Culture of impunity

Sep 05, 2010 

Ibn Tufayl


Israel picks Gaza war commander as new military chief…

150 American actors, writers, directors and artists support Israeli actors’ settlement boycott

Sep 05, 2010

Adam Horowitz

From Haaretz:

More than 150 American actors, writers, directors and other artists signed a letter of support for the Israeli actors who declared they would not perform in the West Bank.

The American signatories include Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda on “Sex and the City”; Mandy Patinkin, who played Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride”; and character actor and writer Wallace Shawn, who played the principal in “Clueless.” . . .

The American letter calls the Israelis’ refusal brave, notes that Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank and calls it illegal by any standard.

The signatories said that most of them faced daily compromises with things they found unacceptable, and that when a group of people decided they would make no more compromises and found the strength to refuse, this inspired them and filled them with hope.

The American artists were moved to know the Israelis had refused to allow their work to become part of what they called making the cruel occupation normal and accepted, they said in the letter. The occupation is an obstacle to hope and a just and sustainable peace for Israelis and Palestinians, they added.

The signatories said the Israeli artists’ decision should be appreciated by those who seek justice around the world.

We’ll update when we have more information.

‘NYT’ runs Indyk, then more Indyk, and you have to go to ‘Al Jazeera’ for a different view.

Sep 05, 2010

Philip Weiss

The usual suspects are quoted in this highly-positive New York Times front-page piece today on Hillary Clinton and the peace talks: Martin Indyk, Abraham Foxman, and Aaron David Miller. You’d think the Times might vary the line-up now and then, especially after 20 losing seasons? Indyk had the Op-Ed page barely a week ago to promote his view that the peace talks are going to work out great, and that Netanyahu has stopped settlement activity.

You have to turn to Al Jazeera to get a contrary American view, a piece saying the talks are unlikely to produce anything, by Robert Grenier, former CIA station chief in Islamabad, ’99-’02, and director of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center. Isn’t Grenier fit for the Times? He joins the list of American realists who say bluntly that the Israel lobby is undermining American security, a bluntness you simply do not find in the Times.

The piece takes apart Indyk’s Op-Ed obfuscations on behalf of Netanyahu, including the house demolition morsel below, then concludes as my excerpt does..
Finally, we are told [by Indyk], the demolition of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem “is also down” compared to recent years. That’s rather like praising someone for beating his wife less frequently….
From all this, Martin would have us believe that the current moment is propitious for peacemaking.The only conceivable explanation for his mendacity, apart from the desire to see his name in print, is that Martin is continuing to promote the type of ‘American diplomacy’ he championed during his years in the Clinton administration – diplomacy designed to keep pressure off the Israelis while they do whatever they please. Although he doubtless had to make some accommodations along the way in transitioning from an overt lobbyist on behalf of Israel to a foreign-policy apparatchik in the Clinton administration, one always assumed that his basic motives were unchanged. In those years, he had a lot of company, the redoubtable Dennis Ross being most prominent, and most disingenuous, among them. At least Aaron Miller, another of the state department peace-process team members, has had the good grace since his retirement to admit that he and the others saw their role as acting as “Israel’s lawyers”.
For those of us who watched the process from close range in those years, it was obvious that Ross, Indyk and the others saw their jobs as consisting of a two-part process: Find out what the Israelis want, and then help them get it.
In this, they could never have succeeded in doing the harm they did on their own. After all, they were merely apparatchiks – viziers serving at the behest of a series of politically craven administrations, of which the current one is merely the latest.
But for those of us who spent our careers trying to protect and defend a country whose security was being systematically and gratuitously undermined by the likes of Martin Indyk, this latest bit of cynical posturing in the New York Times is a lot to swallow. I don’t know who Martin thinks he’s fooling, but I can assure you he’s not fooling us.

How Marty Peretz misrepresented Cordoba in Muslim history

Sep 05, 2010 

Ibn Tufayl

Marty Peretz’s reading of “Islamic” history is selective. He reads Islamic history in the same manner an anti-Semite reads Jewish history (to demonize them). He quotes a claim that “Cordoba,” the name chosen for the Islamic center near Ground Zero, “is confrontational and provocative.” That the “first Cordoba mosque was built in that Spanish city in the aftermath of the Muslim conquest of Christian Spain. This Islamic ‘Conquista’ was followed by the killings of men, and the enslavement of women, many of whom were carried away to the Arab lands to work as servants and concubines…”

Here’s what Christopher Hitchens (the old Hitchens who was then in transition) wrote in the Nation about Cordoba and its region, Andalusia, in reviewing a new book by Maria Rosa Menoca, The Ornament of the World.

[I]t is no exaggeration to say that what we presumptuously call “Western” culture is owed in large measure to the Andalusian enlightenment….

