Jeffrey Goldberg vs Nelson Mandela 
Posted: 12 May 2010 09:38 AM PDT

Sasha Polakow-Suransky, Senior Editor at Foreign Affairs and author of The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, continues to push back against the Goldstone smear campaign. I like how this is shaping up – Jeffrey Goldberg versus Nelson Mandela. I wonder who people will side with?
Polakow-Suransky writing in the Huffington Post:

Goldberg’s and Chait’s ongoing blog posts on the latest Goldstone uproar betray what is at best a naively ahistorical approach to current events and at worst a willful blindness to Israel’s own sordid history of supporting a white supremacist regime.
After all, Israel was the most significant arms supplier to that regime throughout the 1980s and served as a lifeline for the apartheid government during a period when Pretoria faced growing international condemnation and heightened domestic unrest (i.e. protests by 80 percent of the population demanding their democratic rights).
Anyone who served in the Israeli army during the late 1980s, as Goldberg did, should be well aware of this history.
During these years, military intelligence officials from the two countries held annual intelligence-sharing conferences and South African military representatives came to the West Bank to view the anti-riot equipment the Israeli army was using against Palestinians. When foreign journalists in the West Bank encountered visiting South African military officials, the Israeli military censor was quickly ordered to hush it up.
Back in South Africa, a large contingent of Israeli rocketry experts was holed up in the seaside town of Arniston helping the South African government put the finishing touches on ballistic missiles intended to carry its next generation of nuclear weapons. . .
There are many legitimate grounds on which to criticize the Goldstone Report, but Goldstone’s past is not one of them. Rather than examining the historical record, Goldberg and Chait relied exclusively on the Yediot article in passing judgment on Goldstone’s early career. Their posts, and a more recent one by Ron Radosh, fail to acknowledge Goldstone’s crucial role in facilitating South Africa’s transition to democracy by chairing the investigative Commission on Public Violence and Intimidation from 1991-1994.
Among other things, this commission exposed the apartheid government’s links to a so-called Third Force–made up of government security and ex-security operatives seeking to derail peaceful democratic elections.
The Goldstone Commission’s revelations outraged Nelson Mandela, leading him to conclude that F.W. de Klerk’s government had organized covert death squads. (For more on this topic, read the dispatches of British journalist John Carlin, the author of the book that became the movie Invictus.)
Goldstone’s work earned him Mandela’s respect and, in 1994, South Africa’s first black president appointed Goldstone to the Constitutional Court–hardly the sort of honor the great moral icon of the 20th century would have bestowed on “a man without a moral compass,” as Goldberg calls him.

NPR report on West Bank expulsion order turns horror into a she-said/she-said debating point 
Posted: 12 May 2010 09:09 AM PDT

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and NPR have at last reported on the month-old Israeli “military order” that allows the IDF to deport any Palestinian inhabitant of the West Bank it defines as an “infiltrator,” simply for lacking the paperwork that the Israeli government itself refuses to issue.  Garcia-Navarro details the suffering of the Palestinian people more fully than any recent NPR reporter, but her “report” perfectly embodies the failure of “she said–she said journalism,” in which oppression becomes merely a matter of perspective.
Garcia-Navarro does document the horrific fear that Israeli government policies inflict on one woman and her family.  We hear the anguish in Palestinian Umm Qusay’s voice beneath the translation; and the broadcast closes with a line deleted from the online article: “Qusay says the wider implications don’t matter to her.  After waiting ten years to join her husband and children, she just wants to stay here.”
But Garcia-Navarro allows an Israeli military spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, to assure us that, “The amendments to this law actually help the Palestininans or the other illegal residents that are here.”  We hear Leibovich declare in sunny tones that, “There is a committee of judges which is reviewing the material and deciding whether to begin with the process of repatriation or not” [Leibovich’s emphasis].  Garcia-Navarro does not challenge the fairness of Israeli judges, let alone that of military courts, to Palestinian plaintiffs or defendants.
The “wider” ramifications may not matter to Qusay in her desperation to care for her children, but they determine whether listeners are informed or given only the false equivalence of those cliched “competing narratives.”  Even Garcia-Navarro’s description of Qusay’s husband as merely a “resident”—not a native –of the West Bank minimizes how Israel wrongs the family.
Where is the research that would sort out rival claims, the obligation of a journalist to check facts?  Four whole weeks have dragged on between what Garcia-Navarro calls the “new Israeli army order” and today’s story –plenty of time for investigation.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro should read the Geneva Conventions, the Oslo Accords, and other agreements to verify that, “the new military order contravenes international law and previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.”  She could ascertain roughly how many people are marooned in hiding.   She might look into the harm to “civil society.”  Instead, she leaves all questions open.
In sum, nowhere does Garcia-Navarro grapple with the terrible inhumanity of a regime that has kept other people stateless for 60 years, depriving them not just of civil but human rights.  A military occupation that arbitrarily defines the legitimate owners of a land as “infiltrators” is unspeakable. Why is “our” U.S. government paying for the illegal expulsions?
To do Garcia-Navarro justice, the on-air report gives details curiously absent from the transcript, but holes nevertheless remain. NPR’s transcript changes many terms and the order of the actual Garcia-Navarro report that aired this morning.
I’ve included below choice bits of the broadcast that were not included in the online article.  Why were they removed? Their absence smoothes over the ugly facts of the original broadcast.  I guess we should also ask Lourdes Garcia-Navarro about the alterations.
[“After ten years of being separated, I came back to my husband’s home town, and now we are again in a difficult situation. Where do I go from here?”]
She’s not alone. Many [“tens of thousands of people in the West bank have gone into hiding afraid to leave their homes, afraid to leave their areas of residence, for fear of being arrested at a checkpoint and deported and put into prison for seven years…”]
[[Conclusion not on air:] About 365,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians. Another 1.6 million Palestinians live in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Omar Barghouti in Rome 
Posted: 12 May 2010 08:13 AM PDT

Last night I went to hear Omar Barghouti at an event titled “Palestine today. Nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation: academic and cultural boycott,” organised by the Roman network for solidarity with the Palestinian people. There were about 80 people there, and the event included the presentation of the book (in Italian) “Planning oppression: The complicity of Israeli academia.”
Barghouti blew me away. He is one of the most articulate, clear-thinking speakers I have ever heard. He presented the goals, importance and strategy of BDS in general, and academic and cultural boycott in particular, and addressed the reasons why Europeans should care about Palestine specifically (direct complicity in Israeli Apartheid), beyond the principle of basic human solidarity. Italy, as it happens, is Israel’s second largest research partner, after the US.
Barghouti also discussed some of the main objections to BDS, such as the counterproductivity of boycotting all Israelis. He explained that the boycott is institutional and not individual – not because individuals bear no responsibility for Israeli apartheid, but because the McCarthyist scrutiny of individual Israelis, to separate the “good” from the “bad” is morally repugnant.
When asked about those who wish to limit their boycott to the settlements, he replied that such a position is morally, legally and practically untenable. Even if one wishes to ignore the rights of Palestinians in Israel and those of Palestinian refugees, and focus only on the ’67 occupation, it is the Israeli government and Israeli society as a whole that is responsible for those actions, not the settlers.
Those who oppose the Chinese occupation of Tibet do not limit their actions to Chinese products made in Tibet, but boycott the Chinese government responsible for that occupation. On a practical level, Israel uses every trick in the book (including repackaging in Israel) to ensure that settlement products are virtually indistinguishable from non-settlement products.
Regarding the accusation of anti-Semitism frequently levelled at BDS, he replied that such an accusation is in itself anti-Semitic, inasmuch as it creates an equivalence between all Jews and Israeli policies, implying that Jews are monolothic and that all Jews should be held responsable for Israel’s actions. Such generalisations and the idea of collective Jewish responsibility are fundamentally anti-Semitic. He called upon Europeans to stop assuaging their Holocaust guilt by oppressing the victims of the victims of the Holocaust.

