Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


Israel denies West Bank entry to 100-plus internationals invited by Palestinian Authority
Aug 27, 2012
Allison Deger
Yesterday, despite an invitation from the Palestinian Authority and the Bethlehem mayor, and a special request to the French Foreign Ministry, more than a hundred internationals were denied entry into the West Bank via Jordan. “They did not even let us get off the bus,” said French organizer Olivia Zemor, who intended to visit school children on a nine-day trip with a European human rights group.
At 7:30 pm on August 26, Israeli officials, controlling all access to the Palestinian Territories, said the border crossing was a “a closed military zone” and refused to allow the official guests of the civil administration to enter. Zemor said:

‘They collected our passports and a few minutes later returned them with each and every passport stamped ‘Entry denied’. The soldiers refused to give any explanation, they just said – that’s it, your entry is denied, go back to Jordan.’

Organizers from Zemor’s group, Bienvenue Palestine, or Welcome to Palestine, are familiar with Israel’s de facto “no entry to the West Bank unless you’re a settler” policy. Earlier this year during the “flytilla,” activists were promptly deported after landing and announcing to passport security their intent to visit Bethlehem. As well, in Europe, participants expecting to board planes to the Middle East were kept from the Palestinian territories vis-à-vis coordination between Israeli officials and aviation companies. Three flights were outright cancelled before take-off and Lufthansa Airlines, Brussels Airlines and EasyJet all “blacklisted” a number of passengers based on “Israel’s orders,” according to a letter airline officials sent to passengers.
Despite last spring’s debacle Bienvenue Palestine was not deterred from seeking to enter the West Bank. Heeding the advice of border officials who advised entering through Jordan by land, and not the Tel Aviv airport, Zemor’s group tried again. “So we did try to get through the Jordan bridges, and now we got a definite answer from the government of Israel,” she said.
The activists’ deportation comes on the heels of a government envoy banned from entering the West Bank for meetings with the Palestinian leadership earlier this month, and the well-publicized deportation of two Palestinian-American tourists whose privacy was violated by airport security. In June of this year Najwa Doughman and Sasha Al-Sarabi were sent back to their homes in New York City from Ben Gurion airport after guards searched through their email accounts to verify that the two were of Arab descent.
The cases confirm racist and invasive practices are at the core of Israel’s airport security apparatus. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when Israeli security procedures were exported to Boston in 2011, the flagship “behavior profiling” program was criticized one year later as “rife” with “racial profiling.” Alex Kane reported, the victims of New Age Security Solution’s excessive interrogations sparked calls for a congressional hearing over charges of discrimination.
h/t Sid Shniad.
Two-stater says the reality has shifted to one apartheid state
Aug 27, 2012
Philip Weiss
Here is another sign of the end of the two-state paradigm in the minds of those who were engaged in building two states. The dialogue project, bitterlemons, is closing down. From the two statements below, you can see that Palestinian intellectuals are growing increasingly resentful of normalization efforts, and that the hope that some felt around the two-state solution has drained away, including from European sponsors. (Thanks to Paul Mutter).
Palestinian partner Ghassan Khatib, formerly of the P.A., says this:

In the foreword to “The Best of Bitterlemons” compilation published in 2007, I noted that we rarely had trouble recruiting writers. Despite the feeling among many in the Arab world that contact with Israelis is tantamount to accepting Israel’s occupation, seldom did authors decline an invitation. Lately, we have observed that this has changed, that even once-forthcoming Palestinians are less interested in sharing ideas with Israelis just across the way. Still, we have been able to present the voices of security chiefs and political prisoners, military generals and farmers losing land, spokespersons for armed groups and peaceniks in an equal and fair manner–rather differently than the situation on the ground.
Nevertheless, this achievement is bittersweet as the scenery around us grows ever more dark and uncertain. Two decades after the signing of the Declaration of Principles that many hoped would usher in the creation of a Palestinian state and independence, freedom and security, Palestinians and Israelis are barely conversational. The structures created by those agreements have atrophied, corrupted by an increasing imbalance in the Palestinian relationship with Israel. Every day, there is new word of land confiscations, arrests, demolitions, and legislative maneuvers to solidify Israel’s control. Israel’s political leaders are beholden to a tide of right-wing sentiment and Palestinian leaders are made to appear ever-smaller in their shrinking spheres of control.
We are now, it appears, at the lowest point in the arc of the pendulum, one that is swinging away from the two-state solution into a known unknown: an apartheid Israel. How this new “one-state” option will be transformed into a solution that provides freedom and security for all remains to be seen. 

