Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Surrender vs. the Right to Exist

"The Palestinians Must Pay a Price for Their Choice"

Surrender vs. the Right to Exist

Former CIA analyst

Noting that he had been raised with the deep conviction that the Jewish people would never have to relinquish any part of the "land of our forefathers," Ehud Olmert told Congress in his address to a joint session on May 24, "I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land." He did then concede that dreams alone cannot bring peace and will not preserve Israel as a "secure democratic Jewish state." But what stands out in this little-noted statement of Jewish attachment to the land is its affirmation of a supreme Jewish right to all of Palestine, never mind who else may live there. In the context of any hope for a just and equitable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, this is a deal-breaker par excellence.

In light of this official Israeli view that the Jewish people have "an eternal and historic right to this entire land," one is startled by the hypocrisy of the demand -- enunciated universally by Israel, the U.S., the EU, and most of the rest of the international community -- that the Palestinians must recognize Israel's "right to exist" before anyone will even speak to them, before they can be admitted to civilized company in the world. Does this demand that Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist mean that they must recognize Israel's "right to the entire land" as defined by Olmert? And if that is the case, how could the Palestinians possibly be assured, even if Israel were magnanimously to grant them a "state" or a "Bantustan" in a part of that "entire land," that Israel would not at some future date take it back, since Jews have "an eternal and historic right" to it? Why should anyone believe that any Israeli concession of land would be permanent?

Olmert's assertion of this all-encompassing Jewish "right" is certainly not a new feature of Israeli and Zionist dogma. The notion has underlain Zionism from the beginning, hidden sometimes behind a leftist veneer of accommodation to the reality of the Palestinian presence in this sacred Jewish land, but never very far beneath the surface. The Zionist belief in Jewish supremacy has never truly been hidden. I ran into this in crude form a few years ago. Shortly after the Palestinian intifada began in 2000, an acquaintance -- no friend, but an irritating bigot who always argues Israel's case openly on the basis that Jewish interests are superior to Palestinian interests -- wrote me an email in which he concluded that, because there is "simply not enough room in Palestine for both Jews and Palestinians," the Palestinians should "go back to Jordan, where they came from" and leave Palestine to the Jews, who own it and so badly need a homeland. (The erroneous notion that Palestinians came from Jordan is a conscience-clearing artifact of the Zionist imagination, designed to "prove" that Palestinians did not originally come from Palestine, are simply interlopers in a Jewish land, and therefore will not be hurt or inconvenienced by "going back" where they came from.) I told him he was factually wrong and completely immoral -- which I'm sure did nothing to burden his conscience, but which did serve, blessedly, to end our correspondence.

The particular argument put forth by this particular man expresses more crude racism than most supporters of Israel would admit to feeling, but in fact his position reflects the official views of the Israeli government and of the U.S. government that supports it. Ultimately, his position, which is of course identical to Olmert's, captures the essence of Zionism and defines what has been the basis of U.S. policy toward Israel and Zionism since well before the state of Israel was established 58 years ago: that is, that Israel's interests as a Jewish state and Israel's "rights" always take precedence, no matter what the interests and rights of the Palestinians, and that Palestinian needs can be accommodated only when these do not interfere with Israel's or when Palestinians give in to Israel's demands. At bottom, this is a policy based on the assumption that there is "simply no room in Palestine for both Jews and Palestinians" and that the only possible solution over the long term is for the Palestinians to disappear in some fashion. As the PLO ambassador to the U.S., Afif Safieh, is fond of saying, Israel wants the Palestinians' geography but not their demography -- the land but not the people.

This Palestinian disappearance can be accomplished in one of several ways, by Israeli calculation. First, they could be induced to leave Palestine altogether; Israel has been working since its creation on some version of this option -- outright expulsion, as occurred in 1948, or inducing a "voluntary" exit by making life insupportable, as is occurring today -- as the best way to relieve itself of the Palestinian "problem." Or, as a second option, the Palestinians could be forced into submission; this has been the fate of the 20 percent of Israel's population that is Palestinian, and it was the fate of West Bank-Gaza Palestinians during the first 20 years of the occupation when they were quiescent under Israeli control. This option is no longer feasible from Israel's standpoint, however, since there are now or soon will be more Palestinians than Jews in Palestine, which makes the job of forcing submission too unseemly for a state claiming to be democratic. Or, as a third option, the Palestinians could be lulled into a political submissiveness that leads them, out of desperation, to accede to every Israeli condition; this is what Yasir Arafat did by signing on to the Oslo agreement and recognizing Israel's "right" to exist, thus giving away all the Palestinians' negotiating cards without securing in return any Israeli agreement to do more than conduct negotiations.

Since this third option collapsed at Camp David in 2000, Israel has reverted to working on the first option. The Oslo process failed essentially because Arafat woke up at the last moment, after Israel had tried to force feed a totally unsatisfactory final agreement, and refused to be lulled into complete capitulation. Since Arafat's awakening, the Israeli agenda, supported wholeheartedly by the U.S. and to a lesser extent by the rest of the West, has been to pursue option one, inducing the Palestinians in one way or another to leave Palestine altogether -- in other words, attempting to force the Palestinians' abject surrender on terms that assume total Jewish supremacy.

The U.S. and the West are working hard to help Israel enforce this surrender. While the Palestinians starve under the international community's aid cutoff, media leaders like the Washington Post set the tone by blaming the Palestinian victims. "Palestinian leaders," the Post intoned in a recent editorial describing the aid crisis, "have a long tradition of exploiting the suffering of their own people for political ends; Hamas has been content to foster a humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." If the logic of this charge that the Palestinians caused their own catastrophe because they failed to vote the way Israel and the Post wanted and because Hamas refuses to give in to Israel's dictates is not immediately clear, it helps to understand that the basic assumption of Israel and its supporters in the U.S. is that Israel's demands and rights always take precedence and the Palestinians are acceptable only if they always recognize this.

Shortly after the Hamas election in January, Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy -- the think tank affiliated with the Israeli lobby organization AIPAC -- laid out the essential demand on the Palestinians. Appearing on the Lehrer News Hour, Satloff declared that the Palestinian people must pay a price for their choice and that it should be a "strategic objective" of the world community to bring down the Hamas government. Twenty years ago, Satloff observed with astounding arrogance, the PLO acceded to what he called the "minimum entry requirements" by recognizing Israel -- entry, that is, to Israel's and the lobby's world, where Jews have the superior rights in Palestine and hold the whip hand and where Palestinians count only when they bow to this Jewish supremacy.

This do-as-I-say-or-else approach now characterizes all Israeli and Western attitudes toward the Palestinians and informs the demand that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist. In a press conference with Olmert on May 23, Bush chided the Palestinians, declaring that no country (meaning Israel) "could be expected to make peace with those who deny its right to exist." Yet the Palestinians themselves are expected to make peace with those who deny their right to exist as a nation. Bush sees no contradiction here because he cannot see past the assumed supremacy of Israel's rights in Palestine.

The Hamas election, and Israeli and Western reaction to it, have in fact exposed the basic problem with all peace negotiations as framed by Israel and the U.S. for the last several decades: Palestinians have been allowed to participate -- have been given any role at all in reconciliation efforts -- only when they have agreed to go along with Israel's demands. But this principal demand on the Palestinians is a fundamental obstacle to any real resolution of the conflict. The insistence that the Palestinians "recognize Israel's right to exist" does not mean, to Israel and the U.S., simply that the Palestinians must pledge not to throw Jews into the sea. Refraining from this drastic step is fairly easy even for the most militant of Islamists. It means instead recognizing Israel's moral legitimacy. For a Palestinian this means recognizing -- indeed, embracing as a moral imperative -- Israel's right to have expelled the Palestinians and taken their homes and their land.

This demand ignores the reality that Israel was established as a specifically Jewish entity in a land populated overwhelmingly by non-Jews and that maintenance of its Jewish majority required the expulsion of much of that non-Jewish population. To paraphrase George Bush, no people can be expected to make peace with, or to recognize the moral legitimacy of, those who have attempted and are still attempting to destroy them. The demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel's moral legitimacy presupposes a priority of Israeli over Palestinian interests in peace negotiations that totally undermines any negotiating process intended to deliver justice to both sides. This Palestinian recognition cannot be the central prerequisite of any peace process -- to be compulsorily accepted before the process even begins -- when Israel refuses to recognize a similar moral right for the Palestinians.

The PLO did recognize Israel's right to exist in 1988 as a condition of its participation in peace negotiations, but any continuing Palestinian obligation to adhere to this recognition has been obviated by Israel's refusal to offer a reciprocal recognition of the Palestinians' existence. The grave injustice inflicted on the Palestinians in 1948 and in the decades since has never been redressed, and this must be the centerpiece of any negotiating process. For the very reason that there is no established Palestinian state, the core issue in any negotiation should be, not recognition of Israel's legitimacy, but recognition of the Palestinians' right to exist as an independent, viable, sovereign state. Israel exists and is in no danger of ceasing to exist; continued concern about its existence and continued demands that Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish state, without a demand for reciprocation from Israel, constitute an affirmation that Jewish rights are superior. This is a fundamentally unjust and immoral presumption in international relations, as in all human relations. Neither Israel nor the United States will ever have peace until Israel is made to recognize the people it displaced in Palestine as equals in the land.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. She can be reached at

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Not nearly enough

Recently, one of my favorite radio programs was in the midst of its annual fund drive for its listener sponsored radio station. Every day for the last two weeks, one of the host’s of the show would devote the last fifteen minutes encouraging listeners to give generously in order that the station could continue on with it’s radical, investigative journalism.

Now, before I say more, I have to say that this particular host is one of the most passionate fundraisers I have ever heard. He often gets quite emotional about the mainstream media’s lack of concern for uncovering the truth about the stories that they report on. Often he sites stories that he and his co-host report about that the mainstream media won’t or can’t touch.

Just the other day, as he was wrapping up the broadcast, he spoke of the recent visit of Prime Minister. Ehud Olmert. His voice began to rise as he told of the joint session of Congress that Olmert addressed, while all the while Israel was continuing with it’s extra-judicial killings of Palestinians.

As the host of the show told this story, something he said struck me full force: “How many Palestinians have to die before the World takes notice, 20, 40, 100, how many?”

When he said this I thought back to my time in South Africa during the early 90s. At this point, Mandela was released; peace agreements between the South African Government and The African Nationalist Congress (ANC) were halted, because of the Governments refusal to compromise. The World began to watch, but it seemed only with mild amusement. I wasn’t surprised at this. You see the World really never paid attention to South Africa for many years. Most people that I know couldn’t even find it on a map.

But something that did take me by surprise was the number of deaths that began to multiply during this time. This was one of the most turbulent times for South Africa. It was a time of uncertainty as never before. Blacks in the Country knew they had an edge and were not about to relinquish it. The Whites also knew it, and it terrified them. So the Whites did what was their normal, knee-jerk reaction to do; they began killing us.

When I say they killed us I don’t mean them directly. They would often pit one group against each other. A tactic they employed with precision during the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t unusual to find out on the news in the evening that 30 people who were supporters of the ANC were killed in Khayelitsha Township at the hands of Inkatha Freedom Party supporters, 52 who called themselves staunch Inkatha Freedom Party members were hacked to death by ANC supporters in Gugulethu Township.

The numbers rose as time went on and no one from the outside media reported it! No one seemed to care about our suffering. As I sat at home each night seeing the news broadcasts, I thought to myself the same thing that the radio host asked; “What’s it gonna take for people to take notice of our suffering? How many more have to die?”

Finally. I got my answer. I recall being at work: I worked as a field worker for a human rights group. The phone rang and I answered. The voice on the other end had just informed me that a busload of school children had been ambushed. All the children were dead. The body count was over fifty.

That did it.

Suddenly, I began to see more coverage on the international news about the stalled peace talks between the Government and the ANC. Journalists from all over the World seemed to descend upon South Africa, eager to cover the major story of all race elections, but also the smaller stories of those who had fought against apartheid.

All, at least it appears to me, because the wide spread killings had taken the lives of so many innocent children. Not because women had died. Not because innocent and not so innocent men perished. But because a school bus filled with bright young minds turned into a bloody morgue on one summer’s day.

I can still hear the plea from the radio host now; “How many lives will it take for the World to wake up and do something about the tragedy that is unfolding in Palestine?”

How many? I don’t know. But if South Africa is any indication, we’ve got a long way to go my friends.


Friday, May 26, 2006

On the right side of justice: An interview with Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a senior producer for the investigative radio program FLASHPOINTS RADIO in Berkeley, CA. The mother of a six-year-old daughter (and potential future journalist), she travels twice annually to Palestine to facilitate the development of young Palestinian grassroots media workers. Ms. Barrows-Friedman has been an out spoken critic of Israeli government policy and has continually received attacks from those within the Jewish community who have called her: “A self-hating Jew”, “traitor of Israel”, an
d “terrorist lover”.

Ms. Barrows-Friedman’s reports have continually been featured in online publications like The Electronic Intifada, to the political online newsletter CounterPunch, as well as Free Speech Radio News. Ms. Barrows-Friedman is highly regarded amongst her peers in the media and consistently lobbies for a free and independent world for journalist to operate. I received the chance to talk with Ms. Barrows-Friedman on a Saturday afternoon by telephone about the media, her facilitation of media work with youth in Palestine, Al Nakba, and the pursuit of the perfect cupcake.

Christopher Brown: Nora Barrows-Friedman, the profession of journalism in America is on the threshold of being nothing more than a lapdog for corporate and government interests. With the continued deterioration of investigative news reporting and the emergence of celebrity newsreaders, how are radical grassroots journalists, such as yourself, combating this arena that is paved with the misinformation of corporate drones?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: In the first place where we start is getting in touch with tried and true, independent, non-embedded, investigative journalists, who live in the communities from which they report. And if we can’t find them, we make them. So we have been able to, at least on Flashpoints over the years we’ve been able to get in touch with people who are fresh out of journalism school or, as in the case of my dear friend Dahr Jamail, he was just a mountain climber in Alaska who was sick and tired of being lied to at the start of the Iraq war by this (US) government.

And so, he went to Iraq himself as a civilian as a witness. And he started bloging and writing diary entries. In November of 2003 when I got in touch with him. I sent him an email saying: ”I really like your writing and its really important that your there to bear witness. I know your not a credentialed journalist but I was wondering if you would be able to report a little bit about what you see for the show?” And from there, Dahr’s work has completely blossomed and he is one of the most preeminent experts on investigative journalism when it comes to Iraq and US policy. And that is less than three years ago. His reporting has been found in reports, in journals, in essays, all around the World for over two-and-a-half years now.

And you know, he’s not a talking head. It’s people like Dahr Jamail that we rely on to be the civilians of conscience, to be there as witnesses, to be there as our eyes and ears. So that we can take these reports and we can make a vehicle to be between the civilians that are suffering under US policy and the public here who are hungry for information. And they desperately want to bypass the corporate stenographers of the corporate media and really get to the real information.

CB: Twice a year you make a pilgrimage to Palestine to Deiheisha refugee camp, located near Bethlehem, to assist young Palestinians realize their dreams of becoming grassroots journalists and learning how to tell the stories that the mainstream press refuses to tell. Could you speak about your work with the youth in Palestine?

NB: The most incredible thing about working with these young people is that I don’t have to teach them anything. I’m not there as an instructor. They already have the ability; it’s inherently inside themselves.

Children in Palestine are born into politics. They’re born into this “so called” conflict. They’re born under occupation, especially the children in refugee camps. You know, I have one student who’s one of my star students…I look at these kids not as my students, but as my peers. Anyway, one of kids there, he was born at the same moment that his house was being broken into by soldiers during a raid. The door was broken in and two of his uncles were arrested in a matter of five minutes. And so these children, they grow up…many times the first words that these kids learn are: the names of tanks, names of different fighter jets. Children of a very young age learn to differentiate the sounds of different caliber bullets being fired.

When I go to ibdaa, really what I’m doing is using the privilege that I have as an American and as a journalist who has been in media for several years and I can get people to easily donate money and equipment. So I basically come there with suitcases full of digital recorders, microphones, headphones, mini disc tapes and just letting them use it and giving them technical instruction and troubleshooting. But really what it is about these kids is that they have these stories inside them. They are reporting in their own backyards. So when I come there, its just kind of an opportunity for them to tell other people, to tell their communities, to tell the outside world what their going through on a daily basis.

And it’s very empowering for them and these kids really understand the importance of independent media, being able to speak for one’s self, especially Palestinians who are often kept silent and ignored, and really not, very often, given a chance to tell their own stories. Being able to be there with these kids and working with them on radio projects and seeing what they produce it is just so satisfying and it is overwhelmingly emotional to be there and to listen to what they have to say. They do the most incredible things.

They really put they’re heart and soul into these radio pieces and I know that at least five or ten will become journalists in the next few years, they’ve already expressed it. They really look at journalism as a tool of resistance. And a lot of them are really getting interested in the field and are really going to make a difference in terms of getting the information out there. And I’m looking forward within the next few years to call them up as correspondents and having them be there on the scene for us 10,000 miles away to record them and put it on the air.

CB: Recently the US and EU had to reverse course regarding monetary sanctions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) which is being run by Hamas. Pressures for a reversal of they’re policy came at the behest of several European countries.

In addition, Israel has recently reopened the main cargo crossing to the Gaza Strip. The crossing has been closed since April 4th and a total of 55 days since January, due to terror alerts caused by the crossing being a target by militants.

