Jewish group said to prepare boat to go to Gaza
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Yes the Rachel Corrie has been seized by the Israelis. But, from Ma’an, and at Palestine Libre too:

She will be sailing to Gaza during the second half of July. In order to avoid sabotage, the exact date and name of the port of departure will be announced only shortly before her launch….
[Kate Leiterer:] ”In attacking the Freedom Flotilla, Israel has once again demonstrated to the world a heinous brutality. But I know that there are very many Israelis who compassionately and bravely campaign for a just peace. With broadcasting journalists from mainstream television programmes accompanying our boat, Israel will have a great chance to show the world that there is another way, a way of courage rather than fear, a way of hope rather than hate’,’ says Edith Lutz, an organizer and passenger on what is being called the “Jewish boat.”
”Jüdische Stimme,” or Jewish Voice for Peace, along with European Jews for a Just Peace in the Near East, and Jews for Justice For Palestinians (UK) are “sending a call to the leaders of the world: Help Israel find her way back to reason, to a sense of humanity and a life without fear.”

The withering of liberal Zionism
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Much has been said about the withering of liberal Zionism, as the mainstream becomes ever more dominated by the military extremist and ultra-religious strains. Yossi Sarid says it poetically:

In the beginning, he was a gazelle whose neck the hunters were seeking. With time, he tried to become a seagull in the hope that if he was in the sky, they would not bring him down. He went to every corner of the land to build a nest for his rejected hopes, to find a refuge, until he finally found a place to rest his legs and soul − Nitzana. Late MK Arie “Lova” Eliav was the first traitor. But I did not speak out because I was not Lova.
Later on, they attacked the people of the kibbutzim for being hedonists, and the kibbutz for being a place where people sit on easy chairs and take a dip in the pool, where the grass is greener and the water is the brightest blue. So they imprisoned them within the security fence; they broke their spirits. The Zionists’ gem and pride turned into a wreck that would not be worth its weight in the settlements’ gold. But I did not speak out because I was not a kibbutznik.

It’s a beautiful read, check it out.
You know, it seems that what’s happening with Israel’s politics and definitions of Zionism is the inevitable outcome of the wheels set in motion in 1948. When you define your national identity through military power (in Israel, the common saying is “If force doesn’t work, try more force”), the space for anything else is bound to shrink.

A prayer for her country
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Emily Henochowicz, on her blog, April 13:

O America, my America… stop making weapons to test on demonstrators in Palestine.

Josh Ruebner, on our site, yesterday:

The high-velocity tear-gas canister which injured Emily Henochowicz was likely of U.S. origin

Photo of Emily Henochowicz at Qalandiya checkpoint, May 31, by Majdi Mohammed for AP:

I need your help
Posted: 05 Jun 201

It is difficult to formulate a new Jewish history while looking through the dense prism of Zionism–the light that traverses it keeps breaking into sharply ethnocentric colors…. [T]he Jews have always comprised significant religious communities that appeared and settled in various parts of the world, rather than an ethnos that shared a single origin and wandered in a permanent exile…How can we stop trudging along roads paved mainly with materials forged in national fantasies? 
Imagining the nation was an important stage in the development of historiography, as indeed in the evolution of modernity. It engaged many historians from the nineteenth century onward. But toward the end of the twentieth century the dreams of national identity began to disintegrate. More and more scholars began to dissect and examine the great national stories, especially myths of common origin, that had hitherto clouded the writing of history. It goes without saying that the secularization of history took place under the hammer blows of cultural globalization, which continually takes unexpected forms throughout the Western world.
Yesterday’s nightmares of identity are not tomorrow’s identity dreams. Just as every personality is composed of fluid and diverse identities, so is history, among other things, an identity in motion.

–Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, Introduction

An Israeli turns on the charm
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Past and future American government official Andrew Exum (Abu Muqawama), an exponent of counter-insurgency published by Center for a New American Security:

Last fall, I was in Israel for a two-week visit and conducted a few formal interviews with various Israeli officers, journalists and scholars. I met for coffee one morning with a retired Israeli general officer to discuss the fighting in southern Lebanon during the 1990s, and before too long, the two of us were engrossed in conversation about guerrilla warfare, Lebanon, the learning process that militaries go through in combat, and a host of related subjects. One hour became two, and two hours became three. The two of us must have downed three cups of coffee apiece, and my hand cramped from all the notes I was taking. At the end of the conversation, though, this retired officer took my hand, squeezed it hard, and said, “Andrew, just remember one thing: the Muslims are like shit. They stink, and there are plenty of them for all of us.” …
[I] left my most recent research trip to Israel, though, openly wondering a) whether or not anti-Arab or anti-Muslim sentiment was widespread within the officer corps and whether that might have an effect on Israeli operations in the territories

