Who are we stand in moral and legal judgment of the settlers’ killers?

Sep 06, 2010 

Max Ajl

I appreciated David Samel’s thoughtful essay on the Hamas-claimed killings of the four paramilitary settlers in Hebron—paramilitary settlers, and not simply “settlers.” I appreciated it both because it was thoughtful and because it was lucid (although I appreciated more Seham’s list of unreported attacks against Palestinian lives and livelihoods in the past few months). Samel’s lucidity makes it very easy to pinpoint where he goes wrong, and it isn’t within the logic of his dissection of the morality or efficacy of the attack. The problem is larger. It’s in his defense of the binary he presents between those who “defend” the attacks using a sophistical logic much like what Israel’s hasbara-artists deploy, and those who unequivocally condemn them. The problem isn’t his logic but his binary: there is a middle ground between condemnation of attacks against hard-to-categorize armed settlers, and approbation of them, and that’s a refusal to condemn them.  

Placing to the side some questions that arguably bear on this point—the strategic effectiveness of the attacks, where precisely on the spectrum-of-culpability armed settlers, who are the instruments of an occupation that Eyal Benvenisti characterizes as outright “aggression,” fall, and what counsel do the Geneva and Hague conventions and subsequent case law give us. Reserve for the moment another question: what is the point of Western condemnation? Cut instead to the core of the question. Who has standing to condemn, and why?  

Samel, anticipating the general direction but not the specific vector of that criticism, writes of those who will inevitably question his decision to “‘lecture’ oppressed people on the acceptable methods they may utilize to win their freedom.”  He demurs: “I’m merely expressing my opinion.” With what standing? At first, he rejects the grounds for attack: he does “not need to earn the right to” criticize. But Samel then adds, “I have taken rather strong stands against the barbarity unleashed by Israelis against Palestinians, and I’m perfectly entitled to identify which responsive measures I endorse and those that I condemn.” Presumably, you condemn one barbarity, you can condemn the rest of them—an apple’s an apple, and terror attacks against the innocent are terror attacks against the “innocent” no matter whether they occur under the imprimatur of Netanyahu in Tel-Aviv or the Hamas government in Gaza and Damascus. 

Let me be as blunt and clear as possible in rejecting the right to criticize in this instance. And add that criticism is intolerable. Speaking generally, we are not entitled to condemn Palestinian violence, although they are. Samel—and I don’t mean to pick on him, I suspect his point-of-view has broad currency—is not “entitled” to lambast the Palestinian resort to force from the Olympian distance of a neutral arbiter, from the social distance given by metropolitan comfort, as if from behind a lectern on which stands a book of laws and norms and values that interpret and apply themselves. The riposte is that this criticism may simply reflect human rights law, but that’s not an excuse. First, human rights law doesn’t simply apply itself, human beings apply it and its application is an ethical issue. Second, human rights law didn’t come from nowhere. It represents a tension, between codifying “universal” human rights and criminalizing the conduct of those who violate the rights of others. To us, it may be clear who to indict first. But the problem is that it’s always others on the dock for genocide, never those most clearly culpable for it. Human rights law isn’t just an idealistic utopia. It’s also a political weapon. 

Aware of that, return to the issue of the right to criticize. Before criticizing, there’s a necessary question: are we innocent, do we stand apart from the society that produced the Hamas killings? Can we stand in moral and legal judgment of them? Not a chance. Samel, and take Samel as an avatar for all of us, is not innocent. By not being innocent, through condemnation, we become hypocrites. We live in privilege and we have lived in privilege. Our lives are the product of that privilege. Their ease is the experience of privilege. That privilege came at a cost. We are the condensed, living subjects of a tremendous, bloody, messy, tragic, horrible history of violence that has constituted us as privileged Westerners and has left the Palestinian people scrabbling in the sands of Gaza and the Jordan Valley, in refugee camps scattered around the Levant. 

We cannot simple excise ourselves from that history, nor can we excuse our culpability for its sorrows. That culpability inflects every moment of our lives and infects our thought and our being. Even by speaking out against the ongoing horror of Israeli violence we cannot sever ourselves from that history, as though we are isolated individuals not constituted by our relations with society and the history of that society and those relations—a bit of modernist ideology that conceals the corpses and wreckage that sit beneath the foundations of our easy lives. Our relations with Palestinian society and with the third world generally are thick with congealed blood. In the former case, for Americans, the more so for privileged Americans, the more so for privileged American Jews, the blood tally is staggering. 

Speaking out and acting out are what we can do and it would be absurd to suggest that even while doing so we do not take a certain distance from that history. But only so much. Even the best of us, those who have spent the past decade or more interspersing themselves physically between the Israeli war machine and its victims don’t have that standing, and I frankly don’t see them hurtling forward with condemnations, anyway. Our freedom to be good people, to be activists, and movement journalists, and human rights lawyers, to fight for others’ freedom, is a freedom that is a product of a history of evil, and it’s a psychic convenience, a self-serving subterfuge, that we may simply step apart from it to condemn the actions of those who live in the hell we have made for them. No amount of acting substitutes for being, and we cannot be Palestinian, we cannot inhabit their history of struggle, “the fact that they have chronically been violated,” as Rita Giacaman described young Palestinian men’s life experiences. There is no substitute for social experience of the impotent infinite rage of that life. It’s beyond me, and no amount of living there or speaking to Palestinians or suffering with them or reading narratives of dispossession or Darwish or Kanafani can make us experience that history. I think about that when I think about what to say or write about Palestinian attacks against Israelis—who all of us who subscribe to BDS agree aren’t exactly innocents. 

