Aug 21, 2011
This is a joyful night. The liberation of Tripoli and Libya is one of those events we never could have predicted at the beginning of the year, I’ve been glued to the screen, sharing the triumph of the hopeful people in the streets in north Africa.
And all through the Libyan events, there are parallels to the situation in Palestine. How long can Palestine be the west’s exception when it comes to a people’s right to self-determination?
–International law. Again and again on Al Jazeera and CNN we hear talk about international law, and the indictments by the Hague last spring of Moammar Gadafhi and his son Saif. On Al Jazeera, commentators are deprecating “rough justice” and saying that the Libyans must turn the Gadafhi’s (if the rebels should catch both of them) over to the International Criminal Court. Good.
But what does international law mean for Gazans, who were slaughtered in mass numbers barely 2 years ago, and who were the subject of an exhaustive report by the U.N. Human Rights Council? It has to mean something, if Libya means anything for international law….
–The western coalition. Of course, the west shares in this triumph.
NATO was the air force of the Transitional National Council, Jacky Rowland said on Al Jazeera. Alright– well what do other western overtures and promises to the Arab world mean? If UN 1973 had such force, what about UN 194 and UN 242, which concretize the rights of Palestinians? When do those Arabs count? When does their loneliness end? When do their long-trampled rights warrant international intervention?
–When Al Jazeera was broadcasting from Benghazi tonight, I heard a man cry out “Obama” in the street celebration. This is a good night for Barack Obama. USC law professor Josh Lockman says the president’s decision last March to participate in the air assault has been largely “vindicated.”
But the month before he went into Libya on a human-rights pretext, Obama vetoed the UN Security Council resolution against Israeli colonization. And next month, the Obama administration has indicated, it will oppose the Palestinian statehood initiative at the U.N.
When Obama called on the Libyan transitional council to pursue a peaceful “transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya” –my emphasis– how do those words sound to more than 4 million Palestinians who cannot vote for the leaders who rule their lives?
This is a great night for the self-determination of the Libyan people. Yes, and what about the self-determination of their neighbors in Palestine? How long can the west maintain this cruel double standard?
Romney refuses to bash Muslims because as a Mormon he knows what it’s like to be an attacked minority (says Eli Lake)
Aug 21, 2011
Writes an anonymous friend:
Eli Lake and Bob Wright have a fascinating discussion at bloggingheads. I’m only a dozen minutes into it, though I’d imagine the whole thing makes for interesting viewing. But I had to clip this and send it to you. For the first bit, Bob and Eli are discussing Lake’s TNR pieceabout the foreign policies of the GOP candidates. This was of course the piece where people kept telling him that Frank Gaffney was Michele Bachmann’s for pol adviser. And Wright and Lake get talking about whether the anti-Sharia people are crazy or just cynical.
Lake says at some point that what the anti-Sharia crowd is saying is that basically Islam and America are irreconcilable. If you go to part 2, 10 minutes in or so, you’ll get a rundown of where the various people stand on this issue — whether all Islam is bad or just a small radical piece of it. Lake notes that TPaw [Tim Pawlenty] got some mileage out of the former description, and so obviously does Bachmann. Rick Perry does not, because he’s friends with Agha Khan, and then — and this is the most fascinating part — we get to Mitt Romney.
LAKE: I also don’t think you would hear it from Mitt Romney. And the reason you wouldn’t hear it from Mitt Romney is because Mitt Romney’s a Mormon, he understands as a Mormon what it’s like to be part of a minority sect that is often attacked. And I’ve heard — I couldn’t report this — but I’ve heard that Mitt Romney is very aware and attuned to making sure that his rhetoric does not attack Islam as a religion, but a sect that he calls radical Islam.
I bring this your attention because Eli Lake’s description of why Mitt Romney is not an anti-Sharia crazy who seeks to smear the entire religion of Islam is that he is part of a persecuted minority. Well what the hell, then, are all the Jews like Pamela Geller and Gaffney’s deputy David Yerushalmi and so on and so on ad nauseum? The explanation given by Lake for why Romney’s not a Muslim basher should apply in spades to Jews. Why doesn’t it? (You always say that Zionism dumbs down the Jewish intelligence.)
Weiss note: I think this is also about empowerment. Jews are by and large empowered. Yes a lot of us still have outsider consciousness, and identify with Muslims on that basis, but even Roger Cohen’s invocation today of this imperative in Jewish life is based on a 1920 anecdote. Empowerment changes consciousness. Or as the Greek tragedians might say, Geller and the neocons are hubristic.
