Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


Iran/Palestine (keep your eye on the ball)
Annie Robbins
Remember my post, “Look over there! All eyes on Iran as Israel quietly devours Area C?” Or Joseph Dana’s comment on the goal of Israel’s psychological warfare against Iran? We can repeat it till the cows come home but will anyone ever listen?
Chris Zambelis at Asia Times:

Alternatively, Israel’s relentless threats and diatribes against Iran may have been conceived to achieve a different set of goals. For all its bluster, there is little evidence to indicate that Israel could successfully execute an attack against Iran’s nuclear program and achieve any sort of military success. The scale of the regional conflagration and global economic catastrophe that would certainly follow an Israeli strike is also likely deterring Israel from following through with its threats.
Nevertheless, drawing the world’s attention to Iran enables Israel to divert the eyes of international public opinion away from its ongoing occupation of Palestinian land; doing so provides it with the cover it needs to consolidate its hold permanently over the lives of millions of Palestinians and their natural resources – water, oil and natural gas – in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Defined as illegal under international law, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories continue to be constructed at record pace, creating new facts on the ground. Meanwhile, Palestinians are left to inhabit disconnected and impoverished enclaves reminiscent of the South African-style Bantustans born out of the apartheid era.

Clockwork hasbara
Philip Weiss
Sept. 3, New York Times publishes smart op-ed, “When It Pays to Talk to Terrorists,” in which Paul Thomas Chamberlin, history prof at U of Kentucky, says we should talk to Hamas.

By failing to strengthen moderates within the P.L.O. and effectively locking the Palestinians out of the Arab-Israeli peace process, American officials sidelined potential peacemakers and pushed Palestinian national ambitions to the back burner….
… Washington shouldn’t rule out alternatives [to force] when dealing with groups that may have more limited long-term goals, like Hezbollah and Hamas.
As Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams and Menachem Begin have shown, yesterday’s “terrorists” have a tendency to turn into tomorrow’s peacemakers.

Sept. 4, Scott Roth links the piece on twitter:

20 bucks says Abe Foxman will get a letter to the editor published re this oped. I’m often right about this.

Sept. 4, lengthy letter by Kenneth Jacobson, deputy director of the ADL, is published by Times. It begins:

History tells us the very opposite message that Paul Thomas Chamberlin conveys about talking with terrorists.

Sept 5, Scott Roth:

Well okay, I guess Abe Foxman is on vacation because his deputy gets a letter printed re yesterday’s oped. I win $10.

The enemy
Philip Weiss
Video above shot in Gaza in June 2009, six months after the onslaught.
Michael Ratner, speaking on Law and Disorder radio last week about Cindy and Craig Corrie’s civil action against Israel, denied, for the killing of their daughter Rachel in Gaza in 2003:

As they [the Corries] traveled around Israel talking about Rachel Corrie, they always carried with them not a picture of Rachel Corrie, but a picture of a 6-year-old boy who was in the house that Rachel Corrie was trying to protect. They also wanted the trial to focus on the fact of the number of Palestinians killed in roughly the same period when Rachel Corrie was protesting house demolitions. The lawyer for Rachel Corrie during the trial asked the Israeli brigade commander, how many Palestinians had been killed between August 2002 and march 2003? This is the brigade commander for the southern command which is Gaza. Of course the state of Israel objected, saying what’s the relevance of that, this is about supposed negligence in killing Rachel Corrie, etc.
And then the lawyer for Rachel Corrie replied, and this is a statistic that’s important to remember, that in the Rafah area alone, that’s where Rachel Corrie was engaging in her protest, 101 people were killed, Palestinians, including 42 children, age 10-18. Those are the people Rachel Corrie was trying to protect, those were the people in the violence Rachel Corrie sacrificed her life for, putting her body between the oppressors, the Israelis, and the oppressed, the Palestinians

From Breaking the Silence’s recent report, titled “Children and Youth, Soldiers’ Testimonies, 2005-2011. Testimony 2, from a first sergeant posted to Hebron in 2010:

On your first arrest mission, you’re sure it’s a big deal, and it’s actually bullshit. You enter the Abu Sneina (Hebron) neighborhood and pick up three children. After that whole briefing, you’re there with your bulletproof vest and helmet and stuck with that ridiculous mission of separating women and children. It’s all taken so seriously and then what you end up with is a bunch of kids, you blindfold and shackle them and
drive them to the police station at Givat Ha’avot. That’s it, it goes on for months and you eventually stop thinking there are any terrorists out there, you stop believing there’s an enemy, it’s always some children or adolescents or some doctor we took out. You never know their names, you never talk with them, they always cry, shit in their pants.
Was there a case of someone shitting in his pants?
I remember once. Always that crying. There are those annoying moments when you’re on an arrest mission, and there’s no room in the police station, so you just take the kid back with you to the army post, blindfold him, put him in a room and wait for the police to come pick him up in the morning. He sits there like a dog…

Ali Abunimah, speaking at the Penn BDS conference last February:

How can Israel’s right to be a Jewish state be violated? One of the things Israelis fret about all the time is babies. Babies just like the beautiful Rafeef who I had the pleasure of playing with a few minutes earlier [a girl in the audience]. In Rafeef I see a beautiful child who has hopefully an incredible future in front of her. Israel sees a demographic threat. To Israel, Rafeef is the mortal enemy. Too many babies of the wrong type threaten Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. So Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is under mortal threat from– babies. Too many of the wrong type of babies. What’s the remedy for too many babies? Can anyone think of a legitimate remedy for too many babies? Well, one approach would be to stop the creation of wrong babies…

Again, from Breaking the Silence’s report on “Children and Youth…” Testimony 46, from a first sergeant performing an arrest in Beit Ur village in 2007 after a Jewish settler complained that boys in the occupied village had thrown stones at her. The sergeant describes the suspects as being 13 years old.

We picked up three kids there. The mother was crying, the women were all in tears, the kids were shackled, taken into the jeep, scared. I just try to think what they must have felt, what it’s like to be taken in an army jeep. I was sitting in back with one of those kids and the jeep bumps along the road, those roads out there… I took the driver’s helmet because he doesn’t need it in front, and placed it on the kid’s head. The driver turned around, saw the kid with his helmet, and said: “What are you doing?! I can’t wear it after this!” I got annoyed, I mean, what? If he wears your helmet then it’s filthy? “You’ll wash it out for me,” he said. What a buddy… When he got to company HQ, first he washed out his helmet in soap and water, and only then put it on his head, because it had been on the kid’s head for a few minutes. And this is a guy who votes for the Labour party, claims he is a leftie, but this disgusts him. How has this happened to us?

Obama’s spineless deference to Netanyahu is now perceived by a wide range of Americans
Philip Weiss
The other day a liberal Zionist was quoted anonymously as saying that Obama needed to “grow a sack” with respect to the rightwing government in Israel. John McCarron in the Chicago Tribune says the same thing, at the beginning of a series of questions for Obama:

Why did you let Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu show you up during his recent visit to the U.S.? And why don’t you return the favor by saying some nice things about his political opponents in Israel — opponents who want to give peace a chance and stop grabbing Arab land on the West Bank?
You might be amazed at how many of your Jewish contributors would support you on this one. The others are already writing checks to the other guy.

In fairness to Obama, I believe that he has caved completely on the Palestinian question because Netanyahu has blackmailed him with the possibility of an attack on Iran. All of which argues for these matters to be politicized: for Americans to openly debate the power of the lobby inside our politics.

