Nader: ‘Anti-semitism against Arabs is rife’ in U.S.
Posted: 12 Jun 2010 11:10 AM PDT

Washington Post poll says that 91 percent of people are opposed to Helen Thomas’s removal. Talk about the American street. And here is Ralph Nader on the Thomas resignation. Calls it a “professional execution.” More:

She’s a courageous journalist… blazed the way for women like no one did…. She set the standard for journalists, asking the tough questions… [to Bush] “Why did you invade Iraq?”
She also asked questions about the Israeli-Palestinian situation…
Do you know how many people [in Washington]… privately… say bad things about Arabs? Antisemitism against Arabs is rife in politics today… Ann Coulter… said horrific things about going over there and slaughtering Muslims….

More: the open-air prison that is Gaza, the USS Liberty too and the rubberstamping by the US of the Israeli investigation. Israeli nukes? Reporters are afraid to ask about them. 
I like Nader’s freshness about ethnic identification. “She’s of Arab origin for heaven’s sake,” says Nader, who is himself of Arab origin. Put the shoe on the other foot, he says: Imagine a a massive Arab power was pummeling the Jews. What do you think Jewish-American reporters would do, he asks: they’d say a lot more than Helen Thomas…

US position on flotilla is compromised by its love of drones
Posted: 12 Jun 2010

I wonder if this is an Aquino moment for Israel. In 1983, Filipino strongman Ferdinand Marcos ordered opposition leader Nino Aquino dragged from the plane and executed upon his return from exile. It was illustrative of how Marcos, forever coddled by his U.S. protectors, was so insulated from any meaningful rebuke that he thought he could eliminate a political foe in broad daylight with impunity. It was caught on film and was the end of his regime.
There is also the resemblance to the French intelligence bombing of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in 1985. Again, a ruthless attack by a mighty military upon a defenseless activist group, killing one. And like the Rainbow Warrior’s mission, last week’s flotilla was arguably provocative — for all the best reasons — but nevertheless provocative.
The deaths visited upon the flotilla deserve all the outrage pouring forth from the international community. Still, I became uneasy with the intense focus on Israel’s wrongdoing. Granted, this blog’s focus is on the complications and contradictions inherent in the Zionist endeavor, but I’ve watched with increasing horror how my own government — via an essentially autonomous CIA — uses drones to selectively kill perceived threats in lands far away.
How can the U.S. operate as a moral arbiter in the flotilla affair? Warfare by drone brings a detached cold-bloodedness that ups the ante of the term “war is hell” (even its name is evocative of an empty, unfeeling killing machine). Someone with skills developed on video games can annihilate a family in Afghanistan with a squeeze of a trigger. (And let’s be honest, when it came to 9-11, the Taliban were at best bit players.) Yet we kill people in their homes based upon suspicions and God knows what quality of intelligence.
A U.N. Human Rights report released last week cries out against the Pandora’s box opened up by extra-judicial execution by drone, especially once the technology inevitably proliferates to other countries.
For, as the report’s author said to the New York Times, “If invoked by other states, in pursuit of those they deem to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos.” 
But an unnamed U.S. “official,” not surprisingly, tells the Times we’ll do whatever the hell we want, thank you very much: “The United States has an inherent right to protect itself and will not refrain from doing so based on someone else’s exceptionally narrow — if not faulty — definition of self-defense.”
“Wired” reported that drones have killed hundreds of innocents in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But, as Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute points out, they have also killed 20 “high value” terrorist targets. The U.S. military has 7,000 such drones, and the Dept. of Homeland Security has some too. When asked on NPR whether he supported the use of drones, Singer said essentially it depended upon how they were used.
Well, you could say that about most any weapon.
The U.S. at one time denounced targeted assassinations carried out by Israel; now it’s clear the U.S. has adopted the policy.
Some argue that drones are preferable to the carnage of carpet-bombing. Perhaps so. During WWII Orwell wrote of the contradictions in a society that will go to great lengths to punish murder of an innocent individual, yet will condone and rationalize wholesale aerial bombings of civilian centers. He described feeling a kind of interplanetary existential disorientation — as if earthlings were not quite the intelligent, caring humans they make themselves out to be.
The late Nuremberg prosecutor Henry King told me it was worth heeding war criminal Albert Speer’s warning that mankind’s moral compass was not keeping pace with its technical ability to create ever more lethal, insidious weaponry. It could be argued that the farther away our technology separates us from the carnage we cause, we are that much more detached from our humanity. Still, a few old-fashioned kicks to the face before a coup de grace through the skull don’t seem all that humane either.
So, do we celebrate a cold-hearted brave new world of less collateral damage? Or does mankind’s eternal vigil, awaiting the elusive morality upgrade, go on as ever before? True, the numbers are smaller, which could count as progress. Unless one of those few belong to you.
The following was written in memory of a teenager killed by a “stray bullet” in Gaza, but can stand for any innocent senselessly cut down.
For Mohammed Zeid of Gaza, Age 15
By Naomi Shihab Nye

