Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Peter Beinart

Israel is ‘becoming a full-blown police state,’ Reza Aslan says after interrogation at border

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Yesterday Peter Beinart, the liberal Zionist writer, disclosed that he had been detained at Ben Gurion airport on August 12 for an hour of questioning of his political opinions/activities.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly released an unprecedented statement saying the detention had been a mistake, and Beinart said he would accept Netanyahu’s apology only if he apologized to Palestinians who are subjected to far worse.

Many Zionists have responded angrily to the news by saying that the country is damaging itself in the eyes of the world by harassing left leaning Jews who want to visit.

And the Israeli attorney general says she is looking into the detention incidents.  

Today Reza Aslan, the bestselling writer on religion who was born in Iran and lives in LA, was moved by Beinart’s experience to tell his own story on twitter:

Peter’s experience has spurred me to share mine.

2 weeks ago, as I was crossing back into Israel from Jordan, I was separated from my family and detained by Shin Bet. “We can make it so you don’t see your kids for a long time” I was warned. This is what happened next.

The Shin Bet lady, who already knew everything about me and my family’s journey around the world, began with “You think because you’re a public person I can’t do whatever I want with you?” I was floored.

This is how interrogations begin in police states.

“Why do you hate Israel?” She asked. “I don’t hate Israel,” I replied. (And why don’t you Reza? Israel is behind prompting USA to carry out a pre-emptive war on Iran)

“But you hate our Prime Minister.” “I’m sorry that he is your Prime Minister?”

“He was democratically elected!” (No he wasn’t but let’s just drop that)

“So was Trump and I hate him and still love America.”

“Oh I know all about you and Trump,” she spat. I forgot the Israeli Right Wing’s affection for our racist Neo-Nazi loving president.

“You don’t think Israel should exist, yes?” That’s absurd. I’m against the occupation not Israel. (And how do you end the occupation Reza? By supporting the existence of colonial Israel?)

Then the police state part began in earnest.

Write down names of Palestinians you know

Write down names of journalists you associate with

Write down names of Palestinian organizations you support

And constantly, repeatedly, this threat: “if you don’t cooperate it will be a long time before you see your kids again.”

I tried to cooperate the best I could. It was 104 degrees.

My wife, my two 6yr olds, my 3yr old, and I my two elderly in-laws had been waiting for me in the sun for hours. But (again the police state tactic): every answer I gave she told me was lie. “Stop lying!” She’d yell.

The questions got dumber and more surreal:

“Who did your father work for in Iran?” I don’t know. I was 7 when we left

“Oh Mr Scholar! You can tell me everything about the Ottoman Empire but you don’t know your own father’s history?” For the record I am not an Ottoman scholar.

In the end, after hours of this, she warned “I may let you into Israel but, who knows, I may not let you out. I will keep you here and kick out your family. It depends on you. You would miss your kids, yes?”

That my friends is the classic police state trick. Iran has perfected it. (Iran of the Shah?)

Her final warning was Not to visit the Palestinian Territories.

Not to meet with or speak to any Palestinians or any Israeli trouble makers. “We are watching you.”

2 days later I went to Bethlehem, to the wall, and took this picture:

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Painting of Ahed Tamimi on Bethlehem wall, photo by Reza Aslan

Two days later, the Italian artist who painted this portrait of Ahed Tamimi was arrested and deported.

This was my 4th trip to Israel in ten years and every time it’s gotten worse. It’s becoming unrecognizable as a democracy. It is becoming a full-blown police state.

When I was released my evangelical in-laws were in shock. (The “Christian” evangelical movement in US is the staunchest supporter of Israel, no matter what: They want to believe the Second Coming won’t happens unless Jerusalem is totally Jewish)

“I had no idea it was like this,” they said. Now they do.

So do more Americans each day.

And if Israel loses them, who will continue to shield it from pressure to change course? The clock is ticking.

Addendum: Beinart managed to get out of detention quickly by calling on human rights attorney Gaby Lasky.

Lasky represents Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old Palestinian woman in the painting, who lives in the occupied village of Nabi Saleh and spent 8 months in prison recently for slapping an Israeli soldier.

It appears that Beinart’s case has already gotten as much attention as hers, and far more outrage; though of course Tamimi’s case is not that unusual.

Today Samidoun (Steadfast) released a report stating, “In July 2018, Israeli occupation forces arrested (administratively?) 520 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories, including 69 children, nine women and five journalists.”

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Bernie Sanders Campaign Suspends Jewish Outreach Coordinator for Vulgar Remarks About Netanyahu

By Jason Horowitz, Apr. 14, 2016

Note: Since when the terms“arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative.” are considered vulgar Mr. Sanders? And do you know that Sanders voted in Congress 1995 for Jerusalem to be Capital of Israel?

Updated, 12:22 a.m. | The Sanders campaign’s announcement on Tuesday that Simone Zimmerman would be its national Jewish outreach coordinator delighted her fellow left-wing Jewish political activists and encouraged their belief that public expressions of disgust with the Israeli government had edged into the acceptable mainstream of Democratic politics.

They might have been getting ahead of themselves.

On Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign suspended Ms. Zimmerman, 25, after revelations that she had used vulgarities in Facebook posts about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Hillary Clinton.

The suspension, hours before a Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn, made for an embarrassing misstep for Mr. Sanders, a secular Jew who, despite having lived briefly in Israel (How brief and for what purpose?) and being the most successful candidate of his faith in American history, is being pummeled by Mrs. Clinton among Jewish voters.

But the suspension was also an important moment in the small but deeply felt universe of Democratic Jewish politics, which has been torn apart on generational and ideological lines over the acceptable level of criticism of Israel’s right-wing government.

With Ms. Zimmerman’s history of opposition to Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, her hiring drew concerted and ultimately overwhelming pressure from American Jewish leaders.

Her suspension showed that when it came to the high stakes and intense scrutiny of presidential politics, the establishment’s view of Ms. Zimmerman and her brethren as dangerous radicals still held sway even with Mr. Sanders, a candidate promising a revolution.

The fact that he acted shows that obviously he didn’t think it was acceptable,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

A chorus of Jewish figures, including Abe Foxman, the president emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, had joined Mr. Hoenlein in calling for Ms. Zimmerman’s firing.

The final straw was a report on Wednesday in the Washington Free Beacon, which found a Facebook post in which she used a vulgarity and described Mr. Netanyahu as “arrogant, deceptive, cynical” and “manipulative.”

