‘NYT’ ignores gigantic elephant named Gaza in the room
Posted: 06 May 2010 09:44 AM PDT

Post-Gaza massacre, it’s easy to see the changing discourse about Israel/Palestine across the country among Americans and American Jews.
The diverse coalition that supported the divestment resolution at U.C. Berkeley, including prominent Jewish voices like Judith Butler, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, is but one indication of how Israel’s war crimes in Gaza and the ongoing blockade have shaken people to the core. It’s part of the “consequences” that Israel is dealing with after the world witnessed the “truth” in Gaza–one of the main points Norman Finkelstein makes in his latest book. As Finkelstein said at a recent lecture at New York University, most students are not going to run around defending a state that drops white phosphorus on a trapped and densely-packed civilian population.
Over 300 dead children, the massacre of the Samouni family, the continued closure of Gaza from the outside world, the Goldstone report—that’s a big reason why dissent about Israel is growing.
The New York Times continues to ignore the gigantic elephant in the room named Gaza in a piece that ran yesterday titled, “On Israel, Jews and Leaders Often Disagree.” Instead, the Times points to the diplomatic spat between Obama and Netanyahu over the construction of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem as the reason why there are “serious questions about whether the traditional leadership of the American Jewish world is fully supported by the mass of American Jews.”
That’s probably true, but it’s certainly not the whole story.
It follows a pattern of corporate media when discussing Israel/Palestine: the emphasis is on the “peace process,” the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli government. There’s very little discussion about the people of Gaza’s suffering, the leadership of Hamas, and the deep divisions in Palestinian politics caused, in part, by the U.S. arming Fatah and trying to overthrow Hamas after the Islamist group won elections in 2006.
It’s as if the media is actively aiding the continuation of a “West Bank first” approach pushed by the Bush administration, and continued by Obama, where Hamas is ignored and isolated instead of being seen as an important player in Palestinian politics, and the Palestinian Authority is propped up by the U.S. and Israel.
The times may be a-changing at the grassroots, but whether it’s ignoring the Gaza massacre when discussing why some American Jews are sharply criticizing Israel and joining the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or ignoring the politics of Gaza when talking about a Palestinian state and the “peace process,” the Times is lagging behind.

Palestinian statelessness is an American Jewish achievement
Posted: 06 May 2010 09:37 AM PDT

David Obey, the great Wisconsin congressman, announced his retirement yesterday. He wanted to do it a long time ago, but when he saw George W. Bush coming along, he said, he realized he had to keep his finger in the dyke and try to stop Bush’s madness. Well Obey is an “unstinting” critic of AIPAC, and Israel, per the JTA. Here’s the key excerpt. Emphasis mine:

He took on Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in
1991-92, when AIPAC sought to overcome through Congress President
George H.W. Bush’s threat to withdraw loan guarantees unless Israel
stopped settlement building. Israel was seeking $10 billion in loan
guarantees to help settle the massive post-Cold War influx of Jews
from the former Soviet Union.
Obey warned AIPAC that even if it got the votes on the House foreign
operations appropriations subcommittee, which he chaired at the time,
he would not allow a vote to override Bush to go through.
In his 2007 autobiography “Raising Hell for Justice,” Obey recalled
addressing a 1992 meeting in the Capitol that had been convened by
then-Israeli Ambassador Zalman Shoval to consider ways to resist
Bush’s threat.
Obey stood on the sidelines before finally speaking up.
“Mr. Ambassador, I want to help Israel settle Soviet Jewish refugees,
everybody in this room probably does, but not at the expense of
gutting the administration’s ability to be seen as honest brokers in
the peace process in the Middle East,” he said.
“I will not be party to day-in, day-out end runs around the president
on this issue. He is not of my party, but he is our president. He is
defending longstanding U.S. policy and I will not cooperate in any
attempt to undermine that policy.”
The confrontation meant that Obey would never again enjoy an intimate
relationship with the pro-Israel community.

This excerpt is a demonstration of what I always say: Palestinian statelessness is an American Jewish achievement. Obey was against settlements in 1991; he said it was American policy on an important question; still, the settlements continued.
The other day at Columbia University, Gershom Gorenberg flashed a memo on the screen that he had turned up during his prodigious research for The Accidental Empire— an airgram signed Rusk in 1968, meaning that it went out from the State Department under Johnson, saying that creating settlements in the West Bank was “contrary to Article 49 of the Geneva Convention.” You cannot transfer population into occupied territories. So for more than 40 years Israel has thumbed its nose at American policy.
And how has it gotten away with this? Because of the power of the lobby, which till now has represented the American Jewish community. Yes there are many two-state Jews. But even Peace Now has never walked out of the minyan– membership in the rightwing Conference of Presidents, which gets access– over this issue. And of course today only cool grassroots groups like Jewish Voice for Peace are even for divestment targeting the occupation.
So Kosovo gets a state and Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and Pakistan and Ukraine, but 63 years after the world promised one, Palestinians are still without self-determination; and the settlements continue.