Israeli partner Yossi Alpher adds this:

We are ceasing publication for reasons involving fatigue–on a number of fronts. First, there is donor fatigue. Why, donors ask, should we continue to support a Middle East dialogue project that not only has not made peace, but cannot “prove” to our satisfaction–especially at a time of revolution and violence throughout the region–that it has indeed raised the level of civilized discussion? Why fight the Israeli right-wing campaign against European and American state funding and the Palestinian campaign against “normalization”?
These last two negative developments also reflect local fatigue. There is no peace process and no prospect of one. Informal “track II” dialogue–bitterlemons might be described as a “virtual” track II–is declining. Here and there, writers from the region who used to favor us with their ideas and articles are now begging off, undoubtedly deterred by the revolutionary rise of intolerant political forces in their countries or neighborhood.

VIDEO: Reaction to Jerusalem lynching – ‘I saw the whole beating, it’s a good thing that they beat the Arabs’
Aug 27, 2012
Adam Horowitz
The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) has posted an English translation of a video that was produced by Ynet following the attack on several Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Zion Square on August 17th. These interviews were taken in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hahatulot (Cat Square) near the site of the attack. The IMEU notes, “the video is reminiscent of a controversial 2009 video made by Jewish-American journalist/author Max Blumenthal and American-Israeli journalist Joseph Dana titled ‘Feeling the hate in Jerusalem.'”
You can find the original Ynet report here.

VIDEO: Activists in Gaza say — Remember Rachel Corrie by supporting BDS
Aug 27, 2012
Adam Horowitz
From the YouTube page:

Palestinians in Gaza support the Corrie family on the eve of the verdict in their lawsuit against Israel over its 2003 killing of their daughter Rachel, as well as divestment from Caterpillar and the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

‘After Zionism’ at the Frontline Club
Aug 27, 2012
Ahmed Moor

After Zionism

Antony Loewenstein wrote about a discussion he participated in in Tel Aviv around our jointly edited anthology, After Zionism.
We were lucky enough to have an opportunity to speak about a one state future with Ghada Karmi and Dimi Reider in London recently. The Frontline Club – a journalistic hub – provided us with the venue while Tim Llewellyn (a former BBC journalist with expertise in the Middle East) moderated the discussion.
In reality, the one-state solution is only an idea now – but the one-apartheid-state was our point of departure. Recognition of the fact that we’ve moved well beyond anything called “two states for two peoples” was the basis for our discussion.
The conversation was lively – but it could have been livelier. In other words, the four of us had few disagreements. Part of this had to do with the panel make-up, but I think it was also because we were speaking in London. The Palestine/Israel discussion in the UK (and Europe more broadly) has long been more open than that in the US. Facts are harder to argue against there.
Here is a video of the panel”
Video streaming by Ustream