How do you perceive these recent events after a protracted time of collective punishment on the Palestinian people, and how do you see these changes manifesting themselves for the future?

NB: That’s a really good question. Of course it’s been collective punishment. After the January 26th elections we saw the closure of Karni and we saw the High Israeli officials putting Palestinians on a “Diet”. Not letting them die but merely just putting them on a diet. And that has been implemented in various ways not only the closure of Karni but also, increased home invasions. We saw an attack on Balata refugee camp about a month and-a-half ago that was absolutely unprecedented.

The Nablus area has been under continued attacks over the last six years. We saw the storming of the Jericho prison. We could go on, we saw the killing of 20 people in a two-week period in Gaza and The West Bank. So this collective punishment, it’s interesting to see how US policy really plays itself out in the hands of Israeli officials. It is like what is happening in Haiti: “Well you have to have a democracy, but you can only vote for the people we really want.” This is American “so called” democracy; this is Israeli “so called” democracy. “You have to have elections but you can only vote for the people we want”.

The Palestinian people have more intelligence and more fortitude, and more resilience than that. And of course they went to the polls and they elected who they wanted and it’s not for us to decide who they should vote for it’s not for anybody but the people who it affects. And the real issue is not the humanitarian aid, it’s not the closures, it’s not whether the EU or the UN or Sweden can come to the aid of the Palestinians, it’s who is holding Israel accountable? Who is holding Israel’s feet to the fire? Who is taking responsibility? And really, we’re not seeing that happen.

So all of these maneuvers, these various transitional heads of state international maneuvers are very distracting from the real problem, which is the occupation. The real problem is the multitude of UN resolutions that are not being fulfilled year after year. The real problem here is Palestinians not having the same civil rights and human rights as their Israeli neighbors. And no one seems to really show that in the light anymore, people are not interested.

The withholding of the tax revenues Israel owes Palestine have been devastating to Gaza. We’re seeing 1.4 million Palestinians, basically, on a slow starvation. Just recently there were several children in the main Gaza City hospital who died because they couldn’t get enough medicine for kidney dialysis treatment. So this is collective punishment. What fault do they have in all this? When Israel can close a border; Israel can switch off the electricity and switch it on; Israel controls the water resources; Israel controls the land, the sea, the air, and no one is talking about it and that’s the real issue here.

CB: On May 14th the Israeli High Court narrowly upheld the law, which states that a person with a West Bank ID cannot live with their spouse who is an Israeli inside of Israel. How do you see this decision affecting Palestinian families?

NB: You know it’s interesting the very same day this law was upheld it was the 58th anniversary of the Al Nakba when on May 15th 1948, 750,000 Palestinians began their long and arduous displacement.

As Palestinians were commemorating this very solemn anniversary, the Israeli court…it’s kind of ironic and I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but it was kind of like a punch in the face that this apartheid system is real and it is entrenched, and this is only the beginning of separation.

In 2002 we saw the first block of the apartheid wall spring up. And now they’re working on phase three, four years later we’re seeing phase three in the Jordan Valley; we’re seeing the “Bantustanization” of the entire West Bank. People look at a map and they want to say: “Well, where is the Palestinian State?” It’s more like where are the pieces of a Palestinian State? There are 18 Bantustans that make up the West Bank. Talk about apartheid, talk about separation this is really the reality that Palestinians are facing. There are polls coming out that mirror the racism within Israeli society. 62% of Israelis “supposedly” would not want to live in the same apartment building as a Palestinian. So what does that say? How has this apartheid been collectively entrenched in the psyche of the populous?

It’s very interesting and I think, as we’re heading more and more towards this apartheid system, this fully realized apartheid system, I think we also have to mirror the ways in which South African apartheid polices were counteracted and that means immediate boycott, divestment, sanctions, it means really coming to terms with the responsibilities we have of the international community to hold Israel accountable for it’s crimes and say: “It’s never okay to inflict apartheid against people. It’s never okay to take someone’s land, to build a wall, and slice someone’s communities and tear apart families. It’s never okay and we’re not going to support this.” And that’s what we need to do right now.

CB: You remarked that May 15th was the 58th anniversary of the creation of Israel and Al Nakba (The Catastrophe). June 7th will mark 40 years of Israeli continued occupation, land confiscation, extra-judicial killings, administrative detention, and collective punishment. With the current situation in The Middle East The War in Iraq, The War in Afghanistan, contingencies for war with Iran, and the overall War on Terror, do you feel that the World will overlook the current events happening in Palestine?

NB: You know it’s interesting, 40 years of continued occupation I believe that’s the longest running continuous occupation in modern history. And it has been overlooked; day-by-day it’s overlooked. And I think that because it’s such an incredibly slow process it’s been one road here; and one settlement here; and a few Olive trees one day; and it’s very slow.

This very quiet but destructive engine that is continuously running. And with the distractions Iran looks like it’s in the crosshairs now. Iraq, if it couldn’t get any worse, it is. Who knows, Syria, who knows what’s going on? And I think that a part of this is the occupation, because it is the beacon of US foreign policy it is something that really holds together US imperial dominance in the region. And as long as Israel is well fed; as long as the beast of this occupation is well groomed and well fed then I think the US can stand tall and it gets stronger as the occupation of Palestine grinds on, the US imperial dominance in the region gets stronger, and I think that if we really pull together a cohesive movement directed at the economic impact of the occupation of Palestine. If we explore boycotts, divestment, and sanctions and implement them immediately with no time to waste the occupation will crumble.

US foreign policy will have to take a different shift, and the Middle East will be in much different shape, I’m not sure if it would happen soon, but it would look better, and it will take time, and it wont be pretty no matter what happens. But I think that we, here in the United States say that we aren’t going to pay one penny more to the 3 to 6 billion dollars a year that Israel gets to complete it’s military dominance over Palestinians, then I think it will crumble, and I think that is a really important step that we all have to really look at.

And who knows, we see what happens in Afghanistan; we see what’s happened in Iraq, I think more and more the American public is not supporting what’s going on 10,000 miles away.

Finally people are waking up, and people are connecting their government with their checkbooks. And I think we have to really support this movement. We have to support the people who are really questioning this government and it will be for the betterment of people all over the world.

CB: Nora Barrows-Friedman, you have spoken out about what you perceive as the hypocrisy of Jewish Americans who march against the war in Iraq and keep silent about Israeli policies in The West Bank. As a Jewish woman of conscience, how can not only Jews in America but also, those in the Diaspora be convinced to open their eyes to the horrors of Israeli apartheid?

NB: That’s the issue. I think ultimately it is the responsibility of American Jews to tell our elected representatives that Israel does not stand for me. Not in my name. It’s the ultimate White privilege isn’t it? As a woman with a Jewish last name I can easily pass through customs in Israel and I get a welcoming smile, whereas my friends, of course, cannot travel 20 miles between checkpoints in The West bank.

I laugh it off when people call me a self-hating Jew or a traitor, you know what I’m joining the best of them if I’m on that list, I’d love to be on that list, because that list represents people of conscience.

You know what, I have this identity. I was born into this privilege of being a Jew of being an American, and therefore I have the responsibility to hold my elected representatives accountable, to hold my community accountable. To say: You know what, Israel is a mirage; the whole idea was built on racist ideologies. Who in their right minds, for me at least, I don’t understand how people who have suffered so much during the Nazi holocaust can come from that and in a few years later inflict similar consequences on another people. It doesn’t make sense. I’m going to get into a lot of trouble for saying this, but in some ways it de-legitimizes the suffering of the Jews, it really does. As a Jew, I’m not even religious, I don’t really even identify with the religion or culture anymore because it’s tied up with so much injustice right now.

For the past 58 years it’s been tied to this nationalistic fury that’s been pumped up and militarized, and skewed and distorted. I don’t want any part of that. And there are so many Jews, especially here in the Bay Area, who are so good on so many issues. They’re so right there with us on Iraq. They’re right there with us on racism in San Francisco and police brutality in Richmond, CA. They’re so good and so extremely eloquent and passionate about Civil Rights and human rights. But when it comes to Israel, people clam up and they don’t want to talk about it. I heard someone say: “You know Israel has a soft spot in my heart.” And that is so heartbreaking for me to hear that when we can separate. When people think that they can pick and choose what they call injustice. As a human being I don’t support that and as a Jew, it breaks my heart.

And so, people can call me a self-hating Jew, I don’t hate myself, I love myself. I love myself because; I know that I’m on the right side of history; I’m on the right side of justice; And I’m on the right side of peace. And I stand with people, whoever they may be, who are being persecuted and oppressed. It’s a huge conflict and it’s a huge responsibility for Americans, and American Jews in particular, we have to stand up; we cannot let these ideologues speak for the majority.

We have to open our eyes to the reality that’s unfolding inside Israel and inside Palestine and in the Diaspora. We have to join together and really explore what it means to be privileged. As I wrote in an essay recently; how dare we argue over oppression hierarchy. There’s no reason why the Palestinians should have to pay for what Hitler did to the Jews. There’s no reason and that’s essentially what’s being played out there and I’m saying; not in my name.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Olmert's (and Elie Wiesel's) Roadmap

Countdown to Apartheid


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's address to both houses of Congress was perhaps the most skilled use of Newspeak since George Orwell invented the term in his novel /1984/. (He had help: author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel reportedly drafted large sections of the speech.) Just as Orwell's totalitarian propagandists proclaimed WAR IS PEACE and Israeli government signs placed at the Wall (sorry, fence) at the entrance to Bethlehem greet Palestinians with the blessing PEACE BE UNTO YOU, so Olmert declared in Washington: UNILATERAL REALIGNMENT IS PEACE.

Because of Olmert's use of Orwellian language (can anyone, including President Bush or members of Congress, explain to us what "convergence" and "realignment" mean?), we must listen carefully to what is said, what is not said and what is meant.

What was said sounds fine if taken at face value. Olmert, extending "my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, the elected president of the Palestinian Authority," declared Israel's willingness to negotiate with him on condition that the Palestinians "renounce terrorism, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, accept previous agreements and commitments, and recognize the right of Israel to exist." If they do so, Olmert held out Israel's commitment to a two-state solution.

What wasn't said? While reference to a Palestinian state sounds forthcoming, two key elements set down in the Road Map defining that state were missing: an end to the Israeli Occupation and the establishment of a /viable/ Palestinian state. "A settlement," says the text of the Road Map to which Olmert and Bush constantly declare their allegiance, "will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. The settlement willend the occupation that began in 1967."

Olmert's "convergence plan" (now renamed a "realignment plan" because it sounds better in [Newspeak] English), based on the massive "facts on the ground" Israel continues to impose unilaterally with overt American support, cannot possibly give rise to a viable Palestinian state. The "Separation Barrier," which will be declared Israel's permanent "demographic border," takes 10% of the West Bank. That may not sound like much, but consider this: It incorporates into Israel the major settlement blocs (plus a half-million Israeli settlers) while carving the West Bank into a number of small, disconnected, impoverished "cantons"--hardly the basis for a viable state. It removes from the Palestinians their richest agricultural land and /all/ the water.

The convergence plan also creates a "greater" Israeli Jerusalem over the entire central portion of the West Bank, thereby cutting the economic, cultural, religious and historic heart out of any Palestinian state. It then sandwiches the Palestinians between the Barrier/border and yet /another/ "security" border, the Jordan Valley, giving Israel /two/ eastern borders. Palestinian freedom of movement of both people and goods is thus prevented into both Israel and Jordan but also internally, between the various cantons. Israel will also retain control of Palestinian airspace, the electro-magnetic sphere and even the right of a Palestinian state to conduct its own foreign policy.

The Road Map, like international law regarding the end of occupations in general, also insists on a negotiated solution between the parties. Olmert made a great issue of Palestinian terrorism (playing on American sensibilities to this buzz-word), placing pre-conditions on negotiations. Israel is willing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, he said, of it renounces terrorism, dismantles the terrorist infrastructure, accepts previous agreements and recognizes the right of Israel to exist (a right Israel has not recognized /vis-à-vis/ the Palestinians). What is not mentioned is Israel's Occupation which, regardless of an end to terror and negotiations, is being institutionalized and made permanent. For neither security nor terrorism are really the issue; Israel's policies of annexation are based on a pro-active claim to the entire country. Virtually no element of the Occupation--the establishment of some 300 settlements, expropriation of most West Bank land, the demolition of 12,000 Palestinian homes, the uprooting of a million olive and fruit trees, the construction of a massive system of highways to link the settlements into Israel proper or the tortuous route of the Barrier deep in Palestinian territory--can be explained by security. Terrorism on /all/ sides is wrong (let it be noted that Israel has killed four times more civilians than the Palestinians have), but to demand that resistance cease while an occupation is being made permanent is unconscionable.

And, finally, what was meant? Apartheid. The "A" word was missing from Olmert's speech, of course, but the bottom line of his convergence plan is clear: the establishment of a permanent, institutionalized regime of Israeli domination over Palestinians based on separation between Jews and Arabs. Within 6-9 months, according to Olmert's timeline. Olmert may believe that Jews can succeed where Afrikaners failed, but history teaches us that in the end injustice is unsustainable. And convergence/realignment is nothing if not manifest injustice.

Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a candidate, with the Palestinian peace activist Ghassan Andoni, for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He can be reached at

Searching for the next American Idol...I mean, journalist

I have been scanning the major websites of the corporate media trying to find any coverage on H.R. 4681. Hoping that there was some mention of it. Hoping that the problems I write about on my blog regarding the corporate media might show that I was incorrect for constantly badgering the spit and polish, Gucci wearing, Maybellene sponsored, celebrity name dropping, newsreaders of the corporate world.

Sadly, they have not been debunked.

So on Wednesday morning I turned on my television to see if Good Morning America’s (GMA) morning show might present some coverage on the bill, still nothing.

The only coverage given to H.R. 4681 or the Palestine/Israel conflict, was the first official visit by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Washington D.C.

In fact, the finals of the hit television show “American Idol” received more coverage than Olmert’s segment. I sat watching the three hosts debating the merits of one singer over the other. Not surprising, but I digress.

As is the case with Sharon before him, Bush praised Olmert for handling himself with dignity and grace.

With the way Bush hands out compliments to this man, you’d think that Olmert was standing before Paula Abdul, one of the judges for American Idol, receiving kudos for a strong singing performance.

But even after the snippet on Olmert and, of course, debating the next singing sensation, I still held out hope that H.R. 4681 might get even a ten second window of a mention. I mean after all, these are serious journalists here!

Not a chance.

In fact, as more Palestinians were dying from Israeli gunfire, Robin Roberts, Diane Sawyer, and Charles Gibson, the three hosts of GMA, talked about Gibson’s new assignment as anchor for ABC World News Tonight.

Robin and Diane assured the audience that Charles would bring the same integrity and journalistic professionalism to his new post as he had with GMA.

Congratulations Charles, or as we say in Arabic, Mabruuk.

I’m sure you’ll have much to talk about when you report that Bush has basically given, albeit muted, backing for Olmert’s plan to draw Israel’s final borders without including the Palestinians, and all the hell that it’s gong to cause. But you know that’s for another time.

Anyway, congratulations again, I’m sure you’ll do just fine reading…I mean, reporting the news on the World News Tonight broadcast.

Oh Chuck, by the way, you will let me know who the next American Idol is won’t you? I mean, as we all know that’s the real news we all need to know about right?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dear God!

Watch the background during this interview. Did you see that?
This is why the man shouldn't hold public office!

Well, this and the fact that he's an idiot.

37 and counting

On May 9th, The House of Representatives voted for H.R. 4681. Which would place severe sanctions on the Hamas led Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel and denounces terrorism. The House was expected to vote on the bill Tuesday the day Prime Minister Ehud Olmert makes is first visit to Washington D.C. AIPAC was instrumental in getting congress people to sign on to the bill.

H.R. 4681 sanctions would include:
1. Cutting off nearly all aid to the Palestinians.
2. Stopping payment to the United Nations to the amount of aid given to the Palestinians.
3. Limit travel of Palestinian officials.
4. Designate certain portions of Gaza and the West Bank as “Terrorist Sanctuaries.”
5. Prohibit International businesses from doing business in these territories.
6. And shut off all diplomatic ties.

Of course nowhere in the World could you get such a one-sided piece of legislation that doesn’t address the problem at all which is the problem of the occupation and freedom for the Palestinian people, but that is for another time.

But there is some good news in all of this.

Although the bill passed out of the House overwhelmingly by 324 votes, the mere fact that 37 Congress people spoke up and said “Nay” to collective punishment is noteworthy. In fact, six of those who voted “Nay” are Republicans.

Nine answered, “Present” when called on but did not vote in favor or against the bill. More encouraging, for me personally, is the fact that six members of The Congressional Black Caucus voted “Nay” and eight answered, “Present” when their names were called.

What is this saying?

Well, it says a lot when you realize that there are politicians that really are trying to not give the Israeli lobby and Israel a blank check to inflict more pain and suffering on the Palestinian people for the actions of the few few.

It means that these 37 men and women are standing up and saying: “Not in our name!”

Because these brave men and women decided to honestly vote their conscience rather than their bank balance.

Below are the names of the very Congress people who voted “Nay” on H.R. 4681.

Diogenes, a philosopher who was chief among the school known as the Cynics, would walk around his city in a hollowed out barrel, holding a lantern, looking for an honest person.

I found 37 of them today.

Jones (NC)
Kilpatrick (MI)**
McCollum (MN)
Miller, George
Moore (WI)**
Moran (VA)
Price (NC)

**Congressional Black Caucus Member

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Retired US ranger speaks out about war crimes in Iraq

For those of you who are still under the delusion that what America is doing in Iraq is "Noble" you might want to check out this video.

I feel for the soldiers. I feel for the casualties of the more than 100,000 Iraqis that have been killed as well as the over 2,400 US soldiers whose lives have been snuffed out due teh greed, and pursuit of global domination of this morally depleted administration.

We need to charge Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, Powell, Gonzales and many of the generals with War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.


By Betty McCollum

The letter below was sent by Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, to the executive director of AIPAC. The bill mentioned, H.R. 4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, would place so many restraints on aid to the Palestinian people, and so many restrictions on the administration's ability to deal with the Palestinians, that even the State Department has opposed it. AIPAC has strongly backed it. The Senate version of the bill, S. 2237, would allow the administration far more flexibility. On April 6, the House International Relations Committee passed H.R. 4681 by a vote of 36 to 2; McCollum was one of the two nays. As of May 11, AIPAC has yet to respond to her demand for an apology.

—Michael Massing

April 10, 2006

Mr. Howard Kohr
Executive Director
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
440 First Street, NW; Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Mr. Kohr:

During my nineteen years serving in elected office, including the past five years as a Member of Congress, never has my name and reputation been maligned or smeared as it was last week by a representative of AIPAC. Last Friday, during a call with my chief of staff, an AIPAC representative from Minnesota who has frequently lobbied me on behalf of your organization stated, "on behalf of herself, the Jewish community, AIPAC, and the voters of the Fourth District, Congresswoman McCollum's support for terrorists will not be tolerated." Ironically, this individual, who does not even live in my congressional district, feels free to speak for my constituents.

This response may have been the result of extreme emotion or irrational passion, but regardless, it is a hateful attack that is vile and offensive to me and the families I represent. I call on AIPAC to immediately condemn this un-American attack and disavow any attempt to use this type of threat and intimidation to stifle legitimate policy differences. I will not stand to be labeled or threatened in a manner that questions my patriotism or my oath of office.

Last week, I did vote against H.R. 4681 during mark-up of the bill in the House International Relations Committee. As a Member of Congress sworn to uphold the Constitution, and ensure the security of the US and represent the values and beliefs of the constituents who I serve, it was my view that H.R. 4681 goes beyond the State Department's current policies toward Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and potentially undermines the US position vis-à-vis the coordinated international pressure on Hamas. The language contained in S. 2237 accurately reflects my position.

Keeping diplomatic pressure on Hamas to renounce terrorism, recognize the State of Israel, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, and honor past agreements and treaty obligations, while preventing a humanitarian crisis among the Palestinian people, are all policy goals already strongly supported by myself, the Bush administration, Congress and the American people. But, if the purpose of H.R. 4681 was to send another strong message to Hamas and the Palestinian people, as Congress already has sent with the passage of S. Con. Res. 79, then I disagree with the vehicle for that message. In my opinion, Congress should be articulating clear support for the Secretary of State's present course of action; not creating a new law which likely diminishes the diplomatic tools needed to advance US policy goals with regard to the Palestinian people, potentially cuts US funding to the United Nations, and largely restates current law while creating on-going and burdensome unfunded reporting requirements.

As you well know, in Congress we do not shy away from condemning the vile words of despots and dictators who use anti-Semitism as a weapon to incite hatred, fear and violence. AIPAC should not have a lower standard for persons affiliated and representing its organization when they label a Member of Congress who thinks for herself and always puts the interest of our nation and people first a supporter of terrorists.

You and your colleagues at AIPAC have the right to disagree with my position on any piece of legislation, but for an AIPAC representative to say that I would ever vote to support Middle East terrorists over the interests of my country will never be tolerated by me or the families I serve. This incident rises to a level in which a formal, written apology is required.

Mr. Kohr, I am a supporter of a strong US–Israeli relationship and my voting record speaks for itself. This will not change. But until I receive a formal, written apology from your organization I must inform you that AIPAC representatives are not welcome in my offices or for meetings with my staff.

Betty McCollum
Member of Congress
4th District, Minnesota
Washington, D.C.

Note: Those of us who have spoken out about Israeli apartheid in Palestine need to show our support to House members like Rep. McCollum. AIPAC has threatend to try and vote McCollum out of office. We radicals of conscience need to remind our represenatives that the US Congress cannot collectively punish the Palestinian people just because they choose not to vote the way Israel and the US wanted them to. The Israeli government will repeat the refrain: "Hamas is a terrorist organization and needs to abide by international accords!" True, very true. However, until Israel stops extra-judicial killings, firing into densly populated Palestinian areas, ceases all settlement expansion and tears down existing settlements, and returns to the "Green Line", The Israeli government is in no position to pass moral judgement on Hamas.
__Christopher Brown

Monday, May 22, 2006

Gaza buries two women, toddler killed by air strike

The Daily Star
22 May 2006

Thousands of mourners attended funerals Sunday for four
victims of an Israeli air strike against a leading
militant in the Gaza Strip, including two women and a
4-year-old child. Many mourners demanded attacks on
Israelis to avenge the death of Naima Amen, her daughter
Hanan Amen, and her 4-year-old grandson Mohanad, as well
as local Islamic Jihad commander Mohammad Dahduh, who was
the target of Saturday's raid.

"Our response will make the ground tremble at the heart of
the Zionist entity," an Islamic Jihad leader vowed in an
address to the mourners.

The crowds who turned up for the funerals included not
only Jihad followers but also loyalists of Hamas and the
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The three family members were killed while travelling in a
car behind Dahduh, whose vehicle was hit by two missiles.

Israel's Defense Ministry acknowledged the innocent
victims and ordered an inquiry.

Meanwhile, Palestinian security on Sunday foiled an
attempt to kill a top commander loyal to President Mahmoud
Abbas with a roadside bomb, officials said. The discovery
of the 70-kilogram bomb came a day after Palestinian
General Intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab, an Abbas ally,
was seriously wounded after an explosion in an elevator at
his Gaza Strip headquarters that killed one of his
bodyguards and wounded five others.

An unverified statement from Al-Qaeda in Palestine claimed
the attack. The group also vowed to target Abbas and
Mohammad Dahlan, a former security chief.

Gaza security chief Rashid Abu Shbak, a central figure in
the power struggle, was the target of Sunday's attempted
bombing, security officials said. Security personnel found
the explosives along a route used by Shbak's motorcade.

Abbas said he would start a Fatah-Hamas dialogue on
Thursday to defuse the crisis, adding that the sides could
not allow the situation to deteriorate into a full-fledged
civil war.

"Civil war is the red line that nobody dares cross, no
matter which side they are on ... Civil war is forbidden,"
he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in
the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he
met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Fatah officials have hinted that they believe Hamas was
behind Saturday's attack and Sunday's attempted bombing,
but have stopped short of openly making the accusation.

The Abbas-Livni meeting was the highest level
Israeli-Palestinian contact since Hamas' election victory
in January.

Also Sunday, the Israeli Defense Ministry approved the
expansion of the boundaries of four Jewish settlements.
Premier Ehud Olmert has said he will draw Israel's
borders, unilaterally if necessary, by 2010. Three of the
settlements slated for expansion lie within areas Olmert
hopes to annex to Israel.

In other developments, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired
a homemade rocket at the southern Israeli town of Sderot,
hitting an empty classroom but causing no casualties, the
army said. The army responded with artillery fire toward
launching areas in the northern Gaza Strip.

In the latest sign of international support, Malaysia
pledged on Sunday to donate $16 million to the Palestinian
Authority after a Western aid freeze left the PA in a
financial crisis.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made the pledge in
Sharm el-Sheikh. Abbas is expected to visit Kuala Lumpur
soon to discuss assistance.

In other developments, an Israeli military court laid 19
charges against Palestinian Front for the Liberation of
Palestine leader Ahmed Saadat, two months after he was
seized from a West Bank jail. Charges against him include
involvement in a militant group and deadly attacks,
weapons dealing, armed robbery and incitement to violence
from 1995-2004.

Khaleda Jarrar, a PFLP spokeswoman in the West Bank, said
Saadat "does not recognize the legitimacy of the court,
nor the charges." - Agencies

We Continue to Struggle: An Interview with Prof. Norman G. Finkelstein

Prof. Norman G. Finkelstein teaches political theory at DePaul University in Chicago. Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1953, he is the son of survivors of the Holocaust. Prof. Finkelstein is the author of five books: Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (University of California Press, August 2005); The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering (Verso: 2000; expanded second edition, 2003); Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Verso: 1999; expanded second addition); A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen thesis and historical truth (with Ruth Bettina Birn) (Henry Holt: 1998); The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A personal account of the intifada years (University of Minnesota: 1996). Prof. Finkelstein has appeared on numerous radio and television programs around the World discussing the Israel/Palestine conflict. His website is

Christopher Brown: Prof. Finkelstein, in your estimation why does it seem that when someone challenges Israel on its policies towards the Palestinians they are accused of anti-Semitism?

Norman Finkelstein: I think the answer is that in the past, if you take the 1960s. 1970s and early 80s, the scholarly record and the documentary record, it seemed to be supporting Israel’s position. And so Israelis and their supporters didn’t typically charge anti-Semitism. What they did was tell you to look at the record, look at the history and see that it supports their claims. Beginning in the late 1980s and 1990s the work of important Israeli historians as well as the documentary record of human rights organizations, Israel’s record not as good as it once did. And it turned out that many of the things that people thought were the case when they came to Israel actually turned out not to be the case. Thus Israel’s position both historically and in terms of its current human rights record as that position became more indefensible; it was then that the charges of anti-Semitism began to be hurled with reckless abandon. Because there was no other way to respond to the charges that Israel has done and is doing. It’s wrong.

CB: We often here in this county that the mainstream media is objective in it’s coverage regarding Israel/Palestine. But recently, when Israel fired more than 300 tank shells a day for over a week into populated civilian areas of Gaza, which caused death and injury to women and children, the corporate media remained silent. In this same time span, a suicide bombing occurred in Tel Aviv and the coverage of the event dominated the news cycle, in some places for three days. Could you speak about this phenomenon?

NF: Well I think to begin with I don’t think that anyone believes that American coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict is evenhanded. I don’t even think that journalists and editors who are responsible for that coverage believe it. The coverage in the American media of the Israel/Palestine conflict is, frankly, useless. I don’t read it at all, I’ll be perfectly honest, and I stopped reading it. I don’t read the editorials, I don’t read the op-eds, and I don’t read the news columns. You learn absolutely nothing from it. The best sources are; European sources, Israeli sources, and human rights organizations. But, you won’t learn anything about the Israel/Palestine conflict from the American media that you can’t learn by simply going to the official Israeli foreign affairs website. As far as the disparity between coverage, I think the record is pretty clear. If you look at what human rights organizations have to say. At this point, the figures are about 3,500 Palestinians have been killed and 1,000 Israelis since the beginning of the second Intifada till today. On both sides, the Palestinian side and the Israeli side, about two-thirds on each side have been civilians, innocent bystanders. And so, on the record of killings of civilians and innocent bystanders, Israel’s record is about three times as bad as the Palestinian record. Some times people make the claim that; Palestinians purposely target Israeli civilians, whereas the Palestinian civilians killed by Israel are collateral damage or accidents and so forth. But no human rights organizations take those claims seriously. B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, puts it: “When so many civilians are killed intent is irrelevant.” Israel is still responsible. And the principle is pretty straightforward for any rational person; If Hamas blows up a bus in Tel Aviv and says; “Well we didn’t really mean to kill the passengers, we wanted just to destroy the bus” people would laugh. So shouldn’t we also laugh if Israel drops a one-ton bomb in a densely populated neighborhood in Gaza, and didn’t want to kill innocent civilians it only wanted to kill a terrorist leader? Which by the way is also illegal, but lets leave that aside. The claim is ludicrous. When you are firing indiscriminately into crowds, when your aiming at the heads of people at the heads o children and so on and so forth, the claim that this is collateral damage or unintentional is an absurd claim as human rights organizations have pointed out.

CB: Your latest book: BEYOND CHUTZPAH deals with the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history. It takes books like Joan Peters’ TIME IMMEMORIAL and Alan Dershowitz’s THE CASE FOR ISRAEL to task as academic hoaxes. Could you talk more about this and about the difficulties of getting your own book published and the reception it has received since publication?

NF: I can’t say the work I do takes much intelligence, but I have to be honest about these sorts of things. The kind of work I do doesn’t take much intelligence, it just takes application because the sorts of frauds that I expose are so transparent, they’re so silly, and so preposterous, that any seventh grader can do it. And it takes, usually, in the case of Peters or Dershowitz it took just a few months to assemble the data in readable form and complete the manuscript. The challenge always has been is getting the findings publicly acknowledged. In the case of the Dershowitz book, Prof. Dershowitz himself launched a major campaign to block publication of the book, hired what reputed to be the most powerful law firm in the country Cravath, Swain and Moore, went to the governor of California Arnold Swartzennegger to block publication of the book from coming out on the University of California Press, and as it happened his efforts proved unsuccessful. But I have to admit, that there were some close calls, like the book wouldn’t come out because of the pressures he was exerting. But that’s only half the story. Because once the book came out it was completely ignored. Now you would think that if a book documents that the senior most professor at Harvard Law School has plagiarized from a hoax (TIME IMMEMORIAL), that he falsified records, mangled documents, put forth preposterous claims in a book which became a national best seller, and it’s on the topic of the Israel/Palestine conflict, you would think reviewers would be interested. Leaving apart the whole scandal surrounding it, and his efforts to block publication of the book, notwithstanding the fact that he’s a senior most professor at Harvard Law School, he plagiarized a hoax, engaged in fabrication, falsification and mangling of sources, the book bears on the Israel/Palestine conflict, a huge scandal surrounded its publication, the book didn’t receive a single mainstream review in the United States. It’s as if the book never came out.

CB: Prof. Finkelstein, Israel is the only country that sanctions certain forms of torture to extract information from “alleged” resistance fighters. They have stated that The Wall is necessary for Israeli security. Yet, rather than building it along the “Green Line” they have built more than 80% of the wall in occupied Palestine displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, land, and neighbors. In addition, Israel has also placed more than 300,000 of its own citizens onto Palestinian land, which is a clear violation of the 4th Geneva Convention of which Israel is a signatory which states that no occupying power shall transport it’s own citizens onto the land which it is occupying. Dr. Finkelstein, why does the West sit by and allow these gross violations of human rights to go on?

NF: Well let’s first get the facts exactly right. We don’t want to be accused of distorting and mis-representing, since the facts are damning on their own. Israel is the only country in the World, which had legalized torture up until 1999. In 1999 The Israeli High Court, effectively de-legitimized torture, or some aspects of it’s ruling, they still allow, for what’s called “The necessity defense”. And they indirectly allowed for sleep depravation. But most forms of torture that had been sanctioned earlier were now declared illegal. That doesn’t mean that torture has stopped. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel put out a report in 2002 entitled; BACK TO ROUTINE OF TORTURE. Which indicates that the torture has resumed. But it is no longer officially legal as it had been and it was the only country in the World that had legalized it. On the question of displacement of the Palestinian population, it’s not hundreds of thousands who have been displaced by the Wall. But the figure is that…I think, I haven’t looked at the most recent numbers, but hundreds of thousands will be affected directly and indirectly by the construction of the Wall. On the question of why the Left sanctions this, you know we have to be honest about these things, probably a majority of countries practice torture in one form or another. The issue here is, the fact that Israel gets a free ride. Which is to say, the pretense is that Israel is still the one democratic country in The Middle East and that the Wall is being built for protection from terrorists attacks and so on. And that’s all lies. Israel’s human rights record is abysmal. The Wall has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. The Wall is a land grab, as all human rights organizations have stated already as far back as a couple of years ago. The only ones, to my knowledge, the only one in the World that is denying it was a land grab, was Israel’s High Court in its consecutive decisions on the Wall. But soon enough, one of Israel’s ministers acknowledges that the Wall was being built to establish new borders for Israel. It’s a land grab. It has nothing at all to do with terrorism. If you wanna fight terrorism you build a Wall along your borders, that’s fine. But the Wall is being built to incorporate the main settlement blocs in to Israel. It has nothing to do with terrorism.

CB: Finally, Prof. Finkelstein, could you speak about the formation of the Zionist ideology and how it has been interpreted on the ground as Palestine continues to get chopped up to suit the ethnocentric colonialist system in Israel?

NF: Israel is a self-declared Jewish State and its ideology is to create a Jewish State. A State for the Jews. And it doesn’t want a non-Jewish presence in that State, its gratuitous, its superfluous, it’s a nuisance, and so, Israel has been trying, since the beginning, to carve out a State, which is overwhelmingly, if not homogeneously Jewish, in an area which was and parts of it still are, overwhelmingly non-Jewish. And that’s been Israel’s struggle. That’s been the struggle of Zionism from the beginning, and the struggle of Israel’s since the past fifty or sixty years. How do you create a Jewish State in an area that is overwhelmingly non-Jewish? And in the early years the assumption was sooner or later we can either buy them out and send them off somewhere else, or if we can’t buy them out, we can push them out. Since the late 1960s the buy out option is plainly un-tenable. The Palestinians won’t be bought out. And the push out option is less and less tenable because international law and pressures of international public opinion won’t allow for a mass expulsion. So given that you can’t buy them out, you can’t push them out, the only other option is to confine them in smaller and smaller parcels of land, and keep as much of the land as you can for the Jewish State which is what Israel is currently doing. And I think they’re hoping that Palestinians will reach such a State of despair that quietly they’ll leave. That’s pretty much what happened in Lebanon. The Lebanese government banned Palestinian men from a large number of professions, I think it went up to something like 80 if my memory serves, and slowly but surely without any fanfare, Palestinian men left. And the official Palestinian refugee population in Lebanon, I believe it is, supposedly, half-a-million, the actual numbers are close to 200,000. Because, one way or another, by hook or by crook, Palestinian refugees found a way to get to Europe and elsewhere. And I suspect that Israel is hoping that that will happen with the Palestinians who they have confined in these, I hate the word ‘Cantons”, conjures up some notion of Switzerland and William Tell. They’re not cantons they’re Indian reservations, with the difference being that Indians have US citizenship.

CB: Finally Prof. Finkelstein, what do you see for the future both Israeli’s and Palestinians in regards to this conflict?

NF: I see no future. I think it’s totally bleak. Probably hopeless. But there is no certainty that it is hopeless and there is no certainty that it’s over. And unless there is a certainty, we should continue struggling.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Plunging Towards a Civil War?

Unfortunately, such reports as the one cited below are developing at a rapid pace; as the tit-for-tat skirmishes multiply, one cannot but recall the adage, 'united we stand, divided we fall'. It can only be hoped that the coming weeks will herald the return of stability and a renewed focus of energy towards enhancing the status quo in the Occupied Territories.

- posted by Lili, 21/05/2006

Fatah-Hamas tension raises specter of civil war

By Joshua Brilliant

UPI Correspondent

Published May 19, 2006

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Rival Palestinian security forces engaged in a late night gun battle in the heart of Gaza City heightening fears of a deterioration to civil war.

The fighting erupted at about midnight, Thursday, at a police station whose men reportedly answer to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah Party. The gunmen outside belonged to a new force formed by the new government composed of members of the radical Islamic Hamas.

Tension has risen this week as each side sent armed men into Gaza's streets.

There is a cold, brutal struggle for power over who will control the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the security apparatuses, said Israeli intelligence Brig. Gen. in the reserves Shalom Harari, a Fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism.

It was not immediately clear what had triggered the shootout.

Tawfiq Abu Khousa, the Interior and National Security Ministry's former spokesman who is now Fatah's spokesman, told United Press International that a Hamas patrol armed with rocket propelled grenades attacked policemen at the entrance to the police headquarters. They injured a policeman and later fired at a military vehicle, wounded its driver and stole the car. The policemen returned fire and wounded Hamas gunmen who were evacuated to an unknown destination to avoid arrest, Abu Khousa added.

The government's spokesman, Gazai Hamad, downplayed the incident's significance, blaming anonymous provocateurs.

There was no shooting between the force and the police," he added.

The shootout was, however, one more incident in a series of what Bir Zeit University political science professor Ali Jarbawi termed, "skirmishes."

Wednesday, for example, a member of Hamas' Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades was shot and killed while passing outside Abbas' residence in Gaza. The same day a bomb exploded at the entrance to the home of the director general of Border Crossings Col. Salim Abu Safeya, in Jabalya, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported.

Every day the situation becomes more and more explosive, Harari told UPI. In recent weeks the Israeli Navy caught three shipments of tons of TNT that fishermen tried to smuggle into Gaza. The price of TNT has risen there because demand had increased. It goes to both sides, he said.

Fatah has dominated Palestinian politics for nearly four decades. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, won 62.5 percent of the votes in the January 2005 presidential elections, far outstripping all his rivals. Hamas presented no candidate.

The Islamic movement, however, won a staggering victory in the January 2006 Legislative Council elections. It is one seat short of a two-thirds majority there.

Its victory was partly a result of a unique elections system in which each voter got two ballots. One was to elect his preferred list for 66 seats divided proportionally. The other was to choose the region's representatives on the basis of winners-take-all. In the race for the second batch of 66 seats Fatah members ran one against the other and Hamas benefited.

If one ignored the winner-take-all system then 41 percent of the voters favored Fatah and 45 percent Hamas, reckoned Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki.

Hamas was still ahead but not by that much. It failed to recruit coalition partners so if election system were different, Fatah might have formed the government.

All these calculations would be of minor significance in a country with an enshrined democratic tradition. The Palestinians are not there yet.

In recent weeks Abu Mazen moved to retain control over key security apparatus, notably the Preventive Security. Hamas failed to penetrate the Palestinian Authority's historical security systems and therefore established a parallel organization, Harari said.

The government described it as an auxiliary force of 3,000 men drawn from Hamas' Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Resistance Committees and even factions of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Interior Minister Saeed Siyam argued the regular security forces' weakness "Is clear to everyone. There is stealing, kidnapping and killing, so there is a real need for this (new) force."

"The force ...will put an end to efforts to portray the government as incapable of dealing with the security situation," he added.

The gunmen in camouflage uniforms appeared on the streets Wednesday, sometimes masked.

Abbas reacted swiftly. He ordered "members of all the security forces to deploy as rapidly as possible in Palestinian towns," an official at his office said according to the Palestinian Media Center.

"Mr. Abbas also told security force personnel to refuse any orders delivered by any authority but his own," the official added.

A cohort of bare-chested members of the Presidential Guard Thursday morning ran through Gaza's streets demonstrating support for Abu Mazen. Hamas' gunmen watched silently but that night the shootout erupted.

"The situation is crawling towards a civil war in the Gaza Strip," Harari said.

"I don't see any way out of it," Jarbawi maintained sadly.

Jarbawi predicted deterioration at the end of June, or July, when the economic crisis will deepen.

The government is bankrupt and failed, again, to pay salaries to some 165,000 employees. Since each working person feeds about eight people, according to the World Bank's latest report, the situation is extremely bad. Even if goods are available, people don't have the money to buy them.

Jarbawi's prediction tallies with one of the scenarios presented by Israeli Col. In the reserves, Moshe Elad, who had held senior positions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Elad predicted in "Economic pressure would simply 'not wait' for political developments to catch up and the Palestinian street would speak by generating total anarchy, 'every man to himself.' Under these circumstances street fighting, looting and pillaging could become the order of the day and the civil war that Palestinians are so concerned about would rage."

"It's bleak," said Jarbawi.

Matters could get out of hand much earlier, maintained Harari.

Friday, May 19, 2006

No Place for Non-Jews in Fortress Israel


In approving an effective ban on marriages between Israelis and Palestinians this week, Israel's Supreme Court has shut tighter the gates of the Jewish fortress the state of Israel is rapidly becoming. The judges' decision, in the words of the country's normally restrained Haaretz daily, was "shameful".

By a wafer-thin majority, the highest court in the land ruled that an amendment passed in 2003 to the Nationality Law barring Palestinians from living with an Israeli spouse inside Israel -- what in legal parlance is termed "family unification" -- did not violate rights enshrined in the country's Basic Laws.

And even if it did, the court added, the harm caused to the separated families was outweighed by the benefits of improved "security". Israel, concluded the judges, was justified in closing the doors to residency for all Palestinians in order to block the entry of those few who might use marriage as a way to launch terror attacks.

Applications for family unification in Israel invariably come from Palestinians in the occupied territories who marry other Palestinians, often friends or relatives, with Israeli citizenship. One in five of Israel's population is Palestinian by descent, a group, commonly referred to as Israeli Arabs, who managed to remain inside the Jewish state during the war of 1948 that established Israel.

As there is no principle of equality in Israeli law, human rights groups who challenged the government's 2003 amendment were forced to argue instead that it violated the dignity of the families. Mixed Israeli and Palestinian couples are not only unable to live together inside Israel but they are also denied a married life in the occupied territories, from which Israeli citizens are banned under military regulations.

Most of the judges, however, seemed incapable of grasping this simple point. In an earlier hearing, Justice Michael Cheshin suggested that mixed couples wanting to build a family "should live in Jenin", a Palestinian city in the West Bank besieged by Israeli military armour.

Cheshin again demonstrated an other-worldly logic this week when he justified the majority view of his colleagues: "Beyond this [measure] stands the state's right not to allow residents of an enemy country to enter its territory during time of war."

The problem is that the Palestinians are not another "country", enemy or otherwise; they are a people who have been living under Israeli military occupation for nearly four decades. As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for their welfare, though it has happily passed on that burden to international players with deeper pockets.