Send out the clowns
Posted: 06 May 2010 06:46 AM PDT

Oh my: Israel deports Spain’s most famous clown, and seems to have only (further?) radicalized him. Haaretz:

[Simon] Prado, director of the International Clown Festival in Galicia,
arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on April 26 with a Spanish national of
Arab origin. They planned to go to Ramallah to help organize a similar
festival, but at passport control Prado was taken aside by a Shin Bet
officer who asked him about his planned visit to the West Bank and
about his connections to various Palestinian organizations.
He and his
female companion were held for six hours, during which they were
questioned repeatedly, and their passports were confiscated.
They were sent back to Spain after an Interior Ministry official
informed them that they would not be permitted into Israel.
After Prado returned to Madrid he launched a media campaign denouncing
Israel and comparing the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank
with Jews in Poland.

Boston Science Museum promotion of Israeli technology is angrily disrupted
Posted: 06 May 2010 06:43 AM PDT

Further evidence of the yawning chasm in the American discourse on Israel. Here is video taken during a forum at the Boston Museum of Science Tuesday about Israel’s technological achievements–and all the great opportunities in Israeli business. The session begins with speakers expressing enthusiasm about all the Nobel Prize winners and innovation in Israel and is promptly disrupted by two demonstrators coming out on stage with a bedsheet saying, “Don’t Invest in Israeli Apartheid.”
“It’s not!” cries someone in the crowd. “It’s a good country. It’s a democracy.” It goes on from there.
Oh the innocence of those criers in the crowd. And the intensity of the demonstrators. This is the chasm. Our mainstream is forcibly dedicated to a false image of our closest ally in the Middle East. And the grass roots are angry and engaged, and growing by the minute.

‘New Yorker’ profile of Haim Saban is pretty good
Posted: 06 May 2010 05:46 AM PDT

I skimmed Connie Bruck’s profile of Haim Saban in the New Yorker late last night and retain a few impressions:
–The New Yorker should be congratulated for moving the ball down the field, 20, 25 yards. Bruck’s last big piece on an Israel lobbyist, Republican Sheldon Adelson, failed to describe his ideological agenda in any real detail. From the start of this piece, Saban is described as caring only about Israel. The piece’s title, “The Influencer,” would rate as an anti-Semitic canard if a critic of Israel uttered it. It’s a great title. There’s a lot of good reporting on Saban’s love of Israel and the thrust of his efforts: influencing the discourse, buying thinktanks and newspapers, or trying to.
–Compare this piece with David Remnick’s dismissal of Walt and Mearsheimer’s book in September ’07 and you can see how far the New Yorker has come– and maybe yes, how much intellectual honesty Remnick possesses. He said then that the authors were wildly exaggerating and if only Israel got out of the territories, Osama bin Laden would go back into the construction business. Ha ha. Now I’d guess that Remnick has come round to the new realist conventional wisdom of linkage (which even Dennis Ross seems to espouse): Israel/Palestine is hobbling all American action in the Middle East. Obama changed the water in the aquarium, or someone did.
–The piece stops short, it’s a B+. There’s very little understanding of Saban’s policy objectives. We hear that he is now pressuring Obama to make nice, but it is unclear whether Saban favors one Jerusalem, as Adelson does, or what kind of Palestinian state he imagines. Can there be a viable Palestinian state with a greater Jewish Jerusalem? (No.) Most importantly, there is no effort to take apart the endorsement of the Iraq war by Kenneth Pollack of the Saban Center–which led many in the establishment to sign off on the war–to Saban’s funding of the thinktank.
David Halberstam would be all over this, any thinking person would: where were you on the Iraq war, Haim? (I know that Pollack began banging the drum before he went to Saban, but still…) Just as Bruck elided the fact that Zionist cipher Doug Feith joined the Bush administration following Adelson’s gift of $300,000 to the Republican Party. She refuses to connect the dots. Oh and we invaded Iraq, by the way, and destroyed an Arab society and killed tens of thousands.
–There is an incuriosity here about the real issue, the Israel lobby. Most of the people Bruck talks to are Jews, as I recall; there is little outside perspective. The piece dwells completely inside The New Yorker’s Upper West Side comfort zone, of people who like to think that the two state solution is just around the corner and Israel is a thriving democracy.
That is a provincial understanding. Israel is in a crisis and the two-state-solution is all-but-dead and many many people are questioning the role of the Israel lobby in US policymaking. (It is all through David Hirst’s fine new book, Beware of Small States.) I wish that Bruck would have broken out a little, and talked to John Mearsheimer about the lobby, or Grant Smith. Maybe by the time she gets round to her next piece, on Mortimer Zuckerman?