Exile and the Prophetic: On empty suits and olive trees
Aug 27, 2012
Marc H. Ellis
This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
In anticipation of the Tampa stage-set. I’m thinking about the Isaac weather – bucket loads of rain and high winds I hope for them. Since they’re pouring on the poor and everyone in between the poor and the very wealthy, they deserve the worse of Florida’s weather.
The weather is worsening here, too. Yesterday I went for a walk on the stormy beach in my bathing suit. Returned soaking wet. Well worth it. Sky dark, the sound of the water crashing on shore, visibility only a few feet. If it stays within a safe range, storms are wonderful.
Not so in Haiti with a number dead. What a global scandal that things were like they were and remain so. Even Sean Penn can’t seem to get the job done. He couldn’t handle Kabbalah Madonna either.
On the moon beat, Neil Armstrong is dead. The first moon walker in 1969, after the Great Society had faded in the jungles of Vietnam. On earth we remain where we were. Or some steps behind.
Another shout out for Rabbi Lynn, the latest assault victim of the right-wing. Yesterday a friend of a friend suggested that I might be a good lecturer on cruise ships. She knows a cruise ship lecturer and wants to suggest my name. I think it’s a hoot and a real possibility for Jews of Conscience on the run. So as I contemplate my cruise future I also thought of Rabbi Lynn. Shall I recommend her?
It’s a sign of humility to sin for your supper. Can you imagine me singing Martin Buber for my supper? Indeed, Buberian encounters can happen at sea. Still, I have to be careful of meeting someone on Buber’s narrow (b)ridge. You never know what secret agents might be lurking. Ellis overboard!
On the political, really 1950s beat, reporters have been trying to pick Paul Ryan apart. Or trying to find some scandal to pin his name on. Not much on the sex. They take for granted his marrying into some wealth. When they checked out his wife’s corporate lobbying it turned up some very Republican credentials i.e., like most of them, for years she was a well-paid corporate lobbyist in Washington. Her clients included the cigar industry, a logging company, drug makers, the health insurance industry and a nuclear power plant. Oh well, sounds like Newt Gingrich and Vice President Cheney. Sounds like all of them. The list is endless.
Typical (un)political reporting of our day – the story didn’t go anywhere. Since I have just come from more than a decade among folks like Ryan, I’m weighing in on what these reporters might find – if they knew how to look.
You see, for the most part, with Paul Ryan types it isn’t where to look. Sure people like Ryan engage in everything everyone else engages in, though when they participate in behaviors reporters want to find, they’re usually well hidden. Like being a closeted Gay or having an office wife. On the university level, such behavior involves faculty, chairs of departments, directors of programs and administrators. It even extends to the legal arm of universities.
Listen carefully to Maureen Dowd – she’s got Paul Ryan down and the others I’ve been dealing with: “I’d been wondering how long it would take Republicans to realize that Paul Ryan is their guy. He’s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean-cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality. Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?”
Believe me, Dowd is right. She’s all over the conservative landscape but know, too, they protect their own. To protect themselves. However, more important is the “empty suit” phenomena, people devoid of personality or anything that would hint at a crisis that involves living. When you enter the empty suit landscape probing belief structures won’t lead past one sentence qualifiers. As in, I am a Christian. Or, I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
As a reporter, you have to remind yourself that the one sentence affirmations cover a host of sins. Don’t think that strongest held beliefs means belief in anything. Most of the time, people in leadership structure don’t believe in anything but their own paycheck. Don’t be fooled by conservatives. Their (un)belief is palpable.
I’m beginning to write about this in another format. For now, I warn reporters that it isn’t so easy for those who think the great questions of the day are about to be debated to realize that in fact a charade is about to begin. Though Hillary Clinton’s belief in a vast right-wing conspiracy was way too strong, I have learned that the people who tried to do her husband in were empire enablers who simply wanted their time at the trough. Think of conservatives as waiting their turn. It isn’t about beliefs. It’s about power and money.
That and whiteness. How dare a Black man like Obama think he has the right to eat at the table of power!
My message to reporters – think closet, emptiness and money. Think whiteness. When you connect the dots you might be underwhelmed. The challenge for reporters is to write a story that is faithful to the truth and a story that someone somewhere is interested in reading. Typically this is done by saying – “OK, believe it or not, this guy/gal believes that, on the domestic front, destroying Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid etc., etc., and, on the foreign policy front, nuking Iran and keeping America armed to the teeth until eternity – that the greatest nation on earth will remain the greatest nation on earth.” When reporters know that they are stretching the truth because there is nothing of substance to deal with, they might throw in their “belief” that Israel is the center of everything that is right with America. If America abandons Israel, the story continues, well, that would be the end of America’s right to govern the world. Where would our city on the hill be then?
Empty suits also pervade the American Jewish establishment(s). Let others in America and around the world fend for themselves.
But, then, the saber rattling turns serious. I see that Israel is demanding that the world community declare that Iran hasn’t towed the line. As preparation for an attack on the American political system, election time, trying to unseat the European socialist, Saul Alinsky radical, secret Muslim, Barack Obama? The great foe of Israel, Obama, who increased every level of support for Israel imaginable? The friend of Elie Wiesel?
Remember Obama’s great opening to the Muslim world. Remember where he flew right after his speech? Buchenwald, a seemingly unrelated destination, where Wiesel joined him. This would have been fine, I suppose, if before or after Obama had visited a Palestinian refugee camp. For my tastes, Obama could have even taken Wiesel along on the Palestinian leg of his journey. That would have been groundbreaking, don’t you think?
Better to head toward yet another diversion, like the Pope’s butler, who sees himself as an agent of God trying to expose the corrupters of God’s real agent on earth, the Pope. Sounds fishy, the whole thing, and no doubt Israel is somewhere in the mix in the ever expanding VatiLeaks investigation.
Seriously, though, traveling Jewish doesn’t get any easier when you have to present your American passport at the credential’s counter of the global classroom. Jewish/American – hybridity is assumed with the emphasis on American. If emphasis is assumed to be Jewish, the negative ratings zoom upward. A strange combination in today’s world. Those of you who don’t travel Jewish don’t want to know. Is that why Jews have disappeared except form the Palestinian archipelago we control?
While we’re on the subject of American Jews, did you see Philip Weiss’s video tour with Jeff Halper, the Jewish/American/Israeli, who pointed out the magnificent olive trees stolen from Palestinian lands replanted as decorative objects for Jewish settlement beautification? With Ace Hardware and the Library of Peace in the background?
Speaking of the Wheel of Colonial Life, thinking of Halper and my last discussion with my Fiji student in Innsbruck. It went something like this: Can she be liberated with the (Christian) colonial religion she inherited? Since she has been conquered by the Bible. Our (Jewish) question is thus related. Can an American/Jewish/Israeli like Halper become the conduit for understanding the Israeli empire he enabled and now opposes? In the end, is there a difference between the conquered and the conqueror when both awaken to the nightmare of history?
Because, you see, when both Halper and my Fiji student seek to return to the before of all of this, they have no ground beneath their feet. There is only after.
Uprooted Fiji woman meet my uprooted American/Jewish/Israeli friend, Jeff Halper. Somewhere in between is an uprooted Palestinian olive tree waiting to return home.
Empty suits hang together. On the rack of injustice. They use the same butlers, more or less. Does it matter where olive trees are planted?
I have a picture of beautiful Hannah, Henry’s daughter, planting an olive tree in the West Bank. The (re)planted (now settlement) olive tree has only four hundred plus years on Hannah’s tree.
We are left here for now. With volcanic fragments, Archipelago Palestine, Ace Hardware and the Library of Peace.
The Holy Land has always been strange. (un)Holy.