So I don’t know what to say except to turgidly moralize to the effect that having contributed to causing that rage—a contribution I think we all make—there is something pious, hypocritical, unpleasant, nearly nauseating, about wagging a finger at those who live in fear and anger at the violence we forge every day. What does that mean? Does that mean anything goes? Of course not. All it means is being honest enough and sufficiently sensitive to step back from these specific events and refuse to condemn them, refuse to join the Western hyena pack so eager to judge Palestinian violence against those who are part of the society crushing them. Sure, this will open us to attack from the right. Whatever. We have better things to do than to be worried about the attacks of apologists for murder, don’t we? I’m reminded of Ghassan Hage’s aside that apparently “it is crucial to ‘absolutely condemn’ suicide bombers if you are going to talk about them, otherwise you become a morally suspicious person.” So I think we can put the police-mentality psychological thuggery of those who celebrate murder to the side and just be quiet in this case. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask from those in solidarity.

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Settlement boom! 1000s of new homes underway! Gov’ts look away! and other news from
Sep 06, 2010 01:58 pm | Seham


Today in Palestine:

Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing
Israeli Settlement Construction Booms Despite Ban
In Washington, the Israelis and Palestinians are discussing peace, but in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, construction is proceeding at full speed. A legal ban is being ignored and the government is looking away. The thousands of new homes could hinder reconciliation.,1518,715614,00.html
Israel unlikely to extend ‘freeze’
Defence minister says settlement slow down is unlikely to continue in its current form after September 26 deadline.
Barak: “Settlement Activities Likely To Continue by the End Of September”
Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, stated that Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank will likely continue after Israel’s “temporary freeze” on such activities ends by the end of September.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Pushes For New Settlement Construction Amid Middle East Peace Talks
JERUSALEM — Israel’s hard-line foreign minister said Monday that his party will try to block any extension of Israel’s settlement slowdown, a move that could derail the recently launched Mideast peace negotiations.  Avigdor Lieberman said the Israeli government must keep its promise to voters that the 10-month slowdown, declared last November under U.S. pressure in order to draw the Palestinians to the negotiating table, will end as scheduled at the end of the month.
Mideast crisis looms over Israeli settlements (AP)
AP – Just days after Mideast peace talks began in Washington, the first major crisis is already looming: Israel hinted Sunday it will ease restrictions on building in West Bank settlements, while the Palestinian president warned he’ll quit the talks if Israel resumes construction.*
Hebron: soldiers convert Palestinian home into military base
On Friday the Israeli army raided a Palestinian house in Hebron and converted it into a military base, forcing a family of 14 to move into the first floor of their home.  The following day the soldiers took over the roof as well. Yesterday an ISM activist visited the Salayma family in Al Baqa’a, east of Hebron, and spoke to Salem Salayma about the situation.  He said that now the roof has been taken over, soldiers have been on and off the roof constantly. Yesterday morning, at about 8am, six soldiers carried out some kind of exercise around our house, running up the hill, sitting in shooting positions and moving up and down the road. He added that sometimes the army move around in the area, walking or driving, and all the families in the area are very scared. When they see soldiers, they close the house, and stay inside because they fear the soldiers themselves – as well as the settlers who have been moving around the area regularly since the shooting of four settlers last week, and have carried out several attacks on Palestinians.
Israel tells Jordan Valley farmers to leave land
SALFIT (Ma’an) — Israel’s Civil Administration ordered farmers to leave land they were cultivating on Wednesday in the Wadi Abu Ammar area in the northern West Bank district of Saflit.  Saber Mar’ey, one of the farmers from the Qarawat Bani Hassan village, said Israeli authorities warned them not to continue working on the lands, which all fall under Area C. He said the land, estimated at 400 dunums, was originally abandoned and recovered by farmers for cultivation.
Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem intolerant?, George Bisharat
Yet the museum is being constructed on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery, desecrating the graves of the interred. Archaeologists believe the Mamilla (Faithful of God) Cemetery holds the remains of tens of thousands of Muslim soldiers of Salah ed-Din, the 12th century leader who reconquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders. The cemetery was actively used by prominent Palestinian families through 1948, when West Jerusalem fell to Israeli troops. Hence the site is immensely significant archaeologically, but is also culturally sensitive to Palestinians.  An initial petition by Palestinian families and Islamic groups to the Israeli high court delayed but did not halt museum construction. Speed was the guiding principle of the project, not care for archaeological preservation nor respect for the dead, construction workers recounted to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. The Israeli high court denied a second petition, ignoring evidence that the Israel Antiquities Authority had suppressed the opinion of its own expert in originally permitting the museum’s construction.  In fact, chief excavator Gideon Suleimani advised his Antiquities Authority superiors against construction on the site and has since characterized building there as “an archaeological crime.

Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment
West Bank protests against Israel’s many crimes violently dispersed by military: ten arrested
Rachel Corrie’s parents could face men who killed her in court
Civil suit into death of US activist crushed to death in Gaza by Israeli bulldozer to hear testimony from vehicle’s operators.
US group says it plans to send plane to Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A pro-Palestinian group based in the US will send a plane loaded with aid to the Gaza Strip in defiance of Israel’s air and sea blockade, an official said Sunday.  “We intend to send an aircraft to Gaza in much the same way boats were used — without going through Israeli or Egyptian airspace,” said Paul Larudee, an organizer with the California-based Free Palestine Movement sponsoring the flight.
8th Week against the Apartheid Wall, November 9 – 16 2010
September 1st, 2010– Eight years into the construction of the Apartheid Wall, over 60% has already been built to ghettoize communities, threatening over 260,000 people with displacement and stealing land and water resources.
Invitation: Join the Palestinian Olive Harvest efforts!
September 4th, 2010– The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and its popular committees are coordinating collective efforts to safeguard the annual olive harvest and are calling on volunteers to stand in solidarity with Palestinian communities and join in the harvest on October 5 until November 15, 2010.
Song from the film of life on wheels singing Lowkey
RISE OF PALESTINIAN CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: Should people boycott Israel? Pt.5 Omar Barghouti
U.S. actors back Israeli boycott of West Bank theater
More than 150 American actors, writers, directors and other artists sign letter of support for the Israeli actors who said they would not perform in Ariel.
Complete list of actors
“We need to nationalize the resistance”
Public servant Bassem Mohammed al-Tamimi is from al-Nabi Saleh, a small village about 20 kilometers northwest of Ramallah. As coordinator of the local Popular Committee, Tamimi has played a leading role in al-Nabi Saleh’s demonstrations against the nearby illegal Israeli settlement and military base of Halamish. Jody McIntyre interviewed al-Tamimi for The Electronic Intifada.
An Al Quds Day Letter to Tony Blair, Lauren Booth

The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian/Restriction of Movement
Palestinian smuggler electrocuted in Gaza tunnel
GAZA, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) — A Palestinian smuggler was electrocuted in a tunnel beneath the Gaza-Egypt border in southern Gaza Strip, an unnamed hospital official said Monday. The dead was identified as Ahmed Al-Astal, 22, from Khan Younis city, an official at a hospital in the border city of Rafah said, noting Al-Astal had died from the electric shock before being brought to the hositial.
Industrial Fuel – Needs Vs. Supply – Aug 8 – Sep 4
Goods – Needs Vs. Supply – Aug 8 – Sep 4
Amira Haas / No exit: A Palestinian legislator trapped in the West Bank
The Shin Bet and Civil Administration sometimes differ on who is a security threat, which could have serious consequences for a Palestinian woman who needs an urgent brain exam.
The Lights Are Going Out on Gaza, Mohammed Omer
GAZA CITY, Sep 5, 2010 (IPS) – The Muslim festival Eid approaches, but not the end to power cuts that have darkened the month-long Ramadan fasting leading up to the festival. Or to the agony of Gazans, made worse by the reminder that it’s approaching festive time.
Algerian delegation arrives in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — An Algerian delegation arrived in Gaza Saturday bringing 2,500 tons of food and medical aid, The group arrived via the Rafah crossing on Egypt’s border and was met by Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a delegation spokesman said.
After appeal, mother reunited with sick daughter
HEBRON (Ma’an) — A mother who had been stranded in Gaza was allowed to return to her husband and sick 3-year-old daughter in the West Bank on Thursday.  Ma’an published an appeal on 29 August by Osama Rasras, from Beit Ummar near Hebron, asking for help to secure a permit for his wife and two sons to return home.
Army shuts down entrances to Hebron’s Old City
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli soldiers closed all entrances to Hebron’s Old City on Saturday and raided a home, residents said.  Troops were heavily deployed in the area, locals said, adding that worshipers were prevented from praying at the Ar-Rahmah mosque.  Yousef Ghannam said soldiers raided his home and converted it into a military post. His 10-member family was forced into one room and forbidden from moving, he added.  An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that there was security activity in the area.
Allenby Bridge shortens hours for Jewish holiday
JERICHO (Ma’an) — The Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan will be partially closed Wednesday due to the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, Palestinian police say.  Travelers en route to Jordan will be able to leave the West Bank from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., and travelers from Jordan en route to Israel or the West Bank will be able to enter from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., officials said.
A businessman in Gaza
Strict rules imposed by Egypt and Israel on travel out of Gaza mean anyone doing business internationally must rely on the whims of the system.
Discrimination/Human Rights
Israeli police accused of targeting Jerusalem’s Arab residents
A leading civil-rights group has accused Israeli police of systematic discrimination against the Arab residents of East Jerusalem as growing numbers of hardline religious Jews take up residence in Palestinian areas.
Poll: Half of Israeli teens don’t want Arab students in their class
Study polling 500 teens aged 15 to 18 finds that most don’t think Arabs enjoy equal rights in Israel, and most of those don’t think Arabs deserve equal rights.
Group: Officer who killed Palestinian received public money
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli police officer convicted of manslaughter for killing an unarmed Palestinian received over $90,000 of Israeli public money, a rights group said Sunday.  Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, said Sunday that it had obtained internal Israeli police documentation revealing that officer Shahar Mizrahi received almost 350,000 shekels (over $90,000) in financial assistance from the Israeli police for his legal defense.
War Crimes
UN experts end Jordan probe of Israeli flotilla raid (AFP)
AFP – UN rights officials investigating Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla wrapped up their hearings in Jordan on Saturday after interviewing a total of 30 witnesses, one of the flotilla organisers said.*
Ken Loach and Arundhati Roy are latest narrators of Goldstone Report,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.
Israel ‘holding remains’ of Palestinians killed in 1969
NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israel has not returned the bodies of two Palestinians killed 41 years ago in the northern West Bank, relatives said Sunday.  Ahraf Othman, from Al-Majdal village south of Nablus, said his father Issa was killed by Israeli soldiers on 5 September 1969, and Muhammad Fazi from Qusra, north of the city, was killed on the same day 41 years ago Sunday.  The men, both Fatah operatives, died in a military operation near Jamma’In and Beit Furik, he said.
Violence and other Provocations against Palestinians

