- A conversation about the Warsaw Ghetto
- Christian Zionists were the sine qua non of the creation of Israel
- The moral authority of non-violence
- Palestinian Gandhi finds, No mitzvah goes unpunished
- Let’s get the facts straight on Hamas
- Tortured Egypt
- My brother-in-law was going to pray when he was killed
- ‘LA Times’ runs two incisive pieces on the conflict
Posted: 14 Jun 2010
Norman Finkelstein and I have argued in emails about awful stuff Hamas did or didn’t do during the ’08-09 war. I say they used human shields, Finkelstein says there’s no confirmation of this in the human-rights reports. I say he’s naive and literal. He says, Show me the evidence. Though yes, he says, the reports show that they carried out revenge killings of collaborators.
Last week Finkelstein and I had a meal with a third friend and Finkelstein told some stories about his mother and father in the Warsaw Ghetto. I’d known that his parents were concentration camp survivors, I didn’t know they were in the Warsaw Ghetto. I said, How do you feel when I say that Gaza reminds me of what I learned about the Warsaw Ghetto as a boy?
Finkelstein said, I don’t really have a problem with it. My mother never said, “Do not compare.” She always told about her experience not to keep it hers, but to embrace others with her suffering. She didn’t see it as the unique property of the Jews.
That said, Finkelstein went on, I don’t know that you have to compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. It is its own situation, and its own horror. Why not talk about each thing in its own right?
Someone asked how Finkelstein had discovered his parents’ experience, and he said it was when he was 8 and 9. The Holocaust was being explored in popular works, and his mother brought them home in the stack of books she got every week from the library in Brooklyn. Leon Uris’s Mila-18, John Hersey’s The Wall.
Finkelstein looked up in shock from the books to his prim mother, not believing she had been in such a place.
He related some of the stories. People dug catacombs to hide in with their bare hands. No one had implements. There were bodies littering the streets, and no one had anything to eat. Anyone who had a gun used it. The Jewish police were the worst collaborators. Some brought the Nazis to their own parents. When the head of the Jewish police was killed by the Jewish resistance, a sign was put next to him: “He lived like a dog, he died like a dog.”
It is for this reason, Finkelstein said, that when I hear stories about desperate or vicious behavior in Gaza, I am loath to judge the resistance.
And he gave me a look.
[I would urge all readers to read the first chapter of Finkelstein’s own memoir, Haunted House]
Posted: 14 Jun 2010
Re your claim that evangelical Christians were not important in the history of US support for Israel, here’s a key passage from the new book by Geoffrey Wawro:
Posted: 14 Jun 2010
A response to the debate on this site over the question of non-violent protest, following from the Gaza flotilla raid.
For Gandhi and for King non-violence was a principle. Tactics such as the refusal to budge from a position where one has a right to be, may grow out of the principle but are not to be confused with it. The principle starts from a discovery of a violence one recognizes as evil in oneself, and a rejection of that evil. What follows is the writing-large of the rejection as resistance to the evil that comes from oppression by others.
One resists the violence within from the same discovery of justice that impels the resistance to the violence without. Both Gandhi and King emphasized the difficulty of the discovery. Both took care that their protest movements should on occasion go back to perform again acts of protest that had been corrupted by bursts of violence within the movement.
Both made clear their disapproval of parallel movements that opposed the same evils they opposed (segregation, imperial subordination) but did so by violent means. There was no reason for them to do these things except the firm belief in non-violent resistance as a moral principle.
Non-violent action is meant to be visible and exemplary, in contrast with the violent action of the oppressor, which is shameful and always partly hidden. One shows one’s commitment by a practice that requires enormous strength of self-discipline, a practice that may in consequence elicit wonder and provoke thought. Mass acts of non-violent resistance may cause a state power to remit its use of violence.
