- Wikileaks blows the cover off the war in Afghanistan
- Facebook prohibits the word ‘Palestinian’
- Jacob Weisberg sees the power of BDS, and is scared
- Israeli BDS bill would turn opponents of the regime into enemies of the state
- Let the apologies to Goldstone begin
- Freeman says special friendship has damaged US ‘values… influence, leadership, credibility’
- Service with meaning– the IDF
- Al-Awda: two-state solution would only prolong oppression
- Haaretz: Sheikh Yassin would have cut deal for statehood
|Wikileaks blows the cover off the war in Afghanistan
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
Whistleblowing in the age of the internet. From the Guardian:
And what are some of the stories being revealed? From the Guardian article, “Secret CIA paramilitaries’ role in civilian deaths“:
Read the files on the Wikileaks website here.
|Facebook prohibits the word ‘Palestinian’
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
The folks at Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet thought they’d create a Facebook page only to discover: Facebook blocks the term “Palestinian”! (H/t Jillian C York.)
Just to be sure, I tried myself to create a “Palestinian sports” page — not allowed.
|Jacob Weisberg sees the power of BDS, and is scared
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
“Don’t boycott Israel,” says the headline in Newsweek.
Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief at Slate and author of the piece calls a boycott a “repellent idea” with consequences that are “intrinsically vile.” But pointing out the “sheeplike, liberal opinion” of celebrities like Meg Ryan is unlikely to break up the flock. Indeed, Weisberg must vastly overestimate his own degree of influence in Hollywood if he imagines that his protestations will have more effect than do celebrities influence each other.
His appeal is perhaps not an effort to shepherd celebrity opinion but a reflex expression of alarm as he witnesses the boycott movement rapidly acquiring critical mass. Support from politically uninformed but socially influential celebrities is important because it signals the point at which the Palestinian cause rises above its regional, ethnic, religious and historical boundaries, and is being adopted as a humanitarian cause.
Weisberg, in a chaotic effort to marshall his arguments claims:
The bad faith that proponents of an Israel boycott are supposedly exhibiting is that they are singling Israel out; that Israel as a target of a boycott is a target of victimization. Any fair-minded person would see how much Israel, China, Syria and Zimbabwe have in common and treat them similarly… Oh, but maybe that isn’t exactly what Weisberg’s trying to say.
The subtext: It’s not about what we do; it’s about who we are.
|Israeli BDS bill would turn opponents of the regime into enemies of the state
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
For many years now, Israel has boasted about being “the only democracy in the Middle East.” It has never been a democracy: it has systematically discriminated against its non-Jewish citizens (for example, it was only this week that Arab villages gained access to public transit), and in order to support the racial purity laws indirectly, it granted clerics control over all aspects of personal life. It permits the existence of courts where women are inherently inferior to men and their testimony is inadmissible. There is no law in Israel that guarantees the freedom of speech, which relies only on Supreme Court decisions, and the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty intentionally left out the right to equality. Israel has never pretended that all its citizens are equal….
Concurrently, the first of three readings of a proposed law voted in a prohibition on calling for a boycott of Israel. As has happened a lot recently, this proposed law defines the West Bank as part of Israel-proper, which has far reaching significance.
Taking a look at the MKs who propose the law, we see quite a long list of the center-right mainstream, from Dalia Itzik, former Speaker of the Knesset and the most prominent MK on the list, to ultra-orthodox Moshe Gaffny. That last name is something of a surprise: the ultra-orthodox are the most active boycotters in Israel. That’s alright, though: the law states (at the end of its preamble) that “the balance between the public good and the best interest of the state and individual liberties is expressed by limiting the definition of the considerations of the individual who sets out to purchase a product or service as a boycott under this law.” In other words, if you boycott a particular company because it is cruel to animals, or because your rabbi told you to boycott it, or because your conscience won’t let you uphold the way it uses anorexia-promoting models in its ads, or because it uses slave labor – that would be fine. Only a boycott protesting the existence of the Israeli occupation is prohibited.
The law forbids Israeli citizens to promote, encourage, or provide information which makes it possible to maintain a boycott of “Israel” – in other words, the Israeli occupation and the persons benefitting from it. It makes possible automatic damages and fines. It makes possible, and in fact requires action against any “foreign national entity” – which would be the Palestinian Authority – if it harms the settlers’ livelihood. The most interesting item here is Section 8(ii): “Despite the content of subsection (i), any person who initiated a boycott or encouraged participation in a boycott under paragraph 2 during the year preceding the publication of the Law, it will be a refutable assumption that this person is still an initiator of a boycott or still calls for a boycott even after the date of the publication of the Law.” In other words, in contrast with nearly all the laws of the State of Israel, this law is a retroactive law, which will penalize people for actions they took before it was made into law. The settlers and the settler collaborators must be quite stressed out.