The migration of Arabic-speaking intellectuals to the southern Spanish cities of Córdoba and Granada, and the magnetic pull exerted on Jewish scholars, was also to have revolutionary effects on the study of medicine–with early Greek texts again revived through translation–and upon the writing of poetry. Menocal has a wonderful chapter on the love poems of the era and on Ibn Hazm’s The Neck Ring of the Dove, a handbook on romance and a memoir of old Córdoba. We tend to forget that Maimonides, another great figure of this culture, wrote almost all his major works–with the exception of the Mishneh Torah–in Arabic. Nothing could be more remote from the bleak and arid doctrines of the Taliban.

However, it was not Muslim but Christian intolerance that put an end to Andalusia. By 1492 their Catholic majesties Ferdinand and Isabella had completed the reimposition of orthodoxy and begun the expulsion of the Jews and Moors. It was to the Muslim world that the Jews then looked for safety. This book partly restores to us a world we have lost, a world for which our current monotheistic leaderships do not even feel nostalgia.

Here is some of Maria Rosa Menocal’s writing about Cordoba and its Arabic achievement:

Ismael is indeed well remembered in the history of the Jewish people and of Hebrew letters, known there as Shmuel ha-Nagid, his Hebrew name, a name that pays honor not only to his Jewishness but also to the fact that he became the nagid, or the head, of that old and substantial Jewish community of Granada. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is remembered not so much as the military champion of a Muslim army but rather as the first of the series of poets of this tumultuous eleventh century who reinvented Hebrew poetry. But both aspects of his life are integral to the complex culture here: the Jew as the leader of a Muslim state and army, as well as the towering poetic father, the David of a brand-new Hebrew poetry, the first since the other David to use Hebrew beyond the liturgy for poetry that could speak of love, and illicit love, as well as all other aspects of human life beyond the synagogue.

This is in fact a story that speaks iconically to the ways in which Arabic—in ways that far transcend its attachments to Islam—plays the expansive and revolutionary role that it does, and how Jews and Christians had understood themselves to be, in the first place, Cordobans; and then, after there was no more Cordoba, legitimate heirs to their versions of the culture that had been created and nourished by the Umayyads. The eleventh century is also one of the many historic moments that reveal that exile can lie at the heart of great cultural achievement. Curiously, even classical Arabic poetry reaches its peak at this moment, so that in Andalusian letters the great achievements of the “classical” period are contemporaneous with the literary counterculture, the poetic avant-garde that crystallizes throughout the peninsula in the eleventh century. So the truth is that the Cordoban exile Shmuel ha-Nagid is part of an entire landscape overrun with poetic experimentation, nearly all of which is attached to Arabic in some way, and which ultimately needs to be understood—no matter what the “surface” language—as the offspring of that great poetic culture of Arabic.

Ken Loach and Arundhati Roy are latest narrators of Goldstone Report

Sep 05, 2010

Philip Weiss

Surely you know that Goldstonefacts is an effort to dramatize the Goldstone Report on the Gaza onslaught with celeb readings. Noam Chomsky’s sonorous monotone. Norm Finkelstein’s Brooklyn twang.

Well the latest chapter they’ve dramatized is a key section, about Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians, Chapter 10 from the original, and the readers are filmmaker Ken Loach and author Arundhati Roy, along with Irish Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire. Takes a little while to load..

Trying to enter Gaza– and my embassy gives me an appointment in 10 days

Sep 05, 2010 

Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson of Doylestown, PA, has been invited to Gaza by two organizations seeking her assistance. She’s still waiting in Egypt.

…..and I continue to sit in Cairo, in the heat, in my cheap hotel…which has proved to be a bright light in a gloomy picture.

Having returned from the border and two unsuccessful attempts to cross into Gaza, my next step was to visit the Egyptian Foreign Ministry seeking to be placed on their list of those approval to enter Gaza. I should have taken  this step sooner but misunderstood. Such is life.

I take a taxi to the Foreign Ministry and once again am overcharged, which I knew. But I’ve decided unless it’s totally out of line I’ll pay what is asked; I don’t have the energy to haggle. And the driver can probably use the money anyway.

The taxi left me at Gate One where a half a dozen men in tan suits are milling around.

I asked if anyone spoke English and drew blank stares. Finally one man acknowledged he could speak some English,. Yes this was the Foreign Ministry. Travel to where? Don’t know. Try Gate Three…all the men chime in “Gate Three” so off I go. I mistake gate two for gate three and am re-directed. When I find gate three….no, no, no what I want is Gate One. When I try to explain I was sent to three from one…no, they are mistaken. I turn around and trudge back to Gate one.

The tan suits are gone, I meet a friendly guard who takes me in to a security area, a room with a fan! The security man cannot understand what I want but is amazingly patient and helpful and figures it out. He begins making phone calls and after about fifteen minutes finds exactly the person I need to speak to. Gaza, I’m coming!

I explain what I want to do and that I have all the documentation that is needed. However, I’m told a new person is in charge and the procedure has changed. They no longer deal with individuals; only Embassies. The documents must be sent to the Foreign Ministry from an Embassy; then they will be processed. I stammer and splutter…which is better than screaming. The woman on the phone tells me to wait by the phone; she’ll talk to her supervisor and see if they can make an exception for me.