Israeli rabbi with ties to gov’t calls for obliterating Iranian leaders ‘from the face of the earth’
Aug 27, 2012
Philip Weiss
At our site, Joe Catron has been following the eliminationist language of Shas rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Andrew Sullivan is also on the case. (Thanks to Peter Voskamp)

“Destroy [the Iranian regime] God, obliterate them from the face of the earth,” – Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, after being briefed by Netanyahu’s administration on the Iranian threat.
“Obliterate them from the face of the earth.” Recall that the Shas party is an integral part of Neyanyahu’s coalition, and the briefing was designed to put religious pressure on the Shas minister in the inner security candidate still sane enough to oppose a pre-emptive strike on Iran.
Let there be no mistake: this is an Israeli rabbi calling for another people to be obliterated from the face of the earth. The ironies seem lost.

Judith Butler responds to attack: ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’
Aug 27, 2012
Judith Butler
Yesterday the Jerusalem Post published an attack on the awarding of a major international prize to Judith Butler, the philosopher and Berkeley professor of comparative literature, because Butler favors boycotting Israel. Butler wrote this response and, unhopeful that the Post would publish it, sent it to us. –Editors.
The Jerusalem Post recently published an article reporting that some organizations are opposed to my receiving the Adorno Prize, an award given every three years to someone who works in the tradition of critical theory broadly construed. The accusations against me are that I support Hamas and Hezbollah (which is not true) that I support BDS (partially true), and that I am anti-Semitic (patently false). Perhaps I should not be as surprised as I am that those who oppose my receiving the Adorno Prize would seek recourse to such scurrilous and unfounded charges to make their point. I am a scholar who gained an introduction to philosophy through Jewish thought, and I understand myself as defending and continuing a Jewish ethical tradition that includes figures such as Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt. I received a Jewish education in Cleveland, Ohio at The Temple under the tutelage of Rabbi Daniel Silver where I developed strong ethical views on the basis of Jewish philosophical thought. I learned, and came to accept, that we are called upon by others, and by ourselves, to respond to suffering and to call for its alleviation. But to do this, we have to hear the call, find the resources by which to respond, and sometimes suffer the consequences for speaking out as we do. I was taught at every step in my Jewish education that it is not acceptable to stay silent in the face of injustice. Such an injunction is a difficult one, since it does not tell us exactly when and how to speak, or how to speak in a way that does not produce a new injustice, or how to speak in a way that will be heard and registered in the right way. My actual position is not heard by these detractors, and perhaps that should not surprise me, since their tactic is to destroy the conditions of audibility.
I studied philosophy at Yale University and continued to consider the questions of Jewish ethics throughout my education. I remain grateful for those ethical resources, for the formation that I had, and that animates me still. It is untrue, absurd, and painful for anyone to argue that those who formulate a criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitic or, if Jewish, self-hating. Such charges seek to demonize the person who is articulating a critical point of view and so disqualify the viewpoint in advance. It is a silencing tactic: this person is unspeakable, and whatever they speak is to be dismissed in advance or twisted in such a way that it negates the validity of the act of speech. The charge refuses to consider the view, debate its validity, consider its forms of evidence, and derive a sound conclusion on the basis of listening to reason. The charge is not only an attack on persons who hold views that some find objectionable, but it is an attack on reasonable exchange, on the very possibility of listening and speaking in a context where one might actually consider what another has to say. When one set of Jews labels another set of Jews “anti-Semitic”, they are trying to monopolize the right to speak in the name of the Jews. So the allegation of anti-Semitism is actually a cover for an intra-Jewish quarrel.
In the United States, I have been alarmed by the number of Jews who, dismayed by Israeli politics, including the occupation, the practices of indefinite detention, the bombing of civilian populations in Gaza, seek to disavow their Jewishness. They make the mistake of thinking that the State of Israel represents Jewishness for our times, and that if one identifies as a Jew, one supports Israel and its actions. And yet, there have always been Jewish traditions that oppose state violence, that affirm multi-cultural co-habitation, and defend principles of equality, and this vital ethical tradition is forgotten or sidelined when any of us accept Israel as the basis of Jewish identification or values. So, on the one hand, Jews who are critical of Israel think perhaps they cannot be Jewish anymore of Israel represents Jewishness; and on the other hand, those who seek to vanquish anyone who criticizes Israel equate Jewishness with Israel as well, leading to the conclusion that the critic must be anti-Semitic or, if Jewish, self-hating. My scholarly and public efforts have been directed toward getting out of this bind. In my view, there are strong Jewish traditions, even early Zionist traditions, that value co-habitation and that offer ways to oppose violence of all kinds, including state violence. It is most important that these traditions be valued and animated for our time – they represent diasporic values, struggles for social justice, and the exceedingly important Jewish value of “repairing the world” (Tikkun).