Settler injures 7 in Bethlehem village crash
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Seven Palestinians from the Al-Khader village in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem were injured Saturday morning when an Israeli settler crashed his car into their tractor, relatives said.  The injured, from the same family, were en route to tend to their grape plantation near the Daniel settlement along Route 60 when the car crashed into the tractor at 4:45 a.m, the Palestine Red Crescent said.
Salfit resident says soldiers stole jewelry
SALFIT (Ma’an) — A man from the Salfit district accused Israeli soldiers Sunday of stealing jewelry from his car at a West Bank checkpoint.  Abed Al-Latif Ismail Suleiman, 27, said he was driving to his home in Kafr Ad-Dik from neighboring village Kafr Ghassan with two friends when soldiers at a temporary checkpoint stopped the car and ordered the men to get out.  The soldiers proceeded to search the car, Suleiman said, and when he returned to the vehicle his gold jewelry, worth 1,000 Jordanian dinars (over $1400), was gone.
Price tag reprisals in Hebron
The Palestinian families which live along Route 60 in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank have no recourse when settlers attack. The area is under full Israeli civil and military control leaving the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority relatively helpless in dealing with problems caused by Israeli settlers. Joseph Dana reports from Hebron.
Hamas: PA detains 35 more party members
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian Authority security services have detained 35 more Hamas affiliates in the aftermath of Tuesday’s attack on Israeli settlers, the movement said Monday.  The arrests bring to 750 the total number of Hamas members seized from Ramallah and Hebron in the days after the attacks that left four dead near the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement, and two injured near Ramallah, the party said.
Gaza emergency chief ‘still under interrogation’
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The chief of Gaza ambulance and emergency services was still under interrogation Sunday, an Interior Ministry spokesman announced.  Ihab Al-Ghussein said Muawiya Hassanein was not indicted or charged, but he was being questioned by Gaza Security Services after being detained Friday night from his home.  “Dr Hassanein is a citizen and he was treated as other citizens, so investigations will take place as usual,” the spokesman added, without giving details on the reasons for the detention.
Gaza ministry to release collaborator confessions
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Gaza’s Interior Ministry will release alleged confessions provided by intelligence collaborators in an upcoming news conference, an official said Sunday.  The conference will be held shortly after the Muslim festival Eid Al-Fitr ends on Monday, ministry spokesman Ihab Al-Ghussein said.  The ministry held a national campaign offering amnesty to Palestinian agents in Gaza working with Israeli intelligence who surrendered between 8 May and 10 July. The government said confessed collaborators would face no penalty and would be guaranteed privacy and secrecy.
Report: 2 Israeli cops hurt in shooting attack
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — Two police officers were lightly wounded by gunfire opened at them from a vehicle in central Israel on Monday, news reports said. The team commander was reportedly one of the two wounded.  A Magen David Adom team was dispatched to the scene to treat the officers and evacuated them to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, the Israeli news site Ynet reported. Police have launched an investigation, Ynet reported.
“Peace” Talks/Political Developments
IDF document: “policy principle: separating Gaza from West Bank”
An IDF Powerpoint slideshow, presented before the Turkel committee for the investigation of the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, reveals the official goals of the Israeli policy regarding the Gaza strip.  The slideshow, prepared by The Administration for the Coordination of Government Policy in the Territories – the IDF body in charge of carrying out Israeli government policies regarding the civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza – deals with the humanitarian conditions in the strip; with food, water, fuel and electricity supply and with the condition of medical facilities in Gaza.
Report: Netanyahu to offer PA alternative to settlement freeze
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank, but at the same time he still wants President Mahmoud Abbas to continue with direct peace talks.  To do so, Netanyahu is offering “generous” gestures such as releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and transferring more West Bank territories to Palestinian Authority, according to Israel’s ambassador to Washington Michael Oren.

PA: Lieberman an impediment to peace
Foreign minister comes under proverbial fire after pessimistic prediction of peace process’ failure draws mass criticism by government ministers, Palestinian officials.,7340,L-3949918,00.html
Lieberman: Peace an unattainable goal
Foreign minister pessimistic as to future of peace talks; doubts comprehensive agreement can be reached even in generation’s time.,7340,L-3949787,00.html
Lieberman explains: Abbas on shaky ground
Foreign minister continues to second-guess talks, says most Israel can hope to achieve in direct talks is long-term interim arrangement. ‘For Palestinians talks are show to blame Israel for failure; why give them chance?’ he asks.,7340,L-3950065,00.html

U.S. plans Jerusalem talks after Egypt peace summit
Hillary Clinton to oversee extra meeting at symbolic location after Netanyahu and Abbas meet in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sept. 14.
Abbas: No chance I’ll concede to Israel on core Mideast issues
Palestinian leader says he’ll ‘pack’ and ‘go’ before agreeing to give in to Netanyahu over refugees or borders; also says he won’t discuss recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Ministers: Netanyahu keeping us in the dark on peace talks, freeze
‘We don’t know where we stand’ says Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, ‘doing things without discussion is inappropriate.’
Other News
Israeli spies wooing U.S. Muslims, sources say
The CIA took an internal poll not long ago about friendly foreign intelligence agencies.  The question, mostly directed to employees of the clandestine service branch, was: Which are the best allies among friendly spy services, in terms of liaison with the CIA, and which are the worst? In other words, who acts like, well, friends?  “Israel came in dead last,” a recently retired CIA official told me the other day.

58% of religious public oppose questioning of rabbis
Joint Ynet-Yesodot survey addresses recent summoning of rabbis for police interrogation over their support of ‘Torat Hamelech’ book; reveals majority of religious, haredi public believe rabbinical establishment should enjoy religious freedom of debate.,7340,L-3947682,00.html
Israelis expelled from Moscow shul
Rabbi refuses to let Israeli tourists enter Russian capital’s main synagogue due to their earlier visit to local churches.,7340,L-3945509,00.html
Rabbi Yosef comes out against wig-wearing
Shas spiritual leader calls for stiffened stance against Ger Hasidic women’s head coverings. ‘Religious authorities have ruled they are forbidden. Baba Sali said those who wear wigs will be burned in world to come’.,7340,L-3949586,00.html
Poll: US Jews ‘still connected’ to Israel
Study refutes reports that Jews losing link to Israel after Gaza op, Turkish flotilla, Gaza blockade; 75% say events in Israel ‘important part’ of identity.,7340,L-3949278,00.html
Israel apologizes for denying entry to four African generals
The generals had arranged their visit five days prior and were accompanied by an Israeli official and a senior air force officer when told they could not enter Herzliya airport.
Shin Bet seeks to woo settler leaders with special go-between
Over the past year, the liaison, codenamed ‘Yair,’ met with several key figures in the settler community and with yeshiva heads, in a bid to help the Shin Bet establish relationships with the more mainstream settler factions.
Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest
The elephant in the room; Excluding Hamas from current and future Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations is an exercise in futility, Larbi Sadiki
Sidelining Hamas in any process to craft genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a glaring omission tantamount to ignoring an elephant in the room. Whether it is Obama’s or the UN’s negotiating room, pretending something of that size absent is an exercise in futility. Hamas is definitely an elephant with many tales. Telling some of these tales recounts the Islamist movement’s rise to power against all odds.
Empire – The Peace Procession
Empire looks at the Israeli-Palestinian talks and asks what it will take to reach the promised land.

Inside Story – Obama’s role in the Middle East
As the first direct talks take place between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in two years, Inside Story asks if the US can help resolve the issue.
One on One – Yossi Beilin
The left-wing Israeli politician and peace activist was born at around the same time as Israel. He talks to Riz Khan about seeking to understand the path to peace.
Media New Battleground for Palestinians and Israelis, Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH, Sep 5, 2010 (IPS) – Palestinians and Israelis are using the media as a new battleground in their war to win hearts and minds across the globe, even as the protracted conflict in the Mideast drags on with no apparent end in sight.
Unknown gunmen open fire at Iraq worshipers
Unknown gunmen opened fire at worshippers on Sunday night at Al Saadan village mosque in Abu Ghraib District, a police source said. The attack killed and wounded five people, the source added.
Sunday: 20 Iraqis Killed, 47 Wounded
What might have been a relatively peaceful day was shattered when six gunmen, including suicide bombers, struck at a military target in Baghdad. American troops were involved in repelling the attack. At least 20 Iraqis were killed there and in other violence. Another 47 were wounded. Meanwhile, the oil ministry has cut supplies of certain petrol products to Iraqi Kurdistan over allegations that the excess supplies are being illegally sold to Iran.
Saturday: 6 Iraqis Wounded
Iraq saw very little violence today. Only six Iraqis were wounded in new reports, and all of those were injured in Baghdad.
AP: ‘Combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is’
Memo from the AP’s standards editor.
US ‘likely’ to keep troops in Iraq after 2011
The United States likely will need to keep thousands of troops in Iraq beyond 2011 to keep a lid on sectarian tensions and to bolster Baghdad’s fledgling military, experts and former officers say.
The true cost of the Iraq war: $3 trillion and beyond
This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration’s 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.
Sunni and Shiite Iraqi journalists talk about war (AP)
AP – As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, two Associated Press Television News cameramen, one Sunni and the other Shiite, talk about what it has been like to live through and record the war. The accounts are translated and edited.*
Doubts over the future of Iraq
At the end of August, the US withdrew its last combat brigade from Iraq and declared the start of a “new era”. But many people in Iraq are concerned about what the future will bring. Mike Hanna revisits a boy Al Jazeera first met in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, three years ago, to ask about what his expectations are for the future.