There is no stray bullet, sirs.

No bullet like a worried cat
crouching under a bush,
no half-hairless puppy bullet
dodging midnight streets.
The bullet could not be a pecan
plunking the tin roof,
not hardly, no fluff of pollen
on October’s breath,
no humble pebble at our feet.

So don’t gentle it, please.
We live among stray thoughts,
tasks abandoned midstream.
Our fickle hearts are fat
with stray devotions, we feel at home
among bits and pieces,
all the wandering ways of words.

But this bullet had no innocence, did not
wish anyone well, you can’t tell us otherwise
by naming it mildly, this bullet was never the friend
of life, should not be granted immunity
by soft saying—friendly fire, straying death-eye,
why have we given the wrong weight to what we do?

Mohammed, Mohammed, deserves the truth.
This bullet had no secret happy hopes,
it was not singing to itself with eyes closed
under the bridge.

Solidarity with Palestinians, yes– but why not solidarity with Jews?
Posted: 12 Jun 2010

I’m struck by the hysterical tone of Hirsh Goodman’s piece saying that Israel must go to war against critical information. You’d think Goodman has some worldliness. He grew up in South Africa, was a reporter for many years, and is married to the New York Times correspondent. Yet he defends the murderous flotilla raid and the slaughter of Gaza in 08-09 and is angry that Israel is not getting its message out to maintain its image in the world, and its lifeline of international support. 
The obvious response to Goodman is that this battle is lost. The world is tired of Israel shaping the news, the world is tired of miraculous battles with “terrorists” in which nine non-Jews are killed and all the Israelis survive, and the dispossession doesn’t stop. Even in the U.S. public opinion is now in play. Every day in the West Bank, Jewish colonists run over Palestinians on the Jews-only roads or Israeli soldiers shoot young Palestinians or evict them from their homes. That’s what the world is focused on.
Still: Goodman feels the walls closing in. Almost all Israelis seem to feel the same way. 
I spend a lot of my day doing Palestinian solidarity, trying to put myself in another people’s shoes. So what about solidarity with the Israelis? At a time when many people are clearly demonizing Israel (other states do bad stuff too; I was in Egypt last year, oppressive), why am I not on the side of the people I grew up calling my own, the Jews, and with them the Israelis, so many of them similar culturally to me? 
This is a genuine challenge, morally, spiritually, politically.
I first heard it a year ago in Gaza. A psychotherapist said to my group, Please, please put yourself in the minds of the Israelis, you who are their friends. We are imprisoned but they are not free. They are gripped by fear; how else can you explain their wanton destruction of our society. Something must be done for these people– and the therapist was calling on us to reach out to them and try and heal them.  
The therapist felt, as I feel, that only greater bloodshed is likely to result until the Israelis overcome a psychosis. As Matthew Taylor wrote,