It is clear to me that the passions that run so high on these issues are those that make speaking and hearing very difficult. A few words are taken out of context, their meaning distorted, and they then come to label or, indeed, brand an individual. This happens to many people when they offer a critical view of Israel – they are branded as anti-Semites or even as Nazi collaborators; these forms of accusation are meant to establish the most enduring and toxic forms of stigmatization and demonization. They target the person by taking the words out of context, inverting their meanings and having them stand for the person; indeed, they nullify the views of that person without regard to the content of those views. For those of us who are descendants of European Jews who were destroyed in the Nazi genocide (my grandmother’s family was destroyed in a small village south of Budapest), it is the most painful insult and injury to be called complicitous with the hatred of Jews or to be called self-hating. And it is all the more difficult to endure the pain of such an allegation when one seeks to affirm what is most valuable in Judaism for thinking about contemporary ethics, including the ethical relation to those who are dispossessed of land and rights of self-determination, to those who seek to keep the memory of their oppression alive, to those who seek to live a life that will be, and must be, worthy of being grieved. I contend that these values all derive from important Jewish sources, which is not to say that they are only derived from those sources. But for me, given the history from which I emerge, it is most important as a Jew to speak out against injustice and to struggle against all forms of racism. This does not make me into a self-hating Jew. It makes me into someone who wishes to affirm a Judaism that is not identified with state violence, and that is identified with a broad-based struggle for social justice.
My remarks on Hamas and Hezbollah have been taken out of context and badly distort my established and continuing views. I have always been in favor of non-violent political action, and this principle has consistently characterized my views. I was asked by a member of an academic audience a few years ago whether I thought Hamas and Hezbollah belonged to “the global left” and I replied with two points. My first point was merely descriptive: those political organizations define themselves as anti-imperialist, and anti-imperialism is one characteristic of the global left, so on that basis one could describe them as part of the global left. My second point was then critical: as with any group on the left, one has to decide whether one is for that group or against that group, and one needs to critically evaluate their stand. I do not accept or endorse all groups on the global left. Indeed, these very remarks followed a talk that I gave that evening which emphasized the importance of public mourning and the political practices of non-violence, a principle that I elaborate and defend in three of my recent books: Precarious LifeFrames of War, and Parting Ways. I have been interviewed on my non-violent views by Guernica and other on-line journals, and those views are easy to find, if one wanted to know where I stand on such issues. I am in fact sometimes mocked by members of the left who support forms of violent resistance who think I fail to understand those practices. It is true: I do not endorse practices of violent resistance and neither do I endorse state violence, cannot, and never have. This view makes me perhaps more naïve than dangerous, but it is my view. So it has always seemed absurd to me that my comments were taken to mean that I support or endorse Hamas and Hezbollah! I have never taken a stand on either organization, just as I have never supported every organization that is arguably part of the global left – I am not unconditionally supportive of all groups that currently constitute the global left. To say that those organizations belong to the left is not to say that they should belong, or that I endorse or support them in any way.
Two further points. I do support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in a very specific way. I reject some versions and accept others. For me, BDS means that I oppose investments in companies that make military equipment whose sole purpose is to demolish homes. It means as well that I do not speak at Israeli institutions unless they take a strong stand against the occupation. I do not accept any version of BDS that discriminates against individuals on the basis of their national citizenship, and I maintain strong collaborative relationships with many Israeli scholars. One reason I can endorse BDS and not endorse Hamas and Hezbollah is that BDS is the largest non-violent civic political movement seeking to establish equality and the rights of self-determination for Palestinians. My own view is that the peoples of those lands, Jewish and Palestinian, must find a way to live together on the condition of equality. Like so many others, I long for a truly democratic polity on those lands and I affirm the principles of self-determination and co-habitation for both peoples, indeed, for all peoples. And my wish, as is the wish of an increasing number of Jews and non-Jews, is that the occupation come to an end, that violence of all kinds cease, and that the substantial political rights of all people in that land be secured through a new political structure.
Two last notes: The group that is sponsoring this call is the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a misnomer at best, that claims on its website that “Islam” is an “inherently anti-semetic (sic) religion.” It is not, as The Jerusalem Post has reported, a large group of Jewish scholars in Germany, but an international organization with a base in Australia and California. They are a right-wing organization and so part of an intra-Jewish war. Ex-board member Gerald Steinberg is known for attacking human rights organizations in Israel as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Their willingness to include Israeli infractions of human rights apparently makes them also eligible for the label, “anti-Semitic.”
Finally, I am not an instrument of any “NGO”: I am on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, a member of Kehillah Synagogue in Oakland, California, and an executive member of Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace in the US and The Jenin Theatre in Palestine. My political views have ranged over a large number of topics, and have not been restricted to the Middle East or the State of Israel. Indeed, I have written about violence and injustice in other parts of the world, focusing mainly in wars waged by the United States. I have also written on violence against transgendered people in Turkey, psychiatric violence, torture in Guantanamo, and about police violence against peaceful protestors in the U.S, to name a few. I have also written against anti-Semitism in Germany and against racial discrimination in the United States.