She then used more aggressive language and continued that he had “sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.” (If this allegation is wrong, sue her instead of hiding these facts under the carpet)

Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Mr. Sanders, wrote in an email, “She has been suspended while we investigate the matter.” (Yeah. Kind she committed a crime?)

After Mr. Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary in a landslide, Ms. Zimmerman also wrote triumphantly on Facebook, “The first Jew in history just won a primary, as a proud socialist calling for political revolution.” Then she criticized Mrs. Clinton and added a vulgarity.

Ms. Zimmerman declined to comment on her suspension, but supporters noted that she wrote the Facebook post about Mr. Netanyahu in March 2015, an emotionally charged time, when Mr. Netanyahu infuriated liberals across the United States by addressing Congress to argue against President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. (Context has no value in politics?)

“This is the American Jewish community eating its own,” said Peter Beinart, a mentor to Ms. Zimmerman and a leading voice in liberal Zionism. “Simone is the best of the best. Most of the other kids have given up on the community. She cares deeply and wants to make it live up to its own stated ideals.”

In an interview last year about the shifts in American Jewish politics, Ms. Zimmerman talked about how she had grown up in an active Jewish community and household in Los Angeles, with a grandparent who had fought for Israeli independence. Other relatives were killed in the Holocaust, she said.

After receiving training from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, Ms. Zimmerman entered the University of California, Berkeley, she said, with the intention of defending Israel. But she began doubting Israeli policies regarding the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, settlements, and what she viewed as the excessive use of military force.

She then became the national president of the student branch of J Street, a pro-Israel lobbying group that is critical of the Netanyahu government. She started a grass-roots movement of thousands of young Jews who sought to stop American Jewish groups from supporting Israeli policies in the occupied territories.

She protested in front of the offices of Mr. Hoenlein, among others.

“They claim to speak for the American Jewish community,” she said, adding that “young people make the establishment the most worried.”

But apparently the Sanders campaign, despite its popularity among young liberal voters who tend to agree with Ms. Zimmerman on the question of Israel, became worried, too.

A significant number of Jewish voters consider Ms. Zimmerman and her allies to be radicals, and the Sanders campaign, already facing a more than 30-point deficit among New York’s Jewish Democrats, according to a new NBC New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, took action.

In Thursday night’s debate, though, Mr. Sanders advocated a critical discussion of Israel that, while popular with his young liberal base, was unlikely to please the Jewish establishment figures who had sought to hold a common line on Israel in Democratic politics.

Mr. Sanders criticized Mrs. Clinton’s pro-Israel orthodoxy, called the Israeli army’s use of arms against Palestinians “disproportionate” and argued that “we have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

Ms. Zimmerman would have approved.

Find out what you need to know about the 2016 presidential race today, and get politics news updates via FacebookTwitter and the First Draft newsletter.

Correction: April 14, 2016
An earlier version of this article misstated Abe Foxman’s position with the Anti-Defamation League. He is a former national director of the group, not the current president.
 Well, that was fast.

I wonder if, when he hired her, he had ANY IDEA what he was stepping in. He just doesn’t seem that hip on the current state of Palestine/Israel discourse. He might have just thought she seemed like a nice girl with a good resume.

Then again, he has worked in Washington for quite a long time. How could he not know about the Israel lobby or its power or epic tetchiness? Maybe just because he’s kind of stayed out of the Israel question for the most part?

Both the hiring and the suspending raise many questions. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.

But I can say if I were running for president right now, I probably wouldn’t try to be ruffling any Israel lobby feathers at this point.

There’s no benefit in it right at this moment (especially in freaking New York), and there’ll be plenty of time for that battle once you’re in the Oval Office. (Like when? This state of horror has been going on for 7 decades. Trump just openly supported Israel and he won on other issues)

How American Jewish leaders are confronting anti-Muslim bigotry in the presidential race

Why restricting the issues to the Jewish leaders, and how the Jews in Israel respond to these corny questions?

Last Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who is running second in national pollssaid he did not consider Islam to be “consistent with the Constitution”

And thus “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

The previous Friday, a man in New Hampshire told Donald Trump, who is running first, that “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims,” then asked, “Can we get rid of them?” Trump’s reply: “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

this Sept. 22, 2015

When CNN asked fellow candidate Ted Cruz whether he agreed with the questioners’ sentiments, the Texas senator refused to answer. “The American people,” he explained, “are not interested in the food fight that reporters are trying to stir up.”

Candidate Rick Santorum would not answer either. “People are entitled to their opinions,” he declared, “whether I disagree with it or agree with it really isn’t the point. The point is that they have the right to say it.” (To their credit, candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham criticized Trump’s response).

As it happens, the last few weeks have also witnessed a spate of attacks on American Muslims and their houses of worship: a rock thrown through a mosque window in Nebraska, a burned cross on the lawn of a mosque in upstate New York, racist graffiti on a mosque in Tennessee.

And, most famously, the arrest of a Muslim high school student in Texas who brought his homemade clock to school.

Imagine for a second that this was happening to us. (He means the Jews)

What would American Jews be saying to each other if the man running second for a major party’s presidential nomination had just said that Jews were unfit for the presidency and Judaism was incompatible with the Constitution?

What would we be saying if three prominent presidential candidates refused to condemn the idea that American Jews constituted a “problem” that needed to be gotten “rid of?”

Imagine the mood in synagogue on Yom Kippur on the week these hateful, near-genocidal, anti-Semitic slurs were being broadcast across cable TV.

Then imagine that the same presidential candidates who trafficked in, or excused, anti-Semitism, adored Muslims and Islam. (Mind you that all these are hypothetical imaginations, meant to convince you otherwise)

Imagine if Cruz, while studiously avoiding synagogues, spoke frequently at American mosques.

Imagine if Trump boasted about the fact that his daughter had converted to Islam.

Imagine if polls showed that while only 47 percent of Republicans would vote for a Jew for president, 95 percent would vote for a Muslim.

If this were the America in which we lived, how would we want American Muslims to respond to their privilege and our demonization?

During the current epidemic of anti-Muslim bigotry, that’s the standard to which American Jews should be holding ourselves. And we’re not meeting it. It’s not even close.

Yes, American Jewish groups do sometimes criticize Islamophobia. (Very occasionally)

The Anti-Defamation League, to its credit, has called Carson’s comments “deeply troubling.”

But five years ago, when Muslims proposed building an Islamic Community Center near the World Trade Center, much of whose space would be devoted to interfaith dialogue, the ADL came out in opposition.

The organization has never apologized for so spectacularly betraying its mission of fighting bigotry. Abraham Foxman, who made the decision, remains the ADL’s National Director Emeritus.

The Zionist Organization of America regularly hosts speeches by Pamela Geller, a woman so fanatically anti-Muslim that she defends Josef Stalin’s deportation of Chechens and the Serbian genocide in Bosnia.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which rejected J Street’s application, considers ZOA a member in good standing.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s most prominent member is Sheldon Adelson, who has said all the world’s terrorists are Muslim, called Palestinians an “invented people” and proposed dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran. 

The American Jewish establishment should loudly denounce any politician who demonizes an entire religious group. But how can it do so when one of its biggest benefactors does the same thing?

American Jewish leaders cannot effectively confront the anti-Muslim bigotry marring the 2016 presidential race because they cannot effectively confront the anti-Muslim bigotry in their own ranks.

That’s not just a failure of moral courage. It’s a failure of moral imagination. It shouldn’t be hard for American Jews to imagine ourselves on the other side when politicians scapegoat a vulnerable minority.

But privilege can be a narcotic.

On Monday, after a weekend in which Trump and Carson’s hateful words dominated the news, the websites of the Presidents Conference, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of America, and AIPAC said nothing on the topic at all.

The message: It’s not our problem.

We claim to be a people with a long memory. Sometimes, sadly, it’s not long enough.

Note: In Israel, the extremist Jews have been bombing, and putting on fire the Mosques, and invading the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The Jews in Israel and elsewhere would also refuse to have a Moslem or a Christian be President of Israel. No different from the Islamic States. Or the European Christian States.

“Oh God! Here We Go Again” in Iraq

We marvel at the Big Brass Ones on some people who feel the need to offer their opinions about how the U.S. should conduct itself with regards to recent rise of extremist elements in the country and the loss of two of its major cities to al Qaeda.

David Ferguson published this June 13, 2014

The seven people who need to STFU about Iraq right now

These people seem to believe that their previous dire wrongness on everything about the topic of Iraq shouldn’t preclude them from opining about our nation’s current course of action, goodness no.

judymiller

Mika Brzeznski 

1. Andrew Sullivan, who has devoted any number of column inches lately to slamming the NeoCons and the war “they” advocated for. In a post today — the elegantly titled “The Neocons Get A War Chubby” — Sullivan roundly mocked and scolded re-interventionists, warning the country not to “sink the U.S. right back into the Iraqi quicksand.”

 

Sullivan has long-since disavowed the infamous 2001 column in which he said war critics might collude with al Qaeda to try and take down the U.S. from within, but it tends to linger on in the memory, much as forgotten sushi leftovers will leave behind their distinctive odeur to linger in that drawer in your refrigerator.

“The middle part of the country — the great red zone that voted for Bush — is clearly ready for war,” Sullivan wrote in the U.K.’s Sunday Times. “The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead — and may well mount a fifth column.”

We’ve got your “fifth column” right here, Andy. It’s in our pants.

2. Judith Miller, the Bush administration’s “humiliated and discredited shill” on WMDs was once thankfully banished to writing a household hints column for the West Egg Pennysaver — or something.

Nonetheless, on Friday, the reporter known as “the most infamous example of the press’s failure in the run-up to that war” was unflushably bobbing up on Fox News to discuss the media’s portrayal of Iraq as Irony let herself into the garage and started the car without opening the garage door and waited quietly for the end.

3. Thomas Friedman, the hot air specialist who rhapsodized in May of 2003 that American military might had rightly told the Iraqi people to “suck on this.”

When the Iraqis declined his offer and the occupation spiraled completely out of control, Friedman insisted over and over that the situation would stabilize in just 6 more months.

To commemorate this very special failure as a pundit and prognosticator, lefty wags created the Friedman Unit, a six month span of time in which nothing ever happens.

4. The New York Times seems to have conveniently forgotten how sad and diminished the Gray Lady looked locked out on the Bush administration’s porch in her bloomers, poor old thing.

Today, columnist Tyler Cowen lamented that the economy is suffering because we don’t have any major wars planned after forces come home from Afghanistan at the end of the year.  Peace, the libertarian fretted, is bad for business.

Funny they should endorse war as an economic engine right as Iraq appears to be shitting its bed and playing with matches in a fireworks store. I mean, what are the odds?

5. The whole of the so-called Juicebox Mafia. The lines of that particular claque have expanded and contracted to include Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias and a passel of other Beltway post-teens who were so excited they got to sit at the big kids’ table they forgot that they didn’t know jack shit about foreign policy and endorsed a war of choice in one of the most volatile regions of the world, wheeee! What could go wrong? We’re smart! And cute!

A big, preemptive “Shut it!” goes out to Peter Beinart who, in January, 2003, joined the National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg in a CNN panel discussion in which the two giggled and leered over accusations that U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter was a child molester because of allegations that he had communicated over the Internet with a 16-year-old girl.

“I think that he didn’t have any credibility to begin with,” said Beinart of Ritter. “I mean, this is the guy who never really explained, as Jonah said, why he flipped 180 degrees and became a Saddam mouthpiece. So for me it’s irrelevant. I never listened to what he had to say on Iraq to begin with.”

“He’s now just basically joined Pete Townsend on the Magic School Bus,” Beinart continued. “Pete Townsend of the WHO has also been implicated in child porn and things of that nature. But as everybody said, Ritter’s credibility, just on the basics of Iraq, was completely shot and now there’s even less reason to listen to him.”

Scott Ritter’s alleged crime? Pointing out that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any WMDs and that a U.S. invasion was a bad idea.

6. Ari Fleischer, one of the most pugnacious, pugilistic, and sometimes breathtakingly condescending White House press secretaries in history.

Fleischer functioned as a lying administration’s able mouthpiece both here and in the combat zone and served the unlikely function in life of making fellow Bush administration shill Dan Senor seem almost non-slimy.

Fleischer piped up on Twitter Friday morning to simultaneously absolve the Bush administration of blame and passive aggressively accuse the Obama administration of squandering gains made by his own masters. Trouble is, he got the year wrong.

“Regardless of what anyone thinks about going into Iraq in 2002,” he tweeted — apparently forgetting that the first bombing raids began in March of 2003, “it’s a tragedy that the successes of the 2007 surge have been lost & abandoned.”

Bush administration folks are still around, apparently, to remind us in the reality-based community that facts is HARD and stuff.

7. John McCain, you angry, corn-teethed fossil.

You’ve never met a foreign conflict that didn’t require MOAR U.S. TROOPS, have you? At least you’re consistent, after a fashion. Oh, who are we kidding, you’re not consistent at all about anything that might score you some political points and get you on TV!