Inside Iraq – Iraq in gridlock
There were no fighter jets this time, or heroic poses in military costume, but last Tuesday in Washington President Obama did mimic his predecessor in one way – by trying to turn the page on operation Iraqi freedom. At the same time, Joe Biden, his vice-president, was in Baghdad telling Iraqi leaders that it is time for them to meet their responsibilities. “The Iraqi people voted in large numbers …” he said “and expect a government that reflects their votes.” But almost six months after the parliamentary election the formation of Iraq’s government remains in gridlock. So what is making the process so difficult and who is responsible for the political wrangling?
Iraq is still under US occupation, Raed Jarrar
Last month, as the final US combat brigade was leaving Iraq, an American soldier shouted from his armored vehicle: “We won! It’s over! America, we brought democracy to Iraq!” Following the withdrawal, most American mainstream media coverage echoed a similar message. As a result, there is a prevailing misconception that the war is in fact over, and Iraqis are better off and closer to the promise of a democratic state.
Female, single, over 30: Iraqis count cost of war (AP)
AP – Only one of Nidal Haidar’s six sisters is married. She has given up on ever getting hitched.*
British Military in Iraq, A Shocking Legacy, Felicity Arbuthnot
The British, of course, having come in flying the St George’s flag on their vehicles (the Crusaders’ flag) slithered out of Basra city, under cover of darkness, to hunker down at the fortified airport, some distance outside the town, in September 2007, much as US units did from other parts of Iraq, last week, fleeing in the night, over the border to Kuwait.
Do Americans Know What Happened in Iraq?,  Michael O’Brien
A Fox News poll released last week indicates the majority of Americans feel the Iraq war was a success. It also suggests they want to get past it and focus on other things. This is good and bad. It is good that average Americans can put our invasion of Iraq in 2003 out of their minds. It is bad because it indicates they don’t know what happened, or don’t care.
Israeli Warplanes Stage Mock Air Raids over South Lebanon
05/09/2010 Israeli warplanes carried out mock air raids Sunday while flying at medium altitude over south Lebanese areas.
State-run National News Agency said Israeli fighter jets have been performing mock air raids over Nabatiyeh, Iqlim Tuffah, Khiam, Marjayoun and Arqoub since 10:50 am.
Speech of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Al Qods International Day
Lebanon PM retracts Syria charge
Saad al-Hariri admits his accusation of Syria killing his father was politically motivated.
Report: US to keep aiding Lebanese army
Al-Nahar reports Obama backing continued military support, halted after border incident last month.,7340,L-3949137,00.html
Hariri, Hizbullah try to restore calm after war of words
BEIRUT: Contacts intensified over the weekend in a bid to ease tense relations between Hizbullah and the Future Movement, amid reports the two parties were interested in restoring calm following the war of words that broke out between them on Friday.
Re-enactment of Hariri killing to be staged in France – STL
PARIS: A re-enactment of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is to be staged in France later this month as part of a UN-backed probe into his murder, a source confirmed on Saturday. The exercise is to take place at a military base in southwestern France on September 28, said the source.
UNRWA calls for detailed plan for Nahr al-Bared reconstruction
BEIRUT: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) urged concerned parties on Saturday to lay down a detailed action plan for the reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared camp in compensation of delayed works during Ramadan.
Aoun: Lebanese Willingly Lost Sovereignty, Freedom, Independence
04/09/2010 The head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aoun said on Friday that the Lebanese “willingly lost all they have gained from sovereignty, freedom, and independence,” stressing the need to motivate the people to hold their leaders accountable for their actions.  Aoun said that the leaders should be replaced with ones who actually want reform. “The Lebanese administration is a mafia that seeks to exploit the people, maintain corruption, and drive the Lebanese to immigrate,” he pointed out.  “A comprehensive reform plan is needed, but a whole class of Lebanese are benefiting from the corruption and are aiming to maintain the current situation that has led the country to the brink of collapse in the water, electricity, security, and justice sectors,” the Free Patriotic Movement leader said.  Aoun criticized the lack of action taken to address reform and attacked the justice system itself for being corrupt.
Gemayel: “We Are Not Ashamed of Getting Israel Support”
06/09/2010 Phalanges (Kataeb) bloc MP Sami Gemayel said his party wasn’t embarrassed of getting Israel’s Support at a previous stage.  “We’re not ashamed of getting Israel’s support against the Syrians when they were in Lebanon. We believe that supporting Lebanon is the most important thing.”  In an interview with the Lebanese Daily Sada Al-Balad published on Sunday Gemayel “warned” that there are two “dangerous issues” that have been facing Lebanon recently, “the Palestinian refugees issue and Hezbollah’s weapons”.  Gemayel doubted that national dialogue would yield any results Hezbollah’s weapons issue.  He also called for a “weapons-free” country adding that all arms in Lebanon must be under the government’s control.  Development and Liberation bloc MP Hani Qobeissi responded on Monday saying that “admitting to spying for Israel necessitates lots of shame”.   Also Development and Liberation bloc MP Kassem Hashem retorted to Gemayel saying: “When some people feel no shame of their connection with the Zionist enemy and get support from it to fight our brothers and partners in this country, how can we be surprised by the persistence in adopting the policy of yielding to an enemy, a killer, and an occupier?”
Iran criticizes Palestinian official remarks against Ahmadinejad
TEHRAN, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) — Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast criticized on Monday the recent remarks made by Palestinian presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeineh against Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency reported., “He (Rdeineh) should pay more attention to the words he uses in his remarks,” Mehmanparast told Fars., The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Saturday slammed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over his remarks about the relaunching of direct peace talks with Israel through the U.S. mediation.
Iran is being sanctioned for crimes it didn’t commit, official says
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman says UN-led sanctions and resolutions targeting the country’s nuclear program are ‘illegal, illogical and unfair in principle.’
UAE acts on money tranfers to Iran
It is no surprise that financial transactions with countries like the United States are banned as part of sanctions to do with Iran’s nuclear programme, but now a key regional partner is also clamping down. The central bank of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has advised banks in the federation, including those in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to stop currency transfers with Iran. This could be a serious blow for Iranian businesses and individuals, but it appears that the UAE is trying to clean up its image as a international financial centre. At the same time, the UAE is finding itself embroiled with a financial scandal developing in Afghanistan. Money flowing out of Afghanistan to Dubai is being investigated by the Afghan government. Al Jazeera spoke to Robin Amlot, managing editor of Banker Middle East, in Dubai and James Bays, Al Jazeera’s Afghanistan correspondent, about the issues. [September 6, 2010]

U.S. and Other World News
Facebook group reclassifies Blair autobiography as ‘crime’ book
Photographs posted on networking site show ex-PM’s book, ‘A Journey’, on bookstore shelves under the headings ‘Painful Lives’ and ‘Dark Fantasy’.
Bahrain says Shi’ite figures plotted overthrow
* Bahrain says to charge 23 Shi’ite opposition figures
* Says they plotted to overthrow monarchy through violence
* Rights groups concerned over arrests, torture allegations
The Listening Post – The media and the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ story
Plans to build an Islamic community centre near the site where the World Trade Centre used to stand in New York have triggered a heated, often irrational and frequently inaccurate debate in the US. On this episode of The Listening Post we look at how some news outlets got their hands dirty with this story.