During my travels in Israel, I found many of the Israeli Jews I interviewed to be intensely scared to their deepest core, behind all of the bluster and tough talk about not giving an inch to the Arabs. We must remember: understandable, justifiable fear of anti-Jewish oppression was the most powerful motivating factor for the project of political Zionism from its inception 130 years ago, and I argue that fear still is the primary motivating factor whether it’s justified fear or not

In a word, Hirsh Goodman.
The reason I do Palestinian solidarity is that there is no question about who is suffering and who isn’t in Israel and Palestine. It is a grotesquely unjust situation with respect to human and civil rights, reminiscent of American slavery in the unfairness and the benediction granted the unfairness in Washington. Back then, I would have been a writer for an abolitionist newspaper; I’m proud to be doing this work.
As a Jew, I believe the only way to save my fellows from the despair of what Israel has become is not to justify Israel’s actions, it is for American Jews to reclaim their tradition of liberalism and fight the Israel lobby in this country and convey their social/political understanding to the Israelis.
I use the word psychosis because Israeli society is conditioned by the Holocaust and the 6 million and the belief that Jews can trust no one else. As Norman Mailer said, Hitler’s bitterest achievement was reducing Jews to the concern, Is it good for the Jews?
But not Mailer. And this is the sad truth about Zionism: it distilled distrust. Its nationalistic appeal sorted out Jews who were fearful about antisemitism from those who were not. It sorted out those who believe that Jews must look out for Jews from those who favor integration in western societies. It sorted out the ethnocentric, Is-it-good-for-the-Jews types, from Jews who think it’s OK to marry non-Jews. And in that division, the fearful took power.
They moved to Israel or manned the barricades of the Israel lobby, and the integrators married non-Jews or wrote books about jazz and checked out. The fearful were granted power by the rest of the community. It is no coincidence that Leon Wieseltier, one of the stalwarts of the Israel lobby in this country, is someone who has at times embraced paranoia (I think he called it anxiety) and was a member of the Jewish Defense League when he was in high school.
Richard Perle and David Frum (“victory or Holocaust”, sending us to Iraq) are probably just as bad. Jeffrey Goldberg concluded as a young man studying the Holocaust and the American response that the diaspora was the “disease” and Israel was the cure, and so he moved to Israel and served in a prison that oppresses Palestinians. All these men think that Jews must rely on themselves. And with that understanding, they are isolating the Jews of Israel from the world.
So I accept the charge. I am part of the Jewish community, and feel solidarity with the Jews of Israel. And the best thing I can do for them now is to convey to them firmly but kindly, this is not the way to deal with other people, and many, many Jews have reached that understanding. You are isolating yourselves from the world, it is time to listen. Please.

We need Roger Cohen to stand up for his opposition to nationalist myth-formation
Posted: 12 Jun 2010

The other day the New York Times went out of its way to bash Shlomo Sand for his book, The Invention of the Jewish People. The Times reported on new genetic studies suggesting a close DNA relation among Jews of the world and hastened to add:

They refute the suggestion made last year by the historian Shlomo Sand in his book “The Invention of the Jewish People” that Jews have no common origin but are a miscellany of people in Europe and Central Asia who converted to Judaism at various times.

This potshot deserves a strong response.
First, Sand’s book is not chiefly about genetics; genetics make up about 7 pages. He’s not a geneticist, he’s a historian, and his purpose in the book was to trace the rise of Jewish nationalism, and of a Jewish story about a common origin going back 3000 years (in Netanyahu’s view) so as to justify Israel’s Zionist project. The brilliance of the book (and it truly is that) is its exploration of the rise of nationalist ideology in the 19th century and the ways that proto-Zionist historians shaped their view of the Bible to serve a nationalistic quest.
Sand relates genetic explorations to 1850s studies of race that served nationalism in Europe and observes:

Israel’s rule since 1967 over a growing non-Jewish population intensified the urge to find an enclosing ethnobiological boundary.

