Here are the headlines from Mondoweiss for 08/17/2010:
Eden Abergil, the product of a blindfolded society
Aug 16, 2010 | Max Blumenthal
A photo taken in June of a Palestinian man being detained near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Shortly after taking this photo Israeli soldiers ordered me to stop shooting. (Photo: Max Blumenthal)
Is there anything shocking about the Facebook photos showing the Israeli female soldier Eden Abergil posing in mocking positions next to bound and blindfolded Palestinian men? While her conduct was abominable, I did not find it especially distinct from the documented behavior of Israeli soldiers and Border Police in the Occupied Territories.
Above is a photo I took in Hebron in June before soldiers demanded that I stop shooting (I will release video from Hebron as soon as I get the chance). Scenes like these can be witnessed on any given day in the West Bank. Not only do they show the dehumanization that the Palestinian Morlocks are subjected to on an hourly basis, they depict the world where Abergil spent what she called “the most beautiful time of [her] life.” It is easy to see how young Israelis (or anyone) would be sapped of their humanity in such an environment.
In July, I waited inside the cafeteria of Israel’s Guantanamo-like Ofer Prison after watching Ibrahim Amira, a leader of the Ni’ilin popular committee, be sentenced by a kangaroo court to six months in prison for the trumped-up charge of “incitement” (he was accused of paying kids to throw rocks at the Israeli soldiers who invade their village at least every week, as if they needed encouragement). While I stood at the counter to order a coffee, I watched four female jailers gather around a laptop to check their Facebook pages. I wondered what their status updates looked like. If they wrote anything relating to their work, would their Facebook pages look different than Abergil’s? Of course not. Just take a trip to Eyal Niv’s blog and look at some of the photos other young Israelis are posting.
A photo from Eden Abergil’s Facebook profile. (Photo credit: Dimi’s Notes)
You don’t have to go to the West Bank or into an Israeli prison to recognize that Abergil is a typical product of Israel’s comprehensively militarized society. Just watch the documentary, “To See When I’m Smiling.” In the film, which tells the soul-crushing stories of four young women conscripted into the Israeli Army, one of the characters recounts posing for a photo beside a dead Palestinian man who had an erection. She was smiling from ear to ear in the photo. However, at the end of the film, when she is compelled to look at the picture for the first time in two years, she does not recognize the monster who bears her image. Her contorted facial expression seems to ask, “Who was I?”
“To See When I’m Smiling” was produced by Breaking The Silence, a human rights group formed by ex-Israeli soldiers who collect testimonies from their peers. Incidentally, Breaking The Silence has published a 132-page booklet of testimonies by female soldiers (PDF here) who participated in acts at least as hideous as those depicted on Abergil’s Facebook page.
Here is Testimony 63, by a female sergeant from the Nahal Unit who served in Mevo Dotan:
I recall once, this was after we moved to Mevo Dotan, to the base there, some Palestinian was sitting on a chair and I passed by several times. Once I thought: Okay, why is he sitting here for an hour? I feel like spitting at him, at this Arab. And they tell me: Go one, spit at him. I don’t recall whether anyone did this before I did, but I remember spitting at him and feeling really, like at first I felt, wow, good for me, I just spat at some terrorist, that’s how I’d call them. And then I recall that afterwards I felt some thing here was not right.
Not too human. I mean, it sounds cool and all, but no, it’s not right.
You thought about later, or during the act?
Later. At the time you felt real cool.
Even when everyone was watching, you felt real cool.
Yes, and then sometimes you get to thinking, especially say on Holocaust Memorial Day, suddenly you’re thinking, hey, these thing were done to us, it’s a human being after all. Eventually as things turned out he was no terrorist anyway, it was a kid who’d hung around too long near the base, so he was caught or something.
Blindfolded and all?
Yes. I think that at some point no one even stood watch over him.
The female sergeant recalled the Holocaust when she reflected on her actions. If you are raised in a Jewish home, it is difficult not to see the ravages of the occupation in the light of the Holocaust, regardless of whether you know that the Israeli army’s violence bears little comparison to the exterminationism of the Nazis. Just as when I watched “To See When I’m Smiling,” Abergil’s photos made me think of Costa Gavras’ haunting Holocaust film, “Music Box.” If you have seen it, you will understand my reference. If not, rent it.
I also thought of the first stanza of “Vision,” a poem by the Palestinian writer Muhammad al-Qaisi. The poem reminded me not only of the Abergil’s public unmasking, but of the many Israelis who told me about their experiences in the army as though they were describing some morally debased person they have never met:
I see the faces change their complexion
peel off their outer skin
I see the faces divested
of makeup and masks
and I see an empty stage
the spectators denying their own images
in the third act.
This post originally appeared on Max Blumenthal’s blog.
Aug 16, 2010 | Anonymous
A second Will column from Israel, today in the Washington Post, “Netanyahu’s warning,” and his second preemptive apology for Israel’s bombing of Iran. An act of necessity, he says, and you may expect it “probably within two years.” NB this amazing sentence: “Any Israeli self-defense anywhere is automatically judged ‘disproportionate'”.
A mark of the success of the MSM blackout on the Goldstone Report, that Will writes this pernicious nonsense in Wapo without fear of contradiction. First Jeffrey Goldberg, then Richard Cohen, now Will from Israel itself. And all of them a year or two ahead of Israel’s own schedule.
This has the marks of an Israeli- American organized campaign; and Netanyahu is playing for keeps. To weaken Obama in the 2010 election, and convey, by signals that cannot be mistaken, that O hasn’t a prayer in 2012 unless he approves an attack by that summer.
Israeli soldier mocks Palestinian prisoners in Facebook photos
Aug 16, 2010 | Mya Guarnieri
Two photos from Eden Abergil’s Facebook profile. (Photo credit: Dimi’s Notes)
Highlighting the cold indifference and cruelty that has come to characterize the Israeli occupation, a recently discharged soldier has posted photos of herself smiling as she sits besides blindfolded Palestinian prisoners.
Eden, the young Israeli woman, posted the pictures on Facebook and titled the album “Army… the most beautiful time of my life. :)” One shows her squatting before a group of bound Palestinians, presumably at or near a West Bank checkpoint, a smirk playing on her face. In another, Eden sits on a cement block next to a prisoner, whose eyes are covered with a strip of cloth. Her head titled upwards, she looks down her nose imperiously towards him.
Speaking to the Israeli daily Ynet, an Israeli army spokesman commented, “This is shameless behavior by the soldier. In light of the fact that she was discharged last year, all of the details have been turned over to the commanders for further attention.”
Yishai Menuhin, the director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, a local NGO, commented to Ynet, “These types of pictures reflect the customary norms of IDF soldiers… and the treatment given to Palestinian detainees.”
The comments on the photos left by Eden and her friends are equally disturbing as they, at best, show utter disregard for the Palestinian prisoners, and at worst, downright mock them.
One friend commented that Eden was “sexiest like that.” Eden responded, “Yes, I know. LOL… What a day it was, look how he completes my pictures. I wonder if he’s got Facebook. I have to tag him the picture. LOL.”
First exposed by the blog Sachim, other Israelis expressed shock and disgust with both the photos and the responses left by Eden and her friends.
“These pictures really do speak for themselves; of course, [Eden] is no better or worse than thousands of other Israeli soldiers, and I’d like to hope a few years from now she’ll be appalled, rather than amused by the memories. We may and should cut slack to the effect of conflict on a young person’s sensitivity and moral standards – [Eden] by no means should be scapegoated for all excesses of the IDF – and remember efforts by separate individuals, even in uniform, to make an intolerable situation more bearable.”
The picture I see in Eden’s photos? An army that has forgotten the other’s humanity–and has lost its own humanity in the process.
Hamas supports the right of Muslims to pray in mosques — even in New York
Aug 16, 2010 01:11 pm | Paul Woodward
Hamas has leaped into the New York mosque controversy — well, actually, not so much leaped as diffidently tiptoed when pressed to express an opinion on the issue.
In an interview on New York’s WABC radio (audio can be heard here), Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas who is in the Gaza political leadership, was asked by Aaron Klein to comment on the construction of the mosque.
Without addressing the question directly, Zahar chose to respond by pointing out that Muslims in America are like Muslims elsewhere, living in accordance with Islam, fasting (during Ramadan), praying and so forth. He then went on to say that Hamas is being misrepresented by those who would liken it to the Taliban and that it is recognized across the Islamic world as a moderate organization.
Klein, however, wanted to focus on the mosque controversy and returned to that question:
Klein: What do you think about the new initiative to build a mosque new the World Trade Center in New York, which is a major point of controversy on all sides?
Zahar: We have to build the mosque as you are allowed to build the church and the Israeli are building their holy places. We have to build everywhere — in every area we have muslims, we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer especially for the people when they are looking to be in the group — not individual.
Muslims should be allowed to worship in mosques, just like Christians going to church and Jews going to the synagogue.
Not much controversy there, right?
Well, the New York Post seems eager to pour fuel on the fire by inserting a few words in order to imply that Hamas (and Muslims in general) are engaged in territorial expansion.
A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.
“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.
“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.
“In every area we have Muslims, we have to pray,” which is to say, wherever Muslims live they have a religious obligation to gather for prayer and they do this in mosques.
But then we get the New York Post twist: “In every area we have, [as] Muslims[s], we have to pray,” conjures up a completely different picture. Lower Manhattan is now an area that Muslims claim as their own — at least the New York Post appears to want to promote this lie.
Let’s see whether anyone in the mainstream media is willing to correct this flagrant distortion. I’m not holding my breath.
A kinder, gentler Occupation
Aug 16, 2010 | David Samel
For those of you worried that the tone of the so-called Occupation is a bit too confrontational and unpleasant, I have some optimistic news. As reported in Haaretz, a company of reservists is introducing politeness into the everyday checkpoint encounters between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli soldiers who decide if and when workers can go to work, children can go to school, family members can visit each other, and the sick may seek medical attention. Instead of barking out harsh directives, soldiers will now preface their requests for Palestinians to obey orders with “’min fadlakum’ (please), with an emphasis on the request,” according to Eliezer Cohen, the poet and social worker who is the brainchild behind the initiative. Cohen adds that is not “just the words. We decided that we would look everyone in the eye and that we would not aim our gun at anyone.” Of course, if Palestinians stubbornly refuse to comply with these cordial invitations to obey softened by eye contact, guns may indeed have to be pointed. Sure, it’s still in the experimental stage, but if it works, the program could be extended to other reservist groups and perhaps the entire IDF.
There are two conceivable outcomes. One is that the effort will be a resounding success, thereby diminishing worldwide pressure on Israel to end the “occupation.” The other unfortunate possibility is that the Palestinians will not graciously accept the soldiers’ sincere efforts at courtesy, and continue to make unreasonable demands for freedom from foreign military dictatorship. It will not be the first time that the Palestinians have missed an opportunity for genuine reconciliation.
Israel cuts off water to Jordan Valley village
Aug 16, 2010 | Seham
And other news from Today in Palestine:
Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing
Erekat condemns settlement expansion
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat denounced Sunday evening the installation of several mobile homes in eight West Bank settlement, as the Ramallah-based leadership mulls reentering into direct talks with Israel. Condemning settlement activity, Erekat said “While huge efforts are been made internationally, especially by the US, to lay the grounds for launching direct negotiations, the Israeli government adds more obstacles by building constructions in eight West Bank settlements,” a statement read.
Barghouthi: Latest expansions show lack of credibility
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The head of the Palestinian National Initiative said Monday that Israel’s decision to construct 23 buildings in eight settlements across the West Bank “confirms it is a settler government that does not want peace.” PNI chief Mustafa Barghouthi said the expansions would be undertaken in Ofra, Eli, Talmon, Immanuel, Elon More, Adam and Efrata across the West Bank.
‘Settlement freeze biggest obstacle to direct talks’
Senior cabinet ministers hold first discussion on extending freeze; Abbas has conditioned direct talks with Israel on a continued construction freeze.
Campaign official: Israel cuts off water to Jordan Valley village
TUBAS (Ma’an) — The Save the Jordan Valley campaign has accused Israel of deliberately cutting off water to vast areas of agricultural land in the Bardala village. A campaign representative said Palestinian farmers would sustain substantial losses and that it was the second time water to agricultural fields had been cut off in 2010.
East Jerusalem: Settlers Take Over Another House
On the 29th of July another house in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City was taken over by settlers. Whilst the court makes its final decision, 8 of the 9 Palestinian families who were resident in the building for some 70 years were forced to find temporary accommodation elsewhere.Nicky Elliott visited the families.
IOF gives Farisiya residents 24 hours to evacuate ahead of demolition
The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stormed Sunday morning the Farisiya area of the Jordan Valley and handed out demolition notices against structures in the area, eyewitnesses said.
Official: Settlers uproot 200 olive trees south of Nablus
NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli residents living on an illegal West Bank outpost uprooted over 200 olive trees near the Qusra village in the Nablus district Monday, a Palestinian Authority official said. PA settlement affairs officer in the northern West Bank Ghassan Doughlas said residents of the nearby Svhut Rachel outpost ascended upon the village, uprooting the olive grove which belonged to Ali Abdul Hamid Mohammad Hassan.
Israeli troops demolish 5 shops located on Qalqilia-Nablus Road
Five Palestinian-owned shops, located on a major West Bank highway that Israel is attempting to take over for use by settlers only, were destroyed by Israeli forces Friday.
Dozens of Christians in J’lem rally in solidarity with officials facing exile
Dozens of Christian citizens participated in a sit-in in the courtyard of the Church of the Resurrection in solidarity with the Jerusalemite officials threatened with exile from the holy city.
Formalizing Israel’s Land Grab, Chris Hedges
Time is running out for Israel. And the Israeli government knows it. The Jewish Diaspora, especially the young, has a waning emotional and ideological investment in Israel. The demographic boom means that Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories will soon outnumber Jews. And Israel’s increasing status as a pariah nation means that informal and eventually formal state sanctions against the country are probably inevitable. Desperate Israeli politicians, watching opposition to their apartheid state mount, have proposed a perverted form of what they term “the one-state solution.” It is the latest tool to thwart a Palestinian state and allow Israel to retain its huge settlement complexes and land seizures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The idea of a single state was backed by Moshe Arens, a former defense minister and foreign minister from the Likud Party, in a column he wrote last month in the newspaper Haaretz asking “Is There Another Option?” Arens has been joined by several other Israeli politicians including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment
Army violently attack Hebron demo again – yet only an innocent British peace activist is charged with assault
On Saturday Palestinians were joined by internationals and Israelis in their weekly demonstration, asking for the opening of Shuhada Street and responding to the closure of three shops in the old city earlier in the week. The Israeli army, represented by soldiers and border police, entered from the gate leading to Shuhada Street, and pushed the protesters back up the street they came from. Several people were pushed violently to the ground without any warning or for any reason. Five innocent protesters were arrested with extreme force; one Australian, two British and two Israeli citizens, and taken away by border police and soldiers. All faced trumped up charges, including, ironically, of supposedly assaulting soldier.
Harvard University fund sells all Israel holdings
No reason for the sale was mentioned in the report to the SEC. In another blow to Israeli shares, the Harvard Management Company notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday that it had sold all its holdings in Israeli companies during the second quarter of 2010. No reason for the sale was mentioned. The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard University’s endowment.
Netanyahu arrives in Athens, as activists plan anti-Israel protests
The activists were planning marches to the Israeli embassy outside the city center to protest Israel’s May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which nine Turkish citizens were killed, as well as Israeli policies in the Middle East.
Army shuts down peaceful rallies across West Bank
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli soldiers used force to shut down weekly non-violent anti-wall protests in villages across the West Bank on Friday. International, Israeli and Palestinian activists in Bil’in, Nil’in, and An-Nabi Salih, near Ramallah, and in Al-Ma’sara, near Bethlehem, were met with tear-gas grenades as they marched towards the separation wall to protest the confiscation of their lands.
British city pays tribute to flotilla victims
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Campaigners in Bristol promoted the boycott of Israeli goods on Saturday in memory of the nine passengers killed in Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound aid ship. The protest was staged outside the main supermarket in the south-west England city, Waitrose. The store advertises a “Responsible Sourcing” policy, but failed to reply to a letter suggesting that stocking Israeli produce contradicts this policy, the Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign said.
A Statement to the Palestinian People
To our Palestinian People: We have followed with great concern the increasing external pressure, especially from the U.S. and Israel, on the PLO leadership to shift from indirect negotiations (which have not resulted in any progress) to direct negotiations without clear and binding terms of reference regarding a complete halt of all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory – including in Jerusalem. The terms of reference should be based on international law and UN resolutions and to include a predetermined timetable to reach a final status agreement. The agreement will necessarily include ending the Israeli occupation of all territories occupied in 1967 and enabling the Palestinians to exercise the Right of Return, right to self-determination, and the right to an independent and sovereign state in the territory occupied in 1967 – with Jerusalem as its capital…
GRITtv: The Other Side of Charity: Material Support & “Terrorism”
Yesterday we spoke about the problems with charitable giving by billionaires at the expense of paying their taxes. For many charitable givers in the United States, a bigger problem looms; laws about providing “material support” for terrorism have placed a stranglehold on where donors can send their money. Ghassan Elashi, co-founder of the Holy Land Foundation, faces a 65 year sentence for providing material support through his foundation, which was the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. before it was shut down by the Bush administration in 2001. Elashi’s daughter Noor, a writer and activist, joins us in studio along with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink to discuss what these cases mean for other organizations trying to help civilians in war-torn areas like Gaza.
The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian and Human Rights/Restriction of Movement
Goods – Needs Vs. Supply – July 18 – Aug 14
Industrial Fuel – Needs Vs. Supply– July 18- Aug 14
Kafka’s siege (or why it makes sense to invest in a warehouse)
Each needle wrapper must have manufacturer’s stamp, each nail must be photographed and accounted for, every inventory line endlessly debated with Israelis…
Pray for a permit to pray during Ramadan
JERUSALEM, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) — Muslims worldwide on Wednesday began the annual holy month of Ramadan, a time of prayer and fasting that marks the divine revelation received by the Prophet Muhammad. However, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Ramadan is also a month when Palestinians struggle just to make ends meet. Muhammad el-Baradiyeh and his family live in Hirbet Deir, a traditional Palestinian hamlet between Jerusalem and Hebron. The 260 people there, all from the same extended family, seem to have been left on their own, unnoticed by the passage of time.
On the first Friday of Ramadan, mass prayer to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from the West Bank went smoothly – at least for men over the age of 50, and women over the age of 45. Whilst a large number of young Palestinians were prevented from entering the Old City. ST McNeil reporting from Qalandiya checkpoint. Israel had eased restrictions for the religious holiday, according to Haaretz. As the Quartet push the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government towards peace talks, the move could be seen as an attempt at ground-floor diplomacy. At the Qalandiya checkpoint, the crowd was split into male and female lines entering at separate entrances. Red Crescent Ambulances provided scant shade for squatting adults and children – all in various states of hunger and thirst, some experiencing caffeine and nicotine withdrawal. Today is the third day of Ramadan, the global Muslim religious holiday, where all of the able and faithful fast and abstain.
Citizens, but not equal, Akiva Eldar
It’s easier for Netanyahu to extend Ramadan greetings than it is to put a stop to the Museum of Tolerance, built on the site of what was once a Muslim cemetery in central Jerusalem.
Israel’s Arab Helpers
Egypt kills six African migrants to Israel in border gun battle
Smugglers had been holding up to 300 African migrants on the Egyptian side of Rafah when a gun battle erupted with the smugglers and Egyptian security forces.
Violence and aggression/War Criminals
Child Hospitalized After Being Attacked By Settlers In Hebron
Enas Mazin Qa’qour, 10, was admitted on Sunday at night to the Hebron Governmental Hospital suffering from various bruises and concisions after being attacked by a number of Jewish settlers in Tal Romeida neighborhood in the city.
UN Committee Starts Collecting Testimonies In Gaza
A U.N. special committee started Sunday collecting testimonies from residents in the Gaza Strip, the process is an implementation of recommendations set by the report of Judge Richard Goldstone who headed the U.N. Committee that investigated Israel’s war on Gaza during the period between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009; 1450 Palestinians, mainly civilians, died by Israeli fire shells and thousands were wounded.
Universal Jurisdiction to Hold Israel Accountable, Stephen Lendman
The well-established universal jurisdiction principle (UJ) holds that certain crimes are too grave to ignore, including genocide, crimes of war and against humanity. Thus, under UJ, nations may investigate and prosecute foreign nationals when their country of residence or origin won’t, can’t, or hasn’t for any reason. Israel used it to convict and execute Adolph Eichmann. A US court sentenced Chuckie Taylor, son of the former Liberian president, to 97 years in prison for torture. In March 2003, the Special Court for Sierre Leone (SCSL) indicted his father, Charles Taylor, for crimes of war and against humanity. His trial at The Hague’s International Court of Justice (ICC) remains ongoing.
Syria-based Palestinian groups reject Israel talks (AFP)
AFP – Hamas and 10 other radical Palestinian groups based in Syria on Sunday rejected any move by the Palestinian Authority to resume US-brokered direct peace talks with Israel.
Top ministers: Israel will reject any Quartet preconditions for direct talks
Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators expected to announce resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, call for Palestinian state within two years.
US envoy to meet Abbas in Ramallah
Bethlehem – Ma’an – President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hold a meeting with the Obama administration’s assistant envoy to the Middle East, David Hale, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday. The two figures will review the final draft of a statement by the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace brokers – The UN, EU, US, and Russia – in a bid to push the Palestinians back to negotiations with Israel. Abbas is expected to call a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee to examine the statement and consider returning to direct peace talks, which broke off in 2008 at the start of Operation Cast Lead.
U.S.: PA to announce renewal of direct talks ‘within days’
Quartet of Mideast mediators to call for establishment of Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders within two years.
Ashkenazi: Next time, IDF will use snipers to halt Gaza-bound flotillas
In his first round of testimony to the Turkel Committee, the Chief of Staff took responsibility for the army’s actions.
Israeli ex-general says flotilla activists wanted violence (AFP)
AFP – Activists on a Gaza-bound aid boat that was boarded by Israeli commandos were determined there would be violence, the head of an Israeli military probe into the deadly raid said Monday.
Returning to the Mavi Marmara
More than two months after Israel’s deadly attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla, the lead ship in the flotilla — the Turkish Mavi Marmara — was returned to Turkey. Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal was on board when Israeli commandos attacked on May 31st. He now re-visits the ship for the first time.
Israeli TV screens joint drill with US marines
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel’s Channel 2 TV aired previously unseen footage Sunday of a joint military drill by US marines and Israeli forces at a base in the Negev a day earlier. The drill simulated the occupation of a village in the region. The participating marines were reportedly preparing for deployment in Afghanistan. Channel 2 reported that US-Israel military ties were “not confined to joint drills,” as both armies may find themselves fighting against a common enemy as a result of instability in the Middle East.
Ex-soldier presents cuffed Palestinian friends
Young woman posts pictures on Facebook taken during her IDF service in which she is seen posing next to blindfolded detainees.
Gaza airport destroyed by scavengers
The old international airport of Gaza was once able to handle 700,000 passengers per year and operated 24 hours and 364 days a year, closing only on Yom Kippur. The $86 million airport opened its doors in 1998, but it closed in 2001 after being severely damaged by Israeli military forces. Now hundreds of Palestinians have taken over the old landing strip of the airport, digging up the tarmac, taking away truckloads of stones to sell as construction material. Under Israel’s siege only limited amounts of construction materials are allowed in for United Nations projects. So there’s a booming black-market. Four years ago a tonne of sand sold for 60 dollars – now it’s 600. Israel has been bombing the airport for a decade and now Palestinians are destroying what’s left — they say they have no choice. Nicole Johnston reports from Rafah.
Arabic translator shortfall hurts Palestinians
TEL AVIV // A shortage of Arabic translators for Palestinians alleging they suffered violations by Israeli soldiers is significantly undermining the military’s investigations of their claims, an Israeli human rights group has said. Yesh Din, which documents violations against Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said this week that Palestinians arriving for meetings with military investigators to give their testimonies are increasingly not being provided help in translating their statements from Arabic into Hebrew or do not receive co-operation from the translator who is present.
New Arabic-language website to tackle ‘taboo’ issues
Editors say Qadita.net will be the first Arabic website to include a section on gay and lesbian writing, including reviews of Arab gay-oriented cinema and literature.
The girl who became the only fisherwoman in Gaza
As the waves pound Gaza’s Mediterranean shoreline, Mohammed Kulab gives his eldest daughter, Madeleine, detailed instructions on how to navigate the choppy waters to bring in the night’s catch of fish.
Amira Hass / What the Hamas is really afraid of
Hamas suppression of any Gaza protest that it sees fit shows that the Islamic movement ruling Gaza is in dire need for some public support.
Even ‘Haaretz’ has moral blindness re Gaza, Jerome Slater
Note that even Israel’s most liberal newspaper, its acclaimed voice of what remains of Israeli reason, morality, and self-criticism, does not question whether Israel has any right at all to continue its occupation, repression and economic siege of the people of Gaza. On the contrary, it starts from the premise that Israel has both the right and need to blockade even civilian goods—just that it shouldn’t use force in that case, or at least not if its soldiers enforcing the blockade are not in danger.
Get the Palestinians Out of Washington?
As the U.S struggles to bring Israelis and Palestinians together at the negotiation table, some in the U.S. are debating whether or not a Palestinian delegation should even be allowed in Washington. Over the last few weeks since the State Department announced it was upgrading diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, a controversy was ignited in Washington and elsewhere over whether the Obama administration had gone too far or not far enough. On July 20, the State Department sent a letter to Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, the Chief of the PLO Mission to the United States, stating that the U.S. had granted the upgrade to a “general delegation.” The U.S. does not allow a full embassy because it does not recognize a Palestinian state.
Diehl Assists In Netanyahu’s ‘Settlement Moratorium’ Farce
When reviewing history, there’s interpretation, and then there’s just flat-out misleading your readers. Jackson Diehl’s editorial today is an example of the latter.
Israel’s ‘John Hancock’ Means Nothing, Joharah Baker for MIFTAH
Has anyone ever wondered why Israel continues to sign agreements or humor those whose advice it has not intention of taking? It’s about time somebody questions the intentions, since the apparent trend is for Israel to ride the wave of international currents only to reject them before they reach their intended goal. Instead of offering evidence of this accusation from past to present, let’s do it the other way around. The Quartet Committee, comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia have been pressuring Palestinians and Israelis to move to direct talks as opposed to the basically futile proximity talks they have been engaged in for the past several months. Israel has accepted the Quartet as a credible mediating party and has played along with the international game of responding to their statements, demands or criticisms. However, Israel has no qualms in shooting the Quartet down when its statements do not suit Israeli interests. It strips it of all clout in its actual role of helping to mediate a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis and refers back to its own dictates as the perimeters for negotiations.
Netanyahu Running with Nowhere to Hide, James Gundun, Washington D.C.
Last week the US government and media lauded Israel’s decision to cooperate with a UN investigation into the Freedom Flotilla raid. Although Israeli opinion was more critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision, the general consensus realized he had no choice. Stonewall here and Israel would have absolutely nothing to stand on going into the pivotal month of September, when Israel’s settlement “freeze” in the West Bank expires and the UN will debate Palestinian statehood.
Imbalance of Power, the Middle East Problem, Hasan Afif El-Hasan
Let us be realistic, the hypothetical creation of a just social contract by the international community that would liberate the Palestinians from their subjection and inequality has failed. Lack of progress in reaching a just solution to the Palestinian/Syrian/Lebanese conflicts with Israel is due to the imbalance of military power in favor of Israel vs. the Arab states combined. As long as the imbalance exists, the Israeli wars will continue to reign uncontrolled and there will be little hope that justice will prevail.
Israeli plane violates Lebanon airspace
The Lebanese Army says an Israeli reconnaissance aircraft has conducted another unwarranted overflight across the country’s airspace in what appears to have become a continuing trend. On Friday, the plane flew over the southern border town of Naqoura before veering toward eastern Lebanon, the Army said in a statement. The drone entered Lebanese airspace at 6:05 p.m. (local time) and headed out more than eight hours later. The incident took place nearly a week after Israeli troops killed three Lebanese soldiers and one Lebanese journalist in an incursion into Lebanon’s soil. The airspace violations, which are reported on an almost daily basis, contravene the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1701, which ended the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. The offensive killed about 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians. [end]
Hariri: Saad Hariri and All the Lebanese Want Truth
15/08/2010 At an Iftar he hosted in Qoreitim, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said “many were expecting me to deliver a major political speech today and expectations were high; however, there is a lot to be said, but I choose when to speak up and no one can impose the timing.” “Saad Hariri and all the Lebanese want the truth and nothing more than that, and we also want stability and to know who assassinated my father and the rest of martyrs,” he said. The PM added that chaos and instability were manmade things and they don’t come out of the void. “We as officials in this country can face the vilest of attacks, whether from Israel or other sources, if we act wisely among each other,” Hariri indicated.
‘Hezbollah Won’t Allow Anyone to Tarnish Resistance Image’
16/08/2010 The head of Hezbollah Juristic Council Sheikh Mohamad Yazbek stressed that the party won’t allow anyone “to tarnish the image and reputation of the resistance.” While recalling that the Resistance has granted honor to Lebanon, Arabs, and all the nobles in the world, Sheikh Yazbek expressed belief that Hezbollah’s duty was to defend itself when attacked through the international tribunal. Sheikh Yazbek renewed the request to establish a Lebanese committee to follow up the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, expressing the Resistance’s readiness to give in the data it has to the committee if established. He said Hezbollah does not trust the international tribunal because it has ruled out Israel’s involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
Turkish Foreign Ministry denies Hezbollah arms claims as baseless
The Turkish Foreign Ministry denied Friday claims published in an Italian newspaper that Turkey and Iran were helping Hezbollah obtain new weapons. “These claims are baseless and should not be taken seriously,” a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. Iranian and Turkish intelligence officials recently signed an agreement that would guarantee a constant supply of weapons to Hezbollah, a report in Italian daily Corriere della Sera claimed Wednesday.
All Is Not Quiet on the Lebanese Front — An Analysis, Lawrence Davidson
On Tuesday, August 3, 2010, violence erupted along Lebanon’s southern frontier. Almost simultaneously verbal violence against Lebanon erupted from the U.S. House of Representatives. Soon thereafter Lebanon lost, at least temporarily, $100 million in U.S. military aid. What is this all about? The Lebanese border, or so-called Blue Line, has been a Middle East flashpoint for decades. It has been the site of repeated wars, cross border skirmishes and often futile United Nations peacekeeping efforts to keep things below a boiling temperature. Israel says that south Lebanon has harbored Palestinian fighters in the past, and now Hezbollah fighters, all of whom endanger its security. At least publically, Israel never asks why there is such long lasting hostility toward it. And, if their leaders do so in private, it never impacts policy. Instead, Israel has consistently waged war on its neighbors to stop the vengeful incursions of those whose land Israel has…what? Gotten from God? Conquered from the Canaanites? Confiscated after chasing out Arab forces who identified them as European interlopers? Stolen?
Car bomb aimed at Iranian pilgrims kills 5 in Iraq (Reuters)
Reuters – A car bomb exploded Monday in a town northeast of the Iraqi capital while a bus full of Iranian Shi’ite pilgrims was passing, killing five people and wounding nine, security officials said.
Sunday: 28 Iraqis Killed, 68 Wounded
At least 28 Iraqis were killed and 68 more were wounded in fresh violence. In one case, gunmen were targeting Ramadan worshippers. Meanwhile, new data suggest that hundreds of U.S. veterans may have misdiagnosed post-traumatic shock disorder.
Iraqis file case to break political deadlock (AFP)
AFP – A dozen civic groups launched an audacious court action on Monday in a bid to break Iraq’s deadlock over the formation of a new government, five months after a general election.
Al Daawa Party to substitute Al Maliki as PM
Informed sources from the National Alliance revealed to Al Sharq Al Awsat Newspaper that Al Daawa Party voted unanimously to choose an alternative for its leader Nuri Al Maliki as a candidate for Premiership. The substitute of Al Maliki was not defined yet; the sources said hinting that the candidate will be from Al Daawa Party. Al Maliki was flexible in this regard, the sources added. [end]
Iraqi child cancer ‘linked to US weapons’
Video Report: Stories are now emerging of increased deformities in the country’s newborn babies as well as a dramatic rise in the number of children with cancer.
Violence Haunts Iraq’s Youngest Victims Of War
The war in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on children, many of whom saw their own family members kidnapped, tortured and executed during the brutal sectarian fighting from 2006 to 2008. But there are few services for the country’s estimated 4 million to 6 million orphans, and plans to open Iraq’s first child-psychiatry clinic have stalled.
Inside Iraq – Kurdistan: An unlikely success story?
As US troops prepared to launch the invasion of Iraq there was one thing that foreign policy analysts at least were uncertain about – what would happen in Kurdistan? After years of being terrorised by Saddam Hussain and desperate to maintain a separate ethnic identity, the Kurds, some said, would take the opportunity to finally break free from Baghdad. Seven years later, Kurdistan is looking like a somewhat unlikely success story – stable, prosperous and violence free. But beneath the apparent calm, the same tensions still simmer – Kurdistan’s legal status remains undetermined, the ethnic Kurds are still demanding a homeland and critics say the regional government is illegally helping itself to the nation’s oil.
Iran unlikely to stop nuclear fuel enrichment
TEHRAN, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) — Iran said on Sunday it will not stop its nuclear fuel enrichment activities although Russia would provide it with the nuclear fuel needed to run its Bushehr nuclear power plant. Head of Iran’s Majlis (Parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said Sunday that Iran will continue the uranium enrichment process inevitably because the country needs it for its future power plants, official IRNA news agency reported.
Israeli Generals and Intel Officials Oppose Attack on Iran
Pro-Israeli journalist Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic magazine was evidently aimed at showing why the Barack Obama administration should worry that it risks an attack by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran in the coming months unless it takes a much more menacing line toward Iran’s nuclear program.
How propagandists function: Exhibit A, Glenn Greenwald
Good news! Israel can successfully end a country’s nuclear program by bombing them, as proven by its 1981 attack on Iraq, which, says Goldberg, halted “forever, as it turned out — Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions.”
The Point Of No Credibility: Jeffrey Goldberg Echoes Pastor Hagee, Max Blumenthal
Since publishing his long piece about the likelihood of a preemptive Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, “The Point Of No Return,” Jeffrey Goldberg has been accused by foreign policy writers from Hillary and Flynt Leverett to Stephen Walt to Tony Karon of using his access to top Israeli officials to promote Israeli military aggression. That was transparently obvious to me after reading his piece. But what struck me as even more striking was the extent to which Goldberg’s writing reminded me of the screeds of rapture-ready Christian Zionist fanatic Pastor John Hagee, who has lusted for an Israeli attack on Iran for years and has used his access to figures like Netanyahu to sell his flock on the war. Indeed, Goldberg and Hagee have shared many of the same high-level Israeli sources and appeared to accept their dire predictions at face value; both Goldberg and Hagee predicted an Israeli strike on Iran by the spring (Hagee issued his brilliant prophecy in 2006); and both accepted and appeared to promote the Israeli view that Iran poses a grave threat not just to Israel, but to all of Western civilization.
U.S. and Other World News
U.S. warns Turkey that strained Israel ties could hinder arms deal
Obama tells Turkish prime minister that Ankara’s position on Israel and Iran could lower its chances of obtaining U.S. weapons, the Financial Times reports.
CIA evidence of an Israeli nuclear test
Since 2004, the CIA report on the double flash detected by a US Vela satellite on 22 September 1979, originating in the south Atlantic, has been declassified, albeit heavily redacted.
NATO Acknowledges Killing Civilians
NATO acknowledged on Sunday that five Afghan civilians appeared to have been killed by one of its air strikes. The strike was carried out on Thursday.
Afghanistan: villagers block road after claims of civilian deaths
A crowd of about 300 villagers blocked a main road in eastern Afghanistan Aug. 12 and chanted “Death to the US!” The protest came after a raid by US forces in which they said three innocent villagers were killed at Zarin Khil, Sayed Abad district, Wardak province.
Polish soldiers blow up Afghan dwelling “for fun”
“What a beauty!” comments one of the soldiers when the building is blown to pieces in the 3-minute video (see here), recorded by Polish soldiers from the Army’s 6th rotation during their tour of duty between October 2009 and April 2010.
Media Failing to Ask Tough Questions on Afghanistan War…Again
General Petraeus is on a media tour to sell the idea that the U.S. military is “making progress” in Afghanistan, a well-worn message aimed at convincing elites to extend this brutal, futile war. So far, it looks like the mainstream media is buying it, hook, line, and sinker.
Dennis Kucinich Makes a Serious Push to Ban Govt. Assassinations of US Citizens, Jeremy Scahill
Kucinich is putting his money where his mouth is. He just announced he has introduced legislation to “prohibit the extrajudicial killing of United States citizens.”
Petraeus denounces ‘reprehensible’ Wikileaks
The top US military commander in Afghanistan on Sunday blasted as “reprehensible” the release of Afghan war documents, saying that US partners named in them have been put at risk.
WikiLeaks to shift base to friendly Sweden
Julian Assange said he would apply for a Swedish publishing license this week in order to maximize legal protections for the sources who provide WikiLeaks with documents that some governments don’t want released to the public.
Bradley Manning’s guilt — and ours
The accused leaker to WikiLeaks appears to have acted out of idealism. Now that we’ve seen the results of our wars, can we say the same?
WikiLeaks: We Won’t Be Threatened By Pentagon
STOCKHOLM — WikiLeaks will publish its remaining 15,000 Afghan war documents within a month, despite warnings from the U.S. government, the organization’s founder said Saturday. The Pentagon has said that secret information will be even more damaging to security and risk more lives than WikiLeaks’ initial release of some 76,000 war documents. “This organization will not be threatened by the Pentagon or any other group,” Julian Assange told reporters in Stockholm. “We proceed cautiously and safely with this material.”
Punishing the WikiLeaker Misses the Point, Eric Margolis
A true journalist’s job is to expose government wrongdoing and propaganda, skewer hypocrites, and speak for those with no voice. And wage war against mankind’s two worst scourges: Nationalism and religious bigotry. Not to lick the boots of government.
Republicans slam Obama over Ground Zero Muslim center remarks
U.S. president is ‘disconnected’ from mainstream America during an election year, says Texas Senator John Cornyn.
Florida Republican: Put immigrants in “camps”
A Republican candidate for the Florida state Legislature stood by her controversial idea to arrest illegal immigrants and send them to “camps” where they can be held en masse.
Origins of Saudi-Israeli alliance: the untold story
This is from an unpublished (unclassified) American government study of the subject. It states: “Anctual Israeli support of the Saudi-Imamate causes probably began prior to any direct meetings between representatives of the two governments and the Yemeni Royalist movement…This study has been able to trace at least two locations of direct Saudi-Israeli meetings which began at two distinct phases in the Yemeni civil war. The first traceable set of meetings began in March of 1963 in India. Indian sources reported that an official of the Saudi Embassy in India, Ahmad Allalah Al-Qadi, began frequenting the Israeli consulate in Bombay. According to Arab (Egyptian) sources, Crown Prince Faisal ordered the Saudi official’s meetings in reaction to the two Arab nationalist coups in Baghdad and Damascus in February and March 1963 that removed anti-Nasser governments from power in each state…The focus of the Israeli-Saudi talks were the prospects for Israel dropping arms for the Royalist tibal forces as well as Israel providing military intelligence regarding Egyptian army movements and capabilities to both the Saudis and Yemenis…
Bahrain arrests four Shi’ite activists as poll nears
MANAMA, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Bahraini authorities have detained four Shi’ite activists before a parliamentary poll in which Shi’ites will be seeking a bigger role in governing the Sunni Muslim-led Arab state, their lawyer said on Sunday. The arrests could heighten tensions with Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority before the Oct. 23 election, the U.S.-allied Gulf island state’s third since its king launched a political reform process a decade ago to help quell Shi’ite protests. Clashes erupted in at least two Shi’ite villages on Saturday night following the Friday arrest of the first of the activists, said Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. “Three more were arrested this morning,” lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer told Reuters.
Online activism roaring in Egypt
At least 200,000 Egyptians have signed up on Facebook to back Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear boss who has said he wants to shatter 30 years of political stasis in Egypt by running for president. Despite a surge in online support for political alternatives to President Hosni Mubarak, 82, who has been in power since 1981, even ardent supporters acknowledge that online activism in Egypt cannot deliver change without action on the streets. ‘Crucial step’ Yusuf AbdelRahman, representing ElBaradei’s Facebook group, said the petition had 54,870 online signatures so far but added that 15,000 Facebook members have volunteered to go on the streets of Cairo and other cities to collect more signatures. “[This] is a crucial step considering that three decades of state repression has left many afraid of taking action. Others accept repressive measures as a fact of life,” he said.
‘Why did you lie to security about going to Bil’in.
Aug 16, 2010 11:47 am | Laura Durkay
On Saturday, Laura Durkay published a blogpost about getting stopped at the Palestinian border with Jordan by Israeli security last Tuesday. Durkay is a writer and activist from Baltimore who recently traveled to Palestine/Israel on a delegation sponsored by Interfaith Peace-Builders and the American Friends Service Committee (Great Lakes Region). Here is her story.
The Allenby/King Hussein Bridge over the Jordan River is the only border crossing between Jordan and Palestine/Israel that Palestinians with West Bank IDs are allowed to use. This means that although it’s on the most direct route between Jerusalem and Amman, it’s a maze of long lines, bureaucratic hassles and “security” obstacles, a headache at best and a nightmare at worst, just one more of the umpteen million ways the Israeli occupation makes life difficult for the Palestinians. So of course I wanted to go through it.
Crossing from Palestine/Israel to Jordan is a bit slow but nothing dramatic. But crossing back into Israel to catch my flight out of Ben Gurion Airport a few days later turns out to be a whole different experience.
I arrive on the Jordanian side of the border around 10am and get in a long, crowded line that appears to be all Palestinians. I’ve heard there is a “VIP” area for tourists but if the Palestinians have to wait in this line, I’m going to wait in this line.
Jordanian border officials are handing out forms that are only in Arabic. I quickly make a Palestinian line-friend, a young woman in a cute pink hijab who speaks English, who is able to find out from the border official that I don’t need to fill out the form. She offers to help me through the border crossing process, but as soon as that happens an official comes over and tries to steer me out of the Palestinian line to the VIP area. Knowing I’m at the beginning of a long process, I reluctantly follow him, but I feel awful leaving the long line of Palestinian travelers for the tourist area, which is basically empty. I decide that the next time someone tries to segregate me from Palestinians, I’ll try to refuse.
The Jordanian officials are friendly, at least with us tourists, and the exit process is pretty straightforward. By 11:30 I’m over the bridge and into the Israeli security terminal on the other side. Then the real fun begins.
It’s crowded, noisy, kids everywhere, and the Israeli soldiers keep giving us arbitrary orders to back up, move here, move there. I’m waiting with a giant clump of Palestinians to get up to the first passport control station when there’s a sudden commotion somewhere behind me. I can’t really see what’s going on, but the next thing I know all the Israeli soldiers are yelling “Yalla! Yalla! Yalla!” [“Let’s go!” in Arabic] and herding us like cattle through the border control stations into the waiting area on the other side. I see a line of plainclothes dudes with M-16s go racing by toward the terminal entrance. It seems there’s been some kind of security scare and the terminal’s being locked down.
While I’m waiting with everyone else in the pen, surrounded by soldiers who of course are not telling us anything about what’s going on, I make another line-friend, a young Palestinian guy who we’ll call M. M instantly introduces me to his mother and six or seven brothers and sisters. I tell him all the places I’ve been–Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron. “You’re so lucky,” he says wistfully. He can’t go to half those places without a permit. I want him to know I understand the injustice of this. “It’s so unfair that I’m not Palestinian and I can go to all these places, while you grew up here and you can’t,” I tell him. “It’s okay,” he says. “Anyone who loves justice and freedom is Palestinian, so you’re Palestinian too.”
Soon after that someone decides the security scare is over and we’re all herded back through to the other side of passport control. Of course the queue is all mixed up now and anyone who was in line close to the windows has to go back to the beginning. “Sport,” M mutters as the Israeli soldiers make us all squish back into a big clump together.
Soon thereafter someone decides there must be separate lines for men and women, even though no one has had a problem with everyone being mixed together before this. So everyone is shuffling around again. “Stay with my sisters,” M advises. M’s mom and four sisters have squashed themselves together like sardines using some kind of Palestinian line-waiting magic that I can’t manage to emulate with my bulky backpack and messenger bag.
Soon an Israeli soldier notices me, obviously the only white person in the Palestinian line, and demands I go to the tourist line. I try to refuse. “I’d rather stay with my friends.” It’s no go. I’m told in no uncertain terms to get out of the 200-person Palestinian line-clump and go over to passport window #1, which is marked “VIP” and has about five internationals waiting at it. I feel horrible, guilty and powerless. Haha. Little do I know my own adventure is just beginning.
Shortly after I get in this line, a woman approaches me and asks to see my passport. She’s about my age, wearing skinny jeans and a frilly, kind of femmy shirt. It takes me a second to realize she’s a plainclothes Israeli security officer. I didn’t notice her before. For all I know she watched me refusing to get out of the Palestinian line and this is what made me suspicious enough for a passport check. Maybe the soldier told her to check me. Or maybe it was just random.
At the passport window I get some basic questions about what I was doing in Jordan and where I’m going in Israel. One of the border guards is from Haifa and I chat with her about what I should see there. They’re not hostile, but at the end they keep my passport and give me a form to fill out. “Wait over there and someone will come talk with you,” they say, which means I’m getting extra questioning. I’m not at all surprised; I expected to get some extra questioning. I go sit in the waiting area, which has a mix of internationals and Palestinians, and fill out the form. I think it’s around 12:30 pm at this point. I don’t know how long this will take, so I take the chance to eat the roll I brought and drink some water.
There are lots of people waiting–families, old people, little kids. Some kids are waiting by themselves while their parents are being questioned. Directly across from me is a boy, maybe fourteen, who’s watching his two younger sisters, one of whom is asleep. He keeps shifting her around carefully between his lap and his sister’s, so patiently, waiting calmly while his mother or father is off being strip-searched and interrogated somewhere. I try to offer them some cookies but they don’t want to take them.
Eventually Skinny Jeans, the woman from before, shows up and collects my form. I’m taken to a different waiting area, inside passport control–the one we were all herded into some hours ago. In this waiting area everyone except me is Palestinian.
More waiting. I can see the table where they search your bags. I watch a middle-aged man wearing a dishdasha stand at the table as they take every item out of the huge plastic bag he’s carrying–unfolding all the clothes and dumping them in a pile, carelessly unwrapping things carefully wrapped.
Everyone in this waiting area knows we’re all waiting to be interrogated, and there are little subtle winks and nods of solidarity. A woman who looks old enough to remember the Nakba lights up a cigarette right under the “No Smoking” sign. Good for her, I think. No smoking in an Israeli border terminal is just cruel.
While I’m waiting, I think how unbelievably grateful I am to myself that I took the time to find the DHL place in Amman and ship my computer with 1,000 photos from my trip and my notebook full of notes from all our meetings back to myself in the States. My still camera is safe; there are only pictures of Amman on there, but I heartily wish I had thrown my video camera into the DHL package as well, because it has video from the Friday protest in Bil’in. I take out the camera and consider deleting the video, then get defiant and decide they’re not going to make me delete it out of fear. I have a right to have that video. It wasn’t illegal for me to be there or to film that protest. Besides, I know I also have tons of political literature in my suitcase that they’ll find if they search, so deleting the video is not going to save me from suspicion. I do take the battery out of the camera and leave it in a separate part of the bag. Not that this will stop them if they really want to find it, but I don’t feel like making things easier for them.
Eventually Skinny Jeans reappears and I’m taken to that back room that exists in all Israeli border installations, the interrogation room. It’s an office, just an office, one of several off a narrow, grungy hallway. It looks so ordinary, but the atmosphere is chilly. For the first of many times that day I think about everything I just learned about the Stasi. There are so many similarities I wonder if there’s been some cross-training. Or maybe all repressive systems just converge to the same point if they last long enough.
“Put your bags on the table.” I’m being spoken to only in commands. Skinny Jeans’s demeanor has totally changed. We’re on her turf now and she has to establish dominance right away. I don’t know for sure that these people are Shabak, Israeli secret police, but it wouldn’t surprise me. They sure act like secret police. They behave like people who spend their days making other people feel afraid and powerless.
“Do you have anything in your pockets?” I had put my phone in my pocket, hoping to hold onto it in case I was separated from my bags. “Turn it off, take out the battery and leave it in your bag.” So, right away I’m being isolated and controlled. No contact with the outside world allowed. I’m not actually scared–I know the worst they can do to me is nothing compared to what they do to Palestinians. But it sure is creepy as hell. I can imagine Skinny Jeans doing this, and worse, to people with a lot less privilege, a lot more to lose, and a lot less hope of escape.
She directs me into her office and I sit down across the table from her. There’s a redhead woman who sits down next to her, but doesn’t ask any questions. I think maybe she’s training. This is too weird. It’s liked I’ve walked into one of my own screenplays. This is a scene I would write, but now I’m in it.
“Where is your other passport?”
Uh-oh. This was not the first question I expected.
I have two passports. It is completely legal to have two valid US passports, but if you get a second one, it’s only valid for two years. So anyone who bothers to check the expiration date can tell that I have another passport, which I didn’t bring because it has a Gaza entry stamp on it.
“It’s at home, in the US.” You’re not required to have both passports with you when you travel.
“Why do you have two passports?”
“I travel a lot; sometimes I need to send one off to get visas.”
This is true, and is one of the reasons people get two passports. During the period I was in Germany, I had to send off my other passport to the Jordanian embassy to get my Jordan visa. But I can tell Skinny Jeans doesn’t believe me.
“Have you been to Lebanon? Syria?” These I can answer confidently “no.” “Gaza?” I knew that was coming. Here I have to roll the dice. Do they know I’ve been? If they do, and I lie, that will make things worse. If they don’t, and I admit it, that won’t exactly make things better. Although everyone whose advice I trust has advised against lying to Israeli border officials, everyone also knows that you can’t exactly tell the whole truth, because people have been denied entry just for saying they’re going to do charity work in the West Bank. It’s no use knowing that I haven’t done anything illegal under international, or even fucked-up Israeli, law. It’s no use knowing that I haven’t committed a crime–because in their minds, I have. Because any contact with Palestinians, any solidarity with Palestinians, any seeing-of-Palestinians-as-human-beings is a crime in their book, and therefore a security threat.
For better or worse, I decide to take the risk and say “no” to the Gaza question. I think I can always backpedal, play dumb and say something like, “Oh, I thought you meant on this trip.” At this point I still have some hope that I can get out of this quickly by playing the ignorant tourist.
She goes through the sheet I filled out in the waiting area, which has lines for all my contact information. I’ve put down my parents’ home number and my school email. “Write your cell phone number for me.” I write it down–they have my cell phone sitting outside; it’s not like they can’t get it. “That’s your school email. You must have another email.” I really don’t want to give Israeli security my email address. When I stall she turns up the hostility, using that barking, commanding, dominant tone of voice that all Israeli police state functionaries must learn in training. “Do you think this is a game? Don’t you know why you’re here? What do you think will happen to you if you don’t cooperate with us?”
I write down my email address. It’s a disgusting feeling, having to submit, even on a tiny thing like this. I know this is just a power game on her part–I’m on top and you’re going to do what I say. I think about what this game must be like if you’re Palestinian, when the Israeli side is backed up by physical violence and the prospect of a long prison sentence, when the information they want is much more serious than an email address, when it could mean someone’s life. I think about how these games of dominance and submission are played out a thousand times every day all across the Occupied Territories, at checkpoints, in house raids, at permit offices, in detention centers–the micro level of oppression.
More questions. My parents’ names–man, they love this one. Where did I go to school? What did I study? Have I ever studied Arabic? Somehow she can’t believe I only studied history in undergrad. Who did I stay with in Jordan? What did I do there? What did I do before that, in Israel? Where did I go? I avoid mentioning any places in the West Bank. I say I was on a tour with Interfaith Peace Builders–she makes me write the name of the group on her notepad–and now I’m traveling on my own. For some reason this is very suspicious. Why did I go off on my own after the rest of the group left? Suspicious!!!
Some of the questions are really ridiculous. But whenever I question her questions, she gets angry and hostile. I think at one point she actually says “I’ll ask the questions here!” just like in a bad cop movie.
“Do you have Twitter? Do you have Facebook?”
I’m caught off guard by this question and reflexively answer “No,” before it occurs to me that this is a really dumb thing to lie about, because if they’re asking they probably know; hell, they’re probably already following me on Twitter. But all I can think is that if I say yes they’ll ask me to log in, and I would refuse to do that, and that would be just as suspicious.
Then the political questions start. “Where is Bil’in?” I say it’s in the West Bank. “Where?” “I don’t know exactly–I couldn’t point it out on a map.” This is the truth–I’ve only been there by bus and taxi. Yelling commences: “Don’t lie! You think we don’t know when you’re lying? We know!” The way she says lying, she makes it sound like I’ve killed babies, like it’s the worst crime you can commit, lying to an Israeli border official. They don’t actually ask me if I’ve been to Bil’in, so I don’t say that I have, but I know they’ll eventually check my camera and find the video. Oh well. I had the chance to delete it and I decided not to, so there’s nothing I can do about it now.
“What do you know about Gaza?” I try to say some very general things. “What do you know about the Flotilla?” Again some general things about there being a clash and some people being killed; I try to sound as neutral about it as possible. “Who was killed?” “I think they were Turkish activists.” “You think? You know. Try a little bit harder to remember.” Holy shit. This is turning into a real interrogation. Skinny Jeans is on a major power trip. It’s so surreal. Now I’m pretty sure I’m in trouble and I’m just trying not to dig the hole any deeper, not to directly contradict things I’ve already said, and most importantly, not to get anyone else in trouble along with me. But the problem is that once they suspect you of one thing, everything you say is suspect, so even if you’re telling the truth they don’t believe you. The other problem is that the more she shouts at me, the more I feel like digging my heels in and not telling them a damn thing. I figure I’m probably already screwed, so why the hell should I cooperate?
From an intelligence-gathering perspective, this is a really stupid strategy. If you’re in the business of getting accurate intelligence, you need to be able to reliably separate truth from lies, and you need to give the person you’re interrogating the confidence that if they tell the truth, you’ll believe them and back off. Otherwise they have no incentive to do so. Skinny Jeans gets an epic fail on both these counts. Which reinforces my belief that the primary goal of what they’re doing here is not intelligence-gathering–and certainly not “security”–but intimidation and punishment. In other words, state terror.
Skinny Jeans brings me back out to the reception area. There’s another woman there; I’ll call her Backup. They go through all my stuff. There’s a couch in the waiting area and I must sit. It’s low and I don’t like that I can’t really see what they’re doing with my stuff. I experiment with standing up. “Sit down!” They take everything out of my messenger bag and my backpack. They unwrap every souvenir and go through every piece of paper. Everything is suspicious. Why do I have an Israel/Palestine guide book if I was on an organized tour? Apparently extra knowledge of the places I’m going is not allowed. Why do I have the Lonely Planet for the whole Middle East? Interest in other countries: not allowed. A flyer for alternative tours given by an Israeli? Suspicious! A note from a friend in Jordan? Suspicious!! A keychain in the shape of historic Palestine? VERY VERY SUSPICIOUS!!! Backup (holding up keychain): “What is this?!” Me: “It’s a gift.” “Who are you going to give it to?” “I haven’t decided yet.” “You don’t just give this to anyone!” I have a keffiyah in one of my bags. “What’s this?” Skinny Jeans says like she’s just pulled out a crack vial. “It’s a scarf.” Fuck you, I think. It’s a fucking scarf.
Skinny Jeans and Backup take me back out to the main part of the terminal and make me retrieve my suitcase that’s gone through the x-ray machine. At the bag search table they take everything out of my suitcase with the same malicious abandon I saw them use on other people’s stuff. I know they’ll find the keffiyahs and Palestine flag bracelets I bought in Hebron and all the literature and posters I collected from our various meetings; I haven’t tried to hide them. They’re particularly aggressive about the material from the Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem, one of the groups that’s supporting the Sheikh Jarrah families. “What is this?! A tourist doesn’t have this kind of thing!” Once they unfurl the Boycott Israel poster I think the casual-tourist act is pretty much done for. “You knew we were going to question you and you prepared,” Skinny Jeans says, again with such accusatory venom that it’s almost a little bit funny. Well–I think but do not say–you are questioning me, so obviously the preparation was warranted.
“Put your stuff back in the suitcase.” I take the time to fold every item of clothing, not rushing, not meeting her eyes. It was folded when she took it out; it’s going to be folded when I put it back in.
Back to the interrogation room. Backup makes me put the battery back in my phone and turn it on. I notice the holder for the SIM card is loose and wonder if they’ve copied it. She starts going through my call records. “Who’s this?” It’s the local cell phone number of one of our delegation leaders. Then they find the local number of a friend from the US. “This is a Palestinian cell phone number! Who is this?! Where are they?!” Backup is really yelling, standing over me as I sit on the couch, being as intimidating as possible. For the first time I get really scared because I don’t want this person to have any trouble with Israeli security. So I just keep repeating that I don’t know where they are now. Now Backup and Skinny Jeans are going at me together. Skinny Jeans: “You’re lying to us! Don’t you know what can happen to you? We’re not just talking about you’re not getting in, we’re talking about you’re going to prison!” Skinny Jeans takes my phone, still camera, video camera, and every piece of paper from my bag and disappears down the hall with them. Backup yells: “You’re not getting in! All we’re figuring out now is what to do with you!” Then they make me sit in the hallway.
In the hallway I start going over everything I’ve said. I’m fucked, I think. They’re going to deport me. First trip to Israel and I’m getting fucking deported, and probably banned for ten years for good measure. I shouldn’t have lied. Why did I lie about fucking Twitter? That was really dumb. Maybe I should have dropped the whole casual-tourist act right away when they asked about my second passport, I think. But it’s not that easy to switch tactics when you’re under pressure. And I can’t imagine things would have gone that much better for me if I’d led off with, “Yeah, I’ve been to the West Bank. Wanna see my video from Bil’in?”
In another part of my brain, I recognize that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now. This is that part of the interrogation, where they put you somewhere isolated and don’t tell you what’s going to happen to you next, where they let you stew and start second-guessing everything you’ve said and imagining the worst-case scenario. Which is exactly what I have been doing.
I tell myself over and over that they’re just trying to intimidate me; that these are the consequences for standing with Palestinians and I knew that when I came here; that I’m a thousand times safer than any Palestinian who’s been through these same rooms. I know they can’t actually send me to prison. The worst they can do is detain me for a few days and then deport me. I don’t want to be deported but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I can’t unsay anything I’ve said. I can’t stop them from looking through the email and contacts on my phone. I can’t control their actions. All I can control is what I say. I decide whatever is going to happen to me will happen and the most important thing at this point is not to implicate anyone else.
In the hallway with me are the man in the dishdasha, the one I saw having his bag searched, and a mother with two little boys. The man looks exhausted and sits hunched over. I think he might be praying. The woman gives me a pale smile. Her kids are fidgety and bored, but they don’t cry. Palestinian kids learn about waiting early.
At one point a young, blonde female soldier comes into the hallway. She does a double-take when she sees me. “What are you doing here?” she asks. “Good question,” I shoot back. But if I’d had more time to think about it, I would have looked at the man and the mother with her kids and asked, “What are any of us doing here?”
Waiting. The man goes in for questioning and comes back out; the woman goes in for questioning; I wait. It’s around 4pm now and all I’ve eaten all day is some cereal at breakfast and that little roll. I’m starting to get dizzy with hunger. I’m not going to ask them for shit, but I know I have Oreos and water in my bag. Finally I get up and knock on the door of the interrogation room. Someone new answers it: a woman with bad skin and a dress that looks like it came from the Dress Barn. I tell Dress Barn I’d like to get my water from my bag. “You’ll have to wait just one minute; there’s a woman in there.” I look past her and see a curtain has been pulled over the couch area, where my bags are. I realize the mother is being strip-searched in there.
I eat my Oreos and drink some water–not too much; I don’t see a bathroom back here–and feel a bit better. I try to share the Oreos with the kids but they won’t take them. After some time, Dress Barn comes out and says, “You can sit outside. You’ll be more comfortable out there.” I have to stifle a laugh at this one. But I’m not about to argue; outside there are bathrooms and other people.
Things are better in the outside waiting area. I begin to hold out a sliver of hope that I’m not going to be deported. I think that if they were going to deport me they’d want to control my movement the whole time and wouldn’t let me out into the outside waiting area. But I don’t let myself get too hopeful about anything yet. I recognize a Palestinian guy wearing a Germany World Cup jersey who’s been there as long as I have. “Still here?” he says. He gives me that sardonic smile that says we’re all in this together.
After a while Dress Barn comes out and sits down next to me in the waiting area. I realize she’s playing the Good Cop in this little drama. “Tell me about your trip to Gaza,” she says right up front. Okay, so they know about that. I tell her when it was, that I went with CODEPINK, that it was coordinated by UNRWA, that we met with youth organizations–all information that’s publicly available. “What organizations did you meet with in Gaza?” Here I stop, partially because I’m too tired to think back through every group we met with, partially because on principle I just don’t want to give them any information about Palestinians. “I’m not going to list every organization we met with,” I say. If they really want to know they can read my damn blog.
“Things will be a lot better for you if you start telling us the truth. If you don’t say anything, we’re going to assume the worst.” She’s not very good at being the Good Cop.
After another while Skinny Jeans comes out and demands the battery for my video camera. I lie and say I shipped it back to the US with my computer. I know this won’t hold up long but I just can’t help being belligerent around her. She’s so horrible, the kind of person I hate most of all, the kind of person who has to make everyone acknowledge their power. I bet she fucking loves this job. I have a bad habit of getting into fights with people like her. “I saw a battery in your bag. Go and get it and put it in.” “Oh, maybe I have a backup,” I say blithely.
She goes away but soon I’m brought back into her office. “Explain the video on your camera.” No point in hiding anything now. “It’s from Bil’in. I was there last Friday.” “Did you participate in the demonstration?” “No, I just filmed it.” “You walked along with the demonstration–you don’t think that’s participating?” “I just filmed it. There were other press people there.” “Who did you go with?” “I took a taxi there.” “What organization did you go with?” “No organization. I went by myself. Anyone can go there.” “Who was with you?” “I’m not going to tell you who was with me,” I say calmly. Oh, I like this so much better, just being up front about what I’m not going to tell them.
“What is ISM?” Ah. So we’re on to this. “International Solidarity Movement,” I tell her. “What do they do?” “They do nonviolent human rights work in support of the Palestinians.” “How do you know that?” Seriously??? “I read their website. It’s not a secret.” “Are you here to work with ISM?” “No. I’ve never worked with ISM,” I tell her, truthfully. Frankly it is really stupid of her to think this. If I’d already gotten into Israel with no problem through the airport, why would I leave and come back through one of the toughest borders? What does she think, that I went to Jordan for training or something? I’m not the PA.
Back on the couch. Backup comes out with my phone. “Who are the people in your phone?” “They’re my friends.” “Who do you know in ISM?” “I don’t know anyone in ISM,” I say. Of course I know loads of people who’ve worked with ISM in the past. She asks again, louder, as if asking louder will make me answer the question. “I don’t know anyone in ISM.”
More waiting in the outside waiting area. Soon Dress Barn comes back out to get me. She has a notepad in her hands and I know exactly what she’s going to ask. She takes me back inside and we sit together on the couch. How interesting. The couch is a hostile space when they’re standing over you and a “friendly” space when they’re sitting next to you.
She puts the notepad in my lap. “I want you to write down all the names of people you know in ISM.” I knew it! I look her straight in the eye and say, “Absolutely not.” It feels awesome. I don’t care if they deport me, I think. I’m not writing a single name on that piece of paper and there’s nothing they can do to make me. I fucking win, assholes.
“What organizations are you part of?” Dress Barn asks. “I’m not part of any organizations,” I say. For perhaps the first time in my political life, this is actually true. I’m not formally a member of anything right now. Dress Barn starts trying to psychoanalyze me. “You’re kind of a loner, aren’t you? How are you going to effect change all by yourself?” Perhaps she has actually forgotten that being a member of a political organization is not illegal in the US, the way it is in the Occupied Territories.
The only good thing about the interrogation area is that there’s a water cooler–I do not trust the tap water here. I manage to fill up my water bottle before I’m sent back to the outside waiting area. Another long wait. It’s getting late and I suspect that even if I get out of here, I won’t make it onto the last bus to Haifa tonight as planned. But otherwise I’m feeling okay. Whatever happens now, I think I have conducted myself all right.
After a while a new person comes to get me. He’s the first guy I’ve encountered, kind of chubby, with a noticeably friendlier demeanor. He brings me back into a different office, marked Ministry of the Interior. There’s a huge Israeli flag on the wall.
He asks me where I’ve been and I go through the whole itinerary truthfully. It feels way less skeezy in here than in Skinny Jeans’s lair, but I know I still need to be careful. He asks me about my plans for the rest of the trip. I tell the truth: that I have no plans to go to the West Bank, that I’m just going to Haifa and Tel Aviv, that I have a flight out of Ben Gurion Airport in two days’ time. “Why did you lie to security about going to Bil’in?” he asks me. I decide honesty is best here too. “I thought if I told the truth you might deny me entry. You guys are very suspicious about anyone showing support for the Palestinians.” “Yes, yes, they’re very suspicious,” he says–as if he’s not part of the exact same system–then mutters something about Israel’s security blah blah blah. “Anything else you want to tell me?” he asks at the end. Aha! I’ve got your number, Mr. Nice Guy. “No,” I say.
At the end of it all, he tells me that the condition of my entry to Israel is that I sign a piece of paper saying I’m leaving in two days and I’m not allowed to go into “areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority,” which is vague enough that it could mean anything from Area A to the whole West Bank. I have no problem signing–I am more than ready to get away from the Israeli police state in two days, and even more ready to get the hell out of this stupid border. As I’m signing the paper it occurs to me that I really am being let in. I’m not being deported, denied entry, or sent to jail. Which means all those threats Skinny Jeans and Backup were screaming at me just hours ago were completely, totally, 100% for intimidation purposes. Amazing.
Filling out the paperwork, making a copy, and getting my passport back–which should take all of five minutes–ends up taking close to an hour. I get some janky visa stamp with the “3 Months” crossed out and “Only Two Days” hand-written in. They’ve held me juuuust long enough that I’ll definitely miss the last bus to Haifa. I wonder if they did this on purpose, but I’m happy for the chance to spend one last night in Jerusalem, which has begun to feel like my home. And of course I’m happy that after all this, I’m not being deported or denied entry after all.
It’s 7:30pm when I finally get to leave the border. I’ve been in the Israeli terminal for about eight hours in total. I buy cold apple juice and nuts from a Palestinian vendor before getting into the waiting service taxi to Jerusalem. That apple juice is the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I don’t even care that it’s hot in the service, I’m just so happy to be out of that wretched border terminal.
We drive with the windows open through the Jordan Valley as the sun is setting. It’s so beautiful I don’t even want to take a picture; I couldn’t capture it. The service takes me all the way to Damascus Gate, which is decked out with magical strings of blue-white lights for the start of Ramadan. It’s so lovely and joyful I want to cry. The hostel is nearly full for Ramadan but they have a place for me. I get falafel on the street and sit alone on the hostel’s cool, breezy roof deck to listen to the last call to prayer of the day echo out across the city. I can see the whole Old City and it’s indescribably beautiful, lit up and full of life. It’s like Jerusalem is welcoming me home. When some French tourists, newly arrived in Jerusalem, join me on the roof deck I say “Welcome” like it’s my city. I feel like it is now. I feel like I’ve earned it.
Afterward I have some time to think about whether there’s anything I could have done differently. Maybe I could have taken a different tack right at the beginning, admitted everywhere I’d been, admitted I’d been to Gaza. Would that have made it better or worse? Somehow I think once they take you to that back room they’ve already decided you’re guilty, and it doesn’t really matter what you say. That’s how it goes in a system where everything but total abject submission to colonialism is criminalized. I think trying to modify your behavior to please the oppressor is always a losing battle. The only way to guarantee an interrogation-free passage is not to support the Palestinians, and I certainly wasn’t going to do that.
In the end, I’m glad I had the experience. Israel tries to segregate everything, to create one experience for tourists that is nothing at all like what the Palestinians go through, and I’m glad I shook those borders a little. I also know my experience was mild compared to what Palestinians endure–just the merest brush with a system that they have to interact with every day–and that it’s one thing to be able to fly away from that repressive system two days later and another thing entirely to have to live your whole life under it. And it just gives me that much more respect for the people who do live under it, who grow up, work, educate themselves, raise their kids, fight, resist just by living their lives in defiance of this system, refusing to surrender or be driven away. I’ll share back rooms and border crossings with people like that any day.