Palestinian issue fuels next cold war, with US as enemy of Arabs 
Posted: 12 May 2010 07:48 AM PDT

Lately I’ve been told that my issue isn’t the burning issue of the Middle East. The Israel/Palestine issue can be put on the back burner, it’s contained, even Lebanon invasion would be a local war, etc. Well here is Syria expert Joshua Landis at Foreign Policy, seizing on a visit by Russian president Medvedev to Damascus earlier this week and saying that it portends more trouble in the Middle East, a cold war between the superpowers in which the U.S. is cast as the enemy of Arabs and Muslims. Barack Hussein Obama indeed. And that it only puts more pressure on the U.S. to cure the human-rights blight that is at the root of our bad image: Palestinian statelessness.

America’s leading allies have been Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. The Saudis have shown some signs of distancing themselves from Washington and have reached out to both Russia and China to hedge their bets. … [Syria and Saudi Arabia] stood together in favoring Ayad Allawi as leader of a new Iraqi government. Syria has supported Saudi actions in Yemen.
Jordan has also worked to improve relations with Syria. King Abdullah has warned the United States that it must pressure Netanyahu to stop settlement expansion for fear that war will break out.So long as America’s No. 1 foreign-policy goal in the region is to hurt Iran and help Israel, Russia will be drawn back into the region and a new Cold War will take shape. Washington’s failure to realign relations with Iran and Syria dooms it to repeat its past.
But this time Israel will be more of a millstone around its neck as it thumbs it’s nose at international law and human rights. China also presents a new and potent challenge…Russia can also be gratified by the deterioration of Turkey’s relations with both Israel and the United Stats. It will continue to look for ways to frustrate U.S. efforts to add teeth to its sanctions regime against Iran.
So long as America’s No. 1 foreign-policy goal in the region is to hurt Iran and help Israel, Russia will be drawn back into the region and a new Cold War will take shape. Washington’s failure to realign relations with Iran and Syria dooms it to repeat its past. But this time Israel will be more of a millstone around its neck as it thumbs it’s nose at international law and human rights. China also presents a new and potent challenge.
Gamal Abdul Nasser claimed that in the Middle East there was a role in search of a hero; he tried to fill it at great cost to Egypt. So long as the Arab-Israeli conflict remains unresolved, however, that role will exist. Iran and Syria are trying to fill it today. They claim to defend Arab and Muslim rights in the face of Israeli expansion and U.S. imperialism. If they are to have any success, they will need a larger power to champion their efforts.
And Russia is the obvious candidate — that is, until China is prepared to throw its weight behind Middle East peacemaking. Syria is well aware that neither Russia nor China can dare challenge the United States or Israel for at least a decade, but Syria and Iran seem prepared to play for time. The alternative to taking the long view for Syria is the loss of the Golan and national humiliation.

Israeli gov’t embraces radical settler movement with connection to 6th Avenue fabric store 
Posted: 12 May 2010 07:38 AM PDT

I failed to pick up on this last week, but a high government official in Israel held a public meeting with Itamar Marcus, who is evidently a member of the Marcus family that owns a fabric store on Sixth Avenue in New York that serves as the address for tax-deductible American donations to the settler movement. We covered the Marcus operation a lot last year on this site: the Central Fund of Israel.
It has gotten money from Ace Greenberg, formerly of Bear Stearns, Kirk Douglas, and Michael Milken, formerly of the X-shaped junkbond-trading desk. And some of the money went to militias in the West Bank for urgent security needs. So the Israeli government and our government continue to subsidize the violent colonization of the West Bank. And ultra-Zionists depend as they always have on American support. We are one! as Zionist Melvin Urofsky titled his book on Diaspora support for Israel, in a word, the lobby.
Here is Hanan Ashrawi in the Hill of all places, God bless the Hill, picking up on the collusion of an extremist government with an extremist movement, which the American press still hasn’t cottoned to:

At a press conference last week, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon appeared alongside Itamar Marcus, a right-wing settler and director of an Israeli NGO called Palestinian Media Watch, to receive a report produced by PMW. Later in the week, Marcus appeared on Capitol Hill to present his report to Congress. In the U.S., PMW has been running ads on major television networks of late echoing the accusations of incitement against President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.
What Ayalon and Marcus failed to mention is that PMW is closely connected to the New York-based Central Fund of Israel, which gives money to some of the most extreme elements in Israel’s settler movement, including a yeshiva in a West Bank settlement that is home to Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, who published a book last year justifying the killing of gentile babies on the grounds they might grow up to pose a threat to the state.

if this were happening in the U.S., we would fill the streets 
Posted: 11 May 2010 08:16 PM PDT

bassemThis picture was taken a few hours ago in Palestine, in the village of Bil’in, by the photographer Hamde Abu Rahma.
The poster in the photo commemorates Bassem Abu Rahme, who was killed in Bil’in 13 months ago when he was protesting the confiscation of the village’s land. Israeli Defense Forces shot him with a tear gas canister.
And then on Friday during the Bil’in protests– in occupied Palestine, mind you– the Israelis arrests Ashraf, Bassem’s brother. Then released him, and then earlier today in Palestine, they raided Ashraf’s home trying to find him again. So this is a picture of a soldier inside the Abu Rahme house.
And now it’s international, and Israel’s soul– I don’t know where it is. Abu Rahme’s report:

At 12am, early Wednesday morning, the Israeli military invaded Bil’in village looking for Ashraf Abu Rahme. Ashraf had been arrested along with six other Palestinian, Israeli, and International activists (including Bil’in residents Haitham Al Katib and Waji Burnat) at a demonstration in Bil’in Friday afternoon.
After searching three houses including his mother’s home and the unfinished house of his brother Bassem Abu Rahme (who was killed during a demonstration last year), they were unable to find Ashraf. This night invasion happened on the same day that B’tselem camera man Haitham Al Katib and Waji Burnat were released from Ofer Military Prison where they had been taken on Friday night after being arrested in Bil’in.
The Israeli and International activists had been released the same day as the arrest.  Apparently tonight the military was attempting to take Ashraf for further questioning with the Shin Bet Israeli intelligence.

memo to Obama: construction in East Jerusalem is going on ‘as normal’ 
Posted: 11 May 2010 07:59 PM PDT

From Ma’an:

On Monday, an Israeli cabinet official construction would continue unabated in East Jerusalem, in spite of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assurances that a slow-down would be implemented in light of Palestinian entry into US-brokered proximity talks.
Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio, cabinet secretary Zevi Houser said construction in the occupied part of the city “will start soon” and that “construction in Jerusalem is going on as normal.”
Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas called on US to respond to reports that another settlement in occupied Jerusalem was underway, as Netanyahu’s spokesperson, Nir Hefez told the Army Radio that “a timetable for construction in East Jerusalem will be arranged in order to avoid diplomatic embarrassment,”

Homage to Haiti 
Posted: 11 May 2010 04:59 PM PDT

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–The hundreds of journalists who showed up here right after January 12 missed a key element of the story; the killer earthquake did not strike hardest in the very poorest areas. Out in the seaside shantytowns to the north, in Cite Soleil and La Saline, the single-story scrap metal and cardboard shacks that collapsed did injure people but did not usually kill.
It was the working- and lower-middle class Haitians, who lived in concrete dwellings in crowded city neighborhoods like Carrefour Feuilles and Pacot, who died in the rubble in such large numbers.
Here’s how hard-working and hard-saving Haitians like my friend of 15 years, the guide and small shopowner Milfort Bruno, build their homes in a country where bank loans are nearly unknown. “First, you buy the land,” Milfort, who is 62 years old, explains. “You start with zinc walls and a roof. Then you slowly get the building materials. You buy sand. You buy 5 or 10 iron rods at a time. You go and pay for the cement every month, but you don’t take delivery until you are ready to build because you want the cement to be fresh.
You hire a local builder to mix the blocks, 200 or 300 at a time. You add a room. You add another room. Then you add a second story. It all takes years.”
Milfort Bruno is lucky; the Ministry of Public Works inspectors marked his damaged home with yellow paint, meaning he and his family can move back in after major repairs. (Homes are also coded in red or green.) But he says half the people in Port-au-Prince are still unemployed, including most of his family, and it will take them years to rebuild. Milfort Bruno and other Haitians know that backyard construction methods contributed to the tremendous death toll, which is estimated at 230,000. (The 1989 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area, of the same intensity, killed 63 people.) For now, the Bruno family is living in a tent next to their damaged home.
Some Haitians died because of their commitment to education. The earthquake struck just before 5 p.m., but many children and young people were still in school. We passed by a 9-story high school in Carrefour Feuilles which had pancaked down to a striated pile of gray rubble less than a story high, killing just about everyone inside.
But Haitians are already rebuilding. Temporary schools of plywood and zinc are going up all over town, and kids in their brightly colored school uniforms are picking their way past the debris. Men wielding sledgehammers are dismantling the most damaged buildings, working by hand because there are very few pieces of heavy equipment in the country. Up in Petionville, we saw children going to class inside parked forest green schoolbuses.
Port-au-Prince has always been an energetic city, and the street vendors and sidewalk workshops are back in business from morning to night; right in the open air you can get your car battery charged, your watch repaired, even have some photocopying done.
In some areas, the capital does not even look hugely different than it used to. Even before January 12, the city resembled a refugee camp partly because it was – for people who had fled from the even more impoverished rural areas. Most people who lived in Port-au-Prince bought their water from women who delivered it in buckets, used backyard privies instead of flush toilets, and enjoyed electricity for a few hours a day at most.
Some of the foreign help is getting through. Every square inch of what was open land is covered with tents, many of them donated by the United States. You see water trucks and rows of portable toilets, and people waiting at clinics run by Medecins sans Frontieres; Haitians also have high praise for Partners in Health.
Despite the tough circumstances, there has been surprisingly little violence. There are reports of sexual assaults in the tent cities, partly possibly because the collapse of the main prison in Port-au-Prince during the earthquake freed thousands of inmates, but so far no major tension, riots, or armed clashes.
But Western generosity, although impressive, is accompanied by even greater efforts from the more than 1 million Haitians who live overseas and are sending money home. All over Port-au-Prince, you see people lined up outside banks to collect remittances from their relatives, hard-working hospital workers in New York or Boston, taxi drivers in Montreal, who even before the tragedy were transferring to Haiti the astonishing figure of $1.5 to $1.8 billion a year. (By contrast, the entire U.S. government pledge at the March 31 donors conference in New York was $1.15 billion over 2 years.)
Not all the help is reaching the people who really need it. Milfort Bruno and I talked with Dieudonne Pierre, a 40-year-old construction worker who lives in the tent city in the Champs Mars, right across the street from the damaged presidential palace. He explained that certain Haitians dress up in suits, misrepresent themselves to the relief agencies, and acquire food ration cards and tents that they then sell over in the market. He does not know where to complain. Monsieur Pierre says he is worried what will happen to his tent-dwelling neighbors now that the rainy season has started.
There is a more long-term threat to Haiti’s future. My flight into Haiti had far more white passengers than on my usual visits. In the seat just in front of me a young man, 30 or so years old, too well dressed for Haiti’s climate, was reading a document called “Action Plan for Recovery and Development of Haiti.”
My jaw dropped; this is the rough equivalent of looking over a manual on brain surgery before you have mastered elementary first aid. Even Haitians who have spent their entire lives studying the culture, history and economy of their remarkable nation are not sure exactly what to do next.
Unfortunately, the “Action Plans” so far seem to call for more of the same – the same failed economic policies manufactured in Washington that helped get Haiti into its current mess, relying on the same Haitian elites who have turned their nation into one of the most unequal in the entire world. Unless the vast majority of ordinary, hardworking Haitians participate in the recovery – just as they are already rebuilding their destroyed homes, block by block – Haiti’s extraordinary energy and intelligence will continue to be partly wasted.