At the far reach of persuasion, they may cause the state power to surrender control. But there will always be reasons for this besides awakened conscience. The power, for example, may desire the approval of other powers which have their own motives for siding with the protest. Or, the state may in some way need the cooperation of those whom it rules by coercion; when, therefore, its method of governing proves bankrupt, it gives up domination in exchange for the lifting of the protest.
Every regime of domination carries with it an agreeable story to cover the brutality of the facts. In British India the story was that the British only governed by the voluntary acceptance of the people of India, and they would leave on the day the people of India made it clear that they did not consent to imperial rule.
Mass non-violent resistance did make the rejection of imperial rule transparently clear, without any possibility of confusion. Again, in the American South, the story was that segregation was a “way of life” that blacks and whites alike were happy with, and the trouble only came from “agitators.”
Mass non-violent resistance proved the explanation to be a fable. In Israel today, the story is that the blockade and the occupation are necessary because without them the Palestinians would subject Israel to an ungoverned series of terrorist attacks. Does terrorism or non-violent resistance seem a likelier method for disproving that assumption?
Both Gandhi and King searched these questions very deeply. Their writings are widely available. There is no excuse for attributing to them views which they argued against explicitly and with great cogency. As for the relativist idea that all who recognize an evil may freely choose their favorite tactic without judging among the tactics by any standard but success, such a resolution begs two questions at once.
For to use non-violence opportunistically nullifies the distinction of the protester; the state power itself does not use violence day and night but only opportunistically. And the moral authority of non-violence was always based on a definition of success that differed from that of sheer power. The end you seek, the state you intend to build, is already indicated and has begun to be constituted by the means you employ to get there. A state arrived at by means of terror has already set up a definition of success that will affect its future conduct and character.
Postscript: Three passages from Gandhi
Posted: 14 Jun 2010
The Globe and Mail does what our media still seem incapable of– going after the story, in this case the Palestinian member of Knesset, Hanin Zoaby, 41, who has become the most hated person in Israel because she went on the flotilla. Fascinating profile, with hints of the emerging democracy movement that is likely in months to come to flood that country, and the world…
Posted: 14 Jun 2010
The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and five NY Congressional representatives have called a press conference for this morning to press the State Dept. “to investigate any and all passengers on the Mavi Marmara and other ships from Turkey’s IHH flotilla who apply for visas to enter the United States.”
Part of their demand is for the State Dept. to investigate whether visa applicants who were on the Turkish ship intended “to fund or to give things of value to support terrorist activity or a terrorist organization, namely Hamas.”
This demand follows recent statements on Hamas from the likes of Senator Charles Schumer and other public figures that reflect the Israeli line and have been left unchallenged. While progressives have criticized Schumer’s deplorable “strangling” argument in favor of the collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazans, there has been little analysis of Hamas’s goals.
The standard line is that Hamas is a “terrorist” organization “committed to Israel’s destruction.”
Schumer said, “when there’s total war against Israel, which Hamas wages, [the Palestinians are] going to get nowhere.”
There are lots of legitimate criticisms of Hamas to be made, for instance of their policy of executing “collaborators” and destroying Palestinian homes that they say were built on public land. But repeating the standard line that Hamas rejects peace and is opposed to a two-state solution is simply not a legitimate criticism when you look at the factual record.
Hamas is not waging “total war” against Israel. Before the Gaza massacres of 2008-09, “Hamas was ‘careful to maintain the ceasefire’ it entered into with Israel in June 2008, according to an official Israeli publication, despite Israel’s reneging on the crucial component of the truce that it ease the economic siege of Gaza,” as Norman Finkelstein has written.
After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in January 2009, leaving Gaza in ruins, Hamas still didn’t wage “total war” against Israel. Rockets have sporadically been fired into Israeli territory since then, but they have been claimed by other groups within Gaza and have killed one person, a Thai foreign worker. Israel, on the other hand, has continued its policy of “total war” against Palestine by continuing to impose a crippling blockade on Gaza, destroying civilian infrastructure as a response to rocket fire and killing civilians in Gaza.