Things didn’t go super well for you on Morning Joe on Friday, though, did they? Impeccably-coiffed refrigerator magnet Mika Brzeznski actually woke up from her boredom-induced coma and called you out right to your face, didn’t she, old man?

“What about going [into Iraq] in the first place, and what about churning the hate, and what about taking the Sunnis out of leadership positions in 2003, what about the fact that there might have been some parts of this that were on the previous administration that might be litigated as well?” Brzezinski said.

Then she went on to ask the question everyone in the country should be asking, why does anyone listen to you anyway? If we’d taken your advice, she said, we’d be knee-deep in Syria right now.

“So we’re going to be in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then we’re also going into Syria, in your estimate?” she asked. “I mean, I’m just wondering how long can we do this? How long can we do this? How long can you ask this of American troops and think it’s okay?”

She’s right, John. You’re like a jumped-up rich boy with no real capital of his own who’s bellied up to the blackjack table blowing every single penny of his wife’s money just to catch that fleeting winner’s high.

Oh, no, wait, that’s exactly what you really are, isn’t it?

Or, as TBogg so eloquently observed, “Hush you guys. The guy who thought Sarah Palin would make a good vice-president is explaining to us what we should do in Iraq.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.

 

“Zionism in crisis”? Is that still of any surprise?

David Shulman posted on May 9, 2012 “Israel in Peril” and he reviewed Peter Beinart’s book “The Crisis of Zionism(with slight editing):

“On April 15 of this year, I was returning to Israel on an Alitalia flight from Rome. About forty minutes before landing in Tel Aviv, the captain informed us that Israel had announced extraordinary security measures, constricting its air space in response to an unusual threat, and that from that moment on—we were still high above the Mediterranean—until we would be allowed to leave the terminal, all photography was strictly forbidden. We were to follow the instructions of Israeli security personnel on the ground.

My first thought was that Benjamin Netanyahu had decided to attack Iran, because of the seeming movement in the preceding days toward an effective and acceptable peaceful solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear project. On second thought, I decided that such an attack was still somewhat unlikely. So what was going on?

Upon landing we were diverted to the old, by now outmoded Terminal 1. After passport control, we were taken by buses to the new Terminal 3. There were police and border police everywhere and in large numbers. We soon saw them arresting a demonstrator and forcing him into a police van.

At this point it dawned on me that the extraordinary menace from the skies had to do with the arrival in Israel of a few dozen peace activists from Europe. They were trying to reach Bethlehem in the Palestinian territories in order to protest against human rights abuses by Israel.

In this photo, Zionist colons and army soldiers are maiming a Palestinian kid

These protesters clearly provided reason enough to call out the armed forces, as if a violent invasion were taking place. Some fifty were arrested; two managed to slip through the cordon and reach Bethlehem. Government spokesmen that evening proudly spoke of having warded off a threat of almost existential proportions. Their satisfaction was marred only by the fact that the TV news that day was full of one of those incidents that reveal in a flash the violent reality of the occupation.

Shalom Eisner, deputy commander of the army brigade stationed in the Jordan Valley and a settler himself, was filmed brutally, and without provocation, smashing a Danish peace activist in the face with his rifle. The ugly and horrifying scene was broadcast dozens of times.
 
I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen the likes of it rather often in demonstrations in East Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah, Ras al-Amud, Silwan) and in peace actions in the territories. Eisner has since been temporarily relieved of his command. If earlier cases are of any indication, he will probably be reinstated after a couple of  years in another post. Interviewed after the incident, he gave an honest statement of his moral stature: “Maybe it was a professional mistake to use the gun when there were cameras around.”1

Why should a handful of harmless demonstrators elicit so severe a reaction? Netanyahu, in his official announcement, said that if these people were so concerned with human rights, they should check out the situation in Syria, Gaza, or Iran—as if such sites of egregious abuse relieved Israel of any responsibility for what is going on day by day in the occupied territories.

The same logic—that of the endless war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness—underlies Netanyahu’s constant dwelling on the Holocaust in relation to Iran. Like many Israelis, he inhabits a world where evil forces are always just about to annihilate the Jews, who must strike back in daring and heroic ways in order to snatch life from the jaws of death.

I think that, like many other Israelis, Netanyahu is in love with such a world and would reinvent it even if there were no serious threat from outside.

Buried somewhere inside all this is a bad Israeli conscience about the treatment of Palestinians since 1948—a conscience repressed but still somehow alive (perhaps not in Netanyahu).

The rationalizing vision pasted over that bad conscience, a vision simple-minded, self-righteous, dangerous, and immoral, underlies the dilemma that Peter Beinart has eloquently and bravely stated in The Crisis of Zionism. Peter articulates it as a conflict, very familiar by now, between liberal, democratic values and a proto-racist, atavistic nationalism.

This conflict has created two Jewish States in the Middle East. As Beinart says, “To the west [of the Green Line, the pre-1967 border], Israel is a flawed but genuine democracy. To the east, it is an ethnocracy.”

By “ethnocracy is a place where Jews enjoy citizenship and Palestinians do not”. It is a mini-state run by settlers, some of them violent and fanatical, that disenfranchises a huge Palestinian population and continually appropriates Palestinian land in the interests of expanding and further entrenching the colonial project of the settlements. Inevitably, the ethos of the occupation, now in its 45 year, spills westward over the Green Line: “Illiberal Zionism beyond the green line destroys the possibility of liberal Zionism inside it.”

The evidence for this observation is overwhelming; Beinart discusses recent research that shows a dangerous erosion in the commitment by ordinary Israelis to basic democratic values and the concomitant rise of hypernationalist, racist, and totalitarian tendencies, some of them well represented in the ultra-right parties in the Knesset and in the current Israeli cabinet.

In the last year, we’ve seen a spate of antidemocratic, “ethnocratic” legislation all too reminiscent of dark precedents in the history of the last century.

We could describe simply what is happening as a takeover by the settler mini-state of the central institutions of the Israeli state system as a whole.

By now, Israeli policy is almost entirely mortgaged to the settler enterprise: almost every day brings some new, inventive scheme to legalize existing “illegal outposts” in the territories and to facilitate the appropriation of more and more Palestinian land.2 

The inevitable result of such policies is the imminent demise of the so-called “Two-State solution,” which would put a Palestinian state by the side of pre-1967 Israel (with whatever minor revisions of the old boundary the two sides would agree upon in negotiations).

By now, a huge portion of the West Bank has, in effect, been annexed, perhaps irreversibly, to Israel. No State can be constituted on the little that remains. I will return to this question.

Even apart from the disastrous political consequences of current Israeli policy, it is critical to recognize that what goes on in the territories is not a matter of episodic abuse of basic human rights, something that could be corrected by relatively minor, ad hoc actions of protest and redress. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The occupation is systemic in every sense of the word. The various agencies involved—government bureaucrats and their ministries and budgets, the army, the blue-uniformed civilian police, the border police, the civil administration (that is, the official Occupation Authority), the courts (in particular, the military courts in the territories, but also Israeli civil courts inside the Green Line), the host of media commentators who toe the government line and perpetuate its regnant mythologies, and so on—are all inextricably woven into a system whose logic is apparent to anyone with firsthand experience of it.

That logic is one of protecting the settlement project and taking the land. The security aspect of the occupation is, in my view, close to trivial; were it a primary goal, the situation on the ground would look very different.

Take a few routines, typical examples, drawn at random from an endless series.

In mid-January the civil administration sent its bulldozers, accompanied by soldiers, to demolish the ramshackle hut of Halima Ahmad al-Hadhalin, a Palestinian widow with 9 orphaned children living in the deeply impoverished site of Umm al-Kheir, adjacent to the large and constantly expanding settlement of Carmel in the south Hebron hills.

The bureaucrats claimed that the shack was built without a permit, which is no doubt true: Palestinians living in the West Bank “Area C” (Zone C) is under full Israeli control, only very rarely receive a permit to build from the committee, largely composed of settlers, that oversees such requests.

I saw Halima on January 28, on a freezing rainy day.  She was standing barefoot, still shocked and traumatized, in a neighbor’s tent. Such demolitions happen regularly at Umm al-Kheir and have nothing whatever to do with the rule of law; they are part of a malevolent campaign to make life as miserable as possible for the Palestinians there (who, incidentally, claim credibly to own the land on which Carmel sits today) in the hope that they will go away.

Precisely the same line of reasoning applies to a wave of demolition orders issued in February of this year against the project of electrification and the building of energy infrastructures in a set of some sixteen tiny Palestinian khirbehs spread over the south Hebron hills. The shepherds and small-scale farmers in this region live in caves, tents, or shacks, in abject poverty.

Volunteers and peace activists with technical know-how such as Noam Dotan and El’ad Orian, from the organization known as Comet-Me, have painstakingly built wind turbines and basic electric grids in many of these villages to serve a population of some 1,500 people.

The immediate change in the quality of life in this harsh region was dramatic.  My friend Ali Awwad from Tuba, proudly turning on a light bulb in the cave he inhabits, said to me, “For the first time in my life, I feel like a complete human being.”3 

Can these minimal infrastructures, entirely benevolent in intention and effect, funded mainly by European donors at the level of hundreds of thousands of euros,4 constitute a threat of any sort to Israel?

Apparently, they can. The civil administration is keen on destroying them, once again on the flimsy excuse that they were put in place without permits—as if a request for a permit would have been forthcoming.5 

Several electric pylons have already been destroyed and electric wires, undoubtedly worthy targets for the Israeli army, have been cut in some six villages. Pressure from European governments, especially Germany, has stayed the new demolition orders for the moment, but the danger that the bulldozers will turn up when opportunity arises remains very real.

Could the courts stand as a bulwark against such arbitrary acts by the authorities or the more severe instances of outright theft or violent attack by settlers? Occasionally, they do. In general, however, no Palestinian has the slightest chance of finding justice in an Israeli military court, and very few indeed have been justly treated in the civil courts over the last forty years.

Any case having to do with an attempt to establish or maintain Palestinian ownership over lands taken for settlement is, ipso facto, unlikely to end in a decision that goes against the settlers or the government, although there have been some exceptions to this gloomy conclusion. Palestinians who protest against the occupation and the loss of village lands are treated harshly, sometimes imprisoned for long periods, sometimes killed in the course of the demonstrations.6

It is such matters that make Beinart’s deliberately understated description of the occupation seem, from a local perspective in Israel-Palestine, far too mild. His book is clearly addressed in the first instance to an American audience, one perhaps not fully aware of the real situation inside the Palestinian territories.

The tone of the book is polemical, as one might expect: inevitably, Beinart has been bitterly attacked as naive—the worst, also the cheapest insult in the lexicon of those who defend Israeli policies—and as oblivious to the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.7 He is, in fact, all too aware of those complexities, far more so than many who claim to speak to or for American Jews (most of whom, as Beinart points out, have probably never met a living Palestinian).

Beinart mainly focuses on the situation as it is today, under this particular American president and this particular Israeli government. Possibly the most revealing part of the book is the detailed and persuasive description of the political maneuvers that allowed Netanyahu to humiliate Obama repeatedly, first over the issue of a freeze on settlements, and later in Congress, in 2010–2011.

The settlement freeze, in which the Obama administration had invested considerable effort, pressure, and prestige, was never more than a sham; according to the reliable count by Peace Now, construction of new housing units in the territories in 2010, the year of the “freeze,” was only slightly lower than in 2009 (1,712 units as opposed to 1,920).

In March 2010, on the day that Vice President Biden arrived in Jerusalem, the Israeli government announced that it was nearly doubling construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo—an obvious and probably calculated insult to the administration.

Even more outrageous was Netanyahu’s arrogant response to a key speech of Obama’s on May 19, 2011, in which the president stated clearly that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.” Netanyahu announced that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of US commitments made to Israel in 2004”—including acceptance by America of the annexation by Israel of huge chunks of Palestinian land in the so-called “settlement blocs.”

Note the word “expects,” as if Netanyahu were dictating to a submissive president what the latter should or should not say. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on May 24, 2011, a pastiche of myth and demagogic rhetoric of the extreme right, remained faithful to this tone, which Congress shamefully applauded.

Sadly, Beinart shows how Obama has consistently given in to pressure from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby and other American Jewish establishment voices. He gives a withering critique of the leadership of central American Jewish institutions, by now blindly and rather crudely identified with the Israeli right and the Netanyahu line; he quotes Keith Weissman, formerly on the AIPAC staff, as saying that already in the mid-1990s dominant figures there “were sucking at the teat of Likud.”

 Beinart shows that this orientation, with its visceral aversion to the very idea of a free Palestinian state and its enthusiasm for the occupation, now largely dominates the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, the Presidents’ Conference, and a large part of the Orthodox rabbinical establishment as well.

Orthodox hypernationalism and its sometimes violently antidemocratic, even racist voices partly account for Beinart’s pessimistic prognosis for mainstream American Judaism and its relation to Israel.8 Beinart fears “American Zionism will become the province of people indifferent to liberal democratic ideals, and the American Jews most committed to those ideals will become indifferent, at best, to the Jewish State.”9 

He cites studies showing that younger non-Orthodox American Jews, conspicuously liberal in their values and politics, are less and less attached to Israel. Here is the American Jewish version of the conflict I have described in Israel between democratic ideals and tribal nationalism. Both my grandfathers, like most American Jews of their generation, at once Rooseveltian Democrats committed to strong notions of social justice and ardent Zionists, would have been horrified by what has happened in Israel and by the consequent need for American Jews to make such a choice.

shulman_2-060712.jpgJack Guez/AFP/Getty ImagesPalestinian children walking past Israeli border policemen standing guard near a Palestinian house taken over by Jewish settlers in the center of Hebron, April 3, 2012

The book has a welcome pragmatic thrust to it, reflecting the urgency—and the immense difficulty—of generating change, but here again Beinart’s recommendations seem to me rather limited.10 He wants to strengthen liberal Jewish education in the US and to expand its funding basis; no one could take exception to this plea, though its potential effects on Israeli policy may be decades away.

More immediately, Beinart recommends a boycott by American Jews of products coming from Israeli settlements in the territories. This may seem a bold step in New York or Philadelphia, given the current climate in American synagogues and other Jewish institutions, though many of us have been doing it for years, publicly or silently, to no great effect.

I once threw a fit in a well-known Jerusalem restaurant when it turned out that they had in stock only wine produced by settlers or in wineries located in the territories. The owner eventually appeared and apologized profusely, promising that in future he’d have a wider selection. That’s about as far as we’ve got, although there is at least one case—that of the Barkan wineries—where pressure from outside, probably mostly from Europe, apparently led to the closure of the main production unit on the West Bank, near Banu Hassan.

Lest this example inspire inflated hopes, I should add that, according to recent studies, many if not most Israeli wineries process grapes grown in settlements.

By now, targeting settlers’ produce has a slightly anachronistic feel to it. Does it make sense to focus on wine from Hebron or milk products from the Susya dairy when the entire Israeli political system sustains the colonial project in the territories?

I should make it clear that I oppose the call for an across-the-board boycott of Israel, and in particular for an academic-cultural boycott, which, in my view, can only be counterproductive, strengthening the prevalent paranoid mythology and its strident spokesmen on the right. Although I spend a portion of my time in often quixotic gestures in the south Hebron hills, in general I’m not fond of the ineffectual.

What is needed is something far more effective—perhaps something that a second-term Democratic president could achieve if he had the courage to confront the stranglehold of AIPAC on American politics, partly described by Beinart. In the meantime, we could use the kind of idealistic and hardheaded volunteers whom Arnold Wolf, the charismatic liberal rabbi who was one of Obama’s mentors in Chicago, took to Selma, Alabama, during the civil rights struggle.

We need volunteers on the West Bank, to protect innocent Palestinian civilians from marauding settlers and the soldiers who invariably back the settlers up. Even a few hundred people would make a real difference.

But it may already be too late. Analysts like Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, have been saying for years that the idea of the two-state solution is no more than a fig leaf, to which both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships pay lip service, hiding the recalcitrant reality of what is already a single state between the Jordan River and the sea.

At the moment, this single state, seen as a whole, fits Beinart’s term—a coercive “ethnocracy.” Those who recoil at the term “apartheid” are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as “Bantustans.”

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they’re anything remotely like a “solution” to Israel’s Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down. In an optimistic version of the future, we may be left with some sort of confederated model that is more than one state but somehow less than two—and in which the Jews will soon become a minority.

I do not see how that can happen without a struggle, hopefully nonviolent at least to some degree, in which Palestinians claim for themselves the rights that other peoples have achieved.

How did we reach this point? Why do Israelis cling to a policy so evidently irrational, indeed suicidal? The simple—too simple—answer is: we’re afraid. We’ve been so traumatized, first by our whole history and then by the history of this conflict, that we want at least an illusion of security, like the kind that comes from holding on to a few more rocky hills.

Never mind that every inch of Israel is within range of tens of thousands of missiles currently stationed in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza, not to mention Iran, and that a few more square kilometers make no difference to that threat. We’ll still take over those West Bank hills, and we’ll even put a few rickety caravans on them for anyone crazy enough to want to live there, and we’ll station a few dozen bored soldiers on top of each of them and all around them, and we’ll connect them to the Israeli electricity grid and the water system, and we’ll build a big perimeter fence to enclose the new settlement and to provide land for it to grow on (usually many times the size of the settlement itself).

The land happens to belong to Palestinians, but that, clearly, is a consideration of no relevance here.

The fears of Israelis are no doubt real enough, and a generous interpretation of Israeli policy over the last four decades would give them due emphasis. As Ali Abu Awwad, one of the leaders of the new generation of Palestinian nonviolent resisters, often says: “The Jews are not my enemy; their fear is my enemy.

We must help them to stop being so afraid—their whole history has terrified them—but I refuse to be a victim of Jewish fear anymore.” He’s right to refuse. But I think the reality we inhabit and have largely created by our own actions has more to do with the story we Israelis tell ourselves about who we are—a powerfully dramatic story that, like many such mythic stories, has a way of perpetuating itself, at continually escalating cost to those who tell it. This story more and more coincides with the primitive Netanyahu narrative I mentioned earlier.

To get away from it, we need to recognize certain primary facts, however uncomfortable they may be for some of us. As has been the case in the past, there are always easily available diversions and distractions that mask the true basis of the ongoing struggle; in Israel today, the main such diversion is called “Iran.”

Along with such distractions we have the Israeli refusal to see the present Palestinian leadership in Ramallah for what it is, a more than adequate partner for Israel. Those who don’t agree should be thinking about men such as Marwan Barghouti, still biding his time in an Israeli jail. He’s no saint, to be sure, but he enjoys enormous authority among Palestinians, and he knows very well what is required to strike a deal.

There is good reason to believe that Marwan wants such a deal, along the lines that are by now recognized as reasonable by a majority on both sides of the conflict and, indeed, by most other nations. He has recently published a strong statement calling for mass nonviolent resistance in the territories and an end to the farce of a negotiating “process” that has allowed Israel to stall endlessly—and to hide its deeply rooted hostility to the very idea of coming to some form of agreement with the Palestinian national movement.