Wow. That’s Sand’s method– the rapier thrust.
Now Sand may be wrong about his debunking of the genetic studies, I don’t know and don’t really care. As I say, it’s 7 pages in the book. Genetics is not destiny in any case. And this is where I urgently call on Roger Cohen to get engaged in this conversation– a conversation about the historical/religious myths that are created to justify nationalistic and racist separation.
Why Roger Cohen? I met him a month back in Qatar. He’s truly a worldly person who treats other groups than his own as equals. I read that his heart was broken by the partition of the former Yugoslavia; and you can see that passion in his great Iranian reporting of a year ago, and in his book on Yugoslavia, Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo.
In that book, Cohen landed on the myths that nationalists produced to justify projects of ethnic cleansing and supremacy. Milosevic, he said, postulated something that “had never existed” in order to justify Serbian crimes against Muslims– a “Serbian state stretching from Belgrade to Knin [in Croatia]” and going back 600 years. And listen to his passion against nationalism:

The unscrambling of centuries of miscegenation in Europe in the name of relatively new ideas–that of the “nation-state” and its perversion, the “nation-as-tribe”–reached a paroxysm during the twentieth century. Hitler and Stalin moved or annihilated millions in the name of racist ideology or social engineering.
More than one million Greeks were “resettled” from Turkey during the 1920s; six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazi’s; more than three million ethnic Germans from Central Europe and the Soviet Union were “resettled”in the aftermath of World War II.
Violence, the very heart of fascist ideologies in which differences of class and background were subsumed, grew in proportion to the often tenuous reality of the national idea. As Hans Magnus Enzensberger has observed, “The Aryan was never anything more than a risible construct,” a form of “compensation” for the mixed blood of the German and Austrian peoples.
Similarly, in the Balkans, the post-communist “construct” of the Serbian, Croatian, and finally Bosnian Muslim nations had to be imbued with a compensatory fervor that masked the reality of mingling expressed in the idea of Yugoslavia.
This fervor of the resurgent nation–built as much around legend as historical fact–in turn produced bloodshed not seen in Europe since 1945.

Wonderful, huh?
We are facing great bloodshed in the Middle East unless Jews begin to examine the legends and historical constructs that have justified the landgrab project that Israel licensed in the name of the Jews who were in Jerusalem 3000 years ago, per Netanyahu, and inventing hummus. Shlomo Sand has repeatedly been knocked in the Times, but he is offering a door to Jews and Israelis to examine our presence in the world in non-nationalistic terms, but as a religious civilization. Cohen should be engaged in this struggle.
Because he shares Sand’s universalistic beliefs and knows the danger of social ideologies that mask the “reality of mingling.” 
(Oh and by the way: yes, Yugoslavia underwent partition– and there was also a robust right of return for refugees, guaranteed.)