GOP platform plank on sharia called ‘smokescreen for anti-Islam sentiment’
Aug 27, 2012
Alex Kane

RNCPhoto: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Republican Party has descended on Tampa, Florida for the coronation of Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate, and will meet this week to pass an extreme platform. The GOP platform will likely include a plank that opposes “foreign law” being used in courts–a position that takes aim at the imaginary threat of sharia law in the U.S and stokes anti-Muslim sentiment.
Last week, Talking Points Memo’s Ryan Reilly reported on the inclusion of this plank. Kris Kobach, an anti-immigrant activist and the Secretary of State in Kansas, explained in Tampa that “in cases involving either spousal abuse or assault or other crimes against persons, sometimes defenses are raised that are based in Sharia law…I think it’s important for us to say foreign sources of law should not be used as part of common law decisions or statutory interpretations by judges in the lower state courts as well.”
Video of Kobach’s remarks posted by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) shows that Kobach’s suggested amendment was included and was not opposed by anyone working on the platform. The exact language of the platform has yet to be released, though Politico posted portions of it (sans the foreign law amendment). Watch Kobach’s remarks:
The Republican Party will pass their platform this week during the convention. CAIR is calling on the GOP to “reject a newly-adopted platform plank that includes a section supporting a ban on foreign law, which its sponsor admits targets the religious principles of American Muslims.”
“It’s really, in many ways, a smokescreen for anti-Islam sentiment. That’s all there is to it,” said Corey Saylor, CAIR’s national legislative director, in a phone interview.
There is no push to institute sharia law in the U.S., as anti-Muslim activists assert. The term sharia refers to a complex set of moral codes based on Islam, and is interpreted differently around the world. Courts in the U.S. have considered sharia law in a variety of cases, just as they have done with Jewish (halakhic) law. But as CAIR government affairs coordinator Robert McCaw said in a statement, “the plank is irrelevant, since the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause ensures that no foreign law can replace it.”
The inclusion of the anti-sharia plank in the party platform comes after a years-long push to institute statewide bans targeting Islamic law. According to CAIR, “in 2011 and 2012, 78 bills or amendments aimed at interfering with Islamic religious practices were considered in 31 states and the U.S. Congress.” The Kobach amendment is similar to a bill passed in Kansas that did not explicitly mention Islam, though a Kansas City Republican said that proponents of the foreign law ban “presented this as protecting us against Sharia law. Despite the fact that this doesn’t mention Sharia, that’s how this whole issue was presented.” That’s likely the tact the GOP will take if they include Kobach’s plank in their platform.
The push against Islamic law in the U.S. can be largely traced back to one man, David Yerushalmi (pdf profile of him here), a lawyer and a far-right Hasidic Jewish anti-Muslim activist who is allied with Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Frank Gaffney. Yerushalmi’s organization, the Society of Americans for a National Existence, advocates for criminalizing the practice of Islam. He wrote a model bill, titled “American Laws for American Courts,” that has influenced many of the attempts to target Islamic law in the country. Yerushalmi once lived in the Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, and is an ardent right-wing Zionist. He also once wrote that “there is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote.”
“It’s disturbing that the work of a notorious Islamophobe is making its way into the GOP platform,” said CAIR’s Saylor, referring to Yerushalmi. “Why the GOP wants to have anything to do with that is a serious question that needs serious answers at the top.”
But the top of the GOP–Mitt Romney–could have stopped the bigoted amendment from being introduced. The Romney campaign has played a role in crafting the Republican Party platform. For example, the Romney campaign ensured that the platform would include a plank voicing support for the two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.
There’s a reason why the Republican Party and the Romney campaign isn’t bothering to hide its animus towards Muslims: it plays well with their base. A recently released Arab American Institute poll makes clear the extent of the antipathy towards Muslims within the GOP. About 47% of Republicans view both Arab and Muslim Americans unfavorably, with the unfavorable rating going into the 50s when the question is asked without the “American” term included.
Verdict in Corrie trial another test of Israeli impunity
Aug 27, 2012
Adam Horowitz

