A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

What has Israel really done to Jewish culture post WWII?


Posted: 31 Mar 2012


The continuing expanding colonies in the West Bank are a key reason that Israel has a grim future as a Jewish state (rightly pointed out by Andrew Sullivan).

But what of the argument, made by many Jews and others, that Israel is a refuge for the Jewish people and has the right to exist on this basis alone? The Magnes Zionist takes care of those arguments:

One may wish to argue that Israel provides a cultural center that has inspired a flourishing of Jewish culture outside of its borders. But that involves a Zionist reading of center and periphery that may not be even true. There was more of a Hebrew literary culture in the United States before the establishment of the state of Israel than afterwards, and while it would be wrong to blame territorial Zionism for that culture’s demise, it and the State of Israel bear some responsibility – just as the State of Israel has to bear some responsibility for the demise of Jewish communities in Arab lands, especially since it did everything within its power to bring those communities to Israel, and when they arrived, to melt them in the Israeli melting pot. To this day, official Israel looks askance at the growth of Jewish communities outside its because according to mainstream Zionism, one can only be fully Jewish in the Jewish State.

Which  brings me to the “place of refuge” dogma:  If Israel exists as a physical refuge to ensure the survival of the Jewish people, then it has failed miserably in that respect.  We are told by Israel’s leaders that the Jewish state is, or soon will be, under an existential threat from Iran, or from terrorism. If this is true, then will some one please tell me how Israel is a safer refuge for the Jews than, say, the United States, or even, Europe? More Jews have died because of the Israel-Arab conflict since 1945 than as a result of all other anti-Jewish behavior combined since 1945. And since much of the new anti-Semitism is correlated to Israel’s actions, not only is Israel a dangerous place for Jews living within its borders, it isn’t so good for the physical safety of Jews outside it either.

I repeat – there is a moral distinction between settling refugees in lands in which they desire to live, and repatriating refugees to their own land. In the case of the Palestinian refugees, they have a right to return to their homeland, even if it adversely affects the rights of the Israeli Jews, because they were barred from returning to their homes – despite the calls of the UN. Had the Zionists said, prior to the founding of the state, that the only way a Jewish State can survive is through the forced transfer of most of its native Palestinians, nobody would have recognized the legitimacy of the state. And if somebody had, then that person, or state, would be wrong.

Talking Israeli apartheid on The Colbert Report 

Posted: 31 Mar 2012


There are so many problems with this interview – Peter Beinart talking about “democratic” Israel, as if the occupation isn’t fundamentally created and supported in Israel proper – but at least such issues are on mainstream US TV:

Pakistan takes small step in refusing mercenaries access to their territoryPosted: 31 Mar 2012 11:01 AM PDT

It’s right to be skeptical that this will ever happen – Pakistan is notorious for being a nation whose political and military class simply act above the law – but at least it’s being said (via Dawn):

Members of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on Saturday unanimously agreed to include two clauses into the draft about not allowing foreign security contractors to conduct covert operations on Pakistani soil and not giving bases to any foreign nation, especially to the United States.

The committee, which met here at the Parliament House with Senator Raza Rabbani in the chair, held deliberations for over three hours.

The meeting was also attended by PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira who has replaced Senator Babar Awan.

The initial recommendation draft included that “the activity of foreign private security contractors to be made transparent and subject to Pakistani law” and “parliamentary approval for any use of Pakistani bases by foreign forces, and drafting new flying rules by the defence ministry/PAF and Isaf/US/Nato for areas contiguous to the border.”

Opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat ul Ulema Islam (JUI-F) had raised their reservations regarding these clauses and regarded them to be tantamount to providing a legal cover to the covert operations.

Why Pakistan and America will never see eye to eye 

Posted: 30 Mar 2012


One of the strongest impressions of my recent visit to Pakistan – meeting journalists, dissidents, writers and intelligence people – was the profound disconnect between Pakistan and the West. The country has suffered due to a range of factors since 9/11 – corrupt government, American bombardment, unaccountable intelligence services, drone attacks, countless murders and economic challenges – and the idea that Pakistan should help Washington in its war against terrorism is dismissed by most (if not all) citizens.

I’ve rarely been to a country where getting to the truth about matters is so difficult. Key elements of the state quite clearly act above the civilian government, an out of control intelligence service that sometimes backs militants, kills journalists and still loves US largesse.

This piece by Steve Coll in the New Yorker indicates a Pakistani elite that both criticises America but enjoys getting money from them:

“I think it’s important for us to get it right,” President Obama said on Tuesday of the American relationship with Pakistan. Lately, though, we haven’t. After 2009, the United States and Pakistan constructed what they called a “strategic dialogue”—addressing Pakistan’s needs for economic growth, its search for energy and water security, Afghanistan, and possible negotiations with the Taliban—to define and solidify a long-term partnership. Three years later, those ambitions are in tatters, undone by the Raymond Davis affair, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and continuing drone strikes, which most Pakistanis regard as acts of war.

In late February, I travelled to Pakistan and met with a number of military officers there, including several senior ones. They explained how they saw, from their side, the rise and collapse of the strategic dialogue with Washington.

It is a story laced with the generals’ resentments, geopolitical calculations, fears, and aspirations. Listening to them after absorbing the recent months of Pakistan ennui and Pakistan bashing in Washington was like watching one of those movies where a single narrative is told and retold selectively, from irreconcilable points of view.

Some of the basics of the Pakistan Army’s arguments about the Afghan war and the struggle against Al Qaeda-influenced terrorist groups are contained in a twelve-page document called “Ten Years Since 9/11: Our Collective Experience (Pakistan’s Experience).” The document, labelled “Secret,” is below; it has not previously been published.

Despite its classification, the essay is perhaps best understood as part of a Pakistani strategic communications or lobbying campaign. (Presumably, the sources that provided the document to me were undertaking an act in that campaign.) This particular text was a basis for briefings that General Ashfaq Kayani, the powerful Army chief, provided to NATO leaders at closed meetings last September, around the tenth anniversary of the 2001 attacks. It updates a case Pakistani generals have been making in meetings with their counterparts for years: that the casualties, economic disruption, and radicalization Pakistan has suffered from because of spillover from the American military campaign in Afghanistan are deeply underappreciated. The essay declares that Pakistan’s total casualties—dead and wounded—since 2001 in the “fight against terrorism” number about forty thousand.

Because of its record of past lying about its covert-action programs (and other matters), the Pakistani military does not engender much trust. One question, then, is whether this document represents a reliable expression of what the Pakistani security services actually believe—as opposed to what Pakistan’s generals have learned that the world wants to hear from them.

But there is another question: what are the implications for NATO’s exit strategy from Afghanistan if Pakistan’s military means what this document says—or at least some of what it says?

The document, written in a pleasing form of South Asian English, provides an outline of Pakistan’s political analysis and assessment of the Afghan war, asking, “How should success be measured?” It offers four criteria:

“Are policy options opening or getting restricted?…Are we gaining or losing the public support[?]…Is the military strategy creating necessary conditions to help political strategy (military strategy is not an end in itself)…Are the constraints of time and resources being met?”The answers to those four questions, if they are asked about the NATO campaign in Afghanistan this spring, are depressing.

Elsewhere, the essay provides glimpses of Pakistan’s deeply cautious position on negotiating with the Taliban. Pakistan’s timeline in Afghanistan extends much longer than that of NATO, which has announced that it is leaving by 2014. Pakistan will always be a neighbor, so its generals see no reason to rush into endgame talks that they cannot control or predict. “Pakistan is prepared to help,” the document says. “However, the extent of this help should be correctly appreciated. We can facilitate but not guarantee. Ultimately it will remain Afghan responsibility.”

Many Afghans, who have suffered immeasurably during the past thirty years because of Pakistani interference, doubt that the Pakistani security services have anything constructive in mind. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or I.S.I., has backed Islamist militias fighting in Afghanistan since the 1980s, and there is evidence that the I.S.I. continues to harbor the Taliban. “Ten Years Since 9/11” lays out various ideas for winding down the Afghan war; how fully those align with what Pakistan actually does on the ground is another question.

The document is silent about the most toxic subject in U.S.-Pakistani relations: America’s determination to continue firing missiles from drones at those it has identified as militants inside Pakistan without seeking Pakistan’s permission.

Pakistan’s generals told me that while they have, in fact, quietly sanctioned some American drone operations against Pakistani militants, they have never issued approval for lethal strikes carried out unilaterally by the United States—they only sanctioned aerial surveillance in defined areas. The generals say that they are willing to use Pakistani F-16s loaded with precision weapons to strike at Al Qaeda targets identified with intelligence from the United States—a form of partnership that would not violate their pride or sovereignty because it would be the Pakistani military carrying out operations against its own enemies. In the past, the U.S. has been reluctant to share such intelligence with Pakistan, because it has sometimes leaked, allowing the target to escape. The Obama Administration has signalled to Pakistan’s military leadership that it is willing to try again, but has urged the Pakistanis to accept that the U.S. reserves the right to attack any target that threatens American lives or other important interests. I was told that at least one operation of this type—a tip from American intelligence, leading to a strike in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by Pakistani aircraft—has been carried out without publicity this year.

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