Recasting the Gaza blockade as a humanitarian project
Posted: 11 Jun 2010

Israel’s efforts to control the narrative of the flotilla raid that left at least nine dead and dozens wounded have come under increasing scrutiny, with more and more contradictory evidence coming to light. Less attention has been focused on Israel’s equally ambitious campaign to recast the nature of the blockade itself.
Anyone paying even slight attention over the past few years knows that Israel implemented the policy to deprive a million and a half civilians of adequate supplies of the necessities of life, such as food, water, medicine, cooking fuel, clothing, even children’s toys. The Israelis have been allowing in enough goods that they calculate are necessary to keep people from dying of starvation. The Israelis consider anything in excess to be “luxuries” that must be kept from the Gazans until they overthrow Hamas, recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, free Gilad Shalit, or whatever is the cause du jour.
Since the object of the siege was to compel a change of leadership, it had to be rigorous enough to cause severe pain to a large majority of the civilian population; mere inconvenience or annoyance would not do. Gazans had to experience real hardship and struggle for the Israeli policy to have even a remote chance of success. (It recalls Ariel Sharon’s phrase “moderate physical pressure” used to describe garden-variety torture, as if “moderate” suffering could persuade unwilling victims to reveal secrets.)
For years, Israel made no secret of its motives. Dov Weissglas, top aide to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, famously said: “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.” In February, 2009, Senator John Kerry learned that many truckloads of pasta were denied entry because only rice, not pasta, fit the Israeli definition of humanitarian aid. Apparently, the Israelis were at least temporarily shamed into reversing this position.
As recently as March, 2010, it was announced that Israel would allow in the first shipment of clothes and shoes in more than two years.
All that has changed, however, in recent weeks, as Israel and its supporters began to recast the siege as designed to prevent the importation of weapons to be used against Israeli civilians. Of course, Israel always had a policy of interdicting such arms importations. Had it merely continued that policy, there would have been virtually no controversy and no attempts to break the siege. Inspect the pasta truck and let it through.
The true (and undisputed) nature of Israel’s cruelty toward Gaza presented a potential public relations nightmare for Israel.
With unprecedented world attention drawn to the flotilla even before the lethal attack on its passengers, Israel naturally preferred to defend its position by creating an alternative reality. Rather than continue to admit that it was defending its “right” to keep purely civilian goods out of Gaza, the blockade was misrepresented as the only means to prevent the bad guys from importing weapons to be used against Israeli citizens.
Look how prominent Israelis and their supporters have changed the discourse. From the chief himself: “Mr. Netanyahu argues that the naval blockade is essential to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza by Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction. But, he said Sunday: ‘We have no desire to make things difficult for the civilian population in Gaza. We would like for goods that are neither war matériel nor contraband to enter Gaza.’” This from the head of the government that has openly “desired to make things difficult for the civilian population in Gaza” by preventing the entry of “goods that are neither war matériel nor contraband.”
For sheer chutzpah, this is hard to beat. But that hasn’t stopped others from trying.
On June 3, the New York Times published two op-eds on the flotilla covering the gamut of opinion from A to B. Ambassador Michael Oren, who has expertly assumed the job requirement of designated liar, wrote: “There is little doubt as to the real purpose of the Mavi Marmara’s voyage — not to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, but to create a provocation that would put international pressure on Israel to drop the Gaza embargo, and thus allow the flow of seaborne military supplies to Hamas. Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.” 
And Daniel Gordis of Israel’s Shalem Center, chimed in: “Life in Gaza is unquestionably oppressive; no one in his right mind would choose to live there. But there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; if anyone goes without food, shelter or medicine, that is by the choice of the Hamas government, which puts garnering international sympathy above taking care of its citizens. Israel has readily agreed to send into Gaza all the food and humanitarian supplies on the boats after they had been inspected for weapons.”
Then there is the comment submitted by the comically named Anti-Defamation League in response to a Huffington Post article by Josh Ruebner that compared Leon Klinghoffer to Furkan Dogan, the 19-year old Turkish-American killed on the flotilla. The ADL defamed Dogan as a terrorist, and added the following: “Israel is blockading Gaza because Hamas seeks weapons to attack Israel to fulfill its stated goal to eliminate the Jewish state. Israel stops weapons from going into Gaza; it allows basic necessities to go through after inspection. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
Of course, one can always rely on the creativity of Alan Dershowitz to present the most imaginatively dishonest version of the events: “Israel responded to the rockets by declaring a blockade, the purpose of which was to assure that no rockets, or other material that could be used for making war against Israeli civilians, was permitted into Gaza. Israel allowed humanitarian aid through its checkpoints. Egypt as well participated in the blockade. There was never a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, merely a shortage of certain goods that would end if the rocket attacks ended.”
Wait a minute, Alan. If the purpose of the blockade was to assure that no offensive military material entered Gaza, how did that result in a shortage of certain (civilian) goods?
Which brings us to the curious use of the word “humanitarian.” In Israeli parlance, the meager scraps allowed the Gazans, theoretically enough to sustain life, are described as “humanitarian aid,” thereby allowing the Israelis to impose collective punishment on a civilian population yet still perversely claim the mantle of being “humanitarian.” If Gazans are not actually dying of starvation, and show no signs of extended bellies, there is no “humanitarian crisis” because Israel has ensured that “humanitarian supplies” enter the area.
The Israeli siege of Gaza, which has at times prevented toys, clothing, and pasta from importation, has become a “humanitarian” effort to provide necessities to a people victimized by their own oppressive rulers, who would prefer that they starve to embarrass the Israelis as a means for acquiring weapons.
“Humanitarian” has become confused with “human experimentation,” which is precisely what the Israelis have been conducting in a grotesque effort to determine just how many calories are needed to keep a population alive.
Did this public relations effort really fool anyone?
Of course. Those who want to be fooled. Those who believed Israeli claims in December 2008 that an aid ship had deliberately rammed Israel’s naval vessel rather than the other way around. Those who believe that Israel has the right to sadistically deprive Gaza civilians of everyday goods, while screaming about Elvis Costello cancelling his Israel gig and other monstrous deprivations resulting from the BDS movement.
How does one make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? I have no idea, but if you are interested, I suggest you contact the Israeli public relations machine. Piece of cake for them.