Photo 15  Rachel Corrie Trial
Photo of Rachel Corrie (far right, red jacket) holding a megaphone protesting home demolitions in Rafah, Gaza on the day she was killed. (Photo: International Solidarity Movement)

Tomorrow, on August 28th, the the Haifa District Court will announce a verdict in the Corrie family’s civil lawsuit against the State of Israel. Rachel Corrie was crushed to death on March 16, 2003 by an Israeli military Caterpillar D9-R bulldozer as she protested the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah, Gaza. Her family filed this lawsuit in 2005 and it charges the State of Israel with responsibility for Rachel’s killing and failure to conduct a credible investigation in the case. There are indications that the U.S. government agrees with the family. On Friday, the Guardian reported that Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel, met with the Corrie family in Tel Aviv two weeks ago and told them the U.S. government, “did not believe the Israeli military investigation had been ‘thorough, credible and transparent.'”
Since oral testimony began in the case in March 2010, there have been 15 hearings with 23 witnesses testifying. The Corrie family has been represented by attorney Hussein abu Hussein in these hearings. Although the trial has received much attention, little has been shared with what actually took place in court. I was given access to translations of never before published legal summaries submitted to the District Court in Haifa and these documents record an emotional and heated debate over the events of March, 2003 and Israel’s occupation policies in Gaza.
The legal summaries are submitted to the court by the lawyers for the plaintiff (the Corrie Family) and the defendant (the State of Israel) and analyze the evidence and legal arguments presented in court, as well as the testimonies given during the trial. The summaries also act as an exchange of sorts between the two parties with each side attacking the arguments of the other.
These summaries reveal a callous Israeli defense which attempts to smear Corrie and the International Solidarity Movement which she was working with. More broadly, the Israeli case recounts arguments many have become familiar with following Operation Cast Lead and the attack on the freedom flotilla — namely that Israel is above the law as it fights whomever it deems a threat.
The Corrie verdict on Tuesday is yet another test of whether Israeli courts can hold its own military accountable. If the Corrie family wins its case it will show that even nearly ten years after the loss of their beloved daughter, there is a price to be paid for the actions of the Israeli military. If the State wins, it will serve as yet another indication from the Israeli legal system that Israel can continue to act with impunity in the occupied territories.

The state believes that it was proved that the activity of the IDF force is within the framework of “war activity.” . . . In addition, the state proved that the deceased willfully endangered herself and, sadly, her contributory fault stood at 100%.

– Page 177, Summaries on Behalf of the State submitted to Judge Oded Gershon in the case “The estate of Rachel Aliene Corrie vs State of Israel, Ministry of Defense”
Attacks on Rachel Corrie and the ISM
One of the Israeli government’s main tactics in the case was to attack the International Solidarity Movement (the organization Rachel was working with) and in the process blame Rachel for her own death. Here is how the Israeli government describes the ISM (From Summaries on Behalf on the State, pps. 48-49):

the ISM organization, whose ranks included the deceased and the plaintiff’s witnesses, is an anti-Israel organization that conducts illegitimate, violent activity including hunkering down in the homes of terrorists to prevent their demolition, providing refuge for terrorists, active participation in confrontations with IDF soldiers, and even standing as human shields for “wanted men” or for homes of Palestinians. The organization’s activists, backed by the organization, are
aware of the great dangers that exist in the places where they conduct their activity, but they are prepared to endanger their lives for the sake of the agenda they seek to promote.

To make its case, the State brought in a former spokeperson from the IDF, Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron, as an “expert witness” to try to tie the ISM to terrorism. Although the state was careful never to attack Corrie explicitly, as the quotes above show, the Israeli government did say that Rachel Corrie was responsible for her own death.
The Corrie family’s lawyer struck back forcefully in his response, defending Corrie and the important work she was doing:

Scornful rejection must be the response to repugnant attempt by the defendant to label the deceased as a suicide or someone with a “death wish” and a readiness to willfully endanger her own life, and attributing this to her based on the fact of her having come to Israel and being in the Gaza Strip to protest against the demolition of Palestinian homes on the outskirts of Rafah. The defendant has tried — unsuccessfully, with all its might — and relying on an “expert” opinion, to portray the death of the deceased as somehow fitting, by virtue of her membership in the ISM. The plantiff’s ask the Court to ignore these loathsome comments disrespectful to the dead, when their sole purpose is to crush the pride of her family who do not apologize and will never apologize for the legitimate humanitarian activity of their beloved daughter.