Les cheveux, le chemise, les sans-boutons, l’ideologie– tout wrongee!!

Sep 06, 2010 

Philip Weiss 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m against the stoning of that Iranian woman for adultery, I’m against her lashing, I’m for women’s liberation in Iran, I don’t like the limitation on women’s roles in Egypt and Gaza.

And more than anything else, I believe that men should be able to dress as they please without social pressure to cover themselves up– even if that means letting their tresses flap in the breeze.

But was it really necessary for the Iranian woman’s lawyer, Mohammad Mostafei, at right, to appear at a press conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (l) and dashing philosophe manque roue Bernard-Henri Levy (center)? BHL is a ridiculous character who discredits everything he goes near these days, with his shallow shaggy ideology of Islamofascism and his support for the Iraq war. And Israel of course is always pure as the driven sands…. Aide! [Photo by AP]

Groundbreaking letter – ‘Israeli theatre artists have refused to allow their work to be used to normalize a cruel occupation . . .We stand with them’

Sep 06, 2010

Adam Horowitz


Update on the groundbreaking letter from 150 American actors, writers, directors and artists in support of the Israeli actors’ boycott of a theater in the West Bank settlement Ariel. The letter was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and its signatoris include four Pulitzer Prize winners, Guggenheim Fellowship recipents, a MacArthur Fellowship, a National Medal of Honor, and scores of recipients of the highest U.S. acting honors, including Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, Grammy Awards, Obie Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and the Oscar.

The letter reads:

On August 27th, dozens of Israeli actors, directors, and playwrights made the brave decision not to perform in Ariel, one of the largest of the West Bank settlements, which by all standards of international law are clearly illegal. As American actors, directors, critics and playwrights, we salute our Israeli counterparts for their courageous decision.

Most of us are involved in daily compromises with wrongful acts. When a group of people suddenly have the clarity of mind to see that the next compromise looming up before them is an unbearable one — and when they somehow find the strength to refuse to cross that line — we can’t help but be overjoyed and inspired and grateful.

It’s thrilling to think that these Israeli theatre artists have refused to allow their work to be used to normalize a cruel occupation which they know to be wrong, which violates international law and which is impeding the hope for a just and lasting peace for Israelis an Palestinians alike. They’ve made a wonderful decision, and they deserve the respect of people everywhere who dream of justice. We stand with them.

JVP’s Executive Director Rebecca Vilkommerson says:

The response of American and UK artists to the courageous actions of their Israeli counterparts is just phenomenal. It is especially notable that so many of the signatories are Jewish with long-standing connections to Israel. We hope that the strong show of solidarity by Americans and UK actors in response to these brave Israelis will help spark a new conversation in both countries, one that acknowledges that the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal by every measure of international law, contribute to the daily violation of human rights of Palestinians, and are a major obstacle to a just peace in the region.

JVP’s website notes, that “statement organizers and signatories represent a wide range of political opinions and perspectives, but have come together for the sole purpose of making a joint statement on this one critical issue.” The signers are a very diverse bunch including Ed Asner, Theodore Bikel, Eve Ensler, Tony Kushner, Cynthia Nixon, Mandy Patinkin, theater director and producer Harold Prince, Vanessa Redgrave, screenwriter and film producer James Schamus, Wallace Shawn, Jennifer Tilly, playwright Lynn Nottage, the lyricist for Fiddler on the Roof Sheldon Harnick, Bill Irwin, Kathleen Chalfant, and Ruth Reichl among many others. You can read the entire list here.

Smoking gun: even as it enters into talks, Israel declares policy of separating Gaza and W.B.

Sep 06, 2010 

Philip Weiss

That I regard the following news as shocking and disgraceful is surely a reflection of my own innocence. (But innocence, naive faith, idealism–they help to drive this site.)

At the same time that it is setting forth on peace talks with the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority, Israel has for the first time publicly endorsed the policy of separating Gaza and the West Bank politically (and culturally).

This policy has been obvious to anyone who has visited the Strip and the West Bank: you are seeing two starkly-different cultures and political entities. But Noam Sheizaf has the goods, reporting that the Israeli government has described “separating Judea and Samaria [i.e. West Bank] from Gaza” as “a security and diplomatic objective.”

Unbelievable. Will the U.S. say a word about this? Will Clinton or Mitchell object? Israel makes lip service to a Palestinian state living alongside it but meantime a living part of the Palestinian consciousness, the largely-refugee population of Gaza, Israel has segregated and imprisoned and surrounded with remote-control machine gun towers, obviously with an eye to one day delivering it with a ribbon to Egypt. And let’s be clear, this is a reflection of occupation. If Gaza were not occupied, as Goldstone said it is, Israel could not achieve this ghettoization, this breaking up of families, these attacks on fishing boats and lettuce-growers and scrap-metal-scroungers and humanitarian flotillas, this neverending destruction of human resources that is Gaza. Sheizaf:

An IDF Powerpoint slideshow, presented before the Turkel committee for the investigation of the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, reveals the official goals of the Israeli policy regarding the Gaza strip….