And the suggestion that the Palestinians, who have no army, are waging a war against Israel, one of the world's strongest military powers, expands the idea of war into the realms of doublespeak. Palestinians are resisting Israel's occupation -- some violently, others non-violently -- as they have a right to do under international law.

Few observers in Israel, however, believe that their government passed the law in 2003 on security grounds. Of the 6,000 Palestinians given residency rights in Israel during the Oslo period, a tiny number -- only 25 -- have been questioned on security-related matters, according to figures the government reluctantly published during the case. How many of this number were actually involved in attacks has still not been clarified.

The real reason for the law is to be found elsewhere. It springs from the same impulse that prompted Israel to "disengage" from the 1.3 million Palestinians of Gaza last year and is now spurring the government on to "consolidate" its West Bank settlement blocs behind a wall designed to annex Palestinian land but not the Palestinians themselves.

The ban on marriages and the drawing of final borders share a single guiding vision: one of maintaining Israel as a Jewish state with a "massive Jewish majority", as former prime minister Ariel Sharon phrased it shortly before the Gaza withdrawal.

Until it was amended, the family unification provision in the Nationality Law offered Palestinians in the occupied territories the sole route to Israeli citizenship. But if Israel is building its walls to establish an expanded Jewish state, an ethnic fortress, it is hardly going to leave the back door ajar to let Palestinians achieve what Israelis regard as a right of return, through marriage, to Israel.

The interior ministry has done much to fuel a demographic and racist hysteria by inflating the figures to suggest that more than 100,000 Palestinians from the occupied territories have gained Israeli citizenship through marriage in the past decade. In fact the real number is a few thousand.

If the judges were too embarrassed to admit that demographic concerns prompted the amendment to the Nationality Law, few others in Israel have been as reluctant. A Jerusalem Post editorial this week admitted the government's security arguments for the law were "weak", observing instead: "Israel is openly threatened with annihilation -- not just physically, by a potential Iranian nuclear capability, but demographically, by Palestinian claims of a 'right of return'."

Yoel Hasson of the ruling Kadima party hailed the court's decision as "a victory for those who believe in Israel as a Jewish state", while the immigration absorption minister, Zeev Boim, added: "We have to maintain the state's democratic nature, but also its Jewish nature. The extent of entry of [Palestinian spouses] into Israel's territories is intolerable."

The government's ban on family unification between Palestinians and Israelis is currently a temporary measure (of three years standing) but that is likely to change now that the court has given the law its blessing. This week justice minister Haim Ramon vowed to establish a new Basic Law that would permanently block entry to Palestinians, as well possibly as other non-Jews.

This is in line with the recommendations of the government-appointed Rubinstein Committee, under the chairmanship of Israel's foremost constitutional law expert Amnon Rubinstein, which has been preparing an immigration policy for non-Jews.

In its report, issued in February, the committee proposed draconian limitations on non-Jews' rights to Israeli citizenship through marriage. (All Jews, meanwhile, will continue to qualify for citizenship based on another piece of legislation, the overtly discriminatory Law of Return.)

According to Rubinstein's recommendations, Palestinians and inhabitants of "hostile" (read Arab) states who marry Israelis (read Israel's Palestinian citizens) will be banned from rights to either citizenship or residency in Israel.

Other non-Jewish spouses (read mainly Europeans and Americans) will face age and income requirements and be expected to affirm a loyalty oath -- not to Israel, but to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In keeping with current policy, non-Jews are unlikely to receive citizenship but may be eligible for residency rights.

As one seasoned Israeli observer, Shahar Ilan, commented in Haaretz: "It is doubtful that there are many issues that elicit such broad consensus in the [Israeli] political system as that of closing the gates to family unification [of non-Jews]."

Such changes will make Israel unlike any state we have seen in modern times. In 1980, at the height of apartheid in South Africa, the courts there refused to approve legislation much like Israel's ban on family unification, arguing that it contravened the right to a family life.

In Israel, on the other hand, faced with a new wave of racist legislation, no one -- not even the country's "liberal" Supreme Court ­ is prepared to safeguard the most basic rights of the land's native people.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is

Back to the fields CBC!

I sit alarmed at the fate of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), or rather, The Corporate Black Caucus.

At one point in its existence, the CBC stood as “the conscience of the congress.” But no more, when it first appeared upon the horizon in 1970 and over the next 30 years the CBC’s members consistently acted upon progressive legislation. Where as many in Congress often professed to be of a progressive mindset but voted differently, many of the CBC members voting records and their beliefs mirrored a consistent progressive view.

But now a dark cloud (pun intended) has befallen the CBC, cash. Corporate America has seized upon this once vibrant movement and pacified it with bling. The result has been a new look for the CBC with people like – Arthur Davis (AL), Denise Majette (GA), David Scott (GA) – and an influx of rightwing swing voters on key issues among senior members of the Caucus: Harold Ford (TN), Albert Wynn (MD), William Jefferson (LA), Sanford Bishop (GA), and Gregory Meeks (NY).

Although this is only a quarter of the representation of the CBC, their decision to side with corporate America while money for hurricane Katrina victims languished in committee, Haliburton cleaned up in Iraq, and for that matter Louisiana and Mississippi, and their seemingly lackluster stance on the Iraq war, has effectively neutered the CBC as a progressive force.

Increasingly when a few brave members speak out about issues that the CBC once would have stood behind (i.e. the Palestinian issue, gay marriage, pro choice and most recently, immigration), they are hushed back down as if they are children acting out in class.

For example, when Cynthia McKinney (GA) one of the most dynamic members of the Caucus stood for self-determination of the Palestinians and a complete withdrawal of Israel to the green line, the powerful Israeli lobby APIAC mounted support to vote her out of office. During the onslaught and maligning she received from the pro-Zionist AIPAC, nary a word was uttered from those in the CBC.

With a grassroots campaign McKinney managed to win her Georgia seat back. But when she returned, she wasn’t given back her seniority like other House Reps who had lost seats and won them back. Instead, Nancy Pelosi had her start all over again as a freshman congresswoman.

Again, no voices were heard from the CBC after this outrageous act.

We progressive Blacks in this country need to abandon the House Negro mentality (Yes I said it so what?), and move back towards our roots of advocating change. Not just for us, but all in America and the World. We need to have party members that want to make a difference for the people and not their pocket books.

For those of you unaware of the “House Negro” statement, let me give a brief history lesson.

During the period of slavery in this country there were basically two sorts of slaves the House Negro and the Field Negro. The House Negro was one who lived in the Master’s house. He dressed well and he ate well, albeit a scrap from the Master’s table, but it was better than what the field Negro had to endure.

The Field Negro toiled for long hours in the Sun tending to the master’s fields. Usually they arose before the crack of dawn for work, and normally worked well into the night. The food they ate wasn’t even fit for the animals on the farm. In fact, often times, animals ate better than they.

But the one thing the Field Negro had that the House Negro didn’t was pride and his/her refusal to submit to the way the power structure wanted them to. So when the Field Negro came to the one in the house and said “Hey let’s run away!” The House Negro would look at the one from the field like he was crazy and reply: “Runaway? Why? We have everything we need here.”

In fact, often, the House Negro would rat out the Field Negro to the overseer (who was another House Negro.) After which, the Field Negro could usually expect a whipping from his master or the overseer, depending on the situation.

We need to look towards more Cynthia McKinney’s, Barbra Lee’s, Charles Rangles’, John Lewis’, and John Conyers that reside in office. Encourage them to vote on issues that make this world better for all not for the privileged.

I know what you’re saying right now: “Brother man, we’ve made some serious in-roads to getting betterment for our people, but it takes time.”

How much time?!

If we as a people cannot see past our own narcissistic and myopic, I’m gonna get mine, attitude, then who are we really?

We have an obligation to speak out about the war in Iraq. Why not, the majority that are on the front lines are Black. We need to stand up for our Arab brothers and sisters. Remember, Blacks not only make up a high amount of the Christian population in this country, we also are one of the fastest growing Muslim populations.

The CBC was once a strong voice in American politics, it can be that again. Surely we don’t think that the corporate types care about us, do we?

This convergence back to our roots might mean a one-term situation for many in the CBC. But better to have one-term where one tried to make a difference for the better of all rather than an incumbent who sits back and lets the cash roll in from special interests groups and corporate lobbyists.

We need to call out the Barak Obama’s, and Mel Watts that merely serve as lapdogs for the power structures currently in place in government

I’m reminded of the words that Brother Malcolm once said on a television show about a Black man who said that what was happening to Black America at the time wasn’t so bad and that the Whites were finally beginning to accept us. Malcolm replied: “What do you think they call a Black man with a PhD from Yale? A nigguh, that’s what they call him!”

It’s time to clean out the House Negroes and put back the Field Negroes. We need the CBC to return to its roots in the field, toiling in the Sun not in the kitchen eating the crumbs off the table.