The Corrie team criticized the use of Yaron as an expert witness because she was in fact not an outside expert, but was serving in the IDF Spokesperson’s office at the time of Corrie’s death and had been personally involved in the case itself.
“Every day a war” – Commander of IDF Southern Command Col. Pinky Zoaretz
The second pillar of the Israeli case was that Corrie chose to enter a war zone and that Israeli actions were consistent with the field of battle. The Corrie lawyers countered that there was in fact no “war activity” taking place at the time of Corrie’s death, and that the D9 bulldozer that killed Rachel was conducting routine home demolitions in Rafah in a civilian area.
The Israeli argument states (From Summaries on Behalf of the State pps. 18-22):

In the Gaza Strip in general and particularly on the Philadelphi Route, which was one of the main flashpoints of the conflict, many shooting attacks were conducted against civilian and military convoys traveling on the route. The terror activity in these areas included the firing of steep-trajectory weapons toward Israeli territory, the detonation of anti-tank bombs, the digging of many tunnels to the Egyptian city of Rafah for arms smuggling, the tossing of live grenades, sniper fire, and so on. In contending with this, and in order to eliminate and prevent terror as much as possible, the IDF had to work with combined forces (units from the Southern Command, together with the Engineering Corps) to carry out clearing missions to uncover roadside and anti-tank bombs and to locate openings of tunnels used to smuggle weaponry and plant bombs.. . .
IDF forces that operated in the area were compelled to take additional precautions, beyond those used in routine times, in order avoid causing harm to innocents. The fact that the combat activity and life-threatening dangers were daily, as noted, does not diminish the combat nature of this activity or the great danger the soldiers experienced at every moment and in every minute.
Therefore, it is clear that the position of the plaintiffs, who try to portray it as routine IDF activity, should not be accepted. It cannot be said that IDF activity is routine and without any special risk, even if the activity was repeated a number of times. Each and every time this activity was conducted, the soldiers were under real, life-threatening danger.

This point was made explicitly in the testimony given by Col. Pinky Zoaretz, who had been Commander of IDF Southern Command at the time of Corrie’s death. In his testimony, Zoaretz agreed that it was permissible to kill any person in Rafah near the Philadelphi Route (a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt that was controlled by Israel at the time of Corrie’s death) because from the beginning of the second intifada through the time of Corrie’s death the entire Gaza Strip was considered a combat zone.
From the Updated Written Summaries on Behalf of the Plaintiffs (pps. 177-179):

According to the witness Zoaretz, the area in question is an area where there is combat every day, “and rational people do not permit themselves to roam around in the route, unless their goal is to attack our forces” (p.1186, lines 6-7 / session of July 10, 2011). He went on to claim that this situation of combat began at least with the events of 2000 and continued at least until the period when he was there as commander of the sector in 2004, and during all that period the area was defined as a closed military area for all intents and purposes (pp.1186-1187 / session of July 10, 2011).
Pinky Zoaretz exaggerated by treating the entire area of the Southern Command as a combat zone, in his words:
“Q: When you tell me – a war zone, you are referring to the entire Southern region, and not just the Philadelphi route itself.
A: All the area of the Southern Command is a very, very significant combat zone, but the Philadelphi route was the most significant of all.” (p.1187, lines 4-7 / session of July 10, 2011). In this corridor there is no situation of getting out of the vehicle (end of p. 1210, lines 1-6 / session of July 10, 2011).
He went on to argue that, in the Philadelphi route, civilians do not roam around and “it is a route where anyone roaming around is courting death.” (p.1213, lines 20-23), since “Anyone who is there, his intentions are not innocent” (p.1214, lines 1-2 / session of July 10, 2011).
According to Zoaretz, in that route there is a war going on:
Q: There is a war going on there.
A: Yes.
Q: And anyone who comes to the route, his blood is on his own head.
A: Absolutely. And much more so at night.
Q: But also in the daytime.
A: Also in the daytime.
Q: And on the level of principle, a person who comes to this route in the daytime, it is permissible to kill him.
A: Affirmative.”
(p.1237, lines 8-23 / session of July 10, 2011).
And according to the witness:

“A: …On the level of the State of Israel, we are in a limited confrontation. On the level of the combat soldier, who gets up in the morning at his post, he gets up every
morning to a war, he is in a war. Up to the level of the division in Gaza, the division
was in a war situation. Every day we were fighting a war.
Q: Every day a war.
A: Yes.
Q: From when to when?
A: From September, when it began, until the disengagement they were in a war.”
(p.1238, lines 7-9).

According to the witness, from September 2000 the entire state was in a situation of limited confrontation between Israel and organized terrorism, but in a war situation in the southern sector.

In essence, Zoaretz was claiming that Israeli attempts to combat the second intifada, which began in September 2000, constituted a war, and thus

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