This profound antipathy to making a meaningful peace will undoubtedly continue to dominate the present Israeli government, now expanded by the entry of the Kadima party into the coalition. Kadima presents itself as “centrist” but is, in fact, hardly distinguishable from the Likud, from which it seceded under Sharon’s leadership, when it comes to Palestinian matters. The new cabinet will continue to entrench the occupation and to legalize the massive theft of Palestinian lands while loudly complaining that the Palestinians are responsible for the collapse of negotiations.

It is worth stating the self-evident truths: at the core of this conflict there are two peoples with symmetrical claims to the land. Neither of the two has any monopoly on being “right,” and each has committed atrocities against the other. One of these two sides is, however, much stronger than the other. Until the national aspirations of the weaker, Palestinian side are addressed and some sort of workable compromise between the two parties is achieved—until the occupation as we know it today comes to an end—there will be no peace. It is impossible to keep millions of human beings disenfranchised for long and to systematically rob them of their dignity and their land.

To prolong the occupation is to ensure the emergence of a single polity west of the Jordan; every passing day makes a South African trajectory more likely, including the eventual, necessary progression to a system of one person, one vote. Thus the likelihood must be faced that unless the Occupation ends, there will also, in the not so distant future, be no Jewish state.

How democracy fair in theocratic States? Such as Iran and Israel?

published on March 12, 2012 a piece titled “Threatened“. I decided to post it with minor editing since I had posted several articles on that topic.

“Democracy is, at best, an ambition, a State of becoming. In America, it took generations for blacks, women, gays, and lesbians to win the rights of citizenship. In many instances these rights remain incomplete. (Various contenders for the Presidency are now competing to scale back such rights.)

The 21st century began with a fraudulent Presidential election (Bush Junior). And this is maybe in the luckiest of nations. Elsewhere—in Russia, in Hungary, in Zimbabwe—the fragility of democratic aspiration is a brutal fact of history.

To revisit the Arab Spring, one year later, is to celebrate popular awakening but also to acknowledge the distance between the ecstasy of rebellion and the realization of democratic institutions.

For example, in Egypt, autocratic military officers vie for power with varying shades of Islamists. In the Persian Gulf, absolute monarchs and emirs stifle potential protest with petro-lush money, and massive incarceration of protesters.

There is another State in the region that is embroiled in a crisis of democratic becoming. This is the State of Israel.

For decades, its Jewish citizens have described their country as the only democracy in the Middle East. Israel, as imagined by Theodor Herzl and built by the generation of David Ben-Gurion, was not intended to be a replica of the Anglo-American model—its political culture, even now, is closer to that of the European social democracies. Israel structures of governance are points of pride.

And yet, as an experiment in Jewish power, unique after two millennia of persecution and exile, Israel has reached an impasse. An intensifying conflict of values has put its democratic nature under tremendous stress.

When Israel government speaks daily about the existential threat from Iran, and urges an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, it ignores the existential threat that looms within. Reactionary elements lurk in many democracies. Ask the Dutch, the British, the Austrians, the French. The Republican Party has flirted with several in this election cycle.

But in Israel the threat is especially acute. And the concern comes not only from its most persistent critics. The former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have both warned of a descent into apartheid, xenophobia, and isolation.

The political corrosion begins with the occupation of the Palestinian territories—the subjugation of Palestinian men, women, and children—that has lasted for 65 years.

Peter Beinart, in a forthcoming polemic, “The Crisis of Zionism,” is just the latest critic to point out that a profoundly anti-democratic, racist political culture has become endemic among much of the Jewish population in the West Bank, and jeopardizes Israel proper.

The explosion of settlements, encouraged and subsidized by both Labor and Likud governments, has led to a large and established ethnocracy (theocracy?) that thinks of itself as a permanent frontier. In 1980, twelve thousand Jews lived in the West Bank, “east of democracy,” as termed by Beinart. Currently, they number more than 300,000, and include Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s wildly xenophobic Foreign Minister.

Lieberman has advocated the execution of Arab members of parliament who dare to meet with leaders of Hamas. His McCarthyite allies call for citizens to swear loyalty oaths to the Jewish State, for restrictions on human-rights organizations, like the New Israel Fund, and for laws constricting freedom of expression.

Herzl envisioned a pluralist Zionism in which Rabbis would enjoy “no privileged voice in the state.” These days, emboldened fundamentalists flaunt an increasingly aggressive medievalism. There are sickening reports of ultra-Orthodox men spitting on schoolgirls whose attire they consider insufficiently demure, and demanding that women sit at the back of public buses.
Elyakim Levanon, the chief rabbi of the Elon Moreh settlement, near Nablus, says that Orthodox soldiers should prefer to face a “firing squad” rather than sit through events at which women sing, and has forbidden women to run for public office, because “the husband presents the family’s opinion.
Dov Lior, the head of an important West Bank rabbinical council, has called Baruch Goldstein—who, in 1994, machine-gunned 29 Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Hebron—“holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.” Lior endorsed a book that discussed when it is right and proper to murder an Arab, and he and a group of kindred rabbis issued a proclamation proscribing Jews from selling or renting land to non-Jews.
Men like Lieberman, Levanon, and Lior are scarcely embittered figures on the irrelevant margins: a hard-right base—the settlers, the ultra-Orthodox, Shas, the National Religious Party—is indispensable to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

A visitor to Tel Aviv and other freethinking precincts might overlook the reactionary currents in the country, but poll after poll reveals that many younger Israelis are losing touch with the liberal, democratic principles of the state. Many of them did their military duty in the Occupied Territories; some learned to despise the Occupation they saw firsthand, but others learned to accept the official narratives justifying what they were made to do.

Last year, a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 51% of Israelis believed that people “should be prohibited from harshly criticizing the State of Israel in public.” (see note) Netanyahu encourages the notion that any such criticism is the work of enemies. Even the country’s staunchest ally, the United States, is not above suspicion.

The current US Administration has cooperated with Israeli intelligence to an unprecedented extent and has led a crippling sanctions effort against Iran. And yet, Netanyahu on visit to Washington this week, has shown imperious disdain for Barack Obama.

In fact, President Obama is a philo-Semite, whose earliest political supporters were Chicago Jews: Abner Mikva, Newton and Martha Minow, Bettylu Saltzman, David Axelrod. He was close to a rabbi on the South Side, the late Arnold Jacob Wolf. But to Netanyahu these men and women are the wrong kind of Jew.