Slide 20 deals with freedom of movement from and to the Gaza strip. Policy objectives are:

–    Limiting people from entering or exiting the strip, in accordance with the government’s decision.

–    Separating Judea and Samaria from Gaza.

…The Israeli policy regarding Gaza could be seen as violation of official and unofficial principles of previous agreements and negotiations with the Palestinians and other parties. Gaza and the West Bank were regarded as “one entity” – though not officially declared as such – already in the 1978 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The Oslo Declaration of Principles, signed in September 1993 and still an abiding document, specifically states that:

The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period.

This declaration was ratified in following agreements from 1994 and 1995.

The recent IDF slideshow is the first time an Israeli official document publicly declares that the current policy objective is to create two separate political entities in the Palestinian territories.

U.S. has ‘rock solid’ commitment to Israel’s security as Mossad impersonates U.S. intelligence

Sep 06, 2010

 Alex Kane 

At this year’s American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the crowd:

So from its first day, the Obama Administration has worked to promote Israel’s security and long-term success. And if you ever doubt the resolve of President Obama to stay with a job, look at what we got done for the United States last night when it came to passing quality affordable healthcare for everyone. (Applause.) And we know that, as Vice President Biden said in Israel recently, to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. (Applause.) And let me assure you, as I have assured you on previous occasions with large groups like this and small intimate settings, for President Obama and for me, and for this entire Administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring, and forever. (Applause.)

Our number one ally in the Middle East, though, doesn’t appear to feel the same way about U.S. security.

Pivoting off a blog post in the American Conservative by Philip Giraldi, the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein reports on how Israeli spies have stepped up their activity on U.S. soil as tensions with Iran have escalated by attempting to recruit American Muslims:

The CIA took an internal poll not long ago about friendly foreign intelligence agencies.

The question, mostly directed to employees of the clandestine service branch, was: Which are the best allies among friendly spy services, in terms of liaison with the CIA, and which are the worst? In other words, who acts like, well, friends?

“Israel came in dead last,” a recently retired CIA official told me the other day.

Not only that, he added, throwing up his hands and rising from his chair, “the Israelis are number three, with China number one and Russia number two,” in terms of how aggressive they are in their operations on U.S. soil…

“Oh, sure, they do that,” the other former CIA official said, waving a dismissing hand, when I asked about Giraldi’s story. “They’re all over the place.”

The FBI did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

But a retired senior FBI counterintelligence official told SpyTalk, “They have always been extremely aggressive, and seem to feel they can operate whenever and wherever they want, in spite of being called on the carpet more than any other country by probably a factor of three times as often.”

[Weiss postscript: Maybe this helps to explain former CIA intelligence boss Robert Grenier’s attack on the Israel lobby’s influence over our government, in Al Jazeera?]

Neoconservatism is rightly seen as a ‘current of Jewish culture’

Sep 06, 2010 

Philip Weiss

Longtime colleagues Leon Wieseltier and Marty Peretz are on opposite sides of the Islamic center argument, reports J.J. Goldberg in the Forward.

Wieseltier’s latest Washington Diarist in the New Republic is smart and refreshing. A true intellectual, he endorses the right of the Islamic center to set up shop downtown. And he speaks openly of his own youth in the Revisionist Zionist movement and arrives at a point any sensible person must agree with, these old timey religions sure propagate a lot of war:

Collective responsibility. One of the most accomplished Jewish terrorists of our time, Baruch Goldstein, came from the Jewish universe in which I was raised. When he committed his crime, there were a few former and present citizens of that universe, a revered rabbi of mine among them, who demanded a stringent communal introspection; but the critics were denounced as slanderers who tarred all of religious Zionism, or all of “Modern Orthodox” Judaism, or all of Judaism, with the same treasonous brush. The killer, we were angrily instructed, was an aberration, and any generalization from his action was an unwarranted imputation of collective responsibility. I disagreed. Baruch Goldstein murdered in the name of Judaism, with an interpretation of Judaism, from a social and intellectual position within Judaism. The same was later true of Yigal Amir. They did not represent the entirety of Judaism, or of the Jewish institutions that formed them—but the massacre in Hebron and the assassination in Tel Aviv were among their effects. If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own. I am reminded of those complications when I hear that Islam is a religion of peace. I have no quarrel with the construction of Cordoba House, but not because Islam is a religion of peace. It is not. Like Christianity and like Judaism, Islam is a religion of peace and a religion of war. All the religions have all the tendencies within them, and in varying historical circumstances varying beliefs and practices have come to the fore.

This is a helpful way of looking at religious nationalism. And I’d insist that neoconservatism falls into a similar category. Murray Friedman, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Adam Garfinkle all wrote in their books that neoconservatism came out of the Jewish community. I’m sure Wieseltier would agree, he has too much intellectual honesty not to. But remember that when Walt and Mearsheimer wrote that Zionism played a crucial role in the disastrous decision to invade Iraq, JJ Goldberg published an editorial titled “In Dark Times Blame the Jews,” and Leonard Fein of the Forward trashed the authors for “recklessness” and Peace Now posted his attack, and the New Republic conducted a campaign against them as alleged antisemites. So Wieseltier underlines what I have always said, that the Jewish community will not move out of this moment, this ethnocentric locked down Spartan ignore the cries of the victim moment, until there is a forum at Yivo Institute on the neocons’ Zionism and their contribution to an American war. Wait till 2050. 


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