The proposed law prohibits non-violent protests and determines that it will be legal to boycott anything in Israel – which is how they obtained ultra-orthodox support – except for settlers and the occupation. That is pretty much the only case where non-violent protest is prohibited. Former Haaretz editor David Landau has already called other parliaments to boycott the Knesset due to this law. If it passes, it will be very hard to denounce people who employ violence against the occupation, its emblems and the people who enforce it. After all, they will have been barred from non-violent forms of protest.
The preamble to the law makes the claim that an American law prohibits boycotting of Israel and of other friendly states, and that it behooves Israel to be at least as vigilant as other states. But that is not exactly right: the law prohibiting boycotts, which is actually an amendment to the U.S. code of export regulations – does not prevent any citizens or corporations from boycotting anything, including Israel. It forbids their participation in a boycott organized by a foreign government. In other words, if we were to create an Israeli equivalent, it would forbid Israelis to participate in the boycott organized by the Palestinian Authority, against Israeli products (although it is doubtful that the Knesset has or even wants authority over the West Bank), but it would not prevent their organizing such a boycott on their own, as it is their right to do so, as sovereign citizens who do not wish to support an unjust policy of their government.
This law, however, has little to do with appropriate conduct. It is a law that chills speech and imposes fear; it is designed to turn opponents of the regime into enemies of the state, people who by even expressing their opinion become the legitimate targets of any Jew in Yitzhar, who can peel ₪ 30,000 right off of them without having to prove that damage has been done to him. The courts may well knock down this law, and it certainly has a long way to go in Knesset committees. The good news is that if it does indeed pass, it will significantly enhance the chances of many Israelis to obtain political asylum visas in many countries, because it will remove Israel from the list of democratic countries in an absolute and final manner.
The average Israeli will not, of course, understand why. Nor will he ever understand.
Editor’s note: for a few hours this piece carried the wrong byline. Apologies to Yossi Gurvitz!
His post in Hebrew was originally published at Yossi Gurvitz’s blog, Friends of George; translation by Dena Shunra of Shunra.net.
|Let the apologies to Goldstone begin
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
I missed this. After the Israelis came out with their lame investigation saying that they would indict several officers and soldiers in four cases arising from the Gaza conflict of ’08-’09, a fairminded South African columnist, Allister Sparks, published an important piece a few days ago, calling on South African rabbis to apologize to Judge Richard Goldstone for slamming Goldstone’s report last year.
The significance of the piece was explained to me by a friend: “This is an important statement recognizing that even the Israeli Gov’t is finding truth to the report’s findings—–it’s the beginning of a vindication of Goldstone… So why isn’t it all over the place that some of the findings in the report–a report that had been totally trashed by the Israeli gov’t and friends–are proving to be true? …Shouldn’t we challenge the overall attack on Goldstone and the report — like the SA rabbi being called to make a public apology?”
Great point. Here is Sparks’s case. Beautiful story about Naude, beautiful writing:
Update: Helena Cobban was likely the first, Stateside, to note this piece, last week.
|Freeman says special friendship has damaged US ‘values… influence, leadership, credibility’
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
Pulse has posted a transcript of Chas Freeman’s comments on Israel as a strategic liability at the Nixon Center the other day. Boy can this guy write. Here’s an excerpt. I never heard the Johnson-Goldwater datapoint before, got to look it up. –Weiss
We need to begin by recognizing that our relationship with Israel has never been driven by strategic reasoning. It began with President Truman overruling his strategic and military advisers in deference to personal sentiment and political expediency. We had an arms embargo on Israel until Lyndon Johnson dropped it in 1964 in explicit return for Jewish financial support for his campaign against Barry Goldwater. In 1973, for reasons peculiar to the Cold War, we had to come to the rescue of Israel as it battled Egypt. The resulting Arab oil embargo cost us dearly. And then there’s all the time we’ve put into the perpetually ineffectual and now long defunct “peace process.”
Still the US-Israel relationship has had strategic consequences. There is no reason to doubt the consistent testimony of the architects of major acts of anti-American terrorism about what motivates them to attack us. In the words of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is credited with masterminding the 9/11 attacks, their purpose was to focus “the American people … on the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel against the Palestinian people….” As Osama Bin Laden, purporting to speak for the world’s Muslims, has said again and again: “we have … stated many times, for more than two-and-a-half-decades, that the cause of our disagreement with you is your support to your Israeli allies who occupy our land of Palestine….” Some substantial portion of the many lives and the trillions of dollars we have so far expended in our escalating conflict with the Islamic world must be apportioned to the costs of our relationship with Israel.