Arnold Jacob Wolf, for example, had worked for Abraham Joshua Heschel, the rabbi most closely associated with the civil-rights movement and other social-justice causes. Wolf brought Martin Luther King, Jr., to speak in his synagogue, marched in Selma, and, in 1973, helped found Breira (Alternative), one of the first American Jewish groups to endorse a Palestinian State in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu has distaste for such associations; his gestures toward Palestinian statehood are less than half-hearted. For example, after Netanyahu spoke of giving Palestinians their own state, his father, the right-wing historian Benzion Netanyahu, shrewdly observed: “My son supports it under conditions that they will never accept.

To Netanyahu, the proper kind of ally is exemplified by AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson who owns a newspaper in Israel, a longtime casino tycoon, and recent bankroller of Newt Gingrich and Sheldon daily devoted to supporting him.

Netanyahu knows that young American Jews are split, with the growing Orthodox community solidly in his corner, and the less observant and secular majority—a majority that is increasingly assimilated and uninterested in Jewish learning—losing their attachment to Israel. The Prime Minister clearly feels that the fervor of the few offers him more than the disillusion and drift of the many.

Obama said: “The dream of a Jewish and democratic State cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.” Netanyahu and many of his supporters believe otherwise: too often, they consider the tenets of liberal democracy to be negotiable in a game of coalition politics. Such short-term expedience cannot but exact a long-term price: this dream, and the process of democratic becoming, may be painfully, even fatally, deferred”. End of quote

Is Iran democratic? “Citizens” go to the poll and elect the “qualified” candidates as selected by the highest Shari3a council.  So what if in Iran there is a unique Wali Fakih (supreme guide, religiously and civil)? Would several wali fakihs, such as witnessed in Israel within each Jewish sect, a better alternative theocratic institution? Is democracy conducted within wali fakihs circles?

Note: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/israel-2011-less-democratic-and-far-more-sectarian-by-antoine-shalhat/

Fairer view on the Palestinian rights and cause: The Economist butts in

On May 17th, The Economist published the article “Here comes your non-violent resistance“. I will repost it with a few editing, and add a few comments.

“For many years, we’ve heard American commentators bemoan the violence of the Palestinian national movement.  They would say “If only Palestinians had learned the lessons of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, they’d have had their recognized State long ago”.

Or the American commentators would say: “Surely, no Israeli government would have violently suppressed a non-violent Palestinian national liberation movement, seeking only the universally recognised right of self-determination”.

Palestinian commentators and organizers, including Fadi Elsalameen and Moustafa Barghouthi, have spent the last couple of years pointing out that these complaints resolutely ignore the actual and growing Palestinian non-violent resistance movement.

The first intifada, which broke out in 1987, was initially as close to non-violent as could be reasonably expected. For the most part, it consisted of general strikes and protest marches. In addition, there was a fair amount of kids throwing rocks, and a few continuing threat of low-level terrorism, mainly from organisations based abroad. the Israelis conflated the autochthonous protest movement with “terrorism” and responded brutally.  The first intifada quickly lost its non-violent character.

It is not that different from what has happened over the past couple of months in Libya: It shows that it’s very hard to keep a non-violent movement going non-violent, as the government you’re demonstrating against, subjects you to gunfire for a sustained period of time.

In any case, if you’re among those who have made the argument that Israelis would give Palestinians a State if only the Palestinians would learn to employ Gandhi tactics of non-violent protest, it appears your moment of truth has arrived.  What happened on Nakba Day (the day Israel chased out the Palestinians from their villages and homes to seek refuge in the neighboring States) was Israel’s “nightmare scenario”:  Masses of Palestinians marching (from all the bordering States to Israel), unarmed, towards the borders of the Jewish State, demanding the redress of their decades-old national grievance.”

Peter Beinart writes that this represents “Israel’s Palestinian Arab Spring”: the tactics of mass non-violent protests that brought down the governments of Tunisia and Egypt.  The same mass uprising that are threatening to bring down the regimes in Libya, Yemen and Syria, are now being used in the Palestinian cause.

We have an opportunity to see how Americans will react. “We’ve asked the Palestinians to lay down their arms. We’ve told them their lack of a State is their own fault; if only they would embrace non-violence, a reasonable and unprejudiced world would see the merit of their claims”. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of them did just that, and it seems likely to continue.

If crowds of tens of thousands of non-violent Palestinian protestors continue to march, and if Israel continues to shoot at them, what will we do? Will we make good on our rhetoric, and press Israel to give the Palestinians their State? Or will it turn out that our paeans to non-violence were just cynical tactics in an amoral international power contest, staged by militaristic Israeli and American right-wing groups whose elective affinities lead them to shape a common narrative of the alien Arab/Muslim threat? Will we even bother to acknowledge that the Palestinians are protesting non-violently? Or will we soldier on with the same empty decades-old rhetoric, now drained of any truth or meaning, because it protects established relationships of power?

What will it take to make Americans recognise that the real Martin Luther King-style non-violent Palestinian protestors have arrived, and that Israeli soldiers are shooting them with real bullets?”

A few comments:  The first non-violent Intifada pressured Itzhak Rabin to signing an agreement with Arafat, who was residing in Tunisia at the time.  The second Intifada was crushed in blood by Ariel Sharon in 2002.  Actually, Sharon entered the camp of Jenine and the Israeli tanks run over live Palestinian civilians and children.  Sharon finished the job by poisoning Yasser Arafat and imposing a total curfew on Ramallah that lasted 6 months.

On May 15, 2011, Israeli snipers shot to kill in the head and chest Palestinian marchers on the borders.  Over 20 civilian Palestinians were killed, point-blank with real bullets and over 300 were seriously injured on the borders with Lebanon, Syria (the Golan Heights), West Bank, and Gaza.

Palestine was partitioned into a Jewish and a Palestinian/Arab States in 1947.  Is not partitioning a recognition of a State?  Why the Palestinians had to wait till 2011 for the UN to vote in September for a Palestinian State?  Israel occupied more Palestinian lands in 1948, before the UN recognized the State of Israel.  Should people use brute force to occupy lands and demand the UN to recognize new lands captured by force?  What Israel and the UN call the 1967 borders, lands occupied after the 1967 war, are actually forgetting that Israel had occupied lands in surplus of what Palestine had been partitioned initially.

The US, the UN, Israel may wish that the borders of 1967 will satisfy the Palestinians.  Tough luck:  The UN declaration #194 demands the right of Palestinians to return to their lands, all the lands, before 1947.  The Palestinians have the right to return to their original homes, towns, villages, and get remunerated for lost gains and suffering.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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