Olympia mural uses Corrie tragedy to strengthen bonds of solidarity
Posted: 05 May 2010 09:22 PM PDT

Olympia Mural
The Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural

This Saturday there will be a celebration in Rachel Corrie’s hometown of Olympia, WA marking the completion of the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural. The project has been a collective effort of Olympia locals, as well as over 150 artists, activists and organizations across the US and the West Bank and Gaza. The mural marks the connection between these two communities, and all those working for justice in Israel/Palestine.
From a press release for the event:

The Olympia Rafah Mural tells a tale of two cities linked through tragedy – Olympia WA and Rafah Palestine and is expected to be the largest public art project highlighting the experiences of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. The ultimate goal of the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project (ORSMP) is to use art, culture and technology in innovative ways to increase the strength and visibility of the movement for social justice not only in Palestine and Israel, but also in the U.S. and throughout the world.

And here’s a video about the project:

A ‘historic opportunity at hand’ tonight as UC San Diego votes on divestment
Posted: 05 May 2010 11:53 AM PDT

Anfal Awwad, Benjamin Balthaser, Oliver Burchill, Amal Dalmar and Aaron Dimsdale write in the UCSD newspaper The Guardian about the UCSD divestment resolution that will be voted on tonight:

We have a historic opportunity to stop our university from contributing to the violation of human rights. This is a controversial issue, as all movements for social justice are.
But let us be clear: The controversy surrounding the Peace and Neutrality Through UC Divestment From U.S. Corporations Profiting From Occupation resolution has not been created by any student group on campus, but by the University of California’s decision to invest in corporations involved in tremendous violations of international law.
Two of these corporations are General Electric and United Technologies. They were mentioned in the resolution for their involvement in well-documented human-rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These are not casual accusations: These corporations have been well-researched, and the fact is that our university has invested $136 million in General Electric and its subsidiaries, which contributes to the manufacturing and delivery of weapons in these occupied territories.
Because many students have relatives who live in occupied territories, such investments force them, in effect, to fund the bombs that are dropped on their families. This is not a choice any student should have to make.
Due to the UC system’s involvement, the conflict in Israel and Palestine may be a difficult one to hear about, but it is not a difficult one to understand. The Palestinian people suffer from the longest ongoing illegal military occupation in the world. No matter how you spin it, a military occupation by another power implies the curtailment of civil liberties and the lack of democracy.

And they finish:

Let this resolution become the piece of legislation that defines our generation. Let it be known that UCSD will not go on one more day until the money that is spent toward the oppression of Palestine is not in its hands any longer. We must remember that UC students have a long history of standing up for human rights. When Nelson Mandela was let out of prison, he thanked the UC students for their relentless work in divesting from the apartheid regime in South Africa.
We have a legacy; we have a place in the struggle that we cannot ignore any longer. It is time that the UC students take our rightful place in the fight for human rights. We can no longer sit idly by as our university supports the alienation and the racist treatment of a group of people, no matter who they might be. Yes, it will mean an uncomfortable conversation about things we’d rather not think about — but when has that ever stopped us before?

Look into the terrifying face of the enemy
Posted: 05 May 2010 11:46 AM PDT

Scary, huh? This is Izzet Sahin, founder of a human rights office in the West Bank, arrested by Israel last week as he was passing through the Bethlehem checkpoint–and then taken into Israel. Oh, and he’s a Hebrew student.
Who’s reporting on this in the U.S., beside JVP and Sahin’s group IHH, which is out of Europe?

Israeli authorities have taken Izzet Sahin, the representative and founder of IHH (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief)’s Office in West Bank, into custody on the 27th of April.
Sahin was transferred to Ashkelon prison following his stay in the detention center of Israel Security Agency (ISA). Nobody has heard from him since the day he was arrested. No reason has been declared by the Israeli officials for Sahin’s arrest, who has been studying Hebrew in the Hebrew University.


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