting 400 Arab volunteers, one of many local imbalances that show the falsity of the myth of a Jewish David facing an Arab Goliath in 1948. (97)

This historical reality–had it entered into the television show or even into real so-called peace negotiations–and so many others like it should wake people up to the fact that the fight is against a colonial rule which has no legitimacy.

Even when we see side conversations at Camp David among characters about the situation we see the racism emanating even among those who are think themselves “balanced” on the subject:

Josh: “He’s not gonna do it. Farad’s elevated being a victim into an art form. What?”

Toby: “Nothing.”

Josh: “Come on, you’re not starting to buy what he’s selling, too? He’s a terrorist.”

Toby: “With some legitimate grievances.”

Josh: “Please.”

Toby: “What? Now suddenly you’re Jewish? I don’t remember seeing you at temple.”

Josh: “1938 millions of men, women, and children were running for their lives from gas chambers in any country that would take them. And nobody would. Including America.”

Toby: “So they settled in the middle of a region that still believes in public stonings and harems? Palestinians are the Jews of the Arab world.”

Josh: “Even with the bombs Israel is the one place it’s okay to be Jewish.”

Toby: “And here.”

Josh: “German Jews in the 20s were mighty comfortable.”

Toby: “This isn’t Germany. This is America.”

Josh: “Home of the KKK.”

Toby: “Where you and I work in the White House to make sure the Justice Department rips their Jew-hating hoods off.”

As the quote from Pappe makes clear above–it is the Zionist Jews who are to blame for most of this. Josh fills in that gap a bit by acknowledging that if the U.S., among other countries, had let Jews in after World War II, much of this colonial history might have been eliminated. But the racism here–that it is the Palestinians who play the victim (what do you call shouting anti-Semitism every time someone cites a historical fact that shatters Zionist colonial mythology?) or Toby’s remark about all Arabs/Muslims/Palestinians which totally undercuts his remark about Palestinians being the real victims here–undercuts the larger argument while also showing what typical Americans under the influence of Zionism think.

In the end, the peace agreement is reached–or a “tentative” one as they name it. How do they surpass all the huge barriers, aside from bullying Palestinians to concede on every important issue? By promising to remove Israeli soldiers and replace them with American soldiers. What I want to know is this: why don’t we ever see Americans threatening Israelis with a full removal of this obscene amount of economic and military aid? Why isn’t that the thing that is used as a leverage point? Instead, this fictional show thinks the solution to the problem is to create an American occupation of Palestine complete. People here already are far too aware that Israel and the U.S. are one in the same when it comes to the occupation of Palestine. We all see the planes, the bullets, the military materiel. I’ve even posted a photograph of the boxes of those American-made shipments when we were under siege in Deheishe refugee camp last summer.

So does life imitate art or is it the other way around? Here are a couple of clips of Rahm Emanuel speaking, which I think are revealing. The first is a clip in which is notable for the way he says USIsrael as if it is one word. He literally collapses the two. The second is a speech he gave at a Seattle synagogue about Obama.

Interestingly, in that second clip Emanuel says that neither Bush nor McCain has been as good a friend to Israel as Obama would be (this is pre-election). Scary to think of that considering what Gideon Levy says in Ha’aretz today about what such a friendship with Bush has meant to the Zionist state: (thanks Tamara)

When we say that someone is a “friend of Israel” we mean a friend of the occupation, a believer in Israel’s self-armament, a fan of its language of strength and a supporter of all its regional delusions. When we say someone is a “friend of Israel” we mean someone who will give Israel a carte blanche for any violent adventure it desires, for rejecting peace and for building in the territories.

Israel’s greatest friend in the White House, outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush, was someone like that. There is no other country where this man, who brought a string of disasters down upon his own nation and the world, would receive any degree of prestige and respect. Only in Israel.

Only in Israel does the prime minister place George Bush’s portrait in his den, in his private home. Only in Israel does the prime minister travel to visit him in the White House.

That’s because Bush was a friend of Israel. Israel’s greatest friend. Bush let it embark on an unnecessary war in Lebanon. He did not prevent the construction of a single outpost. He may have encouraged Israel, in secret, to bomb Iran. He did not pressure Israel to move ahead with peace talks, he even held up negotiations with Syria, and he did not reproach Israel for its policy of targeted killings.