…[Israel] is so estranged from everyone else in the Middle East that no neighboring country will accept flight plans that originate in or transit it. Israel is therefore useless in terms of support for American power projection. It has no allies other than us. It has developed no friends. Israeli participation in our military operations would preclude the cooperation of many others. Meanwhile, Israel has become accustomed to living on the American military dole. The notion that Israeli taxpayers might help defray the expense of U.S. military or foreign assistance operations, even those undertaken at Israel’s behest, would be greeted with astonishment in Israel and incredulity on Capitol Hill.
Military aid to Israel is sometimes justified by the notion of Israel as a test bed for new weapons systems and operational concepts. … It has come to specialize in bombing civilian infrastructure and militias with no air defenses. There is not much for the U.S. Air Force to learn from that. Similarly, the Israeli navy confronts no real naval threat. Its experience in interdicting infiltrators, fishermen, and humanitarian aid flotillas is not a model for the U.S. Navy to study. Israel’s army, however, has had lessons to impart. Now in its fifth decade of occupation duty, it has developed techniques of pacification, interrogation, assassination, and drone attack that inspired U.S. operations in Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Somalia, Yemen, and Waziristan. Recently, Israel has begun to deploy various forms of remote-controlled robotic guns. These enable operatives at far-away video screens summarily to execute anyone they view as suspicious. Such risk-free means of culling hostile populations could conceivably come in handy in some future American military operation, but I hope not. I have a lot of trouble squaring the philosophy they embody with the values Americans traditionally aspired to exemplify.
It is sometimes said that, to its credit, Israel does not ask the United States to fight its battles for it; it just wants the money and weapons to fight them on its own. Leave aside the question of whether Israel’s battles are or should also be America’s. It is no longer true that Israel does not ask us to fight for it. The fact that prominent American apologists for Israel were the most energetic promoters of the U.S. invasion of Iraq does not, of course, prove that Israel was the instigator of that grievous misadventure. But the very same people are now urging an American military assault on Iran explicitly to protect Israel and to preserve its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. Their advocacy is fully coordinated with the Government of Israel. No one in the region wants a nuclear-armed Iran, but Israel is the only country pressing Americans to go to war over this.
Finally, the need to protect Israel from mounting international indignation about its behavior continues to do grave damage to our global and regional standing. It has severely impaired our ties with the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. These costs to our international influence, credibility, and leadership are, I think, far more serious than the economic and other burdens of the relationship.
Against this background, it’s remarkable that something as fatuous as the notion of Israel as a strategic asset could have become the unchallengeable conventional wisdom in the United States. Perhaps it’s just that as someone once said: “people … will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.” Be that as it may, the United States and Israel have a lot invested in our relationship. Basing our cooperation on a thesis and narratives that will not withstand scrutiny is dangerous. It is especially risky in the context of current fiscal pressures in the United States. These seem certain soon to force major revisions of both current levels of American defense spending and global strategy, in the Middle East as well as elsewhere. They also place federally-funded programs in Israel in direct competition with similar programs here at home. To flourish over the long term, Israel’s relations with the United States need to be grounded in reality, not myth, and in peace, not war.
|Service with meaning– the IDF
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
Ynet has a story on 23 American Jews who are volunteering to serve in the IDF. Rahm Emanuel did something like this once, and so did Jeffrey Goldberg.
|Al-Awda: two-state solution would only prolong oppression
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
Al-Awda, the Palestinian right to return coalition, has released a statement about the way forward in Palestinian solidarity that says that BDS has changed the playing field, and BDS is aimed at one democratic state in historic Palestine. Here is the portion of the statement that opposes a two-state solution– against those who say that visions of one state are “unrealistic.” Myself I’m somewhat agnostic, but I recognize the importance/creativity of the statement, at a time when the 2SS has collapsed, but a belief in its vitality is maintained against all evidence inside US power circles (and an oath of that belief is a requirement for access):
|Haaretz: Sheikh Yassin would have cut deal for statehood
Posted: 25 Jul 2010
This piece is cited in David Hirst’s recent book, Beware of Small States. A year ago, Haaretz interviewed Zvi Sela, a psychologist who was a police officer in ’95-’98, when he met the imprisoned Sheikh Yassin, a founder of Hamas (who was assassinated Israel in 2004) (h/t Reem Mokhtar):