Gaza activists in prison stripes try to give themselves up to Congressman Brad Sherman
Posted: 11 Jun 2010

A bunch of Gaza activists descended on California congressman Brad Sherman’s office to protest his statement that Americans who go to Gaza should be prosecuted for aiding terrorists. Medea Benjamin is there wearing prison stripes, Ann Wright of Code Pink too (there’s the blonde colonel, at center in the still above, holding a photograph of Furkan Dogan, the 19-year-old American killed by the Israeli commandos) and Tighe Barry, who built a jungle gym in Gaza a year ago. “Guilty of Aiding Gaza,” his placard reads. He’s in prison stripes, too.

These ‘Times’ demand Robert Mackey
Posted: 11 Jun 2010

The New York Times has become notorious for its thoroughly pro-Israel reporting on Israel/Palestine. So it was somewhat of a shock to read recent entries on the Times’ “Lede” blog, authored by Robert Mackey, and see actual reporting and blogging that doesn’t take Israeli claims at face-value in the aftermath of the Israeli raid on the flotilla.
Mackey’s most recent post highlighted filmmaker Iara Lee’s unedited video from aboard the flotilla. He posted the full one-hour clip on the blog.
In an earlier posting, Mackey’s headline read, “Turkish Doctor Describes Treating Israeli Commandos During Raid,” highlighting two photos that show just that, therefore undermining the Israeli claim that they were met by a “lynch” mob intent on killing the commandos. Mackey even links to Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah’s blog, giving credit where it’s due, for Abunimah has been doing great work on the flotilla aftermath and, specifically, on the “lynching” claims. Linking to someone like Abunimah is not par for the course for the Times (has the Times ever assigned this writer an Op-Ed or a book review?) and I applaud Mackey for doing so.
Mackey also devoted a separate post to the testimony of two activists aboard the flotilla who were listed on the Israeli Defense Forces’ website as “active terror operatives.” Mackey casts skepticism on the Israeli claim, noting that there were factual errors in the IDF’s bios, and gives space to Fatima Mohammadi, an American citizen born in Tehran, who strongly denied the claim that she was a “terrorist.”
All of which leaves an obvious question: Why are there such stark differences between the Times’ online work at the “Lede” blog and its pathetic reporting in print? Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner deny space to Palestinian voices, let alone Palestinian analysts and activists like Abunimah who buck the conventional wisdom on Israel/Palestine.
Bronner’s article today on the blockade of Gaza includes the usual distortions the Times propagates on Israel/Palestine and Gaza. Imagine that article if Mackey became the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief? And imagine the effect that Mackey’s getting print space– with free rein to cast substantial doubt on Israeli propaganda and quote smart people like Abunimah– would have on the bankrupt discourse in our mainstream media generally on these issues.
Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt suggested Bronner should be put in a different position than his current one as Jerusalem bureau chief at least for the duration of his son’s service in the IDF. That’s what should happen, and I have a good idea who should replace him.


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