Exile and the Prophetic: Plus suffering
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 thearchive page.
I’m drinking water with limes that I bought at my local coop.  They’re unsprayed and local, like you find on a tree in your backyard. I’m savoring this small wonder on a rainy afternoon.
Earlier in the day, I decide to leave my writing aside but in the John Cage biography I’m running across the inner life of my artist self. I’m back thinking how Cage applies.
That’s after my walk on the beach with Einstein yesterday.  You may not know it but I was once compared with Einstein.  No, not in science.  With regard to Israel.  Here’s how it happened.
A few years ago I wrote a book, Judaism Does Not Equal Israel.  At about the same time, Jerome Robbins wrote a book analyzing Einstein’s views on Zionism and the state of Israel.  The books were reviewed together by Glenn Altschuler.  The review appeared in Ha’aretz and the Forward.  In Altschuler’s mind Einstein had ideas that were important to communicate today.  He thought I did, too.
Here’s Altschuler’s summary of Einstein:

Einstein’s writings underscore that he was not a systematic political thinker. His idealism, moreover, often crossed the border into naiveté. His views on a Jewish state, however, were rather consistent. Alarmed by the rising tide of antisemitism in Eastern Europe at the end of World War I, Einstein declared himself a human being, a Jew, an opponent of nationalism and a Zionist.
Militantly secular, he maintained that the bond uniting his people was “the democratic ideal of social justice, coupled with the ideal of mutual tolerance among all men.” Einstein’s Zionism used the “fact” of Jewish nationality to promote self-knowledge, self-esteem and solidarity. But it was “immune from the folly of power” and “the obsession with race” that dominated Europe in the first half of the 20th century.
Einstein supported a “homeland” for Jews in Palestine, but he opposed a Jewish state “with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power.” Since two-thirds of the population of Palestine consisted of Arabs, he preferred bi-national status with “continuously functioning, mixed, administrative, economic, and social organizations.” Only cooperation with Arabs, led by “educated, spiritually alert” Jewish workers, he wrote, “can create a dignified and safe life…. What saddens me is less the fact that the Jews are not smart enough to understand this, but rather, that they are not just smart enough to want it.”

Altschuler’s take on me begins like this:

Judaism Does Not Equal Israel” is a sharper — and shriller — version of Einstein’s critique of the Jewish state. A “post-Holocaust” theology, according to Marc Ellis, professor of Jewish studies and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University, has conflated Jewish identity with allegiance to Israel, justified the “ethnic cleansing of more than seven hundred thousand Palestinians,” and muzzled “even mainstream, moderate critics” as “self-hating Jews.”

His conclusion:

  Mourning can be a sign of hope, in which God returns or doesn’t, Ellis emphasizes, rather abstractly. And “too late can be right on time — when the time is right.” For now, though, he’s a self-proclaimed prophet in exile. His book is often over the top, but Ellis’s concerns about the ethical obligations of the State of Israel are, at times, worth listening to, even by those with a powerful urge to doubt, dismiss or destroy him.

Well, considering everything, I didn’t do badly.  First, it’s clear that Altschuler agrees with Einstein and me.  Though he notes that Einstein can be naïve and I am sometimes over the top, those are covers for Jews who want to survive the Golden Age of Constantinian Judaism.  Altschuler wants our ideas out there and, for the most part, describes them fairly.  He also wants distance from both of us.  Altschuler doesn’t want to be destroyed by those with a “powerful urge to doubt, dismiss or destroy”me.
The attempt to destroy me has already taken place – and failed.  I am back in the ring, honing my asceticism, and coming back stronger than ever.  After my walk on the beach with Einstein yesterday I feel relaxed.  What prophetic company I – and we – have in exile!
A suggestion for Jews of Conscience:  Take a day off and stroll with Einstein on the beach of your choice.  If you’re landlocked, take a stroll in your mind.  Zen Mind, Einstein’s Mind.  Try it.
I’m relaxing on my (un)writing day, reading Cage’s lectures on something, then on nothing.  They’re titled that way, “Lecture on Something,”“Lecture on Nothing.”  In her biography, Kay Larson traces the evolution of these lectures.As it should be, she’s gets somewhere and nowhere, at the same time.
Cage explores the process of “going nowhere.”  He speaks:  “I am here, and there is nothing to say.  If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment.”  On the Israel/Palestine front, such a lecture might begin:  “I am here, and there is something to say.  If among you are those who wish to get nowhere, let them leave at any moment.”
The dramatic exits I’ve experienced during my lectures!  The disgruntled ones who stay seated huffing and puffing.  The angry ones who begin talking loudly to no one in particular. Those who stomp out shouting expletives.  The Israelis who have left. Israel military types who threaten to kill me.
Jews of Conscience know the exits, staged and otherwise.  Getting somewhere?
I am thinking of my Palestinian student in Austria who said getting somewhere was a fantasy.  My Israeli student needed that somewhere, though she knew it was an illusion.
Larson italicizes the process – going nowhere. Possible lecture title:  “The Process of Going Nowhere in Israel/Palestine.”
I hear the howls already.  How dare I suggest that going nowhere is acceptable in the present situation?  I’m not suggesting that as a politics.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around a future different than the present.
In our instant electronic world, it is more and more difficult to take a longer view.  It seems that in the Blogosphere, the responses are relentlessly negative to nuanced thought, especially from a Jew, I might add.  This leads me back to my European tour a few years ago, the one where I encountered the anti-Semitic BDS leadership in Ireland and Scotland.  Just before those encounters, I experienced another shock.
It was right after the Gaza invasion, in the spring of 2009.  My first lecture was in Geneva, then on the various venues in France.  From Paris, I flew to Ireland and Scotland.   I was traveling Jewish through a very strange terrain.
With Gaza on their mind, the audiences were large. A good number of European Jews attended.  Everyone was convinced that Gaza was the turning point of the Israeli/Palestinian crisis. The world wouldn’t tolerate Israel’s behavior any longer.  I told them they were wrong.  They were.
I found the Jewish side of things as startling as the BDS side.  After my lecture in Geneva, I had a long discussion with my Israeli-born host who was now living in Geneva.  I asked him if I had it right: the Jews I encountered weren’t simply against Israeli policies or only arguing for the end of a Jewish state, that, in fact, they were ashamed of being Jewish.  He replied, “They are.”
This was before I encountered the other side of the coin in Ireland and Scotland.  On the plane home, I felt like exiting the entire scene.  Talk about the process of going nowhere.
This is where Cage is caught up short.  At least, I don’t know what to do with the truths this Zen provocateur speaks.  When he thinks through the “process of going nowhere,” I think – plus suffering.  When he says, “I am here, and there is nothing to say.  If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment,” I think – plus suffering.
Plus suffering.This means we have to get somewhere.  Nowhere won’t do.  But, most of the time, nowhere is where we are anyway. Let’s mine that direction and see where nowhere takes us.
It’s 1952 and Cage is still moving.  Nowhere.  Also getting somewhere.  What is to be said?  “People and sounds interpenetrate.”  They do – plus justice.
Zen – plus justice.  Can Zen be in history – without justice?
Perhaps this is the challenge of all religions, as religions.  Religions project themselves into the heavenly spheres.  In the heavenly spheres, there’s no substitute for conformism to power here on the earth.
So what is a Zen provocateur, a religious provocateur a secular provocateur – minus justice?  So far in the Cage biography, the justice-oriented commitment is mute. But searching I find another side of Cage who is deeply involved with the question of history. This involves his theory of interpenetration “in order to thicken the plot.”
Justice thickens the plot by calling us to another level of engagement.  The music of the spheres is not enough.  But since, even with the best of intentions and all the hard work and commitment imaginable, we fall short, the thickened plot is not enough, either.
Justice – plus limitations?  Justice – plus silence? Justice – plus compassion?
Israel/Palestine.  The need for justice – plus?
Only justice – mindlessness.  The revolution devouring its own.
The revolution that isn’t a revolution.
‘Washington Post’ says Netanyahu should lead U.S. on Iran policy
Philip Weiss
Washington Post editorial deplores the daylight between US policy on Iran and Israel’s. (Hat tip Helena Cobban)

But the disagreement is still damaging. It conveys to Iran that there is no need to worry about a war; certainly, the country’s leaders have been behaving as if they feel no pressure to compromise. It also creates the bizarre spectacle of senior U.S. military and diplomatic officials focusing their time and attention on trying to prevent an Israeli attack rather than an Iranian bomb.
In the past week Mr. Netanyahu has hinted at how the U.S.-Israeli difference could be overcome: through a clear public statement by Mr. Obama of a willingness to take military action if Iran crosses certain “red lines” in its nuclear program. Israel has been seeking such a declaration for some time, but Mr. Obama has limited himself to saying that his policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining a weapon and that “all options are on the table.”

Notice that Susan Glasser, editor of Foreign Policy, seems to say much the same thing in an interview with Robert Siegel on NPR yesterday.

SIEGEL: There are rhetorical differences between the two [US political parties] over dealing with Israel. Are there substantive differences?
GLASSER: Well, there’s no question that if you look at the relationship between Obama and the administration of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, it’s been very frosty, very hostile. And that could lead to a potential real problem should Israel decide to take preemptive military action against Iran, for example.
That being said, you can’t look right now and say here’s what Mitt Romney would do on Israel and Iran, and here’s how it’s different than Barack Obama.

Wait, what’s the problem? That Iran would regard an attack that would kill hundreds if not thousands of people and likely result in suffering across the Middle East as having nothing to do with the U.S.? Wouldn’t it be a good thing for our troops in Afghanistan, that we be divorced from Israeli militarism? Why is Israel’s war our war?
Also, how is Glasser’s position any different from Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s insistence that there must be no daylight between the Republicans and Democrats on Israel, and no daylight between the US and Israel?
(And yes, this is about American Jewish identity, too. Can Robert Siegel interrogate the American Jewish attachment to Zionism?)

‘Haaretz’ columnist gets to talk about dual loyalty and Israel dragging US into war
Philip Weiss
Would this ever be in the New York Times? Chemi Shalevin Haaretz on the Jerusalem moment at the Democratic National Convention:

But beyond the question of the forthcoming elections, there is the need to evaluate the long-term damage caused to Israel from  Israel’s positioning in the election campaign and the unacceptable volume which it occupies therein. That volume of attention has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the Republican primaries in  January, as if it were equivalent to double the importance of  China plus India and Russia, or perhaps California and New York rolled into one.
It is difficult to tell just what do Americans themselves think when they see their candidates swear allegiance to Israel as if it were part and parcel of the national anthem and flag.  What do they think of the situation where every single deviation from blind support for the Israeli government’s positions is considered heresy and treason? It may be a reasonable position for impassioned Christians and loyal Jews. But most Americans are neither, and in their inner hearts they may just wonder about that distant country’s source of power, that can cast such a giant pall on US politics and which could also drag their country into a war which they do not want to fight.

Oh they get to talk about it in Canada too. Tony Burman in the Star. Commenting on the Canadian government’s expulsion of Iranian embassy officials:

Although his swearing-in at Rideau Hall must have happened in the dead of night, Canada appears to have a new foreign minister. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu. His day job may be prime minister of Israel, but Canada’s abrupt actions against Iran seem to confirm that the Harper government’s outsourcing of Canada’s Middle East policy to Jerusalem is now complete.

DNC chair: ‘I bring my love of Israel to work every day’ and our platform is more pro-Israel than GOP’s
Philip Weiss
The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on CNN Thursday, describing the brouhaha over the late and forced inclusion of Jerusalem in the Democratic Party platform.

Anchor: What happened? That was a bit of a mess yesterday:
DWS: Here’s what happened. On Tuesday, we adopted a 100 percent strongly pro-Israel platform that I was so proud to support. I’m told that I’m the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress. I bring my love of Israel to work with me every single day. I was proud of our platform already. In fact it has stronger language than even the republican platform on preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. And then President Obama essentially said,  You know what, my personal view is that Jerusalem is and always will remain the capital of Israel, and that was the language we had in 2008 and he felt it should, that the platform should reflect his personal view…

Essentially with Jerusalem, it was a technical omission, and nothing more than that… President Obama when he realized that the language was not in there and it wasn’t there from the 2008 platform….

Let’s not make more of this than there is.

Thanks to Abdelnasser Rashid.

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