Who put charming the Israeli public at the top of Prez’s To-do list? 
Posted: 11 May 2010 04:49 PM PDT

Remember when Obama went off to have dinner with his kids and left Bibi to chill in the Roosevelt Room til he came up with an alternative to “Jerusalem is not a settlement” during the AIPAC fiasco? The Israeli press reported that when Bibi got home he called for an emergency meeting w/ Elie Wiesel to “find ways into Barack Obama’s heart” (Israel style, w/a hammer, and no we were not privy to this gossip in the American press and wouldn’t have heard about it if not for Didi Remez @ Coteret doing the translation):

Yediot, April 4 2010 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that he is in deep trouble at the White House. This weekend he made an interesting effort to find ways into Barack Obama’s heart. The author Elie Wiesel, in Israel for the holiday, received a call from the Prime Minister’s Office asking that he meet urgently with Netanyahu.

Isn’t that special! Then Wiesel informs Bibi he’s got a luncheon coming up w/ Obama and he’ll try to squeeze in the claim that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews… All systems go for the Lobby Charm Offensive as “Wiesel” dumps full page ads (I’m so sure he penned it himself!) in several of our favorite fishwraps costing 1/2 mil or upwards (no holding back on funds). Another display of “love”.
Then he meets w/ Obama for their pre-arranged luncheon. And here’s The NYT.  I’ve had it with the New York Times, I call it the NYFT. (F is for figure it out). Here’s another piece with no lies and enough holes to screw us a new one.The headline, “Obama Tries to Mend Fences with American Jews,” informs us Obama is making amends to American Jews, no doubt for the administration’s crime of criticizing Israel for stealing more and more Palestinian land. The Times describes the meeting as “Mr. Obama’s wooing of Mr. Wiesel.”
So who’s got the upper hand in this relationship? One of the Times’s favorite lobbyists (Question: does Martin Indyk actually do their framing for them or is it merely coincidence his framing always dominates a piece?) informs us Obama’s charm offensive is not working. Try harder for the Jews, Mr. President, the Israelis are still pissed…

“The real charm offensive needs to take place in Israel,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel and vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “I would accept it was a charm offensive if he caught a plane and went over there, which he needs to do. He’s lost the Israeli public. If he were to go over there and explain to the Israeli public, it would be hugely beneficial to his objectives.”

Who just put the “Israeli Public” on top of our Presidents to-do list? Why does the prez need to go over there to explain anything to them? Is this Bibi’s idea of finding ways into Obama’s heart? It is a full frontal assault by proxy.

“But it remains unclear whether Mr. Obama’s latest outreach will reassure American Jews and the general public in Israel, where Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have plummeted. “

Let’s get one thing straight. This is not Obama’s “outreach”. Obama’s outreach was informing Israel via Clinton (or was it Michell) we’d stop using our veto at the UN if they didn’t put out. Obama doesn’t have to make an outreach to the Israeli public, and by the way, his lunch with Wiesel was planned before the Jerusalem ad shitfest. Whenever the NYT reports “administration officials said,” color me suspicious but why not just say it’s Dennis Ross calling the NYT. Or whichever flunky we’ve got in the WH carrying water for Israel instead of the Prez.

Fungus threatens to delegitimize Israel 
Posted: 11 May 2010 03:01 PM PDT

I never cease to be amazed at the strange news items that appear in the Israeli press. And sometimes they are true.
An American-Israeli microbiologist named Dr. Joseph Moshe has been linked to the spread of a deadly airborne fungal disease which is reported to have spread from the United States to Europe. The fungus, called Cryptococcus gatti, is thought to be responsible for several fatalities, causing a worldwide panic. Ha’aretz reports that Israel is worried that tourists will bring the disease there.
There is speculation that the fungi may have originated in a laboratory in Nes Ziona near Tel Aviv where Moshe worked, or from a facility in the United States where he has been more recently employed. The Nes Ziona facility is known to produce biological weapons.
Joseph Moshe was arrested last summer in California for threatening White House officials. Dr. Moshe has allegedly claimed he worked for the Israel intelligence agency, Mossad. It seems this doctor is not a nice Jewish boy.
According to Ha’aretz, Professor Yitzhak Polacheck, who I assume is a nice Jewish boy, declared that any connection between the Nes Ziona laboratory and the deadly fungus is baseless. In addition he avers that if the disease does appear in Israel, he is sure that the authorities are equipped to deal with the problem effectively.


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