Jews at CFR, c’ted
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Steven Cook has admonished me for “Jew-baiting” in a post I did yesterday on the Council on Foreign Relations’s lineup writing about the Gaza flotilla attack. His comment:

I am Jewish….
Also, Philip you should be ashamed of yourself for:
1) the Jew baiting in this post
2) not bothering to read much of what my colleagues and I have written
Off to play golf.
Steven A. Cook

Break your handicap, Steven, and when you get back:
I’m sure I was too provocative in my previous post– I sometimes am. But does it matter that all five experts convened by the Council on Foreign Relations to weigh in on the flotilla raid are Jewish? Does the lack of religious diversity signify anything noteworthy (even about the Jewish rise into the establishment)? William Quandt says that all the State Department officials who opposed Partition and later Truman’s decision to recognize Israel were “WASPs”.
Daniel Luban has scored liberal Zionists’ “attacks directed at any critics who were deemed to be ‘outsiders’—generally Gentiles.” Peter Beinart has basically said the same thing when he said, “I think we suffer from a distinct absence of Palestinian voices.” What do you say?
And as to you and your colleagues’ writings, I’ve read the others, not you. But help me: Can you point me to any earnest opposition to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on human-rights grounds (a concern that animates my site and is anathema at your neocon hangout) in anything any of you guys has written?

Witness: Hours elapsed with wounded lying unattended
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Amazing eyewitness account by Abbas Al Lawati of GulfNews, who was on Mavi Marmara:

Then the announcements on the ship started. Lubna Masarwa, an official from the Free Gaza Movement, addressed the Israeli soldiers, saying the ship had surrendered and its passengers would not confront the army. “You have blood on your hands. Four have died and we have many more critically injured. They need help,” she shouted.
She must have repeated the message at least ten times in English, then a few times in Hebrew. No response.After about half an hour, Knesset member Haneen Zoubi, armed with a white handkerchief, a message on a large piece of cardboard and her parliamentary immunity, risked her life to walk straight to the window. The soldier nervously raised his weapon and gestured for her to stop. She went ahead, stood there for a few seconds to ensure that the message was read, and walked back.
No response. The sun was up by then.
The announcements by Masarwa continued. Then, a British woman wrapped herself in the Union Jack and made the same move.
Approximately an hour and a half after the first call for help, a soldier shouted through the window in a heavy Hebrew accent: “Injured only! One by one!”.
Slowly the injured were carried out. I was asked to help carry some, which led me to the second sitting hall on the floor where the injured were being treated.
I was shocked to see row after row of injured people lying down and waiting for help, some slowly losing consciousness.
About an hour later, after the injured had been unloaded, the Israelis told us to start moving towards the door at the back of the room. One by one we came out, with men being strip searched down to their underwear in full view of the women, then their hands tied with plastic handcuffs, some behind their backs and others in front.

h/t Nancy Kanwisher
Oh and this is a parallel-universe statement from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, telling Jews what to care about re the flotilla:

Mesheberach: During the Jewish Sabbath service, there is a prayer is for those who are ill or injured.   The “Mesheberach” includes the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered and, in an unusual practice, the name of the person’s mother rather than his or her father. Whether in the synagogue or not, we hope readers will remember the six soldiers injured while protecting the people of Israel:

Dean Ben (son of) Svetlana
Roee Ben (son of) Shulamit
Daniel Lazar Ben (son of) Tina Leah
Yotam Ben (son of) Dorit
Ido Ben (son of) Ilana
Boris Ben (son of) Eelaina

Updates on the MV Rachel Corrie
Posted: 04 Jun 2010

The news on the MV Rachel Corrie‘s attempt to break the siege has been difficult to follow, but it seems that twitter is the most accessible and reliable news source right now. I’ve embedded the Mondoweiss (@mondoweiss) twitter feed below where we’re posting information as it becomes available.