As for the claim that Hamas rejects the two-state solution, that also doesn’t bear scrutiny. We don’t have to look very far to come to the conclusion that Hamas is willing to make a settlement with Israel based on the principles of international law and United Nations resolutions. Likud, on the other hand, does reject a Palestinian state.
Charlie Rose recently interviewed Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas’ political bureau. An excerpt:
Does that sound like “total war” against Israel?
Posted: 14 Jun 2010
Hosni Mubarak has struggled for years to secure the reputation for being the most loathsome of the Arab tyrants. He imprisoned dissidents, murdered rivals, and tortured activists so effectively and with so much zeal that even George W. Bush sought his services (and until it’s demonstrated otherwise, I will assume Barack Obama has, too).
It is no wonder then that the Egyptian police beat 28-year-old Khaled Said to death in the streets of Alexandria on Sunday, June 13th. According to a source, authorities claimed Said died “because of an overdose of weed.” Said was reportedly filming Egyptian police engaging in a drug deal (video here). Observers are speculating that Said’s video is the reason he was targeted by the police.
The Egyptian police know fully that they operate with impunity while projecting an aura of official sanction. An impromptu protest was called by human rights activists in Cairo and was met by heavy-handed riot police intervention. Several prominent activists were detained and later released.
Egyptian-German activist and film maker Philip Rizk, who was kidnapped by the Mubarak authorities while protesting the 2008-2009 Gaza massacre, has kept a chronicle of events at his blog Tabula Gaza.
Separately, the Egyptian authorities prevented 400 activists from entering Gaza despite claiming that the Egyptian siege has been lifted.
According to one source, “There was a relative big demo against torture… Three hundred people gathered today in front of the ministry of interior. Many activists were kidnapped… but later released… I was in [Egyptian] Rafah Friday and Saturday with an Egyptian aid convoy. We were refused entry and did a 24 hour sit-in in front of the border…”
Posted: 13 Jun 2010
We received a note from “the Jilani family” responding to Adam’s post yesterday on the killing of Ziad Jilani, a 41-year-old tradesman and father, on Friday night:
I am writing to you on behalf of my nieces, the daughters of Ziad Jilani, who was killed by Israeli police/military yesterday June 11th in Jerusalem. Until the witnesses are polled and the correct information is gathered, I hope that more people question what happened and that Ziad did not die in vain. I do not have the truth at this time either, as there is mass speculation as to what truly occurred, but when the photos and videos of what truly happened do come to the surface, it will turn the AP report that has been reprinted globally – without knowing the facts – into gossip and speculation. .
For the memory of my brother-in-law, I will say this: he was not trying to injure anyone with his vehicle. He was going to pray; one of the rights that we hold so dear as an American but yet seem to have turned a blind eye to the rights that the under-45 male, Islamic community in Jerusalem have now lost. He was a great father of my three beautiful and loving nieces and an amazing husband to my sister, Moira Reynolds-Jilani – an American born in the island of Barbados who has lived in Israel since 1993. He was college-educated, a humanitarian to all who he knew, and a person who prayed for a better world for his children. He was looking forward to taking his girls to dinner Friday night – instead he was buried.
In the second it took the soldier to shoot the last bullets – in the back and face of an unarmed man – he forever altered the life of my sister and her daughters. Let the blood on his hands never wash away and may God have mercy on his soul and all that participated and did nothing while my brother in law lay bleeding and saw the gun put to his face and the last trigger pulled.
Posted: 13 Jun 2010
I’ve continually asked for one thing: journalism about the occupation of Palestine that rivals journalism about other outrages. The LA Times has delivered. Read Edmund Sanders’s first few paragraphs from Gaza:
How much more information do our politicians and citizens need to know that the U.S. is underwriting persecution? And the same day, here is an Op-ed by Saree Makdisi attacking the defenestration of Helen Thomas, and linking it to the real problem, racism: