- Think back to 2003… the year the U.S. didn’t invade Iraq
- The ‘memoricide’ of Palestine
- The Israeli right’s secret strategy to promote ‘Greater Israel’
- Begging for your freedom is utterly humiliating
- What would Izzy Stone do? (Embrace Abdallah Abu Rahmah)
- Israeli army escorts 500 Jewish Israelis into controversial settlement near Nablus
- Yale conference on anti-Semitism targets Palestinian identity, ’self-hating’ Jews, and anyone who criticizes Israel
Think back to 2003… the year the U.S. didn’t invade Iraq
Aug 25, 2010
Historians would later record how Secretary of State Colin Powell prevailed in a key Cabinet meeting in early 2003, when he refused to go before the United Nations because he lacked proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
“What if the U.N. inspections have actually worked, Mr. President?” he asked. “It would be a disaster if we invade and then can’t find anything.”
A reluctant George W. Bush agreed, maintaining the no-fly zones and other pressure but postponing the invasion. Saddam Hussein kept his crowing to a minimum, recognizing his narrow escape. What’s more, he had other problems….
Despite the obsequious yes-men around him, Saddam was still cunning enough to maintain back channel intelligence sources who told him at least part of the truth. He heard that unrest among the Shi’a majority continued to grow, despite the repression, and there were even grumblings from the Sunni. His regime had always depended on huge amounts of oil money to pay off the people with public works and populist health and education spending, and to also finance a giant network of informers.
But Iraq’s oil earnings were way down, due partly to deteriorating infrastructure and a stubbornly low world price. Saddam had invaded Kuwait in 1990 mainly for financial reasons, but that gambit failed. Iraq was cheating on the U.N.’s oil-for-food program, but he still was not getting enough income to maintain his system.
So in late 2003, when the first uprisings broke out in the south, the Iraqi army, with aging equipment and low morale, was slow to respond. The revolt spread to Saddam City right in Baghdad itself, which the Shi’a majority there had already started called Sadr City in honor of one of their martyrs. Hundreds were killed, but just as in the uprisings against the hated Shah in nearby Iran a quarter-century earlier, the deaths only inspired even more resistance.
After 6 months or so, the Sunni tribal sheikhs northwest of Baghdad recognized Saddam was losing control, which jeopardized their privileged position within the system. Their efforts to persuade him to leave peacefully failed, in part because no country could be found to accept him and his family into exile. So eventually, some of the Sunni generals staged a coup, killing him and many of his immediate entourage.
Yet violence only got worse. Armed militias formed from various religious and tribal groupings, and waged a horrible civil war, characterized by widespread torture and murder. The violence looked anarchic, or atavistically religious, but there was actually a grim but understandable logic to it. At bottom, the armed groups were fighting over access to Iraq’s oil wealth.
As the death toll climbed, commentators in the shocked outside world deplored “the flaws within Arab and Muslim culture“ and cited passages from the Koran they said explained the violence. But genuine scholars reminded the public that 620,000 people had died in the American Civil War itself, and that after the war was over white people in the U.S. south had lynched thousands more, most of them black, to restore and maintain white political control. Others added that Europe in the 20th century also had plenty to answer for with respect to war and mass murder.
At least there were no American occupation troops in Iraq to make the violence even worse. General David Petraeus, a brainy but little known lecturer at the National War College, pointed out in an Op-Ed piece: “Foreign soldiers can become a big part of the problem. Most of the local people reject their presence, and some start to attack them. The armed factions try and manipulate the occupiers into taking sides, which inflames and prolongs the conflict. Money from outside is also an incentive to keep fighting – just imagine if we had flooded Iraq with many millions of dollars! We Americans are lucky our far-sighted president kept us out.”
Without the complication of foreign troops and financial support, it only took the Iraqis a couple of years of fighting to realize they had to compromise. The warfare had cut off just about all oil exports, and the leaders of the various factions understood that they needed peace to get back to business. The negotiations were lengthy and painful. Certain injustices, such as the increased Sunni-Shi’a residential segregation in Baghdad, were ratified, at least provisionally, over the heated objection of Iraqi human rights groups.
By the middle of 2007, a working coalition government was in power in Baghdad. Violence continued, but at a much lower level. General Petraeus published another opinion piece. “The violence in Iraq in recent years has been horrible,” he wrote. “But with a U.S. invasion it might be still continuing – until 2010, or even longer, hard as that may be to imagine.”
The ‘memoricide’ of Palestine
Aug 25, 2010
In a little-noted decision, a few weeks ago Netanyahu’s government extended by an additional twenty years Israel’s classification of sensitive documents. It is suspected that these documents tell the story of the the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in far more detail than currently declassified documents.
Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian, has referred to this massive erasure of Palestinian history as state-organised “memoricide”.
Some have proposed that in order to heal Israel/Palestine, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed. Will the truth set Israelis free? Does the memory of Palestinian life, pre-Nakba, pose an impossible and consciousness-shattering counterfactual to the mass cognitive dissonance that pervades much of Israeli society?
The Israeli right’s secret strategy to promote ‘Greater Israel’
Aug 25, 2010
“I think I will always want to stay behind the scenes. I think that’s where I have the greatest influence. When everyone else is busily thinking about what to say on stage, I’m busily building the stage, [deciding] who actually listens to you. After they start listening, then we can talk about what we’ll say.”
– Moshe Klughaft, in an interview to Israel’s Channel 7 television.
Introducing Moshe Klughaft: Forbes magazine has crowned him the second most influential strategic consultant in Israel, and one of the 300 most influential young adults. He is the man behind the campaigns against the New Israel Fund, both the one by Im Tirzu and the Arab Gas campaign. Obviously, all links between the two campaigns have been denied. Later on we’ll see just why such denial is one of the cornerstones of the system.
Klughaft was also the behind-the-scenes leader of the reserve soldiers’ struggle after the second Lebanon war, a struggle which is already known to have been hiding a separate agenda: preventing the progress of the Gaza disengagement program. Front and center to this effort was Ronen Shoval. After this struggle Shoval, and his number two, Erez Tadmor, took part in an Institute for Zionist Strategy (IZS) young leadership program run by Israel Harel. Last week both organizations (Im Tirzu and the IZS) attacked the academic world, but denied any links between the parent organization and the subsidiary one, claiming that there was merely “a certain degree of ideological congruence” between them. After completing the training program Shoval founded Im Tirzu and Moshe Klughaft became his strategic consultant.
Klughaft is a man of many talents and schemes, but it seems that the thing that most concerns him is how to convey the right wing, religious message to secular people in their own language. Here is a quote, straight from the horse’s mouth:
For religious Zionism and the right, in general, even to penetrate the public, they must move into the colorful, secular rhetoric of the playing field they are in. What you think and how you see the world is nice, but when you get to this specific playing field of politics, of public action, you have to play by the rules that suit the place you are in.
In the two years following the disengagement, which is when planning started for the coordinated attack against everything that bears even the faintest scent of democracy, this point became critical. We are beginning to feel the results on this campaign only now. The leaders of the right wing religious public, the public which sees itself following Rabbi Kook as the ‘vanguard’ and the secular public as the ‘troops’, looked back and saw that the troops were no longer with them. In demonstrations against disengagement, almost all demonstrators wore yarmulkes, which is a hallmark of identification with the religious right.
This led to a strengthening of the separatist, ultra-orthodox wing, which has stopped seeing the Zionist state as “the beginning of redemption” and instead preaches right wing post-Zionism. According to this belief, secular Zionism has finished its job and it is now time for a “faith-based revolution”. The more traditional right wing, represented in the “Yesha council” settler leadership, which believes that secular people have a role in the divine plan as “the ass on which the Messiah shall ride upon” understood that the new trend distances secular people from the right wing. If it were to continue, the right wing would stop leading the country and become a marginal faction, just another one of many religious factions. Israel Harel along with his secular disciple Ronen Shoval have both stated that the rise of the ultra-orthodox nationalist post-Zionism is what called them to action.
It is important to understand how the religious right reads reality. Most of the Israeli public leans to the right, but it is a pragmatic right. In other words, it is a right which could, following various real-world constraints, declare its support for two states for two nations, freeze construction of the settlements, et cetera. In contrast, as far as the religious right is concerned, it is not some constraint of reality that leads to this but rather “a weakness of resolve” on the one hand and subversive elements of impurity that have lodged themselves in powerful focus points: civil society organizations, the academic world, the media, and the courts, on the other hand.
They believe the Jewish nation, which Rabbi Kook portrays as a direct delegation of divine presence onto the world, was contaminated by that riffraff and exchanged Messianic zeal with a passion for the comforts of secular life. They are of the opinion that when the Nation of Israel is committed to their vision the constraints of reality will have no meaning. The leaders of this group came to the understanding that in order to salvage the religious right, secular people must be recruited, ones who are not interested in messianic theology but self-identify as Zionists and are open to the idea that the problems of Israel are not due to stupid policy but rather, to internal subversiveness.
How do you do it? Like this: “You have to make this arena into an exciting one, you just have to. You have to bring in people so that some will say one thing and some will say another. You have to have it be exciting, colorful, to get people to talk about you, to evoke arguments, to have factions leaning this way and that,” said Moshe Klughaft. He has long since developed a theory of “in disunion there is strength.” According to Klughaft, decisions like the Gaza disengagement were made possible because secular people supported parties like Shinui and the Retired Citizens Party, who did not declare a policy in matters of state, and these parties won votes due to other issues, but when it came down to brass tacks, they voted for what he saw as a left-wing policy. The religious right must deploy niche organizations and parties which are attractive to a broad secular public which would, at the moment of truth, vote for the Greater Eretz Yisrael. Pay attention to this: “Do you want to preserve Eretz Yisrael? Wipe it off your map! If it is important, shut up and don’t talk about it.”
That is why the Institute of Zionist Strategy, who established the Yesha Council, and its subsidiary, Im Tirzu, whose opinions on this matter are also well known, consistently avoid taking a stand on the matter of Greater Eretz Yisrael and object so vociferously when anyone tries to mark them as “right wing” organizations. No, they deal in “Zionist consciousness”, in strengthening the flagging national spirit, and in battling that very same riffraff (which would translate as “post Zionists”, when spoken in secular vernacular) which contaminates them: mainly democratic organizations, the academic world, the media, and the courts.
Over the past two yeas, many of us have felt that the democratic camp in Israel has been under a well-planned, coordinated attack. Factual information that has recently begun surfacing confirms that feeling: during [former Prime Minister] Olmert’s term in office, organizations from the old-style religious right, whose status has eroded continually since the eighties – the Yesha Council, the MAFDAL orthodox party, and the Hatchiya party which may be the clearest expression of this ideology – got together and planned, under the baton of one of the most talented and innovative strategic consultants in Israel, the move that would bring them back to the front of the stage as the hegemonic ideology of Israel.
Elements of the system are “laundering” the ideology of the messianic, religious right into terms which the secular public can more easily swallow, creating the appearance of a spontaneous national movement by evoking various organizations, with apparently-different agendas, led by Im Tirzu, which introduce themselves as grassroots activists while in fact they are nurtured, linked, and subsidized by the religious right and secular old boys network, where the secular messianic perception is shared (such as [Minister of Education] Gideon Sa’ar, who had been a member of Hatchiya Youth). This is all done while denying completely and untruthfully any connection between the various persons and organizations involved, and hiding the Greater Eretz Yisrael ideology, which is not shared by most of the public, until that “moment of truth.” The primary working method is an attack on the democratic forces which could call a halt on them, an attack which relies on the willingness of a besieged society to seek guilty parties and the “left wing traitor” stereotype, which has been successful inserted into public discourse.
The first stage was an attack on the institutions of civil society. The second stage, the one we are currently experiencing, is an attack on the academic world. I wager that as soon as this campaign burns itself out, the media will be attacked, and thereafter, the judiciary system. In other words, anyone who can resist, criticize, and expose the true face of this organization will be slurred, sullied, and named as suspected of subversion and treason – before even raising objections about it.
And then they’ll go into politics. Everyone knows that. It could even happen in the coming elections. Following strategic consultant Moshe Klughaft’s system, I think we can expect more than one party, all of which will run on different versions of the same message, position themselves as “center” and talk about “Zionism”, “education”, “society, and “a struggle against post-Zionism.”
On a personal note, I really don’t feel like writing very much about Im Tirzu and its friends and relations. In fact, I’d much prefer to write less about politics and more about other things. But I sense danger, and my gut feelings about what is going on in this story have – so far – all turned out exactly as I feared. I can only hope that I am wrong about the next steps. What I propose is that we stop responding only after we get slammed on the head with yet another brick. What is being exposed here, and in other places, is only the tip of the iceberg. Storm the Internet, search, dig deep, cross-reference, expose – and tell the story.
Shalom Boguslavsky was born in Russia in 1976, has been living in Jerusalem since 1981, studies history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and makes his living as a group leader, facilitating discussions about Jewish-Israeli identity, dialogue & conflict management. This article originally appeared in Hebrew on the blog Put Down the Scissors And Let’s Talk About It. It was translated with the author’s permission by Dena Shunra.
Begging for your freedom is utterly humiliating
Aug 25, 2010
When I was in the second grade, I barely escaped a kidnapping.
A few days before I had a nightmare, a premonition, if you will, of what was about to unfold. In my dream, I found myself in a dark room with no door. There was a tiny window, way up high, through which a little light was shining. Every few years, the dream still haunts me, and I always wake up in a sweat, shaken and scared.
When it actually happened, my captor threw me inside an empty room and locked the door from the outside. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I noticed a brick was missing from one of the walls through which a little light was coming. I ran to it, and peeked out. I could see legs walking at a little distance. I shouted for help. No one heard me.
With my backpack still on, I sat down on the floor facing the doorway. Suddenly, he opened the door and stood right in front of me, staring. I started to cry. I begged for him to let me go. I said I was late and that my mom was waiting for me at home. I told him I had to do a lot of homework. He never said a word. I looked up at him, right into his eyes. He was a young boy, a teenager. I had seen him a few times on my way from school.
Then I started to beg. Even at that age I was immediately filled with shame for having to beg. But I begged anyway. I clasped my hands in front of me and I begged him to let me go. If he didn’t, my mom and dad would miss me. My brothers would cry for me. He just stared. I don’t remember the expression on his face as clearly as I remember my humiliation. Even at that age, at that moment, I knew that I was doing something a human should not have to do. I felt like dirt, and yet, I had to do it. I talked and talked. I told him whatever came to my mind. I told him about my friends. I told him why I liked the swings better than the slide.
He never said a word. He never threatened me. He just stared. Suddenly, he stepped away, and then very casually took out a cigarette to smoke. At first I didn’t know what to do, to bolt through the open door or to wait for him to say something to me. I mustered the courage and bolted.
I wrote my earlier post about having a back-up plan, of having some sort of a home in Pakistan, something to “return” to If America ever becomes hostile to Muslims. I do not wish to live through the humiliation that I suffered as a child in my narrow brush with the kidnapper. The act of begging from another human to show you some grace, to allow you freedom, is utterly humiliating.
I wish to always live freely, without feeling ashamed, without humiliation, as I do now, in the country that I love and call home.
What would Izzy Stone do? (Embrace Abdallah Abu Rahmah)
Aug 25, 2010
When I was visiting my parents lately, I found an old I.F. Stone book on their shelves, The Haunted Fifties, that no one reads anymore. Most of the pieces in it are about dated subjects, or a matter that would not come to a head for another few years: the civil rights struggle.
In coming days I’m going to excerpt a few Stone pieces from the ’50s on the civil rights struggle because they show me that this moral leader seized on harbinger cases of the Jim Crow period that apply with uncanny directness to the American treatment of Palestinians. The pieces leave no doubt in my mind that if Stone were around today he would have to renounce Zionism and criticize Israel on a regular basis.
I should note that in 1956, Stone sided with Israeli aggression during the Suez crisis; “[b]ecause so many bonds attach me to Israel… Israel’s survival seemed worth the risk to world peace.” But even as he took that position, he described it as hypocritical. And I am saying that in today’s political scene, with 10,000 Palestinians in jail and millions excluded from political representation and another war being pushed by Israel’s supporters, IF Stone would have found that hypocrisy too great to bear.
But let’s get to my first excerpt. It’s 1955. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old “colored boy” from Chicago, was lynched in Mississippi after he supposedly whistled at a white woman, 55 years ago this Saturday, and in October of that year, two white men were acquitted of his killing.
Blacks were of course disturbed across the country. But whites were largely silent. Remember, it is 1955. Now listen to I.F. Stone on this political situation. I would italicize key phrases, except I’d have to italicize everything!
It shames our country and it shames white Americans that the only meetings, in Harlem, Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit, have been Negro meetings. Those whites in the South and in the North who would normally have been moved to act have been hounded out of public life and into inactivity. To the outside world it must look as if the conscience of white America has been silenced, and the appearance is not too deceiving. Basically all of us whites, North and South, acquiesce in white supremacy, and benefit from the pool of cheap labor created by it…
Unless Negroes rouse themselves to make their indignation felt in some dramatic way, nothing will be done in Mississippi or in Congress…. Were thousands of Negroes to converge on the Department of Justice and demand action against the murderers of Till, and of the other Negroes whose murders have gone unpunished in the South, such a demonstration would have an impact. The American Negro needs a Gandhi to lead him, and we need the American Negro to lead us. If he does not provide leadership against the sickness in the South, the time will come when we will all pay a terrible price for allowing a psychopathic racist brutality to flourish unchecked.
OK. I don’t think I need to connect the dots, but a couple of points. A Gandhi did arise, no question. And blacks led the struggle. Things changed dramatically. There were marches on Washington, and political change was demanded.
Every bit of this is happening today in Israel/Palestine. There is thorough-going American acquiescence in a system of racial supremacy in Palestine. We need Palestinians to lead us; and they are leading. We need a Palestinian Gandhi: and there are many of them. Read an IF Stone of our time, Jerry Haber, writing yesterday of the Abdallah Abu Rahmah case, Israel Convicts Another Palestinian Gandhi.
What is needed more than anything now is for Americans of conscience to embrace and celebrate these brave Palestinians who are taking such great personal risk. Lift them up, lift them up! I have said before that Mustafa Barghouthi is the Martin Lurther King of the struggle; he has tremendous mainstream appeal. Help him! We need to help our country stumble forward from 1955 to 1964. And we will.
Listen to I.F. Stone, a few weeks after that last column, now outraged by the University of Alabama expelling its first black student, Autherine Lucy because it could not protect her from the mob:
People and nations are made glorious by those men [and women, Izzy] who are willing to stand up against their own in defense of justice for minority elements. Milton opposing his own Puritans, Voltaire and later Zola defying the French mob, Gandhi living with the untouchables–such are the incidents which give a people honor in the eyes of mankind.