With friends like these…

time to analyze, mobilize, and organize

When I spoke with my students about the election this week one woman asked me, why did the Americans emphasize Barak Hussein Obama’s middle name so much–in an attempt to scare Americans into thinking he’s Muslim–when his first name is a Jewish one? Indeed. Those of us familiar with the work of Ehud Barak (it’s transliterated from the Hebrew in either case hence the different spellings) in carrying out his lethal siege in Gaza of late know all too well where this name comes from:

After the Israeli army carried its recent offensive against the Gaza Strip, killing seven Palestinians in one day, several resistance groups retaliated by firing a barrage of homemade shells against the Western Negev, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak vowed further military offensives against the Gaza Strip.

And perhaps both Bara(c)ks are in good company. Clearly Obama made a decision to side with hardliners like the one in the Zionist state who terrorizes Palestinians every day and who promises more of the same. But I hadn’t known the origin of the name and found Juan Cole offering a useful definition of it as well as an interesting commentary on presidential names as derived from Semitic languages more generally:

Barack is a Semitic word meaning “to bless” as a verb or “blessing” as a noun. In its Hebrew form, barak, it is found all through the Bible. It first occurs in Genesis 1:22: “And God blessed (ḇāreḵə ) them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”

Or, perhaps we can ask the question: why is it that while the media loved to harp on Obama’s middle name throughout the campaign in order to foment Islamophobia that they are largely excluding Rahm Israel Emanuel’s middle name when discussing his new position as White House Chief of Staff? Curious. No, not really.

But Emanuel continues to be a dangerous pick and as Ali Abunimah mentioned in the article I posted earlier today, he signals a more hardlined approach than George Bush especially when it comes to Palestine. Someone commented on Facebook and on my post that he didn’t serve in the army because he didn’t participate in combat. Here is what the Telegraph has to say about his “service” in the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF):

He took a break from politics during the 1991 Gulf War, volunteering as a mechanic on an army base in Israel. It was on his return that he joined the presidential primary campaign of Bill Clinton, then the Governor of Arkansas. It was to prove the move that launched his national political career.

From my point of view the fact that he 1) volunteered to serve the ITF and 2) that he did indeed serve them demonstrates where his commitments lie. Whatever daily war crimes were carried out during that time period he is complicit in. He facilitated the ITF in carrying out whatever missions they carried out in his work as a mechanic. That work likely enabled more tanks and jeeps to invade, kidnap, and murder Palestinians every day. Who do you think repaired the vehicle that came into Nablus today to kidnap a Palestinian?:

Undercover Israeli forces seized on Thursday an Islamic Jihad activist from a city street in Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

Eighteen-year-old Suhieb Al-Kharaz told Ma’an about the abduction of the man, who is his uncle.

“Undercover Israeli forces who were riding in a civilian vehicle loaded with furniture had stopped in front of a grocery which belongs to the Al-Kharaz family and arrested my uncle Mohammad Ziad Makawi Al-Kharaz, who is 42 years old, and withdrew shortly after without shooting.”

Moreover, would Obama appoint, say, a Pakistani American to such a position if that person had served in the Pakistani army?

Emanuel’s father, member of the Jewish Irgun terrorist organization, had this promise to make this morning in response to his son’s acceptance of the appointment:

Emanuel has close ties to Israel. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, his father, Dr Benjamin Emanuel said the appointment would be a boon to the Jewish state.

“Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” Dr. Emanuel said in the interview. He said that his son visits Tel Aviv most summers.

Moreover, for those myopic Americans who care only about domestic issues, Emanuel will not bode well for things like the economy, something many Americans reported as the driving factor in their choice of Obama in the voting booth:

Unfortunately, Emanuel is a militant advocate for free-trade policies; he was a point man in the White House in the fight to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar deals that have been passionately opposed by the very labor, environmental and farm groups that were essential players in electing Obama. When he ran for Congress in 2002, major unions supported his Democratic primary opponent, former Illinois State Representative Nancy Kaszak.

Picking Emanuel would reassure Wall Street, but it won’t give much comfort to Main Street.

I don’t know enough about David Axelrod, Obama’s choice for his Senior Adviser, but if the rule of thumb that was applied to Obama throughout the campaign (i.e., guilt by association) is any indication it does not bode well:

Despite their very, uh, different personalities, Obama and Emanuel have one big thing in common: David Axelrod. Emanuel is one of Axelrod’s closest friends; Axelrod even signed the ketubah at Emanuel’s wedding.

And, like with Emanuel, it seems there are questions about Axelrod related to the economy:

Open question: What cut of $700 million did Axelrod & Co. take home? Hard to argue they didn’t earn the cut — whatever it is — but the figure could well be obscene.

There is more on Axelrod in this Alternet piece, though nothing clearly linking his beliefs or practices to the Zionist state. Yet anyway. That remains to be seen.

All of this has been tremendously disappointing and depressing to say the least. But listening to dear Nora’s always fabulous reporting on her Flashpoints show yesterday lifted my spirits tremendously because she played a song by a hip hop group that I had not yet heard of–the Welfare Poets–and the song she played is incredible. Here is the video of their song that she played, “Let it Be Known,” which features one of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons at the end. I must say every time I hear him preach it makes me want to join his church. He is brilliant, inspiring, gifted.

By today there was also some good dialogue and discussion about what a President Obama will mean for the U.S. and for the rest of the world. On The Real News there is a good discussion with Bill Fletcher, Ralph Nader, and Tom Morris that has some useful strategies for organizers to keep them from falling in the trap of merely looking at Obama as a messianic figure. (Thanks Rania for sending me that!) And the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation today sent out an email asking people to do exactly what grassroots organizers must do right now–what Bill Fletcher says we should do right now: organize! For those who live in the U.S. here is what they are doing and a link to how you can get involved:

Tuesday’s election of Barack Obama as president showed how far we’ve come in this country since the days of Jim Crow, but we still have a long way to go to win ethnic equality in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That’s why our first-ever national speaking tour, Separate Is Never Equal: Stories of Apartheid from South Africa and Palestine will focus on ending Israel’s racist hafradah (separation) policies.

Even though Tuesday’s election was a clear mandate against Bush’s failed foreign policies of militarism and imperialism, we don’t expect to win our fight for human rights and the application of international law on inauguration day.

At the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we understand that politicians are often the last ones to get it. Policy change is always preceded by popular education and grassroots organizing. That’s why, together with Diana Buttu, a former legal advisor and spokesperson for the Palestinian negotiating team, and Rev. Eddie Makue, the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, we will take our message that apartheid was wrong for South Africans and is wrong for Palestinians directly to the American people starting Monday.

Just Foreign Policy is also mobilizing asking people to sign on to a letter asking Obama to create a just policy. You can sign the letter and also add your own issue to it to make it more personal–and more likely to be read by clicking on this link.

For those who want an idea of what you might add to that letter or how you might want to start organizing you should check out some of the analysis on Democracy Now! this morning. There was an excellent roundtable featuring Tariq Ali, Ali Abunimah, John Pilger, Mahmood Mamdani, Laura Carlsen, and Raed Jarrar. You can watch the episode below or read the transcript at this link. (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a Youtube clip yet of John Pilger, but you can also watch the entire episode at Democracy Now!’s website).

Hopefully people feel motivated to ACT after watching, listening, reading here. I’ll post one more reminder from Abunimah that reiterates so many others today:

And I think that progressive people across this country, you know, instead of basking in the euphoria, need to pick themselves up today and start demanding that the Obama administration immediately end the siege of Gaza. It’s totally indefensible. It is a crime unprecedented in modern history that 1.5 million people are confined to a ghetto, starved, cut off from the world, threatened. This is indefensible, and there’s no excuse for it to continue even for a single day under a new administration. And we should be setting the standard very high, not accepting slight hints that in a few years’ time an Obama administration might accept a Palestinian state or might talk about one. The days for that are over. The situation is urgent, and we really need to see radical change. It’s not going to come from Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk; it’s only going to come from a groundswell demanding that the promises of change be kept.

Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post

Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 5 November 2008

Senator Barack Obama greets Representative Rahm Emanuel at the Illinois Delegation party at Ye Olde Union Oyster, in Boston, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention 2004. (Tom Williams)

During the United States election campaign, racists and pro-Israel hardliners tried to make an issue out of President-elect Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein. Such people might take comfort in another middle name, that of Obama’s pick for White House Chief of Staff: Rahm Israel Emanuel.

Emanuel is Obama’s first high-level appointment and it’s one likely to disappointment those who hoped the president-elect would break with the George W. Bush Administration’s pro-Israel policies. White House Chief of Staff is often considered the most powerful office in the executive branch, next to the president. Obama has offered Emanuel the position according to Democratic party sources cited by media including Reuters and The New York Times. While Emanuel is expected to accept the post, that had not been confirmed by Wednesday evening the day after the election.

Rahm Emanuel was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1959, the son of Benjamin Emanuel, a pediatrician who helped smuggle weapons to the Irgun, the Zionist militia of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, in the 1940s. The Irgun carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Palestinian civilians including the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in 1946.

Emanuel continued his father’s tradition of active support for Israel; during the 1991 Gulf War he volunteered to help maintain Israeli army vehicles near the Lebanon border when southern Lebanon was still occupied by Israeli forces.

As White House political director in the first Clinton administration, Emanuel orchestrated the famous 1993 signing ceremony of the “Declaration of Principles” between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Emanuel was elected to Congress representing a north Chicago district in 2002 and he is credited with a key role in delivering a Democratic majority in the 2006 mid-term elections. He has been a prominent supporter of neoliberal economic policies on free trade and welfare reform.

One of the most influential politicians and fundraisers in his party, Emanuel accompanied Obama to a meeting of AIPAC’s executive board just after the Illinois senator had addressed the pro-Israel lobby’s conference last June.

In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. “We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror,” Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders “was clearly justified as an application of Israel’s right to self-defense” (“Pelosi supports Israel’s attacks on Hamas group,” San Francisco Chronicle, 14 June 2003).

In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki had criticized Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. Emanuel called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments “totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies” in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel’s bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.

Emanuel has sometimes posed as a defender of Palestinian lives, though never from the constant Israeli violence that is responsible for the vast majority of deaths and injuries. On 14 June 2007 he wrote to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “on behalf of students in the Gaza Strip whose future is threatened by the ongoing fighting there” which he blamed on “the violence and militancy of their elders.” In fact, the fighting between members of Hamas and Fatah, which claimed dozens of lives, was the result of a failed scheme by US-backed militias to violently overthrow the elected Hamas-led national unity government. Emanuel’s letter urged Rice “to work with allies in the region, such as Egypt and Jordan, to either find a secure location in Gaza for these students, or to transport them to a neighboring country where they can study and take their exams in peace.” Palestinians often view such proposals as a pretext to permanently “transfer” them from their country, as many Israeli leaders have threatened. Emanuel has never said anything in support of millions of Palestinian children whose education has been disrupted by Israeli occupation, closures and blockades.

Emanuel has also used his position to explicitly push Israel’s interests in normalizing relations with Arab states and isolating Hamas. In 2006 he initiated a letter to President Bush opposing United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Dubai Ports World’s attempt to buy the management business of six US seaports. The letter, signed by dozens of other lawmakers, stated that “The UAE has pledged to provide financial support to the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority and openly participates in the Arab League boycott against Israel.” It argued that allowing the deal to go through “not only could place the safety and security of US ports at risk, but enhance the ability of the UAE to bolster the Hamas regime and its efforts to promote terrorism and violence against Israel” (“Dems Tie Israel, Ports,” Forward, 10 March 2006).

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, told Fox News that picking Emanuel is “just another indication that despite the attempts to imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or listen to the wrong people when it comes to the US-Israel relationship … that was never true.”

Over the course of the campaign, Obama publicly distanced himself from friends and advisers suspected or accused of having “pro-Palestinian” sympathies. There are no early indications of a more balanced course.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli- Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

there are choices that don’t involve voting for people with a total lack of integrity and morality

i’ve written extensively about why i voted for cynthia mckinney. i voted for ralph nader in the last two elections. for those who are looking for a real choice, a protest vote and who don’t want to succumb to the racism, islamophobia, and horrendous policies that mcain/obama would enact in the u.s. here is another look at ralph nader in his own words. he gives us great reasons why not to vote for obama and why you should consider voting for him (or mckinney). the open letter to obama is his; the bold is mine.

November 3, 2008
An Open Letter to Barack Obama
Between Hope and Reality

By RALPH NADER

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity– not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an “undivided Jerusalem,” and opposed negotiations with Hamas– the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored “direct negotiations with Hamas.” Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote “Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.”

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: “There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President.”

Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, “of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. …Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see www.atfl.org for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.'”

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on “the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed” in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate– Uri Avnery– described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama “is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future– if and when he is elected president.,” he said, adding, “Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.”

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama” (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled “Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque.” None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans– even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to “tumultuous applause,” following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on www.votenader.org). You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the “middle class” but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the “poor” in America.

Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke “change” yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the “corporate supremacists.” It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics– opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)– and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. “Hope” some say springs eternal.” But not when “reality” consumes it daily.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

reason 598, 599, 600, etc. NOT to vote for Obama

…or McCain for that matter. But given the tendency for formerly progressive or radical people to support Obama here are more reasons to vote for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney. I have not been keeping track exactly, but over the course of the last year there are numerous examples I’ve given on this blog about why a vote for Obama would be disastrous for the Middle East. Here are some more of those reasons:

Former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk has taken the opportunity to declare to the Israeli public his support for U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Contrasting himself with President Bush, Obama has pledged to “take an active role and make a personal commitment to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my administration.” Obama’s team of Mideast advisers includes former Mideast peace coordinator Dennis Ross, former Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, and Dan Shapiro, a former National Security Council official. These individuals have impeccable pro-Israel credentials, are longtime supporters of US engagement in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, and will likely have important roles in an Obama administration.

Because of Obama’s relative inexperience on foreign policy, it is this part of his team that is getting much of the attention, and one adviser in particular — Dennis Ross, Bill Clinton’s Mideast envoy whose record includes supporting the pro-Iraq War advocacy campaigns of the Project for the New American Century and serving as a consultant to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a bastion of Israel-centric policy thinking in Washington.

Generally regarded as a political moderate who has the ear and respect of both Republicans and Democrats, Ross, a former Soviet specialist, reportedly has told friends and foreign officials that he hopes to nab a very senior post in an Obama administration, one that at least covers Iran policy, if not the entire Greater Middle East.

But Ross’s record as a Mideast peacemaker during the Clinton years, longtime association with hawkish political factions, and track record promoting a hard line vis-à-vis Israel’s Arab neighbours have spurred concern that he would be a less-than-ideal pick for a Middle East portfolio in an Obama administration, which many presume he will be offered.

The head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Negotiations Affairs Department met with one of US presidential candidate Barack Obama’s more prominent advisors in Jericho on Saturday.

Saeb Erikat discussed updates on Palestinian-Israeli negotiations with Daniel Kerster, advisor to the American Democratic candidate.

Pertinent to the talks was the inability of either side to reach a peace agreement by 2009, a responsibility that Erikat claimed belongs to Israel and its refusal to comply with commitments made on the Road Map for Peace.

This will likely be one of Obama’s advisers, as I wrote yesterday, this man, Rahm Emanuel, who is related to and participated in terrorism (read: Irgun):

Of the three brothers, Rahm is the most famous, Ari is the richest and Zeke, over time, will probably be the most important. Zeke is also, according to his brothers, the smartest. Rahm, naturally, gets the most press attention. Last term he managed the President’s campaigns to pass the crime bill and the North American Free Trade Agreement, but this term he has taken over the job and close-to-the-Oval-Office cubbyhole of his friend Stephanopoulos. Now chief promoter of Clinton’s small-bore issues like stopping teen-age smoking and requiring trigger locks on guns, Rahm has been singled out in recent profiles as the centrist, hyperactive counterreaction to the Stephanopoulos liberal cool. The articles are more colorful than is typical of the genre (the dead fish helps), but Rahm is more interesting, and reflective of his time, in the context of his brothers.

Together, Emanuel Freres are a triumvirate for the 90’s. All are rising stars in three of America’s most high-profile and combative professions. All understand and enjoy power, and know how using it behind the scenes can change the way people think, live and die. All have been called obnoxious, arrogant, aggressive, passionate and committed. All three get up before dawn. All are the sons of an Israeli father, now a 70-year-old Chicago pediatrician, who passed secret codes for Menachem Begin’s underground. Irgun, and an American Jewish mother, who worked in the civil rights movement and owned, briefly, a Chicago rock-and-roll club. All three also worry about a less successful Emanuel: Shoshana, 23, their adoptive sister, who crash-landed into the family at the age of 8 days, when the brothers were in their teens.

Or, if you don’t believe me, take Angry Arab’s word for it:

I have a theory about US presidents and the Middle East: every president since Lyndon Johnson becomes more pro-Israeli than his predecessor–with the exception of George H.W. Bush. So expect Obama to be more pro-Israeli than George W. Bush–his palling around notwithstanding.

And yet it seems some people are still misguided enough to believe that Obama will bring change to the region. Of all places, people in Bint Jbeil seem to be supporting Obama:

Like many other Lebanese-Americans in Bint Jbeil, a town near the border with Israel where Hizbullah enjoys strong support, Hussein al-Sayyed speaks fondly of the American way of life and says he plans to cast his vote for Democrat Barack Obama. In July and August 2006 Bint Jbeil was subjected to massive Israeli air and artillery bombardment as Hizbullah fighters battled invading Israeli troops. Much of the town was reduced to rubble, and it still bears the scars of that deadly 34-day war.

The United States and its regional ally Israel label Hizbullah a “terrorist” organization and hold it responsible responsible for many attacks on Westerners and Israelis.

“I’ll vote for Obama, that’s for sure,” Sayyed, a Shiite 48-year-old restaurant owner and fan of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, told AFP ahead of Tuesday’s US presidential election.

Was nothing learned from Khomeini’s anti-Western speeches? I hope that Sayyed reads Angry Arab’s blog and wakes up a bit about the expected reality to visit Lebanon with a president Obama.