Congressman says, I’m going to Israel, and his site is flooded with ragefilled comments about ‘sucking teat of AIPAC’ to serve ethnocratic, apartheid state
Aug 21, 2011
Hark, my fellow Americans. This is amazing, and a sign of the sea change in Israel’s image, and also a bit scary, too. Pat Meehan is a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, 55, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. In a post titled “Traveling to Israel” 10 days ago, he announced that he was headed to Israel, on that trip “sponsored by the American Israel Education Fund,” an arm of AIPAC.
Well, check out some of the 154 comments on his posting. Incredible. I went from the top, the most popular posts. People get it. I say scary, because there’s so much unfocused rage here. Notice the anti-Semitism. New Jewsey. Another reason the media have an obligation to start talking about the Israel lobby, because some people really do want to set up guillotines. Thanks to Annie.
[Michael Rivero] …. No government can serve two masters, and a government that serves Israel cannot serve the American people. A friend to Israel is no friend of America. America needs leaders who will put America first, second, and third. Please remember who you are supposed to work for and represent. This election I am making it my one mission that every politician who screams about how much they love Israel will be voted out of office, so that they free to go live there for the rest of their lives.
Well, it’s not like you have anything more important to do in your own country. We’re so lucky to have misrepresentatives like you that put the agenda of another country before the needs of your own people who elected you to office and pay your salary. We know you need a vacation from accepting campaign contributions from mega-corporations, Wall St and Israel. We will be happy to accommodate you all. All the dual citizens, Israel-firsters, endless war and occupation supporters, transnationalists, open border…
I agree with you fully Mike Rivero! I don’t know how someone could get elected to kindergarten dogcatcher who could not see the obvious conflict of interest in going to israel—–free or not. Bad (good?) things happen on those trips. NJ Governor McGreevey got a gay lover who turned out to be a mossad agent on one of those trips! McGreevey loved his mossad sexionage lover so much he brought him back to NJ to make him Home Land Insecurity Director of New Jewsey!…
Why are you sucking up to an apartheid state like Israel. They treat others as second class citizens. The Israeli government is racist. They put Palestinians in the same kind of “townships” that the South African government put the black citizens in. Israel has nuclear weapons but will not acknowledge it and will not sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Agreement. They refuse to allow inspection of their nuclear facilities in accordance with international law. No one can serve two governments. To which do you owe allegiance.
I find it despicable that members of this government spend time fawning over Israel and sucking the teat of AIPAC when veterans in this country are sleeping in the street, infrastructure is crumbling, and jobs are being offshored faster than you can say “your unemployment benefits are running out next week.” Your allegiance to a foreign power whose interests are not those of the US is treasonous. Out with you!
Ron Paul did not go to israel, he is too concerned about our own country. Imagine that, actually doing the job the people voted him in for.
Your trip to Israel is despicable and proves you and others (pretty mouch our entire Congress) are slaves to Israel and their nefarious lobbies. Why don’t you spend the time speaking with your constituents and figuring how to help America rather than the racist, warmongering ethnocractic nation, Israel. Public patience has run out and Congress has been exposed for it really is….a puppet for Israel.
Aug 21, 2011
From Didi Remez: “Here’s the tweet blaming Hamas for violating int’l law by firing White Phosphorous, which @IDFSpokesperson deleted.”
Aug 21, 2011
With an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire tentatively set for Sunday night, will Israel resist the “seductive calls for a show of power in Gaza” (as one Haaretz op-ed puts it)? After excoriating the Egyptians for not doing enough to secure the Sinai, Israeli diplomats and editorialists are now denying that there is any sort of “crisis” brewing in Egyptian-Israeli relations (Haaretz also reports that the IDF airstrikes were “reduced” in order to give the Egyptians breathing room).
Israel may have an interest in preventing wider regional unrest, especially with Egypt (and Syria’s) precarious domestic situations. But it serves the Israeli government no purpose to de-escalate the Gaza airstrikes now, just as it served Ehud Olmert’s government little purpose to avoid the 2006 Lebanon War. The escalating violence in southern Israel today presents the Israeli government with the prospect for a “splendid little war,” as an American jingoist might say.
America’s own “splendid little war” was the 1898 Spanish-American War, the war in which America became an overseas imperial power. It was indeed a “splendid little war” – if you were a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant male with presidential aspirations (that is, if you were Theodore Roosevelt, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time and fought in the war). It was less so if you were Cuban, Puerto Rican or Filipino. For such individuals, it was an imperialist war. And in the Philippines, the “splendid little war” soon turned into a protracted guerilla war that killed tens of thousands of Filipinos and hundreds of American soldiers.
The orders of one American general, Jacob H. Smith, in the Philippines to his men were for them kill every Filipino male over the age of ten and make Samar, the island they were fighting on, a “howling wilderness.” A famous political cartoon condemning the orders showed Americans executing Filipinos and was captioned “Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took The Philippines.”
Read into that today whenever the IDF arrests orassaults Palestinian minors for throwing stones (technically, the minors are “resistance fighters” – and the Americans on Samar were responding to a “sneak attack” when they began their reprisals). And also be sure to read into the fact that a lot of American anti-imperialists in the early 1900s were more concerned that the killing of Filipinos was bad for the national character than they were about seeking justice for the victims. They wanted to stop the killings mainly because they made the U.S. look bad, not because the victims were considered worthy of equal consideration that would be extended to white victims. Humanitarianism that did suggest the latter was exceptional (as a result, the anti-imperialist movement was often just as racist as the imperialist camp).
The imperialist camp triumphed over the anti-imperialists, though, at the time and in the history books. “Remember the Maine!” and the “Rough Riders” are the images that have endured in popular imagination since 1898.
Much less remembered is how the U.S. victory in the “splendid little war” provoked existing national resistance movements in Cuba and the Philippines to fight against the U.S. Having gotten rid of Spain, they were not too keen on bowing to American rule. The American response was loaded with racism – historians have tended to forget that most of the U.S. officers who fought against the “Filipino Insurrection” won their spurs in the ethnic cleansing campaigns of the late-19th century Indian Wars in the American West. Others, including former Confederate soldiers, were ardent segregationists. For some time, the U.S. policy in the Philippines followed the old Imperial Russian slogan of “the harder you hit them, the longer they stay quiet.”
This assumption is present in Israel today: that somehow, the attacks will convince the Palestinians that resistance to the Zionist enterprise is useless because of IDF retaliation. Returning to the early 20th century, this was the “logic” behind the aforementioned punitive expedition in the Philippines. The “howling wilderness” campaign was perhaps the most infamous, but by no means the only, U.S. punitive expedition in the islands. Mechanized warfare, especially the airplane, has allowed punitive actions to become more impersonal: the Germans pioneered this during the world wars, and the practice was mastered (and euphemized) by the Allied Forces in WWII as “strategic bombing.” It was brought to its present form by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his associates during the Vietnam War. Their bombing campaigns in Southeast Asia were meticulously calculated in terms of tonnage dropped and targets destroyed needed to “break” the enemy.
This industrial operations theory of warfare is the “logic” behind IDF planning today; the “mad dog” view is the philosophy underwriting it. Notably, none of these aerial bombing campaigns succeeded in breaking the populations’ will to resist (their material capacity to resist, though, was indeed adversely affected). And considering the prices Palestinians pay every day in resisting the Zionist enterprise simply by existing, the idea that IDF airstrikes will affect Palestinian “morale” an utterly fallacious assumption on the Israeli’s part.
Why is it fallacious? Well, Machiavelli thought that the seizure of property in conflict was perhaps the greatest offense you could inflict on a people because the losers would always have to endure the sight of their property in someone else’s hands.
The Palestinians have not forgotten this. Nor have the Israelis (though Israel has tried to whitewash it andexpedite the process of seizing land). The clothing of the jingoes were that of the cowboy, incorporating the virgin lands mythology of the frontier with belligerent self-assertiveness – today, the clothing of the Israeli jingo is that worn by Israeli settlers. If alive today, Theodore Roosevelt would probably consider Jewish Voice for Peace to be a group of unpatriotic dilletantes, liken the Palestinians to Apaches, and embrace the Israeli residents of Gush Etzion as kindred spirits.
With the way Israelis are responding to the attacks, it is quite clear that a “splendid little war” (or a Tonkin Gulf Resolution) would be in Netanyahu’s best interests. De-escalation on the part of the IDF would be an admission that Israel has overreacted, has made mistakes. And de-escalation would theoretically embolden Israel’s enemies (Spain was mocking American valor, jingoes screamed, and also violating the Monroe Doctrine). There is little sense, from the Israeli government’s POV, in taking the high ground, especially with the Palestinian statehood initiative at the UN next month and ongoing efforts toescalate settlement construction in East Jerusalem. Among other things, the Israeli reaction makes it harder for the Palestinian Authority to sit down with Israeli negotiators in pursuit of an objective that Israel and the U.S. have already written off as unfeasible and dangerous.
Today, perhaps more than ever if the Zionist enterprise is to retain the initiative, Israel has to show the Palestinians who is the boss. KM Shauel Mofaz (Kadima), a former Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff, sums the Israel choice up succinctly:
“Israel must decide: will we continue with this intolerable reality of a war of attrition or will we strive for an unequivocal decision with regards to Hamas, including targeting its leaders and infrastructure with the aim of toppling its reign in Gaza?”
Jingoistic? Well, Israel has learned from the best.
Aug 21, 2011
The Washington Times runs an op-ed by a former Netanyahu adviser named Michael Prell that relates some Arab proverbs to explain that the Arab world has no respect for Obama. Sort of reminds me of Amos n Andy…
the Arab world has a fundamentally different view of power.
There is an Arab proverb that says: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” This “strong horse” view of power is dominant in the Islamist world.
When Mr. Obama shows weakness and bows down and apologizes for American power, the Arab world sees him – and us – as a “weak horse.” That doesn’t make the Arabs love us more. It makes them hate us more because weakness is an affront to their strong-horse view of power.
…Another Arab proverb says, “A falling camel attracts many knives.” Weakness makes the Arabs want to stab the falling camel. That means that bowing down and apologizing for America’s power does not make the Arabs love us more – it makes them want to kill us more. In their eyes, weakness is a signal, a justification – even a provocation – for violent attack.
How do we know this? They tell us and show us with their words and actions.
…In the Palestinian territories, etc…
Aug 21, 2011
Roger Cohen has an important Jewish identity piece in the Times. Any sincere piece about Jewish identity is valuable these days, as Jewish identity is so critical. Cohen is clearly uncomfortable with anti-Zionism and tries to chart… the middle course…. toward the two-state solution, implicitly, and the preservation of Israel. And chiefly he argues: Diaspora Jewish identity must be founded on opposing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Now a ferocious anti-Zionism of the left — the kind that has called for academic boycotts of Israel — has joined the mix, as has some Muslim anti-Semitism. Meanwhile Islamophobia has been fanned by the rightist fabrication of the “Eurabia” specter — …
Where then should a Jew in Britain who wants to speak up stand? …
Perhaps a good starting point is a parallel pointed out to me by Maleiha Malik, a professor of law at King’s College London. A century ago, during the Sidney Street siege of 1911, it was the Jews of London’s East End who, cast as Bolsheviks, were said to be “alien extremists.” Winston Churchill, no less, argued in 1920 that Jews were part of a “worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development.”
The lesson is clear: Jews, with their history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people. They must be vociferous in their insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank will increase Israel’s isolation and ultimately its vulnerability.
The difficulty in this argument is that I don’t see how that doesn’t end up in anti-Zionism. Political Zionism is a messianic belief system that has devoured Jewish life, spat out the cultural Zionists, and resulted in endless colonialism and ethnic cleansing. That’s how it has worked out. The only way to take on the treatment of the Palestinians is to dissociate oneself from that ideology and not make the goal the preservation of a Jewish state. And so while I am not opposed to a Jewish state somewhere else– because many states are ethnically discriminatory–that state has depended on steadfast Diaspora support, as Cohen observes, and the moderate dissent he prescribes has repeatedly proved ineffectual inside America against the Zionists.
The ultimate questions here involve the Diaspora: Do you need a Jewish state? Why? Wouldn’t you prefer that people live in a state like the one you dig, a liberal democracy that protects ethnic minorities? Getting honest answers to these questions from American Jews would be revolutionary.
Aug 21, 2011
Just when the Saudi counter revolution had just about drained me, the beautiful Egyptian people have managed to lift my spirits, again. #FlagMan
Aug 21, 2011
The other day I ran portions of a statement by leading Brooklyn rabbi Andy Bachman opposing boycott of Israel and appealing for a civil society front of Jewish reformers and Palestinian “moderates.” One problem with Bachman’s appeal is that, actually, a civil society movement exists, and its leaders have been clear: they advocate boycott and demonstrations against the occupation.
Kathleen Eschen-Pipes, a Presbyterian minister, was reminded by Bachman’s call for moderates of Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail in 1963 to religious leaders who had criticized his nonviolent movement and also called for moderation.
Eschen-Pipes emphasized passages in the MLK letter that describe: the unquestionable moral character of the activists’ demands and their nonviolent struggle, the impatience on the part of blacks to have rights in the face of endless denial and political implacability, and the sad function of moderates who place a desire for order over human rights: they are part of”the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” MLK:
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. ….
My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”…
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured….
I have tried to stand between… two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro….
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”…
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust….
I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.