The myth of Israeli strategic genius
Posted: 04 Jun 2010

The botched Israeli naval commando raid on the Gaza Freedom flotilla has a lot of people scratching their heads. How could Israel have made such an ill-advised decision to try to storm the ship the Mavi Marmara with 600 peace activists on board, which in the best of circumstances could only have ended in a public relations disaster? Once it did make that decision, why did members of the much vaunted Israel Defense Forces naval commandos Shayetet 13 conduct the assault itself in such an inept fashion virtually guaranteeing their humiliation and the loss of life? 
These questions are only puzzling because most of us have bought the myth that the Jewish state has an unbroken record of strategic brilliance and military success going back at least to 1948. Typical is the argument by three U.S. Air Force Officers in a paper they wrote in 2000 for the National Defense University in which they held up Israeli national security decision-making as epitomizing Clausewitz’s ideal of a seamless link between tactical and strategic brilliance. 
This myth persists in part because most people here are unfamiliar with the New Historians of Israel who systematically challenge many of the cherished misconceptions of the official history that sustain this myth. But it also survives because it is fostered by some supporters of Israel who use it to deflect criticism of particular Israeli government policies (“who knows better than Israelis what they need to ensure their security”) and to encourage the Israelization of American foreign policy (“after 9/11, we’re all Israelis now”).
But a cleared-eyed look at Israeli strategic decision-making and military performance since 1948, puts the Gaza Freedom Flotilla debacle and other recent Israeli blunders in a context which suggests we should not have been surprised at all it turned out as badly as it did. (For much more on this see my Power and Military Effectiveness)
On the strategic level, a good argument can be made, and indeed Oxford historian Avi Shlaim makes it, that Israel’s collusion with the Hashemite regime in Jordan before 1948 with the objective of thwarting the establishment of an independent Palestinian State at partition, provoked, or at least provided the rationale for, the invasions by the other Arab states during the War of Independence in an effort to undo this “deal” made at the expense of the Palestinians. Israel’s strategic blunder in joining France and Britain in the ill-fated Suez War of 1956, which united America and the Soviet Union in opposition, hardly merits mention.
Israeli claims, most recently advanced by the Jewish state’s current Ambassador to the U.S. in his book about the Six Day War of 1967, that the IDF struck first to preempt an Arab attack are questionable. But even if we concede their validity, Israel’s decision to go beyond destroying Arab military forces and seize territory was certainly unnecessary. Indeed, the origin of Israel’s strategic dilemma today is the settlement enterprise, which constitutes the most serious existential threat to Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state.
The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon had the twin goals of destroying the PLO and installing a pro-Israel Christian regime there to change the strategic environment in the region in the Jewish state’s favor. What Israel got instead was an 18 year festering sore and the creation of one of its most potent enemies – Hizbollah – along its northern border.
Having learned nothing after those 18 years, Israel invaded again in 2006 with the objective of teaching Hizbollah a lesson. Instead, the result was an inconclusive military campaign and a public relations disaster. Ditto, Gaza in 2008. Given this track record, what is most amazing that Israel is not ranked among such strategic dunderheads as Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany!
Our image of the IDF as a tactically highly proficient force is more grounded in reality, but still overdrawn. The enduring image of the War of Independence is of a Jewish David, armed literally with a sling, fighting an Arab Goliath, equipped with the most advanced weapons, and sometimes lead, at least in Leon Uris’ fevered imagination, by refuges from the Nazi Wehrmacht.
But this has things backwards: The Jewish forces in the war were better armed than most of the Arabs (save for the British-led Arab Legion in Jordan which hardly participated in it) thanks to arms from the Soviet Bloc and the United States. By the end of the war, the IDF substantially outnumbered the Arabs. By the way, the best students of the Blitzkrieg were in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, not the Arab capitals.
Since Israel took on the Egypt with the British and the French, this campaign hardly demonstrates anything more than the truism that greater numbers increase the chance of victory. The poster-child for Israel military prowess is the Six Day War, in which the Israelis did achieve some spectacular military victories. But the Jewish state was not a fighting a monolithic Arab coalition, and so could operate again Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in sequence, rather than simultaneously, further undermining the David/Goliath myth.
If 1967 is the high-water mark for the myth, 1973 is when the tide started going out. Israeli tactics for defending occupied Sinai and Golan were defective and their much-touted intelligence services were caught napping on Yom Kippur. Only Israel’s nuclear arsenal and the intervention of the United States (Seymour Hersh argues that the two were not unrelated in his Samson Option) prevented a costly stalemate.
Finally, Israel’s military performance in Lebanon in 1982 and 2006 and Gaza in 2008 were hardly text book examples of tactical prowess.
Given that, the interesting question is what explains Israeli strategic and military ineptitude, particularly in recent years? The conventional view is that the Occupation, which involved the IDF in police and other non-military operations, blunted the sharp edge of the IDF’s sword. I find that explanation compelling in explaining the tactical erosion of the IDF’s capabilities.
John Mearsheimer makes a different argument, which I will call the Moral Hazard of the Israel Lobby. His logic, which I find helpful for understanding Israel’s strategic missteps, is that the promise of unquestioning U.S. support has, like the government bailout of the Savings and Loan industry, fostered a culture of risk-taking within the Israeli political elite (as it did among U.S. bankers) that leads them to ignore the costs and risks of the questionable strategic decisions they have made, particularly since 1967.
Placed in this historical context, the strategic debacle and tactical shortcomings of Israel’s military operations against the Gaza blockade runners seem to be par for the course rather than anything surprising. So next time any one tells you that the Israelis know best about their, or our, security, keep in mind their real track record.

Goldstone removed from Hebrew University board
Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Richard Goldstone has been removed from the board of governors of the Hebrew University. He was on it for more than a decade. Jewish nationalism trumps Jewish intelligence, once again. The struggle of our generation.


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