The ‘Atlantic’ runs a rationale for war by a journalist embedded in the Israeli psychosis
Aug 16, 2010 | Philip Weiss
I finally read Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece on the likely Israeli attack on Iran in The Atlantic, The Point of No Return, and I’m surprised. Surprised that Goldberg would put it out there, given his role in promoting the Iraq war on a dubious basis and his admission last year on Israeli TV that Zionists have an interest re Iran that conflicts with the American interest; surprised that the Atlantic would run it, given the piece’s relentless ethnocentrism and emotional appeal to Jews and the Israel lobby on behalf of the Obama hawks; and finally, surprised that more journalists have not stepped up to attack this dangerous piece as a crude manifestation of the Israel lobby in our politics.
The first surprise is I suppose easily explained. Goldberg likes attention, and he’s going to get it whatever it takes. This time he’s basically carrying the water for the Israeli political and military establishment. He states that he doesn’t quite believe their argument for war, but this is a mere clearing of the throat. The rest of the time he is carrying water. His strenuous efforts to dignify the piece as journalism– he spent seven years studying the question and has interviewed scores of people in Israel and a couple of Americans too– are belied by its crude character. It is Jerry Springer at Yad Vashem. He is holding the microphone up to Israelis to describe their fears of Iran getting the bomb.
The amount of Holocaust talk in the piece is endless and staggering. Auschwitz and annihilation are repeated over and over, Ahmadinejad is identified often as someone who wants to eliminate the Jews. Hitler makes an appearance. Goldberg goes in for his customary ugga bugga about the Islamic world hating Jews, with the usual scholarly gloss. “[T]hrough the 17th and 18th centuries Shia clerics viewed Jews variously as ‘the leprosy of creation’ and ‘the most unclean of the human race.’”…
The piece is essentially emotional, it is an expression of Jewish power. Goldberg loves Jewish power. He grew up studying the abandonment of the Jews during the Holocaust and thinking that the diaspora was dangerous for Jews, and this seems to have been the sum of his philosophical inquiry in life. As a young man he joined the Israeli army, and he still worships Israeli armor. The piece begins with a woody-producing scene of “roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft” heading east to Iran.
At a couple of points in the article Goldberg makes clear that such an attack would not necessarily be in the U.S. interest, that it would cause havoc for U.S. military forces, but this is mere lip service. I suspect the editors asked him for a To-be-sure paragraph or two, and he supplied it. The four corners of this piece are inside the Jewish psyche. Almost everyone quoted in the piece is Jewish. You may think that I am injecting religion– I always do– but Goldberg is as concerned with Jewish power as I am and he himself injects it when he says of his meeting with Rahm Emanuel, that Emanuel is “decidedly non-goyishe.”
Why is he bringing religion into it, and in an offensive manner, aimed at signalling to non-Yiddish speakers that this is not their business? Because he is writing for Jewish readers.
And Jewish readers are powerful. The Obama administration holds a policymakers’ meeting with Goldberg because it is trying to demonstrate that it is taking a hawkish line on Iran– obviously because of its fears for midterms/reelection– and the most revealing moment in the piece is when Goldberg talks with Lester Crown, the Chicago billionaire, about his fears re Iran and disappointment with the Obama approach.
As if we ought to care about Israel lobbyist billionaires when we are making policy in the Middle East? As I say, this is Goldberg’s world.
Several writers have called the piece alarmist. The mood of the piece is pure fear. The Iranians are about to rebuild Auschwitz, we can’t take chances. The piece drives toward one paragraph that justifies American military action against Iran so that Israel doesn’t have to do it:
Based on months of interviews, I have come to believe that the administration knows it is a near-certainty that Israel will act against Iran soon if nothing or no one else stops the nuclear program; and Obama knows—as his aides, and others in the State and Defense departments made clear to me—that a nuclear-armed Iran is a serious threat to the interests of the United States, which include his dream of a world without nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, I agreed with those, including many Israelis, Arabs—and Iranians—who believe there is no chance that Obama would ever resort to force to stop Iran; I still don’t believe there is a great chance he will take military action in the near future—for one thing, the Pentagon is notably unenthusiastic about the idea. But Obama is clearly seized by the issue. And understanding that perhaps the best way to obviate a military strike on Iran is to make the threat of a strike by the Americans seem real, the Obama administration seems to be purposefully raising the stakes.
My other surprises. I’m surprised that the Atlantic would run this piece without any counter-weight, the work of a parochialist who served in the Israeli army, over and over invoking Auschwitz as a cause for American military action? Why not an American reality check? No, the U.S. is treated as chopped liver here. “[T]he United States, with its unparalleled ability to project military force,” Goldberg says. And some anonymous Israeli says, “The Americans can do this with a minimum of difficulty, by comparison.” And the Atlantic puts this forward as an American argument? Not long ago Stephen Walt ran a piece responding compassionately to the big New York Times story about the American soldier who has lost his arms and legs and still carries on. Is there any room for concern about the American youth who will be sacrified to this Israeli idea?
I remind you of how emotional and Israelcentric this appeal is. I counted five annihilates or annihilation. Iran nukes are “the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people.”
The Israeli national narrative, in shorthand, begins with shoah, which is Hebrew for “calamity,” and ends with tkumah, “rebirth.” Israel’s nuclear arsenal symbolizes national rebirth, and something else as well: that Jews emerged from World War II having learned at least one lesson, about the price of powerlessness…
Sneh says. “The Shoah is not some sort of psychological complex. It is an historic lesson….
“Many Israelis think the Iranians are building Auschwitz. We have to let them know that we have destroyed Auschwitz, or we have to let them know that we tried and failed.”..
The piece contains long lectures by crazed people, offered as arguments we should care about. Netanyahu’s father Ben-Zion
also argued that the Inquisition corresponds to the axiom that anti-Semitic persecution is preceded, in all cases, by carefully scripted and lengthy dehumanization campaigns meant to ensure the efficient eventual elimination of Jews. To him, the lessons of Jewish history are plain and insistent.
Rather than step back from these arguments as the effects of “national psychosis,” as Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz has described the Israeli condition, Goldberg holds up the mike.
Other writers have pointed out that Goldberg’s piece falls apart due to a slippage, when you realize that the “existential” threat he keeps talking about may simply be a threat to Zionism and the idea of a Jewish state. If Iran gets nukes, one Israeli tells him, more Jews who can will want to live in other countries. We’re experiencing a terrible brain drain, they tell him. We’re diluting the quality of the Jews here. Iran is destroying the Zionist idea that Israel is the refuge for Jews.
Is it not the responsibility of a writer–oh I wish Tony Judt were still alive– to point out that political cultures change all the time? The South was desegregated, without revolution. The U.S. is becoming a post-racial society. Australia went from “Two Wongs Don’t Make a White” immigration policy to something more enlightened today. The Soviet Union becomes Russified. Muslims move to Europe. And we’re supposed to bomb Iran because a 120-year-old colonialst-nationalist idea is getting wobbly in an era of globalism?
Goldberg does CYA. This is a “devilish problem,” and “devilish problems have sometimes caused Israel to overreach. But I see not one description of the overreach, I don’t see a word about the Gaza slaughter or the failure in Lebanon ’06, I see no acknowledgment of realist Ian Lustick’s shrewd analysis that the era of the Iron wall is over, Israel must engage with its neighbors or say sayonara.
Two larger omissions shadow this piece. The Atlantic would have its readers ignore the fact that Goldberg served up the last war on bad evidence, in his New Yorker piece tying Saddam to Al-Qaeda, and it would have us ignore the fact that Walt and Mearsheimer published a piece it killed, on the Israel lobby. The Israel lobby is embodied in this piece; it is all about Jews using political power in the United States to effect policy. It is a shame that the Atlantic’s readers are not supplied with this kind of information. No: Goldberg has said that he regards such analysis as anti-Semitic, and meantime he is trying to assure Lester Crown and other Jews that the Obama braintrust has taken nothing off the table.
The last surprise is that more journalists have not denounced this piece, denounced its Israel-centric focus and its push for war, denounced the fact that an American publication is serving as a platform for so many Jews traumatized by historical memory as a basis for policy-making. I am disappionted in Jim Fallows, who knows better; I’m waiting for Roger Cohen. So far the journalists to show up are bloggers, Paul Woodward, Steve Walt, Glenn Greenwald, Eli Clifton, Trita Parsi. But this is a national concern of the most profound character, we need reinforcements.
Harvard ‘has not divested from Israel’
Aug 16, 2010 | Philip Weiss
In the Boston Globe, Harvard responds to the “blog report”, actually an Israeli business site report, that it has divested from Israeli holdings.
In a statement, Harvard said, “…The university has not divested from Israel.”
“…We have holdings in developed markets, including Israel, through outside managers in commingled accounts and indexes, which are not reported in the filing in question.”
‘NYT’ and ‘LAT’ don’t want to call a settlement a settlement
Aug 16, 2010 | Philip Weiss
The LA Times and NY Times both cover news of Israelis taking a wall down from around Gilo, described as the outskirts of Jerusalem. But it’s not as if the removal of the wall will give Palestinians access to Gilo. Or increase their freedom in any measure. No it’s a security barrier for the settlers, and its removal reflects greater sense of freedom among the colonizers. LA Times caption:
Israeli army engineers remove cement blocks from a security barrier in Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb annexed in 1967. The blocks were set up during the second Palestinian “‘intifada” or uprising in 2000 to block gunfire from adjacent West Bank towns.
Nothing about Gilo being a settlement. And the Times story, by Isabel Kershner, also provides not an inkling that Gilo is a settlement, until the fourth paragraph, and then that view is ascribed to Palestinians.
In the past only the ravine separated Gilo, built by Israel on land it captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, from the predominantly Christian West Bank village, Beit Jala, and other localities sprawling over the opposite hills near Bethlehem. Within the Jerusalem city limits defined by Israel’s leaders after the war, Gilo is considered by most Israelis to be one of the city’s southern neighborhoods. But most Palestinians consider it a settlement built on occupied land.