The answer…no exceptions!

This means I must re-visit the US Embassy, which makes me furious. My Congressman’s office contacted the US Embassy in Cairo requesting exactly what I needed to have and do to enter Gaza. I have the paper in my hot little hands. Nowhere in the information does it mention that documentation needs to be sent by them to the Foreign Ministry. I had visited the embassy on Thursday signing away my rights to counsel (paying $50). Why hadn’t they mentioned any of this to me? Why wasn’t it in the letter to the Congressman?

The Internet-computer age is a boon to non-customer friendly organizations such as Embassies…now everything is to be done on line….they never have to speak with you. I need to make an appointment for counselor services…the first one available is on September 14, I take it. Damn, this means I wait almost two weeks before anything can happen.

When situations such as this befall me I respond in one of two ways.

One, I become a wild woman, demanding results, asking for supervisors, repeating my “case” over again and again, word for word until I usually receive at least a good portion of what I want. Sometimes it doesn’t work…once a plumber was not fixing my kitchen sink to my satisfaction. I demanded he call his supervisor…he talked to her, I talked to her, he talked to her again, walked over to the sink’ pulled out the plumbing; walked to his truck and drove away.

My other response is to freeze, much like a rabbit who, when in danger, sits perfectly still, no twitching nose, wiggling ears, not one movement. If she holds still, she won’t be seen, even though she’s in plain view. That’s me. I just want to disappear and when I reappear I will be in Gaza.

BDS and one state as an alternative to the peace process

Sep 05, 2010 

Adam Horowitz

Omar Barghouti appeared on CNN to discuss the shortcomings of the peace process:

An article in today’s Haaretz would seem to indicate that Israelis are taking notice of the growing BDS movement. After describing the recent announcement of Israeli artists and academics to boycott settlement institutions, Nehemia Shtrasler writes, “There’s another boycott, an international one, that’s gaining momentum – an economic boycott. . . The sums involved are not large, but their international significance is huge.” He continues:

The anti-Israel tide rose right after Operation Cast Lead, as the world watched Israel pound Gaza with bombs on live television. No public-relations machine in the world could explain the deaths of hundreds of children, the destruction of neighborhoods and the grinding poverty afflicting a people under curfew for years. They weren’t even allowed to bring in screws to build school desks. Then came the flotilla, complete with prominent peace activists, which ended in nine deaths, adding fuel to the fire.

But underlying the anger against Israel lies disappointment. Since the establishment of the state, and before, we demanded special terms of the world. We played on their feelings of guilt, for standing idle while six million Jews were murdered. . .

But then came the occupation, which turned us into the evil Goliath, the cruel oppressor, a darkness on the nations. And now we are paying the price of presenting ourselves as righteous and causing disappointment: boycott.

Shlaim: I’m not a refugee, my family left Iraq because we felt ‘insecure’ after Zionists wiped Palestine off the map.

Sep 05, 2010

Philip Weiss

In the Financial Times, Avi Shlaim reviews In Ishmael’s House, a history of Jews living in Muslim lands, by Martin Gilbert, and published by Yale. (thanks to Nader Hashemi)

Nowhere is Gilbert more strikingly one-sided than in his account of the consequences of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In the course of this war, the name Palestine was wiped off the map and 726,000 Palestinians became refugees. In its wake, around 850,000 Jews left the Arab world, mostly to start a new life in the newborn State of Israel. For Gilbert, these Jews are simply the other half of the “double exodus” and he persistently refers to them as “refugees”. With few exceptions, however, these Jews left their native lands not as a result of officially sanctioned policies of persecution but because they felt threatened by the rising tide of Arab nationalism. Zionist agents actively encouraged the Jews to leave their ancestral homes because the fledgling State of Israel was desperately short of manpower. Iraq exemplified this trend. The Iraqi army participated in the War for Palestine, and the Arab defeat provoked a backlash against the Jews back home. Out of a population of 138,000, roughly 120,000 left in 1950-51 in an atmosphere of panic and peril.

I was five years old in 1950 when my family reluctantly moved from Baghdad to Ramat Gan. We were Arab Jews, we spoke Arabic, our roots went back to the Babylonian exile two and a half millennia ago and my parents did not have the slightest sympathy with Zionism. We were not persecuted but opted to leave because we felt insecure. So, unlike the Palestinians who were driven out of their homes, we were not refugees in the proper sense of the word. But we were truly victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Despite all its shortcomings, Gilbert’s book is an illuminating and a moving account of the history of the Jews in Arab lands. But he is psychologically hard-wired to see anti-Semitism everywhere. The picture he paints is consequently unbalanced.

By dwelling so persistently on the deficits, he downplays the record of tolerance, creative co-existence and multi-culturalism in Muslim lands which constitutes the best model we have for a brighter future.

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